Juha-Matti Santala
Community Builder. Dreamer. Adventurer.

A bunch of small game reviews: Village Rails, Skulls of Sedlec, Barotrauma

I want to try something new and write a review of something. What started as one review, grew to three over the weeks when I couldn't quite make up my mind about the style and tone of my reviews. You're welcome!

Village Rails

I recently ordered Village Rails, and once it arrived, I took it to my local game night for a spin. Spoiler alert: we all enjoyed it a lot!

Village Rails is a 2-4 player game in which players build 7 routes of rails in a 4x3 grid on their own area. To maximize scoring, they buy trips (scoring cards) to their routes and combine tracks to their best ability to score on different features.

Our first game was played with 4 players, all new to the game. I had watched a few gameplay videos on Youtube so I was a bit familiar with the rules and mechanics.

This is my review of the game and if you're looking to learn how the mechanics work and the game plays, I recommend Before You Play's playthrough video.

A game play of Village Rails with a partially filled grid of rails, few copper coins and a market of cards next to the play area
An example setup by me (not from a real game play)

Great mechanics in a beautiful theme

Have I ever mentioned that I love trains? Whether it's traveling in real world or dealing with them in games, a day spent with trains is a happy day.

One of my favorite things with the game is how everyone will always be able to finish their 4x3 grid. Often in these kind of "fill a grid" games (for example in Kingdomino) it's possible to take risks that lead to incomplete grids but in this game you don't have to worry about that. The worst thing that is gonna happen is that you score 0 points and gain minimum of 3 coins per finished route.

I really like it because it gives me one less thing to worry about and I can focus on the routes and trips.

Each turn you pick a track card from a market of 7 available. The card furthest down the line is free and for everything else, you need to put 1 coin on top of each card that comes before the one you want. This is another mechanic I really enjoy as it balances the game a lot: every card is free but you pay to have a choice.

Paying for more choice also means you give money to other players, giving them more choice down the line. You can find similar market mechanics in games like Small World and Canvas.

Scoring cards always cost 3 coins + one for each choice made similar to track cards. As you start with only 3 coins, the beginning feels a bit crammed and if your early Terminus cards (that provide money once a track is finished) don't match with the free options you are provided, the game can become a bit clunky at the start.

Big fun in a small box

The game comes in a small-ish box and uses mini-sized cards. After sleeving all the cards and replacing the cardboard coin tokens with metal coins, the game just barely fits into the box (without taking away the pre-built inserts). I'm planning to clear out the box and design & 3D print a custom insert to make sure the game fits nicely and everything stays in place when the game is in the backpack.

We had a really tight first game: the winner won with 107 points, I came second with 106 and two others had 103 and 88 points. The points are public knowledge during the game but they are tracked with dials that have tiny numbers so nobody ever tried to even check what others had. It was exciting until the very last moment of counting the points.

I'm looking forward to playing the game more in the upcoming weeks. But I give the game already my recommendation if you're looking for a good gaming experience.

Skulls of Sedlec

A pyramid of colorful cards with pictures of skulls wearing different kind of apparel like crowns, crosses, roses, daggers and hoods.
A game of Skulls of Sedlec! (from Eric/@kalchio in BGG, CC BY-NC-SA)

Button Shy Games is a very unique and interesting board game publisher. They publish small games that fit into (and come in) a wallet. Shut Up and Sit Down made a wonderful review video of 10 of their games.

If you live in a country they ship to (not Finland unfortunately), you can even become a Patreon for them and receive a new game every month of the year. That's quite amazing. Luckily the games are small and they sell Print and Play versions in PNPArcade.

Skulls of Sedlec was the first of their games I got to play, although I've been following them for quite a while and have been interested in their other game Sprawlpolis more but ended up going with SoS. I've been playing it quite a few times now: it's great for short coffee breaks at work or when waiting for my mom's new phone to sync backups.

The game is for 2 or 3 players (with expansions, you can also play single player mode) and each player digs graves and places cards next to each other in a pyramid on their own play area. At the end of a quick 18-card duel, you count points: different roles score different amounts and it's all good and fun.

It's a great short game for moments when you want to do something with your hands but not think too much. Hence, a really good social coffee break game with a colleague.


A mostly dark screen with a character in the middle shining blue light towards a mysterious orb inside a metallic structure
from https://barotraumagame.com/

Barotrauma is a PC/Mac game that's been in Steam in early access for a while but got its 1.0 release earlier this week. I got to spend a lovely evening with old friends at a release party they threw yesterday but that's another story for another day.

The game itself is a a 2D co-op space submarine simulator rpg. I'm not sure what it is with Turku based game companies and deep sea/space but there seems to be a correlation.

I got Barotrauma for my Steam Deck and it works great on it. Although, I do recommend using a separate mouse and keyboard and screen for the game, it's not exactly made to be a handheld. That's another thing I really like about Steam Deck: it can play handheld on-the-go games as well as more traditional PC games that benefit from large screen, mouse and keyboard.

First things you notice when you start playing is the fun ragdoll-style character physics and bit quirky controls. I got used to those quite quickly though and even though I'm still very early in the game, its setting, dialog and story captivated me and I'm already waiting to get deeper into the world of Barotrauma.

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