Board Game Bento – Out of This World

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Month: August 2018 “Out of This World”

As a recap, Board Game Bento is a monthly board game subscription box. Each month the team at Board Game Bento sends subscribers a box of at least three board games with a total value of $80 or more. The game selection for each box is guided by a theme which is announced ahead of time. Subscribers pay $50 plus shipping; for those outside the United States we must organise a freight forwarding service.

This month celebrates games that wondered what is out there, the adventures and opportunities, the potential for the future and threats to the present.

This is a wide-reaching theme and has many avenues the Board Game Bento team could choose to take. I see the theme being driven toward games that represent “outer-space” in the near-future. Games which feature exploration of Mars, intergalactic threats to Earth, and space exploration are what I am expecting to see.

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The three games featured for "Out of This World"

Game 1: Asking for Trobils

Asking for Trobils is a family weight worker placement game published by Breaking Games. I remember when it was first on Kickstarter when it’s point of difference was the noticeable dominance of orange in the colour palette. Check out the original Kickstarter page to see what I mean! The game has found acclaim with Tom Vasel of The Dice Tower; however I rarely see it in friendly local game stores or indeed online game stores.

This game meets Bento’s goal of being a recognised game that many people probably still have not tried. For that reason, it is worthy of inclusion. The cartoon-style presentation of the game makes it a little too distant from reality for me to fully integrate it into the theme of this month’s box.

Another point of note for this game is the rulebook which features a “How to Teach” section. This was the first time I had seen this in a rulebook and I think more games should be trying it. Teaching games is a very underappreciated skill, and one we will be tackling in the near future.

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Some of the cards and the custom ships in Asking for Trobils

Game 2: Meteor

Meteor is a real-time co-operative resource management game published by Mayday Games. This game saw some relatively consistent play for a while in our games group a few years ago. I don’t know that many people outside my group have played it. Meteor was released when real-time games were seeing a surge in popularity, so for many people this game may have been lost in the crowd.

The theme of Meteor revolves around defending Earth against a meteor shower. Players must co-ordinate launches of rockets to explode the meteors before they hit the surface. Already this game feels like a closer fit to this month’s theme.

Meteor is a game that I have enjoyed playing in the past, but is never one I had sought out or suggested myself. Receiving it in this month’s Bento has given me a reason to play it again. It is a good complement to the genre, but not the best example of what real-time games can achieve.

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A sample of the Meteor components - cards and hourglasses aplenty!

Game 3: Robots & Rockets: Lightspeed

Robots & Rockets: Lightspeed is a small card game which involves playing numbered cards at the right moment to build the best rockets. The flyer in the Bento box stated that they were planning to include the original Robots & Rockets; this game is a spin-off set in the same universe.

This game highlighted the benefit of the Board Game Bento service to me. There is very little chance I would have sought out this game for a deliberate purchase. Even though I have not yet played Robots & Rockets: Lightspeed, it has opened research on a new publisher for me. It is a small box game that I would not have otherwise noticed.

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Robots and Rockets is small - pictured here with LEGO shark for scale

Overall Thoughts

Setting myself a three-month trial seems to have been a good idea. I am much more impressed with the game inclusions this month. I feel the games are accessible, with their vibrant artwork and family-weight gameplay. The games included span a player count of 1-6.

This month also indicated the risk you run when making blind subscription purchases. I already owned two of the games included this month. For many that would be a large disappointment. Personally (and probably only because I have a large game collection) I see this as a good thing. It encouraged me to play those games, one for the first time. Additionally, if you have a second copy of a game you can teach it to new gamers and then give them the spare copy!

One other side note; given the box sizes of the games I was inspired to do a graphic redesign of Meteor and Robots & Rockets: Lightspeed making them more orange and including them in the Asking for Trobils box. Of course, this has remained as an inspiration and is still on my list of things to-do.

Alpal

Board Game Bento – June 2018 – Art & Anarchy

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What is Board Game Bento?

Board Game Bento is a subscription box featuring a surprise selection of board games. Every month subscribers are mailed a box containing around three board games. Each box has a “theme” which roughly guides the selection of games. The advertised value of the games in each box is $80USD minimum. Subscribers pay $50USD plus shipping. The postage is limited to North America. In order to get the box delivered to Australia I needed to use a freight forwarding company.

Theme: Art & Anarchy

The anticipation of my first Board Game Bento was high. Having a theme really helps you speculate on what games might be included. For this first month I was to receive a box with the theme Art & Anarchy. Immediately A Fake Artist Goes To New York was sure to be included. For me it was the obvious choice. Featuring an art theme and art activities, where the social deduction mechanisms of the game inspire the anarchy tie-in.

Alas, A Fake Artist Goes To New York was not included in this box (Editor’s Note Boo!). Let’s look at what was included; I’ll list them in the order presented in the flyer.

A classic auction game from Reiner Knizia, Masters Gallery has seen many editions and variants in the years since its original 2009 release. In fact, Masters Gallery is a card game reimplementation of an earlier Knizia game, Modern Art which was first released in 1992.

This game was a worthy inclusion and supplying the Travel Edition was a nice way to get a quality game into the Bento Box without blowing the budget. Unfortunately, knowing of the recent re-release by CMON of Modern Art, I cannot help but feel that would have been a better fit for the theme (even if this is an essentially aesthetic argument).

Masters Gallery Box Art
This is the edition received in the Bento Box. Modern Art is the updated release.

Each Bento Box seems to feature one “big game” and two smaller games. Princes of the Renaissance was this month’s big game. Princes of the Renaissance is a Martin Wallace design released in 2003. The game has had a recent reprinting through Kickstarter. Unfortunately, the edition received in this Bento Box has the component quality which reflects a game released in 2003. This dated level of production is noticeable when placed amid games of today’s production standards.

My main disappointment surrounding this game’s inclusion is due purely to the reasoning that the Board Game Bento gave surrounding its inclusion:

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Princes of the Renaissance unfortunately did not receive an artwork upgrade with the reprint.

“We joked around the Board Game Bento offices that if we couldn’t find enough games with art themes for this month we’d try to get a game featuring the Ninja Turtles. Thankfully we were able to acquire Princes of the Renaissance by Mercury Games, a game that features the heroes in a half-shell’s Renaissance artist namesakes.”

And there’s the problem: This paragraph on the included flyer just made me wish that I had received a TMNT game instead.

Game 3: Stickman

The Swiss game Stickman was included especially for “introducing our subscribers to international games that are hard to find in North America”. Interestingly, my local game shop stocks almost the entire Matchbox Collection from Helvetiq, so this one was less exciting to me. Add to that the fact that this game is one that requires drawing on other players backs, the invasion of personal space issue pushed me away from this being a welcome inclusion.

This game has its place in the Bento Box; it’s quirky, probably not one you’d hunt down, and for most people, it is a hard-to-find game. It also is the most recent release by a long way, having only been released last year (2017).

Stickman Box Art
The Helvetiq Matchbox Collection all have similarly striking cover art.

Overall Thoughts

So, my first Board Game Bento is a bit of a let-down. But that’s okay, I decided to give them a three-month trial period before making a solid judgement. I was surprised at how old the games were; I was hoping for some more recent releases or even Kickstarter funded games. The monetary value is there, but as always because it is a blind purchase, you run the risk of the inclusions being not to your taste. For me, none of these games got played at my house, but I have been able to find new homes for them (even if that was the charity shop in some cases).

One final note – the flyer stated that next month’s theme is “Gear!”. But this was a printing error. Next month is “Out of This World”, with the “Gear!” theme to follow after that.

Alpal