What comes to your mind when I say “board games?” Maybe something like Clue, Risk, or the dreaded Monopoly. These are the games that Americans of my generation grew up with.
But that only scratches the surface of the current state of board games. For the past 5-10 years, a little sub-culture of gamers has been popped up, in conjunction with the rise of “Eurogames,” like Settlers of Catan, which tend to have relatively short playtimes, simple economy-style mechanics, and emphasize strategy a little more than luck or chance.
I am not a competitive person, and I won’t say that I enjoy all board games (I am TERRIBLE at bluffing games and intimidated by heavy strategy/wargames). But there are such a variety of fun games out there, it is easy to find something you like to play with your spouse, grandmother, or a group of friends.
B and I had a great time a few weekends ago at the annual Board Gamers of Greater Akron retreat. In addition to learning some new games and playing old favorites, I got plenty of downtime for reading, too–crucial for an introvert like me!
Here are some highlights; check these out if you like board games!
I wrote about this fun social deduction game before, describing it as a co-op mix of Clue and Dixit. I recently played the American version that came out last year; it has really nice pieces and adds some new gameplay elements that make it more of a “game.”
Playing the American version
I cannot figure out this woman’s profession. She’s wearing a bonnet, has potatoes, leeks, and a bell, random coins, and a picture of a group of women in Edwardian dress. We were divided between cook and schoolteacher. Any thoughts?
The name and spy theme may remind you of The Resistance, but this large-group team game has more in common with Password or Taboo. Each team has a spymaster, who gives one-word clues to the other team members to get them to guess certain words on the board. The result is always hilarity.
Being the spymaster is hard but fun. I think the key is to not be too pedantic and try to think how your teammates think!
Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite Eurogames, but I’ve only played the USA and Europe maps of this fun train-building game. So I jumped at the chance to try the Asia map, which has one side for a team version where you share some route goals with a partner. I loved it!
I asked for this card drafting/set collection game for Christmas before I ever played it, and sure enough it’s awesome. First, it’s just a pretty game: nice pieces, nice artwork. It’s also fairly simple and quick, and has great replay value. Plus I won the first time I played! (To be fair, I think there’s a first player advantage).
After spending last year re-playing KOTOR II, this year my goal is to play some more contemporary games. I’ve picked up Life is Strange, a light fantasy, graphic adventure game for PC and console; I’m playing it through Steam.
My husband has been bugging me to play this since it came out last year. He loved it, and our taste in story-based games usually aligns pretty well, so I’ve been looking forward to playing it as well. (Also, it’s published by Square Enix, which is a recommendation in itself.)
Our protagonist, the doe-eyed Max, has just moved back to her old hometown to attend the prestigious Blackwell Academy with its excellent photography program.
While she may have anticipated the cliques of Mean Girls there, she did not anticipate reuniting with her old best friend Chloe under bizarre circumstances, or a school mystery involving drugs, surveillance, and a missing girl…or suddenly getting a supernatural power that lets her rewind time.
While the first episode is mainly about Max figuring how to use her new power, the answers to how and why she got it in the first place are slowly building over the series.
I actually watched my husband play the first episode last year, so I already knew the essence of the game. I’m up to the third episode now. The gameplay is pretty easy (I’m playing without a mouse, even), and the story and characters are very interesting.
Player choice is another interesting component of the game. It appears that many different actions and dialogue choices affect the storyline of the game. It’s even a little ominous when something as simple as watering a plant pops up a little icon at the top of the screen saying “This action with have consequences.”
Of course, because Max can rewind a limited amount of time, you can go back and re-do most decisions. In fact, sometimes you have to try things multiple times, simply to gain more information. It’s kind of a fun safety net. I feel like I’m still learning how to use Max’s powers to best advantage, like there’s more I can get out of the game if I apply them better.
I like that there are a small amount of cinematic scenes, but most of the time the player is in control. And the shift between them is pretty seamless.
I do find the voice acting to be a little awkward at times, trying too hard to make the teenage slang sound natural. But the scenery and character design are wonderful, and the soundtrack really fits nicely and adds another level to the mood and tone of the story.
Max is a good protagonist, and she’s surrounded by a wonderful supporting cast. The game does a decent job with diversity of characters, too, especially for being set in an elite boarding school. In particular, there are many rounded female characters with different personalities and body types, from the science teacher Ms. Grant to the punk, blue-haired Chloe.
I also like that there’s not too much romance going on, and what there is, is subtle. Max is friends with an adorably geeky boy named Warren, who clearly likes Max but is stuck in the friend zone. I’m doing my best to get him out, but Max is kinda oblivious. (Well, she does have a lot on her plate right now…)
So in short, this is a fun game I’d recommend. I’m looking forward to finishing it soon and seeing how all my decisions throughout the game turn out in the end.
I got so many awesome things from my family and friends this Christmas! One of my friends actually made me pottery. How cool is that?
You’ve already seen the awesome Falcon my husband made me…it was filled with candy, as well as Star Wars-themed cups. The cups had images from various movies, etc., but I was kinda disappointed that the Rebels one had Ezra, Kanan, and Zeb but not Hera or Sabine. 😦 I did get a Captain Phasma lollipop though!
He also got me some Christmas lawn decorations. There was some jumping and excited screaming involved.
Yes, that is a T-rex with a Christmas present. Yes, his head moves. YES, THERE IS A MATCHING STEGOSAURUS WITH A SANTA HAT THAT ALSO MOVES ITS TAIL. I’ll post pics of that one some time, too.
My husband is the best.
Books (aka the best gift ever)
xxxHolic v1 by the incomparable CLAMP and Ms. Marvel v1 —I want to read more comics this year!
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde—all my friends rave about this author
Several sci-fi and fantasy books by local authors, including The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima
Skylights by Luther Siler—oh wait, I bought that for myself.
Splendor—a very fun card drafting/development game with very pretty art. It has pretty simple mechanics, plays 2-4 people, and has good replay value.
Our tenth installment of this series will be our last, and it ends on a good note because the ending of KOTOR II was not as bad as I remembered. It wasn’t life-changing or anything. But I did not feel the urge to throw anything this time.
The Sith Triumvirate has reformed and it’s our job as the last of the Jedi to stop them, one by one.
First, Visas Marr, Mandalore, and I must stop Darth Nihilus from bombarding the crap out of Telos. We get aboard the Ravager and plant some bombs, which would have taken much less time if I hadn’t missed one stupid computer in a corner, which I instead scoured the ship looking for, only to backtrack to a room I’d been in multiple times already.
We make it to the bridge to face Darth Nihilus. Visas Marr helps me take down her former master, and she and Mandalore even come to a kind of understanding.
On the Ravager bridge
Visas Marr confronts her Master
One Sith down, two to go.
Darth Traya has re-opened Trayus Academy on Malachor V; she and Darth Sion await us there. So it’s time for me to face my demons and return to the site where I caused so much destruction at the end of the Mandalorian Wars. Fate (or perhaps the Force?) is pulling me back to Malachor.
Darth Traya and shadowy Sith warriors
Sion and his Master, Traya
The Ebon Hawk crashes into the remains of Malachor V, and, finding myself alone on the planet’s surface, I make my way to the Trayus Academy.
Should I be more scared by the random corpses, or by the giant empty monster egg shells?
Entering Trayus Academy.
In the meantime, Mira faces down her rival from Nar Shaddaa, the bounty hunter Hanharr, and Bao-Dur sends his remote to re-activate the weapon that destroyed Malachor before, so that Trayus Academy will be permanently obliterated.
So at that point I got to control the remote, and had to go back through the entire map of Malachor that I’d already been through with my main character. But the remote is pretty speedy, and it was worth it for the twist at the end: G0-T0 tries to stop the remote, but is in turn stopped by HK-47, being the badass that he is.
Zipping around as Bao-Durs remote.
Back in the Academy, we’re now on a deadline. Literally. Before the planet blows up. My Force-sensitive companions decide to face Traya, but it does not go well for them (which really is not too surprising, considering I never got Mira, Bao-Dur, or the Disciple to tap into their Force powers during my playthrough).
Atton takes on Darth Sion and (easily) defeats him, and Sion is able to finally let go of his hate and let himself die. Controlling Tyria again, I’m able to free my companions as I fight my way through Trayus Academy.
But facing Traya is something I have to do alone. She’s been using me, a “wound in the Force,” for her crazy schemes that go beyond even Jedi vs. Sith. I have to stop her, and I do. Then I defeat her crazy floating lightsabers.
Before she dies, Traya tells me what she has glimpsed of the futures of my companions. I still don’t get much closure in this area, but it’s better than nothing. Then I head out alone into the unknown regions to continue the search for Revan, and Malachor V is destroyed. Again.
The combat in this last part was shockingly easy. I had no trouble beating any of the three Sith lords, and I never even bothered leveling up all the way.
All in all, I thought the Restored Content greatly enhanced the ending, fleshing it out more and giving my companions a bigger role, which was one of my complaints about the original. It still felt a little abrupt, but not nearly as bad as before.
I liked how philosophical the end was, but it was a little confusing because I didn’t get the full backstories of my companions due to lack of influence with them, so I wasn’t quite sure how some pieces fit together. I definitely did some searching on Wookieepedia to fill in some gaps.
Keep in mind that I played my Exile as Light Side the whole time, so my ending reflects that. I’m not sure how the end would play out if I’d gone Dark Side. Or even neutral—this game actually doesn’t penalize you as much for staying neutral as the original KOTOR did. There are even some items solely for neutral characters, like Jolee’s Robe. That’s great from a roleplaying perspective.
I had a lot of fun doing this replay of KOTOR II. I completed the game in about 48 hrs 45 min. Who knows, I may even play it again in the future. But I’m also looking forward to moving on to other games, maybe getting back into The Old Republic, or trying some of the Final Fantasy games my husband has been bugging me about.