Tabletop fever – catch it! The following games span from the wild west to the reaches of outer space. Let’s dive in!
Bang! The Dice Game
I wrote about standard card version Bang! The Bullet in my first roundup and the dice version is very similar. The four roles of the sheriff, deputies, outlaws, and renegade remain and have the same victory objectives. The main difference, obviously, is the use of dice instead of cards.
Dice can be rerolled up to two times for a total of three rolls. Instead of being able to attack once per turn, you can attack as many times as the dice allow. Each die roll of one means you can shoot someone one distance away from you and each die roll of two means an attack two distance away. Beer rolls mean health, which you can use or give to someone else. Dynamite are bad news — they cannot be rerolled and three of the mean three damage and the end of your turn. Gatling guns mean everyone else takes one damage and you discard your arrow tokens, which you receive by rolling arrows. Once all the arrow tokes are owned, each player takes as many damage as they have arrow tokens.
The arrows really move everything along, which makes Bang! The Dice game much quicker than the original version. It’s a perfect game for playing multiple rounds quickly.
No matter which one of the seemingly infinite versions you play, Fluxx has the same basic rules. Each game starts out with a goal and the only rule is that you must draw one card and play one card. The rules and goals change quickly, though, as the cards you play literally create new rules and change the current victory goal (or goals). Draw one / play one quickly turns into draw four / play six / all numeric values are doubled / hand limit of three / keeper limit of four.
To win, you must simply meet the current goal. Fluxx is easy to pick up and play, but I don’t think it’s very fun. There’s very little strategy involved unless there’s a case where you and someone else both own half of a goal’s criteria, in which case someone may try to steal another person’s card. Quick and easy, but not too great.
Following in the same-but-different vein like Bang! The Dice Game, Forbidden Desert has the same basic premise as Forbidden Island. You and your teammates must find four artifacts and escape an increasingly-difficult-to-survive desert. Those artifacts are harder to find in Forbidden Desert than in Forbidden Island because you first have to discover which row and column each artifact is in before you can move to grab it.
While tiles become flooded and destroyed in Forbidden Island, they simply are buried under more and more sand in Forbidden Desert. There are ways to remove sand from tiles, which you need to be strategic in doing — if you run out of sand to add to the game board, it’s game over. The tiles also shift around in Forbidden Desert, making movement even more challenging. Thankfully, there are a few tunnels which allow fast travel around the board. On top of all that, you must manage your water level. If anyone runs out of water, you guessed it — game over.
Forbidden Desert is a co-op game that requires a hell of a lot of teamwork to beat. My group does best when we have not only a full team but an extra person playing an outsider/coach role. It’s definitely a blast, but be ready for a challenge.
Star Realms is a deckbuilding game for two players. Each player starts with the same deck of 10 cards and a row of five community cards up for purchase, noted by the yellow number in the top right corner. Cards can add to one of three resource pools: yellow for money, red for attack, and green for health. Once a player is reduced to zero health, it’s game over for them. Each turn means playing your hand, putting everything you played and purchased into your discard pile, and drawing a new hand.
Cards come in two varieties: ships which are played and discarded and bases which stay out. Any resources gained from ships are gained for that turn only while a base is triggered every turn. Furthermore, any base designated as an “outpost” must be attacked by enemies before they can attack your health points directly. Ships and bases all belong to factions, shown in the top left, which can trigger combo abilities. For example, the cards above on the left and bottom both belong to the same faction. Playing both on the same turn or having the base out when you play the ship would net you the two gold from the ship, the three health or two attack from the base, along with the extra four health from the ship and extra two attack from the base. Some cards also come with a “scrap” ability, allowing you a one-time bonus at the cost of removing the card from the game.
The tide can turn out of nowhere in Star Realms as resource pools grow quickly. The game comes with victory point cards but I find them impossible to use as everyone’s health points move around so quickly, so I recommend using good old pen and paper. You can even turn Star Realms into a larger free-for-all or a team game by buying more decks. I highly recommend it!