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"We’re still here, playing board games.”
July 20, 2010 12:28 PM   Subscribe

“There are two schools of thought as to why the Germans love board games. The Germans are of the opinion that it’s down to their superior education system. We English are of the opinion that it’s because German TV is shite.” The most prestigious award in board gaming, the Spiel des Jahres, goes to the storytelling game Dixit. Video presentation of 2010 nominees. List of previous winners.
posted by grounded (88 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite

 
I really need to get into a good boardgaming group again. My friends here like to play Catan and Bohnanza and Ticket to Ride and that's about it. My copies of Ra and Puerto Rico are gathering dust and I haven't been able to play any of the new biggies like Caylus or Agricola.
posted by kmz at 12:32 PM on July 20, 2010


love the quote. :)
posted by luvcraft at 12:39 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


A quote I like better:
"I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book."
                                                                  - Groucho Marx
posted by spock at 12:42 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not a big gamer, but I did play Dixit on vacation a few months back. Encourages creativity among the participants, and the cards are gorgeously illustrated.
posted by dhens at 12:43 PM on July 20, 2010


My gaming group meets tonight, and now I have news! Thank you!
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:45 PM on July 20, 2010


I'm not sure that theory holds up. Canadian TV is also shit, at least according to the government, yet I can never find anyone to play Settlers with.
posted by oulipian at 12:47 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Personally, I blame David Hasselhoff.
posted by schmod at 12:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been hearing about Dixit. Folks have also recommended Arabian Nights. (Still busy playing lots of Pandemic and Small World... and must get a copy of Dominion...)
posted by yeloson at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


My gaming group has dwindled to a dull roar. Chaos in the Old World is the newest game we play, and Agricola is always a fave. I'm thinking about buying Dixit for work, actually.
posted by Shepherd at 12:55 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glad to see this mentioned on the Blue! I've been using this AskMe thread as a reference to all things non-Monopoly for months now, and it has single-handedly influenced many a drunken evening with my friends and/or family. We haven't even needed to move on from Catan (& expansions) yet, but when we do I know exactly where I'll be heading. I'd love to play each of the SdJ winners someday.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 12:55 PM on July 20, 2010


Wow. Reading that page on Dixit makes it sound so simple and elegant. I love games with such a basic premise that they can be explained in a sentence or two and don't require rules consultation regularly.

I'll have to look for a set.

(My own theory of why Germans love board games -- their winters SUCK, and who the hell wants to go out into that? Stay inside and enjoy some company over a quality board game instead. England has that convenient Gulf Stream to keep their little island warmer than continental Europe, so they don't have to fight so hard to get out of the house.)
posted by hippybear at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2010


I generally love the econo-strategy games more (Puerto Rico is a fierce favorite of mine, I've been caught lately referring to it as the King of Games), but Dixit is a transcendent and intriguing thing. There are real strategic aspects to it that depend on creativity, how well you know the other players, and your ability to observe them, so you can have an interesting time playing to win if you like, but it's pretty amusing and occasionally even revealing even if you don't. Really interactive and social. I think it's one of the few games I'd put out for both general parties and people who like to play board games.

Arabian Nights

I've only watched Arabian Nights played, not participated, but my impression is: this is a game on the edge of a full-fledged RPG and board/card games. The impressive thing about it is that they managed to pull in a lot of the narrative essence from the former rather than the battles/wargaming. But lit seemed like a big time investment -- I wasn't there for all of it, but I'd guess the group playing was at it for at least three hours.
posted by weston at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oddly enough, I just downloaded Carcossone for the iPhone. Very nicely done, I must say.
posted by sfred at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally, I blame David Hasselhoff.

I believe that falls under the category "shite TV", so yes.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2010


man, I am only just getting into board games. It sucks when you grow up playing monopoly or Sorry! It sucks more when you get into Dungeon Quest and it (along with video games and pen and paper role playing) keeps you from getting laid, so you stop. Then, for me, in college I'm introduced to Settlers, and it sticks, but still: we want to go meet women and stuff. To this day friends and I will sit down to play, but not often. And we have no introduction to german style board games, unless it becomes big enough to be a thing over in America. So i have Catan and Carcassonne on my iPhone and I play that alone. meh.

this passage from the article in question struck me:
By the late 1960s and early 1970s, German newspapers were running columns about “family games”. There may have been a social motive – board games were, and still are, regarded as a wholesome activity – but the columns reflected the genuine enthusiasm of mainstream journalists who persuaded their editors to let them moonlight as game critics. In 1978, those enthusiasts decided to create an award, the Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year).
man, that really is it. if you capture the hearts of the journalists, you'll get everybody else.

there's probably something there to say about american media and its lame obsessions, but I'm too lazy to work it out. OOH, TMZ UPDATED!
posted by shmegegge at 1:08 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The group of people I play Settlers with has 3 girls who play reguarly. Settlers has some pretty broad appeal to it, especially if you describe it as "Monopoly that doesn't suck."
posted by codacorolla at 1:10 PM on July 20, 2010


Does any comment from "we English" involving "the Germans" ever not automatically involve an accusation of "shite"? Question: Will the British ever get over shitting on others instead of on themselves? Answer: Never.
posted by drogien at 1:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am late to the German boardgame party but I just played Catan for the first time this weekend (loved it). It was four couples and we were staying at a lake house in upstate New York for the weekend. Four out of the eight played Catan and got really into it and the other four decided it looked boring to them and went out for ice cream.
posted by Falconetti at 1:14 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


german tv
posted by shmegegge at 1:15 PM on July 20, 2010


(Puerto Rico is a fierce favorite of mine, I've been caught lately referring to it as the King of Games)

In addition to being a really great game it's also the single most popular, highly-rated game on Board Game Geek.

It seems like most of the really fun games are about imperialism and exploitation, doesn't it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:15 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I love me some Settlers and Twilight Imperium and whatnot, but I wish they didn't inevitably end so anti-climactically.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:17 PM on July 20, 2010


The group of people I play Settlers with has 3 girls who play reguarly. Settlers has some pretty broad appeal to it...

Did you just... did you... broad appeal? Really?
posted by gurple at 1:17 PM on July 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Unintentional, although sort of funny in a corny Mel Brooks way in retrospect.
posted by codacorolla at 1:18 PM on July 20, 2010


British German TV.

Of course it's also funny because several prominent German board game designers are actually British. Martin Wallace and Alan Moon off the top of my head, probably others as well. Bruno Faidutti is French. And Sid Sackson, an American, was no slouch. Probably the best name for German board games would be something like European style games.
posted by kmz at 1:20 PM on July 20, 2010


It seems like most of the really fun games are about imperialism and exploitation, doesn't it?

I love love love Puerto Rico, but I have to admit the brown "colonist" pieces have always given me an uneasy feeling.
posted by kmz at 1:23 PM on July 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


And then there's the fact you can sell those brown colonists in the expansion.
posted by weston at 1:24 PM on July 20, 2010


I've only watched Arabian Nights played, not participated, but my impression is: this is a game on the edge of a full-fledged RPG and board/card games

This is basically what I've heard of it, mostly from roleplayers who are consistently unable to play rpgs without it descending into terrible dysfunction, so the fact that they can play together without problems is a big recommendation in my eyes.

From the rpg side, I point people to a lot of the indie games like Primetime Adventures, 1001 Nights, Breaking the Ice as examples of quick, light, elegantly designed games that are sort of the rpg parallel to Eurogame design and the move away from wargame-y elements.
posted by yeloson at 1:25 PM on July 20, 2010


Only just caught up with last year's winner, Dominion, and what a pleasant surprise that was.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:25 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've always wondered what exactly happened to the original native Catan-ites on the front of the box. Dead and enslaved, more than likely...
posted by codacorolla at 1:26 PM on July 20, 2010


You can play all the decent boardgames online here.
Carcassonne, Puerto Rico etc. Oh yeah it's also free.
posted by Kilovolt at 1:26 PM on July 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


SdJ has been a pretty good indicator of board game quality for me, but Dominion was largely crap in my experience. It has the same pitfall of Monopoly-- if you don't figure out your strategy and play your cards right at the beginning of the game, you spend the duration getting raped by your opponents and knowing no matter what you do, you cannot possibly catch up or win.
posted by Ziggy Zaga at 1:28 PM on July 20, 2010


It seems like most of the really fun games are about imperialism and exploitation, doesn't it?

The King of Siam is a fun, and brutally strategic game about avoiding being colonized.

The rules are simple but the planning aspect is Machiavellian, and most of the time we can only play 2 games before our brains start melting.
posted by yeloson at 1:28 PM on July 20, 2010


My gaming group enjoyed Dixit quite a bit because it's so unique, but it demands a nuanced sort of creativity that we're not always up for--similar to Things but with so many more restrictions and considerably less opportunity for humor. It would be great if the deck were bigger, also; after just a couple of games we all felt we had it memorized.
posted by heatvision at 1:34 PM on July 20, 2010


Personally, I blame David Hasselhoff.

I believe that falls under the category "shite TV", so yes.


I thought Hasselhoff was a TV star in the US, but a music / recording star in Germany.
posted by hippybear at 1:35 PM on July 20, 2010


kmz: Alan Moon is American.
posted by Hubajube at 1:41 PM on July 20, 2010


Question: Will the British ever get over shitting on others instead of on themselves?
Well, we did elect Mark Oaten.
posted by Abiezer at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


heatvision: Dixit 2
posted by Hubajube at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dominion is awesome -- I didn't realize it was so new. You can check it out on brettspielwelt -- it adapts well to online play.
posted by jb at 1:51 PM on July 20, 2010


I've mentioned these guys before -- for fellow Canuckistans with poor selection in your town's game store (or don't care about them, and would rather take about 20% off the price) -- this site is excellent. Flat shipping rate, so pays to pick a few at a time. (no disclaimer; I'm not associated with them)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:05 PM on July 20, 2010


So, if you like Puerto Rico you owe it to yourself to play Race for the Galaxy, which, despitehas play mechanics that are very, very similar to Puerto Rico's, but without many of the deep flaws.1 I'm not sure my group has played PR at all, since we discovered RftG.

[1]: The biggest of these is that, in my experience at least, winning Puerto Rico frequently entails identifying the worst/newest player and making sure to sit where you play immediately after they do. Well, and there's also the "choosing the Craftsman role is always a mistake" problem. There's nothing analogous to those issues in RftG.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 2:07 PM on July 20, 2010


I am seriously going to look this thing up at GenCon, my annual "Nathan is allowed to buy some games" event. I loved "Once Upon a Time," and this looks like it will be a much simpler, easier version that won't intimidate my poor mother into apoplexy.

(So I'm probably going to Hell for this, but whenever the "Mayor" phase comes around in Puerto Rico, I pick up the 'colonist' ship and hand it around the table like a tray of hors d'ouevres. "Enslave-mint?" I ask solicitously.)
posted by Scattercat at 2:09 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I once gave a girlfriend a bunch of presents for her birthday, one of which was "Puerto Rico". When she saw it, she was very polite, but I could tell she was so disappointed, like "how could you think that this is a good present for me?" I had a good laugh when, months later, breaking up, the first thing out of her mouth was "I'm taking Puerto Rico."
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kinky Friedman used to say he had nothing against Germans, and that in fact Germans were his second favorite people in the world.




Right after everybody else.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:22 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


1.) I hate, hate, hate Puerto Rico and Agricola and the new wave of economic games that are, by and large, non-interactive to a stunning degree and primarily about building the best economic engine in a little corner all by yourself. If you want to play an economic game, play Acquire or Power Grid, which are both economic games which also manage to be interactive without being stunningly difficult. (If you don't mind a steep learning curve, get into train games like 1830, which have so many economic interactions players have abandoned the paper play money for poker chips because poker chips can be handled more quickly and using them cuts playtime down by as much as ten percent.)

2.) Germangames.com isn't bad, but they don't have the best prices in Canada. That honor goes to Meeplemart, which beats everybody else quite handily.

3.) Other games that are awesome: El Capitan (Mediterranean merchants trying to get best control of every city), Clippers (manipulate shipping companies to deliver to your ports), Genoa (the game where you can negotiate and trade for just about everything), Khronos (a standard area control game - except you're controlling the same map in three different eras) and Small World (perhaps the most fluid ever game where elves can beat orcs can beat up zombies can beat up dwarves can beat up giants can beat up wizards).
posted by mightygodking at 2:39 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've played Dixit a few times - my strategy consisted of trying to come up with an obscure reference that would be clear to all but one of the other players. Not that this really worked very well... but I did have great fun playing.

Well worth everyone to have a go at least once, especially for those who need to exercise the creative parts of the brain occasionally. And some of the cards are just bizarre...
posted by Stark at 2:41 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have some friends who are obsessed with trains, and I played Martin Wallace's Totally Renamed Train Game at their place a few weeks ago; a little complicated, but very awesome.

This Dixit thing looks like my kind of game, but probably no one else I know would want to play it.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:41 PM on July 20, 2010


I love going off into my own corner and building. To each their own.

But I know that I'll probably never be able to play Puerto Rico -- it's not the game, but the real history of colonialism and slavery (I get thinking about it, and that kind of dampens my fun). But I will definitely try Race for the Galaxy.

As got the actual topic of the thread -- why are German games (and Dutch too) so good? sometimes these things just happen by luck. Almost every western country has pastry, eggs, butter and brown sugar -- only Ontario combined them into the perfection that is a butter tart. It may have been that a few key building and/or strategy games -- rather than the circling sorry/monopoly style -- were released, and acted like intellectual seeds for creating more. and once they were out there, a board gaming culture could develop.
posted by jb at 2:55 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Martin Wallace's Totally Renamed Train Game is now known as Steam. It is lots of fun, in a quiet, brain burner sort of way.

A number of good Eurogames are available now on the Ipad/Iphone.
posted by mecran01 at 2:57 PM on July 20, 2010


I hate, hate, hate Puerto Rico and Agricola and the new wave of economic games that are, by and large, non-interactive to a stunning degree

I think Power Grid is fun enough, but I also think that the better you get at Puerto Rico, the more interactive it gets. You certainly can play ignoring everyone else, and it's good to figure out how to limit the effects other players decisions have on you, but the reason You Can't Tip a Buick's "kingmaker" criticism has merit is because of the interactivity. You are constantly straddling a line between avoiding doing things that would increase other the advantages of other players and trying to do things that increase yours and you often can't do one without the other. The game can quickly become about what you think the other players are going to do, when they're going to do it, and either how you can stop it or take advantage of it. In fact, I'd argue that the interaction is every bit as important as it is with Power Grid, it's just less explicit and takes more work to figure out, which might be why I lost my first 20 games or so.

"choosing the Craftsman role is always a mistake" problem

I used to agree with this, but either playing more changed my mind, or some of the expansion buildings have balanced this out, I'm not sure which. If you've got some way to make money off the craft itself so you're not worried about getting blocked out of trading, and timing or your warehouse/wharf setup means you don't have to worry about losing goods on a Captain phase, a Craftsman choice is usually an extra victory point (and possibly extra purchasing power).
posted by weston at 3:01 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dominion is indeed awesome - what I particularly like is that there's no slow phase near the start as you work out what you're doing, and every game ends up being very different due to the unpredictable card combinations.

One I've played only once, but loved, was Ca$h 'n Gun$, which is always entertaining to play with your family. My sister's expression, when every other player decided she was the greatest threat and she got five foam guns pointed at her head, was priceless.

Dixit looks interesting, but doesn't sound particularly new - the underlying mechanic is basically Call My Bluff, which you can play with pencils, paper and a dictionary. Might be worth getting it for the beautiful illustrations, though, so I'll be keeping an eye out for it anyway.
posted by ZsigE at 3:04 PM on July 20, 2010


Scattercat, I apologise for giving your mother apoplexy. There are a number of simpler rules-sets for Once Upon a Time floating around the net and Atlas Games has a book in preparation with systems for using the cards as a creative writing tool. And we've been pestering them for years to publish a third edition. Second edition is fifteen years old now. It's time.

I've not played Dixit but it sounds wonderful: like Apples to Apples with the cards from Everway, or a pictoral version of First Line Last Line or whatever the ur-rule is that powers games like Wise or Otherwise. That said, I don't see how it's a storytelling game, mostly because I don't see the story.

Tim Harford, who wrote the FT article and is better known as the bestselling author of the Undercover Economist books, is a regular gamer in a group I know and an old-school roleplayer as well. He has a particular soft spot for Dragon Warriors, the retro-RPG which I publish and which MeFi has just given me a second opportunity to plug this week--he gave me a lovely sell-quote which I used on the new edition.
posted by Hogshead at 3:10 PM on July 20, 2010


My mother was born in Germany (but came to Canada in 1950, when she was 5). In the 70s and early 80s we still played some German board games they either brought over from Germany, or were sent by relatives. They had wooden pieces! Real wood!
posted by KokuRyu at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2010


Wish I had pictures, since this would be a perfect time to show off my birthday present from my girlfriend, a home-made version of Settlers with a Burning Man twist, re-branded Settlers of The Man. The German version's sheep, grain, bricks, etc seem pretty ho-hum compared to Photons, Jellyfish, Bubbles, and Birdcages. O and of course, the thief has been replaced by the eponymous man, made out of glowsticks...
posted by anotherbrick at 3:12 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just spent my parent's visit teaching them and playing Power Grid. I've already got them into Ticket to Ride, although they don't love Puerto Rico.

Good times.
posted by Lemurrhea at 3:15 PM on July 20, 2010


Actually the thing I came in here to post is that another hobby-games award, the Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming, has announced its 2010 shortlist today. Anything associated with the field can win the DJA, which is why the shortlist covers a board-game, two RPGs and a website. Previous winners have included people, board-games, card-games, RPGs, a business model and a charity auction.

This year's shortlist is: The award will be announced at the DJA Party in Indianapolis on 4th August, the unofficial start of Gen Con Indy. I run the DJA, so if you're in the games biz, are going to be in Indianapolis that night and don't have an invite, send me MeMail.
posted by Hogshead at 3:22 PM on July 20, 2010


Loving this thread, thanks for the heads-up. Anyone else fancying some occasional dorktastic Mefi-iPhone-Carcassonne just drop me a mail.

Thanks for the tips here from the game-loving masses, and here are my other recommendations in return.

1. Bohnanza, recommended just once above. Pure interactive trading fun.
2. Citadels, a better balanced city-builder than Puerto Rico for my money (although the cards seem pretty hackneyed to start off).
3. San Juan, a cards-only spinoff from Puerto Rico which manages to be more elegant in gameplay than the original.
4. Lost Cities, that rarity, a good modern two-player game.

Finally, the best reviewer I've found of such things blogs here.
posted by imperium at 3:36 PM on July 20, 2010


Hogshead Sorry for giving your mother apoplexy.

If it's any consolation, it's her and not the game. She gets very nervous when she's put on the spot and has to be creative on cue.
posted by Scattercat at 3:57 PM on July 20, 2010


I suck at Carcassonne and am very much into finding people to practice with iPhonily in order to suck less when it inevitably gets pulled out. (Mefimail on its way.)

If you are looking for a game that is unlike any of the other games, and is stunningly interactive, weird as hell and likely to piss off 90% of the people who try it (it's my favourite game, probably, and it seems like computer programmer and engineer types tend to like it), try Fresh Fish, by the guy who did Power Grid. I finally have people who will play it with me, and it's lots of fun.

Hint: people who do not like board games often enjoy Pandemic very much, and it's pretty easy to scale difficulty.
posted by jeather at 4:00 PM on July 20, 2010


Glad to see that I'm not the only Puerto Rico player who thinks something's not quite right about those "colonist" pieces...
posted by rebel_rebel at 4:27 PM on July 20, 2010


I wish somebody would play boardgames with me. And also, explain the rules for the Arkham Horror game that I impulsively paid one hundred dollars for. And also punch out the six thousand little pieces that the game comes with. And pack it all up afterwards. Then leave.

:-(
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:56 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just ordered Dixit. It looks like a good successor to Apples to Apples, which I've always loved for its accessibility and simplicity of concept.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:22 PM on July 20, 2010


German TV?
posted by micketymoc at 5:35 PM on July 20, 2010


Also gonna add a thumbs-up for Dominion.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 6:05 PM on July 20, 2010


So speaking of the Arkham Horror game, I know it's not German, but can anyone recommend it? How easy is it to pick up and play?
Also, this thread makes me excited. . .
posted by Enki at 6:33 PM on July 20, 2010


So speaking of the Arkham Horror game, I know it's not German, but can anyone recommend it? How easy is it to pick up and play?

Arkham Horror is a pretty fun co-op game. There are a ton of pieces, and the rulebook is frankly terrible at describing a ruleset that isn't as complex as the rulebook makes it seem: I recommend the much cleaner rules summary here.
posted by mightygodking at 6:45 PM on July 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


So speaking of the Arkham Horror game, I know it's not German, but can anyone recommend it? How easy is it to pick up and play?

Arkham Horror is fairly complicated, as far as board games go. Coming from a background in pen and paper games, it's not hard to get into, but I can imagine that someone getting into it casually without an experienced player might find it a bit daunting. The box claims 2-4 hours to play. Be prepared for more like 4-6 for your first few games ... unless you lose horribly in the first hour, which is also a distinct possibility.

However, this is not to say I wouldn't recommend it -- I think it's great fun! But, you kind of need to know what you're getting into. It helps a lot to play with someone who has played before, and it's best (IMO) to start with the base game only without expansions. There's enough going on as is without adding any more complexity.

On topic, Dixit looks very interesting. It's nice to see a game with a more social mechanic get some press, much as I do enjoy games with more math and empire or deck building. (Dominion is currently the king of games hereabouts, which I find no fault in :))

(and on preview, mightygodking's suggestion is good -- the play aids on headless hollow do make AH a much smoother experience)
posted by tocts at 6:49 PM on July 20, 2010


I've only played Arkham Horror once, and had a great time doing it. I was playing with a bunch of experienced players, though, and couldn't possibly begin to play it myself right now without a mammoth review of the rules, which were explained as we went along.

Still, it was more fun than most board games. There aren't many games in which you play cooperatively with everyone else.
posted by hippybear at 7:28 PM on July 20, 2010


Germangames.com isn't bad, but they don't have the best prices in Canada. That honor goes to Meeplemart, which beats everybody else quite handily.

Gah, that interface. They seem to be about $2 cheaper on any given boardgame, but charge $2.95 more for shipping in the same zones (but also a flat rate, so a bulk buy would edge it out slightly). Ye gods, though. I'd be tempted to tip them the $2 to put toward a site redesign.

So speaking of the Arkham Horror game, I know it's not German, but can anyone recommend it? How easy is it to pick up and play?

Lots of pieces; pretty complex. It isn't in the same vein as most of these other games, either. If your focus is on game mechanics, you may not be very impressed. If you think of it as collaborative story-telling, it's much more interesting. Also a long play. With all that in mind, I recommend it strongly, particularly if you like Lovecraft.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:30 PM on July 20, 2010


Arabian Nights
I am shocked that I seem to be the only one who has played this. It is a quite excellent game, more along the lines of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books than a real RPG. Though you get to learn a lot of the story snippets after a while, you still find yourself stitching them all together into a larger, personalized story arch.

It's a game that's more about the journey than the destination. A week later, you'll probably have forgotten who actually "won" the game, but I'm sure you could recall many of the incidents leading up to that point.

Arkham Horror
Arkham Horror is a must have if you have a large group of friends who enjoy marathon games and prefer co-op to competitive play. It's the unspoken rule in my circle of friends to avoid games that reward assholery (so, while Twilight Imperium is awesome, it has been gathering a lot of dust). While there are a few (maybe 2 or 3 quests in a stack of hundreds) options to be a traitor, the game is largely about cooperating in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. I highly recommend playing with the expansions. It's actually easy to become too good at the core game -- you want to aim for a 50% success rate. The expansions will make the various eldritch horrors suitably horrific.
posted by Wossname at 7:56 PM on July 20, 2010


Oh, oh, oh. And for those who enjoy Dominion, I suggest Thunderstone. It combines the deck building mechanic of Dominion with a dungeon crawl. I still prefer the former for greater variety in the meta-game, but sometimes I just want to slay monsters.
posted by Wossname at 7:59 PM on July 20, 2010


Can I give a shout out for one of my favorite games of all time (and early SdJ winner) Scotland Yard? What a great game-- simple enough to play that kids can pick it up fairly quickly, yet entertaining and engaging for adults, even those who who are turned off by the "down-the-rabbit-hole*" nature of most of the games mentioned in this thread.

*by which I mean game settings that require the players to buy into a complex-ish background just to start playing. Arkham Horror is a prime example of this-- you pretty much have to be a Lovecraft fan just to understand the game. Not that I'm knocking those type of games-- I love 'em! Just wish my friends did.
posted by KingEdRa at 8:26 PM on July 20, 2010


I've not played Dixit but it sounds wonderful: like Apples to Apples with the cards from Everway

I played Dixit tonight and this is the perfect description of Dixit. I actually, out-loud, compared the cards to Everway and received a table full of blank stares.

Also there was a kitty who headbutted my face. Tonight owned.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:00 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I actually, out-loud, compared the cards to Everway and received a table full of blank stares.

Any mention of Everway will likely draw blank stares. I've heard of it, but I only know 3 other people who have ever heard of it, seen a set, or (tried to) play it.

I loved the concept of that game. It's a shame it was so impenetrable.
posted by hippybear at 10:48 PM on July 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've heard of it, but I only know 3 other people who have ever heard of it, seen a set, or (tried to) play it.

Conceptually the game had a lot of good ideas. The great failing of Everway was that it didn't actually design a system for resolution.

It gave 3 separate systems and left it in the hand of the GM to decide at any given moment which one to apply: a) let the stats decide (the stats were washy, too, so it was rarely clear which stat -ought- to apply, and very easy to game it to only play to your strong stats), b) pull a card and interpret it (really a new skill if you've never worked with tarot before- I hadn't), c) GM decides (hopefully based on player input).

Because all of this boils down to almost a variant of GM decides, it felt unstructured like freeform, but with some stats and numbers that never quite "clicked" for play.

On the other hand, I had never seen a game as well edited and laid out before or since.
posted by yeloson at 11:11 PM on July 20, 2010


I loved the concept of that game. It's a shame it was so impenetrable.

I think it was John Tynes who had that line about how Everway would've been the biggest thing ever if only they could've packaged John Tweet in the box.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:32 PM on July 20, 2010


Eh, Dominion is OK but once you discover that the action cards are basically worthless and the really unbeatable strategy is to just go big money, it gets kind of repetitive.
posted by Joe Chip at 3:53 AM on July 21, 2010


Dominion is awesome -- I didn't realize it was so new. You can check it out on brettspielwelt -- it adapts well to online play.

Dominion is, indeed, awesome. But the Dominion on BSW is a poor copy of the real thing; you have all the basic set cards, but only a limited number from the expansions and the ones you get play almost like the basic set. Intrigue adds a very nasty aggressive game, and Seaside makes big coherent decks you run through after you've spent most of the game setting them up much more viable. (Alchemy simply misfired).
posted by Francis at 4:06 AM on July 21, 2010


Eh, Dominion is OK but once you discover that the action cards are basically worthless and the really unbeatable strategy is to just go big money, it gets kind of repetitive.

That depends entirely on the layout. Even in the basic set, Big money + Smithies > Big Money. One good action card every six or seven cards makes things a whole lot better.

But with Intrigue and Seaside they ramped up the power of the action cards - to the point that I've won quite a lot of games without a single cash card in my final deck and I almost never buy gold. Big Money just gets eaten alive when you have cards like Consipirator, Steward, Wharf, Fishing Villiage, Minion, and everything else that helps you cycle through your deck. (Probably the biggest thrashing I've handed out that didn't involve curses was against two players on Big Money and one newbie - my deck was a Wharf/Festival/Island combination with one silver and two coppers as the only cash cards (plus four festivals). Every turn once it was running I played four festivals, two wharves, an island to hide the province, a Masquerade (to get rid of the curse I was being given from one of the Witches round the table) and bought a new province and island.
posted by Francis at 5:17 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Eh, Dominion is OK but once you discover that the action cards are basically worthless and the really unbeatable strategy is to just go big money, it gets kind of repetitive.

I have to completely agree with Francis here -- while this may be true of the base game, the expansions fix this pretty handily. If you play base + intrigue + seaside, pure "big money" becomes fairly nonviable, while a hybrid action/big money deck can really go places. And even a pure action deck can be pretty insane -- I've won games and at the end realized I had my original 7 copper and 3 silver for treasure, and that's it.

Also, definitely get the real game. BSW is fun, don't get me wrong, particularly for a fast game -- I probably end up playing 6-8 games a week that way, because you can play in 5-15 minutes. But, it's really not the same game. The limited card set means you see a lot of the same strategies over and over.

I started playing on BSW right about when my wife bought me Dominion/Intrigue/Seaside (no Alchemy, I've never really liked it), and at first we thought maybe we shouldn't have bought the game since we can play online. Then we played a few games with the full set and realized how much we'd been missing! We still play on BSW for convenience, but the full game comes out on a weekly basis too.

(and a side note, which I've already mentioned, but seriously: Alchemy sucks. I love love love Dominion, and have no desire to own that expansion. It sucks even more on BSW, because it seems like the only cards from Alchemy that are available are ones that are solidly in the "I would never buy this" category for me)
posted by tocts at 9:53 AM on July 21, 2010


I just want to thank Metafilter for putting an end to the tiresome rounds of Trivial Pursuit with the in-laws that was a long-standing holiday ritual! When it comes to board games, you definitely help to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Now, does anyone want to trade some brick for that wheat?
posted by malocchio at 10:40 AM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was really, really good at Trivial Pursuit in high school. (I might still be now, but I haven't played in years.) Like, good to the point that people wouldn't play with me. I thought I was pretty hot shit. Then I played a game with my then-girlfriend and her mother.

Apparently her mom's three-round victory was a little slower than usual.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:56 AM on July 21, 2010


I think it was John Tynes who had that line about how Everway would've been the biggest thing ever if only they could've packaged John Tweet in the box.

Everway had a big box, but Tweet's a big guy. But the game really suffered because of the way Wizards tried to strongarm distributors into taking copies as a condition of getting Magic: the Gathering allocations. The market was against Everway before it had ever seen a copy. But those cards were lovely.

I've not played the re-released Tales of the Arabian Nights but the original is the second most worn game in my entire collection, after my copy of Nuclear War/Nuclear Escalation/Nuclear Proliferation. It's a great example of one of those things that isn't actually a great game but is still enormously entertaining for hours on end.

And really by now someone should have given a massive shout out to James Lowder's two excellent books: Hobby Games: the 100 Best and Family Games: the 100 Best, both published by Green Ronin. Each one is 100 noted games designers writing love-letters to their very favourite games. There is no overlap between the two books, and scarcely a bum note in either. (Disclaimer for bias: I have essays in both, and two of my games are featured in Hobby Games 100.)
posted by Hogshead at 2:16 PM on July 21, 2010


it seems like the only cards from Alchemy that are available are ones that are solidly in the "I would never buy this" category for me

Really? Transmute's quite nice (not normally worth buying a potion first although estate -> gold rocks) and Golem is a scary, scary card if you have a few decent action cards. But to me the problem with Alchemy is that many of the cards (Golem, Posession, Familliar, University) are significantly too strong.
posted by Francis at 4:00 AM on July 22, 2010


I picked up both Dixit and Alchemy last night -- by coincidence -- and am looking forward to trying Dixit at work today (the graphic designers will probably really dig it), and Alchemy with Dominion + Intrigue (no Seaside yet) on game night.
posted by Shepherd at 5:38 AM on July 22, 2010


Really? Transmute's quite nice (not normally worth buying a potion first although estate -> gold rocks) and Golem is a scary, scary card if you have a few decent action cards.

Admittedly, I may have been a bit hyperbolic. Golem is interesting in the right deck. Transmute ... honestly, I don't have a lot of use for it. Maybe I just haven't found one yet -- I just know that every time we play on BSW and go with "all cards", invariably, anything that is drawn from Alchemy sits unloved. Unless it's Golem and someone's trying to build a Golem Machine.
posted by tocts at 8:58 AM on July 22, 2010


Golem is interesting in the right deck.

Golem's broken in the right deck. We banned it shortly before we gave up on Alchemy entirely. (I think my Goleming into Ghost Ships was the final straw - but several of us have made decks with two golems that cycled straight through the entire deck twice in the turn).

Transmute ... honestly, I don't have a lot of use for it. Maybe I just haven't found one yet -- I just know that every time we play on BSW and go with "all cards", invariably, anything that is drawn from Alchemy sits unloved. Unless it's Golem and someone's trying to build a Golem Machine.

I'd happily pay 3 and probably 4 for a Transmute. But to buy a Transmute you need to buy first a Potion (cost 4 and a turn - and a card that can't buy victory points so it clogs your deck) and then spend your entire buy action for the turn on a card that costs one potion. This only begins to be worthwhile if you need a potion for another card (Golem, University, Familiar, Alchemist, Posession, Scrying Pool, etc.) and pick up the Transmute in passing. Which you only do on BSW for a Golem.

Apothecary and Philosopher's Stone - the other two Alchemy cards on BSW - are like Transmute in that they can be worth buying if you already have a potion in hand but aren't worth buying a potion to get the opportunity to buy. (Alchemist and Scrying pool can be and the other four I named almost always are). Therefore unless Golem is in play on BSW, the other Alchemy cards aren't worth bringing into play even if they can be nice in the right setup.
posted by Francis at 9:57 AM on July 22, 2010


Well, I've pulled out Dixit at two consecutive lunches, was both times greeted with eye-rolls and "board game? Really?" by most people, and both times finished with enthusiastic converts. One of the people at the first game actually walked by the room when we were starting the second and cancelled (minor) stepping-out-for-lunch plans to join us.
posted by Shepherd at 10:15 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dixit's a strange one. I couldn't understand the appeal until I got that all wrong guesses and all successful guesses is a loss. That certainly makes it more interesting, but a game with one single mechanic...? One of the principles of the "German Board Game" is commonly referred to as "multiple paths to victory". But, then, Spiel winners are a solid bet, so will give a try.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:27 AM on July 23, 2010


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