Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Board Report

In addition to the bevy of new videogames I've been playing, here are some of the boardgames I've been playing over the past month:

1. Funemployed. I just got my kickstarter copy of this, and it is AWESOME! It works like this: on your turn, you play a Job Opening card. Every other player has a hand of four cards, and must work the words on all four cards into a job interview with you. The twist is that the cards are ridiculous! For example, I applied for the job "gynecologist." My cards were "massage oil," "cavernous," "candy," and "smooth." Needless to say, I got the job. The game is the same raucous fun that Cards Against Humanity is, but it combines it with the creativity of Dixit. Much like those two games, the exact level of fun depends on how creative and silly and cool your group is. I had a great time with it, however, and my earlier claims that it will be the biggest party game of 2015 are claims that I still standby.

2. Fortune and Glory. Made by the same people who made Last Night on Earth (as evidenced by the cheesy photo stills used as art for the characters), Fortune and Glory is basically Eldritch Horror with Nazis and pulp adventure instead of elder gods and Lovecraftian horror. I've played it twice, once in its cooperative and competitive modes. I was not impressed either time. I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with it; it's just a pretty standard adventure game, and I'm not big on adventure games, in general. While Eldritch Horror has some real cooperative/teamplay to it in trying to stop your chosen elder god, Fortune and Glory is more about globe-trotting, reading scenarios on cards, and then rolling dice for your abilities. In that respect, it's more like Arkham Horror, really, but the globe-trotting element to the game brings up Eldritch more readily.

3. Battlestar Galactica. This game, I'm ready to say, officially belongs in the top tier of "designer" boardgames, right up there with Settlers of Catan, Carcassone, or Pandemic. Everyone should play this game at least once. You may not necessarily like it, but you owe it to yourself to at least try it. I've suspected this for some time, but it was made clear to me this past weekend. We had seven players and the core game; I sat out to referee. And as a referee/observer, I was having as much fun watching as the others were playing. Possibly morseo, as the pressure of winning (as human or Cylon) was off of me and I could just enjoy the rampant paranoia running across the table. My only complaint with the game is that the human side has a brutal learning curve. That's not to say it's a difficult game; it's just that, from my observation, it takes several games to learn how to prioritize and work with the group properly to win. Since the board is naturally stacked against the players, all the Cylons have to do is wait for the right moment and push. I've played games of BSG where the Cylon(s) actively ignored being a Cylon and worked with the players until the last minute, and we still lost.

4. Arctic Scavengers. Hands-down my favorite deck builder, though it's such a unique and interesting game that calling it a "deck builder" is almost not fair. Scavengers is as much about reading the players as reading the cards. You can play games of Dominion or Ascension, never give a damn about what your opponents are doing, and still win. You can't do that in Arctic Scavengers. If you ignore the guy buying up all the medics, then you'll have no medicine to purchase other survivors. If you ignore the guy building schematics with his engineers, you're going to be stunned when he brings overwhelming amounts of firepower to a skirmish. If you focus exclusively on fighting power, you're going to end up with hand after hand of uselessness when you can't compete in the skirmish. It's the very epitome of "easy to learn, hard to master."

5. Shadowrun: Crossfire. I really, really like this game. Moreso than the Pathfinder game, which has a similar concept, or the Legendary games, which feel a little too loose for me. Crossfire is one of the few cooperative games I've played that's highly resistant to "alpha gamer syndrome;" the phenomenon in co-op games where the guy who knows the game best just tells everyone what to do. That can still happen in Crossfire, but typically there's just too much going on for that to be effective. Teamwork is important, and mastering the mechanics are important, too. Like BSG, the learning curve seems a little too steep at times, but still, this is a great co-op deckbuilder, perhaps one of the best.

In the coming weeks, I want boardgames with depth. I've always been into deeper games, but I'm feeling especially hungry for a challenge. At the same time, though, I want the game to be accessible; no abstract war games or superdense euros, please. Got a suggestion? Let me know!  

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