Adventures in Library Games

My local library (Pikes Peak Library District) has a circulating board game collection. And it’s a pretty good one. They do have Monopoly, Clue, all those mass market games you’d expect to see. But they also have a good selection of hobby games. So lately, I’ve been checking some out to try at home. I wanted to give a few thoughts here of some of the games I’ve tried.

image by BGG user AEGTodd

Tiny Towns (Peter McPherson, AEG, 2019) is a game about collecting materials and trying to build different shapes to represent buildings. At the start of the game, seven different building types are chosen, each one showing a different configuration of materials. Each player gets a 4×4 grid to play with, as well as a unique monument giving you and you alone a scoring opportunity.

On a turn, the active player chooses a resource. All players then must take that resource from the supply and place it on their board. If anyone finishes a building, they can score it, removing all resources and replacing them with a building in one of the just vacated spots. The game ends when no one can place any more cubes, and the player who managed to score the highest wins.

Tiny Towns is a very simple game to grasp. In face, we played our first game with our five-year-old, and she did fairly well. A lot of the strategy was over her head, but she had fun trying to make the different building shapes. I also tried out the solo variant, which was pretty challenging in itself. The whole family seemed to like the game, and it’s one I definitely want to try out again.

image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Disney Villainous (Prospero Hall, Wonder Forge/Ravensburger) is a 2-6 player game where you take on the role of one of the classic Disney villains – Jafar, Prince John, Captain Hook, Ursula, the Queen of Hearts, or Maleficent – and try to accomplish your evil schemes before anyone else does.

Each player gets a board, a deck of cards, and a little plastic mover. On your turn, you move to a new locations and do whichever actions there you need to. This includes playing cards, discarding cards, gaining power, vanquishing heroes, and playing from your opponent’s Fate deck (which gives them heroes to deal with or other negative effects). If you complete your goal first, you win.

I wasn’t a big fan of this one. Part of my problem is that it seemed a little too random. Also, there’s a big potential for the game to be really drawn out – our two player game lasted nearly two hours. I can’t imagine what a slog a six player game would be. I’d try this again, maybe with a different villain or using more of a card sloughing strategy, but I doubt this would ever make my collection.

Cover – image by BGG user W Eric Martin

Elder Sign (Richard Launius/Kevin Wilson, Fantasy Flight Games) is a dice version of Arkham Horror. It’s based in the Cthulhu mythos of author HP Lovecraft, and the theme is familiar – stop the Ancient One from waking up and devouring the world, fighting lots of monsters along the way.

On each turn, an investigator visits a location. At that location, you must try to defeat the threat by rolling certain symbols on six green dice (and possibly a red and yellow die). Succeed, and you get rewarded. Fail, and you get punished, usually by losing health or sanity. Lose all of your health or sanity, and you’re dead. If everyone dies, you lose. If you manage to defeat the Ancient One before it wakes and destroys the world, you win.

I had played Elder Sign before. I’ve played the app a number of times, but I’ve also played the physical version. It’s been eight years, and I played that one as a two player game. This time, I played solo (didn’t think my wife or the five-year-old would go for the theme), and I unfortunately lost (sorry world). The game is OK, but I’ve played much better solitaire dice games in the intervening years. This game just has too much in the way of luck, and it’s too difficult to get those mitigating factors that decrease the output randomness. Plus, setting it up and putting it away take almost as long as playing.

This weekend, I got a copy of Mariposas that I’m looking forward to trying out. But overall, I’m enjoying this. I get to check out a game like a book, keep it for a week, and return it. It seems that people are pretty careful with these games – I haven’t found there to be any missing pieces, and everything is pretty neatly organized in baggies in the boxes. Plus, there’s a really nice selection – titles I’m looking forward to in the future include Flipships, Ghost Stories, Through the Ages, and The Crew (among others).

Libraries aren’t just for books any more. There’s movies, there’s music, there’s technology, and there’s games. I’d encourage you to go see if your library has a collection, and if not, maybe try to help them to start one. It’s a great service for the community.

That’s it for today. Stay safe out there, and thanks for reading!

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