As I sit down to crack my eighteenth book of the year in this little reading project (with a little more than a third of the year left to finish and a little more than two thirds done the effort) I thought I would just mark the moment. I’ve got three of the remaining eight books queued up, but for the most part I’m just making this up as I go along. There hasn’t been much special about my methods for picking any particular titles … which is fine, I think. But I am open to recommendations: not just of crazy classic or weird science fiction, either. I kinda want someone to say “hey… read this… it’s not something you might have ever picked up on your own, but I liked it.” I know it’s going out on a limb, setting up expectations or letting a little of yourself out of the little cage you’ve built around yourself… but also, it’s just a book. Read on.
I tend to think of your classic “board games” as anything that requires a table to play — and, of course, more than just a deck of cards, standard or custom. In the last couple years we’ve become fans of the large variety of games exported from Europe, all of which tend to focus more on basic strategy and building mini-empires, as opposed to the North American style of acquiring cash and/or blowing thing up. These games tend to integrate unique game-play with a complex variety of dice, tiles, meeples, peeples, bits, roads, trains, or other elements. That, and we can pretend to be all-so-smug because we were playing them when everyone still thought Pictionary was cool.
Part Three: Never Too Board to Play
Exhibit A: Strictly more of a ’tile-game’ than a board game, I’m going to put this one under the table-games category if only because playing on a large, smooth, flat surface is a must with Carcassonne. The nice thing about this particular game is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want. The rules are fairly straightforward and the strategy can be very simple, but then you can go along an keep adding expansions — in any combination — that add new rules and twists to the overall experience. Karin bought me the BIG BOX (which includes the base game and five expansions) for my thirtieth birthday, and we’ve bought another expansion since — bringing our total to six — but start with the basic game and play that for a while first if your just getting into it.
Exhibit B: I noticed the other day that there is an updated version of Settlers of Catan; an easier to assemble board, new artwork, and a bigger box. I’m set on my current collection, but if you are just getting into this game, now might be the time to pick up a copy of the new release. To most of our friends, these are not new games: simply, you could almost call them obsessions (were it the case we all didn’t have kids and had much more free time, at least.) I might be the kookiest among them having not only acquired every single expansion and quirky add-on, but a year ago bought a set of unpainted ceramic Catan tiles (unofficial, of course) off Ebay. A year later I’ve nearly finished painting and (thanks to Tiffany, grrrr!) lost two games on them. Of course, you should just buy the cardboard version.
Exhibit C: A game Karin and I came across just last year while frequenting a nearby game store is Ticket to Ride. I’ve seen it all over the place since, and I have to include this one because (i) its really quite fun, (ii) its very clever and there are multiple variations, and (iii) it’s another one that is really simple to learn. The basic premise is that you are collecting trains and building routes across a nation. We have the North American map, wherein we are building routes from Montreal to Miami or from Vancouver to Denver, and the such. No dice, just lots of little plastic train-bits and some various cards. If you’re looking for one to add to your collection this year, this is a good one start with.
And that’s about all I have to say on the topic of gaming suggestions this year. If you missed Part One or Part Two, then check those out too for some fun distractions over the holidays. Also, be sure to check out fellow skeptic Podblack’s blog for some other great insights on gaming this season.