Tag: gaming

Seasons of Rice Review

Seasons of Rice Review

Anybody who has read even a few reviews on this blog knows that I love Button Shy. I feel like at this point I should be walking the streets in a Button Shy jumpsuit, like a NASCAR driver with a major sponsor. But what can I say? They make great, unique games and I will gladly take the opportunity to evangelize them whenever I can.

If you don’t know what Button Shy is,it’s an independent publisher who specialize in micro games that are released in actual, literal wallets and they have been on fire the past year. They’ve seen some of their most popular and beloved games released in 2018 and 2019. Games like the excellent Circle the Wagons, a two player tile laying game in the Wild West, Sprawlopolis, a cooperative city builder, and Stew, an amazing mix of push your luck, deduction and bluffing, are all proof that Button Shy is in their publishing prime.

As if those titles weren’t enough, Button Shy is also hot off the heels of their most successful Kickstarter project ever: Tussie Mussie. Designed by Elizabeth Hargrave, she of Wingspan fame, Tussie Mussie is an ‘I Cut, You Choose’ card game based around the Victorian era fad of communicating through flowers. Over 4,000 backers were part of the Tussie Mussie campaign, and I had the fortune to review it here on this blog. Check out my review here and, SPOILERS, the game was awesome.

Naturally, the next game in their Kickstarter line up has some massive shoes to fill. Button Shy’s latest offering is Seasons of Rice, a two player tile laying game set in the world of Cambodian rice farming. Just like with Tussie Mussie, I was lucky enough to get a review copy of Seasons of Rice sent to me, courtesy of Button Shy. Is Seasons of Rice another gleaming jewel in the ever-growing crown of Button Shy’s recent hits or is it a disappointing step back? Thankfully, it’s the former.

As I briefly touched upon, Seasons of Rice, designed by Corry Damy is a two player tile laying game and it’s all about trying to create the best rice paddy farms in Cambodia. Like all Button Shy games, it’s just a deck of 18 cards. The cards are double sided: on one side is an Ancestor which provide bonus points or special abilities while the other side is a landscape illustration that you’ll be building your rice paddies with, featuring things like paths, farmers, houses and roaming buffalo.

The game is played over two seasons: the Wet Season and the Dry Season. The Wet Season incorporates a play and pass card drafting mechanic in the style of Sushi Go or 7 Wonders while the Dry Season has players drafting cards from a display left over from the Wet Season.

First, let’s start with the Wet Season. The two players start with a hand of seven cards and on each turn, players simultaneously choose two cards to play. One of those cards go into the player’s personal landscape, which is what you’re trying to build and expand over the course of the game, while the other goes into a row of cards that will be drafted from during the Dry Season. After this is done, players exchange hands and do the same thing. Rinse and repeat till your hands are empty and you move onto the Dry Season, where players simply alternate taking one card from the display formed during the Wet Season.

This drafting system is one of the things I really like about this game. The fact that you must pick two cards, giving one to yourself and giving the other to a communal row for a later round is really unique. It reminds me of games like Biblios and Herbaceous, which feature similar wrinkles on card drafting. You’ll obviously want to take cards that help yourself, but what about the card you’re punting to the Dry Season? Do you choose a card that might come in handy for your landscape later or do you choose something that appears useful to your opponent to block them from using it during the Wet Season? This makes for some real interesting decision making and helps set the tone for the second half of the game.

Of course, the drafting is just small part of the game compared to the actual tile laying. Considering the building of your landscape is what actually nets you the points in the game, you need to be crafty and smart with how you build things out. The rules of placement are pretty typical of the genre. You have to place adjacently and features in one card have to match a feature in the other card. The cool thing about Season of Rice though, is that you can place cards partially adjacent to each other, as long as you’re connecting like features. This is not something I’ve seen before in the genre and it leads to some cool looking landscapes. Being able to stagger the cards also opens things up strategically, allowing you to really get creative with how you form the paddies. This is a very good thing, since I was concerned landscapes would look too similar game to game as a result of the small deck size. Button Shy once again proves that it’s not the size of your deck, but how you use it.

As you build your landscape, you’re working to close paddies up on your farm. Closing paddies means you have a continuous, closed path cordoning off a set of squares in your landscape. You score based on the amount of squares and houses in the paddy as well getting bonuses from the number of farmers and buffaloes toiling away inside of it.

seasons of rice paddy
A paddy farm landscape in progress. An attempt at one, at least.

This means that it’s not simply about building the biggest paddy. A paddy with just two squares but a buffalo and a farmer in it can net you more points than a paddy with three empty squares. Not only that, but players score one point for every closed paddy they have in their landscape at the end of the game. So that means the player who small balls their way through the game, closing lots of small paddies and getting short bursts of points, will also find themselves with a bigger bonus at the end of the game than the person who patiently waited to complete just a few, large paddies. Of course, a well-built large paddy can net you double digit points and can help overcome the fact that you may end the game with just a mere three or four closed paddies. As like any great game, it’s a tight balancing act and the player who more shrewdly builds their farm with the cards available will end up winning.

The last thing I’ll praise about this game is the Ancestors. I very briefly mentioned them earlier as the opposite side of the landscape cards. At the beginning of the game, players have a choice of two Ancestors. Whichever one they choose will give them some sort of scoring condition or bonus ability to be exploited throughout the game. These Ancestors all provide a nice distinct feel to each game and help formulate the type of rice paddies you’ll want to construct. For example, there is Sovannarith, who gives you 4 points at the end of the game if you have more farmers in your landscape than your opponent, promoting a farmer heavy strategy. Then there is Vivadh, who allows you to increase the amount of points gained from buffaloes when they’re combined with farmers in the same paddy. With 18 possible Ancestors to be randomly selected from every game, chances are good you’ll end up with a different one, making Seasons of Rice very replayable for its diminutive size.

seasons of rice ancestors
They say you can’t choose family, but I guess THEY’VE never played this game.

Unfortunately, every review needs to point out some negatives and this is no exception. I think my biggest issue with the game is that it can be tough to parse and visualize how certain cards can fit in your landscape. The game has lots of angles and zig zags and it isn’t quite as easy to see how things will line up and set up for future turns as, say, the roads in Carcassonne or the different types of colored areas in Kingdomino. In pretty much every playthrough I had of this, there was a lot of taking cards and physically lining them up, apologizing to the other player for taking so long as you tried to figure out how exactly the cards can best be used. It’s entirely possible I’m just dumb, but I do feel like the spatial aspect is a bit trickier and not as intuitive as other tile laying games I’ve played.

If you don’t mind a bit of a learning curve with the spatial puzzle of the game, Seasons of Rice is an enjoyable tile laying game with a wonderful and unique drafting system. At just 10-15 minutes per play, you’ll definitely find yourself playing games of this back to back to back. The Kickstarter for Seasons of Rice launches July 9th and if you want to experience first hand why Button Shy is one of the hottest independent publishers in the industry, I highly suggest you check it out.

Sprawlopolis Review

Sprawlopolis Review

A month or two ago, I reviewed a game called Stew. Stew is a brilliant little game that combines bluffing, deduction and press your luck and is brought to us by the wonderful publisher Button Shy. Button Shy is a game company that specializes in making hand crafted games that are small enough to fit in literal wallets. I own five of their games from their vast library and while Stew is my favorite of those, there is a very close second. And that game is Sprawlopolis.

Sprawlopolis is a cooperative tile/card laying game where you and your teammates are building a city together. The game, like almost every Button Shy game, is comprised of just 18 cards. Those cards are double sided, with one side containing scoring objectives and the other side being the actual city cards. Those city cards contain each of the four districts in the game (residential, commercial, industrial and parks) as well as a combination of streets snaking through in various directions. The game begins by setting aside three of those 18 cards and putting them scoring objective up. The prompt has a rule for scoring (such as 2 points for every Residential district adjacent to two Industrial districts, to pick an easy example) and a number. You add the numbers of the three cards together and that makes the final score you need to beat for that game. Then, after shuffling the rest of the cards, you and your other budding civic engineers try to make a city that doesn’t completely suck.

(Psst…chances are, it will suck. This game is hard.)

The game plays like many tile laying games, where you simply place cards adjacent to other cards to form a continually growing landscape. But! There is a twist. In this game, you can actually cover parts of already placed cards, even the entire damn thing. This opens things up considerably as you can try to overlap parts that are disadvantageous to your scoring while improving other parts of the city to improve said score. It’s like this game’s version of gentrification, only with much less of the sociological and moral ramifications that usually come with that.

It also leads to some very interestingly shaped cities. The first game I ever won of this, our city ended up looking like a duck.

sprawlopolis duck
I thought this was Sprawlopolis, not Quacks of Quedlinberg! Hahahaha oh god someone help me

The amazing thing about Sprawlopolis is that despite it being a mere 18 cards, the game gives you a lot to think about. You’re not just trying to score based on what the objectives have given you, but you also score based on how big certain blocks in your city are. The biggest continuous area of each district type gets gets one point per block in it. For example, if the biggest area of parks in your city is five blocks big, you get five points for your parks district. This extra scoring mechanism means that even as you’re focusing on the scoring objectives dealt at the beginning, you also have to keep in mind that you want to build up at least one big area of each of the district types. Focusing strictly on the objectives and ignoring the district scoring will rarely result in a win, but the rub is that often times the objectives don’t jive with making large masses of single districts. This creates a great decision space where you’ll be agonizing over how to maximize your overall score. It’s a balancing act akin to walking a tightrope while juggling Molotov cocktails. Also, there are puppies below you as you do so. Do you want to burn a bunch of puppies, you psychopath? Didn’t think so.

There is one more bit of scoring in the game, making it the thick syrup on this stack of scoring pancakes. The streets department of Sprawlopolis must be very lazy and cranky, because for each road in your city you lose one point. Joining together roads to make them longer and therefore less present in your city is the best way to minimize this damage. The worst thing you can do is to have lots of tiny little roads twisting and turning around your city, leading to nowhere like it’s an MC Escher fever dream. But again, trying to build long, continuous roads doesn’t always work with the city you’re trying to build for the objectives. Maybe there’s a great play you can make that will score you some extra points from the objectives but you notice that it will open up two new roads or even break apart a long connected road you had worked so hard on keeping together. As I said, it’s a balancing act and it packs so many great hair pulling moments in what is just a 10-15 minute card game.

When you deal with a microgame like this, one of the biggest concerns is its shelf life. As in, how many times can you actually play this thing before you realize it’s a much more shallow, and repetitive experience than you first thought? No disrespect to microgames, I love them, but it’s definitely a prevalent problem in a genre that is built around incredibly simple rulesets and low numbers of cards/components.

(I’m looking at you Coup and Love Letter.)

I’m happy to report that, maybe more than any other microgame I’ve played, this is not an issue with Sprawlopolis. One of the big reasons why is the different scoring objectives. Not only do the scoring objectives all feel different and varied, but you’re using a different, random combination each time. This, along with the fact that the city cards are all shuffled and come out randomly as well, means that every game of Sprawlopolis is going to feel unique and fresh. Sure, you may run into a couple games where two of the three scoring objectives have been paired together before, but it’s rare enough that it rarely feels stale. I mean, just do the math. With 18 scoring objectives, and a combination of 3 every time you play that’s like…uhh…umm…a LOT of combinations. Yeah, let’s go with that, ‘a lot’.

This also translates into wildly different looking cities every time you play. One of my favorite things about Carcassonne, perhaps the most popular tile laying game in the hobby, is that no matter how many times I’ve played it, the landscape me and my opponents had created always looked different game to game. That is very much the case with Sprawlopolis. I mean, I already showed you that damn duck. Depending on how the scoring objectives shape out, you can end up with smaller more compact cities, larger more sprawling (hey, that sounds familiar) cities or just some downright weird looking ones.

sprawlopolis city example
Well, it’s layout and design still makes more sense than Boston’s.

The last thing I’ll rave about is this game’s solo mode. I have been getting into solo gaming a lot over the past year (probably has to do with that whole ‘no social life’ thing I’ve got gotten on) and Sprawlopolis is easily one of the three best solo experiences I’ve ever played. The gameplay is completely unaffected. The only difference is you just simply keep a hand of three cards at all times since there are no other players to pass cards to. Which is completely fine, as it removes the one fiddly thing about the game anyway (in the multiplayer game you play, pass, then draw one card for a future turn, which for whatever reason has always felt clunky to me). This means the solo experience is just as enjoyable as playing the multiplayer game, something a solitaire game should ALWAYS strive for. In fact, in some ways it’s better, because playing solo means you don’t have to deal with your friends passive aggressively sighing at your placement of a card because you missed something obvious. It’s lack of a long time commitment makes Sprawlopolis the perfect bite sized solo game as well, meaning it’s super easy for me to pull out and kill 15 minutes with. All in all, if you are an avid solo gamer, Sprawlopolis is as good as it gets.

I really don’t have much in the way to criticize with Sprawlopolis. It’s variety game to game, elegant and simple ruleset, addictive solo play and its portability make it a game that anyone should have in their collection. It doesn’t quite beat the tile laying greats such as Carcassonne, Lanterns and Isle of Skye, but it’s damn close to their level. And that’s some high praise if you ask me.

Top Ten Board Game Soundtracks

You know what’s nerdier than playing board games for hours on end, with no sunlight and only pizza and pretentious craft beer for sustenance? Doing that exact thing, but with thematic soundtracks in the background for each board game you play.

I dunno about you, but when I play board games, I like, nay, require, a soundtrack in the background. This soundtrack can’t be any old soundtrack, no. I’m not talking about playing Bruce Springsteen while I bust out a game of Sheriff of Nottingham. Both because that makes no thematic sense and also because I would never subject anyone’s ear drums to Bruce Springsteen unless they were like a war criminal or something (and even then, I’m pretty sure it’s against the Geneva Convention). When I choose a soundtrack, it’s lovingly chosen and well thought out, perfectly matching the theme and feel of whatever game we’re playing. In a previous review of Biblios (on this very site, check it out!), I briefly mentioned that I play Gregorian chant in the background. This is a perfect example of the type of soundtracks I choose. As I play Biblios, the soft hum of monks singing in the background transports me to the Middle Ages, where I can practically hear the sound of footsteps echoing down the monastery’s stone hallway. Suddenly, this game about collecting sets of cards becomes more than that. It becomes a trip to another era and an extremely atmospheric experience that I remember fondly time and time again.

If it sounds like I’m way too passionate about this, it’s because I am. I have gotten so bad with soundtracks and games that my enjoyment is somewhat hindered if I’m unable to play one in the background. One time I went out of town to a friend’s place, and he sheepishly told me upon my arrival that his wi fi was going to be out until the next day. This is bad because YouTube is my main source of soundtracks. Fast forward a couple hours later where we are about to play a game set in Ancient Egypt, and we’re furiously searching throughout his roommate’s extensive movie collection, yelling, “THERE HAS TO BE SOMETHING EGYPTIAN THEMED TO PLAY IN THE BACKGROUND, DOESN’T HE OWN THE MUMMY??”

Soundtracks are serious business, people.

To show why, I’ve compiled a top ten list of my favorite soundtrack and board game combinations. As you’re about to see, these soundtracks range from movie and video game soundtracks, to a couple of random playlists on YouTube that just happen to have generic instrumental music that happens to work well with that board game. Picking only ten was agonizing, and I am absolutely sure I missed or even forgot of a couple combos that I really love, so this list is by no means 100% definitive. But what it does do is give you a good peek into my brain and thought process when picking soundtracks. I’m not sure anyone should get a peek into my brain and thought process at any point, but this should be safe and should definitely not reveal any of the deep seeded psychoses that plague me every day and every hour and the crushing anxiety and the oh dear I’m starting to ramble, onto the list!

10. Board Game: Fuse
Soundtrack: The Metal Gear Solid alert music

Fuse Soundtrack

Fuse is a cooperative dice drafting game where you and your teammates try to defuse a certain amount of bombs in real time. This makes it seem a lot calmer than it actually is, as Fuse is actually ten minutes of you and your teammates yelling, “AHHHHHH, I WANTED THE BLUE DIE, AHHHHHH”. It’s exhausting and intense, and as such needed a soundtrack that was equally as relentless and heart pumping. My choice for this one is the Metal Gear Solid alert music, which is the music that plays in the video game when Solid Snake gets caught by guards in between its forty minute long cutscenes.

It’s perfect because the pace of the music never slows down, much like the game, and also because it is super iconic. While I’m sure a lot of people won’t recognize this music, enough people should so that their pulses will instantly start pumping and they’ll be looking for the nearest cardboard box.

9. Board game: Literally anything Western themed
Soundtrack: Red Dead Redemption OST

Western Themed Board Game Soundtrack

Okay, this is a bit of a cop out. I’m not going to choose a specific board game for this one and am instead going to open an umbrella and just say that anything with a cowboy/western theme deserves the incredible Red Dead Redemption soundtrack as its background music. The ominous violin that starts the OST off, accompanied with the mournful whistling that’s eventually broken by a sharp, craggly guitar riff gives me gooesbumps every time I fire this one up. Whether I’m playing Dice Town, Bang! The Dice Game or Colt Express, this masterpiece of a soundtrack fits it like whiskey in a shot glass, pardner.

Since this entry was kinda cheap, I promise I won’t just pick a general theme and will only focus on specific games from here on out.

8. Board game: Literally anything archaeological themed
Soundtrack: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune OST

Archaeological Themed Board Game Soundtrack

Right, so, uh, I lied. Just one more time, I’m gonna go for a general theme rather than a specific game. Hey, don’t blame me, blame the fact that archaeology and treasure hunting is represented by more games than numbers that exist. For every one of those games, whether it’s the amazing two player card game Lost Cities or the wonderful deckbuilder The Quest for El Dorado or the imaginatively named Archaeology: The New Expedition, my go to soundtrack is that of the classic PlayStation series, Uncharted. In this example, I use Drake’s Fortune, but Uncharted 2 and 3 work just as well, so dealer’s choice.

7. Board Game: The Grimm Forest
Soundtrack: Trine 2 OST

The Grimm Forest Soundtrack

The Grimm Forest whisks you away to a land of fairy tales living together, where magic and wonder hides around every corner. So what are you doing in this game? Building houses, of course!

Despite the fact that the game has you doing housework like you’re some sort of fairy tale contractor, the art and characters in this game really do help engross you in a world where fairy tales are real, and I needed to find a soundtrack that also captures that magical feeling. Turns out, it wasn’t me who would find that soundtrack. This soundtrack was actually at the suggestion of a friend I was playing The Grimm Forest with, so credit is due to him. That soundtrack is the OST for Trine 2.

What the hell is Trine 2 you ask? Trine 2 is a somewhat obscure video game where you and up to two other players cooperatively navigate a fantasy world, solving puzzles and exploring mystical locales. It isn’t fairy tale themed, but the music the game provides has a whimsy and charm that pairs extremely well with the fairy tale world of The Grimm Forest.

I know some of you are probably asking, “Kyle, why not the Shrek soundtrack?” Well, I can’t find the actual score to Shrek on YouTube and instead it has the official film soundtrack which means you’ll be listening to “All Star” by Smashmouth as you play this game so unless you want that…actually that sounds awesome, feel free to replace any soundtrack on this list with “All Star”.

6. Board Game: Decrypto
Soundtrack: The Imitation Game OST

Decrypto Soundtrack

Decrypto is a cool spin on the word association party game craze that was started by Codenames. Codenames is one of my favorite games of all time and while Decrypto doesn’t quite live up to its lofty standards, it is still a fantastic game that deserves an equally excellent soundtrack. Enter The Imitation Game, the movie where Benedict Cumberbatch beats Hitler up in a fight using the Time Stone and his supernatural powers of deduction.

Wait a sec, please. (checks Wikipedia)

Okay, yeah, I mixed up a couple of Cumberbatches in my head, this is the one where he leads a bunch of codebreakers in World War II to try and crack the Nazi enigma machine. In all seriousness, this is one of my favorite movies and surprisingly fits this word association party game very well. As you and your teammates huddle around a notepad, stressing out over what your opponent’s code is, you’ll hear the haunting strings and tinkling keyboards of this fantastic score.

Fun fact time! I read a designer diary for this game, an apparently the box’s cover art was heavily inspired by The Imitation Game, as it looks quite a bit like the switchboard heavy machine Cumberbatch’s Alan Turing builds in the movie. Just wanted to add that here for a little vindication.

5. Board Game: Bohnanza
Soundtrack: Stardew Valley OST

Bohnanza Soundtrack

Before he was making two hour long worker placement games about EVERY type of farming, Uwe Rosenberg made a little card game that was about farming oh my god, is this guy serious?

Sigh. Okay, farming aside, Bohnanza is a masterpiece of game design. It’s a card game where you and your opponents are rival bean farmers and the only way to victory is to wheel and deal your way to the most efficient payouts possible, trading cards from your hand to manipulate the fact that you can’t change the order of your cards. I could go on and on about this game, so I’ll stop it there and just saw that the Stardew Valley soundtrack and this game are *chef’s kiss gesture*

The banjo that pops in and out of the music helps add to the farming theme, while the general mellow and optimistic tone of the whole package really jives with the lighthearted and cartoony art of Bohnanza‘s cards. Sure, a lot of this game is ruthlessly ripping off poor Grandma of her stink beans so that you can get rid of the one pesky card that is clogging your hand, but it’s still a pretty chill game otherwise, also fitting for Stardew Valley‘s soundtrack. Sorry, Grandma, but you kinda had it coming when you made those vaguely racist comments over dinner.

4. Board Game: Port Royal
Soundtrack: Sea Shanties

Port Royal Soundtrack

This is my first soundtrack selection that isn’t selected from a video game or movie, and is in fact just a YouTube playlist made by some good Samaritan. Port Royal is one of the most underrated games in the hobby, an Alexander Pfister design that mixes push your luck and tableau building in a Klemens Franz illustrated pirate theme. It’s a game I adore and will likely be writing one of my upcoming reviews for it (HOW’S THAT FOR A TEASE, EH?).

For this one, I loooove playing sea shanties in the background, courtesy of the YouTube video I linked. As I said, it’s just a random assortment collected by someone on YouTube, and there’s not much else to say about it. Just some pirates singing while working, and it really gels with the theme.

Now, as much as I love sea shanties, I understand that they’re an, uhh, acquired taste, so if this idea of listening to an off tune band of scallywags singing with no instruments to guide them, I would suggest either the Pirates of the Carribeans OST or the soundtrack for Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag.

3. Board Game: Viticulture
Soundtrack: Sicilian Mandolin Music

Viticulture Soundtrack

And this is my second selection that is just a generic collection of music rather than an actual soundtrack from something. And oohh, is it a good one. I listened to the first minute or so of this soundtrack after I found it on YouTube for the sake of providing the link in this article and I felt a swell of happiness and nostalgia for games of Viticulture, games that immediately bubbled to the surface of my memory at the first twang of this video’s mandolin.

It helps that Viticulture is one of my top two favorite games of all time and even the game I consider my favorite depending on the day you ask me. What’s the other game? Guess you’ll have to stay tuned to my blog to find out. HOW’S THAT FOR ANOTHER TEASE, EH?

(It’s Scythe, by the way)

Viticulture is a worker placement game set in Italy where you own a vineyard and make wine, trying to be the best at owning a vineyard and making wine. This game is already one of the most immersive board gaming experiences I’ve played. Thanks to the thematic and methodical way in which you make the wine, and the warm, inviting art by the supremely talented Beth Sobel, I actually feel like I’m in the beautiful, sun soaked landscape of Italy. It’s as if I’m there, plucking grapes from vines, crushing them down into juice and preparing them for sale so that your Aunt Sally can get sloshed up at the family Christmas party. When you add to this formula the wonderful Sicilian and Mediterranean music found in the video above (and maybe even a glass of wine yourself), and you will have a gaming experience you will never forget. Well, maybe you will forget it if you have enough of that wine, you naughty lush you!

2. Board Game: Skull
Soundtrack: Guacamelee! OST

Skull Soundtrack

Back to official soundtracks, the silver medal goes to the oh so awesome combination of Skull and the soundtrack for Guacamelee!. Skull is a masterpiece, a brilliant bluffing game that will have you and your friends hooting and hollering and cheering and groaning like no other. Guacamelee! is a sidescroller beat ’em up, and is something in the video game world known as a Metroidvania. I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say that Guacamelee! is an incredibly fun game that is set in Mexican mythology and draws off the folklore of that region. The soundtrack takes mariachi and salsa music and combines it with electronica in a way that easily makes it one of my top three video game soundtracks of all time. Tying it back to Skull, Skull‘s heavily draws off of the sugar skull motifs that have come from Mexico, and was one of the reasons why I was drawn to Guacamelee! as its backing music.

From the first bombastic blare of the mariachi horns in this soundtrack, you’ll be tossing aside that wine from Viticulture and replacing it with some tequila as you buckle up for an incredible party game experience. Skull has no theme, so this soundtrack is purely for the aesthetics of the game but I’ll be damned if it isn’t a near perfect match.

1. Board Game: The Grizzled
Soundtrack: Valiant Hearts: The Great War OST

The Grizzled Soundtrack

I mentioned earlier that I when I play games without soundtracks or some sort of background music, that it actually can hamper the experience for me. That being said, I will never turn down a game because there is no soundtrack present and I obviously still have lots of fun playing board games, even if there is no ambient music available.
There is juuuust one exception. And that is my number one choice for board game and soundtrack combination: The Grizzled and Valiant Hearts.

The Grizzled is a cooperative game set in World War I and it is my favorite cooperative game that I’ve ever played. One of my favorite things about it is its art. The hand scrawled art style, created by the tragically late Tignous, looks like it was taken straight from a sketchbook, perhaps even one used by someone in the very trenches of the first World War. This art is fairly similar to the hand drawn art of Valiant Hearts, which is an indie video game also set in World War I.

Neither of these games are exactly what you’d call uplifting or lighthearted. After all, The Grizzled is game where you can go home as a selfish, demoralized mute with a life long, crippling fear of whistles and can still technically win. Not exactly a party game. They both deal in very heavy themes of war in one of history’s worst. This strong thematic link already makes the two a perfect pairing and it is even more apparent when you actually listen to the soundtrack as you play.

The somber piano that permeates Valiant Hearts‘ soundtrack tugs at your heartstrings as your play cards in The Grizzled. Melancholy strings buzz in the background as you and your teammates struggle to deal with the obstacles being thrown in your way. The music takes an already amazing cooperative game and helps it transcend the bits of cardboard that make it up. I probably sound like I’m exaggerating, and maybe I’m just weird, but this board game and soundtrack combo is such an important part of my gaming memories. And no, I’m not crying, YOU’RE CRYING. Okay, maybe I’m sobbing a little but it’s just so damn beautiful.

Do yourself a favor and play The Grizzled and then do it with this soundtrack. I hope it’s as moving for you as it is for me.