First Take Friday – Rankster, Kingdomino: Age of Giants, 13 Words, Sobek: 2 Players, Rolled West

In First Take Fridays we offer hot takes on games that are new to us. This week we have Rankster, Kingdomino: Age of Giants, 13 Words, Sobek: 2 Players, and Rolled West.

Rankster – Justin Bell

One can never have enough party games; with Rankster (2022, La Mame Games), any game that poses the right questions in a cooperative setting will get play in my house. Rankster posed such a question during my first play: who would host the best party?

  1. Lady Gaga
  2. Louis XIV
  3. Me

Each round, a question is posed; then, one player has to rank the choices of famous names from a tall deck of options, which are always two cards from that deck plus the player next in turn order, localizing the options and the laughs. The rest of the group has to guess what that single player used for their rankings, and as long as you have more perfect matches than misses, the whole team wins. A great laugh, and Rankster can be played for five minutes or 50 to great effect.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★★★☆ – Would like to play it again

Read more articles from Justin Bell.

Kingdomino: Age of Giants – David McMillan

Lean in real close and I’ll tell you a shameful secret: this expansion has been sitting on my shelf, unplayed, for over a year now. This past weekend, my wife and I finally cracked it open and gave it a whirl. This expansion for Kingdomino adds the titular giants as well as components for a fifth player.

First off, this is one of those expansions that there’s very little reason to ever play without. It’s super simple to incorporate with very little extra overhead. There are twelve new tiles added to the game: six giants and six giant’s footprints. Each time you add a tile featuring a giant to your demesne, you place a giant pawn onto one of your tiles that has a crown on it. This giant covers one of the crowns featured on that tile. Each time you add a tile featuring a giant’s footprints to your demesne, the giant migrates to another player’s kingdom. They take the giant pawn from you and place it into their own kingdom accordingly.

In addition to the giants, Kingdomino: Age of Giants also adds a sleek tile dispenser to the game. While this tower is really cool, it’s much larger than the base game box. And the box for the tower is exactly large enough to accommodate the tower and nothing else. So there’s no way to combine the two together into a single box. That’s a shame. It’s probably the only factor that will keep me from playing with this expansion every single time.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from David McMillan.

13 Words – Tom Franklin

The game starts with 12 cards, each with a single word on them, placed adjacent to numbers around a wheel. A 13th card is placed in the center of the wheel. One player is chosen as the Captain and selects the number of the card that they think best matches the center word. All players then try to match the word they think the Captain has chosen.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of party games, but this one felt way too arbitrary to me. My Meeple Mountain colleague, Justin Bell, played this at Essen Spiel and enjoyed it. Look for his full review of this game in the coming weeks.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★☆ – The odd bump or two
Would I play it again?:
★☆☆☆☆ – Would play again but will cry about it.

Read more articles by Tom Franklin.

Sobek: 2 Players – Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

I’ve never played the original title, so I like to think I greeted Sobek: 2 Players with a pretty open mind. Without reading the rulebook beforehand, I sat down cold with my son. In the time it took him to set up the tiles, I read the rules aloud and we were good to go. I share this to say, Sobek: 2 Players moves to the table with ease.

Throughout the game, players claim tiles from the market in an attempt to gather sets of three. As a tile is removed, the chunky Ankh pawn is placed in the vacant spot, oriented according to the markings on the removed tile. The next player must then collect a tile along the Ankh’s line. Jumping to the optimal tile means removing the passed over tiles to the punishing Corruption pile. Tension comes from the ability to loosely predict the movement of the Ankh and the forthcoming opportunities. Increased choice comes from the special abilities on Character tiles, the ability to sell marked tiles for coins, or playing sets early for rewards. There are enough little quirks to keep both players engaged and on their toes from start to finish. It’s a clever adaptation, for sure.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

Rolled West – David McMillan

Alex Kevern’s masterpiece Gold West has enjoyed a place of special prominence on my game shelf ever since I first discovered it several years ago. I was immediately transfixed by the way the game used the mancala mechanic to achieve its ends. So, when I finally got the chance to play the roll and write version of the game, I was excited to see how Daniel Newman was going to capture the magic of its predecessor (or even if he could).

Rolled West uses four 12-sided dice to drive the action. Each die is split into lettered faces with each letter representing a different resource type (W for Wood, C for Copper, etc.). On your turn, you roll all four dice and then you will set one aside as your terrain type for the turn. Using this in conjunction with the other three, you’ll have the opportunity to build things to progress along the four terrain type tracks, deliver precious metals along the delivery route, claim contracts, and establish offices in the boomtown. All of these things score you points and, you guessed it, the object of the game is to be the person with the most.

I was surprised by just how much Rolled West managed to capture the essence of its forbear, even without the mancala mechanic. I did feel like the one aspect of most roll and writes, the chaining together of bonuses to generate combo-tastic turns, was noticeably missing, but I still enjoyed the experience overall.

Ease of entry?:
★★★★★ – No sweat
Would I play it again?:
★★★★★ – Will definitely play it again

Read more articles from David McMillan.

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About the author

Justin Bell

Gamer / husband / dad / DEI champion / foodie / hoop head / cinephile / travel enthusiast. If you're in Chicago, let's meet up and roll some dice! @justinbellsays

About the author

David McMillan

IT support specialist by day, Minecrafter by night; I always find time for board gaming. When it comes to games, I prefer the heavier euro-game fare. Uwe Rosenberg is my personal hero with Stefan Feld coming in as a close second.

About the author

Tom Franklin

By day, I'm a mild-mannered IT Manager with a slight attitude. By night I play guitar & celtic bouzouki, board games, and watch British TV. I love abstracts, co-ops, worker placement and tile-laying games. Basically, any deep game with lots of interesting choices. 

You can find my middle grade book, The Pterrible Pteranodon, at your favorite online bookstore.

And despite being a DM, I have an inherent dislike of six-sided dice.

About the author

Bob Pazehoski, Jr.

On any given day, I am a husband and father of five. I read obsessively and, occasionally, I write stories of varying length, quality, and metrical structure. As often as possible, I enjoy sitting down to the table for a game with friends and family. I'm happy to trumpet Everdell, in all its charm and glory, as the insurmountable favorite of my collection.

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