Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Don't you hate it when something funny happens, and you've got a blog post half written in your head with both punchlines and parenthetical asides, and then you see something shiny and put it in your mouth, and it turns out there wasn't room for both the blog post and the shiny thing in your head? Me too.

So, instead I'm going to tell you about a few games I've been playing a lot of recently. About a year ago an excellent board game store opened up not too far from my house. What the owners do super well is make sure to have an open copy of every one of their games so you can sit down and play it before you buy it. Often the store owners will explain the game and sit down and play with you. We've probably bought about 8 board games from them in the last year.

First, there's Pandemic. Pandemic is excellent because it's a cooperative game, which means that all the players either win together or lose together. This made for a great family game for us because my daughter was tired of getting beaten in all our other games by her super competitive and always-calculating parents. This was the first board game I had ever seen where everyone worked as a team instead of against each other.

The subject matter of the game wasn't particularly engaging for us though. The goal of it is to beat a global disease before it takes over the world. And the rules are somewhat complicated, so it'll take you a while to grasp it all before you play it the first time. So, those are minuses, but if you like board games but you're surrounded by people who don't like the usual competition found in most games, then a cooperative game might be the answer, and this the best one I've heard of.

Next up is Dixit. Dixit is the game we now pull out when we have guests and we want to show them a good time that doesn't involve cocktails (although you could probably play the game reasonably well while quite drunk).

Dixit is a lot like Apples to Apples. Everybody gets 6 cards from a deck of really interesting art cards. The cards are surreal, kind of what it would look like if Dali were drawing for a children's book. The main idea is that people take turns describing one of the cards in their hand very vaguely. Then, all the other players have to pick that card out of a line-up. The trick is that if EVERYONE guesses right, then the person who described the card gets no points. If NO ONE gets it right, they also get no points. That person only gets points if SOME people get it right.

So, in a nutshell, you have to describe your card well enough for somebody to get it, but not so well that everyone does. It's an odd skill, but an 8 year-old will probably do it as well as an 80 year-old, and the cards in the game are beautiful and interesting. We've had a few people play this game and immediately pronounce it amazing.

Finally, there's Dominion. I can't possibly describe this game well in a paragraph or two, because it's pretty complicated, but let me say that Hank and I played this game about 10 times this weekend and I'd still happily play it again right now. The game is both complicated and satisfying. It's not really that hard to understand, but the rule pamphlet was written by a sadist. Either hunker down with the rules for an hour, or have someone gentle explain it to you.

Hell, I'll explain it to you if you buy the game. Email me if you do, and we'll chat on the goddamn phone.

None of these games are cheap, but if you end up playing them as much as I have, it's a pretty economical form of entertainment.


lostworld said...

Ooh I love board games. Have never played these!

I remember a funny incident though. I won 'Game of Life' once solely b'cos I kept having kids. 8 or 9 (twins/triplets & all). On Judgement day, I accumulated so much money thanks to the kids I had.

I shall try to get my hands on these .. and of course e-mail you ;-)

Mike said...

Board games have come a long way since 'Life'. Having babies is no longer the key to victory. :)