Bored of games… board of life?
All right, I’m sorry for the title pun. Let me just say that now, but it seemed too good an opportunity to waste.
This past year I’ve got hooked into Board Games and they deserve the capitals! We’re not, or at least I’m not, talking about Cluedo or Monopoly, Ludo or Snakes and Ladders. I am talking about games with a rulebook longer than almost anything I’ve written (all right, not quite).
So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a little run through a few and see if you fancy trying any of them out (with your friends, not me… well, unless you fancy a game at the next Con that is).
First up, Munchkin.
How cute is this game? 10 levels to progress through. Kick open a door and fight a monster or get some treasure, maybe both. Build your Munchkin’s skills and abilities as you do. But the monsters aren’t the real danger… the other players are. Level 8, kick open a door and face a monster that is no threat to my Munchkin until another player (we’ll call him a friend for now… grrrr) says, ‘hold on a moment, I think there is another monster there’ and plays one from his hand of cards. Now there are two to fight. Someone will step in to help me… and they do, for a cut of the treasure. Still, Level 9 calls and a bit of treasure is better than none and fall back to Level 7.
The best board games, of those I’ve played, are all about ‘dickin’ (this is our non-sexual, but very British term for turning on our friends and making their board game life hell) the other players (your friends) over. It is at this moment that the already enjoyable game really takes off. How will you make it to level 10 if all the other players are trying to stop you, and you’re trying to stop them? The moment of exultation that is ripped from your lungs by the player to your left, or right, or sat across from you, is terrible and deliciously funny.
I haven’t got room or time to talk about Ticket To Ride (great fun) or Flux (card game where the rules change every time a card is played) or Resistance (so simple, yet such a test of your ability to read your friend’s expressions, like poker with only the fate of the world at stake not a paltry $1,000,000).
So, I’m going to talk about two more that we’ve (my little group) recently played.
Betrayal at House on the Hill starts just like all those horror movies from the 70s, 80s and 90s. A small group of friends go into an abandoned house to… well, to do whatever they went in the house to do. I have to say it is an eclectic group of friends from small children to gypsy women. All very strange.
At first, you work together. Exploring and building the house as you. Every game really is very different. You discover items and other things of use. You run into traps and other things as you go, but you know you can handle it. Either that or you can run away.
Then it happens. The baddie turns up. Here though one of your friends is working with the
baddie; there’s a traitor on the team. And here you have a bizarre experience for a table-top game, but one that works oh so well. The traitor gets up, walks out of the room with the traitor (We hate you! How could you do this to us?) booklet in hand. Meanwhile the rest, the good, wholesome, trusting bunch, get to plan what to do next. You read the scenario and get your instructions, just as the traitor (scum!) is doing. When you’re all set, the traitor (B******d!) comes back in and the game gets real.
Can you beat the monster, your friend and survive to the end… in our case, no. But we went down fighting!
Last up, because we played this on Friday (10th March if you’re interested), Conan.
Holy heck-a-lot, this game box is big and packed with so many goodies that half the fun is just setting the game up (and drinking beer, having a curry and eating crisps (Chips to the USA’ians – though, to me, chips are deep fried chunks of potato that you call fries whereas a fry is something followed by the word ‘up’ and involves cholesterol and a visit to the GP).
Like Betrayal, there are scenarios, but here we know the ‘traitor’ from the start. One player is the Overlord who controls all the monsters, fighting against you. Think of this like D&D battles. In ours, we have to rescue a damsel and return with the head of her kidnapper. The models (you can see them in the photographs) are incredible and the maps they sit on bring the griminess of the Conan world to life. In we race, Conan, a thief and a magician, against a village of Picts and a rather large serpent. They cannot survive our assault… FOR CROM!!!… and we died. A few bad roles by Conan (me) and a lack of experience in the game meant we were a little timid in our approach.
When I was young, board games were only Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit. Now I am old(er) they’ve made a comeback. Computer games are good, but little beats sitting round a table, eating, drinking and making your friends life hell in a game. Watching their joyous expression crumble as a card is played against them, a roll goes bad or they just realise they can’t win (unless it is you of course, then that’s not good).
Conan (and Genghis Khan) were once asked, “What is best in life?”
“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women!”
I can’t agree to the last bit. The rest seems right.