Thursday, February 4, 2016

Just for Fun: Would You Like to Play A Game?

I know the title of this post could lead you to think I wrote about War Games this month. It's true that would be a worthy post, if for no other reason than to goggle at how young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy were in that movie. But in this case I really *am* asking you if you'd like to play a game, because I have fallen deeply and madly in love with independent board games.

The games listed here aren't in any particular order (except I left my favorite for last), nor is this list an exhaustive representation of games I've loved and played. To be honest, this is more a way to flush out other board game lovers among my readers and followers than anything else.

photo borrowed from the successful Kickstarter campaign

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I attended Unpub 4 - an annual unpublished games festival. While I was there, I got to meet Daniel Solis who makes great board and card games. I haven't played all of his games yet, which makes me feel a bit of a slacker since he's since become a friend, but of the ones I've played thus far, Belle of the Ball is my favorite. The point of the game is to throw a better party than the other players, and there are things you can do to both make your party better and to muck up other parties. It has elements of luck (card draw) as well as strategy, which is a winning - pun intended - combination in my mind. Also, the art, by Jacqui Davis, is perfectly suited to the theme.

picture borrowed from the publisher's website

Imagine if the Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey were turned into a storytelling card game, and you'll have a good idea of what Gloom is like. Each player has a family and the point of the game is to make your family miserable and then eventually kill them off. Along the way you can make your opponents' families happy as well. The fun of this game isn't necessarily in the winning or the losing, however. The best part is the stories you tell to make the cards you play make sense. Did your opponent just give a member of their family a likely terminal disease? Well, if you have the right cards, you can tell a lovely tale of a miraculous cure culminating in marriage to the doctor who cured them. Of course, it's possible that your opponent will in turn have that same doctor fail to show up at the church. To be honest, this is a mild story compared to some I've told and/or heard when playing this game.

Martin Fivebones supervises a game of Takenoko between me and my boyfriend.

Pretend you're a gardener for the Emperor. Sweet gig, right? But then the Emperor is given a giant panda who is allowed to wander around the gardens, eating whatever bamboo he wants to eat. You're still expected to tend and expand the garden, but you can't harm the panda. That's the perhaps overly twee premise of my favorite game, Takenoko. The learning curve on this game is pretty steep, something that is true of a lot of independent board games I've played, but after that first game it's all good. You have quests to fulfill, such as growing a bunch of pink bamboo to a certain height or getting the panda to eat one pink and one green and one yellow section of bamboo, and the first person to complete enough quests also gets honored by the Emperor. Yes, it's hella complicated. Yes, it's worth learning because there is something so satisfying about it - win or lose.

How about you? Do you like board games? Which are your favorites?

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I love board games but don't get the chance to play as often as I'd like (young kids and lack of many good two-player games to play with my wife!). We like the classics like Catan and Ticket to Ride and recently learned Pandemic and Forbidden Island and enjoyed them.