Hey everyone, Will here. Similar to the last couple months, April was filled with awesome games, so narrowing down my list to three was very difficult. But I’ll have a couple of “honorable mentions” at the end, so make sure you check those out as well.
Hellboy: The Board Game
Hellboy may very well be my favorite comic book series, so as you can imagine, I was ecstatic when I heard that Mantic Games was adapting Mike Mignola’s renowned comics to a board game. The titular character is a half-demon who’s dedicated himself to fighting evil, which seems paradoxical but is what makes him so intriguing. Hellboy also has a number of interesting sidekicks, including Abe Sapien, an amphibious, fish-like humanoid with a genius-level intellect. If you’re reading this, then you most likely know this stuff already. I’m just writing it because I love Mignola’s characters so much, and as I hoped, they’re all present in Hellboy: The Board Game. I couldn’t be happier.
Hellboy: The Board Game is a cooperative game for 1-4 players. At the start of the game, each player selects their character from the following: Hellboy, Abe Sapien, Liz Sherman, and Johann Kraus. After this, they read through one of the case files that determines the board setup and provides color for the upcoming mission. At this point, each player selects a number of items with which to equip their character and the gameplay commences. Throughout the game, players will be drawing from the Deck of Doom. These cards can either provide clues that aid the players in their investigation or instigate combat scenarios against a variety of deadly enemies. The more clues the players collect, the easier the final confrontation will be with the big boss monster. That’s about it – Hellboy: The Board Game‘s gameplay seems fairly light and highly replayable.
Another aspect of this game that’ll appeal to Hellboy fans is the design of its miniatures, which are highly detailed and most importantly, individually approved by Mike Mignola himself. Understandably, they don’t come pre-painted, but that just means this game offers even more for its players to do. And when they are painted (as seen above), they look amazing. Hellboy: The Board Game costs roughly $130 to back on Kickstarter, which is probably more than most would want to spend. However, that $130 will include the base game, two expansions, bonus content & minis, and all of the stretch goals, so it’s a fair price all things considered. As a fan of both Hellboy and cooperative board games, this one is basically a “can’t miss” for me. If you’re of a similar mind, you can check out the Kickstarter page here.
When it comes to the Simply Complex line from Capstone Games, I’m highly appreciative of what they’re trying to do, which is create fun, intelligent board games that actually require players to think in unique ways. Take The Climbers for example, which we played here on the site. While I actually wasn’t the biggest fan of that game, I did recognize its merits as a tool that exercises one’s problem-solving skills (as well as finger dexterity). That game also made me sort of anxious to see what else would come from the Simply Complex line, since I knew that Capstone Games would eventually publish something that resonates with me. And now it seems that they finally have with their latest entry, The Estates, a city-building game for 2-5 players.
Designed by Klaus Zoch, The Estates has its players building up a new development, piece by piece, in order to earn the most points and win the game. Each round, an active player is selected and becomes the auctioneer, at which point the other players take turns bidding on the selected wooden piece that represents a section of the construction, such as the Floor Cube or Rooftop. Once a high bid is finalized, the auctioneer can choose between two actions: give the piece to the highest bidder, who has to pay for it immediately, or keep the piece for themselves and pay that same amount to the highest bidder. After that, the purchasing player must place that cube in the development. Once two of the three rows are fully constructed, or once it’s impossible to finish any more buildings, the game ends. The players that placed cubes on the row that remains unfinished will then lose points, and then players earn points based on where they built in The Estates.
As with all Capstone games, the component quality for The Estates seems excellent, with attention to detail and build quality being the focus. The construction pieces/cubes are all made from wood, and the components are also silk-screened to ensure that the game is colorblind-friendly. Personally, I love the way the checkbooks and company certificates look, as they evoke a bit of realism that’ll likely add to the gameplay. All in all, The Estates appears to be more than worthwhile for players who enjoy auction/bidding and city-building mechanics, and I expect players new to those mechanics will enjoy it as well. For more information, check out the Kickstarter page here.
The Pirate’s Flag
When I first looked at The Pirate’s Flag, I was unimpressed. It appeared to be another pirate-themed board game with overly simple gameplay, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. Luckily for me, I left the tab up on my browser, which I then clicked again. Upon a second viewing, I began to notice a lot of charm exists within this game, even if it still remains a little basic for certain audiences. Then I got to thinking, “Hey Will, you tend to like games on the simpler side”. From that point on, I gave The Pirate’s Flag the benefit of the doubt, and I’m glad I did. I’m fairly certain this one’s got potential.
At its core, this game is a Capture the Flag experience, as the primary goal for the players is to get the black flag from the opposite side of the board and be the first person to return it to the starting position, The Dread Sea. Along the way, players will roll dice to determine movement, stop at trading posts, and even engage in ship-to-ship combat. Passing by the docks allows a player to draw one card, and stopping at trading posts lets them discard a card in exchange for two new ones. These cards seem to spice up the gameplay in a way that The Pirate’s Flag really needs. For instance, some cards will add or subtract from dice rolls, while others will outright force other players back a number of spaces. People who dislike or even hate “Ameritrash” mechanics like this will probably want to stay away from this game, but personally, I feel cards like this are entertaining. After all, this is a family game.
At the end of the day, I put The Pirate’s Flag on this list because it reminds me of board games of yesteryear, of my childhood. Sure, it’s rather basic and possibly over-reliant on dice-rolls, but I think there are also some strong positives. It’s really light and intuitive, which means it’s great for families with younger children. The board and components are colorful and thoughtfully designed, and I really like the varying shapes of the little plastic ships. CardLords, the publishers, aren’t likely releasing an award-winning title here, so expectations should be kept in check. As long as they are, I think most people will find something redeeming in The Pirate’s Flag. You can find its Kickstarter campaign here.
It’s not often that you find worthwhile tabletop games on Kickstarter that cost under $10, so when I came by the game Crypt, I took notice. A 20 minute experience for 1-4 players, Crypt is a set collection, dice placement game that has its players robbing tombs in order to amass the most valuable treasure. To me, the dice mechanics are particularly intelligent and intriguing. At the time of this writing, the Kickstarter campaign only has a few days left on it, so check it out if you still can.
I also want to mention Cinephile: The Card Game. As a passionate movie buff, I’m always looking to exercise my film knowledge muscles, so to speak, and this game should offer me an opportunity to satisfyingly do so. Cinephile is a basic card game with multiple modes, including one based on the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. There’s also a filmography mode, where players have to list an actor’s/actresses’ films until they can’t anymore. If you’re interested, you can find this game’s Kickstarter here.