YORKTON - When it comes to board games there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, which have been created ranging from ancient games such as Go and Tafl through to games currently trying to raise dollars to publish through various online crowd fundraisers.
As you can imagine the range of games is vast.
There are great games and there are those that might leave you wondering if in publishing them it was a waste of cardboard and plastic.
Of course which end of the spectrum any game might fall is really dependent on who is ‘rating’ the game. We all go to the game table with our personal likes and dislikes in tow.
Some love deck builders – Dominion and the dozens which followed -- while others have little interest.
Others might prefer co-operative games – think Pandemic and That War of Mine - the players rallying together to ‘win’ against the game.
Still others like abstract strategy games – chess, Arimaa, Hive – although for others they are just too ‘thinky’ to be enjoyed.
While the games we individually love can be hugely variable – some even like Monopoly apparently – there are games across the hobby which are what might be termed foundational, or classic, or historically significant. For that reason such games are at least worth a try, and even if they fail to impress the individual you sort of need to tip your hat to the games and their creators for their significance.
When you think about which games fit such a listing, it starts rather simply with any game that was created decades ago, and yet is still widely known and played.
I suppose, at least for those of us in North America, the obvious game in this regard is chess.
As a gamer it is surprising how often I notice chess sets in the background of some TV show scene. It was just Monday this week I remarked about a board in the background of the usually fun, and long-running Canadian show ‘Murdoch Mysteries’.
While far fewer might know how to play, most people would at least recognize a chess set for what it is, a classic board game. In that recognition, chess is rather unique as the list of games the majority of the public would recognize is, I would suggest rather limited. The others are likely a couple of games that are far newer than chess, Monopoly that came out in 1935 – the little top-hatted fellow is rather recognizable, and Trivial Pursuit that released to much fanfare in 1981, and is often seen – at least the cards – on bar and restaurant tables today.
While widely recognizable status eludes most games, there is a much longer list which we might suggest belong in a sort of ‘hall of fame’ to board gaming.
The idea of what five games would go into such a ‘hall’ if we had such power, was put to the local guilders, and it is interesting to see the responses.
Your’s truly chose crokinole to lead the list as a Canadian classic that has long been my personal, all-time favourite game.
The other four in no particular order and quickly pulled from my mind are; Magic the Gathering the classic collectable card game which really started a flurry of CCGs and while most have disappeared it remains vibrant.
Checkers is next. It has its flaws but it’s an easy learn, gateway, abstract strategy game, that has a riuch history, numerous variants and ongoing world championship play.
Strat-o-baseball, another classic, it still simulates the intricacies of baseball as well as any game I’ve tried.
Finally, I have to go with Hive, the 2000 release from John Yanni which I would rate by a slim margin the best game release the millennium to-date.
When Adam chimed in, the list didn’t crossover with one exception, that being Magic. As his father I suppose that isn’t a surprise since I am pretty sure I purchased one of the first Magic decks to ever come into Yorkton – a purchase made on a trip to Minot. From there Adam more or less learned the game by osmosis as I played it – a lot.
That is why the roll playing classic Dungeons & Dragons is on his list too. He was rolling Dad’s dice sitting on my knee at the gaming table about the same time he started school.
The next game on his list is Blood Bowl, which really isn’t a big step from D&D, and another game he and I have played tons. It’s one reason we are doing BB at Tapps Sports Lounge & Grill every second Sunday, (Come on down and join us next on Nov. 6 at 1:30 p.m..
Adam then jumps ahead a decade or two rounding out his top five with the foundational deck builder Dominion, and the recent co-op classic Pandemic.
Jordan started his five with a tile laying game that was one of the most popular of games of the genre and has led to a bucket full of expansion sets through the years since its initial release in 2000.
Carcassonne a tile placement game, with blind tile selection prevents too much planning ahead, and lots of expansions to change the way the game plays is a winner, he says.
“I can't count the number of times my wife and I have sat down to play a couple rounds of the base game.
At two is ‘Warmahordes’ the combination of Warmachine and Hordes from Privateer Press. It’s miniatures wargame with a steampunk aesthetic featuring battle groups of warjacks or warbeasts led by fancy magicians.
“I have only won a single game but I keep wanting to play it,” said Jordan.
Again from Privateer Press is Jordan’s third pick Monsterpocalypse – which he terms “a boardgame-esque miniatures game featuring a slew of giant monsters and aliens and robots and cuthulian nightmares and bugs (and more) stomping through a city beating each other up.”
Sticking with the idea of mayhem comes pick four: Gaslands.
“Customize your toy cars with guns and rams and spikes and do death races and destruction derbies - a chaotic beer and pretzels tabletop game where you're as likely to spin out as you are to make the turn,” he explains.
And the Jordan showed he is a true Privateer Press fan slotting in Riot Quest; “another boardgame-esque miniatures game where your objectives are to get treasure, knock out opponents models and complete changing objectives for points. Plays relatively quickly allowing for multiple rounds in an evening.”
And finally Trevor imparted his five, and with his picks you see how interests overlap, and diverge within a group.
Like Adam, Trevor chose Pandemic a cooperative game he suggests “is fun for the whole family.
It’s relatively quick to learn and had a lot of fun iterations.”
Trevor also tagged Dominion “a game that has you gathering cards that help you achieve your goal, having a grand domain to rule over. It’s a fun game for families and friends with over 10 expansions, most good, some not so good.
“One good part is that you can combine cards from each expansion to create a different game every time.”
Next Trevor matches up with Jordan on Monsterpocalypse.
“If you’re a Godzilla fan like me, then you will like this game. It’s big monsters and their shock troops battling it out in cities. It takes a little bit to remember how each piece on the board works, but it’s well worth it. It appeals to kids and adults alike for the cool figurines used,” he says.
Then Trevor crosses over into both my list and that of Adam with MTG; the oldest of the card collecting games.
“Even after 29 years, it’s still going strong, bringing in new people all of the time,” he says. “The rules have changed over time to make it more balanced they say, but I harken back to the good ol’ days of the fireball or rat decks, or for the time of when you flipped over the top card of your deck and played for that card.”
And finally, with the last pick of the day Trevor lumps together the varied fare of the Tiny Epic Games line.
“I haven’t found one of these games that we don’t like playing,” he says. “They are quick to learn and easily packed for family trips, as they don’t take up very much space individually. In my case, I have backed, on Kickstarter, pretty much all of their games and they are now starting to take up space. These games come in a bunch of themes, such as western, zombies, space, dinosaurs, dungeons, and more.”
And there you have the great thing about board games, something for just about everyone in terms of theme, learning curve and time needed to play.
So find your favourites and enjoy.