Board Game Roundup #9
Keyflower, Whitehall Mystery, Board Game Arena
By MARK WILSON
Board Game Roundups are where I discuss games I’ve been playing recently. These aren’t full reviews, and are often first impressions of a game or only focused on a particular mechanic or idea. However, some are old standbys and are brief reminders of why I continue to love them.
Best of the Best (in my personal top games): Keyflower
Keyflower has all the trappings of a dry Euro. The pastoral, colonial theme, resource management and hodge-podge of Euro mechanics should raise alarms for me. And yet…
Keyflower owes its magic to two elements: first, the bidding phase of each round is sneakily cutthroat, but without ever being overly punitive, which is what keeps both aggressive and cerebral gamers happy. Tiles will be “stolen” left and right from players who want them, but there’s always a silver lining: either another fine option elsewhere, or the chance to save up some meeples for more purchasing power in a later round.
Two, you acquire tiles from a communal area to play into your personal tableau, but unlike so many others, your personal tableau isn’t entirely yours. Everyone can play everywhere, at all times. This is again mitigated by the fact that if you use an opponent’s tile, they’ll likely be momentarily miffed, but you’re making them stronger in later rounds by handing them those meeples. It’s balanced magnificently, and means that the entirety of the play area is open to everyone, forcing you to pay attention to what everyone else is doing.
Keyflower is one of my most-recommended games, and the one that seems to unify the various friends I play with, who often prefer very disparate game types.
Recent Purchase: Whitehall Mystery
I like hidden movement games, but most/all I’ve played are too clunky and protracted for their own good. Fury of Dracula is tense but really fiddly with movement and combat rules. Letters From Whitechapel is tense but a bit overlong without varying the experience a ton. So I broke a rule of mine – that I need to play a game before buying it – to get Whitehall, since I don’t know anyone who owns it, it was well-reviewed by one of the few reviewers I trust, and it seems to streamline past the problems listed above. It ostensibly plays in an hour or less. I’m excited to get it to the table soon.
Gaming Resource: Board Game Arena
I vastly preferring playing in person for both board games and RPGs. I have friends who play board game apps frequently, but there’s never been any appeal for me. However, I do have an account with Board Game Arena, which is one of the more robust and intuitive online sites for this sort of thing. They have dozens – maybe hundreds? – of games, many of them quite popular, and an easy system for matching with other players.
I still prefer the tactile, social experience of playing in person, but the site has its uses. I use it mostly to discover and explore new games, to see if they’re worth seeking out to play with friends. I rediscovered Dragon Castle there, for example, and my positive review of it is proof that there’s fun to be had in the online experience. But I’ll also tire of the online version after a number of plays, but – in this example – I already know of one friend who owns Dragon Castle, so we’ve been able to play it more often now that I’m familiar with it. So the site has done its job there.
It’s also a good resource to simply expand my gaming horizons a bit, though I’ve found just as many where the description and/or “how to play” video put me to sleep rather than excited me. This can be instructive too, though.