I have worked in a game store. I now own a game store. As such the first question I always get when I say that is “Do you guys have the latest GTA?” or Halo, or Call of Duty, whatever the hot new video game may be. I inevitably hang my head shaking it slowly in a silent no. Take a deep breath and try to explain the world of games. I struggle to explain that the store I work in sells no electronics of any kind. And no, we do not carry any video games. Usually this results in a puzzled expression and a stammering “You said you worked in a game store?”
Over the next few months I want to work to enlighten and expand on your knowledge of games, all games. Each month I will talk about a different game genre. I also want to hear from you about some of your favorite games in that genre. Only by sharing the games we love can we see their joy continue into the future.
This month I want to talk about one of the most misunderstood genres, board games. When you ask most people to name a board game they will, 90% of the time, come up with Monopoly. When you say Monopoly somewhere a game store clerk looses a bit of their soul. Don’t steal our souls.
There is so much more to board gaming then Monopoly, or Sorry. I’m not saying don’t play these. Playing something is undoubtedly better than playing nothing at all. What I am saying is broaden your horizon, look beyond the Wal-Mart toy isle. There are games out there with more depth and more intellectual gymnastics for you to summersault your way through than roll and move.
To boil the genres down to their simplest form there are Euro Games, and Amerigames (a.k.a. Ameritrash). Euro games are great if you want a game that is not directly competitive. While there is typically some interaction between players, there is no confrontation, and usually no dice. Euro games are a most often identified by their components, which look nothing like that which they are supposed to represent. One of the most famous Euro games would have to be Settlers of Catan. There are, however, countless others that are equally deserving of your time and attention. One of my personal favorites is Lords of Waterdeep. Set in the Dungeons & Dragons universe it has elements easily recognizable to most geeks. It has the resource management and subtle tactics that Euro games are famous for.
Then there is Amerigames, these games run an expansive gamut, from your most beloved Monopoly to Road Kill Rally. The later being a racing game wherein the course changes every time. This is due to the modular nature of the board and the customizations of the cars and drivers. Amerigames usually have an element of luck, often in the form of dice rolled. They also typically have an option for player vs. player, and pawns that clearly representative of a real world item. Most of us have probably played at last a few Amerigames as children, and have fond memories of doing so. Anything from the famous pop-a-matic bubble to collecting $200 when you pass go. One of my personal favorite Amerigames is Arkham Horror. The game is set in the world created by H.P. Lovecraft. You and a group of fellow Arkhamites explore the streets of Arkham as you try to stop the ever advancing onslaught of the Old Ones. They threaten to awaken from their slumber to devour the world with the aid of their lesser servants. It is a cooperative game where you must work together if you to have any hope of success.
I have so many favorite board games that I couldn’t begin to post about them all. I would need a separate month dedicated to each if I wanted to do them justice. The best way to learn about games is to play them. I can tell you about a hundred games, possibly more, that I have personally played and probably own. The only way you can know if they are for you, is to give them a try. Go to a Board Game Meet-Up, check out a board game night at a local library. Head to a game store and see if they have any demo copies they can sit down and show you. Hands on is the only way to get a feel for a game.
If you don’t have access to one of these resources check out www.boardgamegeek.com. They have more information on games then I could ever compile. Everything from how many players a game works best for to detailed Q&A’s from fellow players that can help even the most convoluted rules come into focus. That site is an indispensible tool for gamers of all skill levels.
In my next post I’m going to talk a bit about Card Games, both the collectible and the non-collectible variety.
Now I will leave you with a question. What are some of your favorite board games? Please post in the comments and tell everyone a bit about the games you love so we might look deeper into the realm of gaming.