Friday, April 26, 2013

A Girl's Adventure into "Serious" Board Games

I learned something recently. It turns out that when I said I liked board games, I had a very narrow view of actual board games. Apparently, what I was really saying was that I liked party games. You know, Catch Phrase, Cranium, Apples to Apples. Little did I know there was a whole other world of games in existence, ones that sound hokey but are actually a lot of fun, ones that challenge you to figure out who among your fellow game players are working against you, and ones that are so complicated the first time you play them, somehow hours have gone by and they're still not over.

It's a brave new world. One where you go to organized game gatherings and have guys spit in your eye (true story).

Some highlights from my foray, in no particular order...

Love Letter

The first time you see this game, you're going to think it looks kinda dumb, possibly cornball. There's a whole story about how the princess is distraught over her mother's betrayal of the kingdom, and the only way to make her feel better is by delivering love letters to her. Through the game play, you're basically figuring out who delivers your letter via points, and if you win, you've won her favor for that day, in the form of a little red block. This game is actually a lot of fun, you're basically trying to have the card with the highest point value at the end of each round. What makes it so entertaining is that while there aren't that many cards, no round is the same. There's some guesswork, some strategy and some mind gaming too. Plus, it's super portable and cheap, most uncommon

The Castles of Burgundy

What a sad, boring box this game has. A shame, really, because I like this one a lot. I haven't played Settlers of Catan, but I have played the Rivals version, and was sort of reminded of that when playing this game. Basically you're trying to build up a city around a central castle, whether that be with buildings, pastures for animals, silver mining areas, rivers or other special yellow sections, perhaps you could term them industry? Mostly they just give you bonuses for your other sections. You have silver, workers, and goods to help you, as some of the game is based on the chance of dice rolling. You have to use your brain a lot in this one, as it requires a lot of forethought and planning based on what comes available in each round and your strategy to get the most points, which are earned in a variety of ways. I will say, this game could get slightly dry after a while, but there are different boards to choose from to mix things up.

Galaxy Trucker

Technically I haven't played the full anniversary version of this game, as pictured, but moreso the base game, but I'll get there, because this one is a lot of fun. It satisfies the puzzle-lover and space-lover inside of me, because basically you're figuring out how to build the best spaceship possible with a limited number of pieces that can only connect in certain ways - guns, engines, crew areas, cargo holds, the like. After you build your ship, a series of cards come into play, whether picking up cargo from planets, or getting blasted with meteors, or being attacked by pirates. You're trying to survive and end up with the most money. It's actually really simple, and moves pretty quick. You have to use your brain but not to the extent where you're pre-planning every minute detail. The ships get bigger and more complicated with each round as well, to keep things interesting.

Ticket to Ride

The version pictured here is the Nordic Countries one, which I've played, but I've also done the app, which is the USA. Anyway, same basic concept for both. I got a little too obsessed with the app version when I first downloaded it, actually, because the games would move so quickly. It sounds kind of lame, because all you're doing is connecting trains across the country (or countries) to complete routes you've picked up. The more routes you complete, the more points you get. The longer those routes are, the more points you get. Depending on who you're playing with and whether you like to be vindictive and only concerned about winning winning winning!, you can block each other. Again, pretty simple, even though it seems slightly complicated if it's the first non-party game you've ever played. What, am I talking about myself? Psh.

The Resistance: Avalon

Whereas the other games you can play with a smaller number of players, this one benefits from having at least six. I haven't played the original Resistance game, but I gather it's a similar concept, though this has the whole Merlin theme going on. This one is entirely about mind games, and reverse mind games if you've played with the same people a number of times. You're basically either a good guy or a bad guy, and you're trying to figure out who everyone else is with very little information. It requires some deceptiveness and cleverness, and can honestly get kind of stressful if everyone's accusing you of being a bad guy when you're not. I can only handle this one in small amounts anymore. If I had to choose a game like this, I would actually probably rather play this other one that's similar but with more to do, which is called Shadow Hunters. Similar theme of bad versus good and you don't know who is who, but there's a bit more to it, and some neutral players thrown in as well. But Avalon would be good in a party setting, particularly for people who like to argue.

Merchants and Marauders

This game is probably one of the coolest looking ones you'll find. A pretty board, boats, lots of little cards with missions and captains and all sorts of things, treasure chests and money, your own individual game board thing to keep track of your stuff. Pretty much, you look at it and you want to play it. And generally, the game doesn't disappoint. Based on what captain you get and his abilities, you can be a merchant or a marauder. Merchants generally go around collecting goods and selling them. Marauders tend to attack either other players or the non-player characters that are floating around as well. Let's just be honest, this game is pretty complicated. Definitely the most complicated of the ones I've listed here. You basically go from port to port, collecting missions and rumors or doing stuff with the goods, all with the end goal of getting victory points, which can be done in a variety of ways that I'm not going to go into detail explaining, because hell, you can look at the rules for that. It's a pretty fun game that can go really quickly or really slowly depending somewhat on what cards come up and somewhat on what the other players decide to do. But if you like pirates at all, you'll probably enjoy it.


  1. Oh wow. I consider myself a huge board game fan, but of the ones above, I've only ever played Ticket to Ride. I need to check some of these out!

    I'd recommend any of the Days of Wonder games - especially Small World (and its many variants) and Shadows over Camelot. Also, Dominion (by Rio Grande) is really fun. You must try Settlers, if only because it is the quintessential 'serious' board game.

    Man, I wish we didn't live on opposite sides of the country. I'd invite you over for our next game night!

    1. I really had no idea that there were so many games I'd never heard of! I'll have to ask my guy about the ones you mentioned as he's the one who's introduced me to all of these others. I would say out of the ones above, I think you'd like Love Letter, Castles of Burgundy and Avalon the best.

      I did actually finally play Settlers this past weekend! Now it seems almost too easy, when a couple months ago I probably would've thought it sounded crazy complicated.

      It really is too bad we don't live closer. Would love to have game nights with you guys!