As the definition of a global organisation, the United Nations (UN) is the go-to when something big happens. Something that affects us all. The Coronavirus has shone a spotlight on the strength that can come from addressing issues that affect everybody. So, for United Nations Day, we at Zatu are celebrating the work that goes into keeping 193 countries on track! Inspired by the cooperation, diversity, and leadership that has happened within the UN over the last 75 years, here are some games to play on united nations day that will give you a truly worldwide view!
Being the leader of the United Nations must take its toll. And I don’t just mean the geopolitical messiness. Imagine what arranging lunch orders must be like at one of their summits!? Ok, so satisfactory sarnies won’t be at the top of their list of priorities, I’m sure. But Portugal definitely has a big job on its hands as one of its politicians currently sits as the Secretary-General.
And so, I want to take this chance to shine a light on a game that is not only set in Portugal but is also a handy metaphor for the cultural and colourful diversity of the United Nations.
Azul Summer Pavilion is a game set in 16th century Portugal. In it, the King has commissioned the country’s best artisans to create the most beautiful pavilion. A gorgeous looking (and feeling. I dare you not to hold, stroke, and want to eat those diamond-shaped tiles!) game, Azul Summer Pavilion is a beautiful tile layer with a mean streak.
Using tiles from pool “factories”, you will be trying to complete star-shaped patterns over 6 rounds. But you have to be smart about which colours you pick, as there are never enough to go around. With some placements triggering bonus tiles from the central board, and wild tiles offering both hope and frustration in equal measure, this is my favourite iteration of Azul so far. It also lets me exercise my “hate draft” muscles which raises this game from ground level to truly stellar!
Right, hear me out. I know that pandemic is a word that we have heard all too much in real life lately. But, there is a game where everyone must come together to cooperatively save the world. This also should have been how easily the actual pandemic was solved, but alas real life is altogether far messier.
In Pandemic you and your fellow players are trying to control the spread of disease cubes by carefully removing them in places where an outbreak is likely to happen. You have a choice of a few actions on your turn; flying to another city by discarding the matching card from your hand, moving between neighbouring cities, healing disease cubes from a city you are in, researching a cure to a disease from a research centre, sharing information (cards) with your co-players, all with the aim to try and collect enough cards of a given colour to find a cure for the disease. The timer of the game is the deck of player cards. If you run out of cards, you are out of time and your team loses.
Pandemic has been withering on my shelf a little over the last two years, but with the advent of the non-real life feeling Pandemic Iberia and Pandemic Rising Tides, I feel like I have pulled back a little love for this co-operative hand management game. The mechanics of the game are essentially the same, with some minor tweaks, but the theme is different. More detached which is more palatable whilst living through a pandemic. I think that this game may suffer a touch from quarterbacking, where an experienced player railroads the other players. But having learnt it with a group from scratch I have not experienced that. This is the quintessential co-op for United Nations Day, and if the theme and name puts you off, why not try one of the other versions? Iberia, Rising Tides or Reign of Cthulhu. There are even the Hot Zone versions for beginners or those who want a speedier game!
When I think of the United Nations Day and games, I find myself drawn to a very particular game. One which is all about connecting places together, and one which helped introduce me to the hobby. Yes, it’s time to put on the top hat and tails and step into the role of the Fat Controller – it’s Ticket to Ride time!
The gameplay is very simple, and it’s why Ticket to Ride is often listed as a gateway game. You have three actions:
- You can draft train cards to help you;
- Lay down routes across the map, connecting your drawn routes; or
- Take three new route cards, keeping at least one.
Ticket to Ride has a huge variety in the maps which you can play on. From Europe to Asia and the Heart of Africa, you are connecting the world through the train lines you build. You do need a bit of luck to get some starting routes that connect well together, but frankly, this isn’t always an issue. Even the worst combining routes can make the longest train and score you those sweet bonus points at the end
Ticket to Ride can be slow to start, like a heavily laden goods train, but here’s a handy house rule you can use. Let every player start with six train cards. It just gets the game going a little faster. I’ve used Ticket to Ride as a game to coax my family into playing something at Christmas and it seems to have worked. I’m yet to get them playing anything heavier though… perhaps that’s a mission for the UN…
I guess picking this is a pretty cynical play. But, as the 20th-century cradle of rampant capitalism, the giant USA United Nations member state could not be better exemplified than by a game about building and running casinos on the Las Vegas strip.
And in my mind, this depiction of property wielding and money-grabbing is everything Monopoly wants to be and should have been. Lords of Vegas shares an enormous amount of DNA with that so-called modern classic, but its main distinguishing feature is that it is actually really good!
Each turn opens with a card draw which determines which ‘suit’ of casinos earns income and VP and where that player’s new plots are located. Then you are free to do almost as many actions as you can afford: building casinos on your plots, or speculatively sprawling an existing casino into unclaimed territory. You can remodel one of your existing casinos – in effect changing suit. Or you can reorganise the staff in a casino – rerolling the dice on each casino square affects income and, if there are multiple players’ colours, then the casino could be changing hands after a fashion. If funds are really tight though you can always go and gamble at another player’s casino. Chancing your luck in and against the minigame to rustle up some extra bucks.
Alongside all of this action is the ad hoc trading familiar from Monopoly as plots, buildings and money change hands.
Lords of Vegas as a game is brisk and lively. Luck plays a part but invokes nail-biting joy rather than arbitrary frustration. There’s some great tactical play to be had, and some smart take that when control of casinos change hands and luck-pushing sprawls go wrong. On the table, Lords of Vegas has a strong presence, improved by the inclusion of paper money where each denomination depicts a different member of the Rat Pack. True class!