Birthdays and Boardgames

Posted on September 26, 2012


Image of the boardgames I own

Monopoly is the game that killed my interest in boardgames. Why?

Its depressingly long-winded, yawnsome play is based more on luck than skill. The crushing inevitable win by the player who got ahead early in the game. The forced family play at christmas with children who’d rather play on their new computer games and adults who were too drunk or sedated by food to pay attention.

I remember it as a joy-killer in my childhood memories.

That said, I gave it another chance shortly after University. After all, it’s popular, how bad can it be? I really enjoy games and gameplay, so why not boardgames?

tl;dr it killed my interest again.

Fast forward to this year, I discovered Wil Wheaton’s new show on Youtube called TableTop, which can be summed up as internet famous and geeky people playing a boardgame – it is somewhat like a indirect set of personal interviews plus a review of the game. I watched the first episode quickly followed by the second – these people were having fun! It’s possible to have fun playing boardgames after all!?

A quick search led me to the Board Game Geek site and I was staggered by the amount of a) fun looking reviewed games out there and b) the ridiculous amount of content on that site. Armed only with the titles played on TableTop, I made some progress and finally got into it.

The image at the top of this post shows my current collection, grown significantly because I had a birthday earlier this month. From left to right, then top to bottom (with links to their pages on BoardGameGeek):

  • Smallworld– a fantasy styled Risk-like game with lots of variety in the races you play as and an interesting mechanics where the player’s races go into decline. 30-40 min playtime enforced by a turn limit.
    • TableTop vid: Wil Wheaton and guests, Sean Plott (host of “Day9TV”, a Starcraft II dedicated webcast on how to be a better gamer), Grant Imahara (host of Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters”), and Jenna Busch (geek blogger, writer and host) play Small World!
  • Village – a very recent purchase. It looks really fun, well presented and intelligent and has lots of unique gameplay mechanics but I’ve yet to play this one with my gf or anyone else.
  • Carcassonne and the Inns/Cathedrals expansion – a really great game, can’t recommend it enough. Gameplay: place a starter tile on the table and each player takes a tile at random from the remainder, joins it to the one(s) on the table and puts down a token – a meeple – to claim something on the tile: a city, a road, a field or a monastery. Players get points for completing what they claim and highest points wins. The box art did put me off this one but this is definitely the game I’ve played the most with my gf. It took one day of play before I had to get an expansion for it, we enjoyed it that much. 30 minute gameplay and takes seconds to set up.
  •  Onirim – an interesting patience/Klondike-style game, where you are trapped in a labyrinth of dreams and have to find all the doors to escape. Fun solo game, definitely replaced solitaire for me and great value and artwork. Comes with 3 expansions to the core games too!
  • Arkham Horror – I absolutely love the Lovecraftian Mythos, his short stories and works that have built on that, so it comes as little surprise that I would buy this as soon as I found it. A complex and deep role-playing game, where every component is written in theme, allowing you to weave your own narratives with ease as there is little to yank you out of the feel of its world. A tough but rewarding one player game too, with the only downside is the size of table you need for it and the time it takes to play (2hrs+). I really enjoy this, but Elder Signseems to be a nice lite version of this too, which plays much quicker
    • TableTop vid of Elder Sign: Wil Wheaton and guests Felicia Day (Actress, Producer, Writer – The Guild), Mike Morhaime (President, Co-founder – Blizzard Entertainment), and Bill Prady (Co-creator, Executive Producer, Writer – The Big Bang Theory) play Elder Sign!
  • Munchkin– humorous, backstabbing, bribing, social role-playing game with most of the role-playing removed. Pick up a card, defeat a monster, go up a level… unless your so-called friends decide to gang up on you and help the monster out to pull you down a few levels.
    • TableTop vid: Wil Wheaton and guests Felicia Day (Actress, Producer, Writer – The Guild), Steve Jackson (Game Designer Guru, Creator of Munchkin) and Sandeep Parikh (Actor-The Guild and creator of Legend Of Neil) play Munchkin!
  • Ticket To Ride: Europe and its 1912 expansion– collect cards, buy routes, join cities, block your friend’s routes and complete yours to win! Great fun, easy to learn, a good game to get your friends playing if they are a bit apprehensive about boardgames (as I was.)
    • TableTop vid: Wil Wheaton and guests Colin Ferguson (Actor – Eureka), Anne Wheaton (Wil’s lovely wife), and Amy Dallen (Wil’s good friend and fellow comic book nerd) play Ticket to Ride! [NB USA version]
  • Just hiding off the bottom left corner is the Lord of the Rings Card Game – a really tough card game for one player (easier with two though). Create a deck of cards to aid your chosen heros fight through sections of the book’s plot. This draws from the books and not the films and benefits from that. It’s about deck building and balancing your deck against the scenario you’ve picked. Tough and beats me on a regular basis. I love the game world though, so I keep playing it 🙂

So, my advice is if Monopoly or something similar put you off boardgames, give them another try. I advise you to give Carcassonne or Ticket To Ride a try and see how you feel about it. If you are planning to have a few drinks with friends, then you also might want to give Munchkin a go too 🙂

(Also, if you know of a good gaming group I could join in with in London, or even near me in Bishops Stortford, I’m all ears!)

Posted in: opinion