Vintage Board Games – The Cult of the Old (6/28/19)

It seems like everyone these days is concentrating on “the cult of the new” where board games are concerned. We are guilty of doing the same thing, come to that, but we do not want to ignore games that are older. Defining “old” in board game terms is hard to do and feels very arbitrary. Hold old is “old”?

For our purposes, we are going to declare any game published in the United States before or during 2017 to be “old”. Games published elsewhere but not brought over to the U.S. until recently will not count as old for our purposes so Kashgar, for example, will count as a recent game because, although it was published in Germany in 2013, it was not published in the U.S. until this year.

So here are our recently played “vintage” board games . . .

Merkator

Merkator Cover

Merkator was published in 2010 by Lookout Games. The game was designed by one of my favorite board game designers, Uwe Rosenberg. The artwork was provided by Klemens Franz.

Merkator finds the players as merchants traveling to and fro across the globe fulfilling orders, gaining contracts, building buildings, gaining bonus cards, and collecting goods. The game uses an innovative time mechanism to track down to the end of the game. Traveling to the west either provides no time tokens or costs the players time tokens, while traveling to the east gains the players time tokens. One player can follow the other and play the followed player a number of time tokens depending on the location. The building cards grant the players victory points at the end of the game and bonus cards give the players bonuses that they can pick up at the various locations around the board.

I think this is probably the most underrated Uwe Rosenberg game in my collection. If I had not watched Rahdo’s video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fJzcnGTZqo) on the game several years ago, I might never have acquired a copy, which would have been a shame. The game is a study in how efficient the players can be in both fulfilling the contracts and collecting the goods they need to fulfill those contracts.

The components for this game are nice, especially the boards that allow the goods to nest snugly in them. The rule book is short, well-organized, and easy to read. There is a solo mode in the game, although I have yet to give it a try. The game has both a short and a long version that you can play, but as a 2-player game, even the long version only lasts about an hour. It is a pick up and deliver game which appeals to both Beth and me. My one big con on the game is the artwork, especially the game’s cover which is just flat out ugly, in my opinion (although the mouse sticking its head out of the barrel is cute.) If you have not given this game a shot, I highly recommend trying it out!

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy

Legacy Testament of Duke de Crecy Cover

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy was published in 2013 by Portal Games. The game was designed by Michiel Hendriks. There were several artists for the game: Mateusz Bielski, Rafal Szyma, and Barbara Trela-Szyma.

Legacy: The Testament of Duke de Crecy is set in France, before the French Revolution. The players are the heads of families who are trying to improve the prestige of their family through making arranged marriages. The game lasts through 3 generations, as the players try to continue the upward rise of their families marrying into influential families throughout the European continent. The game is a strategy game in which the players are trying to propel their family’s legacy forward by making advantageous marriages, raising a healthy brood, participating in society, laying claim to titles and building mansions.

This is one of Beth’s all-time favorite games, coming in at number 7 on her list. We tell the stories of the families we are building as we play the game, even going so far as to name our family members as we play (there is a file that you can download on BGG here). The mechanics of this game are solid: it is a well-designed tableau building, worker placement game. You have to be careful how you use your workers though because you only have 2 main workers, although you can acquire 1 or 2 others in a round.

You have a patron/patroness whose wants you need to satisfy, but your card draws may make that difficult, so luck of the draw does come into play during the game. There are “complication” cards that can be played in the game representing complications in childbirth in which either the child or the mother dies. The game can be played without those cards, which is generally the way we play, and taking those cards out does not affect the game play. The biggest con on the game for me is the amount of table space that the game takes – it is really a table hog – but a table hog that is a great game. Very highly recommended for thematic euro game lovers!

Valley of the Kings

Valley of the Kings Cover

Valley of the Kings was published in 2014 by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG). It was followed in succession by Valley of the Kings: Afterlife in 2015 and Valley of the Kings: Last Rites in 2016. A premium edition of the game was published in 2019. All of the incarnations of the game were designed by Tom Cleaver. The artwork for the games was provided by Banu Andaru and Guillermo H. Nunez.

Valley of the Kings is a deck building game. The first two games in the series share the same basic cards for the players, but feature unique items in the other decks. The last game in the series, Last Rites, has different basic cards for the players to start out the game. Again, it has unique items in its decks, differing from the other cards in the other two games.

This is one of my favorite deck building games. I prefer the last game, Valley of the Kings: Last Rites, to the other two primarily because of the different starter cards. I like the fact that you can combine all 3 sets if you want to and make up your own version of the game. There are recommendations on how to combine the sets in the rule books for both of the follow up games or on Alderac’s website (https://www.alderac.com/2017/11/25/combining-valley-of-the-kings-sets/). You do not need to purchase all 3 of the games. Each of the games can stand alone.

The main difference between this game and many of the other deck building games is the “entomb” ability. Players have to decide when it is time to place a card in their tomb and thus lose the card’s special ability and the gold it gives them to purchase other cards. On their turn the players can play a card to either use it for its gold, use it for its special ability, or entomb a card, so you could conceivably start entombing cards from the first turn of the game. As the game progresses, the choices of what you do with the cards becomes more difficult. If you have not tried this terrific deck builder and you are a fan of that game genre, give it a shot!

Old Does Not Mean Bad

Just because a game is not cult of the new does not mean it is a bad game. We hope that these looks back into “vintage” board games helps reacquaint both us and you as to just how good older games can be.

As always, for information on these and thousands of other games, be sure and check out Boardgame Geek here.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

Stasia and Beth

4 Replies to “Vintage Board Games – The Cult of the Old (6/28/19)”

  1. Charlotte

    I recently replayed my copy of Valley of the Kings, too, after quite a long time on the shelf! It was with newer gamers and worked pretty well.
    What I like about Valley of the Kings over other deck builders is the ability to ruthlessly cull your deck. This way, your deck becomes more efficient at a more rapid pace than in most other deck builders (where you can’t easily get rid of your bad cards).

    I keep being tempted to pick up one of the other two sets; based on your recommendation it sounds like I should go for Last Rites for the variety.

    Reply
    1. I agree about getting to cull your deck, Charlotte. I really like that about the game.

      As far as getting the other sets, I enjoy having all 3 but if I were to only get one, it would definitely be Last Rites.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Stasia

      Reply
  2. Jenny

    I really like Legacy and am always surprised it didn’t get more love, as we thoroughly enjoy it and the tight decisions within.

    Reply
    1. I agree, Jenny. It is a very good game and deserves more attention. Having only those 2 workers and trying to optimize them makes the decision making in the game so crucial.

      Stasia

      Reply

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