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November 25, 2012

The Forgotten Fun of Board Games

I used to be a huge fan of wargames, simulations of (mostly what I played) World War II battles, either strategic or tactical. I played Third Reich, a huge strategy game that goes from the beginning of World War II to the end, with my brother for a long time. Also played a few classics like PanzerBlitz with a good friend. In college, I had a friend, Jerry Miller (Jer, you out there buddy?) who I played Squad Leader with all of the time. He beat my ass almost every game, but it was still a lot of fun.

These are serious games, but there are a lot of casual games out there that don't have a lot of complicated rules. They can be done in an hour or two, while a lot of these wargames need to be left set-up and played over a number of sessions.

Games like Trivial Pursuit (something that I'm sad to say nobody plays with me anymore *sniff*). These family games are always fun, and they can be played by pretty much anyone.

But there's a genre of games that fall between these two extremes, and it's an area that I'm happy to say I'm starting to get into more and more. These are games that are still short, and the rules are definitely fairly easy to learn (though playing *well* can sometimes take a bit of dedication). Some of these games take a couple of hours, but others can be done in just an hour, or even less.

Last year, when I went to V-Con, I discovered the Gaming room and spent a bit of time there playing with a couple of great guys, Richard and Tony. I played Merchants of Venus (and won, though I was sitting in for somebody who had to leave, so it wasn't all my doing) and a couple of other games that I don't really remember.

I intended it to become a habit, but something happened and I pulled away for some reason.

This year's V-Con (I didn't do a wrap-up this year, and I should have but I wasn't blogging at the time), I spent even more time in the Gaming room, including almost all day Saturday. Tony and Richard were there and seemed pleased to see me again, despite my withdrawal. I met a few other people too, and even played my first game of Magic: the Gathering that wasn't on the Xbox in probably 15 years.

We played games like Seven Wonders (a wonderful game of building civilizations that only takes an hour), Epic Spell Wars (I love that game, a card game where everybody is a wizard and you're trying to kill the other players with your spells that are formed by different cards in your hand), and Alhambra (where you're trying to build the best Alhambra out of the cards and pieces that are available).

It was a lot of fun.

Last week, Tony invited me over to his house for a gaming night with Richard and a few of their friends. I was honoured to be asked and it was tremendously enjoyable. We played Seven Wonders again, but we also played Ticket to Ride (a game where you're trying to build railroads from one destination to another, and which I have now bought on iOS) and a really fun game called The Resistance.

This game was fun because it involves a lot of bluffing and conversation. Basically, you're all members of the Resistance, except that at least two players are spies (there could be more if there are more players). Spies want the Resistance to fail, of course. There are five missions, and the role of "team leader" goes around the table each round. The leader chooses who will be on the mission teams, and then those chosen vote for whether the mission succeeds or fails. Three successful missions wins the game, while three failed missions wins the game for the spies. The spies know who each other are, but nobody else knows.

There was a lot of lively conversation around the table about who may be spies. It's a game of bluffing and trying to figure out human behaviour, and it's a hell of a lot of fun.

V-Con had cemented my new love for games, but that night really reinforced it. The camaraderie was wonderful to see and be a part of. The banter was infectious ("I think you're the spy because you have shifty eyes.") and it was great just learning new games and meeting new people.

If you like casual games, giving some of these games a try may be a good idea. They are a bit deeper than your Monopoly or Life games, but they're not much harder to learn and they are a lot of fun. Ticket to Ride is a great example of that.

Below, you can find a great video done by Wil Wheaton and the "Geek & Sundry" folks, showing them playing the game. Wil does an awesome job explaining how the game works, much better than I could. And you can see the game in action. The explanation's at the beginning of the video, so just watch that if you want. But for you Eureka fans, it has Colin Ferguson playing...just saying.

I plan to keep playing games now that I have been bitten by the bug. You can even play some of them online, either solo or with people across the world. Ticket to Ride is on the iOS, as is Small World (Haven't played that game yet). Settlers of Cataan is on Xbox Live (and I assume Playstation as well) and is another great game.

Do you enjoy games? What sorts of games do you like?


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