“To infinity and beyond” Now, Buzz Lightyear probably wasn’t talking about games when he stood there remarking about endless possibilities. But, with International Infinity Day coming up on August 8 2021, I bet that’s what he was thinking. After all, what is our hobby if not full of the most amazing and replayable offerings?!
On that basis, we are following suit and parking the deep-diving philosophical debates about the meaning of life. Here at Zatu, we are celebrating this rather modern marker in our own special way i.e. through all things gaming (of course!). And what more appropriate aspect of table-topping than games we would play until the end of time?! Join us as 5 budding bloggers give their forever game choices to celebrate Infinity Day.
Full disclosure time; I was going to pick Bruno Cathala’s Five Tribes. as my forever game for Infinity Day. It makes my head hurt, my heart pump, and my eyes smile whenever I play it. And I want to play it. Every. Single. Day. But my fellow blogger, Dan, has written such a worthy dedication to it that I have to concede and allow him the honour.
On that basis, I surprised myself by picking a relatively new game to join my collection; Railroad Ink Challenge Lush Green Edition. Before you ask why, let me explain. My first grown-up board game purchase was the brilliant Railroad Ink Blazing Red Edition. Before buying it, I researched, debated, committed, and paid my money. I then received and instantly fell in love. So much so that I wrote a love letter to it on Valentine’s Day! A fiery little box focussing on making network connections between highways and railways. Dry-wipe, multiplayer solitaire and accessible. Not to mention playable in person or online (aka Pandemic proof!). It even has two mini-expansions thrown in for good measure. I thought I was set for life.
Fast forward a year, however, and for my infinity choice, Blazing Red has been shuffled along the shelf a little. Not by something enormous and flashy. Not even by a different game. Railroad Ink Challenge Lush Green Edition now gets my vote. It’s the same core spatial gameplay. The same overarching goal is to maximise network connections. But with the added challenge of particular scoring objectives, two super fun thematic expansions, and a solo experience that is beyond merely BYOS, Green just pulls ahead. Oh, and, for the sake of even more replayability, there is a bunch of compatible dice packs to boot. I have a feeling that, so long as I can continue to bulk buy dry-wipe markers, this little green gem is going to be on my shelves until they bury me inside my own Kallax!
What makes a game worthy of holding my attention for all eternity? It took me a long time to decide on a pick for this Infinity Day collaboration. My mind was instantly drawn to the comical nature of games such as Muffin Time or Joking Hazard, or games that have stunning table presence like Carcassonne or Queendomino. Then my analytical noggin dove even deeper into this conundrum. I began thinking about the friend group I would need for each of the choices. Perhaps a solo game would be the obvious choice.
I realised, however, that I was thinking far too deeply for what is essentially a fun concept. I should just choose a damn good game. A damn good game for me needs to be middleweight, makes you think, plays great with 2 and makes you want to play again. Boom! Five Tribes. One of my favourite games I have played so far. With the nature of the setup and the range of expansions available, Five Tribes. always plays out a little differently every time you play it. And that is exactly why I could play it forever.
Five Tribes. takes one of the most establish mechanisms in all of board gaming, flips it on its head and gives it a ruddy good shakedown. Worker placement is a staple for thousands of games, but it is the worker removal aspect of this game that truly makes it engaging. Couple this with the ability to employ the aid of mythical djinns? Sign me the heck up!
When I think of a game I can play forever, I consider variability, strategy and how much enjoyment I get from it. I want a game I can teach my nephew and eventually my children when they start existing. Ticket to Ride is up there, as is Lords of Waterdeep (boy did I play a lot of Lords of Waterdeep during lockdown.)
But the one which sticks in my mind as a game that will be with me until the end of time is this. It is one about a French settlement built by the Romans. Yep, it’s the classic Carcassonne. The tile laying phenomenon that gave the world the meeple and Spiel des Jahres winner in 2001.
The gameplay is simple enough to teach to kids. Pick up a tile, lay it down, decide if you want your meeple to be a farmer, robber, knight or monk, and tally the points as necessary. Whilst there is a high luck aspect because of the randomness of the tiles, the strategy in placement is always key.
Does your city have a lot of openings or possibilities for connecting to another city? Potentially one that another player is in? Will your monk score lots of points because he’s next to your sister’s monk - both motivated to place tiles down?
Carcassonne is as beautiful as the city it’s named after, with even the basic game giving you multiple options such as the River and Abbot expansions. And with the Big Box holding 11 expansions, you can play Carcassonne for the rest of your life. I know I certainly will be.
Some games are like Pringles! Once you pop you just can’t stop. I’m talking seriously addictive. There’s several I could think of that I’d happily play twice in a row. But if there’s one game that could be stuck on an infinity loop and I wouldn’t complain it’s got to be It’s A Wonderful World! (“IAWW”).
IAWW is a fast-paced card drafting game with synchronous play that employs a deliciously satisfying cascading production phase. The theme is thin and pasted on. But its tongue in cheek dystopian setting allows for some hilariously entertaining cards and nods to other great board games.
Players will draft 7 cards in the usual way, passing their own hands to neighbours each draft. Then you have to decide which cards to build and which to recycle. Cards have a cost in coloured cubes to construct or can be recycled for a single cube of a specific colour. As you construct cards, they’ll stack up in a column to create your production engine. The production phase is where IAWW gets really satisfying.
Each of the 5 resources are produced one at a time in the same order. First, you’ll count how many grey cubes are in your production column and add them to cards in your construction area, then black, then green etc. If adding a cube completes a card it immediately enters your production column. So, if you used a grey cube to complete a card which then produces black cubes, that new card would be in place to produce next.
In practice, this production/building/production cascade is so intensely satisfying. It poses the crunchy puzzle of what exactly you can achieve before the end of the game. Add to that the scoring combos you can achieve and this just becomes the most addictive game ever! The perfect game to mark Infinity Day!
If you can only play one game forever, that game needs to have infinite replayability. For me, there is one mechanic that is streets above the rest in terms of replayability. One mechanic that deserves to be played on Infinity Day. That is deck building. You can never create the same deck, and then you also have the variation in the cards you draw each round and the combinations you are able to pull off with that hand of cards.
Hero Realms is my Infinity Day pick for the game I could just keep playing. This game is made up exclusively of cards. There are starter decks that contain some low-level attack cards, and some gold and rubies which allow you to buy more cards.
Everyone starts with the same weak deck and 50 health points. Each round you buy new cards from the market deck and you place these in your discard pile so that once you reshuffle they will be available to draw. The cards come in four faction colours, and each of them has a different overall power. Blue cards give you coins to buy more powerful cards. Gold cards help you gain health. Green cards affect your opponents by getting them to discard cards. And red cards help you thin out your deck by sacrificing cards.
Hero Realms for me is the best value deck builder (or its sister game, Star Realms, if you prefer a space theme). The price point for the base game is low, and so too are the expansions. These come in Pokemon style foil packages and give a slightly different twist. Normally by adding 10-20 cards that switch up the starting decks and health, or by adding special abilities and extra market cards. If I was to suggest a particular one, my favourite is the Ancestry pack. This offers a selection of new characters with their own starting decks and very asymmetric health points to start. The smallfolk start with a lot less health, but the balance comes from their special ability card and cool start deck. In fact, the smallfolk might well be my favourite character to play as they inspire you to play hard, knowing that you're starting behind on health.