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.

Introducing games to beginners

This is for #Blogmas 2020

Another article I originally wrote for Board Game Crate, now available for general enjoyment.

Usually, whenever I bring up the subject of board games, most non-gamers immediately conjure up such titles as Monopoly,Cludo or Game of Life. Now, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying those games, but the roll-and-move mechanic doesn’t really give preparation into deck-building, drafting, line-of-sight, tower defence, worker placement, co-operative, buffs & de-buffs, point salads and so on. Having seen first-hand the deer-in-headlights terror displayed by a new player subjected to StarCraft: The Board Game, I thought it best to provide some tips when introducing games to new players.

Choose games that utilise only 1 or 2 mechanics. For example, Dominion, being one of the first deck-building games, is just about deck-building so should be easier to introduce instead of games such as Star Realms that has added combat and synergy or Clank which has a lot more going on. Sushi Go nicely introduces the idea of card drafting and set collecting, to be built upon later by more complex games such as7 Wonders and Terraforming Mars.

Dumb down the rules – but don’t give the appearance of doing so. Many games nowadays have a ‘Family’ or ‘Newbie’ version of the rules for first play. Using these rules as if they are the only rules not only helps players get into the game, but also avoids them feeling patronised.

Play games that are still readily available. It can be really off-putting when someone accompanies a friend, partner or co-worker to a game, really enjoys it, and then searches online to buy it only to discover it’s only available for upwards of £250 on ebay and in German.

Be patient. We were all beginners once upon a time. If they struggle to comprehend a rule, try using analogies, show a youtube clip – or even give them the rule book for them to interpret for themselves. Be prepared to field the same question time and time again. Also, when they’re caught out by a rule you so totally did actually explain to the right at the beginning, just accept the blame for keeping it a complete secret and give them 50 points in compensation.

Be aware of short attention spans. In today’s world of soundbites, people can be less tolerant of sitting there while you read them all 64 pages of a rule book and then watching you sort and arrange seemingly countless components across the playing area while their sweaty hands grasp the hand of cards they were given at the start as if they were a lifeline to sanity. Set up before-hand and play to introduce, not play to win. Aim for a half-game so that they grasp the basics. Then, when they’re happy, start over.

Finally, accept there is such a thing as beginner’s luck and not rage out by being totally defeated by someone who’s still coming to grips with a changeable turn order. Remember, they need to enjoy their experience so they will come back where you can then properly demonstrate just how to completely destroy an opponent.

Games Night 8th June 2017

The week KV dragged someone from his work. A warm welcome to PW.
PW brought Rio Grande Games’:

So we played it.
We went for a random deck: Pawn, Steward, Mining Village, Duke, Minion, Torturer, Harem, Nobles, Coppersmith, Saboteur.
It made for an interesting game. KV and PW wasted no time in getting high currency early while MC didn’t seem to achieve much at all. KV invested heavily in the Pawns while MC went for lots of actions. The most convoluted turn belonged to MC who ended up with fifteen cards played and a total of 8 coins – the only time he managed such a large number. MC also caused a little strife with the only Saboteur purchased in the game. PW got very vocal about that card and how many VPs it cost him (8).

With the last Province claimed by PW the game ended.
Final scores:
KV: 18
MC: 15
PW: 43
Of course we had to let the new guy win…that’s what happened…

The next game was from ever-growing Asmodee.

The garden spread languidly across the verdant blue table surface, under the kaleidoscopic array of colours emitted by the lighting embedded it the wooden sides. The hard-working farmer toiled his utmost best to grow a tranquillity itself in the form or a beautiful bamboo garden fit for the Emperor. Only the bloody voracious panda thwarted him almost at every turn, the bastard!
PW quickly got some scored cards down but then realised the low value of them compared to what KV and MC played out. Power tokens were played where no power tokens were needed, bamboo was eaten that would have preferably been not eaten and garden tiles were placed to infuriate and block landscaping initiatives.

KV was the first to play the 8th card and won the acclaim of the Emperor and MC was able to complete his set of 8 on his last turn. PW got a bit grumbly with 6 cards.
Final scores.
KV: 35
MC: 41
PW: 23
What is this, MC winning something? It won’t last, I tell you.

To round off the evening we did a spot of haunting with Tinkerbot Games’:

After MC explained the rules we then proceeded to play the game in a very different way. For some reason this was never picked up until the following morning when this write up was being considered.
Instead of taking turns to move our ghosts one room at a time, we each instead moved all three moves in one turn. It made for a very strategic alternative that worked brilliantly. The ghosts did become a bit redundant though, and it was contemplating this that I realised that we’d played it different.
Having played it both ways, I’d recommend this alternative version as a decent variant on par with the actual proper way of playing it.

MC dragged behind for the majority of the game, with PW in the lead. However, MC took a major
catch-up couple of turns and the game finished at:
KV: 169
MC: 172
PW: 165
What a very close game that was!
Oh and well done MC. That’ll be your winning done for the next couple of months…

Games Night 11th February

A warm welcome to AL this evening.
Played the 2 most voted for games, both kindly provided by PH. Both games are new to AL.
Power Grid for starters.
powergrid
A longer game tonight, as with the last time we played this, we quickly fell into the situation where the available power stations were not as good as the ones already acquired and many turns were spent waiting for phase 3. Meanwhile, a rules revelation where a blocked player can skip over a full city and pay the combined link costs on top of the usual placement costs made it easier for the players to fill the board. Unfortunately, this also resulted in a waiting game as all cities were occupied twice and the desperately needed phase 3 was a long time in coming.
In terms of cities, PM (red) was the first to reach 7 and lead most the way along with PH (green). MC (purple) and AL (yellow) were pretty much neck and neck, with MC having slighter better power stations. MC shot himself in the foot by beating the phase 3 rush and overbuilt in cities, pushing him to first player right when the game stagnated. Resources dried up considerably for him.
AL went for the moral victory at the turn of phase 3 and built into 19 cities but only powered 11. PM managed 16 cities and again only powered 11. PH went for the actual victory and ended up with 12 out of 20 cities being powered. Despite MC having stations in 22 cities, the lack of resources meant that only 7 were allowed power. That left 47% of the United States of America, without power. Hooray for PH!
It should be noted that an excessive use of calculators by AL and PH was implemented in this game.
As we were fast approaching 11pm and with work for all of us tomorrow, it was decided we would press on and play Dominion regardless.
Dom
No menu this time, just a bunch of cards that looked good.
Workshop, Spy, Moneylender, Garden, Militia,
Mine, Market, Festival, Laboratory, Adventurer
We quickly brought AL up to speed with the rules. And no, it’s nothing like a complicated version of Fluxx!
The Militias constantly thwarted AL’s attempt to do anything useful, MC was largely responsible for this. MC was the first to get a Province. The PH started buying gardens as though there was tomorrow – not that he could have done anything with them with no tomorrow…PM chose to end the game by taking the last Spy.
Final scores: AL – 18; MC – 18; PM – 27; PH – 27
Moneylender was rubbish in this set-up and not a single adventurer was bought. Spy, Militia and Garden were the depleted cards.
Player of the night goes to PH with 1 and a half wins