Thursday, June 9, 2016

My take on the next step of "better" games.

Tom, Sam, and Zee over at the Dice Tower posted an interesting top 10 list - Top 10 "Better" Games. In it they list alternatives for 10 of the more common ‘regular’ games. If you like the regular game, you would probably also like the alternative game. It’s an interesting idea – but a lot of their choices seem a bit too ‘gamey’ to me.

A lot of newer gamers tend to look down on these more mainstream games. But those of us who grew up before the wave of Magic the Gathering and Settlers of Catan tend to be a bit more open-armed about the ‘classic’ games. We played Monopoly, Scrabble, Yahtzee, and even Risk. We were there when Trivial Pursuit first came out and when Uno proved that you could get people to spend money on a Crazy Eights variant.

My take on the alternative list would be a bit different. It includes a lot more games that would bridge the gap between the mainstream ones and the more obscure specialty games.

Sorry! – a basic ‘take that’ style of game where you interfere with the other players’ pieces and send them home. Trouble is another basic example of this type of game. A good next step game would be Walk the Plank, or even Family Business. Both have you directly affecting the other players’ pieces and play quick enough to play again. Walk the Plank is pirate themed and the simpler game while Family Business is mobster themed and a bit more complex and a bit longer.

Uno! – is basically Crazy 8s. I’m not sure why they singled this game out from the deck of cards but I suppose enough people play just this. You could try Uno Hearts to advance the depth of the rules a bit or even one of the other simple deck games – Spooks, Canasta Caliente, Rook, or even Pit.

Deck of cards – they had this on their lists for Poker or Hearts. Any game that you can play with a deck of cards can be played with a Wizard deck. Besides the Wizard game itself which is a really good trump game, it is basically a deck of cards with 8 extra cards – 4 wizards, and 4 jesters. These can always be removed from the deck if you need less cards for the game.

Cranium – I haven’t actually played one of the many Cranium variations but it is a party game with many parts to it. Depending on which aspect you like of Cranium, there are games which match that. Some good examples would be Tsuro – a simple path making game that can play up to 8 people, and Telestrations – which is more of a party game where you each have a phrase that you have to draw in a booklet, and then pass those around for the next player to guess the phrase, and then draw it.

Scrabble – some people like the word making aspect of this game and some like the grid of it. If you like working with the grid, Quirkle is for you. Iota is similar but with much less expensive pieces. If you prefer the word making, try Quiddler – in which you make words from hand that increases each round but doesn’t allow people to take too long with their turns. Another good game is Word Thief which is older but has been reprinted recently.

Trivial Pursuit – a trivia game. Good replacements are Wits & Wagers – Family – where everyone answers and then you bet who answered closest, or even Timeline: Challenge – which has a variety of games to play with the Timeline cards included – where you have to guess the dates of when things happened.

Clue – a nice deduction game marred by an awkward way of having to move around the board. They do have a card game version that does away with the board and have made some variations in the newer Clue games to address this issue. They can also try Resistance – which is a great deduction game if you have at least 5 people or even Scotland Yard – in which one player has to hide their position and movements from the other players while using train, taxi, and the subway.

Chess – an old classic stylized wargame. Bosworth – is a nice variation that allows up to 4 players and the pieces all move similar to chess pieces. Go is and even older game with even simpler rules than chess but a higher amount of strategy available. Hive is a nice two player game with a lot of strategy and lovely pieces if you aren’t bothered by the bug tiles.

Risk – an area conquest game. Like Clue, it has come out with many variations that change the rules a bit. These players can try Diplomacy – which is a WW1 game that is often described as Risk without the dice. If they like the dice but want more complexity, they can try Fortress America or one of the Axis & Allies boxed games.

Monopoly – a much maligned trading/property game. Most people who have bad experiences with playing this game are simply not using the actual rules. A quick read through the rules may surprise you and might be worth giving it another try. If they like the property trading they can try Catan or even Catan Jr – which allows you to make trades with the board and is a little more forgiving. If they really like bankrupting the other players, they can try Acquire – which is a classic hotel stock game that is still in print.

Yahtzee – you try to get combinations on dice, keeping some and rerolling others. I am not sure how many people still play this one. There are a few variations of this as well, with Yahtzee Free For All being very the best – it plays quick and allows you to steal other player’s scores. But a good game to try is King of Tokyo – which is easier and quicker than King of New York. Both are giant monster battles using a similar dice rolling technique. This one wasn't on their list but deserves to mentioned as well.

If you find that the people you play with are stuck in a rut with the older games, or have family that you only play with occasionally, they can try these games. This should allow them to take the first step into a larger world of gaming and, if they like these, may allow you to expose them to even more esoteric games.