But his favourite game is Scrabble, so what does he know
January 16, 2015 9:09 AM   Subscribe

The game ends in nuclear war only about 5 percent of the time. That’s a good thing. It gives Ananda Gupta faith in humanity.
Twilight Struggle is the best board game in the world (and Ananda Gupta is its designer) and is all about replaying the Cold War. The worst games? Tic-tac-toe, Snakes and Ladders, Candy Land, The Game of Life and Monopoly, according to Oliver Roeder and based on ratings taking from BoardGameGeek. (Twilight Struggle previously.)
posted by MartinWisse (159 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
The best game I have ever played is Gassy Gus, where you feed a plastic man pizza and beans and soda pop, and his inflatable stomach inflates, and eventually all the gas emerges with a flatulent ppffftthhttttsssss, and then you start feeding him again.

I am a man of simple tastes.
posted by maxsparber at 9:14 AM on January 16, 2015 [28 favorites]


I started playing Monopoly with my kids and I was like, wow, this game is incredibly great, no wonder it's been around so long. They also dig Game of Life. Stick that in your pipe, haters. If only you could still buy Careers.
posted by escabeche at 9:18 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I guess this doesn't include discontinued games from my youth, such as Cabbage Patch Kids To The Rescue and Dweebs, Geeks, and Weirdos. Because worst.
posted by Hoopo at 9:25 AM on January 16, 2015


You get to make a lot more choices in Careers than in most other around-the-board games.
posted by michaelh at 9:26 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


If only you could still buy Careers

Yes! Before they simplfied it in 1990, of course.
posted by ogooglebar at 9:29 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


The venerable classic Dweebs, Geeks, and Weirdos has a 5.1 rating on BGG; Monopoly is in a lower tier at 4.47. Which may have something to do with the lack of people playing DG&W now, however.
posted by miguelcervantes at 9:35 AM on January 16, 2015


The best game I have ever played is Gassy Gus, where you feed a plastic man pizza and beans and soda pop, and his inflatable stomach inflates, and eventually all the gas emerges with a flatulent ppffftthhttttsssss, and then you start feeding him again.

Which reminds me of Dynamite Shack, where you wear big rubber thumbs and try to insert sticks of dynamite in a shack before it blows up. Yes, really.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:35 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Pleased to note that the article mentions 1989 as the next iteration of Twilight Struggle; to my mind 1989 is actually the better game, because it's more balanced. (Twilight Struggle has a bit of a power balance towards the USSR in its design; it's easy enough to offset this with a simple points bid to see who plays what side, mind you.)

But Twilight Struggle is an amazing game regardless. The spine of its design ("draw cards, do stuff on a board with those cards") is simple - TS wasn't the first game to do it, but it was the most elegant, and its design clearly informed later card-driven wargame designs like the mammoth, six-player, eight-hour-long Virgin Queen or the intense, intricate Labyrinth: The War On Terror 2001-?, or the why-hasn't-it-been-published-yet Free At Last.

The brilliance of the system is that it abstracts massive conflict - be that conflict military, political, ideological, whatever - down to a level where rules can be relatively simple, but the cards can have all of the notable events so you feel immersed in the history of the struggle you're re-enacting. You get the feeling of detailed immersion without having the stress of needing to know all of it innately, for the first couple of games, and as the game teaches you the history you learn what strategies are unwise (for example, in Twilight Struggle the USSR should never try to establish a base of influence in Japan, despite it appearing like an easy target, because there's a card available from the start of the game that allows the US to destroy all Soviet influence in Japan effectively forever).

I'd really like to see Twilight Struggle-like games for other historical settings, and even ahistorical settings - it's the perfect system for a game based on the Silmarillion, for example, or on Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books.
posted by mightygodking at 9:37 AM on January 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sorry no. There is an objective answer to "what is the worst board game ever" and that answer is Mouse Trap. There is no way to make that game good. None.
posted by trunk muffins at 9:38 AM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


If only you could still buy Careers.
Oh, man. I haven't heard about that game in ages. My parents used to play the hell out of it with their friends.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:38 AM on January 16, 2015


My kid's a card sharp - she loves "Uno", "Set" and "Hisss!"

She likes Candyland, too, but god that game is boring and terrible. She tried "Don't Break the Ice" and liked playing with the pieces way more than playing with the game.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:39 AM on January 16, 2015


One of the cards in Twilight Struggle makes you decide between going to the opposing country's Olympics, or boycotting them. Boycotting raises the 'threat level' in the game; if the threat level reaches the maximum, the instigating player causes nuclear war and loses the game.

"Would you like to come play sports with us?"
"No thanks"
"Okay, we're going to nuke you"
~end of world~
posted by 0xFCAF at 9:40 AM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


The game ends in nuclear war only about 5 percent of the time.

If you prefer, you can always play Nuclear War (now celebrating it's 50th anniversary). That ends in nuclear war every single time. The question is, are there any survivors? (The answer is, generally not.)
posted by hippybear at 9:41 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Monopoly ends in nuclear war pretty much every time.
posted by yoink at 9:42 AM on January 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


Sorry no. There is an objective answer to "what is the worst board game ever" and that answer is Mouse Trap. There is no way to make that game good. None.

We had Mouse Trap when I was a kid growing up. I don't recall ever actually playing per the rules, but I remember numerous instances of pulling it out to set up and play with the mechanism.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 9:43 AM on January 16, 2015 [8 favorites]


This is maybe cliche to carp about these days but escabeche do you and your kids actually play Monopoly by the rules? It's a much better game without the random injections of cash from free parking and if you auction off property when someone lands on it but doesn't buy.
posted by Wretch729 at 9:45 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


That is how Mousetrap best played (with): ignore the game and treat it like a construction set. Meccano and lego parts are optional.
posted by bonehead at 9:46 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Let's not forget Green Ghost and Poppin Hoppies!
posted by foonly at 9:47 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


We had to ban Monopoly when the kids were younger. Neither kid would bargain or trade anything, which led to 4 hour games and usually a pre-teen hissy fit along the way. The kids are in college, but I think the ban still holds. We all prefer Settlers of Catan or Ticket To Ride anyway.
posted by COD at 9:49 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I worked on two separate Candy Land computer games. It's a nice way to teach kids the basics of what a game is and how it operates, but a lousy game without any strategy. "Here is a random thing. Here is another random thing. The end! No moral." The version I played as a kid had no characters, just locations, but later versions added characters and became far more shiny.

People really do love Twilight Struggle. The Kickstarter to make a digital version funded in about 90 minutes.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:52 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really want somebody to play Twilight Struggle with.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:54 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


Monopoly ends in nuclear war pretty much every time.

The last time I played monopoly, I threatened to murder a 13 year old, and I fucking meant it. I was, I think, 30 at the time.
posted by empath at 9:57 AM on January 16, 2015 [26 favorites]


trunk muffins: "Sorry no. There is an objective answer to "what is the worst board game ever" and that answer is Mouse Trap. There is no way to make that game good. None."

HERETIC BURN BURN THE HERETIC!
posted by symbioid at 9:58 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Neither kid would bargain or trade anything, which led to 4 hour games and usually a pre-teen hissy fit along the way

Because when you begin any game there are only two things you should feel: hatred for your enemies and love of your inevitable victory. All else is weakness. They can bargain when they're dead, and trade their pleas for mercy for crushing defeat.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:59 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


The greatest board game in the world is clearly Snifty Snakes. Just LOOK at it.
posted by delfin at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


The venerable classic Dweebs, Geeks, and Weirdos has a 5.1 rating on BGG; Monopoly is in a lower tier at 4.47.

For those not in the know, there's two ratings on BGG: the Average Rating, and the Geek Rating. The Geek Rating requires a minimum number of votes, and does a lot of things to prevent massive swings in games with only a small number of votes. It's also what is used to calculate rankings -- anything that doesn't qualify for a Geek Rating is not ranked.

Anyways, because of how the Geek Rating is calculated, its real scale is not 1-10, but instead about 4-8. It is really, really hard to get out of the 5.0-7.5 range.

To give you an idea how crazy it is:

There are currently 10,542 ranked games on BGG. Only 6 (0.057%) of them have a Geek Rating below 4. Only 50 (0.474%) rate below 5. Meanwhile, only 7 (0.067%) rate above 8 (maximum rank: 8.220, Twilight Struggle), and only 56 (0.531%) rate above 7.5.

So, 4.47 isn't just low, it's nearing bottom of the barrel. It's also pretty far from even a 5.1 as far as badness goes.
posted by tocts at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


Is this something I'd need a tabletop to understand?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2015 [9 favorites]


The best board game is the game of Robo Rally that you play when the main game of Talisman in the other room has eliminated a bunch of people and it's just a struggle to see if the remaining players will be powerful to win the last expansion.

(Though I do wish the Robo Rally figures had rules that reflected the personalities in the Foglio art and backstory. SmashBot should be able to run through one wall. Hulkbot X-90 believes he's 200 feet tall, so he should be forced to go forward on any pit. It's also a game that cries out to be made into 3D. Hmmm. Maybe that is a reason to pick up a 3D printer.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:03 AM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


Blogger Bill White at The Morning Call listed the Five Best Board Games earlier this month. Spoilers -- the best games ever are:

1. Scrabble
2. Risk
3. Monopoly
4. Parcheesi
5. The Game of Life

(In fairness, this may have been accidentally switched with his Best Board Games of Fifty Years Ago column. If not for Risk, it could well be 75 years ago.)
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:11 AM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think it's probably unlikely that "highest ranked" somehow means "most fun" given the sampling bias of people who are self-selected participants in a group all about boardgames, and then those who care to rank one against another, etc.,

This game sounds absolutely unlikely to win the "what game would you guys like to play" contest for nearly any random sampling of players.
posted by odinsdream at 10:17 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I play monopoly and clue with my kids and both games are awesome.

The worst board game I have ever played is "Stone Age".
posted by Ratio at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2015


The last time I played monopoly, I threatened to murder ....

I'm pretty certain that this is the authorial intent for what became Monopoly: Magie [...] hoped that when played by children the game would provoke their natural suspicion of unfairness, and that they might carry this awareness into adulthood.

It's designed to be a shitty experience.
posted by bonehead at 10:18 AM on January 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's designed to be a shitty experience.

Well, yes, as it was explicitly designed to demonstrate the unfairness of capitalism.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:22 AM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]


And, as such, one of the best bits of subversive culture jamming ever.
posted by bonehead at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


I won't say Candy Land is a good game, but I attended a game design seminar at GenCon one time wherein one of the panelists pointed out that he at least improved it. He noted that the winning spot used to be a single color, which meant that a player in the lead (thanks to good luck) could be completely shut out of actually winning (thanks to bad luck). His solution: Make the final space a rainbow, so any color wins.

(The purely luck based mechanisms of Candy Land and Snakes and Ladders do make the games as games not very good, but they have a place as gateway experiences for very young children. My daughters started with them and now play Pandemic, Elder Sign, D&D and the like regularly.)
posted by Gelatin at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2015


I spent an evening playing Jenga with two three year old kids. Everyone had a great time. It was fun when the tower didn't fall over and it was fun when it did.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:24 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suspect Russian Roulette has a higher ranking than Monopoly.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:25 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I suspect Russian Roulette has a higher ranking than Monopoly.

Well, sure; the ones who lose that game don't rank it.
posted by Gelatin at 10:26 AM on January 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


The worst games on BGG are kind of a farce, really, since worst seems to mean "Played as a kid and am too sophisticated for now". Candy Land isn't meant to be a good game when you're 26. It's for 4-year-olds!
posted by graventy at 10:26 AM on January 16, 2015


I've played Twilight Struggle a couple times now, and every time so far it's been a points victory by the USSR during the middle stage of the game. I understand that it's supposed to be tilted towards USSR in the early game and towards the US in the late game, but I've never managed to get to the late game so it seems a bit broken. Maybe I just need to play it more.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 10:27 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought Candy Land was designed to be a learning game that taught color matching, the difference between backward and forward along a path, and other such lessons appropriate for the 3-4 year old set. It's not meant to be a balanced game, it's meant to be a thing you share with your young kids and then discard when they get older.
posted by hippybear at 10:29 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Monopoly is) a much better game without the random injections of cash from free parking and if you auction off property when someone lands on it but doesn't buy.

It is, but I only play that way and I'm still not a fan. I think there is a kernel of an interesting game, but a lot of the game is just a random process of selling property, then the test of whether the purchase decisions are good takes too long, and the trading, the meat of the of the game, is done in an entirely ad hoc way that can take players entirely out of the running through no fault of their own. Considering the depth of strategy in Monopoly, the game should take thirty minutes tops. Built around that core is hours and hours of unnecessary rigamarole. I have kind of a beef with Monopoly now: I never got to play it with my mother because she had been biased against it from playing with Dad. I think it turned her against all board games. If the game they played had been Settlers of Catan, maybe I would have one more than the tiny number of connections with her that I have.

Blogger Bill White at The Morning Call listed the Five Best Board Games earlier this month. Spoilers -- the best games ever are: 1. Scrabble 2. Risk 3. Monopoly 4. Parcheesi 5. The Game of Life

YIKES. Scrabble is great, I will grant that, but the rest, wow, he must know nothing about the eurogame boom. That Parcheesi and Life even rank at all is shocking to me. It sounds a lot more like this should be titled "The only five board games I know exist in the world, ranked by how much I like them."

Wolfdog: I really want somebody to play Twilight Struggle with.

I have very little means of making it to meetups, but if I ever do, I'll play a game of Twilight Struggle against someone who asks, time allowing. I've taught it to several people now (including one who beat me in our training game!).
posted by JHarris at 10:31 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tic-tac-toe seems like the odd one out on this list to me - if I'm distracted, my 6-year-old can occasionally beat me at it. Seems like a pretty timeless, albeit very simple, game of skill.

Some of the only pleasant memories I have of my childhood involve Monopoly, so anyone spilling hatred or ink over that game can just move on.

The best board game ever made is not really even a board game, and that is "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective." But I feel like I talk about that game too much around here, so there you go.
posted by jbickers at 10:33 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


one of the best bits of subversive culture jamming ever

"Best" perhaps in a "hey, you'll really be amazed when you find this out" way, but in terms of effectiveness it's really a beautiful case of burying your message so deep that basically no one gets it. In my experience the kids who really, really enjoyed Monopoly were precisely the ones temperamentally suited to entrepreneurial capitalism. I think the number of people actually influenced away from a life of rapacious capitalist practice by early experience of Monopoly is vanishingly small.
posted by yoink at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


At inexplicable times, I get the 90s commercial jingle for The Game of Life in my head.
posted by Twicketface at 10:34 AM on January 16, 2015


Twilight Struggle is definitely an "event" game (try it with a soundtrack, preferably with some vodka and period American beer -- Schlitz?) but I haven't really picked up the flow of the game -- I'll have to give it another try. There's a lot of bits in the state vector. It's definitely not a gateway game for Monopoly and Scrabble players.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2015


(Gupta works for Firaxis now, and designed the recent XCOM expansion. He is one of those responsible for giant mechs punching Thin Men into cars, which then explode, and therefore deserves a cupcake.)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2015 [7 favorites]


Considering the depth of strategy in Monopoly, the game should take thirty minutes tops.

It does.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:40 AM on January 16, 2015


This is funny: Last night I searched Metafilter to see what posts there are about Twilight Struggle. And here boom the very next day here's another.
posted by Sleeper at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2015


I've played Twilight Struggle a couple times now, and every time so far it's been a points victory by the USSR during the middle stage of the game. I understand that it's supposed to be tilted towards USSR in the early game and towards the US in the late game, but I've never managed to get to the late game so it seems a bit broken. Maybe I just need to play it more.

Put 1-2 extra US influence in Iran.
posted by michaelh at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The best board game ever made is not really even a board game, and that is "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective."

It is a superb and elegant design, and a cracking good game. In a perfect world, expansions for that would crowd all the Harry Potter- and cats-themed Monopoly games off the shelves.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:43 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


And even if it’s not an objectively good game, Candy Land teaches lessons — playing by the rules, healthy competition, winning and losing graciously.
Well sure, unless you're playing against your teenage cousin who could call you on your constant cheating, but that would make the game longer and really he just wants the game to end.
posted by ckape at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think the number of people actually influenced away from a life of rapacious capitalist practice by early experience of Monopoly is vanishingly small.

I think that's one of those unknowables that's really hard to pin down.

As a poorly-socialized kid, who had trouble understanding others feelings, I have some pretty strong memories of discovering that I had a real talent for monopoly, and then discovering how dirty I felt afterwards.

It was kind of eerie to watch my nephew, who was both further along the ADHD spectrum than I was and much smarter to boot, go through the same process. He used to love monopoly, but no one would play with him. He's since really matured well with proper care for his ADHD and doesn't care for the game so much anymore. In fact, he's happier with more cooperative and skill-based games now.
posted by bonehead at 10:47 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, only 7 (0.067%) rate above 8 (maximum rank: 8.220, Twilight Struggle), and only 56 (0.531%) rate above 7.5.

You see Android: Netrunner there at #7? Yeah, start playing Netrunner if you haven't already.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:50 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I thought it was funny that you could tell from the Mouse Trap commercial what a cheap piece of crap the mechanism is. When the kid is turning the crank it looks like it is about to fall apart.

Local favorites: Talisman, Elder Sign, Flux, Oh Gnome You Don't.
posted by lkc at 10:51 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've played Twilight Struggle a couple times now, and every time so far it's been a points victory by the USSR during the middle stage of the game. I understand that it's supposed to be tilted towards USSR in the early game and towards the US in the late game, but I've never managed to get to the late game so it seems a bit broken. Maybe I just need to play it more.

No, the game definitely tilts towards the USSR more in the early game than it does towards the US in the late game. It's a "playing white in chess is inherently a bit better" sort of a thing.

The easy way to deal with this is by bidding points to play the USSR. IE, I bid one point, you bid two points, I bid three, etc. until someone wins. And then whoever wins plays the USSR - and the USA gets the bid amount of points.
posted by mightygodking at 10:52 AM on January 16, 2015


If only you could still buy Careers

My wife's parents have an original (1955?) copy of this game, and we played it over Thanksgiving. It is indeed a lot of fun, but also... a product of its time. Like you can get happiness points for having a "beautiful secretary". Also you can go prospecting for uranium with naught but a stout mule and a lantern hat.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:52 AM on January 16, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think that's one of those unknowables that's really hard to pin down.

I think we can draw a pretty reasonable epidemiological inference from Monopoly's massive and enduring popularity in the US to say that if it had a significant "anti-capitalist" effect the US would be a rather different country from the one we observe.

It would be interesting to know something about the demographics of purchasers/players of the game. I'd be surprised if it wasn't a more popular game, on the whole, among Republican households than Democratic ones.
posted by yoink at 10:56 AM on January 16, 2015


Matthews, of Alexandria, Virginia, is an American history expert and was the legislative director for Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. Gupta, a history buff, was doing policy work at a think tank, then was in school for computer science, before dropping out after he landed his first job in the video-game industry. The two would discuss key aspects of the Cold War — the domino theory, the arms race, the space race — and these would make their way into the game.

But publishers balked. “The Cold War? Why would anyone want to play a game about the Cold War?” Gupta recalled being asked.
This is such a weird attitude on the publishers' part. I could understand not seeing the appeal of a wargame about, I dunno, a war between Sweden and Denmark at the end of the 30 Years' War, but a game about the history of the world after World War II seems naturally really interesting.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:59 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is maybe cliche to carp about these days but escabeche do you and your kids actually play Monopoly by the rules? It's a much better game without the random injections of cash from free parking and if you auction off property when someone lands on it but doesn't buy.

The hilarious part about this comment is that it is responding to someone who said they liked Monopoly.
posted by Jpfed at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2015


In other news, the most popular board game in Canada is "Sorry."
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2015 [17 favorites]


As a game designer friend of mine is wont to say, Candy Land is not a game; it is an exercise.
posted by jedicus at 11:00 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


You see Android: Netrunner there at #7? Yeah, start playing Netrunner if you haven't already.

Tempting, but unlikely. I think if it had existed when I was about 15-18 years old, I would have been all over it. Now, though, I've just got too little time to be able to really devote myself to any games that have a persistent, ever-evolving metagame, and require a large player base. CCGs/LCGs/etc are basically dead to me, more's the pity.
posted by tocts at 11:01 AM on January 16, 2015


It wasn't meant to be a critical comment Jpfed - I was just curious if that was why they liked the game (not playing by the rules is a common reason, in my experience, why other people don't like Monopoly).
posted by Wretch729 at 11:08 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree! I didn't play with auctions as a kid, but when I looked at the rulebook to remind myself how the game worked I was like wait -- this is a rule? I actually had to go investigate whether the auction rule had always been there. It improves the game a lot.
posted by escabeche at 11:11 AM on January 16, 2015




As a parent, I'm always on the lookout for games we can play with both our kids (11 and 6) that aren't god-awful boring. I've played plenty of Candy Land and Chutes & Ladders and Game of Life (the benefits of which are that a 4-5 year old can play it and win without having to possess any skill other than counting and color matching), and I wouldn't mind never playing any of those games ever again.

Our current favorites are:
  • Forbidden Island: A fast-paced cooperative game where the players have to work together to get four treasures off an island and escape before it sinks into the ocean. The island itself is randomized each time (made up of 20-some tiles), so the game is different every time. Because it's collaborative, everybody wins or loses together, which is nice because we can help the 6-year-old choose the best moves without sounding patronizing. Also, the game must be incredibly well designed, because every time we've played it, we've won or lost on the very last move. That is, it's never too easy or too hopeless -- you'll be down to a tile or two before knowing whether or not you can escape.
  • Dixit: A wonderful imaginative "storytelling" game, where you have these cards with semi-abstract images. The "storyteller" comes up with a title for one of his or her cards, and the other players have to pick one of their cards that could fit that same title, and then everyone has to guess which card belonged to the storyteller. The catch is that you get no points if nobody guesses yours, but you also get no points if everyone guesses yours -- so the trick is to be subtle and not too obvious. The kids picked up on this one super quickly, and we've even played with my 4-year-old nephew. The only drawback is that you get to be familiar with the cards pretty quickly, and so you'll end up getting expansion packs.
Everyone also loves Ticket to Ride, although that one takes forever to set up.

Also, and I'd forgotten this until seeing it in TFA, my mom (a psychologist and hippie) had The Ungame in her office.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:18 AM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


So Twilight Struggle had a Kickstarter launched in the middle of last year, but I haven't been able to find any updates on their progress.

The GMT Games Web site is currently broken: There's no new information there, and almost every single link takes you to a 404 page.

It's hard to find Twilight Struggle for sale anywhere. I've found a few copies on eBay for around $70. It sounds like an interesting game, but I don't think it's worth it just yet.
posted by Sleeper at 11:20 AM on January 16, 2015


The venerable classic Dweebs, Geeks, and Weirdos has a 5.1 rating on BGG; Monopoly is in a lower tier at 4.47.

For those not in the know, there's two ratings on BGG: the Average Rating, and the Geek Rating.


Sounds like we may have a conflict of interest here.
posted by Hoopo at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2015


A peculiar thing I've noticed about the game of Hex is that mathematicians are the most likely to have heard of it, but that means that this conversation happens more than actual game play happens:

--I have a board here for Hex, do you want to play?
--Hex! Marvellous game! John Nash, strategy stealing!
--Yes, so I have an 11x11 board, do you want black or...
--Of course, I invented a variant of it that you play on infinite-dimensional CW complexes. The proof with the fixed point theorem obviously doesn't carry over exactly without some compactness hypotheses but if you modify the winning condition slightly then there's a very elegant way of... hang on, let me get a preprint for you, you'll like how the transfinite induction part goes...
--*sigh*
posted by Wolfdog at 11:21 AM on January 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


An early weak hand, followed up by another poor hand, including say, three scoring cards, for the U.S., means the U.S. loses.

TS came up with such novel stuff in the card-driven game (CDG) genre, but then I think kind of botched some things in the execution, or maybe in the deck compositions. So there are these pointy bits that I just can't tolerate.

The Geeks at BGG sure love it though.
posted by Windopaene at 11:23 AM on January 16, 2015


> So Twilight Struggle had a Kickstarter launched in the middle of last year, but I haven't been able to find any updates on their progress.
I backed the KS and actually got an e-mail on that last week:

Mark Simonitch just let us know that ALL the physical fulfillment items (TS Collector's Edition + Various expansions) went to the printers yesterday (Jan. 8), so at this point we look to be in pretty good shape to ship in late March. We'll keep you updated as the printing/collating process moves forward.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 11:24 AM on January 16, 2015


> Considering the depth of strategy in Monopoly, the game should take thirty minutes tops.
ricochet biscuit: It does.

This has absolutely not been my experience with it, and I insisted on playing with things like property auctions and no Free Parking jackpot. I'm going to have to call you on this one.

I've played Twilight Struggle a couple times now, and every time so far it's been a points victory by the USSR during the middle stage of the game.

Play advice:
- Twilight Game is a game of crisis management, not just handling them yourself but creating them for your opponent. If you're forcing your opponent to take actions to preserve his position or stop you from winning, he's not achieving his own goals on the board. The reason instant wins from Europe Control and DEFCON suicide are in the game isn't because they're really valid ways to win the game (although they do happen once in a while), but because they're ways you can force your opponent to respond or else risk losing. He just broke your control of East Germany! Do you buy it back, or concede it in order to secure Asia?
- - Don't forget to be open to opportunities. You only get to see the bad cards in your own hand; don't forget, your opponent is likely to be holding bad cards of his own. The best to take advantage of this is to keep up the pressure, so he'll have to play them to get their ops points to counter your threats, or maybe he won't even be able to counter your threats at all, and will just let you walk in.
- Against experienced players, DEFCON rapidly drops to 2 and stays near there most of the game. If DEFCON is ever 5 on your turn take advantage of it, because these opportunities don't happen often. Stage a coup in a battleground state in Europe! Not only will you have a chance of scoring a plum, but because you'll immediately drop DEFCON, he can't retaliate in kind. East and West Germany tend to be hotly contested, so take the opportunity to hit one or the other. Remember: if you have all five Europe battleground states when Europe gets scored, you immediately win. But more than that, Europe is the highest-scoring region.
- At the start of the game, new players will often make a concerted push for an area. That's not bad, but it's just as important to take advantage of opportunities around the board. In the long run, all the areas are important, but they are of differing importance at different times. This is a profound aspect of strategy, but here are two obvious ways you can take advantage of this. First, if your opponent is puttering around in Africa or South America on Turn 1, then it's an opportunity to get easy points in Europe, Asia and Middle East, which are more important at the start because those are the only three scoring cards in Early War. Conversely, if you have an op or two to spare, it can be useful to buy influence to start advancing towards areas that aren't immediately important, so you'll have a toehold later when they become contested.
- It doesn't take long for the board to lock down, where most of the valuable countries are controlled and difficult to break, especially when DEFCON hits 2 and half the board can't be coup'd or realigned. The pattern here is to use events to open up opportunities and then use ops to take advantage. Particularly, look for events that will break enemy control of a battleground state; he'll then have to spend ops to regain control, or cede the nation to you. Knowing which countries are important and which can be safely abandoned (for when he does this to you) is a lot of the game.
- Don't forget the space race, but don't abuse it either. The proper use of the Space Race is to jettison enemy cards you don't want to play. It can be a crutch: if you get four or so spots ahead you get some nice perks, but the further ahead you get the harder it is to send cards to space, making it hard to avoid DEFCON suicide. If you ever reach the end, you can no longer space cards at all.
- Play everything to your maximum forseeable benefit. Look for the subtle move that will advance two or more objectives at once. Twilight Struggle rewards such thought.
- One trick some players do is to break control of an important country by buying influence two-for-one, which is inefficient but does provoke a response. You get out of this by overcontrolling, getting more influence than you need. But don't overcontrol too much; you have a lot of board to cover.
- Often you can tell when a opponent who's new to the game has a scoring card because he'll suddenly pick up interest in a region he hadn't spent time in before. Since it's hard to get out of playing scoring cards, it's best to spread out your attention over multiple regions, and trusting to the cards to get you your points for them when they come up.
- The proper use of realignment rolls is a bit subtle. You never gain influence from realignments, and you also are vulnerable to losing any influence there yourself. But you get one roll per op point and can use them anywhere DEFCON allows, as opposed to coups which must be focused on one nation. You can use them, for instance, to break control of a state where the enemy has a lot of influence by using them all there, or you can spread them out. In the long run spreading them out is better I think. They work best in places of enemy strength surrounded by nations you control. Note, however, realignment rolls don't give you Military Operations, nor do they lower DEFCON.
- Try not to rely on dice. Most of your ops should be spent buying influence. Coups give you a chance of breaking enemy control, but dice are fickle; more important in the long run may well be the Military Ops you get, which add up over time if your opponent isn't couping too.
- One thing that sometimes happens when you play: you work towards gaining presence in an area where your opponent has no access, then he coups you in a low stability country to get positive influence from it, then spreads out from there. This is an argument against the US spreading far into Central or South America too early, although note, in the mid game, there are multiple cards that just give the USSR influence there, so it doesn't matter much into Mid War.
- Africa tends to be especially volatile, since there are three battleground nations near each other with Stability 1. These are good targets for spare ops.

There's a lot to write about here, I haven't come close to exhausting this. I need to review my own experiences with the game to be able to say more.
posted by JHarris at 11:26 AM on January 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


It's hard to find Twilight Struggle for sale anywhere.

A friend just bought a copy (like, last weekend) at The Games People Play in Cambridge. Might give them a call if you're looking for a copy.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:27 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's hard to find Twilight Struggle for sale anywhere. I've found a few copies on eBay for around $70.

I just checked several local games stores' websites here in Canada: they all seems to have it, at prices between $50 and $60 CDN (roughly $42 to $50 USD).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:29 AM on January 16, 2015


This has absolutely not been my experience with it, and I insisted on playing with things like property auctions and no Free Parking jackpot. I'm going to have to call you on this one.

30 minutes is a rhetorical exaggeration -- I went with it because it is the figure you cited. 45 is more typical, and 60 minutes would be a long game of it in my experience.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:31 AM on January 16, 2015


The easy way to deal with this is by bidding points to play the USSR. IE, I bid one point, you bid two points, I bid three, etc. until someone wins.

Note, the reprint contains some extra cards that even out the USSR bias, you should probably play with those. Also note, the fact that the USSR has an early game advantage doesn't mean, itself, the game is skewed in that direction; the US strategy is to avoid losing early, so as to make it into the phase where its own advantages come to the forefront.

It's hard to find Twilight Struggle for sale anywhere.

Check Amazon, is where I got my copy.
posted by JHarris at 11:32 AM on January 16, 2015


It's hard to type Twilight Struggle when your fingers automatically go for Sparkle every single time.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:34 AM on January 16, 2015 [16 favorites]


As far as Monopoly goes, I think "it's not as terrible as you remember, if you play by the rules" is about the best that can be said. It's not as pointless and terrible as, say, The Game Of Life, but there are so many games nowadays that are more fun in less time, it's hard to recommend it.
posted by tocts at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2015


45 is more typical, and 60 minutes would be a long game of it in my experience.

I call this too. Even played with all the rules, Monopoly regularly takes upwards of three hours for me. I don't even see how it can't, just the mechanics of rolling the dice and moving your mice take up so much time. But the thing that really balloons game lengths for us is the trading, no one ever wants to trade, everyone keeps what they've got and tries to gain an advantage through normal property acquisition. Auctioning isn't greatly helpful in this, because everyone knows how important properties are and so usually everyone buys whatever they land on, mortgaging if they don't have the cash handy.
posted by JHarris at 11:35 AM on January 16, 2015


All the games at the bottom of the list are there either because: they are "broken" or "solved" (Tic tac toe is a guaranteed cat's game); they involve no actual player decisions, (Candyland, Chutes and Ladders), so that makes it an activity instead of a game.

We don't play that, over at BGG.

Life is pretty similar. Monopoly? Free Parking and Euro-snobbery ratings.

Plus the fact that these horrible games, from a "Gamer" point of view, have been for years and years the only ones in the culture knowledge of "board games".
posted by Windopaene at 11:38 AM on January 16, 2015


It's hard to type Twilight Struggle when your fingers automatically go for Sparkle every single time.

I still toy around, from time to time, with my idea for that MLP-themed variant pitting the Solar Empire vs. the Lunar Republic, to be called Twilight Sparkle Struggle. This is like the third time I've made that joke here, but I've got too many shiny objects in my life right now to work towards actualizing it.
posted by JHarris at 11:39 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


So many expansions for Netrunner. The problem with games like that it's not obvious which if any are indispensable (I read a lot about this game a couple years ago, and the base game didn't actually sound all that fun).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:39 AM on January 16, 2015


The thing about Monopoly is when you first play it as a kid you totally sense the potential for great things. It has all the elements that in theory can make a great board game. It naturally appeals to competitive children and makes them feel in touch with "the real world" of money, real estate, wealth, capitalism, etc. But then it slogs on and on and half the people want to quit (at least when my family played).

The best use of monopoly I've seen are those sociological studies where some players get lots of money upfront and start to become really horribly priveleged.
posted by cell divide at 11:44 AM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I actually had to go investigate whether the auction rule had always been there. It improves the game a lot.

It really doesn't. It partially removes some of the luck aspect of Monopoly, but the core problems remain: it takes a very long time to play (and the auctions extend the game length, both because they're an additional activity and because they stretch out the early game by increasing cost of properties), it eliminates players so the game is variable length for each player, there aren't that many interesting decisions to be made (the "if you can buy a property, you should" guideline is still firm even in the auction variant; all that changes is the prices of the properties increase from what the game states to what other players force you to pay) and the dice still determine way too much of the game's flow.

It's a bad game. It was designed to be a bad game. That was the point.
posted by mightygodking at 11:45 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just got Suburbia (ranked 43 by BGG) for xmas, and I have been really enjoying it. Similar to Monopoly (at least thematically), but the game mechanic is much better, and there are all sorts of different ways to win. Plus, it's pretty good even for just 2 people, which isn't always the easiest trait to get in a game.

Also I really love Agricola, but I am shocked that BGG ranked it 4th, as it seems to seriously bum/stress a lot of other folks out.

Which is I guess a way of saying that possibly the BGG ranking system is skewed based on a self-selecting type of boardgamer.
posted by likeatoaster at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Netrunner has been so successful, Fantasy Flight Games is having to address this issue, and have created a "rotation" system. So eventually, only the core set, and all cards in the "deluxe expansions" will be tourney legal. So if you are getting in, buy two core sets, and then all of the big box expansions. Pick up data packs to get the cards you need. You'll need Jackson Howard for a while...

And the LCG model beats MtG's CCG model by miles and miles.

See also AEG's Doomtown: Reloaded, which has adopted an LCG model as well.
posted by Windopaene at 11:49 AM on January 16, 2015


A friend just bought a copy (like, last weekend) at The Games People Play in Cambridge. Might give them a call if you're looking for a copy.

Heck, I was just thinking "You know, they had a copy in stock at The Games People Play last time I was there; I might go pick it up now that it's on my mind." But that was months ago, and they probably had more than one copy. I'll report back, I guess!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:51 AM on January 16, 2015


By coincidence I ordered Twilight Struggle last night. Anyone in the bay area up for a play through? I don't think anyone in my small games group is going to be up for it, strangely.
posted by MillMan at 11:52 AM on January 16, 2015


Where in the bay area? I'd be happy to play in person but am in San Mateo.
posted by Carillon at 11:53 AM on January 16, 2015


I'm near downtown San Jose, willing to drive. (Carillon or anyone else interested PM me so we don't spam the thread)
posted by MillMan at 11:57 AM on January 16, 2015


Wolfdog: "It's hard to type Twilight Struggle when your fingers automatically go for Sparkle every single time."

Rainbow Stalin approves of this comment.
posted by symbioid at 11:58 AM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Bonkers is fun, Bonkers is nice, Bonkers is never the same game twice! BONKERS!!!
posted by spinturtle at 11:59 AM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I loved Bonkers. I wonder where my set is.
posted by hippybear at 12:00 PM on January 16, 2015


likeatoaster: Oh you bet the ratings are self selecting. BGG users are gamers. Obsessive gamers. As the site arose early in the German invasion of Settlers of Catan, El Grande, Tigris and Euphrates, Carcassone, Ra, etc.,the site has a very Euro-game bias. The site's war gamers, abstract gamers, and "Ameritrash" gamers have quarreled endlessly over this kind of stuff.

"Ameritrash" is things like Samurai Swords, Fortress America, Axis and Allies. Big boards, plastic dudes on a map, blowing each other up. A big bunch of the Ameritrash gamers left in a huff and started their own site over this kind of thing.

So yeah, bit of a self-selecting group.
posted by Windopaene at 12:01 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


hippybear, if you find it please let me know and I'll come over and play.
posted by spinturtle at 12:08 PM on January 16, 2015


If I were going to host a get-together to play TS, given that it's a two-player game, how would it work? Would I buy several copies of the game or would people play on teams?
posted by triggerfinger at 12:11 PM on January 16, 2015


It's a bad game. It was designed to be a bad game. That was the point.

Oh, I agree entirely. My point, which I have brought up more than once before on the blue, is that it is not a long game. Monopoly is a go-to reference for interminable board games, but this is because almost everyone alters it to make it interminable and then complains that it is interminable.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:13 PM on January 16, 2015


A music video for you Mousetrap haters: Mousetrap Never Works
posted by ShooBoo at 12:17 PM on January 16, 2015


You terrify me, JHarris.
posted by SPrintF at 12:21 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


What!?! No love for Stratego? Geez, this whole thread is pointless!
posted by TDavis at 12:29 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Would I buy several copies of the game or would people play on teams?

I've never played TS as a team game, but it seems like that could be rad as hell if you went all-in with it and functioned as little cabinets with sort-of-defined roles and shit.
posted by the phlegmatic king at 12:34 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love Arkham Horror, but I'm the sort of person who loves details and almost enjoys setting up the game and reading the rules as much as I enjoy playing it. I also really enjoy Lovecraft.
posted by HappyEngineer at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


We just got Splendor - kids 8 and 11 love it, easy to learn, relatively short and fun.
posted by zeoslap at 12:37 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think if you play Twilight Spar^H^H^Htruggle on teams, you should have some sort of parliamentary procedure decided to deciding what your move is.

(I assume that, for the USSR player, this is largely a formality, while the US player will get bogged down in reelection politics.)
posted by JHarris at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


For the US, they have to use Robert's Rules of Order. For the USSR, it's whoever is the drunkest.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:42 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I backed TS on kickstarter and, if ever the digital edition comes out, would love to play with mefites. I've never played it before, but asynchronous sounds good.
posted by jeather at 12:47 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, the opposing players should communicate mostly via Red Telephone. Also, one of the US players should be actively trying to start Nuclear War, the USSR player be named Dimitri and.... Okay I'll stop trying to impose my Dr. Strangelove fanfiction now.
posted by JHarris at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I prefer Lord of the Rings: Confrontation to Stratego. I'm also looking forward to the computer version of Twilight Struggle, so I'll have someone to play.
posted by craniac at 12:49 PM on January 16, 2015


my favorite goofy dated board game is that one based on murder she wrote, where someone's the murderer, someone's jessica, and everyone else is a suspect and potential victim.
posted by ifjuly at 12:50 PM on January 16, 2015


One day last month a friend and I were the only people of our circle to be able to go play board games at our local board game cafe. I managed to convince him to try out Twilight Struggle with me since I'd been wanting to play it for ages, but we had to teach ourselves all the rules and also had to play half a turn in order to really get a sense of how the game flow went.

Friends, it took us seven whole hours from start to finish. Granted, we're both the type of player to really think through all the different decisions we could be making and the consequences of each. Also, about 4 or 5 hours in he played a card (Wargames, for the knowing) that won him the game, but we both decided that it was a pretty unsatisfying conclusion so we took that out and kept playing. But man were we both totally unprepared for how long that game took. When we were packing up the pieces all we could do was to give each other these exhausted, spent looks and murmurs of "Jesus Christ, Twilight Struggle..."

So when the rules itself called TS a "quick-playing, low-complexity" game and the typical playing time is usually given as 2-4 hours, I think you'd need to take into account that it's a quick-playing, low-complexity game compared to all those crazy long wargames that the article touches upon and also what kind of people are playing.

But hopefully that won't stop you from playing this game. Because what a game! I never before had such an intense, suspenseful, and fun experience with a board game. So much of it is designed to make each player choose between agonizing decisions since even the most basic action of playing a card in this game usually involves some form of benefit to both players. That's because you can play your own event cards and only get either the points value (used to spread influence around the globe) or the event, but if (and when) you play your opponent's event cards the event fires but you STILL get the points. And the distribution of the deck leads to both players having a near-guaranteed mix of both sides' events every turn.

What's also really compelling is the push and pull of US and USSR influence across the globe. Combined with the cards being based on real-life events, the atmosphere of the Cold War really comes alive as the game progresses. And there's a scramble to make up new plans on the fly in response to your opponent's moves, like a sudden interest in South America (she might have a scoring card for that region!), or when a card you decided to send into space because playing it would be too good for the opponent now NEEDS to be played for the points it also gives you.

I'm stopping before this turns into any more of a review, but if people are interested there is an online implementation of TS here: http://chantry-games.com/ It has some stability issues and I haven't actually used it yet, but it looks like there are games going on there all the time and it has asynchrous play.
posted by coolname at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


The best game I have ever played is Gassy Gus, where you feed a plastic man pizza and beans and soda pop, and his inflatable stomach inflates, and eventually all the gas emerges with a flatulent ppffftthhttttsssss, and then you start feeding him again.

How do you decide who gets to be Gus?
posted by duffell at 12:53 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Gus gets to be Gus. We all feed him.
posted by maxsparber at 12:55 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, the opposing players should communicate mostly via Red Telephone.

Wheelchairs optional, but caps and braid should mandatory for at least half of each side.
posted by bonehead at 12:56 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


In some ways, though, sooner or later, we all get to be Gus.
posted by maxsparber at 1:01 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't even see how it can't, just the mechanics of rolling the dice and moving your mice take up so much time.

Mice? What edition are you using?

In any case, always use the race car: it goes faster.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:03 PM on January 16, 2015


(I was just attempting to make a funny. The image of my friends feeding me beans, soda, and pizza competitively made me chuckle.)
posted by duffell at 1:07 PM on January 16, 2015


Even Hasbro knows The Game of LIFE is terrible:

In a previous life I was involved in making The Game of LIFE, the slot machine. As part of this, we got a whole bunch of versions of TGOL. Now in Monopoly, say, the different versions maintain core mechanics.

The only thing in common to all versions of TGOL is the spinny wheel and a car. Literally every other feature of the game was up for grabs.
posted by PMdixon at 1:11 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Hey, if you want to play a version of Gassy Gus where you're Gus, I think you're on to a brilliant new idea and I would read your blog.
posted by maxsparber at 1:11 PM on January 16, 2015


Mice? What edition are you using?

"Roll the dice and move your mice" is just board gaming slang for games where dice directly determine movement. It's usually considered to be indicative of commonplace, simplistic design.
posted by JHarris at 1:15 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ah, okay. I was thinking it was a Disney edition or something. ;)
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:16 PM on January 16, 2015


When we were packing up the pieces all we could do was to give each other these exhausted, spent looks and murmurs of "Jesus Christ, Twilight Struggle..."

If you learn to play any board game from the rule book alone, you're going to take much longer to play than the box says. It's always best to have someone show you how to play (I consider teaching games to be my sacred duty in the gaming room at DragonCon each year), or alternatively find a teaching video on YouTube.
posted by JHarris at 1:17 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm stopping before this turns into any more of a review, but if people are interested there is an online implementation of TS here: http://chantry-games.com/

Oh, my. I just went there to register and was confronted with perhaps the greatest username I have ever seen: 2 Live Khrushchev.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:23 PM on January 16, 2015 [15 favorites]


It's always best to have someone show you how to play.

One exception: Risk Legacy, where it's best to have everybody open the box in horrified fascination and learn everything at the same time.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


If you learn to play any board game from the rule book alone, you're going to take much longer to play than the box says. It's always best to have someone show you how to play (I consider teaching games to be my sacred duty in the gaming room at DragonCon each year), or alternatively find a teaching video on YouTube.

Yeah, that's definitely true. He and I had reviewed the rules a bit beforehand and took a look at this page so it wasn't as confusing and bad as it could've been. We didn't know anybody who'd played the game, and we didn't check if any staff at the cafe knew how to play. Finding YouTube videos is a good tip, though, and one that slipped our minds.

I think there's some benefit to learning from the rulebook, though. So many times (and not just in this game, but others) in my group we've caught ourselves and others about to do something illegal in the game that I don't think would've been caught otherwise. A large part of it probably comes down to how much you value getting right down to playing and having fun immediately, but for me finding out that I've been playing a game wrong afterwards usually dampens things a bit.
posted by coolname at 1:29 PM on January 16, 2015


if people are interested there is an online implementation of TS here: http://chantry-games.com/

That's great, thank you! It must be pretty recent; I'm pretty sure this didn't exist a few months ago when I went searching for something like it.
posted by Wolfdog at 1:31 PM on January 16, 2015


The best board game ever made is not really even a board game, and that is "Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective."

This is extremely relevant to my interests so I just dropped everything to google it, and sweet jesus that game is expensive! Is there a trick to finding the cheapest version?
posted by dialetheia at 1:33 PM on January 16, 2015


There was the old blue box version of Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective, which is a lot cheaper, and what you remember playing. I'm guessing if you went to BGG, and searched for that game, there would be copies available listed there...

I was wrong. I have tons of these, but am laid up, and can't really deal with selling shipping one right now. Sorry about that or I'd help you out...
posted by Windopaene at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


TS can be such a quick game though, if have two people who have both played with some frequency I've found it can take an hour to two hours max. Particularly online but I imagine in person as well.
posted by Carillon at 1:51 PM on January 16, 2015


Not enough love for Sneaky Snacky Squirrel up in here.
posted by Biblio at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's always best to have someone show you how to play.

Except for Diplomacy. Trust me.
posted by bonehead at 2:06 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


$90 new shrinkwrap for Sherlock seems a lot. Many games are $70-$100 these days, not unusual. They resell well on Ebay. Here is Wargames sorts by price.
posted by stbalbach at 2:11 PM on January 16, 2015


This is extremely relevant to my interests so I just dropped everything to google it, and sweet jesus that game is expensive! Is there a trick to finding the cheapest version?

A very similar and free-to-print game was featured on the blue a week ago. It changes the setting to Lovecraft's Arkham, but looks substantially the same.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:37 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


$90 new shrinkwrap for Sherlock seems a lot.

Hunh. I have several of the expansions still in shrinkwrap. Maybe I should become an eBay magnate.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:49 PM on January 16, 2015


I love Arkham Horror, but I'm the sort of person who loves details and almost enjoys setting up the game and reading the rules as much as I enjoy playing it. I also really enjoy Lovecraft.

posted by HappyEngineer at 3:37 PM on January 16 [1 favorite +] [!]


So after a few rounds of Arkham Horror taking 6 more rounds to close a gate after we knew we had already won, moving out of an apartment full of twenty-somethings with too much time on their hands, and reading a massive takedown of Arkham's deeply broken mechanics by J. Harris here in a different gaming thread that crystalized the drag factor in Arkham in my mind, it sort of became a brick on my shelf. Then we got Eldritch Horror from my brother-in-law for Christmas, which is like Pandemic meets Arkham with a 2 hour time limit and better characterization and narrative storytelling based around the actual old one who is awakening, and now I can play a co-operative eldritch mystery solving board game with my friends again, and listen to them speak 1920s jargon while discussing next moves! This is just to say if you have people who like Arkham you might try Eldritch Horror over the actual expansions. Or if you are person who would like a less draggy Arkham see above.

skidoo comes up a lot like a lot a lot
posted by edbles at 3:00 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've gotten to the point where I politely beg off games like Agricola, Settlers of Cataan, 7 Wonders and the like, because I always come in next to last. It doesn't matter how many players there are- as long as it's more than two, I'm next to last. I just don't have the kind of mind for that sort of long-range strategic thinking, and it's gotten kind of excruciating.

Now cooperate games? In all behind that. Forbidden Island was great, because I'm actually trying to help people escape a sinking island in time! And I'm playing a character! With a special ability! I also enjoyed the first four hours of Arkham Horror, for similar reasons.

My actual facorite of these games though, is Sentinels if the Multiverse, coiperative, which has everything I love: collecting cards for short term strategy, great art, great concept, AND I GET TO PLAY A SUPERHERO! WITH A BACKSTORY AND EVERYTHING!

Sentinels is basically everything I want from a game. I want a Comic book and an animated TV series out of it.

The other game that was popular with teens (and me) was Ninja Burger, which BGG Hayes for some bizarre reason. Unlike BGG, I found it fast moving, amusing, and we'll balanced. But it doesn't reward pondering 20 moves ahead to the mid-game, as o YMMV.
posted by happyroach at 3:05 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


a massive takedown of Arkham's deeply broken mechanics by J. Harris

I would love to read this, if you can find it. I played my first game of Arkham Horror not that long ago and found it interminable.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:54 PM on January 16, 2015


Was it this?

I don't think Arkham Horror is actually deeply broken, but it is long.
posted by JHarris at 4:31 PM on January 16, 2015


This is another comment I made, referring to the same thing.
posted by JHarris at 4:35 PM on January 16, 2015


Hunh. I have several of the expansions still in shrinkwrap. Maybe I should become an eBay magnate.

See baseball cards, comics, etc.. they also had their moment and Renaissance. Sell high.
posted by stbalbach at 8:32 PM on January 16, 2015


And are you sure those aren't 221B Baker Street expansions?
posted by Windopaene at 8:51 PM on January 16, 2015


Forbidden Island isn't permitted in our house, because I, um, play it wrong. (It's not my fault there's almost always an unambiguously best thing to do.)
posted by PMdixon at 9:03 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a parent, I'm always on the lookout for games we can play with both our kids (11 and 6) that aren't god-awful boring.

Take a look at Hanabi and Hey that's my fish! They might be a little advanced for your youngest but maybe in a couple of years.
posted by poxandplague at 12:59 AM on January 17, 2015


I like Forbidden Island in part because I like making sure the squares are just *so* regardless of how much turning of cards over there are
posted by angrycat at 1:49 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


I spent an evening playing Jenga with two three year old kids. Everyone had a great time. It was fun when the tower didn't fall over and it was fun when it did.

It's not hard to understand why. The basic concept of "big fall makes big noise" can keep three-year-old enthralled for a long time. Heck, I'm 43, and it still works occasionally on me, although not with Michael Bay movies.
posted by jonp72 at 10:04 AM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


PMdixon: "Forbidden Island isn't permitted in our house, because I, um, play it wrong. (It's not my fault there's almost always an unambiguously best thing to do.)"

This is pretty common among Matt Leacock's cooperative games, and it has a name: alpha gamer syndrome. Unless the designer takes steps to mitigate this, most any coop game devolves into solitaire mode with less familiar players moving the pieces for you.

There's two common solutions to solve alpha gamer syndrome. The first is a traitor mechanic, where a minority of players are secretly informed if the group loses they win. Which means there's usually two competing guidances on the table at all times. Pandemic's traitor is known, but their location is not. This helps some, by giving your alpha gamer some incentive to silently observe and plot. Most of the other popular traitor games very much revolve that mechanic, and there's very little game other than figuring out who's the traitor.

But that's not a very satisfying answer to the problem. Coop games with traitors are no longer really cooperative. The above mentioned Hanabi, however, solves this in a pretty clever way, Everyone plays with their hand facing backwards, and the game revolves around receiving information about your hand from your fellow players, within the rules for doing so. This means nobody can ever give perfect advice on what they should do on their turn, partially because doing so is cheating, and partially because they're holding some information they're not prviy to.
posted by pwnguin at 10:19 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


Today I took a walk with a friend of mine to a game store near Brookline and bought a copy of Twilight Struggle. Later in the evening, we set it up and gave it a play. We both really liked it even though I, as the USSR, dominated the game throughout and won by points in the fourth turn. I'm not sure that we scored it correctly, since we weren't giving the game our full attention, but either way it's pretty clear that if the USSR gets all the scoring cards early on, it can really lay the hammer into the USA. A one-two punch of the Suez Crisis and the Europe scoring card is devastating.

Still, we're both looking forward to playing a proper, less impromptu game later on, despite the unwieldiness of the rules and the almost total lack of levity in the game's presentation. I've wanted to play this game for a while, so I'm glad this post reminded me to see if any game stores in the area had it in stock. I hope it's as good over ten turns as it was over four!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:45 PM on January 17, 2015


Twilight Struggle, for new players, will probably go to the player who understands the implications of the rules the best. If it's your first game:
- Focus on getting battleground states, in Europe especially, also in Asia and Middle East. To score Domination in a region, which is your primary aim, you need three things: more battleground states in that region, more states altogether, and at least one non-battleground. Domination vs. Presence is usually at least a four point swing: three for the difference between Domination and Presence, and the one extra point for the extra battleground.
- If you're being trounced in a region and can't win out, each of those requirements gives you a way to fight back. You can do it directly by trying to tie on battleground states, or deny your opponent any other states, or of both of those fail you you can try to overcome his total number with non-battlegrounds. Judge whether it's best to devote those resources to denying him points or instead getting Domination somewhere else. Remember: every point you earn is a point he loses.
- Region Control is relatively rare, and the resources necessary to gain it are generally not worth the point swing unless events hand it to you or we're talking about Europe Control.

The USSR has an advantage in the early game, but I've won in the early-to-mid game on points with the US, more than once. And because most events, once they trigger, get taken out of the deck, you may find that the game has a kind of self-balancing aspect, where the side with good early game luck has it worse later on.
posted by JHarris at 1:54 AM on January 18, 2015


Re Monopoly: Dan Hemmens argues fairly convincingly that the big problem with Monopoly isn't the house rules, or a problem with the rules as written, but one of dissonance between the game goal (crush all your opponents into grinding poverty) and the narrative goal (build a sprawling and impressive real-estate empire).

If you learn to play any board game from the rule book alone, you're going to take much longer to play than the box says.

High Frontier has a special place in my heart on this spectrum. Reading the actual rulebook and looking at the board, one might be forgiven for thinking playing the game is as difficult as trajectory mapping for real spacecraft is. Get it explained to you by an initiate, and, while it's still a got some fairly fiddly rule mechanics, it's not, as it were, literal rocket science.
posted by jackbishop at 6:46 AM on January 18, 2015


Ooh, High Frontier. Now there's a game that could use a digital treatment.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:39 AM on January 18, 2015


jackbishop, my own such story is with the wonderful Agricola. One year at DragonCon I went to the awesome board gaming room and asked to check it out, hearing that it was an up-and-comer and wanting to see what it was about. Those rules and cryptic game board completely stymied me. I must have spend an hour trying to figure it out.

A few months later I discovered Board Games With Scott on YouTube, who explained how to play in like 45 minutes.
posted by JHarris at 10:16 AM on January 18, 2015


High Frontier.... there's a game I tried to play twice and just couldn't imagine where in world the conception of "fun" would fall. Sold it off for a neat profit when it went out of print. Pretty map though.

My favorite game of this type (non-Euro) is Napoleon's Triumph. Beautiful game full of the greatest tension I've ever felt in a game... but one with a horrible rulebook that prevents it form reaching a mass audience. Also a tad long as every game has been 4 hours. After 3 hours, and you know a simple lapse in judgement could spell doom, it's nerve-wracking. Here's a report I wrote up a few years ago.

I've tried the designers follow-up to NT, called The Guns of Gettysburg, but that rulebook makes NT look like Yahtzee.
posted by yeti at 8:11 AM on January 19, 2015


a massive takedown of Arkham's deeply broken mechanics by J. Harris

I would love to read this, if you can find it. I played my first game of Arkham Horror not that long ago and found it interminable.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:54 PM on January 16 [+] [!]


My memory is faulty. I think it's actually from this Gamasutra article, someone must've done a mefi's own link to the article or something, and I mis-remembered it as a comment.

This line in particular stuck in my mind:
One of the great flaws of Arkham Horror, in my opinion, is the variety of special cases the designers had to account for in the rules. In the most recent edition of the game there are a number of things that, if they happen, immediately result in the Ancient One awakening.

If a gate opens but there are no more gate tokens to place because they're being horded as trophies, the Ancient One wakes up. If a monster needs to be drawn but there are none in supply, the Ancient One wakes up. If too many gates open at once, the Ancient One wakes up. If too many monsters are on the board at once, the Ancient One wakes up.

Alternatively, if six locations are sealed at the same time, the players immediately win. It seems that some of these may have been added in recent editions of the game to plug holes players found in the design. It is a fun and rewarding game, but the variety of rules* coupled with all the special cases makes it all very hard to grasp for new players, not to mention lending the game a sense of arbitrariness.

posted by edbles at 11:15 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have only played Arkham Horror once, but I am in no hurry to play it again. It took forever, and at the end (we awoke Shub-Niggurath) it played itself. No, thanks.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:38 PM on January 19, 2015


I just played Arkham Horror again (with Dunwich expansion) this Saturday with a friend (we each played 2 investigators). We're still new players, so it took us about 7 hours to complete, but it was a lot of fun!

We're probably going to have to use some of the new additions which add difficulty though. We were able to seal 6 gates while keeping the doom track to just 2. We played 10 or 12 turns total I think. The Dunwich Horror did awaken (we forgot to stay on top of the monsters spawning in Dunwich), but it was only awoke 1 turn before we sealed the last gate, so it didn't matter.

One way we're going to make it harder is to limit the pool of investigators to only the ones we haven't used yet. Given that I used 4 high Will characters in this game, odds are that we'll be failing some Will checks in the next game.
posted by HappyEngineer at 1:36 PM on January 19, 2015


edbles: AH! I forgot I wrote that! Well, yes, those problems are all still present and significant. I was writing those articles with an audience of game designers in mind. Arkham Horror's systems, truthfully, could stand to be bit more elegant, to make it accessible to players.

If the theme behind a game is powerful enough though, players will jump through flaming hoops to play it, and Arkham Horror does its theme right.
posted by JHarris at 1:49 PM on January 19, 2015


I picked up Elder Sign a couple months ago, and pretty much everybody I've played it with loves it. Cthulu yatzee ftw.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:37 PM on January 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


High Frontier does now have a vassal module, though I can't vouch for it's ease of play or fidelity.
posted by Carillon at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2015


I played my first game of Twilight Struggle today. I'd been meaning to buy it for a few months, pretty much since I moved to Finland, and then jumped on a copy that I came across in Tampere earlier in the month. I asked a friend who'd never played and we set aside a few hours to play. Since it was both our first time we didn't really know what to expect, though I think we both had high hopes.

I had familiarized myself with the rules beforehand and it took a surprisingly short amount of time to explain to the other player (though it helps that he's a board game designer) and get started. I think it took only about half an hour from the moment I had opened the box until we started the first turn. It helped that I had broken out all the chits before hand and sorted them and the cards into separate bags.

It was slow going at first, not only because we had to think long and hard about every action we took but also because we looked lots of stuff up to make sure we were doing it right (we still made a couple of errors) so we only finished five turns before we had to quit. But after a couple of turns we were starting to get the hang of it and we even managed to execute little tactical maneuvers. For instance, I managed with just a fortuitous headline card and first action to set me up to score a domination in South America, and he managed to flip Pakistan and India from my control to his control in just two action rounds. We had a blast the whole time. We'll definitely play again and I want to introduce others to this game.
posted by Kattullus at 1:14 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


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