2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 6+ Disclaimer: Not distributed by Outset Media
Everyone knows that the lion is the king of the jungle, and that tuna is the chicken of the sea, but which insect is the champion of kingdom Animalia? The answer has plagued humanity for hundreds of years, but people keep telling me my idea of setting up an insect wrestling league is inhumane and unethical. Imagine my delight when Kabuto Sumo popped up on Kickstarter- a game about wooden beetles shoving each other off a log. It’s as silly as it sounds, but the excellent art, cool components, and surprisingly strategic gameplay really elevate this one- let’s explore it in more depth!
2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 8+
Cosmic dust swirls through the ether; specks of light riding the wave of the universe’s expansion. With but a gesture, you swirl the dust around your finger, coalescing it into a shape- a sphere- a PLANET. Yours and yours alone to decorate- sweeping grasslands, frigid tundra, or endless oceans? Pick and choose, mix and match, but don’t forget- the landscapes you choose will reflect the life that grows on your little planet. And much like being alive on a planet, you’ll be arbitrarily judged and awarded points for your performance. Build a perfect world brimming with monkeys, dolphins, and penguins- where pests like mosquitos and people who talk during movies don’t exist. You can do these things (and some other thematically similar things) in the aptly named Planet by Blue Orange Games.
2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 5+
One of the best feelings in board games is looking down at the end of a board game and seeing the sum of your efforts. Your big pile of cash in Monopoly, your conquered nations in Risk- that completely arbitrary pile of bits and bobs that signifies your superiority over the other players. Some of my favourite games are emblematic of this principle- Patchwork, Tiny Towns, and Kingdomino, for example. These games are all about building and planning- fitting different pieces together in the most efficient way to maximize your points. Every decision impacts your long-term strategy, every mistake comes back to haunt you. Cloud City is very much typical of the genre in these ways. It’s not the most complicated or clever puzzle, but what really sets it apart from other tile-laying games is the pieces. You’re not placing cardboard tiles, you’re building a little 3D future city. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that’s the coolest thing you COULD build in a board game.
One of the best things about the ongoing board game renaissance is that we keep seeing classic board games get reimagined and reinvented. No, I’m not talking about Minions Operation or Socialist Monopoly (yes, it was real, and just as bad as you’re imagining.) Rather, I’m talking about seeing classic board game mechanics employed in new, more interesting games. Kingdomino, for example, somehow took dominos to fantastic new heights, King of Tokyo breathed movie-monster magic into Yahtzee, and in much the same way, Fish Club has managed to elevate the classic game of Connect 4 into something that feels entirely new and interesting.
2-4 Players, ~40 Minutes, Medium Complexity, High Strategy, Ages 8+
In any given meadow in any given forest, an intense battle plays out, hidden from human eyes. It’s a common sight on Discovery Channel: a limited number of resources means animals and insects are locked into constant battle for survival. Nature can be savage, but we often overlook the most heated and desperate struggles for survival because we simply cannot perceive them. There’s only so much dirt and sunlight to go around, which means that every plant we see is jockeying for position, determined to spread the seeds that will become the next generation of canopy, sucking up all the sun and leaving only scraps for the plants on the forest floor below. Photosynthesis takes one of these centuries-long struggles, condenses it down to a half-hour, and makes it a whole lot of fun.