I read lots of discussion groups and Facebook groups about board gaming. It’s a hobby and social activity both, so knowing good games and having friends ready and able to play is always a win. Some groups I’m in lean more towards the Cards Against Humanity sort of party games while others are into role playing or strategy games, even those that take 3+ hours per game. And some of my friends – and children – enjoy lighter games that can vary from Monopoly and Gin Rummy to Ticket to Ride and Castle Ravenloft. It’s all fun.
Still, the challenge is to find new games in a sea of titles. Watch Kickstarter and more come out every week, not to mention the inventory of your local game store or Amazon.com. Heck, even Target now does a good job of stocking interesting titles. But imagine paying a flat fee and having a box full of games sent to you, handpicked games based on your likes and favorites.
That’s what Yukon, Oklahoma-based Gameface Board Game Lounge (and retail shop) is doing with its subscription service and to try it out, they sent me a box ‘o games to see what I thought.
Here’s what came in the box: Splendor, Eight-Minute Empire, Friese’s Landlord, a small box of Jelly Belly’s jellybeans and a bag of caramel cashew popcorn. Snacks = good, but it’s the games that really matter, of course:
They picked well: I already have a copy of Eight-Minute Empire, so that clearly fits with my tastes. The other two, well, I’ve heard of Splendor (which has a good BoardGameGeek rating) but hadn’t heard anything about Friese’s Landlord at all.
A tiny bit of research reveals that it’s the sleeper in the box, a reprint of a fun “filler” game from 1992, designed by gaming artist Friedemann Friese. Don’t think it’s a nice game, however: players are all cutthroat landlords who will be building and renting, blowing up competitors buildings, sending your worst tenants their way and otherwise causing maximal trouble for everyone else in the game!
That’s the one I dove into, playing solo just to figure things out. Here’s the basics of the game laid out and ready to play. I have three apartment buildings set up:
On the left you can see the “pool” – jail, monsters, roof cards and a tall stack of playing cards. On the right are my three apartment buildings, one four stories tall (only two apartments are occupied), and two that are each two stories tall (well, the rightmost is one story + basement, to fit the rich folk in). Below are the five cards in my hand, and on the lower right is my earnings, tiny little poker chips to denote currency.
Let’s have a closer look at those buildings:
The tallest apartment building has an attic apartment, making it available for four tenants. On the ground floor I have “man with a dog” who actually would move out – he won’t live in a building taller than 3 stories and pays 3 coins rent every turn (the 3/3 on his card). Above him I have a very harried “mother with children” who pays 2 and can live in up to a 4-story building. She’s fine, if a bit exhausted.
In the middle two-story building I have the hippies from the “Group house” who pay 4 and won’t live in a building higher than 3 stories. Notice their card orients vertically: they take up two apartments, as do the Nobles in the third building. The Nobles, however, won’t live in a building greater than a single story, meaning that they must have a basement and have no neighbors above or below ’em. They pay 6 coins per turn, however.
Add it all up and I would be earning 15 coins per turn (well, once I figure out what to do with the man and his dog who hate that the apartment building is 4 stories).
The cards in my hand show the true spirit of the game, which you definitely haven’t gotten from this benign look at my growing real estate empire:
Leftmost is a bomb. I can destroy any building! If I have miserable tenants I can murder ’em if I want (except the group house: they defend each other and can’t be killed. <sigh>). Rental nomads, a “move” that lets me push a bad tenant to another landlord’s building – or steal their best tenant for my own building – and a family that pays 5 coins rent, but won’t live in a building taller than 2 stories and finks on the landlord too.
Fun concept, though the plastic coins are some of the cheapest components I’ve ever encountered in a game and really need an upgrade. Then again, it’s a lightweight, fun filler game, so as long as the cards are nice – and they are – it’s all good, right? Possibly a bit more aggressive than my friends and I generally enjoy, but it’ll get some table time with the right group, for sure.
But what about the overall box? Gameface charges $60 for its monthly subscription box and there are really two key questions: Is it worth it, and did they do a good job picking games? To answer the first, we can just look at how much it would cost to go into their shop in Oklahoma and buy the three games included. Splendor is $39.99, Eight-Minute Empire is $24.99 and Friese’s Landlord is $24.99. In total: $89.97. Fantastic deal, actually! Heck, even if you dig around online and find the best pricing you can, Splendor drops down to $24.99, Eight-Minute Empire is $21.97 and Friese’s Landlord barely budges at $23.64, still $70 without the jelly beans and popcorn!
Are the games good choices? Yes. Before they sent me a box, they asked me to list some of my favorite games so they were able to ascertain what kind of games I most enjoyed. No super complicated war games for me, thanks, and nothing crass party-game oriented, thanks.
All in all, I am a big fan of surprise boxes and unlike some others I’ve checked out, Gameface did a splendid job both with finding interesting titles for me, offering a good deal economically (heck of a bargain, actually) and making it fun by adding some munchies too. My vote: check ’em out. And since you can specify frequency, this could be a great end-of-semester gift subscription for a college son or daughter too!
Learn more at GameFaceOK.com
Disclosure: Gameface sent me a subscription box to check out without charge. Which was crazy nice of ’em.