In the interests of diversity and variety of holiday, I’ve made efforts to reconnect with as many different friends as I can. A group I’d been sorely missing was my gaming group. Brought together over the years, the core gaming group began with Magic the Gathering. We’d play at Vagabonds, our local game store, week after week. Eventually, after getting fed up with a bunch of the regulars, started bringing games home. This evolved into drinking Magic nights. We’d create our own subsections of forfeits based around our play styles and punish one another with drinks for not deviating from our norm.
Somewhere along the line, board games were introduced, along with new friends. I’m sure that more advanced board games have been around for a while, but there seemed to be a boom several years back. We tried a few; Dominion, Settlers of Catan, etc. This came to a head with the introduction of Arkham Horror. Suddenly we were playing every few weeks, several games in a row. We began having Arkham weekends where we’d pack out to a friend’s house in rural Auckland. He loved to cook so he’d put on these glorious themed meals. They were really fun nights where we could totally geek out and gorge.
Naturally while I was back in Canada, I checked in with my good friend to see if we could have a game day while I was back in town. It ended up being our first couple’s day, where it just so happened we had four couples all playing. This meant we could play games with full capacity, eight being the number where most tap out. We feasted on chips, cheese scones, barbecue lamb, beetroot salad and hummus, while getting through four separate games over a number of hours:
Tsuro (Dragon edition)
I feel like I’ve played a different iteration of this where you’re guiding stone idols around a track. Each player has three tiles at once with different paths on them. Tiles all connect to each other and you can choose which way to place them, changing the direction of the paths laid out in front of you. You can only put tiles down in front of your character, who will travel to the end of any track laid in front of them. If you get put on a path that leads all the way past the edge of the map, RAAAAR, there be dragons and you’re dead. Also when you roll, there’s a chance that a dragon will appear on the map. These dragons move around based on die rolls. They’ll travel the board eating paths, characters and other dragons. Last player standing wins. So the strategy of the game comes into keeping yourself on the board, untouched by dragons. You also want to steer clear of other players, who’re likely to put down tiles that could lead you off course. It sounds complicated, but it’s pretty easy to pick up, with deep strategy the more you get into it.
I was Squash Bot and that’s all that matters. Each player gets an adorable little robot (none cooler than Squash Bot, just sayin’), who race around the course trying to get to all the checkpoints in order. Thing is, the other players and course itself conspire to stop you (and Squash Bot conspires to stomp you). Each player has a hand full of nine cards. Every round you’ll put down five cards face down in order that direct your robot where to move. Each card has a priority, so some robots will move before others. Robots can shunt each other out of the way, crash into one another and fire upon any robot they’re facing with their lasers. Damaged bots have a lower total hand size, restricting their options for future turns. Players can also upgrade their bots into lethal killing machines or efficient racers. It’s quirky, clunky and a lot of fun.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
I feel like everyone played this one before I did. You’re adventuring around a house that unfolds in front of you. Players seek items both arcane and ordinary. Unlocking omens as they travel through rooms. At some point an event will trigger and one of 50 odd scenarios will start. Each scenario is different and involves one or more players betraying the rest. Any characters on the smaller team will gain an advantage to give them a chance against the rest. Power ups galore, with a fun sense of humour and variety of play make this game a total winner. I’d love to dive back into the world again, here’s hoping someone back home has a copy.
A drafting/resource gathering game. Your objective is to build up one of seven ancient civilisations, watching out for your neighbours on both left and right. You can trade or war with them (or a combination thereof), but the idea is to come out on top after three escalating ages. A myriad of strategies relying on subterfuge and gradual build-up. It’s relatively conflict free, unless you really want to fuck others over (but there’s no assurance that’ll keep you on top). It’s pretty neat to see things progress as your empire expands and the reveal of who’s won at the game’s conclusion is rad. Not too hard a learning curve, with the potential for expanded strategy as skill develops.
With a trip like this, something will have to be a crushing disappointment. Nothing as of yet, but surely that means it’s just around the corner. I dunno, at the moment it all seems like fun and games.