Board game wars: getting through an epic game of Risk

As the long winter nights close in and the weather takes a chilly turn, there is nothing quite like curling up in your living room to play an epic game of ‘Risk’ or one of its similarly challenging counterparts. Originally released in 1950s France as ‘La Conquete du Monde’, or ‘The Conquest of the World’, ‘Risk’ is one of the most enduring strategy board games ever made, and it is easy to lose entire evenings as you take it in turns to conquer your companions’ territories.

If you are more of a video gamer than a fan of the classics, throwing your own board game evening can be a daunting prospect. After all, playing remotely among friends seldom requires providing snacks or whipping the hoover round! However, playing host at your very own board game evening can be a great experience, one that you’ll be eager to repeat on a regular basis.

Board Games

Planning the perfect games night

Despite the inevitable rise of video gaming, nothing can quite match the thrill of a good board game, particularly when it comes to organising a night in with your friends. Video games can be great fun, and are fantastic when it comes to interacting with people from around the world. However, nothing can beat the company of friends on a cold winter’s evening, and the opportunities for conversation and laughter will soon outweigh the temptation for fancy graphics; the oldies really are the best when it comes to gaming.

There are a number of things to consider as you plan the perfect games night – namely, the number of guests that are invited, the food and drink that you’ll be serving, and the games that you’ll be playing. It is essential to make sure that you have enough seating for everyone, plenty of snacks to go around, and ample floor and table space for the different games that will be on offer. Remember to draw up the rules for anyone who may be unfamiliar with a particular title. Cushions and beanbags can be a great addition to any living room and will ensure that everyone gets a comfortable seat; games nights should never be too formal, and your guests should feel able to enjoy the company as well as the tournaments on offer. In terms of feeding your gaming friends, snack foods are, more often than not, the best way to go. Crisps, dips and handheld foods such as pizza ensure that the action can continue, even as you’re refuelling.

One of the best things about games such as ‘Risk’ is that the conclusion is rarely met before sunrise. Certain epic board games can provide a whole evening’s entertainment, so it’s important to try to stay alert for the duration of your tournament. Tea, coffee and caffeinated energy drinks can provide the buzz you need to maintain that gaming edge, so mini fridges and hot drinks makers can be a great addition to your games night. The Tassimo coffee maker is a particularly popular gadget that conveniently allows you to make numerous drinks for you and your friends at the touch of a button.

While video games are a great way to wile away an evening, there is nothing quite like a classic board game to really draw friends together, providing ample opportunities for sinking each others battleships, conquering territories and charging extortionate rent to those unfortunate enough to land on your properties. Competition among friends has never been so much fun.

Five Fun Games With Money

Ask somebody to name a fun game involving money and they’d probably answer “Monopoly”. However they would be wrong. Because while Monopoly certainly does have money in it, there is no way on earth that it could ever be accused of being “fun”. Tedious, agonising, and frustrating – yes. Fun? Not in my experience anyhow.

Here’s five money focused board games that are hands down superior to moving a little metal dog around a neverend board.

For Sale

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For Sale designed by Stefan Dorra and is quick and easy card game for 3-6 players. In it you are a real estate agent competing with the other players in order to to buy houses cheap and sell them on for a profit.

For Sale is an exceptionally simple bidding game at it’s heart, and is playable by the whole family. At first glance the theming may seem a little dry, however the art is cute and you soon imerse yourself in the cut throat busness of trying to gazump your fellow players. And unlike the real life practice of flipping houses for profit, In For Sale you never have to touch a paintbrush or a screwdriver. Bonus!

Lords of Vegas

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In Lords of Vegas you are a casino owner back in the golden era of Las Vegas. Your task is to beat all the other bosses and make your chain of casino’s the biggest and most profitable in town.

Being set in the 1950’s there is no option to start up your own online gaming websites like http://www.gamingclub.com/au in order to globalise your gambling activities. But never the less the game is really atmospheric and you can almost hear the ring of the slot machines and the shouts from the roulette table as you roll your dice and build your casinos.

Niagara

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Niagara is a game of searching for precious jewels in the river directly above Niagra Falls. In it you canoe downstream finding precious valuable jewel deposits along the bank of the river and loading the booty into your canoe. However you need to be careful that you don’t go too close to the edge of the waterfall or else the unpredictable current might sweep you over the edge and towards your doom.

This is a fantastically silly game, and benifits superbly from a very clever moving board that physically pushes your playing peices towards the waterfall. You really start to sweat when the river currents start to pick up and you see your canoe laden with precious stones inch steadily towards disaster.

Panic on Wall Street

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Another wonderfully silly game, Panic on Wall Street simulates the chaotic frenzy of the stock market trading pits of the 80s. The players are split up into two groups – managers (who own stock to sell), and traders (who want to buy it).

Each round the managers and the traders are given two minutes to negotiate with each other in a furious hurly burly of shouting, pleading, and backstabing which never fails to raise volume levels to hights which can induce neighbours to bang on the wall. The winners of the game are the manager and the trader who have been most profitable. This game is fantastic fun and I heartily recomend it to absolutely everyone.

Aquire

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Not all games on this list are modern trendy board games. Aquire is a true classic and was first published in 1964. This is another stock market game; although a little less frenetic than Panic on Wall Street. In it players stratigicaly invest in businesses, which grow and merge with other companies and hopefully make the money you’ve invested grow too.

It’s a great game, although one I’ve yet to master (coming last each time I’ve played). There have been multiple editions relased over the years, but if you are going to try and pick one up then I recomend trying to get hold of the one with big chunky plastic bits – as it is by far the most satisfying to handle.

So there you go – 5 board games about money. Did I leave out your favorite? If so, let me know.

How to Win at Strategy Games

Strategy games are all about testing your ability to think and adapt against an opponent or opponents. Practice and patience are important, but your success will also rely upon your natural ability to react.

Board Games

Examples: Monopoly, Risk, Chess

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When playing board games, a substantial component to your success is the skill of other players. Learn the rules, play consistently and take advantage of any weaknesses you see in the other player’s defenses.

  • Each game usually has a specific strategy or trick that is difficult to beat. Look online for guides. As an example, in Monopoly a winning strategy is usually to purchase everything you land on.
  • Board games usually operate on “house rules.” This means that you may not always be playing in the way that you are accustomed to. Learn as many variations as you can and adjust your strategies accordingly.

PC Games

Examples: Civilization, Age of Empires, Command & Conquer

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PC strategy games tend to be incredibly intricate. Unlike with card games, board games and other types of strategy game, you are usually playing against a computer rather than another player (though you can play against other players if you choose). PC games tend to be won by ensuring that you complete the correct actions early on.

  • Look up the Wiki. Almost every game has a Wiki devoted to it that outlines all of the components of the game and the best strategies, such as this Civilization Wiki.
  • Determine what it takes to win. Most PC strategy games have multiple ways to win it, depending on how you want to play the game.
  • Start out small. PC strategy games usually has several modes, ranging from very easy to very difficult.
  • Don’t be afraid to “cheat.” Sites like GameFAQs can give you information regarding specific problems that you’re having

Card Games

Examples: Blackjack, Poker

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Card games can be incredibly difficult to master because you need to understand both the rules and the psychology of the people you are playing with.

  • Learn the rules thoroughly. Games like poker have many variants; you will need to know them all
  • Invest in strategy guides. Poker, as an example, has a large amount of strategy guides available free online.
  • Practice. There are websites and apps that will help you develop your own personal style.
  • Be consistent. Card games, like most games that involve a component of luck, are about having a system and remaining consistent.

Miniature Games

Example: Warhammer 40k

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Miniature strategy games have seen a resurgence in popularity lately. With miniature strategy games, also known sometimes as war games, you command troops and attempt to best your opponent or opponents in battle. Miniatures are used to visualize the lay of the land and your troops.

  • Make sure to pay attention to the board. The environment in a miniature game is half the battle.
  • Miniature games are about collecting as much as about playing. Make sure you do your research and are prepared before you step up to the table. Collect with success in mind, rather than simply to collect.

Fantasy Sports

Examples: Fantasy Football, Fantasy Baseball, Fantasy Basketball

Though often seen as a “gambling” game, fantasy sports games actually involve a significant amount of strategy. Players must educate themselves thoroughly about each player and construct a winning strategy.

  • Memorize as much information about the players as possible; you may need to make decisions on the fly.
  • Always keep current on recent news. They can affect how the players will actually perform regardless of prior history.
  • Learn what makes a strong team strong. As an example, a typical NBA team needs to contain a specific roster.
  • Use a good platform. There are many fantasy sports platforms that allow you to select your picks and automatically tabulate the statistics.

Game Resources

Games for a Horde of 8 Year Olds

Last week I was feeling the gaming urge rather strongly. Unfortunately all my regular gaming sessions had been cancelled, and even Mike turned my suggestions of an impromptu two-player game of something.

So in a fit of desperation shallowly disguised as parental involvement I asked my 8 year old son if he would like to invite some of his friends over for a games night.

I play a lot of board games with my children, particularly my son. However I’ve never really played with a larger group of kids before and so I was a little nervous about how well it would go down. A group of 8 year old boys aren’t the easiest of cats to herd, and my track record of tolerating other people’s children is patchy at best.

I needn’t have worried however as the night went very well indeed.

I think its success can be attributed to choosing a variety of short and engaging games. As much as we gamer types like to point to Mice and Mystics and Forbidden Island as being great kids games; the amount of concentration needed can sometimes be a little too much for the younger end of the age range; especially if they’re giddy about being with their friends.

All the games I brought to the table went down very well; but two in particular were standouts.

The first big hit was Rampage – a board game version of the classic arcade game from the 80s. In Rampage you are a monster who’s sole purpose in life is to smash things up, eat as much as you can, and try to knock your rivals on their arses. Which, when you think about it, is pretty much the life of an 8 year old boy too so its success with the lads shouldn’t have been a surprise.

(photo by Daniel Thurot)

(photo by Daniel Thurot)

However Rampage is an awful lot of fun, even for grown ups. It has a surprising amount of tactics to it considering it is a game where you are flicking wooden discs around and knocking over buildings by dropping model monsters on them.

There were very few tactics to be seen on this games night however, especially as I simplified the rules somewhat by taking the special powers cards out. The game quickly degenerated into a joyful free-for-all of wanton destruction with little to no regard for scoring points. Which to be fair is probably the way its best played.

The other big success of the night was Snake Oil, which is a party game I’ve reviewed here in the past. In Snake Oil one person takes the role of a customer, while the others try to sell them a fictional product made up from combining two words from cards in their hand.

Snake Oil Cards

Snake Oil Cards

Snake Oil is a firm favourite of both my son and my elder daughter, and so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised at how well it went down with the boys. At points they were literally crying with laughter at the products they were coming up with. And when one of them drew a card that said “Burp” I thought they were going to have an aneurysm.

Other games that we played were Tsuro, Dobble (or Spot It for the chronically non-British), and a nifty little German worm racing game called Da ist der Wurm drin. All of which were met with exuberance, enthusiasm and good sportsmanship.

There was no incidences of whining, and only one episode of crying (when I misjudged the mood and accused one of the boys of looking like a chimpanzee). When it was time to go home all three lads were disappointed it was over and all asked to do it again as soon as possible. Which is an idea that I’m pretty much in favour of myself.

What games would you play with a bunch of 8 year old boys?

Concept: Board Game Review

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Opening the box for Concept feels much like unpacking a new iPad. There is same matt white plastic, the same clean and simple design philosophy, and the same tactile thrill as you pulled the components from the insert. In fact the only real difference in between opening a iPad and opening Concept is that you don’t have to re-mortgage your house in order to do it.

Its not just the packaging that shares the aesthetics of Apple products. The game board itself resembles some sort of giant iOS display. Dozens of square icons with rounded corners sitting in neat columns. The only thing missing is the angry birds app and a background hum of smug superiority.

Concept is a game for between two and twelve players aged around ten and up. In it the players attempt to communicate words and phrases to each other by putting counters down on relevant icons on the board. It’s a bit like charades, but instead of gestures you use a pre-set and finite set of pictures.

So in order to do the word “milk” you might put a counter on the icon for foodstuff, a counter on liquid, and a counter on white.

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Or if you wanted to do Van Gogh you would put your counters on the icons for male, art, ear and cut:

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Easy peasy lemon squeezy right?

Well yes, but not all the concepts are that easy. There is even a sliding scale of difficulty for you to chose from. The options range from “crocodile” and “brick” all the way to “get your sea legs” and “Statue of Christ the Redeemer”. There are also ways of you indicating “sub concepts” within the main concept using different coloured counters. Should you want to you can make the game very tricky indeed.

I really like Concept. In fact I really really like it. By placing severe limitations on your means of communication the game brings out the creativity and lateral thinking in its players. Much like the wonderful Dixit, Concept allows you to get a fascinating glimpse of how your friends and family’s brains really work. And sometimes that glimpse can be very funny indeed.

The rules of the game are short, but relatively vague. The designers of the game clearly consider this to be a game that is played for fun rather than competition, and points and scoring seem added almost as an afterthought.

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This casual approach to doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Concept is a warm game, best played to enjoy the company of the fellow players rather than coolly test your metal against them. It’s one of those games that you’ll probably end up playing until you feel ready to stop rather than to the rather flimsily set end objective.

However if grinding opponents into the dust is more your cup of tea then the game can be easily corrupted to accommodate that style of play. I can certainly envisage a team vs team variant which would be cut throat and intense enough to end the most solid of relationships.

Concept is a fantastic game, ideally suited to family game nights and grown up’s dinner parties alike. Its one of those precious games that both kids and adults can play together and enjoy equally.

It’s also an extremely accessible game. Anyone can pick this off the shelf and be up and running and able to teach others to play within five to ten minutes.

Concept is a game that deserves to be as mainstream as Pictonary or Cranium, and with a bit of luck combined with it’s recent nomination for the prestigious Speil des Jahres gaming award I’d not be surprised if it catches the cultural zeitgeist very soon.

Concept can be bought at a your favourite multinational faceless online megastore for about £25.