For those who don’t know, I am a gamer. From an early age, I loved strategy games like Checkers, Chess, and Backgammon. I enjoyed Pente and Mastermind as a teen. Now as an adult there are quite a few games that I like such as Mancala, Rummikub, Risk, along with all those other games I enjoyed growing up as well. The problem is, my wife doesn’t like any of these games, except Rummikub. So we have had to discover games that both she and I enjoy. This post is about my recent gaming.
The first game that really hit home with both of us is Settlers of Catan. Because of the trading that the players do with each other, it makes for a good social event. If you have an expansion pack, you can play with up to six players, all trading the resources of brick, wood, ore, wheat, and sheep in order to build civilization on the island of Catan. One player may have a lot of brick and another have a lot of wood, but both wood and brick are needed to build roads. That’s where the trading comes in. It’s not an attack game, but a building game. Of course as you out-build other players, you may crowd them out of certain areas, so there is a negative aspect since only one player can win the game. Overall, this is a very fun game to play. Even if it is not your turn, someone may want to trade with you so there is not too much down time. The order of the tiles changes every game, as well as the numbers on the tiles, so no two games will be the same. A game will take about an hour, with the winner ready to play again, and the losers wanting a rematch claiming the board was unfair or that they should have won if they had only done something slightly different. As far as expansions, having the regular expansion which allows you to play with 5-6 instead of the normal 3-4 is a great one to have. Also the Seafarers of Catan is another great version, which allows you to build ships to cross bodies of water to travel to other islands or discover land as you go. I don’t particularly care for Cities and Knights but it’s alright for a change. I have yet to play Traders and Barbarians.
Another game that works well for both my wife and I is Ticket To Ride. This is a fast-paced fun game for 2-5 players. It’s also educational since there is a map of the United States with major cities. You must hook up the major cities to form train routes to fulfill destination tickets. Even those who are not inclined to play strategy games will find that this game is easy to learn and fun to play. There are only three different actions that you could perform on your turn, and may only choose from one of them on any one given turn. So the play goes quite quickly. You will find yourself done with a game in 45 minutes and ready to play another. Our friends have another version called Ticket To Ride – Europe, but it is not an expansion. It works completely on its own. The Europe version has a couple of added rules, but the overall simplicity of the game remains the same. I would recommend this game to folks who like to keep it simple, but have a good time. And besides, everybody loves trains!
On a recent vacation, we visited some friends who taught us some new games. We learned how to play Dominion, Carcassonne, and Pack N Stack. Dominion is now a game that both my wife and I like to play. I think she’s addicted, but we’ll see if that excitement wears off. Thanks to Tim for showing us the ins and outs of these games.
Dominion is a card game for 2-4 players, although it could be considered a board game without the board. There is some intricacy to the rules, but if you play it once, you catch on quickly and it becomes quite clear. You are able to perform one action and purchase one card on each turn. But there are certain cards that will grant you additional actions and additional purchases (or “buys”). Some cards that you buy will increase your buying power allowing you to purchase more expensive and powerful cards to add to your deck. Pretty soon, you have a more powerful deck of cards rather than the puny 7 copper and 3 estates that you began with. But the other players are also building their decks, or Dominion, in order to try to win the game. Who will build their Dominion in such a way as to be able to win? With only ten of the 25 action cards being in play in a single game, the dynamic in the game changes each time. A strategy that worked before may not work this time with a different set of cards in play. It’s very fun and I already think we will probably get the expansion “Intrigue” which our friends allowed us to play on vacation. I would recommend this game for a classic gamer like myself, but good for ladies as well since you can control and manage your own deck.
Carcassonne is also pretty fun. It’s easy to play, but takes a little practice at developing a strategy to score the big points. Basically, it’s a map-building exercise. You get tiles with partial cities, roads, fields, and monasteries. As the play goes around, you are all adding to the same map to finish the cities, roads, fields, and monasteries in such a way as to score points. Every game will be different since the tiles will come up in a different order. Since we’ve been playing Dominion so much, we’ve only played this a couple of times since we got it. I imagine this would be a hit with kids just old enough to understand strategy games since adding tiles to the map is quite easy.
Another game that I really like is called Gobblet. This is an advanced Tic-Tac-Toe type game. It’s a two player game played on a 4×4 board. You win by getting four in a row in any direction. Each player gets twelve cup type pieces in three stacks of four. The bigger pieces are on the top of the stack and the smallest pieces are on the bottom. You play your big pieces from the top of your stack first, which then uncovers your smaller pieces allowing you to play them. As play progresses, the bigger pieces can “gobble up” the smaller pieces. Instead of a spot being permanently taken on the board, pieces can be moved around rather than played fresh from your piles. Spots held by the smaller pieces are in danger of being gobbled by the bigger pieces, so watch out! A long game will take ten minutes as it moves pretty quick. It’s the type of game that you’d like to play about ten in a row. Or a group of four or five can take turns playing the winner. Young kids can catch on to this since it’s so simple. Well, it’s simple to play, but it takes some strategy to master.
I just bought the game Jishaku as well. This is not overly strategic. I think this will be the type of game I will get out when my nieces and nephews come over. It consists of some very pretty polished magnets, but these are some powerful magnets. There is a board which has cushioned holders for the magnetic pieces. The trick is to place your pieces without getting any stuck together with others that have already been played. As the emptiness of the board fills up, it gets trickier to avoid having a whole group of these pieces come together in one big magnetic clump. And if that happens, guess what? You have to put the clump in your hand, which puts you further away from winning the game. There are some other variations of the game which would allow for different strategies, but overall I think kids will get the biggest kick out of this. Unless you are a big kid, like me.
Heroscape is a game that I continue to enjoy. This is one that my wife does not enjoy, although she has been known to play and win sometimes. A drawback to this game is that it is expensive to have the many expansions that have been put out. It also takes up a lot of space, as opposed to many other games which only take up one box. But for me, the dynamic of on board play is just so cool. Here you have dragons, elves, dwarves, agents, soulborgs, gladiators, lawmen, soldiers, orcs, vipers, marros, and kyrie from all across time and space battling it out on a board that you create. You can create whatever type of board you like and then pit army after army against each other with millions of variations. Can my figure move onto this space? No complicated rules; just ask “does it fit?” There’s your answer. Can my guy attack that guy across the board? Just count the spaces and compare it to the figure’s Range. Then line it up to check if that figure can “see” the other figure. If there is something in the way, then no. If the figure has line of sight, then yes. It’s that simple. Another plus for me is that my brother really likes this game. So this has become a way that we can stay connected in spite of living in different cities and carrying on our different lives.
Then there is this new fangled game called Chess. Anybody heard of it? It’s my all time favorite. There is no luck involved, only strategy and skill. No chance roll of the dice, no lucky draw of the cards, only my brains against your brains. The only problem is that it doesn’t allow for a whole lot of social interaction. This makes it less than a hit at most parties. But still, I’d prefer a game of Chess over all these others any day.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman