Discovering the Magic of Tabletop Games

Board GamesMy Introduction to Tabletop Games

A few years ago a couple friends invited me over to play a tabletop game called Settlers of Catan.  At a time when most game invites meant Texas Hold ’em the idea of playing a board game was very different.  The game had a pretty easy instruction set, but was incredibly deep in game play.  Basically in Settlers of Catan, players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements, and cities to earn points to win. The best part is that the board itself is variable, making each game a little different from the next.  I was instantly hooked on Settlers of Catan. I quickly bought my own copy and introduced my family to it.  It’s now something that always goes on vacation with us and something we play often when getting together.  It was a great introduction to tabletop games.

After playing Settlers of Catan for a few years, I was looking for something different.  This past Thanksgiving I purchased Carcassonne.  Carcassonne is a clever tile-laying game in which players develop the area around Carcassonne and deploy their followers on the roads, in the cities, in the cloisters, and in the fields. Whoever develops the best area will determine who is victorious.  Like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne was pretty easy to learn, but had very deep strategy and the game is different every time you play.  The irony with Carcassonne was that I had purchased it years ago as an Xbox Live Arcade game and never really got around to playing it.  After playing the physical game I went back and played the video game, as video games help to understand the rules a bit more, but hold no candle to the actual physical game.

With both Settlers of Catan and Carcassonn,e the biggest lure is they are easy to learn, yet still a little difficult to master and every time you play it’s a new game.  Although you may be pretty good at either game, you never quite know what the board will look like or what kind of tools you’ll be dealt.  There is really not much you can do ahead of time to prepare.   These games also allow for interesting team play, as well as devious anti team play.

After purchasing Carcassonne, I then added Ticket to Ride.  There are many tabletop board games out there, but it’s often good to start with the most popular games as they are easiest to learn. Sometimes even the simplest games can seem complicated at first and Ticket to Ride fell in that category for me.  Reading through the instructions to Ticket to Ride at first seemed a bit difficult and trying to learn and explain the game at the same time was an epic fail.  However, I sat alone and learned the game by playing against myself and realized it was actually pretty simple. The following night we kicked off Family Game Night with it and had a blast.  Ticket to Ride is quickly becoming the new favorite since its game play and strategy allow for even younger kids to play.

The Solo Adventure

FridaySince I am often the leader in these game sessions and explaining the rules to others, I have developed the practice of playing games by myself.  It’s sometimes difficult to just simply read the rules for these games without seeing how the game plays out.  It’s also how I found out that there are single player games out there as well.  I recently placed an order for the Friedman Friese game Friday.  As I mentioned, I’m a gamer and one of the games I’ve played a bit is the online card game Hearthstone.  In Hearthstone you mostly play against other people in a Pokemon style game, however there are also “adventures” where you use your cards against a predetermined computer controlled card deck.

FridayFriday offered a very similar style of game. Friday is a solo adventure in which you are helping Robinson, who came ashore on your island to fight against many hazards. In this game, Robinson is represented as a card stack of different behaviors. You are forced to improve this card stack so you can collect the cards at the end of the game to give Robinson the best chance to win against the tough pirates.

Friday has been the biggest challenge for me yet, both in learning and game play.  I sat and read the rules over and over and played and read the rules but only after watching a YouTube video was I able to understand the way to play.  Turns out it was once again pretty easy (you’re seeing a trend), but I was just misunderstanding one of the rules.  The strategy and depth of this game make winning very hard.  I’ve played through a few times, once making it to the red phase of the game, but not yet reaching the Pirates.  In time it will be fun to develop a strategy to win the game.

Expanding Your Game

In video games I often come across “expansions” for games.  However, expansions for tabletop games was a pretty new concept for me.  Many of these tabletop games have plenty of expansions to buy to increase the variety and challenge of these games.  Thus far I’m still learning a lot of the base game play and I’m often teaching new players as well so I haven’t explored much into expansions.  I did purchase the Cities and Knights expansion for Setters of Catan, but when trying to figure out the rules we ended up just playing the base game.  However, the idea that a game can be expanded means that even once you’ve seemingly conquered the base game there is still much more to learn and explore.

Future Adventures and Possibilities

Boss MonsterWith a bunch of cool tabletop games in my collection of course it was time for me to start seeking out more and more to feed my addiction.  I stumbled upon a great Reddit group and after reading a few posts the advice was sound–learn what you’re playing and slow down expanding your game library.  This sounded like great advice from people playing a lot longer than I have.  I didn’t leave that list without writing down all the great game suggestions like Potion Explosion, The Castles of Burgundy, 7 Wonders and One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which are now promptly waiting in queue in an Amazon list.

The final game I did manage to add to my early collection is a game called Boss Monster.  No self respecting former 8 bit gamer could resist the very cool artwork on this game.  Artwork and quality by the way is a big draw for many of these tabletop games.  Boss Monster is a change of pace game from the others I currently have because much like Friday it is a card based game with no actual game board to play on.  I haven’t yet dove into the game, but hope to learn the rules soon for an upcoming game night with old 8 bit gamer friends.

For a lot of people the idea of playing a board game may sound a little silly or childish, but playing these new styles of board and card games are some of the most fun you’ll have.  Gather round the table, grab a few beers or glasses of wine and you’ve got a great night of family, friends and gaming fun!