On boardgames, a random selection

So…it’s been awhile.

In an effort to ‘jump back in’ so to speak I thought I would spend a post away from my usual fare. No movies, television shows, or video games. Today I’m going to talk about board games, a subject too often neglected.

I have mentioned before that I love all kinds of games, board games included. I actually have one or two that I take wherever I go, in case the party winds down and we need something to do. Whilst loading up groceries it occurred to me that I have been toting around four games for a while. I thought today, as a minor means of randomness, I would give a mini review of each product.

 

Betrayal at House on the Hill. I have written about this game before, but it deserves a second look. This is my current favorite board game. Most of the people whom have played it enjoy the experience; the crew at my local library liked it enough to buy a copy and make it a staple of their game days.

In betrayal a game consists of two sections: exploration and the haunt. In the beginning the players work together, exploring the house and gathering weapons and clues. In the second half one of these players will turn traitor and the houses mystical nature will fall upon them. Then it’s time for action, where the traitor tries to murder the players and the players tries to survive.

Survival is determined by which of the 50 random missions to get. Adding to this, Betrayal’s tile-based modular board very nearly ensures that you will never have the same game twice. It’s a fun game, dripping with style and atmosphere. The characters are likable, if not crazy, the scenarios are inventive, and the wealth of quests and random nature make this one of the few high-end games to justify its price.

I take it everywhere I go, and I try to spread the word to everyone.

 

Monopoly. A classic staple of the board game world and how I hate it. The cutthroat atmosphere is almost certain to provoke arguments, and with a smart group of players (or just some really dumb ones) the game can last forever. Perhaps I’m just bitter, this game is popular and well known so it’s possible I just have a bad taste left over from childhood.

I bought this copy because I ran into a friend who had never played Monopoly. I figure everyone deserves the chance to hate their friends, so I bought a copy. We played, there was some antagonism and the game was not finished, but it was mostly an enjoyable experience.

Also, to be fair, Monopoly does feature easy-to-understand rules, and an open-ended and evolving board. It’s a classic for a reason: it’s more complex than a majority of its brethren yet remains simple enough to teach in a night. The version I bought also includes a ‘speed die’ to help speed up the game, a feature I really want to try. It’s also interesting to read the full rules from an adult perspective; the makers of Monopoly are not stupid and know how the game gets played so there is an entire section devoted to shooting down popular house rules such as ‘teaming up’ or ‘free parking gives cash’

I’m not a big fan, but still it is Monopoly and it deserves a spot in my trunk.

 

Bump in the Night. As much as I love Betrayal there still comes the point where you want to try something new. As a fan of co-operative gameplay, a horror theme, and tile based/modular gameplay, I began looking towards “Arkham Horror.” Seeing it listed as a 60 dollar game caused me to stop looking. Instead I picked up this 20 dollar entry.

Bump in the Night has its heart in the right place, but it just never sticks the landing. In this game you play as the ghosts and are annoyed to find that a group of girls have invaded your home. The goal is to use your varied monsters to scare the girls into running away or passing out. It’s an awesome premise, but it soon falls apart.

Firstly, each player is in competition with each other, owning duplicate sets of monsters the focus is not on ‘getting the invaders out’ but instead ‘getting more out than your friends.’ It’s not a deal breaker, but in actual play it lessens the atmosphere. The invaders consist of 20 identical little girls, which seems to fit the atmosphere but then you wonder how so many grade-schoolers got so lost. Using a group of varied NPCs seems a better option, with each character having various phobias and fears.

On the monster side of the deal things are a bit dry. The monsters look cool, but their actual abilities vary little, mostly just in ‘how scary’ they are. To scare a girl out of the house you have to set up a system of monsters and locked doors, so that the girls will run from room to room, encountering new monsters, and will hopefully be lead outside. It’s an interesting mechanic, but it really feels like you are just opening paths for the rats.

It’s a shame really; the game is pretty well made. The board consists of six tiles that, while having to be placed in the same place each time, have two sides to them which gives a decent amount of randomness. I also give full marks for including plastic minis for the girls and the monsters, the game would have worked just as well, and could have been manufactured cheaper, if the pieces had been cardboard, but the plastic really ups the scale of the game. My one complaint, content wise, is that game set up calls for a random number between 1 and 6 to be decided. They do so by having numbers printed at the bottom of the action cards and having you drawn an amount of these and use those numbers for randomization. For a game this well manufactured the inclusion of a simple six-sided die should have been a no-brainer. Granted I have a bajillion D6s laying around, but it’s the oversight I question.

Anyways, Bump in the Night is a beautiful game at an affordable price. It just never nails the atmosphere it was going for and feels more like an inverted game of pac-man. I’d recommend it with the hope that some fans could work up alternate play modes for it.

 

Malarkey. The final game currently in my trunk is a party game, vaguely concerned with trivia. I say vaguely because the trivia included is barely useful to know and serves only to support the real nature of this game: outright lies.

Play begins when one players pulls a trivia card which could be something like, What happens to the holes that get punched out of binder paper? Once the question has been read the player puts the card into one of many identical holders, shuffles them, and hands them out. The players then check their holders to see if they got the correct answer, or nothing. Play continues with each person either: giving the right answer but in their own words, or making up something convincing should they not have the answer. Once everyone has answered players then bet on who had the most convincing answer. Points are awarded for receiving bets or for betting on the right answer.

Sometimes, due to the random dealing, a player who doesn’t have the answer will make up the real answer before the truth holder’s turn. Duplicate answers are not allowed meaning the truth holder must now make up a convincing lie. This is where the game name comes from as it is called ‘pulling a malarkey.’ In this instance the truth holder gains double points, but will lose points if no one votes for him.

It’s a fun game, especially if you have a group of creative individuals who can think on their feet.

 

And that’s what I got in my trunk.

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