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The German-style game
March 29, 2009 10:47 PM   Subscribe

Monopoly killer - how The Settlers of Catan redefined board games.
posted by Artw (160 comments total) 67 users marked this as a favorite

 
BoardGameGeek

That is all.
posted by parliboy at 10:52 PM on March 29, 2009 [10 favorites]


SPOILER ALERT--
Some German guy made a board game and a WIRED writer thinks it should be more popular than Monopoly.

(kidding ArtW. I thought it was a fine article)
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:55 PM on March 29, 2009


Killing is too good for Monopoly. It should be tortured, burned, granted a brief period of false hope, and then utterly destroyed. When it no longer exists in even the minds of men except as a cautionary fable about overly persistent brand whored schlock, and we are somehow inoculated against its twisted prion-esque meme ever re-occurring, the world will be a better place.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:58 PM on March 29, 2009 [30 favorites]


This article is worth two wood, but no brick.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:59 PM on March 29, 2009 [13 favorites]


The wikipedia article on German style games has some neat links, including this Economist article.
posted by Artw at 11:03 PM on March 29, 2009


It should be tortured, burned, granted a brief period of false hope, and then utterly destroyed.

Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:16 PM on March 29, 2009 [7 favorites]


What if they released a Metafilter themed Monopoloy? What then?
posted by anthill at 11:40 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"It was a maturation of the form," says Stewart Woods, a board game scholar at Curtin University of Technology

What a coincidence! I love Settlers too, and I'm a technology scholar at the Board Game University of Curtains!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:43 PM on March 29, 2009 [15 favorites]


Here's a shock. You can like both. I do.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:44 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Settlers is a game for wussy pacifists who don't like to be crushed like the inferior dogs that they are. Sit still, don't whine, and take your beating with a bit of dignity!

Hey... if you're nice and help me screw over the other players, I'll carry you for a few extra turns!
posted by markkraft at 11:45 PM on March 29, 2009


If you like good boardgames, you need to know about brettspielwelt. It's a (now) pretty solid java client and server with implementations of many of these games, including Settlers and one of my newer favorites, Dominion.

As far as I know, there's still no online version of my pod's current favorite, Race for the Galaxy. This is probably a good thing - even with the kid coming, I like to think I could leave the house, you know, sometimes.
posted by freebird at 11:50 PM on March 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


SHEESH, markkraft, keep it together! No need for libel! Settlers is a game for sheepfuckers, that's bad enough.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:52 PM on March 29, 2009


anthill: "What if they released a Metafilter themed Monopoloy? What then?"

Metafilter would be Board Walk and Pall Mall. AskMe would be Pennsylvania Avenue and it's cohorts. Baltic and Mediterranean Avenues would be MeMu. Jobs would be Marvin Gardens et al and Tennessee Ave and its chums would be Travel Filter. Projects would be in the vicinity of the Virginia Avenue squares and MetaTalk would be up near the red squares.

I don't know how we'd theme Free Parking, the rail roads, the utilities or Chance/Community Chest, but what I do know is that in my grand, mad vision, the GO TO JAIL square would have a picture of cortex eating an enormous donut.
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:56 PM on March 29, 2009 [9 favorites]


"I've got wood if anyone wants it."

One of the many nuggets that awaits you when playing Settlers of Catan.

I love the game, though. Also really enjoy Ticket to Ride (especially Europe edition, and Switzerland edition for 2 players). Board Game Geek is a goldmine for finding games that I never would have heard of otherwise.
posted by pkingdesign at 11:56 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Settlers of Catan is a lot lot lot better than Monopoly. However at any moment there's still probably about 45 games I would rather play than Settlers.

See the problem is not just that you can get locked out where you have no chance of winning for the remaining 30 minutes of the game. The problems are that this can happen through no fault of your own, and that during this time you can't even do anything. Maybe you can play kingmaker, and if that speeds along the end of the game it's appealing to do that, but that feels dirty and unsportsmanlike.

I'm not going to pretend there aren't three copies of it sitting in my games closet, but I will say there are literally around a hundred other games I play more frequently and enjoy more.
posted by aubilenon at 11:57 PM on March 29, 2009 [14 favorites]


Oops, I went and counted (around a hundred) and forgot my old estimate was still in there. Hah. The correct answer to "how many games do I like more than Settlers is "About a hundred" not "45"
posted by aubilenon at 11:58 PM on March 29, 2009


I've got excess wood and need some sheep. Can anybody assist me in formulating a request to exchange these commodities?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:01 AM on March 30, 2009 [10 favorites]


More like "bored game geek" AMIRITE?
posted by Curry at 12:02 AM on March 30, 2009


In 1995, there used to be a game store near where I used to live, where people would sit in the back and play board games all day. Being unemployed at the time I was one of them. One day, I brought in a copy of Settlers (the first US edition by Mayfair), and people were climbing over each other to play it by the time we all left around midnight.

I couldn't make it in for a few days, but wasn't willing to lend out my copy.

So the next day, the regulars created their own copy of the game out of cardboard, scraps of paper, bottle caps and glass beads.

That's how revolutionary the game was to the gaming community when it first hit our shores.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 12:03 AM on March 30, 2009 [16 favorites]


I'm not going to pretend there aren't three copies of it sitting in my games closet, but I will say there are literally around a hundred other games I play more frequently and enjoy more.

That doesn't make it less of an achievement, or even mean it isn't the "perfect board game" (although I don't think there can be such a thing). It's equivalent to me saying that, yeah, I have a copy of Halo 3 sitting around but there are a hundred other games I play more frequently and enjoy more. It's true so far as it goes. And, yeah, I think someone serious about the art of video gaming can't just sit around twitch-gaming with a bunch of adderalled up 13 year olds. But there's obviously something there that appeals to a mass audience, and that is a feat in and of itself.

It's the same with Cataan: Something about it just clicks with a great many people. I can play Cataan with my mom and dad. I bet most of the games you'd list as "better" are things I'd never get them playing in a million years.
posted by Justinian at 12:05 AM on March 30, 2009


The most uber boardgame evah has to be Diplomacy. I loved Risk, Castle Risk, Shogun, Axis and Allies, Stratego (back in the day), Chess and a host of other strategy board games, but Diplomacy took the board game genre into the stratosphere and kicked its ass.

It remains to this day the only board game I've ever played where permanent rifts in friendships occurred. It was during a game of Diplomacy that I learned the word "ratf%cking". There's something about the Diplomacy experience that really brought out the subterranean instincts in its players far more ably than any other board game I've experienced.

It sits in its cursed box atop a pile of other board games in my closet. I never want to play Diplomacy ever again in my life and if anyone offered me a game now, I'd spray them with holy water and look around for their dark minions.
posted by darkstar at 12:07 AM on March 30, 2009 [9 favorites]


That's how revolutionary the game was to the gaming community when it first hit our shores.

I don't know, making a game by hand seems like the kind of thing people who hang out at a game store would do.
posted by delmoi at 12:09 AM on March 30, 2009 [8 favorites]


One game that I've found inspires either total devotion or utter indifference is Arkham Horror, which is sort of like an over-the-top Call of Cthulhu adventure in boardgame format. I just love cooperative play, honestly- some of my best memories of online gaming are Doom and Serious Sam co-op.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:10 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Diplomacy took the board game genre into the stratosphere and kicked its ass.

Are you sure you're not describing a sequence from Dragonball Z?
posted by grobstein at 12:14 AM on March 30, 2009


"I've got wood if anyone wants it." One of the many nuggets that awaits you when playing Settlers of Catan.

"I've got wood for sheep."

See the problem is not just that you can get locked out where you have no chance of winning for the remaining 30 minutes of the game. The problems are that this can happen through no fault of your own, and that during this time you can't even do anything. Maybe you can play kingmaker, and if that speeds along the end of the game it's appealing to do that, but that feels dirty and unsportsmanlike.

I don't think it's that bad, but you point to one of SoC's great advantages - it ends predictably. Every turn is a step towards the finish of the game, and thus you can bet on the game taking 75-90 minutes. Monopoly - who the hell knows how long it will take? 2 hours? 3 hours? But if you've got 90 minutes, you can play Settlers.
posted by outlier at 12:17 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What if they released a Metafilter themed Monopoloy? What then?

It wouldn't work. There'd be way too much Flagging It, and not enough Moving On. Everyone would thus be broke before all the sockpuppets had been bought up. And you just can't expect cortex to host every single auction of those things in person!

Of course, "house rules" such as "AskMe" could be invoked to avoid this, but that would take almost all the fun out of MetaTalking a fair price for each individual sockpuppet. Which, let's face it, would always be five dollars so, yeah, still wouldn't work.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:17 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Justinian, certainly a lot of the games I prefer are too complicated for the broader audience. Puerto Rico, Agricola, Roads & Boats, Age of Steam, and Caylus are all great, but yeah they're games for gamers.

Ticket to Ride, Tichu, Ingenious, Carcassonne, Vikings, & Winners Circle* are all examples of games that I think are at least as accessible to novice gamers as Settlers.


*Funner as Royal Turf, on account of the better horse names. Go Nougat!
posted by aubilenon at 12:22 AM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


Pope Guilty, if you like coop boardgames, have you tried Shadows Over Camelot? I find the traitor mechanic adds a ton to the game, and I think it would spice up Arkham. It's also damn hard, and oddly involving.

Even in a crew of drinking laughing friends, it's rough when you're unable to stop the slide of Camelot into anarchy and darkness - especially when your pal's GF was Mordred the whole time, fighting against you from the shadows! ARGH. I'm not selling it well - I *love* that it can be such a bringdown when you all lose together and usher in the Dark Ages. Because you really appreciate it when you can work as a team and win, I guess. I haven't gotten that feeling of personal involvement from too many boardgames, but I did read a shit ton of Arthurian stuff as a kid so maybe I'm jsut too close to the material.

Anyhow - if you like coop, it's worth checking out.
posted by freebird at 12:24 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


My brother has Shadows Over Camelot, and it was one of the most fun games I've ever played. We played without a traitor, since there were two first-timers, but now you've got me thinking about how one would go about implementing that in Arkham Horror. SOC is built around the mechanic, with (for example) cards being played face down in pursuit of quests, whereas everything in Arkham Horror is done in the sight of everyone and there's not a lot (short maybe just being really ineffectual) that you could actually do to betray the rest of the team.

Hmmmmmmm.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:28 AM on March 30, 2009


Settlers is a lot of fun. If you haven't played it yet, do so ASAConvenient.

Love,
chris
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 12:31 AM on March 30, 2009


That doesn't make it less of an achievement, or even mean it isn't the "perfect board game" (although I don't think there can be such a thing) ... Something about it just clicks with a great many people. I can play Cataan with my mom and dad. I bet most of the games you'd list as "better" are things I'd never get them playing in a million years.

It's worth noting that a trademark of the hardcore boardgamer is periodic bouts of manic euphoria about the latest, greatest game. For examples of this, look no further than BoardGameGeek where undisputed champions rise and fall faster than a teenage girls taste in popstars. Settlers is the greatest game evar! No, Agricola! No, Arkham Horror! No, Race for the Galaxy! No, Dominion is the greatest game evar! It has always been ...

And the greatest game for a hardcore gamer is not necessarily the best family game. Explaining the rules for (say) Agricola or Arkham Horror is a trying task. Then there's the job of conveying what the rules mean, how they work together, what the important things to keep track of are. Race for the Galaxy is a good example of this problem, as even the designer has asserted you have to play the game a dozen or so times before understanding how the cards interact. In the face of this, a "merely good" game like Settlers triumphs.
posted by outlier at 12:35 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pope Guilty, if you like coop boardgames, have you tried Shadows Over Camelot? I find the traitor mechanic adds a ton to the game, and I think it would spice up Arkham. It's also damn hard, and oddly involving.

Third-ed. As are the coops "Pandemic" and "Red November" (the latter of which is unfortunately plagued by badly written rules).
posted by outlier at 12:40 AM on March 30, 2009


I bought Arkham Horror, popped out all the pieces, read the rules...read them again...downloaded the simplified rules...tried to get people to play with me...tried to explain the rules to them...drank steadily...played Catan instead.
posted by turgid dahlia at 1:04 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I've been running into "Arkham Horror? Don't the rules take four hours to explain?" a fair bit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:08 AM on March 30, 2009


At the depressing private school I went to some of us would play Monopoly on lunch breaks. I liked the game then.

I don't think I've played Monopoly in over five years, and right now I'd be happy never to play it again. I think I was more enamoured of the idea of it than the actual game. It's nice in that it's still a non-traditional design, but it's got way too much luck in it, and if the players refuse to trade with each other (happened often with us) then the game locks down to chance entirely.
posted by JHarris at 1:14 AM on March 30, 2009


I haven't played Cataan, yet. My mom offered to buy it for the family just yesterday. She got all excited about it from reading about it online or something. One of the many good things I've gotten from an AskMe thread about in-person games was Apples to Apples. We got it for Xmas and have played it with a mix of kids and adults; kids, teens, and adults; and with adults only. Also, with varying degrees of inebriation (for the adults, of course). It holds up, it doesn't take too long, and everyone laughs. Scoring is easy, and there is no backstabbing at all. If the same can be said of Cataan, I might be a convert.

On the other hand, there is a lovely, unplayed box of Dragonolgy here, because WTF? I can't make heads or tails of the rules, so much to "learn," and it seems like it would take forever. Please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by lilywing13 at 1:23 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Apples to Apples is effing hilarious, just for the record. I almost never play it, because I'm afraid it will disappoint, although it hasn't yet. I think alcohol is a requirement for truly entertaining gameplay, though. People just won't blurt out the crazy shit necessary for a truly hilarious game when sober.

Well..most people. I will, but I have a problem with taking things too far(tm).
posted by wierdo at 1:34 AM on March 30, 2009


> The most uber boardgame evah has to be Diplomacy.

While it might not be for everyone, Diplomacy is one of the best games I've ever played. I keep thinking that with Diplomacy around there is no reason for anyone to play Risk, ever. And you can play it as an email-based game as well, and it becomes completely different (but still good).


Monopoly just isn't that good a game, and while Settlers might not be the Platonic ideal, I think it has a good mix of luck and strategy and is easy enough to pickup so you can play it with just about anyone. And I don't really agree with the article when they say "Instead of direct conflict, German-style games tend to let players win without having to undercut or destroy their friends." Settlers requires you to be a bit evil, blocking players, refusing to trade with someone who might be doing a bit too well, undercutting deals. I'd say that conflict is essential to any good game, it doesn't have to be military but without some sort of struggle you'll end up with something that's ultimately a bit boring.
posted by bjrn at 1:37 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a Diplomacy player, I've always felt uncomfortable with having it in the board-game genre at all. Yes, it has a board and pieces. But they all are just markers for the current state of the game - more like a cribbage board really. The game "happens" away from the board as well.

I mean I love Diplomacy, especially how such a simple set of rules can lead to such a complex play environment. I'm just not sure its a board game. Its more whatever Mafia is - but with a scoreboard.
posted by vacapinta at 1:50 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apples to Apples depends more keenly than perhaps any other game on playing it with the right mix of players. While playing, say, Cataan with bad players will result in an easy or frustrating game, playing Apples to Apples with unimaginitive or unwitty people is soulcrushingly boring.

I'm still ashamed of winning "Adorable" with "Feminists".
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:57 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


But the Diplomacy board isn't just markings of current scores or something like that, the board is really what everything revolves around, it's just that the off-board interactions have been formalised. In Risk you can talk and negotiate as well, but the rules don't really mention it (I think). In Diplomacy they are mentioned and then some, but the board still is what everything's about, and what goes on on the board dictates what you'll be talking about.
posted by bjrn at 1:59 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"'I've got wood for sheep.'"

Wait, the article said this was a German game, not a product of New Zealand.
posted by orthogonality at 2:01 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Apples to Apples with unimaginitive or unwitty people is soulcrushingly boring

Never play with people who interpret words literally.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:02 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Really good point, bjrn - I've seen players of Settlers almost flip the table after someone else builds a road to cut them off from building a settlement, that they've been collecting cards towards for turn after turn. Just because the little men aren't called "soldiers" or "warriors" doesn't mean there isn't any conflict.

One of the neatest things about Diplomacy is that it is deterministic. There is nothing whatsoever random in it, except for the actions of other players. It's just like Chess in that way.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:06 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or does this article read like the end of Being John Malkovich? Like one man brought his obscure and outdated passion to the world and it took off with the momentum of a speeding train and before long everyone in the world was inexplicably obsessed with it?

Just me then...
posted by Acey at 2:17 AM on March 30, 2009


I like Settlers because it offers a curious amount of flexibility--I'm sure we're not the first, but in our game, we started playing things a bit fast and loose--For instance, one of my game mates paid me resources NOT to place the thief on his tile when I rolled a 7. This caused a second player to ALSO pony up resources, leaving the third player shafted, and ponying up resources.

We also started to play futures--we were trading resources we didn't yet have, but had the capacity to produce, and agreed to trade in exchange for the "first 2 bricks you generate", et cetera. This enabled a great deal of flexibility and some very Machiavellian maneuvering with our game round that I hadn't experienced before. Since (at least according to us) these acts weren't *outlawed* we had a great deal of fun building our own market system and seeing how far we could evolve the concept.

Which isn't to say you couldn't bring about your own slightly stretched rules to Monopoly... but I just think that it's a much more rigid framework that wouldn't take nearly as kindly, though I know the pantheon of "house rules" that exists out there. Still, a game with real, flowing trade is made so much more fun with just a few minor changes.
posted by disillusioned at 2:45 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting this article - I'd heard the name of the game a little, but hadn't looked into it because I thought it was a console game. It sounds like just the thing for my extended family. We all like board games, but many of them are too long or too easy/hard to be suitable for the wide range of people who might be playing. My side of the family has generally settled on speed-Trivial-Pursuit (every question gets a piece of pie), Scattegories and Balderdash, while my in-laws favour Yahtzee and Scrabble. Something quick and varied would be great.
posted by harriet vane at 3:37 AM on March 30, 2009


The article elaborate, but a Chevy Cobalt is good yeah?
posted by mattoxic at 3:59 AM on March 30, 2009


You know, Settlers is a great game, but the orgasmic fanboy love gets pretty old real fast. There were lots of excellent board games before it, and lots of excellent ones since. Call me when it's survived a few hundred years, like chess.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:22 AM on March 30, 2009


Wow great article. I've been playing many of the games mentioned with friends for awhile, and I just thought we were on the fringe. I had no idea they were all German, what place they had German entertainment (reviews in the newspaper?), or that they were taking such a foothold in the US.

Also, I've never heard anyone talk about Monopoly with such disdain, but it does make sense now that it's pointed out.
posted by poppo at 4:24 AM on March 30, 2009


Pope Guilty: I'm still ashamed of winning "Adorable" with "Feminists".

The shining moment of Apples to Apples for me is when a friend won "Crunchy" with "The Challenger Disaster."
posted by Kattullus at 4:33 AM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


I liked Apples to Apples until we played it with my four-year-old nephew (and four adults.)

Despite having a limited ability to read and not knowing the meaning of any of his cards, he won.

It was then that we realized that, despite appearances, it's a game of chance.
posted by mmoncur at 4:33 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


For beginners, Attika is one I'd strongly suggest. As little as an hour to teach and play your first game, if one person already knows the rules. Simple rules, complex strategy.

(You can win in one of two ways: playing all of your city tiles or by making a line of tiles that stretches the length of the board. The strategy comes from the fact that these two goals are in conflict -- speed-building is an inefficient use of resources)

---

The only board game more soul-searing than Diplomacy is play-by-email Diplomacy. Feeding your dear sweet ally pleasing half-truths is bad enough, but now imagine stretching that deception and betrayal out over months.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:40 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, and the only time I've ever played Catan was at a MetaFilter meetup. The game was never finished which may or may not have been because everybody was trying to outdo the others in sheep-wood punnuendo.
posted by Kattullus at 4:46 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Settlers is a fantastic introduction to the world of real board games, that is games where strategy actually means thinking ahead (someone once tried to argue with me that Monopoly has strategy...).

I've played Catan for about 10 yrs now and although it isn't my all-time favourite game it is the one that best breaches the gap between gamers and non-gamers.

As far as Diplomacy goes I avoid it like the plague, I hate being backstabbed and I hate backstabbing others, so... With that said, it IS a damned good game however, just not for me, far too stressful.

For those who like conflict games I highly recommend the following :
Vinci
Serenissima
Civilization
posted by Vindaloo at 5:17 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


How did Monopoly get popular, anyway? Game kinda sucks.

I love Settlers, but gosh is it expensive.
posted by lunit at 5:22 AM on March 30, 2009


Img link when favoring won't do
posted by cavalier at 5:25 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Apples to Apples is a game of chance, more or less, but it's also so much more about playing than about winning that it's ok. It's a feature, not a bug, etc.

Once the judge had narrowed it down to two possible winners, my card and someone else's, and we were both completely sure that we had won. The adjective was "touchy-feely". Her "Michael Jackson" was narrowly beaten by my "Helen Keller".

Anyway, the problem with Settlers is that you can usually figure out who is going to win the game or how tight it will be right around when everyone has picked their first settlement and road. After that it's a matter of seeing whether the dice rolls will be screwy enough to let the less likely possibilities occur.
posted by Casuistry at 5:29 AM on March 30, 2009


I recognize that Settlers is mechanically excellent, but I just can't get into it because the theme is so dull. Is it terribly shallow of me, that I'd vastly prefer it if it were about Fallout-esque post-nuclear survival, or pirates, or zombies, or basically anything other than bricks and sheep and quaint little villages?
posted by rifflesby at 5:30 AM on March 30, 2009


anthill: "What if they released a Metafilter themed Monopoloy? What then?"

Metafilter: Weblog as Board Game!

(On a different note: "I love that game!")
posted by Rhaomi at 5:32 AM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


I can't believe a bunch of people who have literally thousands of posts scattered across MetaFilter are sitting around making fun of people who hang out game stores to play Settlers.

Y'all are so cute in your cute nerdy way.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:47 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


It was then that we realized that, despite appearances, it's a game of chance.

No, it's a game of socializing disguised as a family card game. If you were seriously trying to win, I think you missed the major point of Apples to Apples. It's fun regardless of who wins or loses. It's all about goofy conversations and ironic submissions and drawing the next card and realizing that would have been better for the round than the one you just submitted.
posted by grubi at 5:48 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


I love the way the URL ends with mf_settlers, as if to say: "Motherfuckin' Settlers."
posted by Eideteker at 5:57 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Slightly OT, but if anyone knows of a non-crappy online implementation of Carcassone, I have many (geographically-distributed) friends who will hug you. They will then shortly be unemployed, and then they will hug you even more!

(I looked at brettspielwelt.de, but it is... um... very German. German software needs to take about a decade off, spend that time gazing lovingly at various Dieter Rams devices, and then start over.)
posted by louie at 6:00 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


German-style games, on the other hand, avoid direct conflict. Violence in particular is taboo in Germany's gaming culture, a holdover from decades of post-World War II soul-searching. In fact, when Parker Brothers tried to introduce Risk there in 1982, the government threatened to ban it on the grounds that it might encourage imperialist and militaristic impulses in the nation's youth. (The German rules for Risk were hastily rewritten so players could "liberate" their opponents' territories, and censors let it slide.)
Ummm... isn't that what Hitler said he was doing? For, say, Sudetenland?
posted by Flunkie at 6:01 AM on March 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


Instead of direct conflict, German-style games tend to let players win without having to undercut or destroy their friends (...) You can't get ahead by rustling your opponents' sheep
Actually, you can get ahead by doing exactly that, and many games have been won immediately after, and because, someone rustled everyone else's sheep.
posted by Flunkie at 6:05 AM on March 30, 2009


See the problem is not just that you can get locked out where you have no chance of winning for the remaining 30 minutes of the game. The problems are that this can happen through no fault of your own, and that during this time you can't even do anything.

Yet with "multiple paths to victory" (a key German board game ingredient, even if Settlers is a "gateway game" (note the dice)), this happens rarely if the players know what they're doing. Since chance is involved, however, it can happen, and that's why Settlers is best played in quick rounds. The worst thing is "just having time for one game" of Settlers. You want to play over, see the new board setup, check out the possibilities.

As for sheep-rustling, along with the dice, again, note that Settlers is not the exemplar of German style board games. It's an easy introduction to a genre that gets better as you get closer to the core principles, much like German beer.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:09 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, does anyone know of good (free) online board-game style flash/java sites? Hex Empire is vaguely Risk-ish. Big Bucks has similarities to Monopoly but is simultaneous (rather than turn-based) and therefore not very relaxing.
posted by Eideteker at 6:12 AM on March 30, 2009


I recently played both Monopoly and Settlers in a single weekend, and it really drove home the differences between the two.

After the first turn around the Monopoly board, I could easily and (accurately) predict which 3 players would spend the next 4 hours bored out of their skulls and which 2 players would fight for the win. By the time I finally got priced out of the game, I was desperate to leave and go and do anything else -- I'd been clearly, irreversibly losing the game for 3 hours, but I wasn't lucky enough to actually lose so I could go play something else.

In Settlers, on the other hand, while I was, in fact, losing the game right from the start, it was never a foregone conclusion. There were always moments when just the right resource cards or a good trade could have left me with a clear path to a port or the longest road or something that would have put me in the lead. I did eventually lose, but it was close, and I was at least involved in the game the whole time, rather than just rolling the dice every 10 minutes waiting to see how much money I'd have to pay someone else.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:14 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Eideteker Also, does anyone know of good (free) online board-game style flash/java sites?

As freebird mentioned earlier, www.brettspielwelt.de is probably the best one there is. It has an English language client.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:19 AM on March 30, 2009


You know what's (a bit) better than Settler or Monopoly? Acquire. Now that's a fun game.

But I love all three. And Diplomacy. And Junta! My word, how I used to love Junta.
posted by WPW at 6:29 AM on March 30, 2009


Simply because the game is not a zero sum game does not mean it isn't cutthroat. Speaking as someone who played a LOT of Settlers back in my early college years, I can remember many a game where some bastard or other built a settlement to cut off the longest road, or kept an iron grip on their monopoly of brick. In many cases, that bastard was me.

The writer seems to be ignoring that aspect of play in favor of painting this perfect picture of his favorite game.
posted by graventy at 6:36 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've never got into Settlers, but I do love Arkham Horror (preferably with musical accompaniment). Sometimes I wish it were easier to betray your team-mates, but sometimes it's more fun to try and screw them over in the little ways which the game makes possible, eg leaving a time-bomb which is helpfully set to detonate the moment they return from the Outer World, or closing a gate and getting them lost in time and space.
posted by penguinliz at 6:39 AM on March 30, 2009


Also, you can make an argument that sales of the game are *exploding*, but pick a better chart. That looks a lot like nearly consistent sales year to year to me, with a slight uptick.

It has been translated into 30 languages and sold a staggering 15 million copies (even the megahit videogame Halo 3 has sold only a little more than half that).

Uh, actually, Halo 3 only sold 6 million copies or so.

/pedant
posted by graventy at 6:40 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love Settlers of Catan. Our friends bought it on a whim and soon they had all the different games and expansions. Even playing the two player card game is quite satisfying! We had tried to get a Monopoly night going before, but we couldn't seem to finish a game in a reasonable amount of time. As children, playing Monopoly with my brother usually resulted in tears. I don't think that would have happened with Settlers of Catan.
posted by Calzephyr at 7:05 AM on March 30, 2009


check out this board game.

it has laaazooorrrzzzz
posted by 5imian at 7:14 AM on March 30, 2009


Apples to Apples is effing hilarious, just for the record. I almost never play it, because I'm afraid it will disappoint, although it hasn't yet. I think alcohol is a requirement for truly entertaining gameplay, though. People just won't blurt out the crazy shit necessary for a truly hilarious game when sober.

A friend and I have a competition of sorts where we try to play the Israel card for as many rounds as possible.
posted by odinsdream at 7:17 AM on March 30, 2009


I really like Settlers because it mirrors an elementary economy. When you notice that a certain resource card is running low in the bank, you really don't have to worry, since the more (say) Wheat there is in circulation, the cheaper it becomes. If everyone has 4 Wheats, they get devalued, and people start trading 4-1 for other resources. The resource cards have this elementary scarcity-curve that always excites me.
posted by milestogo at 7:18 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Slightly OT, but if anyone knows of a non-crappy online implementation of Carcassone,

I like the Xbox Live version - my wife and I play it together pretty frequently. Once you get a handle on the controls, it's so much easier than scooping out a bunch of tiles and arguing about whether or not Field A is connected to Field B.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:19 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


pope guilty: My brother has Shadows Over Camelot, and it was one of the most fun games I've ever played. We played without a traitor, since there were two first-timers, but now you've got me thinking about how one would go about implementing that in Arkham Horror. SOC is built around the mechanic, with (for example) cards being played face down in pursuit of quests, whereas everything in Arkham Horror is done in the sight of everyone and there's not a lot (short maybe just being really ineffectual) that you could actually do to betray the rest of the team.


There are two cards in the expansions that allow one investigator in Arkham Horror to turn traitor, though there's nothing really subtle or devious about them. One is the Joining the Winning Team mission, and the other is one of Nyarlathotep's devious plot cards in the epic battle deck. I don't think either one would really accomplish anything more than your teammates calling you a dick, though. But Arkham Horror is so RPG like and, with the help of Strange Eons, so customizable, I bet it wouldn't be hard to put together a house system for betrayal.

I'm posting links to the Arkham Horror wiki at 7:26 a.m. when I need to leave in five-ish minutes to get to school. I guess I'm what you could call a little obsessed with Arkham Horror. I'll read the rest of the thread later.
posted by Caduceus at 7:27 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I would have melodramatically asked "What have I become?!" but really, I've always been this geeky. It wouldn't have been convincing.
posted by Caduceus at 7:36 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think this discussion about the "Best" board games or the "Perfect" board game is flawed. It is just like any other creative media, there are many different but equally good avenues to explore, and what you like is based on your taste and mood.

Even if a movie is my "favorite" or I call it the "perfect" movie it doesn't mean I don't watch other movies, or I am not excited when a new, cool looking movie comes out. Same with Books or plays or whatever. Sure I watch/read/play my favorite movie/book/board game many many times, but I still enjoy new ones and diversity.

And, in fact, I have many favorites for different situations (2 player vs 5 player) and durations (short game or long epic campaign) or what type of game I want (competitive, logistics, area control, set building, worker placement, etc etc).

Each game can fill its niche with some degree of success (yes perhaps even perfection) but NO game can fill ALL niches simultaneously.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 7:41 AM on March 30, 2009


You can't take the nostalgia out of Monopoly.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 7:43 AM on March 30, 2009


Dear Monopoly Haters: You are not going to convince me that Settlers is a better game than Monopoly, or even as good, by using such comparisons as Settlers:Monopoly::Porsche 911:Chevy Cobalt. You're sounding a little like the Parker Brothers execs who passed on Monopoly the first time because it didn't meet their pre-existing criteria for a board game. I'm going to assume that a lot of the Monopoly-bashing is due to simple familiarity-bred contempt, or that it lasts too long to suit some folks. (I can't really address jacquilynne's problem of apparently needing permission from the game itself to stop playing, unless it's some deep-seated aversion to "quitting"; hopefully that wouldn't be a problem if you were involved in actual real estate transactions...)

Disclaimer: I'm not a Monopoly fanatic--I haven't played in at least a decade--but the game does have the virtue of having helped me realize that a friendship was over, when someone that I was playing with was so upset that I wouldn't go into a partnership with him that he threw the game to another player by selling all his properties for a dollar.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:47 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would really like to play Settlers of Catan, but my understanding is the game doesn't really work well for two players. And, sadly, I'm not likely to have a chance to play with more than two. We found Carcassonne was fun and worked well for two, though.
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on March 30, 2009


I find that prtty much any game can be made more interesting by adding "Strip," as a prefix.
posted by jonmc at 7:58 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It holds up, it doesn't take too long, and everyone laughs. Scoring is easy, and there is no backstabbing at all. If the same can be said of Cataan, I might be a convert.

I love Settlers (play online all the time), but I cannot say that there is no backstabbing. At it's heart, Settlers is an evil, evil game - you are always deciding whether to cut off one player or another. I think my soul will bear permanent scars from the things I have done in the name of getting a better road or getting access to that resource.

It's very different from Apples to Apples, which is also a favourite of mine. Apples to Apples is semantically rich, and about the imagination/wit of the players - it's more like a directed (and fun) conversation than a game. Settlers is pattern or geographically rich - it uses a different part of the brain. I think it uses my map-obsessed bits. Even within the plain original map, there are so many possible patterns it doesn't get boring. Actually, I often find the original map much more interesting than variants, because variants often only have one or two main strategies, whereas the original is a new game everytime.

For those of you asking about online versions of games - there is also Aso Braingames is a non-profit non-official English site with good game-play.
posted by jb at 7:59 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love me some Settlers (as well as some Carcassone), but what we've been really into lately is the ridiculously awesomely designed Notre Dame. There is no one strategy that will guarantee a win for any game; in fact, I'm not even sure having an opening strategy is even a good idea (it is, nominally, a card-passing game). Also, you may be overrun by rats at any time, which while gameplay-wise is utterly horrible, conceptually is pretty great.
posted by Skot at 8:05 AM on March 30, 2009


"As freebird mentioned earlier, www.brettspielwelt.de is probably the best one there is. It has an English language client."

I know, but what I want is to be able to play Monopoly for free, with a decent AI (which my NES emulator fails at). Heh. Next time I'll just come out and say it. As far as emulation goes, I have a Japanese version of The Game of Life (I think) for SNES and a Megaman board game for NES. Both are pretty fun, but my lack of Japanese language hampers how much I can get out of them. Anyone with info or translations of these games should feel free to share....
posted by Eideteker at 8:09 AM on March 30, 2009


You can't take the nostalgia out of Monopoly.

The only fun thing about Monopoly that I can remember was when I got to be the race car. Vroom!
posted by hydrophonic at 8:19 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I myself am an addict of Ticket to Ride.
posted by yeti at 8:21 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Settlers has an official two-player rules set. (check BGG) It's not bad, as multis adapted for two go. Not a trading variant, obviously.

I'm going to assume that a lot of the Monopoly-bashing is due to simple familiarity-bred contempt

And you would be wrong.

Palazzo, Alhambra, Princes of Florence, SoC, Thurn and Taxis, and TTR. All great games.

I hate Carcasonne.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:28 AM on March 30, 2009


To the WTF? comment about the Dragonology rules? Don't bother.

Settlers is fine. There are better games, but for an accessible "family" game, that most folks find close enough to Monopoly to not run away screaming, it is hard to beat. Ticket to Ride beats it for accessibility.

Arkham Horror is boooooring.

BoardGameGeek is the bees knees. And no, we are not Bored so

URWRONG!
posted by Windopaene at 8:30 AM on March 30, 2009


robocop is bleeding I like the Xbox Live version - my wife and I play it together pretty frequently. Once you get a handle on the controls, it's so much easier than scooping out a bunch of tiles and arguing about whether or not Field A is connected to Field B.

Thanks for the reminder. This will be my first step towards "serious" board games, and for only 800 Xbox points.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:32 AM on March 30, 2009


For sheer simple party fun, nothing can beat Liar's Dice. (Plus it is infinitely expandable given more cups and dice, and imagination or an expanded game board.)

The most fun game I've ever played? Cosmic Encounter, by a long shot. Toss each player two alien powers and a 32 oz tumbler of kool-aid and vodka, and you've got yourself an evening!

Most educational game I love playing? Nuclear War.

All that said, my own experience(s) with Catan were that the games took FAR too long, it was too easy to be quickly shunted into the loser's spot and spend the entire game there, and that it was pretty dull all the way around. Maybe the crowd I played with sucked. I've always blamed the game.
posted by hippybear at 8:35 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sure Monopoly's boring, if you play it straight, but you're supposed to cheat. Everyone playing is supposed to cheat--it's named Monopoly.
posted by Benjy at 8:36 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


There's something about the Diplomacy experience that really brought out the subterranean instincts in its players far more ably than any other board game I've experienced.

Then perhaps you have never played Family Business: The Game of Mob Vengeance. I played this game with a group of siblings and cousins many years ago and we wore the graphics off the playing board. We'd play when the families got together and a few weeks/months later when we got together again, there would still be deep-seated grudges and desire for revenge.

I brought another copy almost immediately, as a backup. I've moved with it half a dozen times despite not playing it in over 20 years. I'm still waiting to find a group of people who will not be torn apart by vengeance before daring to open the box again.
posted by mikepop at 8:39 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a longing to play a HeroQuest-style game. Are there any such games out now that are easy to pick up and play? 4th Ed D&D is a bit too complex and it seems like most of the dungeon-delving boardgames out now are on par.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Halloween Jack - I don't strictly dislike Monopoly, but the opportunity cost of playing monopoly (in sunk time investment and, as your little vignette shows, possible loss of board game playing partners) vs playing any of my other Euro Games is such that I don't imagine I will ever play Monopoly again.

The thing is... I really like playing boardgames, and if I play monopoly with someone that will probably be the only game we play that night, and they probably won't want to play another game with me for some time. However (and I am assuming my companion(s) are not huge game fanatics) if we play a Euro they will probably really like it and it is short enough we could probably play again that night and they would beg me to play again on subsequent nights... Thus I play more board games.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good free Java Settlers here: http://www.jsettlers.com/host2.html. Enter any nickname and game name, leave password blank. Can play against bots (good for learning the game and trying out different strategies.

Also, keep in mind that Settlers has some good variants that can make the game playable for two players, or can limit the impact of chance to make the game more hardcore Euro-gamish. Board Game Geek is a good source for this. Here's a welfare variant I intend to try out with my gaming group next time we get together:

1. Whenever:
a) a non-seven is rolled and you do not gain any resource cards, and
b) this is not the result of your being blocked by the Robber/Pirate Ship, and
c) you currently do not have more than seven resource cards in your hand,
you then are given one piece of cheese (i.e., welfare token).

2. When your number of cheeses equals your current number of visible victory points,
you must immediately exchange all your cheese for one resource card. You choose
the card from among the resource types that you have a settlement or city next to and that are not currently blocked by the Robber/Pirate Ship. If you have no eligible
resources, you lose all your cheese but do not gain a resource card. You must choose
the card before any trading discussions begin for that turn.

3. Cheese cannot be traded or stolen, nor do you lose any if you hold more than seven
when a seven is rolled.

posted by Robin Kestrel at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


People actually enjoy Apples to Apples? I guess it's better than Bunco.

The most exciting thing that ever happened during a game of Apples to Apples that I played was my friend's unstable ex-boyfriend cutting a card in half with a knife.
posted by silby at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The biggest problem with Monopoly is it is completely controlled and distributed by just one company.
posted by Bokononist at 8:59 AM on March 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


I enjoy "Apples to Apples" and in my experience it there is a lot of 'knowing' someone involved in winning. The girlfriend and I generally play with other couples and parterns tend to pick their partners cards far more frequently that if by chance. Of course the game is about having fun more than anything.
posted by batou_ at 9:00 AM on March 30, 2009


Settlers is a great gateway game. Once you realise that games aren't supposed to be as tedious or take as long as Monopoly your eyes are opened. These days, I play Settlers about once a year, since there's a tournament held here in Oxford. There are just so many great Euro-games out there. There's even been a resurgence in the last couple of years after a relatively barren patch for new releases. Agricola, Le Havre, Caylus, Notre Dame - all classics.
posted by salmacis at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2009


I think I hate Apples to Apples so much because the few times I've played it I'm matched in a room with two to three pairs of BFFs and couples, and every time one of them reveals their inevitably rather dull response to their other half's card, there's a squeal of 'Oh my gawwwdddd that is so funnay I totally think that works!" and also I never get any points.

Anyway. These other games sound cool.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:05 AM on March 30, 2009


I used to like Settlers, though most of my friends agreed we'd play stop after two games in a sitting, because we always ended with a bitter taste in our mouths. Even in winning, there was no triumph. Perhaps it was the transparency of the future, or maybe it was too short. We tried playing with a blind board (flipping tiles so no one knew what existed until they paved through that area) and the expansions, but we never thought it was amazing.

I showed it to my wife back when we were first dating, when I thought it was pretty fun. My friend and I, both having some experience with the game, lost quickly to her. My hype failed and she was unimpressed, plus my friend and I just felt empty.

My friends tried to expand our interest with Catan by getting Starfarers (which it seems no one has mentioned - is it a forlorn bastard spin-off in they eyes of others?) and much to our amusement, our devout Christian friend was the only one to ignore the fame rings, which meant he could be a jerk to everyone and never suffer for it, secure with never having fame to improve his end total.

As for Monopoly: I have never completed a game. Never. My family used to play during summer vacations, and we'd save our places at the end of each night, but we never tried to play for more than a few nights. It was a fun distraction, and nothing more. But Monopoly is the source of a family story: we were in tent cabins in a national forest, trying to sleep. Most of the people around us were quiet, when all of a sudden someone yelled "You owe me ten dollars rent!" Monopoly: bringing people together.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on March 30, 2009


So, uh... anyone up for a game? From the sounds of it, I may have played against darkstar before, though... somewhere there's a beautifully drawn pencil sketch of a Russian prostrate on the ground with a polearm in his back held by a gleeful Turk, a memento of the last game one of my friends ever played against me. The details probably speak for themselves...

I've been meaning to try Cataan, but for some reason game nights just aren't as frequent as they once were.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:08 AM on March 30, 2009


For a HeroQuest style hack n slash, the only really worthwhile currently available game is Descent: Journeys in the Dark, published by Fantasy Flight Games. It's big. It's expensive. And it doesn't really have a "campaign mode", (each game is a single run through a dungeon, you don't level up from game to game). There are also a slew of expansions that bring in more monster figures, new heroes, and some significant gameplay changes. Then they came out with an expansion titled "Road to Legend" which does add a campaign overlay to the game, and your characters do level up. Descent: Road to Legend
posted by Windopaene at 9:14 AM on March 30, 2009


I found the article interesting, but mostly - like with all game-related posts - I'm sitting here wondering how you all got into a world of awesome, varied games, and I'm mad envious. Or, wondering which side road I missed while playing cards and Monopoly obsessively for the lack of any alternative game outlets except for chess and Scrabble. Is this an Ireland thing, or a you-should-really-have-embraced-your-geekiness thing?
posted by carbide at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2009


The game, as with all games of Monopoly, developed slowly at first, each token grabbing as many land parcels as possible. As the supply of Cardboard Property Deeds (CPDs) dwindled, tokens swapped and traded, exchanging money and property to consolidate their individual positions. It was Thimble who first noticed that he was at a disadvantage to the rest, and resolved to take bold and decisive action. While Baltic, Oriental and Virginia Avenues may not have shared in the same color group, it was possible to bundle the properties together into a more attractive Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO). The highest-rated traunches were sold to Iron and Shoe, while Wheelbarrow purchased the lower-rated (and high-yielding) bottom traunch. As play continued, and Thimble's financial position became increasingly tenuous (a sudden tax assessment forcing the liquidation of several property improvements), Howitzer seized upon the prevailing uncertainty by offering Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) against the Thimble CDOs, entitling Howitzer to a small interest payment of $25 with every roll of the dice. Wheelbarrow jumped on the opportunity to hedge against his investment, which resulted in a ratings upgrade and access to greater lines of credit. Top Hat, secure in the knowledge that the demand for CPDs would never decrease (otherwise, what is the point of playing?) and in a display of sheer bravado, created a Seperate Investment Vehicle (SIV) which borrowed from Top Hat (who, in his dual role as banker, had access to nearly unlimited amounts of leverage) to purchase the CDSs, and in turn sold shares of the newly-created SIV to Howitzer, Wheelbarrow, and even Thimble. By this time, it had become nearly impossible to determine the net worth of any individual token, or indeed, the value of the financial instruments themselves, but the tokens all seemed content with their pieces of plastic, cardboard, and the vague numbers which were conceived of and promised in a realm that seemed nearly ethereal (all the tokens, that is, except Scottie, whose large holdings in the airlines left him vulnerable to soaring energy costs.) Gameplay proceeded swimmingly, until a sudden and crashing halt when an unfortunate roll of the dice resulted in one of the tokens (by now, it didn't matter which) landing on the spectacularly hotel-endowed Park Place. The resulting clamor to sell off mortgages, derivative securities, and even the increasingly coveted "Get Out of Jail Free" card left the tokens scrambling and confused. Finally, in a fit of frustration, Top Hat overturned the board, sending the tiny houses, hotels, and bits of worthless paper flying through the air. And as Top Hat drove off to the store to buy another case of beer, the rest of the tokens picked up the game pieces from the floor, chuckling to themselves, secure in the knowledge that it had only been a game.
posted by malocchio at 9:26 AM on March 30, 2009 [33 favorites]


SoC is pure awesome. But I still have to say that The Great Dalmuti is the best balance of pure fun and accessibility.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2009


For examples of this, look no further than BoardGameGeek where undisputed champions rise and fall faster than a teenage girls taste in popstars.

You're kidding, right? Are we talking about the same BoardGameGeek? Because in their rankings, Puerto Rico was ranked #1 for years, until it was displaced by Agricola. I've been a member there for about five years now, and Puerto Rico and Agricola are the only two games that have been ranked #1 in that time.

Or perhaps you're just going by forum postings there, where if you see four or five people declare that Race for the Galaxy is the best game evar, it's easy to make the mistake that it's adored by everyone.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:31 AM on March 30, 2009


A group of friends and I were settlers junkies for a few years. Total we owned about 5 sets of the original game and 4 sets of seafarers and we would make enormous maps to play on using all the tiles (and upping the victory requirements). Ultimately, I got completely bored with the game and stopped playing. This post just might make me dust my copy off.

GhostintheMachine: Thanks for the link. I used to play online diplomacy, but the site got shut down. I will have to try the site you linked. Maybe we could get a Metafilter Diplomacy game going!
posted by batou_ at 9:50 AM on March 30, 2009


I can't really address jacquilynne's problem of apparently needing permission from the game itself to stop playing, unless it's some deep-seated aversion to "quitting"; hopefully that wouldn't be a problem if you were involved in actual real estate transactions...

In my gamer circles, quitting in the middle of a game because you're losing and bored is considered being a poor loser. It might be tolerated if you had to leave the event, but to then go sit in on another game would brand you an asshole forever more.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:54 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


For me, a big part of my board-game geekiness came from going to thrift stores a lot, and buying any board game that I'd never heard of--for a buck or two, why not? That's how I got Facts in Five, which is like Scattergories for adults, and Personal Preference, which is somewhere between Apples to Apples and the Ungame, and is probably my favorite social game ever.

The two most common ways for people to get into it, though, are probably D&D (hey, what's that big box on the shelf of the gaming store?) and heredity (I dated a girl whose grandparents had been playing the same game of gin for sixty-some years).
posted by box at 10:06 AM on March 30, 2009


Um, that's in response to carbide's question.
posted by box at 10:08 AM on March 30, 2009


@Halloween Jack: Dear Monopoly Haters: You are not going to convince me that Settlers is a better game than Monopoly, or even as good, by using such comparisons as Settlers:Monopoly::Porsche 911:Chevy Cobalt. You're sounding a little like the Parker Brothers execs who passed on Monopoly the first time because it didn't meet their pre-existing criteria for a board game.

The problem with Monopoly is that it's a bit broken. R. Wayne Schmittberger's game tome "New Rules for Classic Games" goes on at some length about this but to list a few issues:

* The order of play has a distinct advantage.
* Game length is highly variable, and for a large part of that the winners and losers are obvious.
* It has player elimination, which is no fun if you're on the receiving end.
* Some of the rules, as read, are unclear or ambiguous.
* There's a large random component (esp. the cards)

Once you've played a number of Euro-games, you get impatient with Monopoly. Which is not to say that it's a terrible game and painful to play - but it is popular largely due to historical reasons.
posted by outlier at 10:15 AM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Malocchio: that's brilliant and I want to play a real game of Monopoly that's like that. All you'd really have to do is introduce better rules for contracting among players, right?
posted by grobstein at 10:19 AM on March 30, 2009


I've seen players of Settlers almost flip the table after someone else builds a road to cut them off from building a settlement

We started using the blank number tiles in the game as ire tokens. The rules around ire tokens are fuzzy, at best, but silently reaching over to take one while staring the person that cut you off with their road in the eye is... hilarious.
posted by flaterik at 10:27 AM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


If I'm going to play a board game that takes hours, it better be Battletech.


Zombies! is a great deal of fun, and beginners can be lured into it fairly easily. But every once in a while, a game can go into lockdown for hours and pretty much has to be abandoned for the sake of patience.

Starfarers of Catan is another slow, overly complex one.
posted by Foosnark at 10:33 AM on March 30, 2009


I want to play a real game of Monopoly that's like that. All you'd really have to do is introduce better rules for contracting among players, right?

Oh, I imagine all participants would self-regulate, paying particular interest to the opinions of their risk officers. No need for the heavy hand of government to meddle in free enterprise!

Anyway, that was my idea of what a Monopoly game would look like at an AIG corporate retreat. Any resemblance to current events is purely coincidental.
posted by malocchio at 10:48 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


The important thing to know in Catan is that to have a good game you have to defend your position before expanding. Many beginners make the mistake of going for a really good spot on the outside of the board first, only to find that by the time they are ready to expand inwards all the spots are taken.
posted by Vindaloo at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2009


The problem with Monopoly is that it's a bit broken. R. Wayne Schmittberger's game tome "New Rules for Classic Games" goes on at some length about this but to list a few issues:

* The order of play has a distinct advantage.
* Game length is highly variable, and for a large part of that the winners and losers are obvious.
* It has player elimination, which is no fun if you're on the receiving end.
* Some of the rules, as read, are unclear or ambiguous.
* There's a large random component (esp. the cards)


See, Monopoly IS an educational game. And yet, look around at the current mess we're in. We've learned all the lessons from the board game, and yet we insist on continuing to try to play it in real life! How sad is that???
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on March 30, 2009


Eideteker: As far as emulation goes, I have a Japanese version of The Game of Life (I think) for SNES and a Megaman board game for NES.

I've played that Mega Man board-video game, "Wily & Light's Rockboard," or tried to at least. It is exquisitely odd.
posted by JHarris at 10:58 AM on March 30, 2009


Someone above commented that Settlers won't last as long as chess. Well, it might and it might not, but really so few games survive that long. You can bet Monopoly won't.

I've noticed that, of the U.S. cultural games, that is those that are large-scale popular (and inevitably owned by Hasbro, those bastards), very few of them hold up to high-level play. The only one that comes to mind is Scrabble.

Monopoly, itself, is far too dependent on chance, but it always amazed me how much players will attempt to fix it by adding more chance to the game. When I was growing up everyone played it with obnoxious house rules. I have never been able to play the game with auctioning unless I personally insisted on it. The same goes for playing without an absurd windfall for landing of Free Fucking Parking.
posted by JHarris at 11:14 AM on March 30, 2009 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Monopoly is going to outlive everyone reading this right now.
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on March 30, 2009


Are we talking about the same BoardGameGeek? Because in their rankings, Puerto Rico was ranked #1 for years, until it was displaced by Agricola. I've been a member there for about five years now, and Puerto Rico and Agricola are the only two games that have been ranked #1 in that time.

Yeah, what DevilsAdvocate said.

I was so surprised to find a card game that I grew up with re-issued and on sale in Japan. Snagged it and brought it home. Alas, they don't use real metal wrenches anymore.

Picked up Starship Catan, the two-player card version of Starfarers, and the first time we tried it the missus hated the thing. But I sensed she just wasn't into it that day, and a good while later we tried it again and it now makes an occasional visit to the dining room table. Not a favourite, though.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:22 AM on March 30, 2009


On the topic of Diplomacy: Was considered the best Diplomacy player in my group in high school. The first thing the group would tell new players was "Don't trust [You Can't Tip a Buick]," even before telling them any of the game's actual rules.

Me, I see the way the game brings out "subterranean instincts" that are hard to keep contained to the game context as the best thing about it. For example, once talked a couple in a struggling relationship into playing a game of Diplomacy with my group. Aftermath of that one worked out well for me.

What, what? Why are you looking at me like that?
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 11:40 AM on March 30, 2009 [6 favorites]


The same goes for playing without an absurd windfall for landing of Free Fucking Parking.

Free parking windfalls can add a little balance to the game later on, though. The problem with Monopoly, especially with auctioning, is that the game is, in essence, over by the time everyone's been around the board twice and all the properties have been purchased. Adding in a windfall gives some of the people who got unlucky those first few rounds a chance to maybe build up enough bank to survive.

Of course, they can also go to the person who was winning anyway, allowing them to totally crust everyone else. But at least then, the games are over faster.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:40 AM on March 30, 2009


Playing Settlers for the first time, you realize how flawed Monopoly is. And the first time that you play any of the "good" german games (Puerto Rico, or Princes of Florence, or Tigris & Euphrates, Agricola, etc) you realize how flawed Settlers is. But Settlers can't be beat as a gateway game. I think it's the dice. They're comforting to people that were brought up on Risk and Monopoly.

Two more statements of irrefutable fact:

1. Once you have played Diplomacy, there is no reason to ever play Risk again.
2. Tichu, played with good players, is better than any other game. Full stop.
posted by macmac at 11:41 AM on March 30, 2009


I have to second hippybear's recommendation of Cosmic Encounter. I haven't played in years, but have fond memories of bizarre games over beers with friends.

Another game I've taken a liking to is Master Labyrinth. It plays really well with my in-laws, who often get lost in the rules of more complex games.
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:42 AM on March 30, 2009


"We played without a traitor, since there were two first-timers, but now you've got me thinking about how one would go about implementing that in Arkham Horror."

Betrayal at House on the Hill.
posted by markkraft at 11:42 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dune > TI:3 > Powergrid > Settlers > Most Other Games
posted by Jezztek at 11:48 AM on March 30, 2009


No, putting money on free parking just needlessly extends the game, by giving money to those who are soon to be eliminated. Since they were about to be eliminated anyway, their position on the board is probably pretty terrible. So it just makes things go on longer, for no real point.
posted by Windopaene at 11:54 AM on March 30, 2009


I have never been able to play [Monopoly] with auctioning unless I personally insisted on it.

But with halfway-decent players, the official auction rule doesn't really make much difference anyway, since no one should ever pass up the chance to buy a property they land on, even if you have to mortgage some of your other properties to do it. Even when playing with the auction rule the only time a property would actually go to auction is if the person landing on an unowned property doesn't have enough money to buy it, taking into account the possibility of mortgaging properties, which would be very rare.

The rule which I think would make sense (and I haven't tried this, although I've long wanted to) is that an unowned property which is landed on automatically goes to auction, with the list price as the minimum bid. If the auction winner is the person who landed on the property, they get a 10% discount from their bid price.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:58 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]



Ooh, I've recently gotten into boardgames that have some sort of a co-op angle; I really enjoy playing as the zombies in Last Night on Earth and watching the other players try to work together to win... I also recently learned about Space Alert and can't wait for it to become more widely available, or even available in the states.

I also hear that Red November is a ton of fun, and I picked it up last week, but haven't had a chance to play it yet. :P Soon!!
posted by Jinkeez at 12:01 PM on March 30, 2009


Teuber created the game so his wife can enjoy playing it? Holy shit, that is super romantic. I'm quite jealous.
posted by spec80 at 12:05 PM on March 30, 2009


I thought somebody had talked about The Landlord's Game already, which is what Monopoly is a ripoff of. The Landlord's Game was intended to be a miserable experience for everyone but the winner as the point was to demonstrate that renting was a demeaning, horrible condition. That said, I've never seen fights start over Monopoly. Actually, the only games I've seen lead to fights more than once are Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble. Those games also seem designed to make people feel stupid and miserable, but without any kind of reason for it.
posted by Kattullus at 12:09 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Arkham Horror, Settlers of Catan, and Carcassonne are all fantastic games. Cosmic Encounter (with as many expansions and alterations as you can throw at it) remains in a class of its own.
posted by Paragon at 12:26 PM on March 30, 2009


Believe it or not, I still read WIRED. I pick it up on late-night candy binge/shopping sprees at the local CVS. And I read the the Settlers of Catan story. It made the game sound good enough that I googled it, and bought a copy from boardgamerevolution. I even wrote I had heard about the game and website in WIRED. The owner of the company emailed to let me know I got his company mixed up with the other board game company, but he gave me free shipping on my next order.

This will be my first board game is roughly 20 years. But the idea of Settlers of Catan having multi-generational appeal, and how cool the guy from boardgamerevolution was leads me to believe something is going on and I am going to have a really good time learning about it.

In any case, it will be a welcome break from xboxes, PCs and playstations. Really, my eyes have gone to hell since I rededicated my life to computer screens. Plus, if it's really as good as the advance word well everyone I know is short on spending cash.

Board games may be just what the doctor president ordered.
posted by humannaire at 12:36 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


jacquilynne:
In my gamer circles, quitting in the middle of a game because you're losing and bored is considered being a poor loser. It might be tolerated if you had to leave the event, but to then go sit in on another game would brand you an asshole forever more.


Hmm. See, I'd think that it would depend on the length and nature of the game. If it's the sort of game where you are expected to play for a set amount of time, or to a set number of points (such as Hearts), then yeah, it's somewhat gauche to just drop your cards in the middle and stomp off. But otherwise, for a game where the outcome is a foregone conclusion, it seems perfectly OK to concede, whether you tip your king over, fold your hand, or call a game that's a shutout. In fact, I think that I've only played one or two Monopoly games to the bitter end, and generally the "asshole" in that situation would be the winning side that insists on everyone staying in until he/she had taken them for their last dollar. Then again, one could easily imagine a situation where it's the losing side that insists on the interminable death march because of some deeply-held Never Say Die belief.

I guess that it all goes back to the Fun Principle. I didn't even play board games for the longest time because my then-wife could ruin a game like nobody's business; she'd rule-lawyer like nobody's business and yell "Cheeeeeaaaap!" if someone got an easy clue in Trivial Pursuit. We ended up with a big stack of board games that got increasingly dusty. I suppose that that should have been an early warning sign...
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:55 PM on March 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thing is, if only one out of four players is shut out, allowing him to quit may require ruining everyone else's fun.
posted by grobstein at 1:01 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Seconding markkraft's vote of Betrayal at House on the Hill. Sadly, it's out of print -- if you see a copy somewhere, you owe it to yourself to snag it as fast as you can.
posted by rifflesby at 1:04 PM on March 30, 2009


Speaking of devout Christians and boardgames, there is a "Bible variant" of Settlers called Settlers of Canaan which has two important variants: the map is fixed (not a great idea IMO), and the "Wall of Jerusalem" (which I do like, with a caveat). Every time a 7 is rolled, a brick is added to the wall. When the wall is finished, the game is ended and the player on most points wins. This puts a variable but definitely existing time limit on the game. The player who contributed most bricks to the Wall gets 2 points; in theory this compensates them for the number of 7's rolled, but I disapprove of that, on the basis that rolling a 7 should give you, through the Robber, a random card each time.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:53 PM on March 30, 2009


For a good hack'n'slash game, I recommend 'Munchkin.' Yeah, it's a card game, but it's an awesome card game to make up for it.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:56 PM on March 30, 2009


Settlers of Catan is one of the only board games to ever make me cry. I guess it wasn't the game's fault, but man, it can engender some FIERCE competition.

While playing, say, Cataan with bad players will result in an easy or frustrating game, playing Apples to Apples with unimaginitive or unwitty people is soulcrushingly boring.

Oh, word. I once played Apples to Apples in a room where I was the only native English speaker and I kind of wanted to kill myself since every round involved explaining half of the words.

The shining moment of Apples to Apples for me is when a friend won "Crunchy" with "The Challenger Disaster."

IT WAS "CHUNKY." NOT "CRUNCHY." (I was there.)

The key to Apples to Apples is being able to know, or at least guess, the personality of the judge. One time someone played the card "morticians" for "Unscrupulous" and CLEARLY that person did not know me at all. Me, who found the best noun for "Popular" to be "Berlin, 1945."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:09 PM on March 30, 2009


I've played Catan twice. Neither of these widely-separated times left me with a desire to really seek it out again. I'll play it if someone at a gaming night insists on it, I guess, but...

Mostly we play Race for the Galaxy around here nowadays. We have a bunch of German games in our house - Blue Moon City, Bohnanza, and Tigris & Euphrates have been favorites - but lately we've been rediscovering the joys of 'Ameritrash' mostly in the person of the beautiful, wonderful Fantasy Flight edition of Cosmic Encounter. I'd forgotten the joys of having half the table get involved in a string of power-canceling and card-canceling cards before a combat is resolved.

I mean, I'm not really interested in a game of Lengthy Wargame With Many Little Plastic Miniatures, but damn, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to have a reason to really say "Oh, FUCK YOU" with some real feeling instead of the polite 'Fuck you.' that a well-done choice of phase can elicit in RftG. Sometimes you just want a chance to totally screw your friend over in a context that means nothing in the grand scheme of your friendship.

I miss INWO, too.
posted by egypturnash at 6:46 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I keep wanting to get INWO but fucked if I'm paying $35 for a card game.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:21 PM on March 30, 2009


I wish back in college we'd had euro-style games. Well, there was Diplomacy. But the most popular of our lounge pick-up games (in an f&sf-fan-heavy dorm) was British Rails. I know I loved it because I'd had Rail Baron as a teen and was the only member of my family obsesses with playing it. Neither gets high ratings on BGG. Still, the only game where people had more fun was Trivial Pursuit.
posted by dhartung at 11:37 PM on March 30, 2009


Oh! So THAT's why monopoly sucks so much.
posted by tehloki at 11:42 PM on March 30, 2009


-We enjoy Cineplexity by Metafilters own BluesHammer (hasn't posted recently but still)

We don't really play "by the rules". We just pull a couple cards out and try to come up with the best answers to see who gets to drink the shot.


-Nuclear War rocks ass!!

-If you enjoy Munchin, but want a board game experience Munchkin Quest is pretty awesome. Sort of a Munchin/Talisman hybrid
posted by Megafly at 12:13 AM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of gamers here are missing just how revolutionary Settlers was to the hobby games. The first time I played Settlers was in the early 90s. This was before the internet was everywhere so it was a game I'd only just heard vague rumors about. You know, a friend knows someone who knows someone who played this strange German game called Settlers and it was amazing. So when the English translation showed up scrounged up the absurdly high asking price (I think it was something like $35 dollars, obscene at the time) and bought it as a birthday gift for a friend. When we went through the rules there was this collective "Wait, that's it? That's all there is to it, this is going to suck." But we played anyway, and loved the hell out of it, because games don't need war, or lots of little counters on a hex grid, or 32 pages full of rule 3.4.5.1.2 (optional) to be fun.

Yes, after a (long) while Settlers got old. In the four player game there's almost always one player who gets screwed by the dice early on and doesn't even get to do anything for the rest of the game. The 5 and 6 player expansions make the game a slog that never ends. The three player game is pretty damn good, but I think I just played it too much. I did play a few times recently for the first time in almost a decade and I was amazed both how good the game still is despite how clunky the once streamlined mechanics now feel. (That's the life of a revolutionary. Eventually your heresy will be orthodox and evolutionary changes will make you look stodgy and dated). Still, it's a great game that's very accessible and anyone who isn't a big game nerd for whom this is all old hat should pick up a copy and try it out.
posted by aspo at 10:54 AM on March 31, 2009


And now looking back at it, the game came out on 1995. What the hell? I would have sworn this was released in the early 90s... like 91 or 92. Man, this is what it's like getting old isn't it?
posted by aspo at 11:00 AM on March 31, 2009


I would really like to play Settlers of Catan, but my understanding is the game doesn't really work well for two players. And, sadly, I'm not likely to have a chance to play with more than two.

Get the Catan card game! It's freakin' sweet!
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:13 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


You know what's a great two-player card game? Canasta. I just learned this, thanks to a retired English teacher from Guyana who is the most dedicated member of the Adult Card Club I've been trying to start up at my library.
posted by box at 8:36 PM on March 31, 2009


How did I miss this thread before?

And, in fact, I have many favorites for different situations (2 player vs 5 player) and durations (short game or long epic campaign) or what type of game I want (competitive, logistics, area control, set building, worker placement, etc etc).

I would really like to play Settlers of Catan, but my understanding is the game doesn't really work well for two players.


Both these two posts make sense and it is surprising to me that anyone would not find different games work less or more enjoyable for different sizes. Diplomacy is a kick-ass game for seven players, and a checkers-level exercise for two people.

And for what it's worth,I find Settlers and Monopoly both indifferent. Monopoly is actually a better game than its reputation suggests. I chalk this up to the fact that in my finding almost no one has ever played Monopoly. People have played games on Monopoly board with a bunch of house rules that mostly serve to add more money to the game. When the only way for someone to be eliminated from the game is to run out of money, this fairly obviously prolongs the game indefinitely.

After years of thinking Monopoly was a six-to-eight hour marathon, I played it with some people who played by the rules and learned to my delight that it takes about 45 minutes to play.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:42 PM on April 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


jacquilynne: But with halfway-decent players, the official auction rule doesn't really make much difference anyway, since no one should ever pass up the chance to buy a property they land on, even if you have to mortgage some of your other properties to do it.

This is generally accurate, but it still happens a couple of times every game at the start when players are depleted from buying everything they land on. And knowing that the property you landed on won't be auctioned but, instead, go back into circulation subtly influences the strategy in that you know that a player who really wants it won't have an increased chance of getting it over the other players. In fact, you might land on it yourself before then.

(Our games also generally played where you could only buy properties with cash-on-hand, not mortgaging on the spot in order to buy things.)
posted by JHarris at 10:10 AM on April 3, 2009


Just to be clear, I didn't say that.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:32 AM on April 4, 2009


A few friends got together to play boardgames this afternoon. After a rather desultory 4-player Munchkin experience one of us had to leave. He had brought the game Airships, by Andreas Seyfarth, whose best known games are Puerto Rico and San Juan. Instead of taking the game home with him he left it behind and urged us to give it a try. We read over the rules and it wasn't really resolving in our heads as being anything terribly interesting and we were not really feeling another game but we decided to give it a shot anyway. 2 hours later we were all standing around the table, all three with a clear, but different, chance at winning the game, euphorically rolling our dice until one of us made the crucial roll and won it. In the between we had gradually gotten sucked into the intricacies of the game, which is surprisingly complex and engaging and almost completely devoid of any direct conflict. We all had different strategies and they all seemed viable (I focused on hoovering up victory points from early on with the aim of ending the game before the Hindenburg got built while one friend, who ended up winning, was going for the high level Hindenburg counters and the third went in for a mix of the two). I can't recommend this game enough. All three of us are going to buy copies of this game. If we hadn't already made dinner reservations with a fourth person we almost certainly would have stayed in and played another round.
posted by Kattullus at 11:36 PM on April 4, 2009


Maybe we could get a Metafilter Diplomacy game going!

Already in progress :-) Let me point you here and here.

Once ez3_mefi ends, the only one of this batch still ongoing, I was planning on starting a new Metatalk post to see if we could start more rounds.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:46 PM on April 5, 2009


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