Bulb Idea BoxBy The Piece Keeper

A lot of people want to either get into more serious boardgames or get someone else into more serious boardgames.  More serious being beyond Monopoly, Scrabble, Apples To Apples and similar ‘gateway games’.  There are a few games that are always suggested as entry level games into modern boardgames.  Let’s get those out of the way.

          • Carcassone
          • Ticket To Ride
          • Settlers Of Catan

They are all readily available and fine games in their own right.

I don’t want to talk about those games.  I want to talk about the games that I think are the best “I wanna be a boardgamer” games that aren’t the usual choices.  Most of these games you can get at a decent department store or bookstore, with the exception of the first one, but I include that because it really is possibly my favourite game.

crokinole[1]Crokinole is a traditional pub game from Europe.  This game is not cheap.  A good custom board, a unique piece of art worthy of hanging, will run you a good $200.  Speaking of hanging, that’s my board hanging on the wall in that picture.

However, it is an astoundingly entertaining game for all ages, closer in concept to Billiards or other pool table game than a traditional boardgame.

The game is played by 2 or 4 players in 2 teams.  The board resembles a waxed bullseye,  and your pool balls are replaced with tiny wooden pucks that you flick with your finger.  Shuffleboard style, you try for the higher scoring center of the board, while knocking opposing pieces away.

The catch: Your shot must hit an opponent’s piece to count, or your piece (and every one of your pieces it may have touched) is removed.

Trust me.  If this is in your price range, you cannot go wrong.  The rules take maybe a minute to explain, and the skill and strategy are immensely fun.  You will break it out whenever company comes over and it certainly takes less space than a pool table.

This game is fantastic.  Be warned, it does have a nearly 30 page rulebook that may frighten total newcomers to the gaming world.  If you’ve played miniatures games before, it will be very easy to get into.  It’s got an MSRP of about $40, but if you poke around, you can find it for less.

xwing[1]X-Wing. The base set comes with a pair of TIE Fighters and an X-Wing that are pre-painted to a really outstanding level.  The three ships included become a pretty basic but satisfying cat and mouse as you choose manoeuvres in secret and command your pilots around the table using really nifty movement templates.  Give your pilots different skills and abilities, exploit the enemy weaknesses and make all sorts of Star Wars sound effects each time you roll the custom dice.

Additional ships are available for about $10-$15 each, depending on where you shop, and they open up an experience as rich as the Star Wars universe itself.  Even buying an additional X-Wing offers new cards with new pilots for your fleet.  Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced and a Y-Wing are also available at this time.

Yeah, it can get pretty expensive if you build up a nice fleet, but each game you can switch up your pilots and weapon loadouts and try a new strategy as you whip around the asteroids, blowing your buddy to pieces.  Primarily 2 player, it easily adapts to teams, and once you get the hang of it, cinematic clashes of rebels and imperials will happen in about 45 minutes with very little down time waiting as you must make choices when the enemy is attacking as well.

Published by Fantasy Flight Games, early next year will see even more ships, including a piece of junk called The Millenium Falcon.

dixit[1]Dixit. This is a fairly surreal game for more than two players.  Note this includes Dixit, Dixit2, Dixit Odyssey, Dixit Journey, but NOT the spin off game Dixit Jinx.  The other games are all inter-compatible and can be mixed for more variety.

Each player gets a hand of gorgeous somewhat dreamlike images on their cards.  The ‘storyteller’ secretly selects a card and says some clue about it.  Could be a phrase, a description, a song, who knows.  But it will be… cryptic.

Then ALL players select a card from their hand to try to fool everyone else.

All selected cards are mixed and laid out.  Players then try to figure which card is the original one selected by the storyteller.

Here’s the nasty catch.  If no one guesses right, or everyone guesses right, the storyteller doesn’t score.  So you want your clue to be cryptic enough to trip up MOST of the other players, but not all of them.  How cryptic is that?  Beats me.

If you weren’t the storyteller, but still got people to THINK you were, you get points there.

A great game for artists, creative thinkers, and people who live in their own little world. Different versions have different components for varying numbers of players.

res[1]The Resistance. A really strange social game.  It encourages lying.  Better liars win.  Playing with lawyers and politicians is a bad idea.  Essentially, some players are good guys and some are bad guys.  The bad guys all know who the bad guys are.

A ‘mission leader’ proposes a group of players to go on a ‘mission’.  Truth is, there’s no actual mission.  You just say “Mission #1″.  The people sent on the mission then vote to complete it.  Now, BAD GUYS can secretly vote to sabotage the mission.  So the secret vote is revealed, and maybe ONE out of 4 people voting voted to fail the mission.  WHO?  Send in a different group of people.  Who lied? Everyone said they voted to complete the mission. Someone is lying.  Send in different combos of people.  The bad guys will lie – sometimes allowing a mission to pass to hide their identity, sometimes sabotaging.

After a set number of missions, either the bad guys sabotaged more or the good guys figured who to send so it can’t be sabotaged.

If anyone in your group is sensitive, just don’t buy this game.  It involves logic and outright deception.  The rules are VERY short and EXTREMELY simple – but at the same time, somewhat difficult for new players to grasp.

If you enjoy bluffing and testing people’s wills and logic – this game is a stunning study of who you can trust.  Just make sure everyone agrees that lying is for the sake of the win and not to get personal.  I have seen tears and screaming more than once playing this.  And those were the good times.

blokus[1]Blokus. Actually, this game has been around for a while, but its a little different, and excellent.

Basically, you have a collection of very pretty pieces that fell out of a Tetris game.  You place them.  At the end, whoever got to place the most blocks worth wins.

Simple.  EXCEPT your pieces may ONLY touch at the corners.  No edge to edge.  This takes a game to get used to, since your line of pieces can kind of diagonally jump through another, which is not intuitive.  Once you get the hang of it, this plays SUPER fast and fun.

Note this game is for 4.  It does not work well with 3 – unless you make sure the player in the middle is the strongest and can handle being ganged up on.  For two players, either play double colours, OR swipe a page from the Blokus Duo two page rules and mark out a smaller play area.  You can see in the picture of my set the play area I marked with a sharpie for 2 players.  The individual outlined squares are the starting points.

Quick points about some other different but easy to find games you may want to consider:

Quelf:
If you want to play a game that makes you act like a fool, this is it.  Instructions like wearing a tie on your head like a ninja and speaking only to the person on your left and only in a British accent are common.  Personally, I don’t need a game to tell me how to act like an idiot, I can handle that myself, but its great for things like a sleepover.

Forbidden Island:
This is a CoOp game.  Everyone wins or loses together.  Medium complexity for those not used to modern games, it involves stealing treasures from a sinking island.

Qwirkle:
Like Scrabble for people who don’t know words.  Played with shapes and colours.

King Of Tokyo:
Like advanced Yahtzee, but you’re a giant monster gaining super powers and attacking other giant monsters.  OK, maybe not like Yahtzee, but its a die rolling game.

‘Til next turn,
Paul
The PieceKeeper