Top 5 Games I'm Playing: April 2019

Returning to Fireball Island and Drafting Gorgeous Dice

Yeah, yeah. It's May. But in keeping with last month's post, I'm posting my Top 5 Games that I've been playing in April. These games are ranked according to two categories: both my general enjoyment of the game and the actual amount of times I've played the game. So without further ado, here are my top 5 games that I played in April.

5) Fireball Island

+ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Bees! Expansion

+ The Last Adventurer Expansion

Game Design: Restoration Games

Player Count: 2 - 4 (up to 5 with expansion)

Playing Time: ~ 45 minutes

Absolutely epic. That's the only way to describe this bad boy. Launch fireballs, rotate trees, flick poison and ember marbles, release swarms of bees, roll a massive boulder, set loose the crouching tiger, find treasures and souvenirs, take snapshots, and more... I received two of the expansions for Fireball Island this month, and with or without them I always have fun playing this game. This remake of an 80s classic is just big and impressive and fun for all who play it. Fireball Island was in my top 5 last month, and it remains in my top 5 for this month just for how much fun I have whenever I get it to table (which isn't hard to do).

4) CrossTalk

Game Design: Nauvoo Games

Player Count: 4 - 8+

Playing Time: ~ 30 - 45 minutes

Knocking Century: Spice Road off of my list for this month is one of the most clever new word games that I have played in a long time. CrosssTalk has a very simple concept behind it. Two teams face-off, with one team member each round taking on the role of "clue-giver" with the remaining players being guessers. The clue givers roll a die to select which word or phrase they are both going to be trying to get their teams to guess. Then, they will write a secret private clue on their own personal whiteboard and show it to their team mates. After doing that, each clue-giver will alternate giving public clues.

The rules for clues work very similarly as in Codenames: they have to be one-word clues and you can't rhyme, us proper nouns, or use a word that is in the answer. But here's where the tricky part comes in... When you give a public clue, the other team gets their turn to guess. This one little mechanic is what makes the game so incredibly interesting. As the clue-giver, you have to find the delicate balance of clues that are vague enough that they don't give away the answer to the other team, but specific enough/related enough to your private clue that it will help your team arrive at the answer when they get to take a guess.

I'm a big fan of Codenames, and when I first played this game I absolutely loved the twist and have rapidly grown to like this game even more than I do Codenames. When i'm not looking for something super complex, I enjoy a good word game, and CrossTalk is just one of those games that I'll never turn down.

3) Scythe

Game Design: Stonemaier Games

Player Count: 1 - 5 (up to 7 with expansion)

Playing Time: 90 - 120 minutes

The "Game of the Century" remains in my top 5 games I played this month for good reason. Scythe is a beautifully designed, heavy engine builder set in an alternate history, 1920s Europa. Once again, there is so much I can tell you I love about Scythe, but my favorite is how much this game stresses developing new strategy.

The immense variability in this game is part of what does this, as you can receive any combination of 5 (or 7 with the expansion) different character mats and 5 (or 7) different action mats. Because of this, you are essentially forced to develop a new strategy based off of those factors. You can't use the exact same strategy from game to game, as you are almost guaranteed that you won't have the same starting setup as you did last time.

The only reason this game has dropped down to third is because my top 2 games are brand new to me, and I've enjoyed them so much that I've been playing them A LOT recently.

2) Sagrada

Game Design: Floodgate Games

Player Count: 1 - 4 (up to 6 with expansion)

Playing Time: 30 - 45 minutes

For those of you who really love a gorgeous game, Sagrada is a must have. This new-to-me dice-drafting game has been played a lot in my gaming group lately. In part, because it is new but also because all of us have enjoyed the we'll-designed combination of strategy and luck in this game. Over a series of ten rounds, you'll be rolling a set amount of random dice and taking turns selecting one die to place in your stained glass window.

However, all is not as simple as it seems. Each player has different color and number building restrictions in their window, different private objectives that they'll focusing on, a public supply of tools that can be used (at an expense) to re-roll and exchange certain dice, and a public supply of objectives that people will be competing to complete. Luck of the draw and luck of the roll definitely impact the play of the game, but the drafting aspect of the game leads to some interesting decision-making, and I've enjoyed it immensely.

1) The Labyrinth of Crete

Game Design: Cameron Art Games

Player count: Hopefully 1-5

Playing Time: All over the place right now...

Alright, alright... this is cheating a little bit. Next month, I won't put this game in my top 5. But, in April I finally began my early play testing for The Labyrinth of Crete and my private group has been playing it a lot lately. The session have been going relatively smoothly as well, with the main game mechanics working very nicely together. Despite it's many flaws, I've really enjoyed finally getting to play it and see it played by others, and I know that my group has been enjoying getting to play it and share their thoughts.

Obviously, though, the game has a lot of kinks to work out. The mechanics are still unbalanced, the game time which should be closer to 45 minutes keeps clocking in around 2 hours (if we don't call it before then), etc... This is to be expected for a game so early in its development, and if you want to read more about my game design, you can read about it here. What's been really exciting about this game is that it's been genuinely pretty fun to play even with all of its negative aspects. And we've been playing it so much that it deserves the tope spot (although I will exclude it from my Top 5 from here on out).

What are your Top 5 Games or Number 1 Game that you played in April?

(For those in my playtest group: The Labyrinth of Crete doesn't count!)

Let me know in the comments below!