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I’ve got a board game day lined up for this afternoon, so it’s high time to write about some games I’ve been meaning to but keep forgetting about. Each of these games has a distinct setting: the USA, France, Essos/Westeros, and even the galaxy as a whole.
10 Days in the USA
You know what’s great? America. You know what’s pretty fun? 10 Days in the USA. Two to four players race to make a 10-day connection. The game starts by drawing 10 random tiles and placing them in your tray one at a time. After that, each player takes a turn drawing a tile from either the face-down deck or one of the three face-up discard piles and optionally replacing a tile in their tray. You can walk between neighboring states, so any two adjacent states are always connected. A car tile allows you to drive across one state, meaning you could have continuous tiles of Washington-car-California. Airplanes let you fly between two tiles of the same color, so you could fly from California to Michigan with a red airplane. The first player to make a fully connected tray of 10 tiles wins.
Since each state only has one tile, you’ll probably have to change your strategy a few times while playing as tiles you need are buried deeper and deeper in the discard pile. Or one of the other players can take the tile you need, throwing a wrench into things. It’s a quick game with rounds lasting about 15 minutes. There are other “10 Days in the” games for Africa and Europe. 10 Days in the USA is pretty fun and a good filler between larger games.
Line up a dozen French nobles at the chopping block and you’ve got Guillotine, where death is the name of the game. Each turn, the noble at the front of the line and closest to the little cardboard guillotine that comes with the game is killed. But, players can play cards to manipulate the order of the line, moving nobles forward and backwards or reversing the order completely, making each turn a little more interesting. You can also map out a few turns in advance, trying to see what will be available when your turn comes around.
Certain nobles have modifiers on them, like the Palace Guard which increases in value for each other Palace Guard you own or the Count/Countess which each double in value if you own the pair. While some nobles are worth negative points, there are cards which let you gain points instead of losing them. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins. Being able to see the line of nobles also lets players team up and take down the leader by manipulating the line into having a bad card in play when it’s their turn. Guillotine is light (beheading aside), quick, and fun.
Race for the Galaxy
While the previous two games are pretty lighthearted, Race for the Galaxy is not. In it, you are trying to build up the best space civilization that you can by playing planet and development cards. Some worlds add to your military strength, allowing you to build more powerful worlds that require an army to play. Others generate one of the four types of goods which can be either sold for victory points or turned in to draw cards.
At the beginning of each turn, each player secretly chooses one of seven available actions. In action order, players reveal if they chose that action. If any player chooses an action, everyone gets to perform that action, but each player who chose that action is given a bonus during that action. This makes knowing what your opponents might do key, as you might be able to choose a different action if you think someone else will choose and activate one that you really need for you. Once a player has built 12 worlds/developments, victory points are added up and a winner is declared, so it’s important to stick to a strategy early as turns are limited.
Race for the Galaxy is a good time, for sure, but very challenging. There are a lot of symbols: types of worlds, worlds that generate goods and worlds that don’t, extra card draw, extra card visibility, bonus military strength, multipliers, etc. Each player is given a legend, thankfully, but it’s still tough to keep track of everything. Games take 60-90 minutes but go pretty smoothly after playing a few times. There is also a dice-based version called Roll for the Galaxy which I’d like to play someday.
Risk: Game of Thrones
Classic turn-based strategy plus the turmoil of George R.R. Martin’s insanely popular world equals Risk: Game of Thrones. The basic tenets are the same as normal Risk: build an army, conquer countries, and wipe enemies off the map. Risk: Game of Thrones comes with two boards, Essos for two players or Westeros for three to four players. You can also combine the two boards side-by-side to play with up to six players. Some additions to normal Risk include port cities, which allow you to attack cities with a same colored port regardless of location, and castle cities, which are worth two points when adding up how many army units you receive on a turn.
Risk: Game of Thrones comes with two play variants. I’ve played the Skirmish variant, which is basically standard Risk, a few times and enjoyed it. The advanced variant, Dominion, involves family houses, many ways to score, power cards based on characters from the show/books, gold, and seats of power. In order to win Dominion, you have to get to 10 victory points and control the location of your house’s seat of power (Winterfell for the Starks, Casterly Rock for the Lannisters, etc.). I’ve only played about 30 minutes of a Dominion game and I really want to try it again soon.
While the army pieces are fairly detailed and different between houses — the Lannisters have lion tokens where the Starks have wolves — it’s disappointing that the cards are so poorly made. They are thin and pretty flimsy. I am surprised that the text on each region is black, as well. It’s tough to read on the darker backgrounds and is pretty small. As far as playing goes, though, Risk: Game of Thrones is a great game for strategy and fantasy fans alike.