What have The Sentry Box staff been up to – May 9-15

Greg and Tracy played a couple of games of new arrival Yak. “First off, the components in this game are amazing. Chunky bakelite yaks with plastic horns; plastic carts with wheels; big chunky wooden blocks; dual layer player boards. All very nice. The game is one where you’re trading food for stone blocks of different colours in order to build a stone tower. Carts move around clockwise unless a fog token is pulled from the bag, in which case they switch direction. Planning ahead for what’s coming up is important, so these unexpected switches can throw a spanner in the works. In this game I got completely destroyed by Tracy who outscored me in every category. It was a fun, light to medium game though and I enjoyed it quite a bit. A couple days later Tracy also suggested a second game of Yak so we played this one again while the kids were busy. We still didn’t add the extra scoring cards, so it was just the normal scoring. Things went better for me this time and I was able to grab lots of food tokens a few times and then spend them the next turn. I even bought three crystal stones in one turn for 8 bread, which helped me get a large group of 7 stones for end game scoring. We’d both like to try this with more players now as it may have different dynamic. Plus I want to add the extra scoring cards for some variety.”

Tracy asked to play Agricola again, probably looking for some redemption after the last game. “Unfortunately for her this game didn’t go much better, in part down to me apparently constantly taking the actions she wanted just before she was able to. I’d like to say that was always intentional, but it mostly wasn’t. There was one occasion when I went to the pig market earlier than I might have, because it had the added bonus of causing Tracy to take two begging tokens. I’m a bad man. My own game wasn’t especially great, probably below average as far as my score, but I played a lot of cards and had a fun game nevertheless.”

Renee and Jenn had a chance to get away together for a day of gaming and were determined to put a dent in their pile of shame and liberate some games from their shrink-wrap prisons. “I had played Underwater Cities a couple of times when it first came out but was excited to finally breakout our copy and teach it to Jenn. Thematically you’re building an underwater network of cities with farms, labs and desalination plants. It’s a worker placement game with 3 categories of actions and every time you do an action, you play a card to send a worker. If the worker matches the action category, you get the benefit of their expertise on the the card. So you’re trying to play cards that match but also figuring out if just doing the action is more important even if you can’t get the extra benefit. In addition, the card actions can either be immediate, or allow you to create a bit of an engine with ongoing bonus actions. 3 times during the game you do a production phase in which all your cities and buildings (and some workers) produce resources so as the game goes on you have more resources for building your network. We both really enjoyed this game and we found it played very well with 2 players. What we found interesting is that Jenn ended up with a lot of worker cards with immediate effects while I ended up building quite the ongoing engine, but in the end our scores were very close! So definitely a game where everyone has a chance to make the most of the cards they get dealt.”

They also managed to open Small Islands. “This is a tile laying game in which you’re collectively creating small islands with specific features. At the beginning of each round secretly choose an individual objective for the round. At the end of the round, you may place a hut on and score any island that meets your objective. However, you may only score each island once during the game and only if there is an open spot to place a hut. So you definitely want to make a bunch of small islands over the course of the game, which is something we sometimes forgot. Definitely a lighter game but we only played the standard game so it will be interesting to see how the game changes with the advanced version. The game also comes with a hidden Great Explorer expansion which you have to earn by winning the base game and meeting one of the set criteria. Fun!”

Renee had already unboxed Caper: Europe as soon as she picked it up, but finally got to play it for the first time. “This is a quick head-to-head 2 player game in which you’re each managing a crew of thieves, competing to perform heists on 3 different locations. Each round you alternate drafting and playing thief cards to locations and drafting and playing gear cards to your thieves. The cards work collectively at a location to both increase your success (only one crew can win each location), get you stolen goods, or give you end game points. It’s an easy game to learn but still feels like you have some good choices. The game comes with a set of standard cards into which you shuffle one of the 4 city decks, each with variable difficulty. We only played the suggested intro deck so curious how the other cities change the game. I also have to mention that this a gorgeously produced game with fantastic components and a wonderful custom insert.”

Rolling Realms also hit the table for the first time making Renee and Jenn’s total 4 liberated games! “This is a roll and write filled with mini games based on all the Stonemaier board games. Each round you randomly pick 3 cards to play, then you have 9 turns to try and get as many points as you can. Using the dice on a card will either produce resources, which can be used to alter dice values or activate bonus dice, or work towards the points goal of the card. While the game is a very straightforward roll and write, I did enjoy that each card had different mechanics and that each time you play the combination of cards will change which means that each time you have a different puzzle to work out to maximize your score.”