Monday, July 27, 2015

Fun and Game Geeks

I married a game geek. In fact, I married into a family of them. That’s not why I go to GenCon (the biggest tabletop gaming convention in North America) every other year—to be honest, I go for the stuff… chain mail, daggers, leather bound journals… to satisfy my role-playing soul—but I do play tabletop games and love to meet the people who create them.

Being married to a game geek means I get to play a lot of games. Games have taken over one room of the house. It’s impossible for my intrepid spouse to see a tabletop game he doesn’t want to play. He funds dozens of games at a time on Kickstarter and it seems that every week some new game or other appears on our doorstep. It didn’t surprise me in the least to learn that we are living in a Golden Age of Tabletop Gaming. Hundreds of great games are available and many of them are simply outstanding.

My favorites are the cooperative games. Competitive games bring out the worst in me. I HATE losing and being targeted by my fellow players can feel personal, which I hate even more. Everyone playing together to defeat a game suits me better and I love helping a team work toward a common goal.

I thought it would be fun to share a few favorite games. Maybe someone is looking for new recommendations or might consider giving a game as a gift. Here are a few the big Italian family and I love to play when sitting around the table on Family Sunday.

Pandemic. (also at top) Possibly the best cooperative game ever created. Fun to play but tough to beat. A lot of teamwork and strategy is needed to play this one! Even when we win, humanity is generally teetering on the brink of extinction. The board game comes with cubes for four virulent diseases and cards for cities around the globe. We like to give the diseases colorful names and have become really well-versed in geography. My husband and I play the app version on the iPad at least a few times a week. Highly recommend you also buy the On the Brink expansion pack for even more characters and new cards to add to the fun.

Tiny Epic Defenders. My husband funded this on Kickstarter and it’s become a great favorite with the family. The game is compact, challenging, and has a different dynamic. Instead of just going around the table one by one, you wait for your card to come out and only then can you leap into action. Lots of characters to choose from. Simple and sweet, can be played in twenty minutes. We prefer it to its sister game, Tiny Epic Kingdoms, and look forward to trying Tiny Epic Galaxy at GenCon.

Batman Love Letter.  A card game for 2-4 people. There are many variations on Love Letter, but we like this Batman one the best. If you don’t have a lot of time, you can easily make this game as long or short as you like. Easy to play and loads of fun. The cute velvet pouch with a Bat-symbol makes it easy to transport. Playable in tight spaces, too, such as on an airplane. Yes, we’ve done that.

Camp Grizzly. Here’s a game you won’t find on Amazon, so I linked to its Facebook page where you can learn more and click to a buy site if you’re interested. We funded this as a Kickstarter game and snagged a first edition. Next thing you know, it has leapfrogged to the top of the Love-to-Play list. The game board is a summer camp with cabins and trails, the players assume the identities of camp counselors in several horror staple roles—including the Scream Queen—and there’s a killer named Otis in the woods. I don’t even like horror movies and I find this game fun. The artwork on the cards is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

Forbidden Desert. You’ve crashed your airship in the desert and must defeat the elements, find water, uncover the missing parts of your crashed ship, and shovel a lot of sand to survive. Made by the same people who created Pandemic, so you know it’ll be diabolical. Both box and game are simply beautiful and the gameplay is challenging. Played using shuffled tiles, so you never see the same board twice. I like being the Water Carrier, because I can’t think of anything more helpful than giving dying people water so they can live—though they might prefer an airship mechanic.

Hanabi. Another portable card game. What’s fun about this one is you can see every other player’s hand of cards—but not your own. Players must give each other simple clues about what cards they have so these can be played to the table in such a way as to create a fireworks display and gain points. The mental gymnastics involved in the giving of clues makes for great fun. A wonderful game for 2-4 people.

Oh, and here’s a great resource for anyone who plays board games: Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop. It’s a web series and loads of fun. I linked to the Wikipedia article because it lists all the board games the show has featured. All episodes can be found on You Tube. The shows are a good way to check out other people playing a game to help decide whether you might like it or not.

And yes, for the record, I think some of my characters would be great in a game!

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