Monday, 1 November 2010

Changing of the Seasons

Dominion game in a tree

The last couple of months have been stuffed to bursting for me: my parents' ruby anniversary, two stag weekends and two weddings (including one best man's speech), Stargazy Studio's first tax return, the Eurogamer Expo, a couple of #LondonIndies meets, and the organisation of the inaugural BoardGameCamp.

It's a commonly observed phenomenon that tasks tend to take as long as the maximum time allotted to them. Not wishing to actively disprove this, I've allowed any coding time that I may have found in-between my commitments to be consumed by whatever flanked it. Although I've had a jolly nice time over the last nine weeks, Huscarlas is rightfully feeling neglected.

With the coming of the Siberian geese to Britain's shores signalling the onset of Winter, I'm beginning my own social Winter. Whereas I may have felt a little guilty hiding behind thick curtains from a glorious Summer's day, the dank, dreary Winter skies hold no such sway. I'm going to harness my seasonal hermit tendencies and take the opportunity to bury myself in coding Huscarlas.

To those that know me, it's been a pleasure, and I'll see you for the first antihistamine run in the Spring!

I will make one concession during this voluntary exile: the adventurous may enter my cave if they come bearing a copy Power Grid, Dominion or Carcassonne. Playing board games with friends is a perennial cornerstone for me, and the offer of a game is guaranteed to break my isolation. Where Summer dalliances fall to the wayside, I wouldn't give up board game evenings for all the spice on Arrakis.

BoardGameCamp was an unbridled success, and well attended by board gamers old and new. I never doubted it would be a triumph, as I've seen time and again how groups of people can be brought together by a shared play experience. It's always a thrill to introduce a new player to this world of round table gaming, and if you don't have board gaming integrated into your weekly social calendar, now is a great time to start. As the days grow shorter and the evenings stretch on forever, here are some of my favourite games to ward off the Winter months:

  • Dominion

    Build a deck of cards from a shared pool and beat your opponents by producing the most victory points using the cards you draw into your hand. Each card may be used in conjunction with others in your deck, whose contents is continually changing throughout the game. There are 3,268,760 distinct shared card pools that can be created in the game, meaning it's impossible to play every permutation in a human lifetime. Dominion-night is the new Bridge-night.

    In one line: "I'll play a village, a festival, a militia, another village, a woodcutter, and a copper, which gives me... 7 treasure, God damn it!".

  • Puerto Rico

    Plant crops on your land and use your income to expand your city or accrue victory points. Predicting and influencing the communal production line is the key to winning. Production from crop to goods to shipping is rarely unfettered by your opponents.

    In one line: "Don't you dare start a shipping phase until I've built a warehouse you git.".

  • Power Grid

    Build a network of cities over a shared map, attempting to maximise your reach whilst blocking your opponents. Each city must be powered on your grid, so you bid in open auctions against other players for power stations. You must take it in turns to source raw fuel from a communal market, changing the price of each type of fuel in the process. Actions taken early on in the game can have a knock-on effect that doesn't become clear until the end of the game.

    In one line: "I knew I shouldn't have bought that uranium in turn 2.".

  • Carcassonne

    Players take it in turns to place adjacent square tiles, creating networks of city walls, fields and roads. The exclusive rights to each structure are secured by placing a member of your pool of people on any adjoining tile you lay. Once a structure is completed the owner scores points and their claimant is returned to their pool.

    In one line: "And with this tile I condemn thine Meeple to eternal limbo.".

  • Last Night on Earth

    Four heroes must navigate a square-tiled board to fight a zombie hoard. The two teams take it in turns to draw bonus cards, move their pieces and roll dice to determine the outcome of combat. Board randomisation and multiple scenarios lend tactical depth to this battle of the slow versus the few.

    In one line: "If I roll a 6 to move Jake to here, give the gasoline to Becky, she runs into the mansion with it, and Billy shoots her with his flare gun, I can win this thing.".

  • Ticket to Ride

    This seemingly thoughtful family game is actually the most effective way to channel the ferocity of a 19th century rail-tycoon. Each player draws a set of random destination nodes that must be linked together on a communal map of interconnecting rail links. The rub is that once a link is claimed, no-one else can cross it. The resulting collision of interests can turn a family Christmas into a knock-down, drag-out brawl.

    In one line: "Vegas. You had to take Vegas.".


  1. Dominion has become my fav game. I brought the Sea Side expansion just over a week ago. Brought it in to the studio Tuesday and we've been playing it at lunch and after work since :0)

  2. I agree Paul. Dominion is an absolutely blinding piece of design. The simplicity of its mechanics belies an astonishing depth of decision to be made. I think many see it as a model for future board game design.