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So good we just can’t cope


So good we just can’t cope

There’s a never-ending discussion about the best games to introduce new players to the tabletop, and favourites like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne and Alhambra almost always feature in the conversation. These ‘gateway games’ pull off a delicate balancing act, presenting players with meaningful choices while keeping complexity low. the handful of games that do it well have become some of the most treasured titles in the hobby. Now there’s a new addition to the bunch.

Copenhagen is ostensibly about building brightly-coloured houses along the Danish capital’s waterfront. But beyond some cheerful artwork and half a paragraph of flavour text in its rulebook, it doesn’t do much to carry its theme. In reality, it’s an abstract, Tetris-style puzzle. What makes it shine, though, is the tight, elegant and fast-flowing experience it squeezes out of an absolutely minimal set of rules.

You and your opponents start the game with square-grid player boards representing houses under construction. On your turn you’ll choose one of two actions: take some cards from a communal pool arranged around the city’s harbour, or play cards from your hand to claim building tiles to add to your board. As you play you’ll aim to fill in as much of your grid as possible, earning points for every row and column you complete.

What makes things interesting are the rules for gaining and spending cards. To grab a tile, you’ll need to discard a set of cards matching its size and colour – so, for example, a red tile made up of four squares would cost four red cards. While you’ll be able to pick up two cards on your turn, they have to be adjacent to one another in the available row. With the selection drawn from a randomly shuffed deck, you’ll often be unable to take cards of matching colours, forcing you to think about the most useful combinations to add to your hand. Should you spend a few turns amassing a handful of green cards to buy a big, potentially game-changing tile? Or should you try to pick up smaller ones in multiple colours – less lucrative, but much easier to acquire? You’ll always have to think a few rounds ahead and, when the luck of the draw scuppers your plans, you’ll need to be able to change your tactics on the fly. It’s a simple but satisfying process, but it’s only the foundation of Copenhagen.

You’ll also score bonus points for building arrangements of windows, and as you play you’ll earn a variety of special abilities. Used judiciously they can swing the game in your favour, and add a sense of progression and increasing power. Ultimately, Copenhagen boils down to a simple choice repeated on every turn: take some resources, or do something with the ones you already have. It’s a formula that’s worked brilliantly in games like Splendor and Ticket to Ride, but Copenhagen never feels samey or derivative. It takes the family-weight Eurogame blueprint and makes it its own – the result is magnificent.



Copenhagen comes with a simple premise, short playing time and lightning-fast turns, but never at the expense of interesting decisions. Its special ability tiles add a real sense of progression, and the result is worthy of a place in the pantheon of great family-friendly Eurogames.


► Harbour board

► Four player boards

► 20 special ability tiles

► Four scoring markers

► Scoring track

► 70 facade cards

► 62 facade tiles

► End of game card


They’re miles apart thematically, but both games force players to choose between acquiring cards or advancing their position, and both are fantastic options for newbies to the hobby.

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About The Best Games of 2019

Must Plays and more in our Best Games of 2019 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Over the next 196 pages discover all of the most positively reviewed games of the year. With a massive 181 games reviewed, this is the definitive “what to play next” guide of 2019! Games reviewed include: Wingspan Copenhagen Hellboy: The Board Game Res Arcana Lifeform Century: A New World Megacity: Oceania Pandemic: Fall of Rome Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Rough Nights & Hard Days Azul: Stained Glass of Sinatra Tapestry Letter Jam Hako Onna Everdell Battle Ravens Dune + Many more!

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