Let’s Talk Tabletop
Well, E3 2017 has just come to visit and we got our game on in Nerd Fight #12, so I’m waxing a little nostalgic. Friends, Romans, countrymen, let’s talk boards and dice. Even here in the 21st century, many of us still have fond (or not so fond- Monopoly) memories of certain Parker Brothers classics, Battleship, Chess, Uno, Go, heck, even Mouse Trap – do you know anyone who played that properly? When we’re finally getting a new Metroid, a new feature in Madden, and a Quantic Dream game that might actually make your decisions important, it’s also a good point to step back, toss those bones, and gaze coolly at the cards. Here’re some games of chance you might not have met yet. The best tabletop games you should be playing!
Let us begin with an unfamiliar name from a familiar place. Wizards of the Coast (Poppa of Magic: The Gathering and the Pokemon card games, as well as proud proprietor of Dungeons & Dragons ever since TSR sold it) is best known for their biggest games, but like any game company, they make lotsa stuff. The best offer they’ve got, in this humble D&D themed Erwin Schrödinger joke’s opinion, is Guillotine.
Here you have a card game for two to five players wherein you play executioners competing to get the most and highest ranking nobles lined up at your blade during the French Revolution. You can even behead Robespierre! Fun! This is accomplished by taking turns drawing and playing noble cards from the noble deck as well as one action card – and perhaps playing one each turn – for three rounds, and finishing day three by playing the nobles and/or screwing over your competitors as cleverly as you can. Let the good times… Roll.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
Ah, Werewolf. You might know it as Town of Salem, Mafia, or Trouble in Terrorist Town. At heart, it remains the ideal guessing game for reality TV fans – or just giggling sadists – everywhere. Scaling upward with the number of people it’s played with, you start with one werewolf (the player who can take one person out of the game per turn,) one seer (the player who can find out exactly what role one person is playing per turn,) and everyone else is villagers (the people who have no advantage but their wits.) Some versions have more “special roles,” others have different ones, but it is always, always a frantic game of lying through your teeth while hoping you spot the right lies.
Bezier Games, Inc. brings us One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a ten minute version where everyone has a special role (including being able to look at what role cards are left in the deck, or simply stealing another player’s cards,) and if you don’t find the wolves in ten minutes, they find you. Great for parties!
Ah, Cheapass Games. You may know them for Button Men, you may know them for Kill Doctor Lucky, you may know them for Lord of the Fries, but all they sell are cheap, awesome games. My favorite card game is BRAWL, a little venture into violence à la taking the classic card game War, making it multiplayer, and all play simultaneous. You can even buy separate decks (each with a different fighter’s name and art) with a different proportion of “block,” “dodge,” “hit-1,” “hit-2,” “reverse,” and so on in each deck – each of those cards stack up points in much the way you’d expect.
My favorite of their board games dates back to their early days, wherein many Cheapass Games came in a stylish paper envelope with game printed on the finest economy cardstock, the instructions printed on the envelope, a sheet of cardstock for you to cut out and fold tokens from, and you had to supply the rest of the tokens (as well as any dice a game might need.)
Devil Bunny Needs a Ham is a race. Two to five players roll a die to see how many spaces they move each turn, have to avoid fixed obstacles along every possible path, and avoid Devil Bunny, who is always camped at the finish line. Or, as Cheapass put it:
“You and your friends are living pleasant and complete lives in Happyville.
You are highly trained and well-paid sous-chefs, who have decided to climb to the top of a tall building, as fast as you can.
Devil Bunny Needs a Ham.
And he’s pretty sure that knocking you off the building will help him get one.
Perhaps he is right.
Perhaps he is not.”
Footnote: He is now so cheap, he’s free. I bought it for $2.12 in the nineties, but you can print it out at the link above!
Ah, Z-Man Games. What does your name mean…?
If you’d like to work together for once, they’ve got your game. Pandemic has you and one to three other people battling disease outbreaks in a style reminiscent of Monopoly. The main difference is you’re trying to cure global outbreaks, not build up properties.
Each turn, players build research facilities (to cure a hot spot) and travel the globe to hot spots. Players also use location cards to travel quickly to hot spots or to cure outbreaks with complete sets of locations. Everyone has a job card as well. These cards give a permanent special ability such as fast facility construction or instantaneous travel.
There are even event cards (much like Community Chest) that will randomly give you more resources, slow the spread of a disease, exponentially spread diseases, and so on. The game even has expansions you can buy – don’t worry, it’s a finite number. No CCG here – and several sequels by this point. I’d recommend starting with the base game. Things can get remarkably frantic as a result of the world dying.
Created with nerd love in 2002 by Kerry and Todd Breitenstein, Twilight Creations, Inc. has a distinct theme to their products. The best of which, in this Igor’s opinion, is ZOMBIES!!! Now, ZOMBIES!!! is another non-collectible board game that has several expansions you can purchase for (or play instead of) the main game.
ZOMBIES!!! is not an excellent board game because of the smiting of the undead, no. Where it shines is the elegant simplicity in the weird arrangement of rules. The object of the game is be the first to get to the helicopter or to kill twenty-five zombies. Players move by rolling one six-sided die, kill a zombie by rolling one six-sided die, and can play one event card per round.
Play begins with everyone having three bullet tokens and three heart tokens. Anytime a player fails a roll to kill a zombie, that player takes one heart token of damage per failure. If you lose every heart token you die, and have to move back to the starting space. Happily, dying does give you your starting tokens back. A players’ bullet tokens are spendable to increase failed rolls up to succeeding rolls in combat. All zombies you kill are awarded to your kill total. Dying also costs half of your kill total rounded up and any weapon cards in play, so be careful.
Where things get twisty is at the beginning and the end of each turn. The game begins with a board that seems tiny; three spaces long by three spaces wide. At the beginning of each person’s turn, they draw the next part of the game board from a map deck and, touching one side legally, place it wherever they want. This can lead to tiny boards, or to game maps that cover entire gymnasium floors (…with all expansions).
Right before you end your turn, roll one six-sided die to determine how many zombies you can move. Zombies can move only one space a turn, so be clever.
Igor, Possibly a Box