I came into 2018 as a board gaming 'noob', daunted by what was on offer - even confusing Carcassonne with Italian folded pizzas and with a eagerness to learn more about Crocodile Pool Party, which sounds like the best game I've never played.
On New Year's Eve, I told myself I'd spend more time seeing friends during the next 12 months after 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' on Netflix lead me to extensive periods of introversion. So came the resolution to buy one board game a month to help get myself away from the black mirror, and break down introversion's metaphorical house of cards. Board games would become 2018's life hack, to see and make friends.
Prior to 2018, my familiarity lay with the corporate gaming machines of Monopoly, Cluedo, Game of Life, and Hungry Hippos, with fonder memories of the left of centre commercial games that had something about them. The sliding levels and ever-changing landscape of Labyrinth and the 'kill off the family and escape the mansion' comic antics of 13 Dead End Drive.
And then along came Pandemic, the co-operative strategy game which was to change how I see games and open up a whole new world.
Introduction to the Board Game World
Here's what I have experienced so far since turning to the tabletop:
This is an exceedingly good board game from 2007. As a new gamer, it looked frightening, confusing and I was still trying to get my head around everybody working together against the game. So we all win or all lose? Yes, and if we all lose, seven billion people on the planet die. I better learn this game fast then. There are stakes, you're playing as different medical, military and analyst types attempting to eradicate four virulent viruses by globe-trotting and working together.
Saving the world isn't as easy as it looks. From online research, even the most seasoned board gamer has only completed 'normal' mode a handful of times. Everyone has their own special skill, a mechanic for you to lean into and on others as the disease spreads every turn. Nothing quite cut it like eventually winning Pandemic for the first time after one game, we (my team) legitimately decided we want to go to Karachi Pakistan to see where we held our 'G8 summit' that saved the world from what we were calling Ebola.
This game would easily suit anyone who likes to travel, but is between trips and saving. It has the feel of you travelling across the world in a mad dash and appeases the strongest of 'travel bugs' - pun intended - and leaves you wanting just a nice cup of tea. It's exhilarating. If you got a travel bug, it's probably pandemic.
It led to me wanting more games, more cinematic verve. But how does one find their foot when they know nobody that's into games? I was worried to buy the wrong game and regret a decision, games are not cheap and I was concerned that I'd make the wrong choice, but it turns out there are so many places to look and so many resources to help you. I asked friends if they would play board games with me, and after asking around there were similar folk who wanted distractions from dry January.
I found out too late that my home town's 'Epic' gaming store recently closed down due to lack of footfall. To think I'd been frightened that it may be too geeky, only to find that places close due to not showing an interest. Now I'm not scared, I'm the noob realising that without engaging these things can't survive. So I looked on the internet and threw myself in the deep end of the crocodile pool party hoping that gaming life will find a way..... and then I'm shown Splendor.
Splendor.....Wow! I fully recommend the subtlety of Splendor, zipping me into the shoes of a Renaissance gem merchant achieving prestige through mining acquisitions, seeking acclaim, riches and royal visits. I was and am transported into its zen like calm and beauty. The casino chips for gems are a great thing to hold in place of real gems that gives weight to the cost of your purchases.
This was a delightful gateway game that didn't just feel like a game to get me into games, but a game that I'd be returning to again and again.
The World Wide Web has far beyond what WH Smiths has to offer and is the gamer boys and girls hangar 51 when it comes to gaming research, so it is with this I'd like to thank and highlight to any other places that I found to be great.
- Thank you Zatu Games!
- Thank you Board Game Geek.
- Thank you Shut Up & Sit Down.
- Thank you The Dice Tower.
Zatu Games aided my quick assimilation into the world of board gaming to help with my decision making. With a few hours of research, I was able to find a few games that I wanted to explore and share with friends:
King of New York
The excitingly cinematic experience of King of New York. I dabbled for a while on whether to get this or King of Tokyo, on-which this game is based. I'm happy with my decision as my main worry was that this would be too complicated without having played the original. It's not, it's fantastic fun, there are monster characters for each player, smashing up New York and the idea of not only trying to be the most aggressive beast to demolish the city but also the most celebrated beast is nothing short of genius. It's fun to play and has a real feel for the movies. It allowed me to see how diverse board games really are when you put them side by side. A great choice.
At start of the year I gave myself one resolution; to buy a board game a month and to have a collection by the end of the year. By the end of January, I've got six games, some which are waiting to be played. If this resolution had been going to the gym three times a week I'd have spent the first three weeks of January in the gym and not be going back for six months. This is the opposite of how resolutions are supposed to work - I've gone from curious to ravager of games.
One month on and I'm still in the shallow end of the pool, but a little research has told me not pick up Crocodile Pool Party - despite how good it sounds. Thank you Zatu for your help getting me into my new hobby.... Pandemic broke my ice. Splendor sold me. King of New York beat me into submission. Yup, yup, yup. This is the quickest I've indulged in a hobby since Netflix, but stranger things have happened. 2018 is going to be a very good year.