#SundaySummary – Some new #wargame arrivals to play thanks to www.atomagazine.com, @RBMStudio1, & @Hollandspiele

Wargames & Boardgames

FINALLY, after waiting several weeks in some cases, the last of my 2020 shipments arrived. Buffalo Wings 2 – The Deluxe Reprint, a 2020 Kickstarter campaign by Against the Odds Magazine, arrived. It’s beautiful! Then C3i Magazine Nr. 34 from RBM Studios arrived with the feature game Battle for Kursk. Both these games were unboxed and rules deeply explored though the first true playthru’s are still pending.

As much as I keep talking about the feature game in C3i Magazine, it’s always good to remember that there is other gaming goodness in every issue. The latest issue is no exception as a solo folio game, Firebase Vietnam by Pascal Toupy is included and also needs to be explored.

Firebase Vietnam from RBM Studios

Of course, we all know that we don’t just get C3i Magazine “just for the game,” we read it too, right? The latest edition has the first of a new column by Harold Buchanan (Liberty or Death, Campaigns of 1777) called “Harold Buchanan’s Snakes and Ladders.” In this column he discusses wargamer archetypes. I have problems with his taxonomy and since he invited comments I am working on just a few. Look for them in the coming weeks!

My first “true” wargame of 2021 also arrived this week. Empire at Sunrise is a new Hollandspiele title designed by John Gorkowski. This look at the early days of World War I in the Pacific features three “nested” maps and telescoping scales. I enjoyed several of Mr. Gorkowski’s previous designs, especially South China Sea (Compass Games, 2017) and even The Lost Provinces: The Thai Blitzkrieg in French Indo-China, Janauary 10-28, 1941, another Hollandspiele title of his published in 2018. I always enjoy the “experimentation” I get when playing Hollandspiele games and Empire at Sunrise looks to keep that fine tradition going.

Empire at Sunrise from Hollandspeile

Boardgaming this week was very slow as wargames dominated my gaming time. I did get to play a fun game of Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020) with young Miss A. She’s 6 years old; almost 7, and sometimes is too anxious to see the best connections. A gentle “Are you sure?” comment near the beginning of the game is usually enough to get her to stop, relook at her tableau, and grin as she realizes she needs to slow down a bit and think to get a better score.

Books

While I keep plowing through the huge The Secret Horsepower Race: Western Front Fighter Engine Development by Calum Douglas I also took the time this week to revisit some of my older US Constitutional Law texts from college because of recent national events. Along the way I stumbled upon “The Case of the Smuggled Bombers” in Quarrels That Have Shaped the Constitution (Harper Row, First Perennial Library Edition, 1987) which discusses U.S. v. Curtis Wright Export Corp, et al., 299 US 304. In this Supreme Court case, the Curtis Wright Corporation in the 1930’s was selling warplanes to various South American countries (sometimes even to BOTH sides of the same conflict!). The US Government wanted to stop these arms sales but Curtis tried an end-around and was caught violating the Chaco Arms Embargo. Being a wargamer who thoroughly enjoys Wing Leader: Origins 1936-1942 from GMT Games (2020) the topic really interested me. Plus, I learned a bit more about some 1930’s aircraft!

#SundaySummary – Jan 03, 2021

Wargames

Shores of Tripoli (Fort Circle Games, 2020) arrived just before the new year. That made it eligible for (and the winner of) my 2020 Wargame of the Year. Really, I can’t extol the virtues of this game enough. Really a great first-outing for new designer Kevin Betram and his Fort Circle Games label.

C3i Magazine Nr 34 is inbound. Thanks to USPS it will arrive sometime in this new year.

Likewise the Kickstarter fulfillment of Buffalo Wings 2 – The Deluxe Reprint is shipping and my copy is somewhere between the publisher (Against the Odds in Philadelphia, PA) and me.

Boardgames

Been playing only very casual, short games with Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and the Boys. Santorini (Roxley Games, 2016) and Crab Stack (Blue Orange Games, 2015) have landed multiple times mostly as we prepare for next semester of Mrs. RMN’s tutoring.

Roleplaying Games

I worked on more than a few posts for the coming year. I am starting a series on ground combat in the Traveller RPG universe. Keep an eye out.

I also dug deep into The Expanse Roleplaying Game. My plan is for an overview impressions post and then a short narrative replay of sorts. I also see that the Bundle of Holding has an offering; very tempted!

#RockyReads

I’m going to try to track more of my reading this year. To that end I started a new hashtag/segment of my blog I’m calling RockyReads. The first one covering Alfred Price’s Instruments of Darkness is already posted.


Feature image: A gull is perched amid the reflection of the Capitol on Dec. 4. (Miki Jourdan/Flickr) via Washington Post

#FamilyFriday #Boardgame Discovery – Santorini (@roxleygames, 2016)

Mrs. RMN and I were out shopping post-Christmas and passed a pop-up Christmas location for a chain with huge banners proclaiming everything on sale at 50% off. We walked in and took a look around. I found a copy of Santorini (Roxley Games, 2016) on the shelf and, having recently seen something about it, went ahead and purchased it.

Mrs. RMN was very interested in Santorini and wondered if it might be suitable for use by her elementary-age students. So that evening we tried the game. You have to understand that Mrs. RMN likes using boardgames (and other educational games) for her students but she is often very reluctant to play them socially with the family. I guessed long ago that Mrs. RMN likes abstract strategy games; she previously professed a liking of Qwirkle (Midware, 2006) and Blokus (Educational Insights, 2000) but a recent attempt to play Patchwork (Mayfair, 2014) was a failure. Late in the year she enjoyed two new-to-us games, NMBR 9 (Abacuspiele, 2017) and Layers (Happy Baobab, 2018) which was a change for her.

After a quick set up I explained the beginner game of Santorini to her. She was doubtful but played against me anyway. At one point in the game she paused and stared at the board, not talking, for a long time.

A very long time.

Several silent minutes passed.

I was very worried.

Then it clicked. Then she beat me. Then she declared a new favorite game.

After our (several) plays, I explained to her the option of using the “God Power” cards in Santorini for some asymmetrical play. She flat-out refused to use them in our games preferring to keep our plays simple straight-up matches. That’s OK; I’d rather have her comfortable playing a game than forcing her into something she does not enjoy.

BTW, when we bought Santorini there was a second copy still on the shelf. Recognizing a good game and a good deal, we went back and snagged that copy for her “Shelf of Giving.” Some lucky family will be getting a copy sometime in the future!

Mrs. RMN’s “Shelf of Giving” stock

My 2020 #Boardgame of the Year

It’s the end of the year so it’s that time for the inevitable “of the Year” lists. In this year of COVID, boardgames formed an important part of the “coping” mechanism in the RockyMountainNavy family. As you will see, the boardgame hobby brought ALL of us closer together. So without further ado, here is my 2020 Boardgame of the Year.

To be eligible for this category, the item must be a boardgame (not a wargame). It must also have been released in the 2020 calendar year. For a near-complete listing of all the boardgames I acquired in 2020 (including many items not eligible for this list) please see my GeekList 2020 RockyMountainNavy Gaming Acquisitions and look for entries labeled “BOARDGAME”

Candidates (in alphabetical order):

*Very unfair since i picked this one up the day before this post. It’s legally a contender but I have not actually evaluated it yet. That said, I don’t think it’s going to knock out my winner so it stays on the list with this little asterisk.

The Best of 2020…in a moment

Before we get to my 2020 Boardgame winner, I’d like to take a few moments and tell you about the favorite boardgames I acquired this year from the perspective of the Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and the RockyMountainNavy Boys.

This year had a watershed moment for the boardgame hobby within the RockyMountainNavy home. Mrs. RMN has long tolerated my gaming hobby and never discouraged me to bring the RMN Boys into gaming; indeed, she always encourages our Saturday Night Game Nights. She even used games to teach her students. But even after all that she was ‘reluctant’ to play against myself or the boys. I think it’s because she sees herself as a slow gamer prone to analysis paralysis. I personally don’t think she is a slow gamer, just a careful one. This year, however, we took in two games that changed her outlook on gaming:

  • NMBR 9 (AbbucusSpiele, 2017) – I knew she liked Tetris-like games but she had tried (and afterwards avoided) Patchwork. For some reason, NMBR 9 resonates with her and is a real hit that she will play against the boys or me. She even plays solo at times!
  • Layers (Happy Baobab, 2018) – I bought this one on a Black Friday fire sale because I thought it was good for her students. I was right but didn’t expect that she would be so taken by the game. She often sits at the table doing the puzzles solo. She is still not the fastest but she gets great joy out of it every time she plays.
Mrs RMN’s Game of the Year

If the RockyMountainNavy Boys had a vote, they would tell you that Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020) as their Game of the Year. I backed the Kickstarter on a sort of whim and I’m glad I did. The RMN Boys enjoy the card play and art. They enjoy sharing this game with their friends. It is the most-played game in the RMN family collection this year by far.

Here to Slay (Unstable Unicorns, 2020)

But my 2020 winner is…

Four Gardens from Korea Boardgame company. I love how the game looks on the table. I love the simple, yet deep gameplay. I love that I can use this title as a ‘second game’ when introducing others to the hobby. When Four Gardens reaches wider distribution I am sure it will be a real hit.

Four Gardens from Korea Boardgame Company

My 2020 #Boardgame #Wargame Expansion of the Year

It’s the end of the year so it’s that time for the inevitable “of the Year” lists. Here is my 2020 Gaming Expansion of the Year.

To be eligible for this category, the item must be an expansion to an existing boardgame or wargame that is unplayable without the base game. It must also have been released in the 2020 calendar year. For a near-complete listing of all game expansions I acquired in 2020 (including some items not eligible for this list) please see my GeekList 2020 RockyMountainNavy Gaming Acquisitions and look for entries labeled “EXPANSION”

Candidates (in alphabetical order):

…and the winner is…

Wing Leader: Origins 1936-42 from GMT Games. It continues to amaze me how the abstract model used by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood for his Wing Leader series shows the relative capabilities of different aircraft. The system really shines with early World War II aircraft. This made every play of Origins a ‘flight of discovery’ because although the reputation of many of these aircraft was poor (to put it charitably), when placed into the Wing Leader system those same poor capabilities became challenges to be dealt with. The play absolutely enhanced my understanding of aerial combat at the start of WW2 and showed the rapid advancements in aircraft performance.

Wing Leader: Origins from GMT Games

My 2020 #Boardgame #Wargame Year in Review – By the Numbers!

I’m not a data scientist, but in this year of COVID we all have (hopefully) become a bit more savvy when it comes to numbers and statistics. So here is my look at my 2020 gaming year “by the numbers.”

Important note as you read below; although I consider Root (Leder Games, 2018) a wargame, for the purposes of this post it is counted as a boardgame.

Can you find Root, the wargame?

2020 Gaming Acquisitions

Total Gaming Items Acquired in 2020 – 82

  • Accessory – 8 (5 Boardgame, 3 Wargame)
  • Boardgames – 38 (Includes 30 base games & 8 expansions)
  • Wargames – 36 (Includes 31 base games & 5 expansions)

Comment: Did I really buy more boardgames this year than wargames? This is a major blow to my wargaming cred!

Part of the wargame collection

Wargames

  • Total Wargame Items – 39 (48% of total)
  • Base Games – 31 (79% of all wargame items)
  • Expansions – 5 (13% of all wargame items)
  • Accessory – 3 (8% of all wargame items)
  • Published in 2020 – 17 (44% of wargames)

Comment: A good mix of old and new with a fair amount of expansions thrown in too.

Wargame Items by Era

  • Pre World War II Era – 9
  • 20th Century 1925-1945 (World War II Era) – 18*
  • Modern Era (1945 to Near Future) – 9
  • Future or Sci-Fi – 1
  • Multi-Era – 2

* Includes Amerika Bomber: Evil Queen of the Skies (Compass Games, 2020) since it is really an alternate-ending WWII game.

Comment: Shows that World War II remains far and away my most popular era although Modern Era games are also strong. Whatever happened to sci-fi? (Answer – They went to boardgames).

Wargame Items by Publisher (Base Game-Expansion-Accessory)

  • Admiralty Trilogy Games – 3 (1-0-2)
  • Command Magazine – 1 (1-0-0)
  • Compass Games – 3 (3-0-0)
  • Counterfact Magazine – 1 (1-0-0)
  • Fort Circle Games – 1 (1-0-0)
  • Game Crafters – 1 (0-0-1)
  • GDW – 2 (2-0-0)
  • GMT Games – 5 (3-0-2)
  • Hollandspiele – 3 (2-1-0)
  • Lock ‘n Load Publishing – 4 (2-2-0)
  • Multi-Man Publishing – 4 (4-0-0)
  • PSC – 1 (1-0-0)
  • Osprey Publishing – 1 (1-0-0)
  • RBM Studio (C3i Ops Magazine) – 1 (1-0-0)
  • Revolution Games – 4 (4-0-0)
  • US Naval War College (via History of Wargaming Project) – 2 (2-0-0)
  • Worthington Publishing – 2 (2-0-0)

Comment: I’m pleased with the diversity of publishers that I purchased from this year. Although I bought more individual items from GMT, I actually bought more base games from two other publishers (Multi-Man Publishing & Revolution Games).

Boardgames, good boardgames

Boardgames

  • Total Boardgame Items – 43 (52% of total)
  • Base Games – 30 (66% of all boardgame items)
  • Expansions – 8 (20% of all boardgame items)
  • Accessory – 5 (12% of all boardgame items)
  • Published in 2020 – 18 (42% of boardgames)

Comment: Seeing how 42% of all boardgame items were published in 2020 should I be looking for a Cult of the New (CotN) or Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) vaccine? Not really; 10 of the 17 items were accessories or expansions leaving ‘only’ 7 new games from 2020 – 16% of all boardgames.

Boardgames by Domain* – Base Games Only

  • Abstract – 5
  • Card – 3
  • Children’s – 6.5
  • Family – 4.5
  • Strategy – 6
  • Thematic – 5

*Using the BoardGameGeek classification where able.

Comment: Was a bit surprised that Children’s games were at the top here. Then again, I should not be surprised as Mrs. RockyMountainNavy and myself made a concerted effort to buy new children’s games this year for her to use in teaching.

Four Gardens from Korea Boardgame Company

Board Game Stats (Plays)

  • Total Game Plays – 257 (223 in 2019 = Up just over 15%)
  • Different Games Played – 123 (119 in 2019 = Up ~3%)
  • Percentage of Game Collection Played in 2020 = 14%
  • Players – 27 [Mr. Solo – 30%, RMN T & RMN Jr. 22% each]
  • Locations – 3 (Up 50% over 2019)
  • Days of the Week – Sun 22%, Mon 10%, Tue 7%, Wed 9%, Thu 10%, Fri 20%, Sat 22%
  • H-Factor =6 (Six games played at least 6 times)
  • Game Quarters (at least 25 Plays) = 0
  • Game Dimes (at least 10 Plays) = 1
  • Game Nickels (at least 5 plays) = 10

Most Played Games

  • Here to Slay (Unstable Games, 2020) = 10
  • Brief Border Wars (Compass Games, 2020) = 9
  • Dragomino (Blue Orange Games, 2020) = 8
  • Iron Curtain: Central Front 1945-1989 (Multi Man Publishing, 2020) = 7
  • Tri Pack: Battles of the American Revolution – Guilford, Saratoga, Brandywine (GMT Games, 2017) = 7
  • Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987 (GMT Games, 2019) = 6
  • Elena of Avalor: Flight of the Jaquins (Wonder Forge, 2017) = 5
  • Enemy Coast Ahead: The Doolittle Raid (GMT Games, 2017) = 5
  • Fury at Midway (Revolution Games, 2020) = 5
  • Lonato (GMT Games, 2002) = 5
  • NMBR 9 (ABACUSSPIELE, 2017) = 5

Comment: Roughly same number of games played this year but more plays of those games. Reflects the fact that because of COVID I got a slightly larger gaming table which allowed me to keep games setup longer. This resulted in multiple plays of more games.

Incoming Games…Someday (Pre-Orders & Kickstarter)

Living GeekList is here.

As of Dec 27, 2020

Comment: Hmm. Average age (or time on list) is a bit over 11 months. And that’s i the year of COVID which slowed down manufacturing. If this time shrinks appreciably in 2021, could it be a barometer of recovery?

The 2021 RockyMountainNavy Game Collection

According to my BGG Profile

  • Boardgames Owned (Boardgames + Wargames): 782
  • Expansions Owned: 247
  • Accessories Owned: 7 (Obviously this is not correct as I acquired eight this year)
  • Average BGG Boardgames Rating: 6.55
  • Average BGG Expansions Rating: 6.71
  • Top Rated Game: 9.25 Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel, Kursk – 1943 3rd Edition (Academy Games, 2019)

#ShelfieSaturday – My #wargame #boardgame collection (2020 Edition)

It’s not the best organized but it is MY collection. Here are a few ‘shelfie’ photos of my wargame / boardgame collection. As a general rule I do not ‘display’ games on the main levels of the house. This is a condition I set for myself; I don’t want to take space away from Mrs. RMN and her cherished displays (her china cabinet is very nice) or displace family pictures or the like. We also moved our library to the main floor so the books are prominently displayed.

I keep games in four locations; basement, family room, loft, and storage. You will be able to tell that games have to share space with our family’s plastic model hobby as well as toy storage; although my boys area older Mrs. RMN tutors younger students so we keep the toys on hand to encourage creative play for them.

Like many gamers I have too many games I am challenged for storage. As you will quickly see, I need to double-stack many games to get them onto my allotted shelf space.

Let’s start with the WARGAMES!

Wargame Shelf 1 Top – Arranged alphabetical by publisher then publication/stock #
Wargame Shelf 1 Middle 1
Wargame Shelf 1 Middle 2
Wargame Shelf 1 Bottom – Longer boxes and folio games
Wargame Shelf 2 Top – Includes several series collections (Yes, Root is a WARGAME)

At this point the collection starts to transition from wargames into boardgames….

Wargame / Boardgame Shelf 2 Middle & Bottom – ‘My’ boardgames
Family Boardgame Shelf

Although most games are kept in the basement we do keep some upstairs. Most of these titles are used by Mrs. RMN and her students. We also keep one or two ‘hot’ family titles on hand here too.

Living Room 1 – Mrs. RMN’s newest games for students
Living Room 2 – More student / family games and logic puzzles (hidden behind)
Loft 1 – Larger student / family boardgames, card games, and logic puzzles

Not shown is the medium cube box full of my Star Fleet Battles / Federation & Empire collection. Also not shown are several bookshelves of RPG’s and wargaming periodicals (from back when that was a thing).

A comment on the order of games; over the years I tried several different variations but finally settled on a scheme for my wargames of alphabetical by publisher then in order by stock number. I previously used a ‘by timeperiod’ arrangement but found it lacking. The order I have keeps the various publisher titles together (I find it easier to find a game that way) and then the stock number order shows a form of ‘history’ of my hobby. My boardgames are arranged in a somewhat random manner with Mrs. RMN’s student games earning a further set-aside so she (or her student) can quickly pick one when it’s needed.

The obligatory question that usually comes at this point is, “Are you going to get rid of anything/” Well, I have a few items noted as ‘For Trade’ in my BGG collection. This year I tried to use the BG Stats app to better track my plays across my entire collection. Maybe I will do some data analysis at the end of the year to try to make some ‘data driven’ decisions.

Turkey Weekend #Boardgame Night – No need to CASTLE PANIC (@firesidegames, 2009) because we’re gonna ABANDON SHIP (@alderac, 2008) after calling on NMBR 9 (@Zmangames_, 2017)

This Saturday after Thanksgiving turned into a boardgame family night at the RockyMountainNavy hacienda. Actually, the entire day had gaming moments for the family. Here are a few of the highlights.

RockyMountainNavy Jr. pulled NMBR 9 (Z-Man Games, 2017) out as he was eating breakfast and played a solo game with one hand as he munched away with the other; he didn’t score well but he did comment that it was an enjoyable pairing.

Photo by RMN

Late afternoon RMN Jr. asked if we could host a boardgame night with his best buddy, Gavin. Then it was for Gavin and his brother Skylar. Then it was for Gavin, Skylar, and Gavin’s Dad. No problem!

As we waited after dinner NMBR 9 made another appearance. After four plays I finally won! The scores for all were fairly low showing the difficult draws that this particular game produced.

Going into the evening we had a few choices ready for Game Night. Six players is a much larger player count than usual for us so we had to curate a selection. Gaming candidates included:

Since I am usually the Boardgame Teacher I spent a little bit of the afternoon going through the rules for the games one more time to quickly refamiliarize myself. Good thing I did because when the night started Castle Panic was the first to land on the table.

We played Castle Panic in full cooperative mode with open hands. We had to explain to Gavin’s Dad what a cooperative game was. He quickly bought into the game and he and his boys caught onto the rules fast. We were able to win after a fun 80-minute battle. That’s a bit longer than the 30-60 minutes advertised play time but that included a quick teach and some slow first rounds as they felt out the game. Verdict – FUN, willing to play again.

Courtesy Fireside Games

Interestingly, of my two boys it was RMN T, my Autism Spectrum hero, that recalled the rules and flow of the game best. I was surprised as he was fully aware during the game about the Boss Monsters and the danger they represent. We haven’t played Castle Panic in a while and if I had not reread the rule book earlier I would have not thought about it that way at all. I don’t think we give him enough credit because, once again, when it comes to gaming he showed he really is ‘on the ball’; perhaps more so than anyone else in the family.

The second game of the night was Abandon Ship. Gavin’s Dad immediately bought into the theme of the game – first for the awesome board and second when I explained that the first rat to the top deck scores no points because it gets trampled to death. He literally laughed out loud at that. Unlike the full cooperative play of Castle Panic, Abandon Ship is played in a semi-cooperative manner. At the end of the night RMN Jr. won but all the others were close behind in scoring. Verdict – DEFINITE HIT; must play again.

Courtesy TheBoardGameFamily on BGG

Tonight was also the full debut of the my BBO Poker World Traveler Game Mat. This is a VERY important piece of gaming kit in the RMN Home given Mrs. RMN just got a new dining room table and it is important we keep it looking good. Again, it was Gavin’s Dad who was the most complimentary of the game mat. He’s absolutely right; it looks really good on the table!

———————

Feature image by RMN

Beautiful & Affordable #Boardgame #Wargame Accessory – @BBOPokerTables World Traveler Game Mat

SINCE forever the dining table in the RockyMountainNavy home has served as the play area for our Family Game Night. As much as I would like a true gaming table it doesn’t fit our lifestyle. Instead, we recently bought a new traditonal dining table and I wanted to do something to protect the tabletop finish. I looked around at some places and finally decided to buy the BBO Poker World Traveler Portable Poker and Game Mat for 8 Players.

Photo by RMN

Wow, does the World Traveler design look nice on the table! It’s hard to describe (and my photos are not professional by any measure) but we all agree it looks much better in person than in the photos. I think it has to do with the subtlety of the map; in the photos the map is very recognizable but in person it is much more subdued.

I am also very pleased with the BBO Poker construction; think of this game mat as an extra large mouse pad for it’s nice and thick. If (for some forsaken reason) I was rolling those heavy metal dice on this mat the table below would be just fine.

At 70″x35″ our BBO Poker World Traveler it is plenty big for us to play games on. Our old dining table was a bit small. Setting up a full game of Scythe (Stonemaier Games, 2016) or Terraforming Mars (Stronghold Games, 2016) was edge to edge (and then some). Since this game mat is oval it doesn’t go edge to edge on the table but it still has lots of real estate for gaming. Mrs. RMN also approves of the design; it doesn’t look like a poker mat.

I am very pleased with the quality and price. Highly recommended!


Feature image courtesy of BBO Poker Tables.

Saturday night landscaping in Four Gardens (@kbgpublishing, 2020)

Long ago, in a beautiful Eastern kingdom, a queen and her people pleased their Gods by building a mystical pagoda. The pagoda housed the four Gods and towered strong over the magnificent kingdom. As time passed, the queen fell ill and she summoned her people to compete for her crown. The crown would be passed on to the person who could build the most pristine garden around the pagoda. The heir would be chosen by the four Gods themselves.

Introduction, Four Gardens, Korea Board Games, 2020

Three contestants came forward, the first was the village elder who had much experience. The second was a son who was renowned for his ability to see patterns in the wilderness. The third was the youngest but had fought in many battles often emerging victorious.

The contest started slowly as the three worked to learn the rules of the Gods. It’s not that the rules were difficult, for they were not, but the mystical pagoda that they could manipulate to appeal to the Gods for materials to build their gardens was an always-moving puzzle that took time to consider.

The elder was the first to complete a panorama, but the youngest warrior quickly followed. As the contestants mastered the simple rules of the contest they started building faster. The elder almost won, but a small mistake stopped him short of victory. The second son noticed the patterns and announced the warrior was going to win. Sure enough, the battle soon ended. As the Gods judged the contest, the second son and warrior were surprised to discover that the Gods favored them equally. It fell to counting who had the most panoramas, and here the warrior was ahead, and thus he emerged victorious yet again.

The three held council and discussed their contest. All three agreed the Gods had favored them all with such a beautiful Pagoda and a simple contest that created such beautiful Gardens. They agreed that this Four Gardens contest was worthy of repeated attempts, vowing to compete again and further to share the contest with others.


So went our first play of Four Gardens (Korea Board Games, 2020). Our copy arrived courtesy of my favorite niece in Korea for the game is not yet available in the US. I was drawn to the game for several reasons, amongst them the fact it is published in Korea and it has a beautiful table presence thanks the the four-story, rotating pagoda. The game includes instructions in both Korean and English so there is no language barrier!

From the moment you look at the box of Four Gardens, you know that this is a game of beautiful components. From the incredible box cover to the pagoda to the two-sided cards with watercolor landscapes to nice little wooden resources, this is a game that will look beautiful on any game table.

In Four Gardens, players work to convert cards from Groundwork into Landscapes. These Landscapes in turn build Panoramas to score points. Each turn, players can take three Actions. They can play a card Groundwork side up from their hand to their Garden (tableau). Some cards can be discarded from their hand to Take a Wild resource and play it to their Planning Tile (storage) or directly onto a Groundwork card. The players can also discard a Handcart to Reallocate Resources, moving their resources from the Planning Tile to a Groundwork card. Finally, they can discard a card to Rotate & Collect which rotates a floor of the pagoda after which they collect resources as directed. When all the necessary resources on a Groundwork card are collected, the resources are returned to the supply and the card turned Landscape side up to become part of a Panorama, scoring points for the player. The first player to complete a number of Landscapes based on the number of players triggers the end game after which points are totaled. Highest score is the winner!

With few exceptions, the paragraph above pretty much covers all the basic rules of Four Gardens. The game rules are dead simple. The challenge is in determining what order to play your cards and collecting and moving resources.

The pagoda in Four Gardens itself creates a nice spatial puzzle. Each of the four floors is one resource and the sides are 0-1-2-3 of each. When players Rotate & Collect, the card tells the player which level can be rotated 90 degrees either way and then which order (top to bottom or bottom to top) resources are collected. At first figuring out what was happening when the pagoda moved was a challenge, but very quickly we figured out how it all works. By the end of the game I was actually able to visualize the movement of the pagoda and there was much less analysis paralysis. Our first game took about 90 minutes, double the game box play time, but we all agree that future games will go quicker because we now understand the core mechanics.

A beautiful pagoda focus players in Four Gardens (Photo by RMN)

Game nights in the RockyMountainNavy household tend to run to wargames or strategy games with lots of conflict. Four Gardens is a welcome change from our norm, in no small part because it just looks so dang beautiful on the table. The pagoda rightly serves as the centerpiece of the game and the puzzle it delivers is challenging but not overbearing. The fact that the pagoda can be stacked differently each game means every game will be different, if for no other reason than the shuffle of the cards and the different stack of the pagoda.

I am very pleased that Four Gardens has joined the RockyMountainNavy game collection. It is an excellent family game with beautiful components and relatively simple game play. I wouldn’t use it as a gateway boardgames, but it certainly can be the “next step” amongst family and friends who want to step up from something like Catan or Ticket to Ride. I am confident that Four Gardens will make many more appearances during out Saturday Family Game Nights.