Friday, 19 June 2015

Mr. Moneybags is dead. (Part 1)


As well as being a drama teacher, I am also a massive geek and one of my main geekeries is Board Games!!!!

Now, I'm sorry to break it to you. I know you loved it when you Passed Go and received 200 big ones!! OK, I know it was usually a pain when you went to jail but it felt so good to roll doubles and get out finally, yeah? I know you loved seeing Mr. Moneybags on that crinkly paper money, clasped in your tiny fist, even if you hated giving it to your little sister. It wasn't a waste of your time at all.

That time spent playing Monopoly with your family, falling out over property, waiting ages for your turn, moaning about taxes, getting bad luck in the Chance cards; well that was time well spent! Right?

In many ways it probably was; playing board games with friends and family is a wonderful way to spend free-time. But what if I told you that it could be time better spent? What if I told you that, like an episode of Game of Thrones, Mr. Moneybags has been killed off and there are now arequired in board games? What if I told you that out there in the world of play there are so many better games?!

But before I get stuck into some board game talk, please let me give you my credentials in this field...

The first games I ever remember playing were the perennial ones... (side note: that's the first time I've ever used perennial in a sentence I think!)


Back when I was a kid, I was a master of Kerplunk and Draughts, a dab hand at Operation, a shark in Scrabble and Monopoly, but my family never played that often. Perhaps because only particular people in our family were good in particular games or because all to often games would divulge into distraction or argument between us kids. And yet I always had in the back of my mind a desire to play games. Play in its different forms has remained important to me as I have grown older and I love taking the opportunities to play when they present themselves. 

And then about three years ago, just around the time I moved to Brussels, I fell back into gaming. It was Monopoly that brought me back in actually. My fiancee and I had some time on our hands and so we decided to pick up a copy of Monopoly. I think we played it once. Because shortly after that i stumbled upon a website called BoardGameGeek. (Upon first impressions, it's a quite confusing and very unsightly site to go to on your first visit. For first time people, I think The Dice Tower does a much better job.) But through BGG, I started to discover this world that I never knew existed. I really thought that the only board games that were out there were the ones that you could find in Argos or WHSmith, or Walmart. 
Who knew that there were literally thousands of new games being released each year? Who knew that these games had solved all those problems of excessive chance, imbalance, long down-times, boring themes, complex rules or over-simplicity from the games of yore? Who knew that there was a legion of podcasters, video reviewers, conventions and gaming groups all willing and eager to play and talk about games?
-Not me, that's for sure.

Since that point three years ago, I have accumulated a decent collection of modern ('designer' as they are known) board games; ranging from hilarious party games to games that are perfect with two, from light but exciting games to thrilling, epic strategy games. I play games with my fiancee, with students in a game group at school, with colleagues in social events, with my family when ever I'm home and with my friends pretty much every time we meet up. The games are funny, rich in theme and stories, challenging and tense. 

So, if you've made it this far and you're still interested then perhaps you'd like to know how you too can get involved in this wonderful world of fun?! What games should you start with....?

Well, the most famous designer board game out there is The Settlers of Catan or Catan it's known now. 

Catan is the hobby's flagship. It's been out for 20 years now and is pretty well known, even outside of the hobby. I've only ever played it on my iPhone and I think there are actually better and more fun games out there now, but if you want to start where many other people have then watch this:

One of the best games to get started with is Ticket To Ride. It's what is called in the hobby as a 'gateway game'- perfect for getting started in modern board gaming; easy to learn, great for families, simple rules but yet challenging and fun.

In Part 2, I'll outline some of the games I would suggest you should try. In the meantime, these guys do a great job of reviewing games and have some suggestions of their own:
Game on!!!


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