Got to continue mowing through my unplayed pile, as we now have a session specifically dedicated to playing games we haven’t run in our collections that we do roughly twice a month on alternating weekends.
Aton - a slightly older but ingenious 2p only game that Rok ran for us for our forthcoming 2p special episode of the show. It’s a super clever game in which everything is in fours - there are four temples that you want to manipulate by playing four cards per round, and the cards are only numbered 1 to 4 in a deck of about 16, I think. Depending on where you place them, you either score VP, determine turn order (very important given the next actions) and then nominate one of the temples from which to remove opponent tokens from and to add your own for majorities. The game is one by one player fully taking over a single temple (12 tokens), fully taking over one full row in each temple of a certain colour (14 tokens - it’d be 16 but two in temples 3 and 4 are bonus scoring spaces) or to reach 40 VP. Super super clever.
Traders of Osaka (Carthage) - the new retheme of the original Mediterranean setting and with wonderful new art, Traders is a small tableprint game predominantly card driven that hits harder than its implied weight and I really enjoyed it. Card have multiple uses which is a mechanic I love: they’re either goods to be shipped for scoring, cash in hand… (as in your hand… of cards… see, it’s a good pun because… nevermind) with which to buy goods or insurance for goods that may be lost if certain ships are caught in rough seas when other ships trigger scoring. Other than the random draws of cards available, somewhat mitigated by a 3 card market/incoming row to reveal information, I love that it’s entirely player driven and the cadence of play is dictated by players. Again, sometimes null scoring is important where to accelerate the game, sometimes you have to force scoring when there’s no difference between you and another player, and sometimes you have to change your strategy to change up the timing of how cards come out and are taken/bought by the others in turn order. It’s deceptively simple yet that nuance of turn-order card starving etc. implies a master’s game above the initial surface play and I’m keen to make this one a regular which is doable given its swift 60 minute play time. Absolute winner.
7 Steps - co-designed by Michael Kiesling, a favourite of mine, this is a very easy but cleverly tactical abstract game about placing coloured discs adjacently on a board to score. A disc on the board itself scores 1 VP, one placed on another disc will score 2 VP as it’s on the next level etc., to a maximum of 7 VP for being the 7th disc. Placements must have adjacency and can only be on the same level as the previous placement or one level above, never below, and no backtracking. If placements score 7 VP or less (as is the maximum for the very first player), you get to take a bonus tile that assists in either building (by breaking rules) or scoring (by awarding bonuses for specific criteria like placing at the edge of the board or in a straight line). Discs are randomly drawn from a bag, and when a tower reaches 7 discs high, after the player scores, the discs are distributed to other locations of the same colour on the board and not thrown back into the back, accelerating the game. When all discs have been drawn, there’s one last round and most VP wins. Yes, it’s random draw heavy but there are definitely tactical things you can do, especially with bonus tiles that may assist in both you scoring and also building blockades where there are increases of more than 1 step, denying good score chaining from opponents. Short and sharp, I really enjoyed it.
Mogul - This is a reimplementation of prolific designer Michael Schacht’s classic of the same name, in which he adds a spatial element of a board on which to place train stations on routes. An easy, closed economy shares game, it’s driven by a common bidding mechanic of paying to stay in or passing and taking the pool. The interesting thing about Mogul though, is that there are two options available and the person in 2nd place will get to do what the bidding winner doesn’t take. Each coloured share has a number on it displaying how many total shares there are in the draw deck which are auctioned every round, one by one, and then a secondary sale action of a specific colour OR the option to place a station on that alternative colour. Sold shares have a value of the total number of that coloured share that are in the market (bought by players), but the interesting thing about the dual purpose cards/shares, is that to sell shares of a certain colour, you have an interest in winning a bid on a different coloured share because it allows you to sell - so to sell blue shares, you need to win a bid on a yellow share as that’s the alternative option on yellow. To sell purple shares, you need to win a bid on grey, and so on (they’re all specifically set so you know where your interests are). It’s also a game that has more depth and nuance to it than at first seems, and while I appreciate that economic market/shares games aren’t for everyone, they’re excellent for those that enjoy them, of which I’m one. Similar, lighter games featuring the closed economy bidding/passing mechanic are Rights, Lascaux and No Thanks, all of which are great at what they do.