Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Board games

Recently I've begun getting into board games. I used to play them as all kids do, Monopoly and Life and Risk. There's a certain enjoyment about engaging in an activity with friends and family where you have to compete to achieve a goal and overcome a challenge using diplomacy or planning or whatever else. I really enjoy this type of thing. I enjoy socializing, being engaged along with others in an activity where you struggle and compete. It's why I enjoy sports. It's why I enjoy playing video games online with friends. Working together and just hanging out is fun. Talking out strategy, figuring out systems and moves, it's all fun. 

What is it about board games though? Why the recent interest? I've been thinking about it. I used to enjoy playing "split-screen" on console games on my friend's televisions, either playing against each other or working together to play through the game cooperatively. There's something about being in the same physical space as others, talking and joking around while cooperating or competing for some objective. Old classic board games had this and so did splitscreen video games. Problem is splitscreen console video games have faded away, replaced by online gaming, which just isn't the same, even with voice chat and all that jazz. As for "classic" board games...Well, to be honest, they all suck. Roll and move is a bad system for play since luck basically determines everything. Monopoly and life, whoever lands on the best spaces wins. Scrabble gets boring because it's just words. Not only are the old classic board games boring because their system of play is too dependent on luck or outdated, they have no theme. 

Theme is awesome. Theme is story, it's character, it's life, in a board game. Theme takes the games systems and uses them to provide a world you interact with, a setting you play in, a story you create with others. THEME! Monopoly? yay I get property and then jack up prices high so my friends can't afford rent? That' Life? Yay I get life....BORING! NEEDS MORE THEME! Why not play a group of firefighters desperately trying to save victims from a burning building? Why not play as scientists desperately trying to save the world from a disease by racing around the world to develop cures and build research stations? Why not play as a desperate band of investigators fighting monsters and trying to stop the Cthulthu from invading and destroying the world? What about a team sent to the desert to dig up an ancient city, only the helicopter crashes and you have to find ancient pieces to an ancient flying device to get you to safety, meanwhile trying to stay hydrated and not get lost in the sandstorm? 

Or maybe working together isn't quite your thing. What about playing as a family living in a quaint village, simply trying to make your family name more reputable than anyone elses, by traveling or rising up the ranks of the church or village council, or building crafts to sell at the market, meanwhile time always passes and the older folks of your family begin to die, forcing you to make choices about who dies where just to get the most respect from the village you can? How about playing as heroes from the Arabian Nights, traveling around the world having adventures and trying to be the most heroic and awesome, getting things like cursed and crippled or even becoming a sultan along the way? How about playing as Merlin and the Knights of the round table, attempting to perform quests but some of you are secretly working for mordred and sneakily trying to make the quests fail without giving yourselves away? How about a game about Ladies and Gentlemen where the Gentlemen go to work and try to get as much money as they can so they can buy things for their Lady, meanwhile the Lady is trying to buy the prettiest things and put together a nice outfit for the coming ball? Now imagine playing that game but having the guys play the Ladies and the girls play the Gentlemen? Doesn't that sound like fun?


You might have thought board games are for children but that's as true as saying video games are for kids, or comic books, or anything. It's all 'play', why label this category of awesome games as 'just for children'? How many drinking games do you play? I bet you could have just as much fun having a beer and playing a board game with friends as any drinking game. You might think board games are boring but that's ridiculous! There are so many out there, with so many different rules and themes, you are bound to find one you and your friends will enjoy. 

I got my entire family to play a game of Avalon, about Arthur's knights attempting quests while the minions of mordred, secret evil knights, attempted to make the quests fail. They enjoyed it tremendously. There was backstabbing, lying, deception, shouting, and glee. I thought the only person I could trust was my brother Josh, in one game, and at the final quest, for the final reveal, it turned out he'd been a spy all along. It was awesome. 

This is why I've gotten into board games and why I want others to get into them as well. They are just FUN. With friends! You get to fiddle with little bits, tokens and figures. You get to roll dice and play cards. Fun!

Here, watch this short video, it's kind of an intro-to-boardgaming-thing by a website that reviews, previews, and just generally talks about board games and the board gaming hobby.

For another cool video about how we are in board gaming's golden age, what with the variety and depth and sheer awesomeness of board games coming out, check this out:

Seriously, if you have a group of friends, get them together and try a board game. It's just fun, pure and simple. 

Want to hear about the games I've played? Alright, here goes, quick tidbits.

Arkham Horror is the first real board game I bought with a friend. You play a team of investigators trying to stop Ancient Horrors like Cthulthu from invading and destroying the world. You stop this by traveling around Arkham, fighting horrible monsters, gathering up clues, and trying to close dimensional gates. It's hectic, crazy, takes planning and teamwork, and is fun. The sheer amount of tokens and cards is ridiculous, as is the size of the board, but big complex board games are awesome and this is one of the most ridiculous. 

Village is a nice quaint board game where each player controls a family that owns a farm and spends time in the village. Time is spent as a sort of currency, allowing players to send members of the family on jobs and traveling across the world or ascending rank in councils or churches but time never stops and know what that means? People die. And you'll be planning for it, making sure grandma makes a couple wagons before she croaks, choosing an appropriate time so she gets recorded in the village record book rather than buried in an unmarked grave. That's right, you'll be picking and choosing when and where the oldest generation dies so you can get the most points out of it. It also means you'll be making babies. Well, the family you control will be making babies, so you can send them off to the village to do more things. It's fun. It's competitive but not too much, each player able to kind of do their own thing. 

Descent is a game where all but one of the players play heroic heroes fighting monsters, meanwhile the other lone player plays the overlord controlling the monsters and trying to stop the heroes. Fantasy tactical action at its best. 

Avalon is a game where your mother will get mad at you for asking if she's a spy, because she really is one, meanwhile you can completely trust your brother and it's revealed on the final quest that he was one of the spies all along. It's betrayal, lies, and deceit. You won't trust anyone after. There will be shouts of joy and horror at the same time. It's fantastic. 

Forbidden Desert has the players playing a team that fly a helicopter to a buried ancient city in the (you guessed it) desert, only the helicopter crashes and the team must attempt to dig up clues that point to pieces of an ancient flying machine that can get you to safety. Unfortunately, a horrible sandstorm messes with everything, the sand rises all the time and the sun beats down, making you thirstier and thirstier. You always think you have a chance while the dangers grow and grow until they overwhelm you, likely only a turn or two from escaping. Great co-op game. 

And that's about it, for now. I will continue to play more games and let you know what I think about them as I do. PLAY SOME GAMES

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