As a young boy (yes I have always had a geeky streak) I loved board games and tabletop games, the original Axis & Allies and Warhammer 40K games took up many a night of my teenage years. The former is like the popular Risk but with a wide variety of units and a military industrial complex to manage. The latter a miniature based tabletop war game of fantasy based armies flung in the far future with a canon that has grown to scary proportions, and has been adapted into some of the best squad based strategy video games on PC.
Over the years my interest in tabletop, board and roleplaying games waned until a couple of months ago. During the annual lull in video game releases and after stumbling across an interesting board game review I started looking into board games again. I was going to order a few from Amazon to play with the missus and friends as a more social alternative to video games. Then I remembered hearing of a new specialty board, card, tabletop and roleplaying game shop called Good Game in Al Sanabel complex downtown.
That weekend I headed over to try and see what I could find. Although the one game I wanted was not one that they stocked, what I found was oooh so much better. The store turned out to be owned and run by some of the friendliest people I’ve met. All of whom are incredibly passionate about this kind of gaming, and are dedicated to building a community around it by organizing regular tournaments and gaming nights for the more popular games. If you want you can even go in and try out any of the store copies of the games. The icing on the cake, they had Warhammer 40K armies stocked in their store which instantly brought waves of nostalgia and had my geek senses tingling.
After a brief talk about what I was looking for, I was given multiple suggestions of games that might interest us, and actually ended up picking up three. Descent: Journeys into the Dark a campaign turn based dungeon crawler in which 2-4 heroes go up against one evil Overlord who controls all the monsters and has his own objectives to win each quest of the campaign. Both the heroes and Overlord gain experience not unlike any role playing game, and spend it to buy new skills and abilities. The heroes loot the dungeons and visit shops in between quests to buy new equipment. You can also add more monsters, heroes, side quests, and even whole campaigns by buying expansions to add longevity to the game. Descent has been incredibly popular in my household with anyone who’s tried it. We now have regular weekly and bi-weekly nights with different groups and three different ongoing campaigns.
Mansions of Madness the second game, is like Clue set in H.P. Lovecrafts’ Cthulhu universe, where 2-4 players go around the creepy mansion looking for clues to what the fifth player (the Keeper’s) secret objectives are. The Keeper attempts to bring to the world an evil monster that will end the world and tries to stop them using his monsters and creepy abilities.
X-wing miniatures, the last game I bought that day, is a tabletop space dogfight game set in the Star Wars universe. Players build squads of Imperial or Rebel star fighters using a core set and multiple expansions and fight it out against your friends, I’ve actually participated in two in-store tournaments of this game since, even my wife joined in on the fun in the last tournament.
Over the last two months I’ve picked up two more games both of which are purely co-op and have human players play against an AI system. One is based on the Gears of Wars video game universe. The second is Zombicide, a crazy objective based game where six or more survivors controlled by human players fight through hordes of zombies. Seriously, our last session of Zombicide ended with 556 zombies dead and at one point we had upwards of 115 zombies on the board!
Board games have come a long way, plastic miniatures are incredibly detailed, most sets of rules are simple enough to pick up after a few turns, but complex enough that you start building layers of strategy into your moves after you’ve begun to master them. There are plenty of games that aren’t combat based, and many that can be played with family, as a party game, or even with people who aren’t into any form of gaming at all.
If it’s something you’re interested in, board games can be an incredibly fun alternative to video games and a cool social way for gamers to get together with friends and family.