Saturday, March 21, 2015

Game of Life

Imagine, if you will, a house party. No, not the house parties of our wretched youths, where some poor girl is barfing in the bathroom and someone is necking in the basement. Nobody is drinking whiskey straight from the bottle at this party, or if they are, it's decorous little sips, and only because they're feeling dashing in an Hemingwayesque sort of way. No, this party has a point, and that point is board games.

Board games have had a resurgence lately, and so it's important to choose your gaming persona carefully. Your favourite game can say a lot about you. In classical gamer terminology, a "Twister person" is a horndog who's just waiting to fall into a frisky, and potentially "accidentally handsy," little heap with his fellow party guests, while a "Monopoly person" is a jag-off who enjoys screwing people over and who has modeled his (it's always a dude) haircuts on Michael Douglas if he's over 45, or Jared Leto if he's younger. Obviously, both people are terrible. Avoid them.

All in good fun! So let's find our own special games:

Ticket to Ride: Colourful train routes criss-cross a map (Europe, America, or several expansions that explore Asia, Africa, or Northern Europe), and your job is to claim them. Players randomly select routes, and then try to claim the legs between each city by playing colourful cards. With two players, the board can feel expansive; with four, people are building on top of each other, and the competition for routes is fierce.
For people who like: in-flight magazine articles; Pinterest board named "Travel Dreams!"; steampunk
Not for folks who like: over-pronouncing foreign place names; "comedically" complaining about international flights (everyone knows they're terrible, stop trying to be Jerry Seinfeld about it); leaving the "r" out of the word "immigrants"
Ideal playing soundtrack: Simon & Garfunkle

Onirim: the only one-person game on this list, Onirim is a card-matching game that takes place in a dream world. Players are trying to collect doors, which they can earn by playing three-card matching sets. Nightmare cards are sprinkled through the deck, forcing players to discard valuable cards. The art is appropriately unsettling in its childlike naivety. Onirim is a beautiful game that's quick to play and tough to win.
For people who like: talking about the healing power of crystals; quiet time; recipes that use agave nectar instead of sugar
Not for folks who like: emojis; Ke$ha; strobe lights
Ideal playing soundtrack: Enya

Pandemic: Oh man, this game is a heart-breaker. Players work in teams to stop an outbreak of viruses around the world. Each player has a special ability: the medic can heal, the dispatcher can move other people's tokens around, for example. The game starts slow, but soon, the viruses are jumping between cities, and the team is planning three or four moves ahead in order to frantically stay on top of the outbreaks. Wins are rare for inexperienced players, and the ability to work together is paramount to getting anywhere close.
For people who like: planning out their post-apocalyptic cabin locations; Y: The Last Man; Crossfit
Not for folks who like: easy wins; long discussions about strategy; pretending the world isn't going to face a horrible medical emergency like this IRL sometime soon
Ideal playing soundtrack: silence. There's a lot of talking in this game

Cards Against Humanity: You know Apples to Apples? It's a filthy version of that. One player acts as the judge, randomly selecting a black card that has a phrase with missing words; the other players anonymously submit white cards to the judge, who them reads them aloud and decides which answer is the best. The answers are nonsensical, crude, sexual, sometimes racist, and often groan-inducing. The first person to win ten rounds is the winner, and I use that term in the loosest possible way.
For people who like: explaining what a "queef" is; potato vodka; It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia
Not for folks who like: being sober on games night; earnesty; not having to explain what the Trail of Tears was
Ideal playing soundtrack: any late-1990s bro-rock

Munchkin: A card game that thrives on quickly-broken alliance and constantly shifting allegiances. Players flip over cards to fight opponents, each with a level representing a combat strength. The higher the combat strength, the more you need to rely on the folks around you for help; they'll try to shake you down for rewards, promises of help in the future, or simply ignore your request and toss more opponents at you to fight. You gain a level (and some cobat strength) for each opponent you beat, and the first player to level ten wins. The artwork is cartoonish and the opponents are often silly (in the Western version, there are the "Buffalo Gals," a trio of bison dressed up in corsets and wearing mascara).
For people who like: puns; wearing hand-me-downs from older siblings; movies with talking animals
Not for folks who like: consistency; going to the spa; movies with Guy Pearce
Ideal playing soundtrack: Ennio Morricone

Hive: In this tile game, players try to surround their opponent's queen bee tile with various buggy tiles of their own. Each tile, and bug, has a special ability: grasshoppers can jump over other tiles, beetles can stack on top of other tiles, and spiders can move three spaces in any direction. It's like an insectile version of chess.
For people who like: calling glasses "spectacles;" reading about math prodigies in the New Yorker; digestive cookies
Not for folks who like: avoiding insects; playing "Never Have I Ever" at house parties; shopping at Costco
Ideal playing soundtrack: Clint Mansell

Settlers of Catan: This is the game that really started the board game renaissance. Collect resources; build cities, roads and armies; lie bald-facedly when anyone tries to trade you sheep for brick, like the sucker they are. I won't get into all the various permutations or strategies, but suffice it to say that it's both vicious and fun.
For people who like: pretending to be farmers; making sounds when they play with Matchbox cars; stews
Not for folks who like: their friends
Ideal playing soundtrack: Ke$ha

Image via Baubauhaus