Who the heck is Vlaada Chvatil? Well for one thing it’s roughly pronounced ‘Kah-va-tyil.’ He is now most famous for designing the all conquering Codenames, but before that he was best known for making humongous brain melty/off the wall games.
He was born in 1971 and lives in the Czech rebublic. Originally a video game designer, he switched over to Board Games in 2006 and found his first success in 2006 with Through the Ages: a Story of Civilization. He helped create CGE games, the studio from the Czech republic which has allowed other designers from the region to come to the foreground in the last few years as well. He now has 8 games on Boardgamegeeks top 150 games. That is a ridiculous amount for one designer to be frank. What really stands out though, is just how different they are. Some designers like Uwe Rosenburg (of Agricola/Patchwork fame) also dominate the top list of games, but many of his games have a very similar feel to them.
His rule books are some of the best out there. They are littered with jokes and really try to integrate the theme of the game into the mechanics. Some are almost an enjoyable read 🙂
By all accounts he spends a lot of his down time (including sleep) thinking about board games. I guess that’s what it takes to be a genius designer!
Let’s meet the games…
Through The Ages
It’s a 3+ hour civilization game with no board, just cards! A new version has been released recently which has streamlined some of the rules, which by modern standards were a little fiddly. Players will use a limited number of actions to draft cards and take actions on the cards to gain resources, mobilize towards war, enlighten their people etc… It’s an amazing design, but very heavy on the rules and brain power involved. Certainly not a game for most people, but probably the best civ game out there.
Spoiler Alert…this is my favorite game, so probably not going to read too many bad words for this one. You are going to build a space ship in real time using tiles. Once it’d done you’ll head into space and face lots of fun challenges like pirates, asteroids and ‘space disease.’ Get money for delivering goods and bashing said pirates as well as not wrecking your ship. The first half of each round is a thinky little puzzle as you try and figure out how to build a ship using specific rules, its rushed, tense and slightly panicky. The second half, you sit back and laugh as the single component holding your opponents ship together is destroyed by an asteroid causing half their ship to fall off. Not everyone’s cup of tea I appreciate, but there is still nothing out there like it.
The ultimate Team Building exercise!?! Jump your ship into a combat zone, deal with a bunch of horrible things trying to kill you in real time by programming out your turns. Then after the 10 minutes you execute those moves and see if you managed to actually survive…hint, you didn’t. It’s co-operative, but the extreme time pressure doesn’t allow one person to dominate. However a captain is vital to co-ordinate the troops into some semblance of order. It’s a little complicated, so not for beginners, but again it’s unlike anything else out there.
His dip into the classic worker placement Euro style game. Both are great and similar enough to be the same entry. They are a lot more complicated than the cute looking boxes indicate, with some really crunchy decisions and tough situations where you never have enough stuff. Like do you feed your pets, or clean up their poop? They both have a tonne of personality as with all his games he really tries to bring the theme into the decision making process in ways that make sense.
Next up, his foray into the world of drawing games. All the answers are placed in sight (42 possibilities), and each player is given one to draw. On the gun, you start drawing and guessing everyones pictures at the same time. The first person to get someone’s drawing correct gets the most points, next person the second most etc… Get too many wrong and you’ll lose points, oh and for every person who gets your drawing wrong you also lose points. That’s a lot going on at once and it all happens very quickly. Very, very good game, but its best played as a party game for people who like the more thinky games.
In the land of small rulebooks, the biggest rulebook will be king. This is the King. How did he ever design this beast? Exploration, combat, deck building all smooshed together to make one mega game. It’s inspired by the video game of the same name, way to much going on to even try to explain it. If you want a big game with tonnes going on that (again) is unlike anthing else, but done brilliantly (yes I do love this guy). Get this mammoth sucker. Its also considered one of the best solo games ever made (it plays 1-4).
The best selling not Hasbro style game of the last 12 months by a country mile. His take on the word game genre, two teams battle it out in a race to find their teams words first. Using one word and one number as clues, a spymaster tries to direct their team to their words on the 5 by 5 grid laid out in front of them. It’s brilliant, its almost perfect and its made him quite wealthy I’m sure. Well deserved too.
Thank you Vlaada.