Toronto has recently been going through some pretty up and down temperatures lately, and I’m still hesitant to put that winter parka into storage. On days where I can see my own breath I like to think of warmer climates; so I’ve rounded up 5 fun thematic games that’ll transport you mentally to hotter parts of the world.
All games featured are available to demo at the 401 Games Board Game Lounge and can be purchased in store or online.
Indian food is just the thing to warm you up from the inside. Safranito is a game themed around creating gourmet spice blends to impress the maharajah and become the top chef! Players bluff and bid for spices in the market by flicking their chips into the spices needed to complete their recipes. If you’re skilled enough you can push out a competing chef’s chip from a spice bowl, or manage to perfectly land your chip between 2 bowls and gain a bonus action.
This gorgeous game is a unique mix of dexterity and strategic planning. Successfully thrown chips allow players to dictate the market sales cost of spices, buy spices for themselves, and deny actions to other chefs if your chip was of higher value than theirs on the same space. The player completes 3 spice blend cards, ends the game and is declared the winner.
Warning: This game may make you crave Indian food after playing
Jamaica is a top destination for people looking to escape the cold, but you won’t find beach cocktails and reggae rhythm in this game (although there’s probably rum). This is the Jamaica of the pirate era! It’s 1678 and long-time pirate, Henry Morgan, cleverly manages to get himself named Governor of Jamaica. Instead of driving out piracy like a good governor would do, he invites his pirate friends to settle on the island. 30 years later, “The Great Challenge” is a pirate race organized to celebrate his nomination, and that is the premise for Jamaica the board game.
Players choose their favourite pirate personality/colour (there are biographies provided for each character to help with theme immersion) to use in the race. Being the first to return to Port Royal doesn’t necessarily spell victory though. There’s plenty of bounty to be found on detours from the main race that can also net you some sweet victory points. Players earn points from 1) their position in the race, 2) doubloons in their hold, 3) any treasures they found, and 4) negative points for cursed treasures or a space marked ‘-5’. The player with the most points wins.
A pirate game isn’t a really a pirate game unless it involves some form of sabotage. If a player moves into a space occupied by another pirate, they do battle. The winner gets to steal some items from the loser. This is a fun gateway game with plenty of back and forth “take that” moments.
At the foot of the Atlas Mountains in what can be assumed to be Morocco, lies a decaying medina in need of structural rebirth. Players work together to erect large and beautiful palaces and to renovate the damaged city wall so that life and commerce can return to what was once a vibrant destination.
While the building of the medina is a cooperative effort, players are aiming to score the best palaces for themselves by claiming a cluster of same coloured buildings and expanding it with stables or walls. Players must place a building piece legally every turn and may inadvertently help their opponents the longer the game goes on (if you've played Carcassonne, it's a similar idea), and placement options start to dry up. The game ends when all players have placed their components on the board.
Points are scored for the size of their palace, any walls or stables connected to the palace, nearby merchants, and vicinity to the well. The player with the highest score wins. Medina plays like many standard euros and the exotic flavour isn’t heavily emphasized, but at the end of the game your medina will be reminiscent of something off a postcard.
Pack your hiking boots, rope, flashlight, machete, and compass because it’s time for a jungle expedition for sacred treasure! Karuba is tile based exploration game that puts players in the role of leaders for their very own crew of treasure hunters. Published by HABA games and aimed at ages 8+, Karuba excels at being accessible to learn and engaging to play.
Players have one goal and that is to amass the largest value of treasure. Treasure from temples can be worth the most points if you’re the first one to get to it, while gold and crystals found within the jungle are worth 2 and 1 points respectively. One person will be designated as the overall expedition leader and call out which tile numbers players have to place on their board (think Bingo). Players can use tiles to build paths to temples, or discard them to move an adventurer.
The treasure hunting adventure ends when the last tile is drawn by the expedition leader, or a player has connected their 4 adventurer pawns to all 4 temples.
The last game on this list will make you wish you never complained about the cold in the first place. Heat stroke and dehydration are big threats when you’re stranded in the desert after a crash landing. Luckily you’re not alone, and you and other crewmembers work together to find the pieces of your broken ship before nature kills you off. Forbidden Desert is a tense cooperative game for families and survival is only possible when everyone works together and looks out for each other.
Using their limited actions each turn, players balance between digging up sand to find the necessary parts to build their airship, and maintaining the amount of sand accumulated from the traveling sandstorm. You may uncover useful items to aid you in your quest, or much needed water sources to re-hydrate. Even if you manage to uncover all the ship components, all players must make it back to the landing pad alive. You never know when the unforgiving desert weather will take a turn for the worse...