A big part of Tabletop Scotland 2018 was our Gateway Zone where we introduced lots of attendees to games for the first time. The list of games we chose for last year worked really well and most of them will be returning in 2019.
This year’s team lead for Gateway Zone is Gilly McBride and what follows is the list of games we have and why we’ve chosen it. So if you’re new to board gaming, the gateway zone is absolutely the place for you to start exploring.
Games for 2019 and why we’ve chosen them.
Carcassonne was one of the first games that came into my collection and one I think I’ll keep and play forever. Players take turns drawing square tiles from a cloth bag and placing them on the table so that the pictures on the tiles match, such as a road joining up with a road or city walls joining city walls then placing a Meeple on that tile if no other player is present on a connecting piece.
Players score points by controlling completed roads or cities. Control is determined by checking which player has the most meeples on the road or city, leading to some tense and exciting attempts to steal control of roads and cities out from under the other players by building them larger and larger before finally connecting them up.
With lots of expansions available that add new and interesting tiles and powers, Carcassonne is a game that you can play a hundred times without getting bored.
Catch The Moon is classed as a dexterity game, a genre of board games that involves manipulating or manoeuvring pieces so that they stack or combine with other pieces, like a more sophisticated version of Jenga.
In Catch the Moon, players take turns adding a ladder to a structure made of ladders precariously stacked together. Before placing their ladder each turn, the player rolls a dice which gives them specific placement instructions for that turn such as the ladder must only touch one other ladder, or the player must try to ‘catch the Moon’ by placing a ladder that becomes the highest point in the structure. Every time any of the ladder pieces fall, the active player takes a teardrop token and at the end of the game the player with the least teardrops win.
Catch The Moon is quick, funny and endlessly entertaining.
Flamme Rouge is a game about a bicycle race. Each player has two cyclists, working as a team. To move their cyclist, the player draws cards with movement values on them from a deck specific to each cyclist. One, the Rouleur, is the steady consistent racer while the other, the Sprinter, has some higher value cards to allow them to sprint a larger distance but this is offset with other lower cards.
Each round, the player draws four cards for one of their cyclists, chooses one to play and puts the remainder on the bottom of their deck. They then repeat this for their other cyclist. All players reveal their chosen cards at the same time and then the cyclists are moved the corresponding value shown on their card. Once the moves are complete, the played cards are removed from the game meaning the options left in each deck reduces as the game goes on.
The strategy is in deciding when to break away since the cyclist at the front of the pack takes exhaustion, represented by a card with a value of 2 that goes into that cyclists deck. Take too many of these and you might find you draw your exhaustion cards into you hand instead of all of those nice high value cards!
Flamme Rouge looks great on the table with the race track laid out in front of you and with rules that can be taught in five minutes, it makes a great addition to the gateway zone while equally deserving of a spot in even the most seasoned gamer’s collection.
Santorini is unusual in this list since it is specifically a two-player game. The board represents the island of Santorini and on your turn, you place pieces that build up to look like the distinctive white buildings with round blue roofs found on the island. Players can move their piece one space or build by placing one of their building pieces.
Buildings can go up to three levels high by placing one level at a time so during movement when players move one space they can also either go up one level of an adjacent building or go down any number of levels. If a player reaches the third level, they win!
For a game with basically two options for players to choose from each turn and that can be played in five minutes, the strategy is deep and like noughts and crosses on steroids it’s possible to trap your opponent in a position where they realise they can’t do anything on their next turn to stop you from winning but when it’s so quick to setup and replay, you’ll find they want an immediate rematch to repay the favour.
Board gamers love nice game components and Splendor really spoiled us when it was released with gem tokens represented by poker chips. In this game the players are gem merchants, competing to have the most prestige. The first player to reach 15 prestige points wins the game.
On your turn you can either take gem tokens (those poker chips I’ve already mentioned), and there are five different colours of gems, or purchase a development card. Each development card has a cost in gems on it, so a basic card might cost 1 diamond (white), 1 ruby (red) and 1 sapphire (blue). Each development card also has an ongoing effect of granting you a permanent gem to purchase future cards with so the basic card you just bought might grant you a permanent 1 diamond discount on future purchases.
Play continues with your collection of owned development cards grows allowing you to buy progressively more expensive and powerful cards until you reach cards which also grant you prestige points. The main mechanic in this game is known as engine building and it’s so satisfying to start with nothing and reach a point where on your turn you can buy a new card at no cost because your collection of already owned cards grants you such a good permanent discount.
Sushi Go is a game that works around a coffee table, while you’re waiting in the departure lounge at the airport, or even sitting around the pool on holiday. It’s a card drafting and set collection game with some of the cutest sushi artwork you’ve ever seen. In this game, all the players are diners at a sushi restaurant. Each player starts with a random hand of cards showing different types of sushi and on their turn, players choose a card to keep, then passes the rest of the hand to the player on their left and receives the hand of cards from the player on their right. Play continues like this until all the cards are gone.
When choosing cards, players are trying to collect sets of sushi like maki rolls, tempura and nigiri. One type of sushi might score points for the player who has the most of that type at the end of the round while another scores points only when you have 3 copies of the same card. This game is quick, fun and surprisingly thoughtful when you have to decide if you take the sashimi and gamble that you will manage to collect the other two required to make it worth some points, or if you should go for broke with the wasabi and keep your fingers crossed you manage to draft the nigiri you need to go with it!
In Takenoko, the game board is built up throughout the game through tiles being drawn and played, on which a panda moves around eating bamboo that literally sprouts out of the board with some lovely wooden bamboo pieces, while a disgruntled farmer tries to grow the bamboo.
Players score points for fulfilling specific private objectives such as growing a stalk of green bamboo three pieces high, or having the panda eat a bit of bamboo of each colour. This game looks cute but has surprising strategic depth while being able to be taught in a very short time.
Ticket To Ride was my own personal gateway game into modern board gaming. In this game you start with railway tickets which show a route from one city to another, shown on the board multiple cities apart.
Your aim is to connect these cities by joining up track sections from one city to the next until the two named on your railway ticket have a continuous link. During your turn, you collect train cards which match one of the railway track colours shown on the board. Once you have enough cards of a certain colour to equal each of the individual sections in one railway line, you can play those cards and place your trains on that railway line on the board to show you control it. You gain points every time you take control of a railway and at the end of the game you score extra points for every ticket you’ve completed.
The game play is quick to learn and has some interesting decisions for you to make. Should you continue collecting train cards until you have all the cards you need to complete a ticket and risk other players taking your shortest route, or should you play cards to control individual railways as soon as possible and risk giving a signal to other players about where your route is, giving them an opportunity to try and block you?