In which we discuss Boardgames

I love boardgames. Unlike videogames, I didn't really grow up with them, except for the occasional game of Monopoly or Risk. But my wife and I got interested in boardgames almost a decade ago and happened to meet a couple who had hundreds of games, which really opened up the world of possibilities of boardgames to us.

In many ways, boardgames have filled a hole that modern videogames haven't been able to fill for me as an adult. Namely: couch co-op.

Now, I know videogames still have that but I find it's harder as an adult to get people to come over and play Super Smash Bros or Overcooked for a few hours. But it's a whole lot easier to convince people to sit around a table and play a boardgame (or two) for the evening.

Our social networks often shrink over the course of our lives, and this is especially true for men. This was something I was thinking about around the time I got into boardgames and so I highly associate boardgames with expanding and enriching my social life. Having a dedicated game group has been one of the best parts of adulthood for me. Also, since so many of my hobbies are things I do by myself, it's great having a hobby that I do with other people.

Lately, our group has gotten super into Root. We don't often replay games over and over as a group, but we did our sixth play of Root last night and this game is just as good as everyone was saying it was back in 2016 when the rest of the world played it.

Along with that, the hottest new game, Ark Nova, is pretty fun! It's not as good as everyone says it is, but it's a solid game. I'd say it's a nice Terraforming Mars replacement.

And then the game that got my wife and I through the neverending pandemic was Obsession. A Jane Austen/Downton Abbey themed deckbuilder that has so much character and style and such a pleasant and addictive gameloop that I don't know if I've ever played a game whose mechanics and theme complement and reinforce one another quite as well.

Anyway, I could go on and on about boardgames. What are you playing?

I haven't had too much opportunity to play board games recently with a few exceptions, what with going back to school.

Thankfully over the last while with restrictions lessening and being comfortable seeing a couple friends at a time, I've been able to get some games in here and there. Another of my pre-pandemic gaming groups hasn't gone back to in person gaming yet and online was never quite the same, but it's sounding like that may resume in the new year.

I just got Snack Time in the mail a few days ago and am looking forward to playing it. I've got a game day planned with some friends this weekend (who I met through board games via SHUX 5 years ago and who happened to get married on the same day as my wife and I) so I'm sure we'll do plenty of catching up there.

Back at the beginning of October, I attended SHUX and managed to get a good number of games in, but most excitingly traded some stuff in the con's math trade. My highlights from that were getting Twilight Struggle (finally) as well as BattleCON. I got some others, some of which I've played and others I haven't but those two are the biggest for me.

With the couple I game with most often, since we've only been able to play once a month or so, we tend to stick to some of our shorter games. A few years back we got really into trick taking games and have had a lot of fun exploring that. It's been really nice getting back to board gaming and being able to play more often, I just wish I was able to do it even more frequently.

Like you I got into board games roughly a decade ago, I'd just moved to the city and knew no one, so started going to meetups, one of which happened to be at a local board game shop. Definitely something I associate with having a better social life and part of what made the pandemic particularly hard for me.

I‘ve had this thread on my drafts for like a year now. I’m glad it exists now!

Oh look, it's the thread I live in now.

My full time job is a podcast about Twilight Imperium, so I'm happy to talk to anyone at length about that, if you're willing to open the floodgates.

@"edward"#p91780 I've played a lot of Root. We've done a couple of online tournaments and I've played in one myself. It's an amazing game where the complexity constantly grows. But the real beauty of the game is it's willingness to help new players. The many expansions we've got now allow for a myriad of co-op and casual ways to play the game. So while I love the competitive game, I get even more satisfaction out of just setting it up and playing a goofy game against robots with a couple hirelings and landmarks to shake things up.

I'm mostly a sort of "vertical" board gamer. I like to play a small number of games way too many times. So I have just a sort of glancing awareness of a lot of games, but I rarely make time to play all of them which means I miss out on so much good stuff. I've been hearing so much talk about Ark Nova and just don't know when I'll get it to the table!

@“SCPTmatt”#p91857

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“vertical” board gamer

This is a good term! My group is almost the complete opposite, though. As much as I like a game, there are just so many other games waiting to be played or waiting to be played for the first time in months/years. Root is the most consistent we've been with a game since we tackled Charterstone a few years ago (putting a pin in Legacy games for a later date but I have a lot of thoughts here!).

We've slowly been adding the expansions, which I think, so far, are all great additions to the game. The new factions all make the game interesting in different ways without losing what made the game great to begin with. Though our most recent game, we went with a suboptimal group of factions (only one with high spread/aggression) and it was one of the weirder games we've played. I can see why they don't recommend configurations like this, but I'm glad we tried it out.

Since the pandemic, we've sort of stopped paying attention to new games coming out. We also ended up not playing games very often for probably obvious reasons.

@"coffeentacos"#p91793

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Back at the beginning of October, I attended SHUX and managed to get a good number of games in, but most excitingly traded some stuff in the con’s math trade. My highlights from that were getting Twilight Struggle (finally) as well as BattleCON. I got some others, some of which I’ve played and others I haven’t but those two are the biggest for me.


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How is SHUX? I've never been to a boardgame convention but it seems like lots of fun.

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With the couple I game with most often, since we’ve only been able to play once a month or so, we tend to stick to some of our shorter games. A few years back we got really into trick taking games and have had a lot of fun exploring that. It’s been really nice getting back to board gaming and being able to play more often, I just wish I was able to do it even more frequently.

This is interesting to me because we usually lean the opposite way. Because we can usually only meet up about once a month, we tend to do our larger, more complex games. This often means we only get one game in, but I think there's a real exhilaration to playing a lot of these 2+ hour games. And then there are the times we've played games like Mage Knight or Game of Thrones, which may as well take all night.

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@“edward”#p91864 How is SHUX? I’ve never been to a boardgame convention but it seems like lots of fun.

It's great! It's local to me which is a definite plus and as a result I've been to each one. I've been to a few conventions and I really like the atmosphere at SHUX, with a strong focus on playing games and playing together. Even when I haven't had a group to play with for whatever reason, it's not hard to find a game to play with people.

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@“edward”#p91864 This is interesting to me because we usually lean the opposite way. Because we can usually only meet up about once a month, we tend to do our larger, more complex games.

For the three of us at least, we tend to like games with a small footprint and short setup that have a solid mechanical base, and it's easy to accumulate a lot of small games so it's nice to play a bunch of them. We also prioritize spending time together and catching up as part of that so the less we're bogged down in rules, the more we have time for that. That said, we do have an accumulation of bigger games that we want to get to soon.

That‘s awesome! I really like Shut Up & Sit Down so I’ve been more interested in SHUX than, say, GenCon.

I can definitely see that. We almost always do dinner together first, which gets a lot of the socializing in. But, yeah, introducing a heavy game always comes with initial frustrations. I always recommend people watch a rule explanation first, if possible and if they remember. But once you get the rules down and play the game, we usually don't need another explanation of that game. I find that most games, even ones that seem a bit fiddly with lots of rules, tend to play pretty smoothly, in that you don't often need to reference the rules or anything.

We do occasionally have a night where we jsut play a bunch of shorter games. Always a good time! Some of my favorite games are quick to pick up and play, but I tend to prefer these at two players for whatever reason. So my wife and I play a lot of them.

Have you ever played Fort? It's a recent one for my wife and me. Every game we've played at two-player takes about 30-45 minutes, but it's a pretty solid and satisfying deckbuilder.

Keep meaning to play Root, bought a copy months a‘go and it’s sat on the shelf of shame. Looks fun.

I'm going back to Gloomhaven after a pandemic enforced stop to it soon, the virtual version did absolutely nothing for me - it's the game without the toy box element and the arguments. Pass.

Digital boardgames seem like the worst possible compromise between boardgames and videogames.

I like some digital board games though most are usually not great. Nice to be able to play a solo game without having to pull the box off the shelf and set it up, or while on transit. I will say Through the Ages has by far the best digital adaptation as it just handles the bookkeeping for you, allowing for very quick matches!

I've also really come to appreciate digital board games for allowing me to continue playing games with friends who travel from far for conventions and those who have moved away. Just before the pandemic, a friend and I were doing weekly 2P game days, doing lots of Mage Knight, Twilight Struggle, and Yomi, but he moved away. We've been able to keep playing most of those thanks to digital versions, though there is an element that is lacking.

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@“edward”#p91956 Have you ever played Fort?

I have, with this same couple in fact! I think that's one we're planning to play again soon as they just got an expansion for it if I recall correctly. One of my favourite lighter two player games is Morels, though it's been some time since I played it.

I’m a big fan of boardgames, but haven’t gotten around to playing them as much in the last year and a half as I used to. When I was still in Okinawa I used to play with a lot of people at my university and also regularly went to a boardgame cafe in Naha. In Osaka I play sometimes with my colleagues at the university here, but not as often as I used to before and I haven’t really found a boardgame cafe I like as much as the one in Naha. That place was super chill, pretty cheap and the owner was both real cool to talk with and managed to create an atmosphere where casually playing with other customers was easy and encouraged, making it a great place to go on your own as well, which I mostly did. After a while I obviously got to know a lot of the regulars as well.

I enjoy a lot of different boardgames with my overall preference being medium-heavy ones. My favorite boardgame is probably Terraforming Mars which I have played an ungodly number of times (mostly with friends who also played it a lot, not so much at the boardgame cafe where I liked to try out different things). I think this game is a pretty good case study with which to explain what I like in a boardgame.

First of all I feel like the game is most mechanically complete and exciting to play with all expansions except Turmoil (which alters the gameplay for the worse in my opinion as well as adding more time to an already relatively long game). The fact that I think more cards, more corporations, more things to spend your resources on is a good thing already indicates that one of the fun things about Terraforming Mars to me is the large possibility space. This is a game all about engine building and trying to synergize various different cards and actions towards optimizing point gain. And with all the expansions there are a lot of cards! The colonies expansion in particular also introduces a useful set of actions which can further synergize with the cards and which you have to compete with other players over.

There are many different ways one can go about generating points although most fall within some general strategies. The breadth of possible combinations means that you can almost always find something to build towards and the game is a mix of specializing towards good combinations, while having enough diversity to be able to take advantage of potential unexpected possibilities or to make up for failing to gain cards suited towards your more specialized path. Of course there is also the board, milestones, awards etc. all of which adds up to a variety of different ways of approaching the game. And if you get too lost in building a good engine, while failing to gain points, the game might end before the engine gets going depending on the actions of other players. I believe the drafting variant is essential, both because it allows you to see more cards and because it adds further interaction with the other players in terms of which cards you can allow to pass through to the next players depending on their strategy.

Terraforming mars feels like it allows you a lot of freedom, because it is not strict with resources. That is not to say that optimizing resource use to point gain ratio is unimportant, but overall there are many ways of generating resource production and while one sometimes has a resource-restricted game it is usually possible to use the best card combinations one manages to gather. Compare this to say Terra Mystica, which is very strict and you have to really carefully consider your resources and how your current actions might restrict production next turn etc. I like that game a lot as well, but it always feels more stressful to play and there is less room for experimentation within an individual game. Of course some people prefer the Terra Mystica style and the game does lend itself better towards skillful play as a pure strategy game. However, with Terraforming Mars I have found that in general the same few people tend to win the game and strategy is super important, despite the elements of luck and the overall less strict enforcement of precise calculation. Both planning and improvisation, depending on the flow of the game and what other players are doing, which cards come up etc. is very important.

One weakness of the game is that it can sometimes drag a bit towards the end as players might stall attempting to gain the most out of their engine. Another issue is that having played the game a lot is a major advantage as one has a much better knowledge of the cards and possible card combinations allowing one to make more informed choices. I don’t think this is a problem in general, but it does make it hard to win for new players against those with experience, in a way which doesn’t feel entirely fair.

@"SCPTmatt"#p91857
I did play Twillight Emperium twice many years ago and remember enjoying it, but this was before I was really into boardgames. I would be curious to try it again sometime, but opportunities to play such a long game are rather rare.

@"edward"#p91780
I remember quite liking Vast, but I’ve only played it once. I would definitely like to try out Root some time as well, but haven’t found the opportunity yet.

Some other games I like in no particular order (I definitely like some of them more than others) in case someone is interested in discussing any of them: Dominant Species, Improvement of the Polis, Power Grid, Carcasonne, Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Isle of Sky, A Feast for Odin, Agricola, Wingspan, Smallworld, Through the Ages, Scythe, Terra Mystica, Gaia Project, Broom Service, Gùgōng, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Key to the City: London, Food Chain Magnate

@“SU2MM”#p92068

Big fan of many of these games you mentioned! I even own most of them.

I'm also a medium to heavy player, for the most part. Though I do love some quick, light games. Over the pandemic, our group got into roll and write games, which I think are some of the few games that work well over zoom.

I played Vast and really didn't like it. Feels too much like four separate games happening on the same game board. Root iterates on this in extremely productive ways. But it's also a game that I don't recommend unless you have a group that's willing to play it several times, since the barrier for entry, like Vast, is higher than most. The first game is almost like a practice run, to be honest.

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One of my favourite lighter two player games is Morels, though it’s been some time since I played it.

Never heard of this but it looks pretty fun! Lots of awards too.

I‘ve always enjoyed hobby-class board games even since I was 10 and was trying to play Axis and Allies with my friend’s older brother (who had not read the rules (and I pointed out that he had taught me wrong)).

I've dragged my wife into some of them and she enjoys the ones that she enjoys quite a bit. I... think I've only beaten her at _Wingspan_ like, twice? She's pretty good at that one. Her main complaint about table top games is that they tend to overstay their welcome and frankly I agree.

As a small group, I highly recommend _Pandemic Legacy_ and _Betrayal at House on the Hill Legacy_. I can't imagine playing non-Legacy _Pandemic_. It's just not nearly as cool and fun. Same for _BaHotH:L_ (which is my wife's favorite game).

The most Insert Credit board game I own is [_Ginkgopolis_ ](https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/128271/ginkgopolis)which is super well designed and everything is interlocked and is brilliant and may be hard to find now. I don't think I've ever won this game either, but I just appreciate playing it.

I am reposting my board game takes from the Introductions thread that @radicaledward described as "freak heat" (a huge complement!) and where @SCPTmatt and I discovered we are going to be forum friends.

  • - Ironically to what I’ve just been slagging on TI3 for, I think that Fantasy Flight Games’ re-implementation of the Dune board game into Twilight Imperium: REX is much better than the Dune board game and fixes a bunch of the issues the original still has to this day.
  • - _Wingspan_ is great, but my wife beats me too much, and the Steam version we played with friends during the lockdown takes 2x as long as the paper game and that’s bad UI.
  • - They should delete all comments and posts and house rules on Board Game Geek. I will die on this hill.
  • So @SCPTmatt - when are you going to move to Portland so we can play _REX_ aka "_Good Dune_"?

    @“antillese”#p92123 Whoa, you‘re in Portland? I lived in Portland in 2017 before moving back to Arkansas. It’s actually where I started my Twilight Imperium podcast, and we intend to travel there possibly in March for a little mini tour.

    I love the idea of "Insert Credit board games." I'm probably a bit too much of mainstream board game appreciator to have a good list of recommendations. Although the recent hotness is [Turncoats](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT_uvWyUQrA) which feels like a perfect little diamond in the rough and I can't imagine it's going to be easy for this independent publisher to keep up with the new demand for their beautiful Nomadic Boardgames.

    They could delete all of Board Game Geek and I'd almost reckon the world is better for it...

    https://twitter.com/davidsirota/status/1611842405044748288?s=20&t=I8V3JxQlCmdHdVVOxWeziQ

    I generally like David Sirota, which may be controversial, but this is just mashed potato brains analysis.

    This is the same kind of argument that leads people to believe that playing Doom in 1998 caused teenagers to mass murder their classmates.

    @“edward”#p99837 This tweet is a joke right? It’s a joke? Not any kind of actual argument or cultural criticism?

    In cheerier news, played _Hidden Leaders_ last night and it’s really fun. Fast too and clever mechanics. Solid recommendation.

    Been playing a lot of Feast for Odin lately, which is the most point salady game imaginable, but it manages to lead most players towards the same play style at first, which I find interesting.

    In a recent game I thought I had a very clever idea early on that ended up being the worst possible way to play! Which could be discouraging but I find that kind of fun, I guess. Or at least more interesting. The wide openness of the structure allows for a lot of experimentation.

    I'm sorry but if I am to believe that games can make you become a better person, learn true compassion, or forgive yourself for falling into corruption and sin, even in a non-religious way, then, scientifically, I have to believe they can influence other people to think that shooting their problems is a great idea.

    I get more and more into board games as I get older. They scratch an itch in my brain that video games can‘t seem to reach. I’m always on the lookout for 4-8 player elegant strategy games. My partner doesn‘t like games with too much randomness and I don’t like games where the rules are too finnicky and always changing. (Magic The Gathering is a nightmare for me.) It seems all the best strategy games are two player. I'm open to recommendations.

    I used to be more into "party" style games, but after too many duds I've basically given up. Stuff like "Deer Lord" and "Fear Pong" aren't really on the table anymore when all your friends have kids. And I'm not really into games where everyone basically has to roleplay in order for the game to work. "Business Walrus", "Cult Following", "Someone Has Died", etc. They always sound cute in theory but are kind of tiresome and awkward in practice.

    The game that gets the most playtime here lately is "Camel Up" because it's so easy to grasp and fast paced, but it's starting to wear thin.

    I just sold "Stardew Valley" the board game because I didn't think it was fun, like, at all. Way to much to keep track of and manage. What works in a video game doesn't work so well when laid out in front of you on a table.

    I also just sold "Blood on the Clocktower" because, despite it looking amazing, I don't think I will ever get enough people, or the right sort of people, to play it.

    And that's my board game update.

    more like BORED games!!!

    (i don’t know how to play chess)

    >!((board games are cool, i’ve just never gotten _that_ into them))!<