When you weren't looking, board games changed.
November 15, 2005 7:46 AM   Subscribe

Games games games! Board games have under gone a renaissance, spurred by games like Settlers of Catan. Because users are rewarded for contributing content, the site has some real depth. In addition to exhaustive lists of games, sorted by rank (with Bayesian averages and standard deviation), there are a gajillion reviews and player aids. You can even search for games based on criteria such as weight, game mechanism, ranking, or even game mechanics. The site is a great example of organically-generated user data.
posted by craniac (36 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
disclaimer: I realize that BGG was linked to earlier, but the link was to a specific part of the site, and it's so awesome I thought it deserved a general introduction.
posted by craniac at 7:47 AM on November 15, 2005

I've been surprised by how many board games sell at my local comic/rpg shop. I used to think they were decoration on the wall, but recently I've actually seen 5 or 6 sell when I was in, so people must be playing them.
posted by illovich at 7:52 AM on November 15, 2005

You can play many of the best modern Euro games at BrettSpielWelt, either through your browser or with a standalone client. It's best of the web squared, at least.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2005

If you enjoy gaming at all, you owe it to yourself to play at least one game of Settlers of Catan. What I have found is that it is the universal board game. Absolutely everyone, from novice to advanced gamers, are addicted after a single game. The expansions are great, but the basic mechanics of the game are fantastic. Everyone plays to the end. There's very little antagonism, but there's still competition.

A new one that I've recently been turned onto is Puerto Rico. This is almost as popular as Settlers in my small social circle, but I think it has a bit more complexity to it, so that might turn off some people.
posted by JeremyT at 7:57 AM on November 15, 2005

The thing is, most of the top-ranked games look incredibly boring, based on the box graphics and titles. "Ticket to Ride" ? "Puerto Rico" ? Yet after reading reviews and the degree of involvement of these players, I broke down and ordered "Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers" to see what all the fuss was about. I played D&D back in the days of the $10 basic set, but I've been in "adult mode" for 20 years.

Some of the members spend $500 a pop on games, don't get to many of them, then sell the rare ones in a few years on ebay. It's an interesting group and an interesting economy. Users get "geek gold" for making contributions to the site, which has resulted in thousands of uploaded images, reviews, player aids, etc.

There are also a number of discontinued games that have been scanned and uploaded in their entirety. Oh, and it's definitely an international community.
posted by craniac at 7:58 AM on November 15, 2005

english link to Brettspieltwelt which looks amazing!
posted by craniac at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2005

You know, I've been thinking about building a FPP like this one for AGES, but I never thought I had quite enough material. Thanks for going ahead and jumping into the pool.
posted by Malor at 8:04 AM on November 15, 2005

I was pretty surprised that there wasn't a link just to the main site. I stumbled across it while googling a game review, when visiting a game shop while on vacation.
posted by craniac at 8:05 AM on November 15, 2005

Heh. I didn't know the worst board game of all time had a New Zealand version, complete with Kiwi game pieces. The Canadian version has beavers, but I'm sure it's all the same nightmare of tax laws, parliamentary procedure and boredom.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:10 AM on November 15, 2005

I'm still scarred by the time I sneezed during a game of Advanced Squad Leader.

This is cool though. Now that I can actually afford to buy this stuff, I should try and get back into it--hard to find people to play with though due to my growing poker habit.
posted by bardic at 8:21 AM on November 15, 2005

BGG is truly a wondrous resource, one that makes you feel all warm about the internet. I got into Catan as a result of it, and by my estimation saved a rather large amount of money due to it after my group of friends spent dozens of hours playing it (instead of more expensive entertainments!). The reviews and game reports are especially fun, as are the suggested rule changes.
posted by adrianhon at 8:47 AM on November 15, 2005

I am all about the german/euro boardgames!

I'm always amazed how easy most of them are to explain to people, compared to Monopoly etc, and the ammount of strategy it can pick up so quickly
posted by shanevsevil at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2005

Puerto Rico is a blast, and even non-hardcore gamers pick it up and get involved fast. Everyone becomes a barrel-hoarding, shipment-blocking, market-filling wizard in short order. Margins of victory are usually small so it almost always feels competitive, but if you doubt that it's a skill game, go on BSW and get thrashed a few times. Much like Settlers, it incorporates random variation without making luck the predominant factor - you have to have the skill to know how to respond to any situation that might crop up, but the game is so well-balanced you can almost always do so.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:03 AM on November 15, 2005

I've been obsessing on carcassonne recently, playing here:


You can also play settlers of Catan there.
posted by empath at 9:10 AM on November 15, 2005

as penance for the many unlinked links I have left here:

posted by craniac at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2005

Is anything lost in the experience of playing online?
posted by craniac at 9:17 AM on November 15, 2005

Best cheap (free) game for large groups: Werewolf?

The canonical Settlers serve for a long time has been this one, which is quite good, with both 'bots and other players.

Quite a bit is lost playing these things online, but quite a bit is gained, too (no manual scoring, no setup and teardown, etc) - it's about an even tradeoff.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2005

Of course, you also knew about this and this.
posted by jaronson at 9:20 AM on November 15, 2005

I can't seem to find a link to it anywhere, but KMart produced its own board game called Blue Light Special. I only know this because a friend of mine's family bought it ages ago. It is beyond terrible. You play a shopper at KMart, and you...shop for items that are on cards you get. Also, for some reason, there is money lying around on the floor of the KMart that you can pick up. The game also does not end until someone gets all of his items and checks out, but there is no incentive to do so, as your final score is based on how much money you have at the end. So you basically end up continually rolling to land on the money squares until the bank literally runs out of money, and then you end it. Needless to say, we have never played that game again after the first test try...
posted by Sangermaine at 9:44 AM on November 15, 2005



posted by craniac at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2005

I've found that whenever I play Carcassonne with anyone I associate with, they like it and will play more.
posted by Phantomx at 10:08 AM on November 15, 2005

Yay carcassone! (online version and desciption here)
Hey, when you look at the pictures on BGG, whoever that was complaining about the top game slooking boring, look at all the pictures - most of these games are *gorgeous* when they're laid out.

Having said that - looking sexy isn't the best measure of a great game. I believe Go is on their top list, and it probably doesn't look sexy to most. Nonetheless, it is among the best games humans have ever produced. That's not enough - it is among the best "symbolic systems" and "cognitive frameworks" humans have ever produced.
posted by freebird at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

The thing is, most of the top-ranked games look incredibly boring, based on the box graphics and titles. "Ticket to Ride" ? "Puerto Rico" ?

You just named two of my favorite games....

I think these games are *required* to have bad box graphics, though. The first time my older brother saw the cover of Settlers of Catan/, I believe his comments were, "What the hell is this shit? Some educational game?"

Honestly, though, I have yet to be steered wrong by BGG.
posted by emptybowl at 10:19 AM on November 15, 2005

Well this is fun. Thanks for posting it craniac. I need more games to distract me throughout the day. While were on the subjet of games, anyone up for a game of Go?
posted by panoptican at 10:22 AM on November 15, 2005

I really liked carcasonne until I played settlers of catan, and now I like SoC better.
posted by nile_red at 11:10 AM on November 15, 2005

Crossing referencing with past winners of Mensa Mind Games can be a good idea too. There are a few duds, but some of my favorites (eg. Set and Smart Mouth) have emerged victorious.
posted by O Blitiri at 11:26 AM on November 15, 2005

Settlers is great. I remember playing it years ago when it wasn't even being distributed in the US, so we had a German version that nobody could completely decipher (I know, I'm so cool). One of our favorite things to do is to give people what they are trying to get rid of, under the guise of giving them something useful, at crucial times in the game. This works best with sheep, because then you can make a little 'baah' sheep noise as they look at it.
And it's true, just about everyone gets into it once they've played it once. It's like the perfect balance of strategy and easy.
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:38 PM on November 15, 2005

The best part of Settlers, of course, is when you can say "Anybody got wood for my sheep?"
posted by Wolfdog at 12:45 PM on November 15, 2005

*snicker* wood *snicker*

Settlers is awesome. I'm fairly certain I've put more hours into that game than any other pastime ever. And I haven't played in years (overdosed).
posted by graventy at 1:30 PM on November 15, 2005

So, anyone wanna play email World in Flames with me?
posted by wilful at 1:51 PM on November 15, 2005

There's a very good version of SoC that has been built with the scripting language of Second Life. It's a truly virtuoso bit of programming. Before seeing it, I would have called it absolutely impossible to implement in the (fairly limited) LSL. I remain in utter awe of the programmer's sheer prowess.

Things are renamed, to avoid copyright infringement; instead of "sheep" and "brick", you're trying for "prims" and "scripts". The names and graphics are a little different, but the game itself is identical, and extremely well done.

The creator's in-game name is Lex Neva. It's quite expensive to buy your own copy, especially for a first-time player with no in-game currency yet, but there are a number of boards scattered about for free use. It's just a matter of finding people to play with.

Secondlife is free now, btw. You don't ever have to give them a dime for playing if you don't want to... they're hoping, I think, to sell you some land, which carries a monthly fee. If you can resist that temptation, you can play entirely for free. The recent 1.7 update has had some serious teething problems, but they seem to finally be stabilizing now.

I'm not associated with SL, beyond being a player.
posted by Malor at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2005

my favorite non-strategy party game - apples to apples! (also a mensa award winner). one of the few games that works with nearly any audience.
posted by roaring beast at 2:18 PM on November 15, 2005

Anyone else play Age of Steam? That's my current favourite, although Princes of the Renaissance, Tigris & Euphrates, El Grande and Puerto Rico run it close.
posted by salmacis at 3:30 PM on November 15, 2005

This might make me a bit unpopular, but after the first dozen games or so, I found Settlers of Catan, well... boring. If you're playing with competent players, the paths to victory is pretty obvious from the beginning of the board layout, and from there, it's a matter of who gets the best die rolls and whether they get can overcome getting crab bucketed by everyone else.

For my money, Power Grid is the Euro game that has the best finish.
posted by parliboy at 8:22 PM on November 15, 2005

getting crab bucketed

[jots term down in moleskin]
posted by craniac at 9:40 PM on November 15, 2005

These are "infinite mirror" games, great for stimulating group interactions but shallow of substance (even with solid 3D pieces). Clever, easy to learn, seemingly new each time, friendly to beginners. They give the illusion of infinite game play variability, but the margin between an expert player and a beginner is usually thin, revealing the game is driven as much by the rules algorithms and luck as strategy or skill. Thus I dont understand why anyone would play these games outside a social group setting, such as online. The game play just isnt that interesting.
posted by stbalbach at 10:18 PM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

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