I've mentioned before board games on this blog. Being a father to two young boys (4 and almost 1) has essentially wiped out my RPG playing time these last 4 years. However, board games still allow me to occasionally get together with a group of friends (or stangers if playing at the FLGS), have some fun without the stress of trying to plan for a game. Back in the day, games like Risk ruled the game table, some games spanning days. Really, in my small hometown, the options for boardgames was pretty limited to whatever the local Wal-Mart carried, which even today is a pretty crappy selection of tired old "classics" or the newest game tied to a movie that's usually not worth playing either. I did have a copy of Hero Quest (still have it, and a few of the expansions) and whenever we went to the city, I'd beg my parents to take me to game/comic shops so I could scour the shelves for more games. However, it wasn't until college that I really got to play a wide variety of games (both board games and RPG's). Now, my collection is pretty varied.
In honor of missing International Table Top Day, I sat down last night with my 4 year old and played the new edition of Dungeon. We've been working on his counting and number recognition, so I figured that Dungeon would be the perfect game to continue working on those skills. We've played Dungeon a couple of other times, so he knows the rules (though I do have to remind him of some things occasionally) and it's cool to see him formulating a strategy. He'll hit only a couple level 1 rooms on his way to the level 2 and 3 rooms, knowing that's where the better treasure lies. It's a strategy that's paid off for him in the past, and he was doing pretty well again, until he charged into a fight with a Zombie, rolled far too low, and then ended up Dead. After that point, all he wanted to do was get back to that room and get his treasure back. He did, but in the meantime, I was able to beat enough rooms to win the game shortly thereafter. Still, his counting skills are greatly improved from when we first started playing. He still has some trouble recognizing a written number, but I don't have to tell him if he's rolled good enough or not to beat a monster hardly at all anymore. Dungeon has become my teaching tool of choice. It keeps him engaged, and it's fun for me as well! Plus, he wants to play other games also, so hopefully this love of games will continue as he matures.
That said, here's an impromtu list of some of my favorite boardgames and the reasons why I like them so much.
Warhammer Quest: I bought this on a whim my freshman year of college. It was pretty expensive for a freshman working in the campus library, but it was worth it. Not only is it fun, but it's a psuedo RPG as well. Like a lot of GW games, it's deadly. The highest level I've ever progressed a character to was Battle Level 5 with a Dwarf. The other great thing about WQ is that it's playable solo with plenty of tables and charts to keep the dungeons feeling fresh. A few years ago, I bought a second set. These two boxes are the crown jewels of my collection. I only wish I was able to pick up all the expansions. I'm missing a few of the characters, and the Lair of the Orc Lord box set, which is far too expensive for my budget nowadays.
Hero Quest: My grandmother gave a copy of this to my step-cousin one Christmas. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted it. He didn't have any interest, so I traded him a copy of Bases Loaded for the NES. To this day, I consider that trade the best one I've ever made. I doubt he still has an NES, let alone that copy of Bases Loaded, but my well worn copy of Hero Quest still sits on the shelf. I credit Hero Quest for showing me that there was more to board games than Sorry, Monopoly, and Life, and it (along with The Legend of Zelda) set me on the path that lead me to D&D and other RPG's.
Gears of War: Based on the X-Box 360 series of video games, Gears of War is a cooperative combat game where the Locusts are controlled by directions listed on their cards, allowing the players to play characters and then move the creatures as determined by the "AI" on the card each turn. With this being a Fantasy Flight Games, er...game, the production values are amazing. The rules could use some work, which is also common with FFG games, but after a few rounds it's pretty simple to play. GoW has become my go-to solo game when I just want to get something set up fast and get into a game.
Last Night on Earth: A Flying Frog Productions game, this is a great zombie apocalypse survival game. Not only are the mechanics of the game spot on, but it just oozes atmosphere. Another big plus for this game is that my wife loves playing it as well. She's made it a point to get me the expasions so we have more characters, zombies, and scenarios to play. I still need to pick up the new Blood in the Forest expansion now that I think of it...
A Touch of Evil: Another Flying Frog game. This one revolves around the heroes trying to save an 18th century town from one of a variety of monsters ranging from a Vampire to a Werewolf to a Headless Horseman. Unlike LNoE, which requires a player to play as the zombies, AToE is completely cooperative. Depending on the creature being fought, the characters will have to face a variety of minions and tests as they try to steel themselves for the coming battle. As an extra wrinkle, the town elders may turn on the heroes at the end, making the final fight all the more difficult.
Talisman: Yeah, I said it, Talisman. I've been playing the updated FFG version, but I've played a couple of the GW editions as well. This is a random slog through a world filled with monsters all in the hopes of acquiring enough power to take on the dragon before other players get the chance. I've played some rounds that took hours upon hours to finish. In all honesty, this isn't a very good game, but for some reason I keep coming back to it. There's something here that makes me love it, warts and all.
Pandemic: This is a great resource management game where you play one of four different types of researchers trying to discover cures to different viruses before they spread throughout the world and signal the death of us all. The mechanics are devilishly simple, but the strategy behind it all really makes the game shine. Players really have to work together if they have any hope of keeping the viruses from spreading all over.
There are other games in my collection like Drakon, Fortune and Glory, Forbidden Island, Descent, World of Warcraft, and the three D&D dungeon crawlers that are all great games, but the ones above are those that get reached for more times that not.