Guest blog from Mike Banim who knows one or two things about Gaming- the table-top kind!
Trying something different: table-top gaming
Tearing a cruciate ligament in my knee last year brought my hobbies sharply into focus. My twice-weekly game of 5-a-side was out, as were most physical forms of leisure; jogging, hiking, surfing – all in the bin.
I could have taken up swimming or cycling, but I’ve never been particularly keen on spandex or speedos, so I began to contemplate more sedate activities.
-Speedos – would not be happening
Computer gaming was the first thing that game to mind. I could pick up Grand Theft Auto 5, dump myself onto the couch and spend my evenings beating up hookers – brilliant. A bit solitary, though. Perhaps I could get Call of Duty and spend my evenings killing teenagers… oh, teenagers? Forget that then.
Pool and snooker were options, but the repetition and lack of variety would get old quickly. Poker ticked a lot of boxes; social, entertaining, enjoyable without alcohol but even more so with it. Unfortunately playing Poker would require skill, something I’ve never had, and if I wanted to be relentlessly beaten up for an evening there were probably better ways to do so.
I liked the theme, though.
I knew there was a board games evening in MacTucaill’s pub every Wednesday, so I decided to pop along. I’d have a pint, play some Jenga and see what happened. I’d always tended to dismiss board games as being the archaic cousin of computer games; an obsolete predecessor whose only purpose in modern life was to feature in parental anecdotes about how things were different in their day.
Still, it couldn’t hurt to give it a try.
I showed up shortly after eight to find three tables of twenty and thirty-somethings furtively enjoying various games in the far corner of the bar. I introduced myself and was invited to join a table. We began with a variety of games that were pleasant little distractions, providing enough excitement to keep the conversations ambling along.
30 Seconds, a charades-like word-guessing game, was popular and fun, particularly when you had an Italian or German trying to guess ‘Marty Whelan’. Card games like Bullshit and President were good for restoring enthusiasm after Uno almost sent the group into a coma. Jungle Speed was a manic, group version of Snap that lead to amusing levels of hysteria, while Saboteur was a clever little team game of subterfuge and strategy.
None of the games really demanded that I return the following Wednesday, though; not until the affable, French host Olivier asked if anyone wanted to play Dominion. Dominion is a broadly medieval-themed card game for 2-4 players; it has sold millions of copies since it was first released in 2008, has spawned 9 expansions… and it is genius.
It’s a game you need to play to understand, so I won’t be even try to describe it here. It took me thirty to forty minutes of playing to begin to understand what was going on; it was also at that point that I realised I was hopelessly losing, so I began thinking of a different strategy to try in the next game… and I was hooked. I ran out to buy a copy and immediately began thinking about roping my friends in so I could enjoy playing it more regularly.
It’s not the ideal gateway game for everyone, though. The player limit is a problem, as is the level of complexity. Realising this, I’ve begun to stockpile easy-access ‘party’ games to lure in my friends. Some of them love Dominion almost as much as I do; others aren’t there yet (but they will be!). So if you’re thinking about having a few pals over for games and booze, I’ve put together a short list of group-based games that are easy to pick up.
Dixit: A French game for 3-12 players. Everyone has six cards, each featuring unique and utterly bizarre imagery (think ‘baby on a unicycle on the back of a whale flying into the eye of an evil clown’ level of bizarre) that you have to describe to the other players without being too specific. Takes two minutes at most to pick up and guarantees laughter.
Tsuro: A tile-based board game for 2-8 eight players. Place a path tile and move your marker along that path (think a railway track), without following a path that leads you off the board. The last person still on the board wins. Takes about thirty seconds to pick up and is very addictive.
The Resistance: A slightly more complex game of deduction for 5-10 players. There are two teams, and one team has to deduce the identities of their opponents before they are infiltrated and defeated.
Pandemic: A co-operative game for 2-4 players. Everyone has to work together to prevent a series of diseases from wiping out humanity. I personally find the lack of conflict with an opponent a little dull, but it’s a popular game nonetheless!
Citadels: A classic, medieval themed card game for 2-8 players, and probably the ideal game to play before introducing Dominion. It shares some common traits with Dominion but possesses a shallower learning curve.
So if you’re looking for something a little different, why not give one or two of them a try? There’s something quite relaxing about an evening playing games with a couple of friends, and if you don’t have any who are up for it, you could always come along to Games Night.
And check out their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/GamesNight
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