Is there a board game for you?

This is for #Blogmas 2020.

Another gaming article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate.

So, someone in your household has ordered themselves a box of board games with some weird-looking games and you’re not sure what to make of them.
Up until now, board games have been for other people. You have not the fondest of memories of playing Monopoly in a caravan on a rainy day, or trying Mousetrap with missing components and you’ve decided that board games are not for you.

Of course, you may be right – but are you aware of the variety of games on offer?

They’re not all card-shuffling or dice-chucking, unless that’s what you like, in which case, there are hundreds of different card games. There are deck-builders such as Dominion where you use Medieval-themed cards to get more cards or Card Drafters like Sushi Go! where you swap cards to collect sets of food. Dice games like Liar’s Dice where you bluff about what you’ve rolled or Quarriors! in which you use your dice to combat your opponents.

If you don’t like components and ‘fiddley bits’ try Escape From The Aliens in Outer Space which comes with paper, pencils and cards with which you plot out your secret route on a map while finding the other players’ locations – or keeping away from them (a real thriller). For a more party-game scene try Telestrations which is Pictionary meets Chinese Whispers (hilarious). Both games are good for six or more players.

For stories and story-telling there are so many Role-Playing games where you become a character and go on an adventure. If you’re not a fan of dragons or elves look up your favourite fandom and you may be surprised to see that there’s a Role-Playing game based on that (or something similar).
For more structured story-telling, try Rory’s Story Cubes or Once Upon a Time which provide cues in the form of dice or cards to help construct the stories, which can be as elaborate or as short as you want.

If you like working as a team, try Pandemic, Castle Panic or Battlestar Galactica where you work together (mostly) to beat the game by eliminating globe-spanning diseases, hordes of incoming orcs or Cylons working with a treacherous player.

Beasts Of Balance incorporates your phone or tablet as well as being a delightful game of dexterity and balance, one of a new generation of games incorporating contemporary technology.

Don’t know where to start? Seek out gaming groups in your area or download games from the Apple Store or Steam (for a fraction of the price of the physical copy – some are even free) to try out and experience different games and gaming styles. Alternatively try Board Game Arena to sample some games for free (or for a price) against your friends and family online. There are also gaming conventions where you can try out all sorts of games with help.

I can almost guarantee that there is a game out there for you, whether it’s the gameplay, theme, player-base, complexity or length that hooks you.

My Top Games By Type

Yesterday for #Blogmas I did a post on My Best Genre Books listing my favourite book or series from each genre. I thought I’d do something similar for today’s Blogmas by listing my favourite games by type. This can include games that utilise a particular gaming mechanic, or a particular type of game style.
Here goes.

Break Point (Compete to score the most points toward a given target):

A visually impressive game where dice rolls determine all actions as players strive to get the most pips on a card. What makes this one even better is that bad rolls are also rewarded.

Cooperative (Playing as a team to beat the game):

I’ve not been a huge fan of most of the cooperative games I’ve played, but I do enjoy the Legendary games (possibly being deck building games have helped). Even when we inevitably lose horribly, they’re tremendous fun.

Deck Builder (Start with a standard deck and use cards to acquire better ones, increasing the size of the deck):

I’m a sucker for most deck builders to be honest, but this is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of the gaming type.

Dexterity (Steady hands and some assembly required):

Stacking small plastic pieces according to a particular design is hard enough. Having to then slide the finished construct into the centre of the table is plain evil. Looks so good as the city is built up.

Dice Builder (Like a deck builder but, with dice):

Combines a deck-builder with dice, this is a very clever game that sees some powerful dice being reduced to not much due to a bad roll. Still fun though.

Drafting (Keeping a card from a hand and passing the rest to the next player):

Where some games use drafting as just a small part of the gaming experience, 7 Wonders is pure, unadulterated drafting.

Engine-Builder/Tableau (Players placing cards in front of them to build up points and better actions):

Also my favourite game at the moment, this extraordinarily well-themed game has so much to do in it, particularly with all the expansions. So many different engines to try out too.

Miniatures/Combat (Moving pieces about a battleground and getting them to fight each other):

A solid tabletop reinterpretation to the excellent computer game. Manage resources, control areas and battle it out across the planets of the Kropulu Sector.

Party (Plays with a large group of people with simple rules):

Chinese Whispers meets Pictionary, played with the right crowd, this is hilarious.

Point Salad (Do anything to score points):

Do something, get points. Do something else, get points. Do it all in this gorgeous space setting and it’s pure joy.

Programming (Preset the actions to perform, then see how they play out):

Who knew you could rob a train using a programme of cards? Playing the cards seems simple enough, it’s the playback of what’s been played that hurts as all your plans go awry.

Push Your Luck (Gain more, or lose everything):

Never before have I been on such tenterhooks as each gem is pulled from the bag. Heaped in tension and also looking mighty fine.

Resource Management (Using stuff to get more stuff at the loss of other stuff):

Yup, this one again. Each action and decision made centres around what resources are available.

Stacking (Putting stuff on top of other stuff until the thing falls over:

This brilliantly combines app technology with the straightforward stacking game to create a thing of beauty.

Tile Placement (Dominos):

You’d think by now that tile placement must feel a bit old and tired. Carpe Diem has reinvigorated the mechanically wonderfully.

Worker Placement (Placing a ‘worker’ piece to do a thing, stopping others from doing the same thing):

Not only does this game look stunning, it’s very playable and supports a surprisingly effective engine-building game as well.

So there you go. Not an exhaustive list, but a pretty solid one nonetheless. Needless to say, if there’s a glaring game type omission here, let me know and I’ll add it along with my preferred game. If there’s a game you think should be here, either I’ve yet to play it, or I just prefer the one on my list.
Check out these posts for my My favourite 10 Games and My 10 Least Favourite Games for a better idea of what I’m in to, and what I’m not.
If you want to give this a go, by all means help yourself. Don’t be afraid to put the same game forward more than once, if it applies.

My 10 Least Favourite Games

For my 3rd blog for #Blogmas 2019, I’ve decided to list my least favourite games to play.
As usual with any lists such as these, the 10 games mentioned here are not necessarily bad – some are actually greatly loved by many – nor is this an attack on those who made the games or on those who enjoy playing them. These are 10 games that, for whatever reason, give me little to no enjoyment when playing them.

10 Dungeons & Dragons

Right, I’ll start off with a whole gaming genre I’ve admittedly never even tried. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve never had the opportunity to try it, but I just have no interest in this type of role-playing game. I’ve watched all of Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop gaming videos on youtube – except for the role-playing ones. I started watching them, but quickly became bored. This is clearly a reflection on me, because most of the comments of those videos are full of praise by people really enjoying watching them and wanting more.

9 Warhammer

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the lore, played the computer games and am supporting my kids’ interest in it. I’ve even picked up a box or two to build and paint myself. However, having seen it played, it seems to be a whole load of bother (and ££££s!) to play a pretty straightforward combat game that could be done just as easily with much, much cheaper tokens. It seems to me one either plays just Warhammer, or everything else – but not both. I’ve gone for everything else (apart from what’s on this list).

8. Talisman

This is fantasy Monopoly really. Yes, there’s a little bit more to it than that, but not really. Spoilers: See below for Monopoly.

7. Pandemic

Going for some controversial ones here, I know. This cooperative disease-combating beat-the-game best-seller should have me bouncing with joy whenever I get the opportunity to play it. I’ve played it five times now, with wins and losses, and have felt the same level of ‘meh’ upon each conclusion. I don’t know what it is, but I just get nothing from this game.

6. Star Wars: X-Wing

Like with Warhammer, this comes with a hefty tug on the finances for some gorgeous miniatures that… convey pretty much not a single ounce of dog-fighting excitement or immersive thrills. Tried this at a gaming convention and walked away after less than half an hour to find something more interesting to do.

5. Scotland Yard

Can we catch the baddie? Only if we rely on public transport we happen to have the right tickets for. Okay, the theme’s a little weak, but I just found the whole thing a very bland experience.

4. Monopoly

Ah, that game forever synonymous with rainy holidays with the family. Yes, it comes with many a fond memory (and back in the 80s there wasn’t the plethora of great games that there are now – you lucky things) but it’s not a good game by any stretch of the imagination. With little more player involvement than roll-and-move which we mastered with Snakes and Ladders, this game just goes on far too long and is only fun when you’re winning.

3. Battlestar Galactica

Only once have I been more bored playing a board game. Despite putting on the epic music from the tv show, this game dragged on its dismal way and the end couldn’t come quick enough. I can’t even remember the outcome.

2. The Fury Of Dracula

This was the 3rd edition. This made Scotland Yard look exciting. The most boring game for me to play. Didn’t see the point of it to be honest. This shouldn’t be an enjoyable game only for whoever plays as Dracula.

1. Chronicles Of Narnia: The Board Games

Ok, this was flat-out a terrible game where players took turns to spin a spinner a collect the relevant piece of a scene from the BBC TV adaptation. Repeat until someone completes all their scenes first. A dull and meaningless game given a basic thematic face-lift to fool idiots like me buying it from a charity shop for 50p.

There we go. Not many of those are going to be popular, I can tell.
I do love playing games, just not these ones.
So, what games do you just not get or enjoy?

Games Expo 2017


This year I went to a Games Expo for the first time ever.

One game that caught my eye was Lander.
It’s still in the prototype stage set for Kickstarter in 2018, but looks very appealing. I was allowed a small dark blue 3D printed component.

Of course you can’t go to a games expo and not play any games.
Beasts of Balance was the first one I got to try out. I’ve been watching this one since it’s prototype days and have been wanting to give it a go.

Next-up was the new multimedia game:
.
It’s a trading card game with an accompanying free app with articulated and equippable figures that can interact with the game. We had a go at one of the mini games using the figure as controllers. It can be played for free on the app without the figures.

I was encouraged to have a go at Stak Bots by DogEared Games. I’d already picked up the yellow expansion but never played it. Walked away from this with the base game and the red expansion.

Finally, we had a play of one scenario in the Walking Dead: All Out War. A miniatures game of zombie survival by Mantic Games. With numerous expansions and scenarios to play through. Based off of the comic series not the TV one.

Survived the encounter with all the living still alive and as a draw with SC who managed an excellent double head-shot with a baseball bat.

My Haul:

A 2-4 player game of dice placement and point-breaking by Tinkerbot Games.
A story-telling card game where players tell a story according to their cards. By Atlas Games.
A card-drafting game played in 3 quick rounds. By Gamewright.
A stand-alone expansion to Star Realms but if mixed with the original can now be a 2-4 player game. By White Wizard Games
Another full game in a tiny box by Gamelyn Games. This one has resources, wars and building.
Smash the other player’s stack of Stak Bots with your own Stak Bots. Can add the red expansion to the yellow expansion I already own.
Expansion for King of Tokyo by IELLO Games. Adds Cthulhu to the game. Yay!
Expansion to Cosmic Encounter by Fantasy Flight Games. More alien races, and now including the Space Stations.

All in all it was a good, eye-opening time. Very glad I went.