Posted on

Podcast #81: Our Irradiated Pastries

Hot damn! We’ve got some smokin’ exclusives for you today. In this podcast we chat about our playtest of Reef, the next game in the series that brought us Azul. We gossip about Newspeak, a great-looking code-cracking game that will be arriving on Kickstarter imminently. We offer our thoughts on the fabulous labour of love Museum, which has yet to make its way to Kickstarter backers. Matt lays out his controversial verdict on Fantasy Flight’s Fallout board game!

As temperatures continue to rise, the boys discuss their secret pastry playtest from Jenn Sandercock’s Edible Games Cookbook, and talk about what to do when busy board game conventions become too hot to handle.

Finally, we approach a fiery finale where… oh dear. It seems the temperature of this podcast is reaching dangerous levels. Please, whatever you do, don’t click play! Podcast burns are NO JOKE

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Our 5 Minute Summer Donation Drive is Now Open!

Quinns: Hey everyone! We only like to remind people of this twice a year, but did you know that Shut Up & Sit Down is run mostly by donations from people like you?

If you’ve enjoyed the Monday news or our podcast, if you’ve got some use out of our ad-free reviews or bought a great game thanks to us, we’d like you to consider paying for the service we offer. Your money will go straight to our wages and expenses, and you’ll be helping us to help grow board gaming. ALSO, all donors receive our monthly behind-the-scenes newsletter, lettting you know what we’re working on, what games we’re excited about and what books and TV we’re enjoying.

ALSO, if you have Amazon Prime, you can now give us free money by creating a Twitch Prime account (free with Amazon Prime) and clicking subscribe on our new Twitch page. It’s only for one month, it doesn’t automatically roll month-to-month, but you can do it again for free every month if you’d like!

Thanks so much for your support, everybody. Giving you guys and girls content that you love continues to be the best job in the world.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Games News! 03/07/18

Paul: Another week begins, another Monday Tuesday dawns and another cockerel’s call echoes out across the Shut Up & Sit Down farm. The first task of this week, and of every week, is to milk the News Cows, and so we lead the braying brown beasts over to the sheds. That sound you hear is the noise of FRESH AND WHOLESOME STORIES filling the pail.

And what could be more wholesome than Mesozooic, by far the cutest game of the week?

Mesozooic is Z-Man’s take on the growing “run a zoo but with dinosaurs” theme and it looks absolutely charming, sidestepping the traditional danger that guests will be eaten by exhibits and instead challenging administrators to create the most efficient park layouts possible. Monorails and maintenance teams are as important as T-Rex enclosures, as players draft cards to make maps that they then rearrange, card by card, to create the best arrangement they can.

Mesozooic is due out later this year and up for pre-order right now. Both Matt and Quinns got a brief bite of this during the Gathering of Friends, but we really like to gulp down our games before we know for certain how we feel. I know it’s one I want a taste of, for sure.

Thief’s Fortune is also based around card drafting, with each player given the curious task of putting together a potential narrative that just might describe an expert thief’s escape from the dangerous royal palace. With cards that represent possible elements of the past, present or future, they compete by trying to play locations, characters and events that create the optimal outcome for the chronocurious kleptomaniac.

While providing a light-fingered felon such expert metaphysical consultation doesn’t sound like something we’d be doing in Leibniz’s best of all possible worlds, if you ever wanted to help someone live their best life, this is exactly that and, I suppose, the next best thing. Something something Tina Turner.

Speaking of worlds, I was lucky enough to be able to invite Race for the Galaxy designer Tom Lehmann to a panel discussion I hosted at the Games Developers Conference this spring and during the con he started dropping hints about the next game in the series. I’ve sat on this secret like a mother hen until all the facts could hatch and now, to the sound of a cracking shell, New Frontiers is poking its way out.

New Frontiers features the same action selection, empire-building and windfall world concepts as its big brother, but is centered around a tableau randomly-selected developments that direct the course of each game. Between reaching into a bag of new worlds, players will be expanding their empires based around whatever developments are present this time around. It should make for some more directed growth and, perhaps, some fiercer and tighter races (for that galaxy). New Frontiers may be out as early as autumn.

Meanwhile, if you’re a fan of the charming-and-yet-so-challenging Keyflower series, you will likely be keen to hear about Key Flow, a new card game sailing its way toward an Essen October release. A faster twist on Keyflower, Key Flow mixes card drafting (it’s a drafty week, it seems) and city building, but again uses that familiar mechanic whereby players can burst into someone else’s buildings and businesses if they happen to be more useful than their own. There’s nothing more good-natured than a healthy bit of sharing, right? GET OFF MY FORGE.

Also filed under “more of” this week, we have Concordia Venus, the next expansion for one of Shut Up & Sit Down’s most favourite games of Mediterranean economics. Things get ever so bridge-like here, with four or six players splitting into teams of two that sit opposite each other and co-operate. When one teammate plays a card, both players perform that action. A new a god scores areas that teammates share, though they still maintain separate warehouses.

Good heavens, it’s been an interesting week for news and I feel we’ve skimmed off the cream here, with so much more we could have pasteurised, but before the sun sets on another busy day, let’s make sure you’re pointed toward Atlas Obscura’s interesting feature on the Viking game of hnefatafl. Often found at burial sites (indicating it was an important cultural artefact), it now turns out that all sorts of medieval texts that we might have previously assumed were referencing chess might have instead been nodding toward this widely-played asymmetric game of chase and capture. It’s an important reminder that history is always being re-evaluated and we find new information about old things all the time.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Review: Century: Spice Road, Century: Eastern Wonders AND Century: From Sand to Sea

Please don your protective safety goggles! It’s time for some board game mad science.

In a decision that some critics are calling “A fine move,” today SU&SD acts with unprecedented boldness to review three games in one video: 2017’s Century: Spice Road, 2018’s Century: Eastern Wonders and Century: From Sand to Sea, the game you can play if you own both previous games.

Has designer Emerson Matsuuchi pulled it off? Will the boys be anticipating the third game in the series that releases next year? And what does all of this have to do with the Spice Girls?

Click play, and find out.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Games News! 26/06/18

Quinns: Last week we wrote the news in a cider pub, tapping away at our keyboards to the merry belching of a few old men. Today, we thought we’d write the news in a fashionable local coffee shop.

Paul: This is a disaster. Why can’t people put their mugs into the saucers gently. Why are they all bashing them together like toddlers.

Quinns: There are at least two women within ten feet of me who think they’re Carrie Bradshaw. I’m friends with a lot of writers and none of them look this stylish or pleased with themselves as they write. They all put their hair up and enter a kind of sticky and hypnotised state.

Paul: I did like that yappy animal that was behind you though. The one that looked like a Normal Dog that a level 5 wizard had cast Reduce Dog on.

Quinns: I don’t want to ever come back here. Why would anyone come here instead of sitting snug in the shadowy confines of a quiet pub. I feel like I’m in an iPhone advert.

Paul: Top of our Kickstarter kollection this week is Jenn Sandercock’s Play With Your Food, a cookbook and rulebook of edible board games. You may remember Pip getting a taster of these on SU&SD just over a year ago, looking at games like The Order of the Oven Mitt and J-Wobble. These are as silly as they sound but, more importantly, as inventive as they sound and Sandercock’s use of food as a medium for play is terrific.

We played a demo game with Jenn as FRENCH PASTRY SPIES at the Games Developer’s Conference this year and it was proper puzzle solving. With added sugar.

Quinns: And I don’t think it’s the sugar talking when I say that it was absolutely terrific. What an amazing gift this book would make! What a showstopper any of these games would be at the end of a dinner party (I don’t know I don’t host dinner parties), or as a lazy Sunday thing to do with kids (I don’t know I don’t have kids).

An incredible amount of time, love and expertise went into this book, and if you’re thinking of backing it, let SU&SD be the first to tell you that you definitely, definitely should.

Quinns: Also on Kickstarter this week is the excellently-named Monikers: More Monikers.

Have you got too many Monikers expansions and you’d like – in the words of J.R.R. Tolkien – one box to hold them all? Would you just like 400 more Monikers cards? Have you previously let this excellent game pass you by? This Kickstarter can help!

Paul: Since we’ve previously contributed to Monikers, we won’t be reviewing this expansion as it’s a conflict of interest, but we can still nod towards our work and so very politely ask you not to forget to pick up the SU&SD Nonsense Box with your order. It’s the only way you’ll get a Brexit card in your set and that’s basically the Black Lotus of Monikers.

Quinns: But the Kickstarter this week that’s raised by far the most money is Tang Garden, a stunning-looking game of creating a Chinese garden in the year 700 C.E.. With 7,000 backers at the time of writing, Tang Garden has already sold more than most board games ever do and it isn’t even out yet.

As always, Shut Up & Sit Down would like to caution away our readers with less disposable income from being swept away on a tide of hype. If a game’s really good, you can always buy it later, and if it’s not really good, you’ve dodged a bullet.

Also, this Twitter thread on the game’s problematic elements makes for thought-provoking reading. We’ve emailed the publisher asking if they’d like to reply to Calvin’s comments, but have received no response.

Paul: Quinns that tiny dog next to us just made the noise of television static. Quinns that is not good.

Quinns: Chihuahuas are basically Lovecraftian creatures anyway. “Bred in Mexico to hunt rats”? A likely story. The first Chihuahua probably emerged from an egg in the sea.

A second edition of Games Workshop’s rebooted Warhammer Fantasy, Age of Sigmar, arrives in shops this week, along with a new starter set titled Age of Sigmar: SOUL WARS.

For the real scoop, I dropped an email to a personal friend of mine and ex-employer, Kieron Gillen. When he’s not writing hit comics like The Wicked and the Divine and Star Wars: Darth Vader, he plays lots of Warhammer. Also, he’s gotten really quite good at painting miniatures (see here), which is a bit like finding out that a Boston Dynamics robot (fig. a) can now use a paintbrush better than me. It’s unsettling and I need it to stop.

Take it away, Kieron!

Kieron: I generally like Age of Sigmar. It’s kind of the petri dish where Games Workshop try things out and then work out whether or not they’ll import into the main money-making universe of the Far Future. 8th Edition 40k was a delight in taking exactly as much from Age of Sigmar as it could without exploding the fanboy’s heads. AoS? It worked off a tightly compressed 4-page core rule-set, which adds modules to special-case all the weirdness in the world. It also motored along incredibly quickly! It’s the game I play when someone asks me show off the giggling dumb-ass thrill of a table full of little folk bashing the living shit out of each other and generates masses of heroic and hilarious narrative.

You’d hate it, Quinns. Last time I played my Axe Dude sent multiple Enormous Tree folks screaming into another dimension and it had me saying “Man, Quinns would have hated that” which means “That is excellent and I love it.”

Looking at the core new rule changes? There seems a slight increase in complexity in some areas, but they seem to be “Natural” rules which are always easier to remember. It seems to be a general tightening of an idiosyncratic game system. What we really should be looking at is the weirdo experimental stuff. The huge new spell effects? They’re hilarious and I want them. The Warhammer-Quest-esque individual datacards? A helpful boon to keep the telescoping modularity of the system under control.

Plus we have a quiet continuation of GW’s attempts to try and drag their games into the 21st century. I like how you can argue they’ve done a Metroid and show a armoured Sigmarite on the box, but on the rule cover you have an equally heavily-armoured sigmarite without the helmet, showing she’s a woman, so by implication making any masked Sigmarites possibly be a women, if you wanna.

The minis are great. Like most of GW’s starter kits, it’s pretty good value and I fear I’ll be buying it shortly, despite the fact I have all the miniatures in the world to paint. Downsides? I dislike that Games Workshop have not yet found a way to make me a real Skaven, who can be my friend and I can pet and hold. In conclusion, Age of Sigmar excites me, as it means Quinns mails me and that always makes me happy. I look forward to another mail from Quinns when Age of Sigmar 3rd edition happens. That will be a nice time.

Paul: Over on BoardGameGeek, there’s a wonderfully charming and colourful collection of photography by Steph Hodge that shows off some tantalising new titles from this year’s Origins Games Fair. Sometimes I wish publishers would take more fancy photos of games that they’re promoting and THIS IS EXACTLY WHY.

There are so many games on this list I want to know more about.

Take, for example, Sailing Toward Osiris, where players compete to build the most glorious monuments they can to a recently deceased pharaoh, including obelisks and sphinxes (that’s a plural I don’t get to use much). The more monuments that are built, the harder it becomes to collect resources for the next ones which, as all of us monument-makers will know, is a classic problem when you’re putting together endless collections of giant sandstone statues.

Then there’s MAMMOTH where you all play MAMMOTHS and spend your time MAMMOTHING AROUND in prehistory, gradually shaping the environment around them with the tiles that they lay, bringing life to the frosty tundra. Mammoths also features “other prehistoric mammals,” but is coy about what those are. Perhaps we’ll see a prehistoric cave bear (the old ursus spelaeus) or even a sabre-toothed tiger. What’s your favourite prehistoric mammal and was it cute or cruelly carnivorous?

My nose has also caught the scent of Shifting Realms, an attractive game of fantasy urban planning from the same publisher as MAMMOTHS, Soaring Rhino. Shifting Realms offers five different factions, including priests and pirates, each with a different board for you to rule over, and at the very least I’m interested to see what a city run by (or even entirely populated by) priests looks like. I mean, we know the pirate one will be just taverns and ports and 24/7 partying, right?

Quinns: AND FINALLY, we’ve got a Troyes Story for you.

Paul: Did the creators of Toy Story ever get back to you?

Quinns: They didn’t, NOR did they mail my script back.

Paul: It’s a shame, I really wanted to see what they’d do with the idea of Mr. Potato Head as a shapeshifting serial-killer. “Spud Slaughter” was a masterpiece.

Quinns: Anyway, the Troyes franchise (if you haven’t seen it, don’t miss our Troyes video review) now has my favourite naming conventions ever. First we had the Troyes expansion, Ladies of Troyes, a name which still make me laugh. Now we have news that the designer is working on a 2 player Troyes game called – are you ready? – Troyes 2.

Paul: Oh, that’s just crying out for a subtitle. TROYES 2: A KNIGHT AT THE OPERA.


Anyway, the exciting news is that it’s going to be a roll’n’write, officially making 2018 the year that the roll’n’write became cool again. At the time of writing, Welcome To is sat at the top of the BGG hotness, and I can’t wait to do our review of that game when it comes out later this year.

Paul: I guess we’ll just have to (roll and) write that review soon, eh? How does that work? Do we roll around on the beach or something? No, wait, the beach is all stones and pebbles. That’s a very painful idea.

Quinns: Sometimes pain is the only route to truth.

Paul: I recognise that line! It’s a quote from your Troyes screenplay.

Quinns: It is indeed, Paul.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Review: Arkwright

Who wants to play a game about manufacturing forks!

Anybody? No? What if we were to tell you that Arkwright turns the manufacturing of bread, forks and lamps into a bruising war. What if we were to say that this game puts the very machinery of the industrial revolution in your hands, and allows you to grind your friends in its very cogs.

What if we were to tell you that this game is a cheaper, rock-solid competitor to fascinating games like Food Chain Magnate and Panamax.

Would you want to play then?

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Podcast #80: Until The Sheep Goes “Berp”

Oho, this episode of the award-winning Shut Up & Sit Down podcast has more scoops than sweet shop, and is just as sweet.

We found out that learning geography CAN be fun in the tense game of Destination X. We learned that Lowlands is the best Uwe Rosenberg game since A Feast for Odin, and it isn’t even designed by Uwe Rosenberg. We learned that the amazing-looking Starship Samurai is, perhaps, not as good as we were hoping. And we learned that Quantified – an upcoming game you’ve definitely never heard of – is a thought-provoking co-op game about surveillance and big data.

We also found out that the vikings that hang around outside the UK Games Expo are not to be trifled with, as Matt narrowly escapes being skewered by an actual spear. Finally, we implemented the OMEGA PROTOCOL: A quick-fire round of questions that were tweeted to us by the audience, right then and there. Huge thanks to everybody who came down and contributed to the veritable cyclone of questions that followed.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Games News! 18/06/18

Paul: WELCOME to our sunny June Games News, live from a Brighton pub. Quinns and I are, in fact, writing this together in a secret alcove in a cider pub. Yes, that’s right, we have suddenly both become forty-five years old.

Quinns: Paul, it’s time for you to get a round in.

Paul: You don’t need to type that, I’m sat right next to you. Also it’s not even 1pm.

Quinns: Don’t give me that you NARC

Paul: Impossible to ignore this week is SEAL Team Flix, a Catacombs-a-like dexterity game of counter-terrorism and Tom Clancy-ish special ops. SEAL Team Flix has you and your friends chasing down terrorists, disarming bombs and rescuing hostages, all performed via fierce token-flicking. It has a branching campaign, all the guns you’d expect for an experience like this, cover that can be destroyed and a sort of sniping mini-game that uses a separate board.

It’s an impressive mix of a serious and detailed look at military operations and the inevitable comedy of slapstick stupidity when you accidentally throw a flashbang at your friend’s head. The thing is, comedy in games like this doesn’t dispel the tension that comes with having to make that vital shot, or from that moment where a single mistake or success can turn a game on its head. I can see how SEAL Team Flix could be both funny AND very exciting.

Quinns: And there’s no equivalent of a dungeon master facing you and your friends, either. You’re all buddies, fighting opponents governed by an AI system that the designers talk a little about in this diary!

Paul: In other Wizkids news we have Marvel Strike Teams on the horizon, a one versus many game of superhero combat where you can put yourself in the shoes (or cape, or spandex, if superheroes still wear that) of your favourite Marvel characters. One player takes on the role of the villainous villain, while everyone else teams up as characters like the Hulk, Captain America or Iron Person. Predictably, you have all sorts of individual superhero powers at your disposal, as well as the ability to improve yourself across a campaign, but what interests me most of all is all the replay value from randomly-generated scenarios.

Quinns: Gosh, it’s ugly. Even the tiniest Kickstarters these days work with talented artists and art designers to make their game look gorgeous. Wizkids is being made to look amateurish by the amateurs.

Paul: What about fantasy megafranchise Dungeons and/or Dragons? You’re excited by a bit of that, right? Gale Force Nine will be publishing Vault of Dragons at the end of the summer, giving players the chance to play rascally rakes trying to find a big pot of gold buried somewhere under the Forgotten Realm’s infamous city of Waterdeep. Now, I’ve never been hugely inspired by any of the D&D board games, but you’re cautiously optimistic about this one, right?

Quinns: Sure! Gale Force Nine have a habit of surprising us with really high-quality franchise games. Also, the tagline calls it a game of FIERCE CONFLICTS and HIDDEN TREASURES. That sounds like the marketing copy of a trashy 1980s board game, and I love it.

Paul: Our daily paper route takes us past Kickstarter Mansion and today that means the new game from Tueusday Knight Games (of Two Rooms and a Boom), That’s Not Lemonade.

Quinns: I’m liking the sound of this. It’s a tiny-box push your luck card game where players have to pull lemons out of a deck without drinking pee.

Paul: Is that… really what it’s about?

Quinns: Yep.

Paul: OK!

Quinns: Honestly, I think this sounds pretty swell. Matt and I had plenty of fun with Bye-Bye Black Sheep, which is a card game with even less decisions and more luck than this one. I bet this is a ton of fun. Perhaps it’ll even be 2018’s Love Letter. Alan I know you’re reading this, don’t you dare use that as a pull quote.

You know what’s hot? BOARD GAMES. You know who knows it? VIBEO GAMES.

This week Scythe came out on Steam as a standalone digital game, and that’s not all! Ticket to Ride was just announced for PS4, and Carcassonne will be releasing on the Nintendo Switch.

Slowly but surely, board games are seeping into the public subconscious. Soon, we will have respect. Soon, we will have control. By the year 2032, Shut Up & Sit Down will be the Prime Minister of the UK. It’ll be me, Matt and Paul all sat on one another’s laps, squeezed into a single chair.

Paul: When I worked in the video games industry when I were a young lad PS4 games were £5 and you could buy a Mars bar for 20p.

Quinns: That’s not true. You were NEVER a young lad.

Paul: In more serious news-

Quinns: This is absolutely not a serious news story.

Paul: Shut Up & Sit Down’s YouTube channel experienced a SUSTAINED ATTACK this weekend-

Quinns: No it didn’t-

Paul: -when literally DOZENS of Axis & Allies fans (see evidence.png) attempted to slip covert messages to us in our YouTube comments, subtly hinting that we should, perhaps, review Axis & Allies. Unfortunately for them, this scheme came undone when we noticed a pattern literally instantly.

Quinns: It was amazing. By the time the second comment came in, we already knew this was some kind of organised community effort. By the time the fourth stealthy suggestion came in, we were cracking up in the company Slack. By the time the twentieth person dropped a sly hint that we should review the seminal, aging, Avalon Hill wargame Axis & Allies, I’d fallen in love. It was like I was Cillian Murphy in Inception. This is… Quinception.

Paul, I don’t know where this idea came from, but I think we should review Axis & Allies.

(Axis & Allies community, if you’re reading this, we can only commend your incredible psychological warfare. For what it’s worth, we WERE planning to take a look at the upcoming Axis & Allies & Zombies, so you can look forward to some coverage of that in the future.)

[embedded content]

Paul: Over the weekend team SU&SD were also cracking up over The Dragon’s Tomb, a new YouTube channel dedicated to teaching you how to play board games THE RIGHT WAY.

Quinns: Speaking as a reviewer who’s gotten all sorts of rules wrong over the years, this will be an invaluable new resource. Do take a few minutes to check out TDT’s priceless work.

Paul: Also, we have an Instagram account now! Instagram is a trendy new social media phenomenon where you “share” some “pictures” of things that you like and we’ve decided to be “early adopters.” Unlike most Instagrammers, we won’t be sharing pictures of sausages or dogs or sausage dogs, but you will get to see even more of what we’re playing, what we’re doing and life “behind” the “scenes.” Which is mostly me being incompetent! I’ve spilled so much food on myself these last three days.

Quinns: Yes! Please do follow our Instagram. With your help, we think this social media platform could be the next big thing.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down

Posted on

Review: Santa Maria

Quinns: There’s quite a bit of buzz around Santa Maria. “Buzz!” spake this box as it arrived in my flat like a gentle but hefty bumblebee, excited to alight on my table.


Quinns: It’s fiiiine Paul! This is something we can safely let into our homes to flit happily about, to land on our tables or to watch us from the shelves with its compound eyes. Santa Maria is quite harmless!

Paul: Harmless and… perhaps toothless?

Popping open the almost cartoonishly cute box, which appears to depict Santa Claus as armoured as he is jolly, we’ve got dice! We’ve got charming wooden tokens! We’ve got wonky jungle tiles! We’ve got… is this the terrifying face of an inflated baby, about to burst?!

Oh, don’t worry. That’s just the universal symbol for happiness! Happiness is the currency that can make you, dear player, the winner, if you can just amass enough of it inside your Happiness House.

Quinns: While we were playing I took a different tack, imagining that this was the house where I kept all of my creepy, spherical, pale babies.

ANYWAY, here’s how the game works.

Each player in Santa Maria is given their own little Spanish colony in South America, one of which you can see above. After a game lasting a snappy sixty minutes, the winner will be whoever managed to wring the most Orwellian Happiness Points out of this tricky 6×6 grid.

On your turn you MIGHT spend resources adding tiles that extend your colony, like so:

Or you might spend your turn dropping one of that round’s available dice into your colony, as if you were dropping awkward balls into a pinball table, which is how you get resources.

Let’s say you drop in a white 3, as seen below. This die enters via the “3” column, and will grant you the reward of every space it passes over – so you might get WOOD, then a GEM, then MONEY, then TWO ROTUND HAPPINESS BABY-POINTS – before that die finally comes to a stop in the last action space it used, blocking it for the rest of the round. If a particular row or column is good enough, you might even slide multiple dice over it- and you often can, since you can pay coins to increase or decrease the number of pips on your dice.

Players can also simply pave over a square with coins to get its reward, but these coins similarly block your machinery until the end of the round. Since Santa Maria ends after just 3 rounds, you want to be very canny about this. With a bit of caution and wit, you might acquire a fabulous new tile and get the reward for it once, twice, three times, FOUR TIMES. You’re a monster! Won’t somebody stop you?

Paul: Now, let me immediately tell you that watching your die carve its way through the jungle like a missionary with a machete is slicingly satisfying. You trigger all those resource bonuses as if you were running past a row of fireworks with a burning torch in your hand, your beaming face turned to the heavens, ready to be showered by an explosion of gems and money and lumber.

What’s even more satisfying is squeezing new tiles onto your player board, arranging your colony to create rows and columns that you know are going to burst like bountiful pimples as your die trundles over them. You made that combination yourself, you set up and then tripped each of them so expertly. You’re the master of your own destiny!

The pleasure comes from solving two puzzles of your own making. The first was how to align all those disparate colony pieces into rows that would most efficiently and most cannily bear fruit, the second was working out the best order to claim and use dice. Sometimes it’s best to first send a blue die trundling from left to right, claiming a whole row of resources and only blocking something at the end of your 6 column, other times you’ll want to send white dice trickling down columns to stop exactly where you know they’re not going to interrupt any future moves. And each turn, with new die rolls producing new possibilities, this second puzzle always reconfigures itself, even if you don’t add to your colony.

Quinns: BUT! Filling your warehouse to the eaves with sugar and jewels won’t actually win you the game. To get most of your Happiness Points you’ll need to take a stroll over to Santa Maria’s central board, which is like a point picnic, a happiness happy-hour, an Inflated Baby Buffet.

Why yes, I have been practicing my MS Paint skills. I’m flattered you noticed!

Over at (1) you can see the docks. By taking a dock action on your central board you can send your resources overseas, which gets you points, and depending on which dock you ship to you’ll then enjoy a free reward at the end of EVERY round, AND for every set of four ships you dispatch, you’re going to get even MORE points at the end of the game. Santa Maria is a VERY generous game, and inspires CAPITAL LETTERS in even the most JADED reviewer

Paul: Is (2) clapping? Do you go into the jungle and clap?

Quinns: NO. That’s the religion track. By taking a religion action you nudge your marker along this track, unlocking new workers but also unlocking monks that you can spend on immediate rewards, or special powers or point multipliers that are randomised before the game begins. Maybe you’ll get points for connecting roads to your capital city, or for placing tiles on your colony so they resemble a PERFECT, COMPLETED square. VARIETY, it’s the SPICE of LIFE

Paul: GOD, I love variety and also spice and… is that Santa Claus again?

Quinns: NO. (3) is the conquistador track.

Paul: But conquistadors are the OPPOSITE of Santa Claus.

Quinns: Yes! By taking a conquistador action you send soldiers out into the countryside to wrestle gold from the hands of the locals. Whoever’s furthest up the track will get a bushel of points each round, but the track also resets each round, so you only want to invest minimal effort into your soldiering. Tricky, tricky.

There are other ways to get points, but suffice to say Santa Maria is what the board game community calls a “Victory point salad”, a bunch of disconnected but crunchy ways to get points, until at the end of the game everyone regurgitates all of their swallowed and half-chewed plans in an confusing and often surprising final score. In a longer game this structure can be dissatisfying, but it’s quite at home in the game of Santa Maria. This is a breezy game that doesn’t want to trouble players with anything they MUST achieve.

There’s no secret behind Santa Maria’s success. To play Santa Maria – a nice idea with nice-enough art that placates players with a nice puzzle and nice rewards – is to have a lovely time.

Paul: I’d say it’s a little more than that. I’d say it’s a smart time. Every time I added more to my colony layout and found a new way to fire off my dice in an order that used some of the same spaces multiple times, that had the dice glide past one another without colliding like expert ice skaters, that had me trundle up the conquistador track AND the clapping track and ship just the right combination of resource to get myself another boatyboi, I felt good. Smart and good. And that feeling doesn’t fade each time. It’s the hit that keeps giving.

Quinns: Absolutely. This is a really good design. But – and I do this with the same dread that you might invoke Candyman – I think I need to echo the points that we made in our controversial Marco Polo review. Santa Maria is about as good as a board game can be without… filling me with any kind of… passion or desire? I’ve enjoyed all of the games of Santa Maria I’ve played, and I when I finish a game of it I often feel like I could play it again, right then and there! But whenever I pack it away I’m disinclined to take it off the shelf again.

Paul: Yep. Personally, I’d absolutely break out Santa Maria again, I think it presents some great mind-massaging challenges, I think it’s accessible without being easy and I think it’s a lot of fun.

Buuuuut I also think it fails to quite make the step up to greatness. It’s interesting and it’s satisfying, but it’s rarely exciting or exhilarating. It has so many neat little mechanics, but they don’t quite link together emphatically or really give you the sense that very much of what you’re doing affects other players.

AND everything about the art and design just makes me think of board games from… fifteen years ago. It looks a little too cute, a little too flat. Board games have come very far in their presentation over the last decade or so and everything about Santa Maria’s presentation feels like a peculiar prod from the past.

Quinns: Agreed. If you’re a fan of cute, flat puzzles with high rewards and low stakes, I’m sure you’d do alright buying Santa Maria and eagerly ogling the expansion that’s on the horizon. But there are so many similar games that I’d buy first- Azul, Isle of Skye, Castles of Burgundy, or the upcoming Lowlands (which we’ll be talking about on podcast #80).

And now we know how we feel about the game, let’s talk about the theme. Because holy crap this is a tonal mess.

So, at this year’s UK Games Expo you did an onstage interview with designer Martin Wallace (who, to be crystal clear, is NOT the designer of Santa Maria) and you two talked a bit about whitewashing, right? Do you fancy giving our audience a primer on what that is?

Paul: Sure! Martin closed the interview saying this was one of the things he found most objectionable in board games, and all media, and he was talking about the sidestepping of historical facts to paint a falsely innocent, far more placid picture of history.

This happens so often when we talk about colonialism and it’s exactly what’s happening with Santa Maria. We’ve got the cheery collection of natural resources and expansion of territory, without any acknowledgement of where those resources are coming from or who might live in that territory. Those bold and beardy conquistadors aren’t collecting gold by panning in a river, they’re literally beating it out of human beings to whom it has cultural and religious value.

Quinns: Yeah. I find absolutely bizarre how this game’s cover depicts brave-looking men and women blithely going about the business of construction. In reality, it’s unknown how many men, women and children the conquistadors massacred, but we do know of the inhumanity and rapacity they displayed, the wealth they amassed, even the torture methods they used on locals who refused to help them. To then have the currency in Santa Maria be “Happiness Points” with a picture of a smiling white person is just amazing.

We live in times when people all over the world are doing vitally important historical work unpicking the lies that have been taught to the descendants of colonisers. Speaking as an English person, it seems as though a new atrocity that we committed is being uncovered every week.

Nobody is saying that games can’t be about colonialism. But what Shut Up & Sit Down is saying, here and now, is that this kind of bumbling thoughtlessness is not good enough.

Santa Maria is not simply a game that’s disinterested in politics. Games like Santa Maria are intensely political, because, intentionally or not, they perpetuate a whitewashed view of the world. There’s a reason that Settlers of Catan is set on a fictional island, and it’s precisely to avoid having to do its due diligence. And that isn’t great, but it’s better than this.

The original article can be found on the fantastic Shut Up & Sit Down