When was the last time you gathered around a board game with a group of friends? For most people, that question is answered in the span of years. For me, it is only every 6 days ago. Wednesday night is game night. It has been for 4 years now and I hope it doesn’t change for more than that.
So, does this mean I’m suffering from a prolonged state of regression and I am attempting to relive my childhood by getting together with other adults and playing Battleship? Of course not (maybe a little). The games that come to mind when people think of board games are the classics: Monopoly, Life, Stratego. But there are more. There is a huge, and growing, industry of board games—designed for adults—with rich themes, plenty of strategy, and more fun than–well, a Barrel of Monkeys.
Here’s a taste of what is available, beyond monopoly:
Puerto Rico: The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops: Corn, Indigo, Coffee, Sugar and Tobacco, they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors; growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.
Agricola: In Agricola, you’re a farmer in a wooden shack with your spouse and little else. On a turn, you get to take only two actions, one for you and one for the spouse, from all the possibilities you’ll find on a farm: collecting clay, wood, or stone; building fences; and so on. You might think about having kids in order to get more work accomplished, but first you need to expand your house. And what are you going to feed all the little rugrats?
Twilight Struggle: In 1945, unlikely allies toppled Hitler’s war machine, while humanity’s most devastating weapons forced the Japanese Empire to its knees in a storm of fire. Where once there stood many great powers, there then stood only two. The world had scant months to sigh its collective relief before a new conflict threatened. Unlike the titanic struggles of the preceding decades, this conflict would be waged not primarily by soldiers and tanks, but by spies and politicians, scientists and intellectuals, artists and traitors. Twilight Struggle is a two-player game simulating the forty-five year dance of intrigue, prestige, and occasional flares of warfare between the Soviet Union and the United States.
Intrigued? These games are fun, interesting, complex, and provide a wonderful way to spend an evening with friends. Are you a better farmer than your peers? A shrewder trader? A greater political leader? Finding out is half the fun.
The above games are the top 3 (as rated by users) on www.boardgamegeek.com – a wonderful and thorough resource for researching games. That said, they are a bit “heavier” on the board game complexity scale. If you would like to dip a toe in, so to speak, some lighter fare includes:
Ticket to Ride: A set-collecting game (think, rummy) about connecting major cities by rail.
Carcassonne: A tile laying game (a bit like a puzzle, but with points) about a developing medieval countryside.
Settlers of Catan: Primarily a negotiation game and hand management game (trade the limited goods you have collected to your friends for what you need) about settling an island and building a town.
If you are interested in trying some of these out, there are local stores which can accommodate you, some—specifically Crossroad Games—host game days where you may come in and play and, essentially, try before you buy.
Crossroad Games, Standish www.crossroadgames.com
Game Geeks, South Portland, www.gmgeeks.com
Casablanca Comics, Portland, www.casablancacomics.com
Finally, should gaming scratch an entertainment itch for you there are local meetups and gaming groups to connect with and should you become consumed by the hobby—yes it can become an obsession (I’ve heard)—there are conventions each year around the country that cater to dedicated gamers.
BGG.con, sponsored by www.boadgamegeek.com, is one that many in the gaming community specifically look forward to. It’s too late to go this year as it is starting today—don’t worry, they’re saving me a seat. But if this hobby grabs you like it did me, I’ll see you there in 2011.
And as with all games, remember:
“When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that is important, not the winning’ -Dr. Reiner Knizia (Game Designer)
(game images and descriptions provided by www.boardgamegeek.com)