The Meeple Guild - The top board games of 2020 - Part I

When it came to 2020, nothing was normal, playing board games included.

For huge stretches of the years gathering with buds to play games just never made a lot of sense in terms of health. As much as we might enjoy gaming, the activity is far from essential so why take the risk.

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Of course that meant a different year in terms of doing reviews too.

Several weeks focused on games that could be printed and played.

Another month on interviews with reps of major game associations.

So, when it came time to do a 'Top-5' of 2020, the lists compiled by participating 'guilders' ranges from games reviewed in the last year, with a few games first played but not yet reviewed sprinkled in, but ultimately the games that follow this week and Jan. 13 & 20,are all fun, so enjoy the list and keep gaming as best you can.

Without further explanations, at #5

Trevor Lyons - Fakir - This is a fun, quick (10-20min) filler game. It plays 2-4 players. Basically, you take your color stick and place it in an open hole or replace one of your opponents. When you take out one of your sticks, it returns to you. To lose a stick, someone must pull a horizontal stick and have yours fall into the block. This continues until only 1 player is left standing. It has a lot more strategy than I first thought and still stands high in this crazy, mixed up year.

Adam Daniels - Game of Ham – This is a great game to sit around with friends and just laugh at the strange combinations you can get. There are rules you can use to spice things up, while enjoying some adult beverages which just adds to the experience.

Calvin Daniels - #5 – ChessPlus - To start the pieces in this edition, which does allow for regular western chess play, are quite nice, in a modern sculpt sort of way. This is not the largest, or heaviest of sets, but I was certainly satisfied by its general look, with one exception detailed further on.

So ChessPlus as a variant has some really simple rules that anyone who knows chess at all can understand in about two-minutes.

The game is played under standard chess rules with one difference – pieces can be merged to combine their powers, and merged pieces can be split back into their individual pieces. In some respects it reminds a bit of Plunder Chess a personal variant favourite. I’d still take Plunder Chess for its power stealing aspect, but there are thematic similarities.

To merge you simply use a turn to move one of your pieces into the square with another, where it essentially becomes a single piece combining the powers of both, (the king cannot merge). The merging is a full move.

Since you can play regular chess with the set quite nicely, it’s a great starter set as you essentially get two games in one.

Check it out at www.chessplus.com

At #4:

Adam Daniels - Crokinole Stick – Crokinole is a fun game that I am sure my dad would force me to play for hours if he could. While I do not share my dad’s love of the game, I still enjoy it and would play if ever asked. So when dad brought over the Crokinole stick to try I thought they were unnecessary as crokinole is a pretty simple game, you flick your fingers to hit little wooden discs. So introducing what is in essence a pool cue for crokinole, seemed like it shouldn't work, but it does. It changes up the game enough and still retains the fun.

Calvin Daniels - Doce - Doce is a game where players place their dice into a 5X5 grid attempting to be the first to create a line of four with the upward facing numbers on those four dice totalling 12.

Of course there are a few twists to that simple goal.

You may also win with three of your own in a row and one of your opponent’s die at either end.

Each player also has one blocker die. Once it is played it effectively breaks up any line of die it is a part of. Knowing when to use the blocker can be a huge part of a good strategy.

Score the round and start the next one. The person with the most points at the end of the fourth round wins the game.

The scoring here is rather neat in that there is more to it than going for a simple win.

The winner does get 12 points for winning the round, but can add two- points if all four dice are yours; add five-points if you did not use your blocker die; and add one-point for each empty square on the board.

Head over to www.smartiguanagames.com where you can find a number of variants which push Docefor pretty solid, to top notch.

Two of the more interesting variants to explore has a game starting with a black die in the dominant centre square, and then play as normal, (although players have no blockers to use in game).

A second variant has you roll a die, and for the ensuing game neither player can use that number when placing a die.

With great components, solid variants to enhance replay, and small package for ease of transport, Doce is a winner.

Trevor Lyons - Crokinole Sticks – This is a fun variant of an old game. In crokinole, you try to flick your pieces into the center hole of the playing board. In crokinole sticks, the only difference is that you use a small pool cue to hit the pieces instead of your finger. To win the game, all you have to do is score 100 points before your opponents. I hadn’t played crokinole in probably 30 years when I was reintroduced to it via this variant. I had trouble with the sticks, but had a great time, and you will too if you play this game.

Watch for Part II next Sunday here at www.yorktonthisweek.com

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