Tue, 24 Jul 2018
Find some shade and try out these new family games
THE PREMISE : Table-top entertainment is back in fashion – friends and families are embracing a new generation of games, as well as the old favourites.
However, when I tell people that I’m into board gaming I don’t play the formulaic staples like Monopoly and Cluedo. While these well-known family classics are the traditional go-tos, there is so much more out there.
SET UP: As advances in computer games have created a multi-billion pound industry, board games are staging their own quiet revolution. The 12th Games Expo at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, attracted some 32,000 visitors and more than 300 exhibitors, recently.
It’s easy to see why many are switching games controllers for playing pieces. Some video games set you back in excess of £50 and then ask for more to unlock new items or levels. Board games, however, are comparatively cheap and offer more fun, replayablilty and social interaction.
Café culture has also embraced the movement, with board game cafés, such as Oxford’s Thirsty Meeples, springing up. Turn up with a game, borrow one from the café library or buy one, play and make new friends.
The closest board game shop to Newbury is Eclectic Games, Reading. A board games club recently started up in Hungerford, and another group I know of meet in Bucklebury once a month.
WHY PLAY? Aside from the fun and social interaction, board games make you think and promote skills that can be transferred outside the game realm.
I enjoy learning about a person when you sit down to play a game – Are they likely to cheat? How do they respond to losing? Are they gracious in victory? How good are they at planning ahead and adapting to changing situations? Will they act morally? Will they betray me?
END GAME: Board games have evolved past the tried and tired method of rolling dice and moving around a board. There is something for everyone, from collecting sushi to terraforming a planet, surviving a zombie apocalypse or quickly building a booming town – a multiverse of possibilities, friendships and fun await in a box of your choosing.
Here are just a few easily transportable games:
Hugely fun and quick card game, offering hours of entertainment for all the family.
Players are dealt a hand of cards representing cutely drawn Sushi.
The aim is to have the highest score after three rounds – or courses. Each type of sushi has its own scoring rules, eg a salmon nigiri will net you three points, while you need to collect three sashimi to score 10 points.
But, much like in a sushi bar, the options in front of you revolve.
Players select a card in their hand and place it face down in front of them. Once all players have picked, they reveal their sushi of choice and pass their remaining cards to the person on their left.
The picking and passing continues until all cards are played, then add up the score at the end of each round. The player with the highest score at the end of the third round is the winner – but don’t forget about puddings!
Sushi Go! encourages planning, numeracy and probability skills. There’s also the expansion Sushi Go Party!
Rock, Paper, Wizard
Age 14+ / 3-6 players / Approximately 30 mins
Easy to pick up and takes finger-pointing to a new level.
You are a band of wizards who have worked together to take down a dragon guarding a hoard of gold. But, struck by gold lust, you then turn your spells on each other.
The board – which is the dragon’s cave – has the gold at one end and the cave mouth at the other. The aim is to finish closest to the gold at the end of a round to pick up five coins. The first player to collect 25 coins wins.
You cast spells that either advance you closer to the gold, fling your opponents back to the entrance, or just steal gold from them. The choice of spells are based on cards in front of you.
When you’re ready, raise your fist in the air. When everyone is ready shout ROCK! PAPER! WIZARD! and shape your hand to match the corresponding spell on the card, eg a fireball is a closed fist pointed at another player, while levitation sees you make a thumbs up gesture.
Encourages tactical thinking and offers entertaining, interesting and sometimes hilarious, situations.
Age 10+ / 2-4 players / Approximately 20 mins
Easy to learn and incredibly quick, a card game of risk, deduction and luck.
Players attempt to smuggle their love letter to a princess locked away in the palace by relying on members of the court – they must evade detection while trying to knock out their opponents.
Each player is dealt a card. Player one receives an extra one and chooses which to play – the next player then draws a card from the pack and chooses which one to play, and so on, until one player is left.
Cards represent characters in the court and each has a special ability. A priest, for instance, allows you to look at another player’s hand.
Love Letter has won 11 awards and has spawned themed versions, including Batman and The Hobbit.
Age 14+ / 2 players / Approximately 15 mins
An oriental martial arts-themed game aimed at budding and experienced chess players.
Players control four students and one master who have traveled to the ancient shrine of Onitama seeking enlightenment and to prove their martial mastery.
The pieces are set up on a 5x5 grid, but, whereas chess assigns each piece a fixed movement, Onitama provides more flexibility.
Each player is dealt two of 16 move cards representing an animal spirit, which dictates where any piece can move on the board, eg elephant form is a U shape.
The first player moves any piece to a legal space on the board, based on one of their cards, which they then pass to the side and collect a fifth card waiting in the wings.
Player two then chooses a move from their cards before passing it into the middle. They then collect the last card that player one played.
This simple, yet complex, system offers tactical depth as you analyse your opponents moves and your own moves.
Like chess, you aim to take your opponents’ pieces and capture their master, known as the way of the stone. An alternative path to victory is the way of the stream, whereby you have to move your master onto your opponents’ shrine.
Age 8+ / 2-4 players / Approximately 45 mins
If you want something a bit more in-depth and tense, but relatively straightforward after a rules run-through, this is the must-own for boardgamers everywhere.
One of the best ‘beat the game’ games out there, players must work together to contain and then eradicate four strains of virus that have broken out across the planet.
Players assume a unique role within the team to find a cure for each virus by collecting cards and trading them in at research stations.
However, the game is working against you and each turn sees new cities become infected, causing a fresh outbreak if they aren’t treated quickly enough.
There is one way to win Pandemic, but three ways to lose, so players must plan ahead and co-operate if the world is to stand any chance of surviving
Many games run close to the wire and you get a real sense of satisfaction when your strategy prevails.
All these games are available online and from specialist game shops – try www.hoylesonline.com in Oxford, or Waterstones can order them in.