Three New Games: Animals, Epics, and Cathedrals

Yesterday, I attended the Southern California Games Day for the second time, and I got to play three new games:

  • Cheeky Monkey is a push-your-luck, draw-till-you-bust kind of game, in which “bust” means drawing two of the same kinds of animal from a bag. The odds for each kind of animal are given on the board, and if you pay attention to what others have collected and apply some probability savvy, you can do well despite the element of luck. It’s also possible to “steal” previously drawn animals from other players, so there’s a bit of strategy in how you stack up your successfully drawn animals, to avoid others taking them. Fun, fast-paced, and easy to learn.
  • Beowulf: The Legend is a competitive bidding game, in which you “accompany” Beowulf in his adventures, fight in his battles, and receive “scratches” or the even worse “wounds” if the encounters do not go well. You aren’t directly fighting the other players (in fact the game scenario is that you’re all traveling together) but in several rounds, there are bad effects (like wounds) that have to be divvied up to one of the party, and the weakest one will lose. Rather bloodier than most games I’ve played, but intriguing.
  • Pillars of the Earth was my favorite. It’s a resource/building game, which I tend to like, and it has a gorgeous (rather complicated) board set in olde England, in which you seek to build a cathedral. The cathedral itself doesn’t really factor into the game; it’s more about building, buying, and selling the wood, stone, and sand resources needed for the castle. But there are enough wrinkles to keep this from being more than just a production/selling game, mainly provided by your three “master builders” that let you snap up special bonuses or avoid taxes; you compete with other players for their placement. That’s about it in terms of direct contact with other players (no trading), but it helps to keep an eye on what their current collection of craftsmen reveals about their current strategy, so that you can thwart it. Great fun!