Video games are great, and I play pen-and-paper RPGs on a near-weekly basis. (Push non-existent glasses up nose with finger.) But the soft spot in my heart for board games grows every day. I’m not talking about Monopoly, either—the new class of board games come from a European strategic-gaming tradition that’s only just making its mark here in the States. If you love gaming with friends but don’t have the patience for 8-hour Dungeons and Dragons sessions (or, let’s be honest, can’t find any RPG junkies in your area who don’t set your teeth on edge), board gaming is a low-maintenance alternative. I’m still trying out new games all the time, but I have found some favorites:
Technically more a card game, but without the pesky “collectible” part that makes games like Magic: the Gathering such a cash sink. In Dominion, everyone is a landed noble who must deploy numerous skills to increase their prestige in the kingdom: you can send spies and saboteurs at your enemies, research architecture and economics to improve your fiefdom’s efficiency, recruit an army, send witches to curse your foes, and more. It’s highly addictive, and don’t be surprised to find yourself playing it for far too many rounds with far too many beverages. “Come with me, Woodcutter. But leave the shirt.”
Word of caution: do not attempt to play using the online client for Dominion as a beginner, unless you like when ruthless Germans steamroll you, steal your lunch money, and tell you to go eat a hamburger, you American pig.
This is actually a Dungeons & Dragons campaign in board game format, and it’s crazy-fun. I threw together a Bauhaus and Dead Can Dance playlist for our session with this game, and set out to destroy some vamps and wights. Infinitely better way to D&D than wrestling with character spreadsheets and THAC0.
LAST NIGHT ON EARTH
Zombies are invading your small town! Are you the high school quarterback, ready to crack some zombie skulls? How about the old preacher-man, shepherding the townsfolk to safety? Or you could be that crazy drifter down by the truck stop, who may or may not have an M-16 in his cab. Take your pick and don’t get bitten. (Or do. That’s fun too.) WOLVERINES!
We play-tested this game at GenCon several years back and adored it. Definitely want to check out this company’s other titles as well.
I have mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand, it is a loving and exhaustive tribute to H. P. Lovecraft’s oeuvre, full of kitsch and creepiness and occultish delights. On the other hand, it can drag on for hours. Days, even. I know someone who was so bored once that they played this game by themselves—and lost. Definitely worth trying at least once, however, if only for the mad delight of slipping through a portal into the Mountains of Madness, and swinging by Miskatonic U to visit ol’ Herbert West.
We just acquired the Caribbean pirate-themed game MERCHANTS AND MARAUDERS, and I have my eye on the Battlestar Galactica game, as well as a space exploration adventure called EMINENT DOMAIN. I’ll review them soon!