International Tabletop Day

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.

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Playing Mysterium

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.

Today is International Tabletop Day, and I’d encourage you to check out some of my favorite tabletop games: Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, Dominion, Mysterium, Splendor, Codenames, and 7 Wonders.  They have all different fun themes, and some are for groups, some are cooperative, some are card-drafting, etc.  Something for everyone!

If you want more info about different board games, check out Jaysen’s Now It’s Your Turn series on his blog for detailed descriptions with some humor.

If you want to find a meet-up in your area for Tabletop Day, go to Geek and Sundry’s Community Event locator.  If you’re in Northeast Ohio, the Board Gamers of Greater Akron (BOGA) meet at the Quirk Cultural Center in Cuyahoga Falls.  Board gamers tend to be very friendly people, so go meet some and have some fun!

Now Playing: Board games from the BOGA retreat

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!

Mysterium

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.”

Codenames

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: Team Asia

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!

The hardest part of this game is finding the cities you need to get to on the map.  You will feel incompetent at geography.

Splendor

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).

 

Jaipur

I was referring to this as the “camel game” when B informed me that there are, in fact, multiple Eurogames with camel themes.  Who knew?

Anyway, this is a quick, easy, 2-player game with a fun merchant-trader theme.  Did I mention the camels? I love the camels.

Christmas Haul!

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?

Millenium Falcon

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!

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Look, there’s even a satellite dish and a spot for the cockpit to angle off.

He also got me some Christmas lawn decorations.  There was some jumping and excited screaming involved.

t.rex

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.

Board Games

  • 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.
  • Mysterium—the English version of a fun social game I wrote about previously; it’s like a mix of Dixit and Clue
  • B also received One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Sheriff of Nottingham, and Codenames
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The board game pile keeps getting bigger.

Other Media

  • Frozen—there’s going to be a lot of singing
  • The Force Awakens soundtrack by John Williams—I can’t wait to get a better listen to this.  I think it will be great writing music!

Last but not least:

  • R2 soup—yes, my parents got me a can of Star Wars soup as a Christmas present.  I absolutely ate it and it was delicious.
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The Star Wars shapes totally make it taste better.

At the board gaming retreat: Mysterium is super fun and slightly crazy

Back in March I spent a weekend out at a campground playing board games with my husband at the annual Board Gamers of Great Akron (BOGA) retreat.  It’s a great time for me to not only play my favorites (Carcassonne, for example), but also get some down time to read/write/play KOTOR II while my husband is playing games that I have no interest in (typically games that are long, strategy-based, or social deduction).

During one of those times, I got pulled into a group playing a new game: Mysterium.  It’s a European game (the English version will be out this year) that was billed to me as a cross between Dixit and Clue, but cooperative.  How could I say no to that??

The Russian edition
The Ukrainian edition

A murder has been committed, and the victim’s ghost is sending clues to the players via their dreams to help them figure out the weapon, location, and perpetrator of the crime.

The “ghost” player, who can’t talk, gives each “dreaming” player a picture every round to try to hint at one of the answers (it’s different for each player).  But the pictures are basically like Dixit cards, so the clues are never straightforward, and what you infer from it may be completely different from what the ghost intended.  The images can be very detailed, and range from bizarre to slightly creepy.

This is actually a Dixit card, but same idea.

Ghost: [Hands you this card]

You: Oh, I think my clue is for the poison, because it’s a liquid and this card has a lot of water.

Other player: Or it could be the fork thingy, because the backgrounds are the same color blue.

Ghost: [Twitching]

You: Actually, I’m leaning toward the candlestick now, because it’s a lighthouse, so kind of like a candle.

Ghost: [Headdesk]

You have a limited number of “nights” in which to guess, but if all the players guess their individual weapon, location, and person cards correctly, they have one last night where the ghost tries to tell them which suspect was the actual murderer.

The people I played with say that pretty much no one ever “wins” this game, but I’m pretty sure nobody cares.  The fun is just sitting around for an hour bickering over the minutia of the dream cards and watching the ghost try to not throttle the other players.  Actually, having the ghost be two people is not a bad idea if you have lots of people; the game already plays 2-7 people.

If you want to play some games like Mysterium in the NE Ohio area, stop by BOGA every 2nd Friday and 4th Saturday at the Quirk Cultural Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

Some rational words about Ebola

I am scared of a lot of things.  Tornadoes.  Spiders. Venomous anything.  I am also scared of Ebola.  Terrified, really.  I am more scared of Ebola than pretty much any other disease, including things I might actually have a slight chance of getting, like breast cancer or AIDS.  I blame my sixth grade science teacher, who described the movie Outbreak to us in class one day.

Now, of course, this is totally irrational.  As a scientist I realize this.  So, let’s all calm down and talk about some facts.  Since my epidemiological knowledge is limited to some undergrad courses in biology and the mechanics of the game Pandemic, we’ll turn to the experts.

Tara C. Smith is a microbiologist/epidemiologist at Kent State University, which is just a short car trip away for me here in Northeast Ohio, and she also writes about infectious diseases for media, books, etc.  She has written a very nice piece describing why we in the US should not be panicking about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak here, because a lot of public “knowledge” about Ebola is exaggerated or incomplete.  Please read it, and take some deep calming breaths with me:

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong


Also, here are my suggestions for naming the diseases in Pandemic:

Yes, those are petri dishes to hold the game pieces
Yes, those are petri dishes to hold the game pieces

 

Yellow: AIDS (Ebola, yellow fever)

Blue: Spanish Influenza (Bubonic plague, Swine flu)

Black: Leprosy

Red: Bird flu (SARS)

Purple: ??