There are many people that, when facing the prospect of playing boardgames, recoil in horror. It is certainly true that they have a bad rap, playing Monopoly at Christmas seldom ends well. But the world of tabletop gaming is much more vibrant than you would perhaps first imagine, particularly in 21st century in which Video Games dominant to such an extend that the first word is now seen as an adjunctive. The boardgame industry has been having somewhat a hushed renaissance over the past couple of years, with the hobby, while still fringe, seeing a sizeable increase of people taking part with designers creating ever more creative and engaging games which really do make mainstream favourites like Monopoly and Cluedo seem outdated and clunky.
I first got into the hobby a few years ago by accidentally coming across an iPhone version of a modern board-game which I subsequently researched online to find a whole thriving tabletop gaming industry. I first purchased a physical copy of the iPhone game I’d downloaded and started watching and listening to various fancasts on the hobby. Having a group of friends that were willing to have the games I’d discovered imposed on them I then got a into a costly habit of buying an array of the most popular games on offer in the “new board-game” industry and started playing them on a regular basis having “game nights” around a friend’s house which were a real laugh.
And this I guess is where the main attraction in such games lies. They are social, actually social, not virtually social such as playing online multiplayer games. Sitting around a table with a few beers and snacks while playing a few boardgames which are genuinely engaging and challenging really is to me a great experience and a nice counter balance to the digital world in which more and more of our time, both work and leisure, is spent. Below I give you my Top 3 Tabletop games, out of my current collection, all of which I highly reccomend.
Dominion is a Deck Building Game created by Donald X. Vaccarino and was released in 2008 by Rio Grande Games. It has subsequently had a number of expansions realised. It is a 2-4 player game in which players compete to gather the most valuable deck of cards which represent a kingdom. The base game comes with 500 cards and can be setup in multiple ways to make the game playing experience different each time.
“From the back of the box: “You are a monarch, like your parents before you, a ruler of a small pleasant kingdom of rivers and evergreens. Unlike your parents, however, you have hopes and dreams! You want a bigger and more pleasant kingdom, with more rivers and a wider variety of trees. You want a Dominion! In all directions lie fiefs, freeholds, and feodums. All are small bits of land, controlled by petty lords and verging on anarchy. You will bring civilization to these people, uniting them under your banner.
“But wait! It must be something in the air; several other monarchs have had the exact same idea. You must race to get as much of the unclaimed land as possible, fending them off along the way. To do this you will hire minions, construct buildings, spruce up your castle, and fill the coffers of your treasury. Your parents wouldn’t be proud, but your grandparents, on your mother’s side, would be delighted.”
Board-Game Geek Rating: 7.95/10
2) Power Grid.
Power Grid is the English-language edition of the German Game Funkenschlag (in its second incarnation) designed by Friedemann Friese in 2004. Power Grid is also published by Rio Grande Games. The board is double sided and includes the USA on one side and Germany on the other, many other boards can be purchased featuring different countries. In the game each player is a power company, the objective of the game is to supply power to a certain number of cities across the map before your opponents can. This is done by purchasing power stations and building out your power grid, however, the resources needed to power your stations (Oil, Coal, Nuclear and Recyclables) all cost varying amounts of money which will vary in the game as the demand for resources changes. In many ways the game is similar to Monopoly, however there is zero luck involved, the game is entirely strategic.
“From the back of the box: Earning money with electric power? Earning lots of money with electric power? A very good idea!!! Should I use coal or oil to generate power in the old-fashioned or will there be a shortage of those resources in the future? Will there be a future in burning garbage? Certainly nuclear power is very exciting and as long as the government will manage the nuclear waste there will be a lot of profit. Of course, you can use more ecological friendly power and be independent of resources. But will such power plants be powerful enough for the customers in the future? Naturally, you must watch your competitors to see what plants they build, which cities they have in their net, what resources they depend on, and what new power plants they find interesting.”
Board-Game Geek Rating: 8.09/10
1) Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan (often referred to as a “gateway game”) was designed by Klaus Teuber and first published in 1995 in Germany under the name Die Siedler von Catan. It has never been out of print since its inception, it has been translated into a several languages, and sold over 15 million copies. This is the second game I bought and it really is addictive, it possess and equal level of strategy and randomness keeping it fresh and the board, made up of tiles, can be laid out differently each time. The Washington Post called it “The Board Game of Our Time” and is often seen as the catalyst to the rebirth of boardgames. “In Settlers of Catan, players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players collect these resources to build up their civilizations to get to 10 victory points and win the game.”
“From the back of the box: In The Settlers of Catan you control a group of settlers trying to tame the wilds on the remote but rich isle of Catan. Start by revealing Catan’s many harbors and regions: plains, meadows, mountains, hills, forests and desert. The random mix creates a different board virtually every game. Embark on a quest to settle the isle of Catan! Guide your settlers to victory by clever trading and cunning development. Use resources combinations- grain, wool, ore, brick and lumber to buy development cards, and build roads, settlements and cities. Acquire your resources through trades or lucky dice. But beware! Someone might cut off your road or buy a monopoly! And you never know when the wily robber might steal away with your precious gains!”
Board-Game Geek Rating: 7.51/10