The Jaded Gamer

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Christmas Time (Roll a one and whine)

Alec Chapman
United Kingdom
Lincolnshire
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Anyway, how's your sex life?
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"She said the same thing about waffles."
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Microbadge: Offline from The Geek for a while
It' s nearly Christmas folks and since, inexplicably, war isn't over (nor is it just the end of love; though it remains good for absolutely nothing*) you probably look at this time to escape such harsh realities and play a bunch of board games with your captive victims family at this most cardboardy time of the year.

Seriously though. F--K WAR*

But hey! Enough of the real world. You need to just take a moment to choose how you will sell one of the best hobbies in the world** to unsuspecting Monopoly players all year - well.... I wrote an article on that very subject already.

Click here to read the old article I am re-gifting to you again this year.

So, with the caveats in the above article in mind, and with a plea for sympathy for the fact that I'm actually working night shifts Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (sucks, right?) I am going to do a recommendations list for an unsuspecting family you want to suck into this world of gaming goodness. As I say in the old article. Ignore any or all of these if you know they won't work. Do NOT force the issue.

That's Basic!

1) Ticket to Ride

Board Game: Ticket to Ride


As I said in the Catan retrospective, not all clichés are undeserved. I would say this is an almost perfect gateway. Inoffensive theme, simple rules(simpler than Settlers) and not THAT competitive for a Christmas afternoon. I could also say that unlike Settlers, which has a more abstract goal and infrequent points scoring, perhaps this one is better for the slightly drunk post Christmas dinner gaming crowds than that other cliché.
As for which one to get - I got Marklin and regret that decision to be honest. Not only do the expansion maps not work with it, the set up is irritating and the extra rule is just annoying to new players. In my experience. I would get either the original or Europe, probably depending on which geography appeals more. The extra rules in Europe are nothing like as annoying as Märklin. In my opinion.

too conflicty? want a co-op?

2. Forbidden Desert

Board Game: Forbidden Desert


Pandemic, which I prefer, would be a bit too obviously gamey with all the different ways to move and all the deck to track.
Forbidden Island is a far less entertaining story for me because collecting cards just feels more arbitrary than the random set up of clues in Desert, which I know it isn't really, but still - if I can't be subjective here, where can I?
I think Forbidden Desert hits the sweet spot for this crowd. After a MUCH quicker setup and explanation than Pandemic it's got excitement, forehead slapping moments, tension and, unlike the reshuffled "intensified" disease deck easily trackable goals (i.e. a sand pile and the four parts). I think its a crueller game than Pandemic at times but for the play time it works perfectly for that "Damn it! One more go!" feeling in a way that a gruelling loss at Pandemic perhaps won't. My advice? Play on the easiest setting. It may be a little "too" easy sometimes, but you will not get players to enjoy themselves if you have no luck and drown early.
Also, general co-op rules with non-gamers apply: SHUT UP AND LET THEM MAKE THE CALLS.

Is Ticket To Ride not conflicty enough?

3. Small World

Board Game: Small World


Want to smack each other in the face? Yeah, good idea to channel that rage positively, so let's go with this one. It's not the most amazing conflict game out there, but it will handle the whole family and as long as they can understand the concept that to win a fight (all things being equal) they need tokens equal to...

two more tokens than the total bits of Cardboard in the defending area (aka Cost = 2 + x)

...then fine.

If their rage is sufficient to ensure they cannot get "2 plus cardboard", perhaps let them step outside and have the fight anyway. Charades or Trivial Pursuit will lead to blows inside that will need stains removing from your new reindeer onesie and that's not a Christmas evening anyone wants. I also think that the level of control is good. It's not all about rolling dice and who gets lucky (though, yes, in edge cases it can end up that way) so it's a bit more fun than Risk for me - though if your family can be persuaded to spend the next few years playing a Risk: Legacy campaign then power to the dice tower, I say!

They want a money game like Monopoly

4. Power Grid

Board Game: Power Grid


OK, this is a weird one, but I just don't seem to enjoy many economic games. I certainly don't own many. Mine and my wife's favoured economic slog is the Crayon Rails series and I just refuse to recommend that to you for reasons you can find in the relevant retrospective I did on them (find that by clicking here).
Out of the whole gamut of "get rich" games, Power Grid stands head and shoulders above the pack in my experience. It's the one auction game I can stand to really get into and I like the supply and demand considerations in the resource market an absolute tonne. I even like the jostling for position. It's probably the most complex game on this little list. Well, it definitely is the most complicated game on this little list, but in real terms it's not actually any more complicated than Monopoly. It also isn't any longer, but I frequently hear the complaint that each turn is really long - this is because the players are engaged at all times, unlike in a poorly managed game of the classic.

Are they still obsessed with Monopoly after all that?

5. SUCK IT UP AND PLAY MONOPOLY

Board Game: Monopoly


Do you love your family or not? Just look up and plead to use the speed die rule (it's easy to botch one), play by the rest of the rules as written (DO NOT PUT ANY FINES ON FREE PARKING!***) and I promise it won't be the worst game you'll play in the next twelve months.

Or if you can manage to persuade them, do your best to get Clue/Cluedo to the table instead. It's still pretty good (despite the fact the moving mechanic feels a bit redundant and silly in this day and age).

Anyway. Ignore the recommendations, pick your own, suggest stuff below. Whatever you do, have a bloody great Christmas you lot!

A


*
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I'm sure you can discuss the veracity and applicability of all these song lyrics on the RSP forum. Have fun


**
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I'm sure you can discuss the veracity and applicability of this statement on the General Gaming forum. Have fun


***
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I've never understood this house rule. The whole game is about money leaving the system, but you want to keep it in the game and furthermore give it to somebody entirely at random? You're insane.
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