Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Playing Games

Is there anything more fun than sitting together with friends and family, playing a really good game? Well, I can think of a few things, but still... No phone, no lights, no motorcars. Just a board and some bits, or a stack of cards, or sometimes none of the above.

It's amazing what a standard 52 card deck can do. There must be thousands upon thousands of games, each with a half dozen variants. I couldn't even scratch the surface on this topic. And the beauty of card games is that they are essentially free.

Board games and other packaged games, though usually far less versatile than a deck of cards, can offer tremendous depth, interest, and fun.

Now, when I say board games, you probably think of the "roll the dice, move your mice" classics. Can I be honest here? Monopoly is not a very good game, despite it's infintely re-branded popularity. I almost wonder if it sours people on board games. It's a classic, so it must be good, right? Risk is another one that I want to like, but I just can't quite get there. Like Monopoly, you just have to get an early advantage, and then all the breaks go to you.

Then there are those games that I lovingly refer to as "shouting" games - chaotic affairs meant to be played at parties and gatherings. These are what you usually see in big box stores, and I usually find them a bit unsatisfying.

So now, dear readers, I will now take you on a journey to (possibly) unfamiliar lands. There are "classic" games out there that you've probably never have heard of. You won't find most of them anywhere but the occasional specialty store, or, of course, online.

Some are simple, some are not. Some are cheap, some are not. (Cheap being a relative term here. I mean, how much did you pay for Star Wars on video, and then again on DVD, and then again for the "enhanced" versions. And how many times have you actually watched them? Uh huh. I thought so. If you give George Lucas one more dollar, I'm gonna come over there and smack you!)

Here are some of my favorite classics that you've never heard of:

Kill Dr. Lucky
I love this game for two reasons. First, it's like a twisted version of Clue. Instead of trying to solve a murder, you are trying to commit one. You're chasing Dr. Lucky through his house, trying to do him in. Of course, attempts often result in him responding with, "Mmmm, rat poison. I love rat poison," or something similar. Second, this game comes from an outfit called "Cheapass Games". The games are paper or cardboard, and you have to supply your own tokens, dice, etc. Some of their games are offered completely free, and those that aren't generally run about five bucks. I discovered this site not long before our kids were born, and I haven't been back to try any of their other games, but I hope to.

Apples to Apples
This is the one you're most likely to have seen in the stores. It's a relatively simple game, based on creatively pairing unrelated ideas. Sort of a free-association card game. It takes just a few minutes to explain, and anybody can participate. I've never seen it played without multiple fits of laughter.

This is another one that shows up in "regular" stores from time to time. It's fairly simple, at least in concept. With examples, you can learn it in about five minutes. Cards with varying numbers of shapes, colors and patterns are laid out on the table. Everyone playing is trying to find "sets" of cards. I won't try to explain what makes a set, but you can read about it by clicking the link above. Finding the sets is often deceptively hard.

Settlers of Cataan
Considering it's complexity, this game is not hard to learn. You and your opponents are trying to establish colonies by building roads, trading for resources, and relying on a great balance of skill and chance. It is probably unlike any game you've played before. And I mean that in a good way.

Princes of Florence
This is the most complex game on this list. As an Italian aristocrat, you're trying to gain prestige by acting as patron to scholars and artists, constructing buildings, and creating parks. It's part balancing act, part Tetris, part auctioneering, part resource management, and a few other parts just for good measure. But the complexity pays off in a fun and challenging way.

So there you have it. Anybody want to come over and play?


At 7/20/2006 6:17 PM, Blogger madcapmum said...

I've never heard of any of these. We're not much of a board-game family, but Poppy would like us to be, so maybe I'll look into a couple. Thanks for the recommendations!

At 7/20/2006 10:48 PM, Blogger Morgan said...

I love Apples to Apples.
Cuz you showed it to us.

and we love you.

At 7/21/2006 9:17 PM, Blogger Beo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 8/13/2010 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We collect games. Not because our children are old enough to play them, but because someday they WILL be.

Okay, that and it reminds us of the time when we had friends we got together with and played games and laughed for hours over. That was nearly 15 years ago... the friends were older and all moved to Florida or are dying off. We were the 'kids' - the younger ones. Why is it nobody our age plays games?



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