Friday, May 31, 2024

Board Game Top 100 (2024) Part 33 (32-31)

#32 Super Motherload

This is a fantastic deck building game that I fear may have been hindered by its unfortunate name. Super Motherload sounds like a Nintendo themed porn parody. 

What it is, is a wonderful deck builder with a board element where players are playing cards to bore mining tunnels deeper and deeper into (hmm … the porn analogy continues) the surface of an alien planet (Mars?) to harvest its natural resources.

Players dig down through the layers of rock to mine gems and spend those to get better cards to add to their deck. The theme is pretty much Dig Dug (if you can remember that) the deck building game. Cards that you add to your deck improve your mining crew which enable you to go further and faster, hopefully beating your opponents to the most lucrative gains.

I really love Super Motherload. It sits in a similar spot as Quest for Eldorado but adds just the smallest level of complexity. Quest for Eldorado for example, is a race and ends when the first player reaches the finish line. Super Motherload has many of the same "feels" but sees players scoring points to achieve victory. Plus, I like the space theme.

An engaging, simple deck builder with a fun theme, great table presence and a terrible name, Super Motherload is my 32nd favorite game of all time.

#31 Wingspan

Ah, Wingspan. This one you have probably already heard about if you have any sort of interest in modern hobby board gaming. Wingspan took the gaming world by storm and with good reason.

In Wingspan players are filling a nature preserve with all forms of avian life. Your nature preserve is made up of three habitats: forests, fields, and wetlands. This creates three of the four rows of your player board. The fourth (really narrow) row at the top of your board allows you to place cards into the other three rows. (These rows are wide enough to hold the cards that you need to put there.)

The three wide rows hold cards. The top narrow row does not. In addition, all rows act as sort of worker placement spots to trigger actions. Players have action cubes that act as workers to activate these different action spots. The top narrow row allows players to place a cube there and then add a card to any one of the other three rows.

These cards are the birds that move into your nature preserve, and all of the cards are beautifully illustrated. Wingspan is gorgeous! Players collect bird cards and place them on their player board in the row that represents the proper habitat for the bird in question. 

Each row has seven columns. (The player board is a four by seven grid.) But, each of the three habitats holds a maximum of five birds. The first column is where you keep your action cubes after they are played, and the last column shows a powerful action that can only be unlocked once the entire row is filled with birds. This is a tiny narrow column just like the top row. 

The main active parts of your player board are the center second through sixth columns that hold your cards. This all might sound confusing, but the player board is actually really well laid out and clearly defined. It makes learning and playing Wingspan a breeze!

All the core actions are right there on the board. The forest row lets you collect food from the bird feeder. (Food is rolled on special food dice. The bird feeder is an awesome dice tray!) The field row lets your birds lay eggs. (Food and Eggs are both needed to play more cards onto your player board.) The wetlands row lets you draw more bird cards into your hand.

What you can do is all right there in front of you. But, wait! There's more! When you play a card into a row, you always play it into the left most available column. Then, when you choose a row in order to perform an action, you activate the action to the right of the last card in the row. So, the more birds that you have in a row, the more powerful that row's action becomes.

But wait! There's more! Most of your bird cards also have actions on them. You activate the core player action, then moving from right to left you go back across the row activating the action of each bird card in that row! That can give you a lot of awesome stuff to do in one turn! So, while you are set collecting birds, you are also building an engine!

After players play all of their action cubes, the round ends and a scoring phase is activated, where players compair how they did for the round on special end round objectives. Each player then places one of their action cubes on the scorecard. This means that players have one less action in the coming round. 

So, as your actions on your player board get better and better, this is offset by the fewer number of action cubes available. It is also always clear which round you're in and impossible to forget and lose track. (Which sometimes happens in other games.)

It's beautiful. It's intuitive. It's clever. It's thematic. (All the bird powers actually make sense based on the behavior of the birds in nature.) Wingspan is a masterpiece, worth all of its hype. It even answers the question, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" (You have to have birds first in Wingspan in order to lay eggs.)

Wingspan is so good. If you haven't played it, you should. Just thinking about it makes me wonder why Wingspan isn't higher in my top 100. For now though, Wingspan is my 31st favorite game of all time.

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