Saturday, February 07, 2009

Games Games Games

I realized today that although I play a lot of Board Games, I really don't blog about playing them that much. Oh I know you can scroll down to the handy-dandy widget on the right hand side and see what were the last games I played, but no-one but a serious game geek really does that right?

To rectify that I thought I'd post a picture of the current state of the Board Game collection. It's not very well organized to be honest. I have an online list of everything that's there, but I don't have designated spots for everything yet.

The saddest part is that their are still a few games up their in shrink wrap :( There are always more games to be played than time allotted or people available.

Most people know that if I'm going on a weekend retreat or around someone else's house I will often bring a bag of games with me. I saw someone Wednesday who I'd introduced to the game 'Blokus' whilst we were both on the Chapelwood Men's Retreat. He liked it so much he bought a copy to play with his family at Christmas. He mentioned on Wednesday that at a recent family gathering they had 3 copies of Blokus on the table and they were in constant usage all weekend. I love that.

There's something about game playing with other people that I love. It's better than just talking, and it creates lasting memories.

The trick is choosing the right game for the group. Most of the people I introduce games too are 'newbies' to modern board gaming. This means some serious thought has to go into what I pack into my bag. What criteria do I use?

a) Easy to learn
b) Interactive
c) Not too long in play
d) Can cover a wide variety of players.
e) Wow factor

'Easy to Learn' - don't get me wrong, I like longer more complex games (well maybe not too complex GRIN), but if it takes me more than about 5 minutes to explain the rules to a group of newbies then they are going to close up. I find this interesting though - have you ever tried to explain Monopoly or Risk to someone? It's tough to cover all the nuances in 5 minutes, but no one seems bothered by it. I guess it's like languages, if you learn them as a child it seems simple, but when you try to learn them as an adult suddenly it's complex.

'Interactive' - many of the games we played as children were of the type that you didn't do much when it wasn't your turn. As we get older we find those kinds of games rather tedious. I try to pick games that keep the players engaged.

'Not too long in play' - some of the games I play can take 2 1/2 to 3 hours. This is great at a game night, but can be terrifying to the newbie. The other advantage of short games is that if you are playing in a public place like on a retreat it's easy to say to observers 'This game will be over soon, stick around and we'll play something you can join in on.'

'Can cover a wide variety of players' - I can't think of one game that works as well with 2 as it does with ten. Consequently I try to include games in my bag for all possibilities.

'Wow Factor' - This is picking a game that has something about it that draws people in. Maybe it's visually appealing. Maybe it contains a mechanic that will be unfamiliar to newbies. Maybe it's a game that draws spectators.

So what games fall into my bag when I'm trying to indoctrinate new people into the gaming cult? It depends a lot on the gaming environment (private house, bar, Retreat center etc), but here are a few suggestions from my collection.

For Sale - Simple to play and explain. The fact that the game falls neatly into 2 sections helps keep the interest going. The bidding factor in the first phase and the trying to predict what other players are going to do in the second helps keep people engaged.

Coyote - If you've got a crowd that doesn't mind wearing silly headbands, this is a great game. It can cause a lot of mental anguish and actually functions well as a spectator sport. Normally I would avoid elimination games with newbies, but this one seems to work well.

Ca$h and Gun$ - There is something wonderful about pointing foam guns at one another around a table.

Saboteur - This game can hold up to 10 people which is a bonus, and once people get into the roles of trying to figure out who the saboteurs are at the table you suddenly discover people smack talking to one another :)

Blokus - At first glance this would not seem a great choice. It needs to be played with exactly 4 people, no more no less which is a drawback. But the game is so simple to learn and looks really pretty on the table that people are just drawn to it. It's one of those games that has crossed over into the mainstream.

Felix the Cat in the Sack - Bidding and bluffing. It has a feel a bit like Texas Hold Em which draws some people in, and the game can produce delicious agony with some of the decisions you have to make.

Cockroach Poker - This is a relatively new game in my collection that is deceptively simple. Lots of bluffing and lying in this one :)

Category 5 - Simultaneous play and second guessing what your opponent is going to do makes this one hit the game bag. Plus it can accommodate ten people. Bonus!

King Me - another game of bluffing and deduction that newbies tend to enjoy.

Pitch Car - there's something about flicking disks around a track that is just fun. It can handle up to 8 people, it's easy to learn and it draws a crowd :)

There are many other games that I have that I would pack, these are the ones that come to mind.


Mark said...

Don't forget "Ticket to Ride" and the game about getting out of Pompeii. From personal experience, they were easy to explain and fun to play.

Pete the Brit said...

They are both good games, I just wonder if the playtime is a little long for what I was considering in the blog post

Deidra said...

So will you be bringing a bag with you to Vegas. We love games. I am not sure games are in the cards, no pun intended, for this trip. We are up for it if you guys are. I could put together a game night with some of our friends we have met here. Let me know.

Gregarius said...

Nice post, Pete.

Just a couple of comments:
As far as "interactive" games go, I've recently come to the conclusion that some non-gamers actually prefer to have downtime when it isn't their turn. Maybe they want to relax and socialize, grab a snack, or just watch to see how other people play. Sometimes constant involvement can be stressful, I think.

Secondly, I was surprised how many of the games in your newbie bag involve bluffing. Do you think that is just your personal taste, or is that a concept that is easy to teach to new players?

Pete the Brit said...

Thanks for your comments Greg.

I agree with your comment regarding 'downtime'. I do think though that many people's experiences with games involved doing nothing while one of their opponents had Analyisis Paralysis (Scrabble, Chess etc) that it's nice to show them that not all games are like that.

Bluffing is fairly easy to learn and gives you that instant gratification of having sucsessfully screwed your opponent.

I did this list from memory, so those are the games that came to mind. I would definitely add Trans America or Trans Europa to the list too.