Is it just me, or has there been a renewed interest in board and card games these last two years? Maybe they’ve always been popular and I’ve been sleeping under a rock. Either way, it’s clear that the current surge of traditional board games and card games on Kickstarter and new digital PC and console CCGs/TCGs such as MTG Duels of the Plainswalkers, Blizzard’s Hearthstone and Notch’s Scrolls have made me excited about this almost forgotten social past time.
So, a few months ago I picked up Carcassonne, a European board game about strategic city building. A friend and colleague did the same but added a few expansions too. We played it multiple times but it was only after the first or so round that I knew this would be the start of my new found love for board games. Along with some friends we had a lot of fun learning the finer strategies especially those introduced in the expansions like Builders and Traders. Up until today I’ve played probably 20 or more rounds of Carcasonne and still find it entertaining. Yet, I was yearning for something a little deeper.
Another game I’ve heard a lot about and have been meaning to try is Settlers of Catan. This I got to play at a get-together one Friday night not too long ago. In a similar vain as Carcassonne, the game revolves around careful settlement placement on a board made up of hexagonal tiles with expansion and resource gathering and trading at its core. However, the game distinguishes itself from other similar games by having an emphasis on trading and bartering resources between players. It’s a fun dynamic which makes for some engaging rounds of play (as well as some devious alliance forming and the consequential back-stabbing to happen later).
Another seemingly popular board game that’s been around for a while is Ticket To Ride. This I got to play a week ago for the first time. An easy to learn strategic railroad building simulator that is actually a lot more fun than it sounds. Within the first round I was very familiar with the rules and dynamics of the game.
Lastly is Dominion. This is my most recent addiction. A card game about strategic deck building. Each player starts with the exact same cards, and then strategically decide which cards to add to your deck as the game progresses. Choices come down to either adding treasure cards (read “money”), action cards or victory point cards. The player with the most victory point cards at the end of the game wins. Action cards vary from giving you some extra coin to buy your next card, giving you an extra action your round, making opponents discard cards, nothing entirely new as far as card games go. What makes this games so good lies in the replayability of even the base game. It comes with 20 different action card decks but only 10 are used per game. What blew me away is how much the game changed with by just swapping around a few of the action card decks for our second round. Suddenly, the focus was away from amassing coin and getting victory cards as quickly as possible, to robbing and stealing each other while desperately trying to defend your treasury. There are also cards such as the witch which curses your deck, subtracting from your final victory point score. Paying close attention to what’s available at the start of the round and being able to adapt your strategy as the game progresses is a must if you want to come out on top. I had such a lot of fun my first night of playing this that I vowed to track the game down (which I did!)
Looking forward to doing some more board and card gaming in the near future and I think I’m fortunate to have found some people who share the love for these kinds of things.