Blog / The Archmage's Ruminations

Inaugural post: Helen talks about Board Games

Blogmaster Helen Cothrel,

For our inaugural blog post, I’d like to talk about something that brings me a great deal of nerdy pleasure: board games.

First, let me start by making one thing clear: I will not be talking about Monopoly, or Clue, or Candyland, or any of those other games you played when you were younger. I mean board games that are newer, more interesting and more exciting — and, I should note, don’t necessarily include boards. Under the “board game umbrella,” I tend to group pretty much all tabletop games, including card games and the like. I’m sure it gives many of my friends qualms, but I don’t find the distinction too vital, at least for a brief intro.

So, why do I want to talk to you about board games? Well, now is just a good time. According to the guys at Shut Up & Sit Down, we have entered a Golden Age of board gaming, and I am strongly inclined to agree. Americans have had ample time now to learn from the previous masters, the Germans. Quinns from SU&SD notes that we have been able to draw from age-old German/Euro game mechanics and weave in bits of storytelling that pique players’ interests. This has led to an explosion in variety and a leap in the quality of games.

I could go on about this, but if you are interested in the Golden Age, check out SU&SD’s talk on it here. In it, Quinns gives a great overview of how we got to where we are today and some games for which to keep your eyes peeled. I also encourage you to check out SU&SD’s website; they have years of experience in telling good games from bad games and an intimate knowledge of the game industry.

Today, though, I’ll just stick to talking a bit about a couple of my personal favorites, one of which is Dominion. Dominion is a deck-building game (i.e. just cards, no boards involved) in which you are controlling a kingdom. Each player starts with a small number of cards and must “buy” more cards to expand his or her deck on the fly. I love the game because it’s straightforward but feels very dynamic. The first few times you pick it up will take a little longer as you figure out what each card does, but the more you play, the more fun it gets. One other great thing about Dominion is that just the base game (and there are at least six expansions) has 25 types of cards, and each game is played with only 10. This leads to awesome variety — no two games of Dominion are the same, especially once you grab an expansion or two.

Another great game is Small World, in which players struggle for control of a game world too small to accommodate them all. Players play as a variety of fantasy races (orcs, giants, wizards, etc.) that are matched with new special powers at the beginning of each game. Again, this leads to healthy variety between each game. Tactics come into play fairly quickly as players try to squeeze as much conquest out of their civilization as they can, which quickly becomes spread too thin, before deciding to let the race decline and entering with a new one. Small World is a lot of fun and inspires spirited competition between the players.

That’s all I have for now, but you’ll hear from me again on this topic. Keep your eyes peeled for these games and others. They have a lot to offer.

Also, in closing, a note to Ohio University students: Bobcat Table Top is every Thursday evening from 5-9 in the Jefferson Hall library. If you’re interested, come! We will gladly teach you any game we know how to play, and we have a lot.

Thoughts? Questions? Or, is there something you’d like to see me write about? Leave a comment!


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