The Next Evolution in the Golden Age of Board Games

I think this partnership is a great idea as it helps to support two local businesses instead of just one. I believe that it is great that local businesses can come together like this to help one another out as it helps to grow the sense of community. ~Randolph Chacon

Golden Age of Board Games

Knight Moves Board Game CafeIn one of my earlier articles, I mentioned that I totally agreed with the idea that “we are in the golden age of board games”.  We can say this because in the last couple of years, the amount and variety of board games released have increased, the amount of video/blog reviewers have tripled and also, the amount of board game kick starters have been on the rise…so, the question is what’s next? Where is this trend going and how is it evolving?  And the answer is: Board game cafés.

This idea just clicked in my mind after watching a few video blogs, one of them being Watch it Played in which they went to a board game café called The Board Room located in Halifax, Canada. In the video they showed the layout of the café as well as the game shop that the owner runs out of it.  When I saw this video I thought to myself could a person really run a business like this?  Would people actually be interested in going to a place that has board games that they could play?  The more I thought about it the more it made sense. I mean, if Starbucks could get away with selling 5 dollars cups of coffee and have people just hang around, why couldn’t a board game café work? After doing some research, I found out that there are very few board game cafés in the U.S. Luckily, I recently moved to Boston and learned about Knight Moves, a board game café opened not long ago in Brookline, and the first of its kind in Boston. As you could imagine, I was really excited to go because I wanted to have a firsthand experience of what it is like to spend time and play at a board game café!!

From the moment my party and I walked into the café we were greeted by the owner, Devon Trevelyan. He gave us a nice tour of his café. While I was looking around in awe, I saw people from different ages just hanging around having fun playing different games. I thought to myself “this is awesome!!” then, he brought us over to his huge collection of games and said “feel free to grab any one of these to play.” He then asked me if I had any questions on the rules, and I said with surprise “you know how to play all these games?” In turn he replied to me “Why yes, yes I do” with a huge smile across his face. At that moment I knew that he was passionate about gaming and wanted to share his passion with other people. I also realized that it is people like him that could help this next evolution of board games keep growing as they attract more and more people into board games. Devon is just starting in his business, and I know that if he could get this café off the ground, that more and more people would see what a great hobby board gaming could be.

So, my wife and I chose a game and sat to play. As the night was falling, we noticed that more and more people kept coming into the café and join in on some games. At one point, there were so many people that came in that they ran out of tables and people had to wait to play! Since that day, my wife and I have gone back several times to play and it is a delight seeing so many people (especially on weekends) at one place having wonderful moments of fun together. I think board games are successfully gaining more adepts but, I also have to give credit to Devon, as he is very friendly and he truly cares about his customers; he will solve/explain any question about the games that you could have.

board games at knight moves board game cafe

If you are wondering about pricing, well it depends on what you would like to do, for example, if you just want to go and hang out at the café, drink some coffee while working on your computer then, you don’t have to pay anything. If you are a casual gamer or if you would like to try a game only one night (or day) there is a small fee you need to pay but it is worth it, because you can play as many games as you want (and he has a great variety of games you could choose from). However, if you are a gamer and would like to hang out there more often, then you could check out the packages that involve a membership to the café and that entitles you to a cup of coffee as well as a discounted rate to play the games.  In addition, if you end up liking a game so much that you decide to buy it, Devon has worked a partnership with Eureka (a board game store located one block down from the café) for you to get a discount towards the purchase of the game. I think this partnership is a great idea as it helps to support two local businesses instead of just one. I believe that it is great that local businesses can come together like this to help one another out as it helps to grow the sense of community.

Overall, I feel that the price for everything in his café is great and you get such a great value out of it considering you can try out a bunch of games that you may be interested in without having to buy them and then return them; but most importantly is that you have a place where you can go with friends, eat, drink coffee, and meet new people to whom you share the same hobby: play board games, now that is PRICELESS!

[Knight Moves: Board Game Café]

If you live in Boston I highly suggest checking out this place which is located on 1402 Beacon Street, Brookline, MA.  You won’t be disappointed.  I hope that Devon’s café gets more and more popular to the point where he has to think about expanding it because his place is a great example of how someone with great passion for a hobby can introduce it to multiple people.

Until next time my friends go out, play more and new games and most importantly, have fun will ya!

Gambler

Gamble by parker bros

A little known classic board game that deserves more attention than it gets is the 1974 version of Gambler, by Parker Brothers.  This game plays very much like its title implies: forget about strategy; throw the dice and let Lady Luck be your copilot.  And since you don’t need to puzzle out your victory, any group of players can jump right into the game with a brief scan of the rules.

Since this is a Parker Brothers board game, the game play is similar to others of the period: you take turns throwing the dice, moving your token and experience the joy of whatever you’re required to do on the square you landed on (like “Making Enemies” –Roll one die and all other players pay the Jackpot 10 times the number rolled or “Win a Few…Lose a Few” – Place bet. Roll Dice. Even total wins amount bet from Jackpot. Odd total, Jackpot gets amount bet.  Sometimes you draw a card, like, “Good News/Bad News” – Platinum Discovered Beneath Alberta Tar Sands!! (But you traded your stocks last week. Nosedive. Pay the Jackpot $40 or “Good News/Bad News –Hot Tip From Your Stock Broker!! Roll doubles and cop $250 from the Jackpot.  With each play, sometimes you come out a winner, sometimes you’re penalized; and it’s always a gamble.

Gamble by parker bros

This is not a game for the anti-gambling crowd.  When playing this game you gamble at every opportunity, and often entice your opponents to gamble with you.  You bet on the horses. You visit casinos. You play bingo. You play the lottery. If there’s a way for you to gamble in this game, the designers’ thought of it and you’re part of it.  There is even a special “Sweepstakes” dice shaker that you use to try to win big.  Mind you, my sister and I played a lot of this game in our younger days, and the biggest gamble I make these days is taking a chance on a new brand of coffee at the grocery store, so it doesn’t seem to have corrupted our psyches with its wicked ways.

If you’re looking for a retro game that you can enjoy without having to take a course in the understanding the rules, Gambler is the game for you.  It’s suitable for 2-6 players, ages 8 and up.  The more the merrier in this game, though!  Have fun!

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

Growing up in the 70s and watching TV was awesome, with shows like Battlestar GalacticaThe Incredible HulkSpace: 1999Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyMork & MindyWonder Woman, The Shazam/Isis HourThe Star Wars Holiday Special,Happy DaysThe Bionic Woman, and The Six Million Dollar Man.  Parker Brothers was quick to capitalize on the popularity of many of these shows within their own target demographic by releasing games based on each series.  Some were terrible, the board game equivalent of shovelware, but one in particular was a classic – The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

Bionic Crisis was a game that contained both elements of chance and deductive reasoning.  To set up, each player took one of the four Console Boxes and inserted a Console Card into it.  The red and yellow board pegs are placed somewhere where everyone can reach them. Then the deck of Bionic Circuit Cards was shuffled, and one was dealt to each player, who kept it hidden from his or her opponents.  Finally, the deck of Number Cards was shuffled, with each player given three cards and the rest placed face down for everyone to draw from during gameplay.  Once set up, the play began.

The Six Million Dollar Man: Bionic Crisis

The object of the game was simple: be the first to use the Number Cards to duplicate the Bionic Circuit of the player on your left.  Each turn a player called out a number from one of the Number Cards.  If number was on his left-hand opponent’s Circuit Card as one of the ten red spaces, he got a red peg.  If the number was adjacent to a red space, a yellow peg was given instead, and if the number completely missed the mark, then the player ended his turn empty-handed. (Yes, I realize you now want to chant, “You sank my battleship!”…but control yourself.)  This process continued until the Bionic Circuit Card was revealed.

The Six Million Dollar Man - Bionic Crisis

A shortcut to winning the game was to simply map out the entire Bionic Circuit Card by making a guess.  If you were correct, you won the game.  However, if you were wrong – even by a single circuit – you were no longer able to win, though you still had to answer questions from your opponent.  This consequence were so severe that guesses were rarely worth the risk.  We had a House Rule that granted up to three guesses to each player, which added more deduction and less random chance to the gameplay.

The Six Million Dollar Man - Bionic Crisis

Parker Brothers labeled the box for ages 7 to 14, which is quite accurate, as Bionic Crisis was clearly not an adult’s strategy game.  However, the game still brings back fond childhood gaming memories, and must be judged for what it was: a child’s game based on a television property.  It was fun then, and if you can bring back your inner child, it can be fun to play even today.  Only the best classic games can do that!

WHOSIT?

WHOSIT

A little known classic board game that’s fun for the whole family is WHOSIT? by Parker Brothers.  Released in 1976, WHOSIT? is a game where players begin by randomly taking one of 20 Character cards, keep it hidden from other players’ eyes, and then try to guess who has which card based upon the questions they draw from the Question Card deck.  Players answer YES or NO depending on the question, such as, “Are you holding something?”, “Do you have glasses?”, “Are you male?”, or “Do you smoke?“ Lucky players can draw a “Ask ANY Question” card, which contains all the questions in the deck on one card.

WHOSIT

The characteristics vary from card to card, such as the Genius (White / Male / Child / Glasses / Tie / Gold Room), the Vampire (White / Female / Adult / Blue Room), or theHero (Black / Male / Adult / Moustache / Smoking / Jewellery / Gold Room).  Players pick up Question cards that give them the opportunity to see who has what feature. But it’s not as easy as you might think, because there are a few curveballs thrown in.  Some characters may not answer truthfully, no matter what the question is, such as the Spy (Always LIES / Oriental / Female / Holding Cigarette / Adult / Hat / Smoking / Glasses / Red Room), the Censor (Always Says NO), or the Director (Says YES or NO / White / Male / Adult / Moustache / Gold Room / Scarf / Holding Riding Crop).

The game board helps in identifying players as it shows each of the characters as they are shown on their Character Cards.  This is darn right necessary when you start trying to remember all the different answers to match up who might be whom. There are no player tokens or dice; the game board is provided just for a place to store the Question cards and as a visual reference.

Once a player is ready to make a guess on the identities of all their opponents, a special box, divided in two (one side for YES and one side for NO), is handed around the room.  If their character card has been identified, then they put their chip into the YES side, if not, into the NO side.  If all the chips are on the YES side when the box is opened, the game is over.

This is a fun family game that can be played in less than an hour.  There is nothing risqué about the characters or the questions, so even the younger members of the household can play (though they will need to be able to read their Character card).  Although as little as two and as many as six players can play WHOSIT?, more players make for a more challenging game.  WHOSIT? is yet another wonderful Parker Brothers classic game.  Highly recommended!

Why everyone should have some eurogames in their tabletop collection

euro board games

The other day I sat and looked at my tabletop collection to see how many of them were Ameri-trash and how many were Euro games and it turns out that I have more of the latter.  Now, some of you may be asking what is the difference between them?  Well, as some of you might remember, in my last article I went on to talk about how there are games that are all about how the game plays (game mechanics) but they don’t have too strong of a theme.  These types of games are called “Euro games” and European developers, mainly Germany, make them reason for which they are sometimes called “German-style board game”.  Some of the games that belong to this category are Power grid, Castles of Burgundy, Agricola, Alhambra and Ticket to Ride.

euro board games

Power grid is an example of a great Euro game that has won several European game awards and even though it was originally published in 2004 it still sells really well and has had many expansions as well as games developed in the genre.  When you look at power grid the theme itself is nothing crazy, you’re an owner of a power company that needs to buy power plants, buy resources to power those plants as well as build said plants in cities across the U.S. or Europe.  When you look at the game it looks bland and you would think that you would not have a good time playing it.  How wrong you would be once you actually play the game. The mechanics are superb, the global economy that the game creates is amazing and after you are done playing it you want to reset the board and play again.  That is what makes a game a great game in my opinion.

euro board games

Now to go and describe Ameri-trash games they are usually games that have an outstanding theme to them but their game mechanics fall a bit behind their euro brethren, not to mention that they involve more of luck instead of strategy. Some of the games that fall in this category are:  Arkham Horror, Stracraft: the board game, Clue, Monopoly and Super Dungeon Explore.

euro board games

One of the best Ameri-trash games I have ever played is called Arkham horror.  This is a phenomenally themed tabletop game set in the Cthulu mythos.  The game does an excellent job in making you feel like you are a paranormal investigator in the roaring 1920’s trying to stop this great evil from destroying the earth.  When you sit down and look at this marvelous game set up on a dining room table you are intimidated into thinking this game is way too complicated for me to play.  When you look through the rulebook it makes the game seem like it is more complex than it actually is.  Trust me!! I read through the book multiple times before looking up a video online on how to play the game.  Once I saw how easy it actually was to play I sat down and gave it a whirl.  Let me tell you the game blew my mind away with how awesome the theme was but when you actually looked at how the game played, especially when compared to a euro game, it didn’t quite stack up to it.  Now I’m not saying that people should not try out Ameri-trash games but if I really had a choice between the two I would definitely pick up a Euro game before I grab an Ameri-trash game.

euro board games

When you look at both these game types it goes without saying that some people when they look for their games they want to get a great experience out of it.  Heck for me as long as I have fun by the end of the game I will try anything.  Now, there are people out there wishing that there is a game that takes the best of both worlds and puts them together.  Well I’m here to tell you that there was once such game.  The game in question is called Twilight Imperium.  It was a game that when it was developed they took the great game mechanics from a euro game and paired it up with the great theme of an Ameri-trash game.  The result was a huge success that sold extremely well and still to this day has had expansions come out for it.  The only thing that I have heard from people who have played it complain about is the fact that you need like eight hours to actually play an entire game of it.  For me that is way too much time to sink in one sitting and, I would love to give that game a try in small chunks.  The only problem I would have is where I could leave the game sitting because I have two cats who would love to jump up on the table and play with the new cat toys.

euro board games

All things said this is the reason why I feel like people should have more euro games in their collection.  For me they have been a great addition to my shelf that my wife and I find ourselves picking up and playing multiple times over and really enjoy playing them.  In my next article I hope to come up with a list of my personal ten euro games that everyone should have in their collection and why I feel that way about them.  Until them guys remember to grab some friends together and play some games.

Open RPG

 

orpglogo

I mean, really, how often have you used a virtual table top? Let alone an online one… Anyway, it seems they can come in quite a bit handy, provided you’re not looking forward to putting your ornate tequila glass on them, but rather using them for some lovely pen & paper RPG gaming with your friends. Online, that is.

You see, them virtual tables provide gaming groups with everything they need to play their RPG of choice without having to physically meet or touch any sort of dice, which might seem quite the antisocial thing to do, but can be very helpful for playing with friends living thousands of kilometers away or for spending some truly productive time at work. Open RPG for example offers players and GMs an integrated environment complete with miniature map, die rollers, chat, data organizer and the ability to run ones own game server, that’s flexible enough to host any game system imaginable.

What’s more, Open RPG is absolutely free to use and you can download it here. A huge variety of plug-ins can be found here, whereas online-gaming maps are available here and quite a few hand-drawn “miniatures” here. Oh, and if you really feel like paying for something you could give Fantasy Grounds a try.

As for us, well, you know, being the happy cheap ass gamers we all are, we could give this online RPG thing a go. The entity behind from the gutter seems to be interested in it already, and rumours have been heard of a Call of Cthulhu session. Anyone interested, please, do leave a comment or drop me a line. Could be fun you know…