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World Book Day Board Games

world book day
world book day

I love a good book; I love a board game. World Book Day seems like an ideal event to bring the two together.

This whole idea came about thanks to me finally getting around to reading The Player of Games (I have a few books on the ‘to read’ pile… skyscraper, so getting around to reading something can be an achievement in itself). As I read it, it occurred to me that it really put me in mind of a number of games, so I thought to myself, ‘what other books lend themselves to games?’ Now I am not one to Bogart a feature, so I threw it out to my fellow bloggers. What do you think, peeps?

First Class Murder/Dead Man On The Orient ExpressCamille Hindsgaul

The best sub-genre in the world is ‘Murder Mystery on a Train’. Books know it. Games know it. A train allows for a varied cast and provides a limited space where a detective can feasibly have access to every relevant location. And though while the train is in motion, no-one can enter or leave, as soon as you reach a station, your suspects might all scatter to the wind, out of reach. The clock is ticking; the pressure is on.

Robin Stevens’ First Class Murder and the EXIT: The Game entry Dead Man on the Orient Express both use the above aspects of the genre to create wonderfully thrilling mysteries for their readers and players.

First Class Murder details the third murder case of Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong’s Detective Society. During their holiday across Europe, a scream pierces through their dining cart and a passenger is found stabbed to death. The girls are eager to set about their investigation. However, every suspect seems to have a motive, and being a detective at all is not easy when you’re 14 years old and everyone would much prefer you to be sweet and ladylike than breaking into compartments to gather evidence.

Where Wells and Wong have an abundance of plausible murderers, in Dead Man on the Orient Express, no suspect seems to have any connection to the victim at all. Moreover, the detective who was investigating the murder has been knocked out, so it’s up to you to try to make sense of his notebook, gather clues, and talk to witnesses so that you can catch the murderer before the train reaches its destination.

The EXIT: The Game series of escape room games is in general really good for providing immersive materials and puzzles that are both varied and challenging, and Dead Man on the Orient Express is no exception. You’ll be cutting, folding, and rearranging pieces of paper one moment, then solving riddles and drawing patterns the next, as you try to get into every locked compartment, find out whose alibi is false, and, eventually, make your accusation.

I loved both the book and the game, and I would encourage any fellow fan of trains and/or murder mysteries to check them out.

In particular, I’d recommend Dead Man on the Orient Express as a gift for any fan of Wells and Wong with an appetite for solving murders themselves.

Tale Of Two Cities/Between Two Cities Essential Edition - Favouritefoe

“It was my best of games, It was my worst of games”….okay, so Charles Dickens didn’t write that in his classic, A Tale of Two Cities, but if old Charlie boy had played Between Two Cities Essential by Stonemaier Games before putting pen to paper, that would have been his opening line for sure! Charles Dickens is, however, a staple author for World Book Day.

Just like the book, a game of Between Two Cities generates a duality. But rather than deep diving into society v self, this one is all about the bricks and mortar; left city v right city. Each game, you are laying tiles to build two individual cities in order to win the most points. But you aren’t alone. Oh no, my friends. You will have a partner to your right and left (special rules for 2 player and solo!), who are getting in on the civic construction action too!

But this isn’t co-operative in the usual sense. This is semi-partnership. For only one person can win overall. The mech is tile laying/placement optimisation – each building type has its own scoring criteria. You’ll be grouping them according to their own specific rules (or you will if you want to score!). And each round you’ll be picking and passing tiles to add to both cities. But of course, so will your ‘partner’. And whilst some chatter is permitted, you’re on your own at peak decision time!

The new Essential edition includes brilliant asymmetrical landscape maps, new civic buildings, and other cool twists from the Capitals expansion to the original game.

Whether intentional or coincidence, Dickens’ literary paradox is evident. Your brain naturally wants to make one city shine the brightest. But because scoring is based on your worst-best city, sometimes you’ve got to take a serious hit over there in order to raise your game overall!

1984/It’s A Wonderful World Hannah Blacknell

If there is one genre of fiction that I really love, it has to be ‘dystopian future’. The epitome of this has to be 1984 by George Orwell, a book I recently re-read with my book group and thoroughly enjoyed diving into it. 1984 was written in the 1940s and detailed a future where Big Brother watched your every move, and language was contracted to remove some of the duplicate words. No synonyms! My idea of utter hell indeed.

Most of my favourite books fall into this dystopian category and so I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is a board game theme that also really appeals to me too! It’s A Wonderful World is an amazing game where you are drafting cards and building an engine over 4 short simultaneous play rounds. During the draft phase, you select cards to either slate for construction and build or to recycle and scrap for a one-time resource. To build cards you will need to place resource cubes onto it, and as soon as all of these required resources are placed the building gets constructed and will either start producing for you or accruing end of game scoring opportunities.

I cannot stress enough how utterly brilliant this game is, trust me and take the plunge on this box-o-fun. You won’t be disappointed, especially not on world book day.

The Adventures Of Robin Hood/The Adventures Of Robin HoodLuke Pickles

I had a few games on my shortlist for World Book Day. There are games with a link to a book series, like Red Rising (which I haven’t read) or Lord of the Rings (the only one I’ve played is Lord of the Rings Risk, so that doesn’t count), but then I had a brainwave… what about a game where you have to read a book during the gameplay?

It really narrowed down the choice to story-driven games, so I went to my favourite which is The Adventures of Robin Hood. In this game, you and your friends play as Robin Hood and his companions, exploring different parts of Nottingham and Sherwood Forest in a continuous story.

The actual hardback book in the game gives you the story and guides you to different tiles on the board for you to flip over and discover secrets and story elements. I really like the board being pretty much like an advent calendar, with those tiles to flip over, and that the story book has two different storylines to explore, as well as the option to play the same story with slightly different objectives, so the replayability is there.

But key for World Book Day is that every player will have to read from the book at some point because you will have different choices to make as the story progresses and you can’t make those choices when you can see the answer! And for those who love this game already, there’s an upcoming expansion, Friar Tuck in Danger, which I’m really excited for.

The Player Of Games/Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh! & Twilight Imperium Rob Wright

Okay, so back to the inspiration of this feature – Iain M Banks’ Culture novel, The Player of Games, published back in 1988. The Player of Games is the second in the Culture series and follows the greatest human game player (possibly) in The Culture (a futuristic intergalactic near utopia), Jernau Morat Gurgeh, as he travels to an empire built entirely around a game called Azad in order to play this epic game.

Honestly, I would recommend this book to all gamers, because Azad is tantalisingly intriguing and, as far as I can see, an inspiration for at least three big game licences properties. The game itself is comprised of different games, played in rounds. The first rounds are played using cards to gain advantage on the three massive main boards, the Boards of Origin, Form and Becoming. These boards are large enough to walk on and the pieces are ‘biomechs’ that transform into their final form on the Boards, depending on their interaction with the player. Other than that, all we find out is that the game is ‘strategic’ and so important that it is used to determine an Azadian’s position (or health) in their deeply flawed society.

I must say my mind went to a couple of very different places with this. Firstly, the idea of a society so intertwined with a game, with pieces that evolved into other forms during play; where learning the game begins in childhood and the best players hold positions of power and/or are worshipped like gods? Surely this could only be describing the Pokemon franchise, which materialised five years later. True, the book and the game both go to their own dark places, but evolving game pieces – can I get a Pika-Pika?

There’s another franchise where card games are a big thing. In fact they are the very heart… of the cards – YU GI OHHHHHHH! I also come back to this as there is a reference in the book to an opponent falling foul to a card played by Jernau secretly before. Yes indeed. They activated his trap card.

But when it comes to oversized, complex strategy games that get played over a serious length of time, there could be only one game that I think of.


Seriously, I’m talking about Twilight Imperium, the game that takes a day to play, will seriously jeopardise friendships and inspires dedication bordering on obsession. It has cards, dice, boards, pieces, secret objectives, truces, betrayals… actually, it may be a better way of choosing figures of authority than we have now. Maybe.

1988, people, 1988. Iain M Banks was a genius and is sorely missed.

Four books to read (on World Book Day at least); seven games to play. Okay, so I cheated a bit on the last one, but I stand by my decisions. I think it is perfectly natural to link up games and books though, because they have a lot in common. Firstly, they can be stored on shelves – trust me, I’m going somewhere with this. Secondly, I have way too many of both – so much so that my games shelves are migrating onto my book shelves and vice versa (this is not a flex; this is a cry for help). Finally, they have a lot to teach us about interacting socially. This may not be a surprise when it comes to games, because for the most part, games are played with other people. But books? Don’t you read them on your own? Indeed you do, but when you read, you put yourself in the shoes of another character, be it a detective, a dissident, or a security droid with social anxiety. I used to feel guilty about reading fiction, but it turns out that reading a book where you have to see things from another individuals point of view actually teaches you empathy. And surely that is something that everyone could do with more of.