Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Get Started With Board Gaming

by Jak Marshall

Until now I think the only real board gaming related article I've done was ages ago about board gaming classic Settlers of Catan which, among hobbyists, is as synonymous with the concept of board gaming as Monopoly is with people generally. Since then I've learned a whole lot more about the incredibly vast and fast growing subculture of board game geekdom and I thought I'd bring back some of my notes from the front lines so that you all may tread carefully and find your own way should you wish to.

But before I even start, 103 is unlikely to turn into a board gaming blog all of a sudden and this is simply because I think there is already a wealth of great media out there already covering this subject in much more detail and colour then I am currently able to achieve here and 103 is nothing if not about providing what you can't find elsewhere. So with that in mind I can heartily recommend Shut up & Sit Down (my personal favourite, please donate to them if you like their stuff) as well as The Dice Tower (a heavy influence on Shut Up who really know what they are on about) and a YouTube series called Tabletop which is basically a Let's Play series about board games featuring some internet/board gaming celebs. That one is presented by Wil Wheaton. That little lot should be able to convince you whether board gaming is for you and what you should spend your money on.

Guess what though? Board gaming is for you! Even if you don't like other people there are great solitary experiences to enjoy such as the dedicated solo mode in the worker placement masterpiece Agricola, which is a game about being a family of oldy world farmers and trying to have all the sheep. For those of us who do like playing with people too the board game I'd recommend that you buy first depends on how many people you want to play with and how you'd like to play with them.

This version is out of print (worth £100+ now) but a new edition is out for way less.

All romantic couples should buy Pandemic, which is a wonderfully straightforward co-operative game where you and up to three other players take on the role of disease control specialists trying to find the cures for four deadly diseases. It's a wonderful thing for two people to play together without that nasty feeling of somebody getting horribly clobbered by the other one. If that is what you want then Carcassonne is great for two players. Carcassonne can be played by up to five people but this very well designed game of laying down tiles to create a map of walled cities, roads and farmland and strategically placing followers on that land to score points is a great way to show your other half who is boss should you be any good at it.

For a small group of friends (say 3-6) people then I'd say Settlers of Catan is a must buy (an expansion exists to allow 6 people to play) and I still recommend it highly. For a more silly and rambunctious affair Escape: Curse of the Temple is just good clean co-operative fun where you all shout at each other and roll dice really quickly and end up exhausted and confused and wanting to play again. The whole game takes 10  minutes to play and comes with a soundtrack CD and lots of extra modules to add more silly stuff to the game once you get good/bad at it. That should be more than enough to get you going and any of the games I recommended for couples would be equally valid in small groups and a hell of a lot of fun to play.

Silliness in a box
Larger groups (say seven or more) starts getting tricky simply because of logistics and this is where you enter the sub-genre of party games. Although traditional board games do exist which can include larger number of players they are usually so involved and deep that they would not make an ideal first, second or third buy so we'll not speak of them here. Get your friends down the pub with a very cheap game called The Resistance: Avalon and you all can learn the game easily and have a very good game of social interaction and bluffing (plus King Arthur) and if you're really looking for a simpler and faster bluffing game (Avalon is pretty simple/fast as it is) then get yourself a copy of Bang!  and you're set to go. A more recent bluffing party game called Two Rooms and a Boom (which you can print and make for free atm) has recently arrived on the scene and I have it on good authority that is very very good but I have not had a chance to playtest it myself so I will leave it to you readers to find out more for the time being. Soz.

That should be more than enough to get you all playing something mint and easy enough to learn and share. No excuses now, get playing!

Next Time: Collectible Games