Last January I happened upon a very simple game called Zombie Dice. It’s an easy concept, roll dice to see how many points you score before without rolling three errors. This sounds pretty simple, and it is, but it opened me up to a hobby that I had not indulged in since childhood: Board Games. Fast forward a little over a year and I have a shelf of seventy games all in shiny colorful boxes.
Tabletop games are nothing new but the hobby has seen a huge resurgence in the last ten years thanks to the internet. Through crowdfunding sites like kickstarter and manufacturing centers like TheGameCrafter.com I could create a professional board game on my own, reach a huge amount of investors, and have a company assemble and ship them for me without having to worry about securing those things on my own. With the success of smaller groups who are producing great quality games, larger companies like Days of Wonder and Cool Mini or Not are able to be more ambitious and creative with their projects creating a wonderfully diverse landscape of different styles and game types.
Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series and Tom Vasel’s Dice Tower are what really got me started in the larger games. I learned that the staple of family gaming should start with fun, strategic games like Ticket to Ride instead of Monopoly, and that sometimes the theme of the game can be just as important as the mechanics. I also learned the difference between European games, which are full of strategy and mechanics but often have little or nothing to do with the theme of the game, and the unfortunately named ameritrash which favors its theme highly if not more than the mechanics of the game itself. If you didn’t pick up on it by the names, there is some debate over which games are superior. Luckily, as soon as you become overwhelmed by all of the intricate parts of the hobby you discover a vast community of players who want to tell you everything you need to know if for no other reason than they want someone else to play with.
In this scope of seventy games I must admit that I have made a few missteps. Some smaller games are not a problem like the fact that I thought there was a big difference between Love Letter and Batman Love Letter so I bought them both not knowing it was just a palette swap. In some of the bigger games I really only regret two major purchases and, oddly enough, they happened together. The first is a game that was on Tabletop that looked really fun, and in fact it can be really fun once you get going, but turned out to be too big and complex to be rewarding and that is Fortune and Glory. This should be a perfect game for me as I am a huge fan of the adventure genre and love Indiana Jones and the Mummy but the game is just too large to be successful. Couple that with the poorly organized rule book full of a bunch of variant rules and it becomes a mess especially when trying to teach new players. The second is a cool concept game called XCOM. This game uses an app on your phone to control and time the movements of players in a cooperative environment. Unfortunately the learning curve for this game is so steep that if you mess up on your first round, you spend the entire game fighting for every resource until your eventual defeat. Even when you do get the game going all of the rounds are exactly the same until you get to one of a few final missions resulting in some poor replayability.
Of the games I love I have picked out two to showcase. First, and I cannot recommend this game enough, is Alhambra. It seems so simple, you purchase cards and organize them together to create your own palace. But the amount of tension that comes out during building purchases, the changing strategies of different players, and the fact that scores stay so close during every round makes for a wonderful experience around the table. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend [picking up the big box as there are a ton of fun ways to change up the game with expansions. My second one is actually my wife’s favorite game which is Dead of Winter by Plaid Hat Studios. This was actually one of the biggest games of 2015 and has been a favorite of everyone I have introduced it to. The fact that the betrayer is a possible game mechanic and not a definite one, couple with the idea that everyone has their own secret win condition makes for some very interesting and highly repeatable gameplay.
With this moderate collection, I have slowed down a bit on my big box purchases until something comes along that I really want. In the meantime I have been sucked into the collectible black hole that is Star Wars X-Wing. But what do you think? Let me know what kinds of games you love and how wrong, or right I am about my games. You can see my collection at Board Game Geek and let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter, @thealien512.