Category Archives: Board games

In which the human lizard is a reluctant spy

It almost goes without saying that when moving to a new country, it is essential to join a board game club as soon as you can. I arrived in Australia on Friday night. On Saturday I attended my first meeting of Melbourne-based Cafe Games.

Back home, my own humble board game club (affectionately known as BGC) has eight members, average attendance is four or five and we play in my living room. Cafe Games is held in a pub’s function room and was attended by well over 100 Melbournians. There was a really good mix of people and everyone was very welcoming and apparently unfazed that this was how I’d chosen to spend my first day in their fine city.

The games being played were many and varied. When I arrived, a new game of The Resistance was about to start. While watching this game on Will Wheaton’s TableTop recently I had thought that I would be terrible at it and should avoid it at all costs. I joined right in.

Members of the resistance (blue) and spies (red)The Resistance takes place in a country ruled by an evil government. At the start of the game you get a card that tells you whether you are a member of the resistance or a government spy. Everyone closes their eyes and then the spies open their eyes so that they can identify one another, but they don’t get any chance to talk tactics. For the resistance, the aim of the game is to successfully complete three out of five missions. The spies’ aim is to thwart them.

Players take it in turns to propose a team for a mission then everyone votes to approve or reject that team. If the mission gets enough votes to be approved, those taking part anonymously choose whether the mission succeeds or fails (the resistance can only choose ‘succeed’). The outcomes of these stages help the resistance to work out who the spies are so that they can put together successful, spy-free missions. There is lots of discussion at each stage, with accusations flying around and spies telling fibs to throw suspicion onto others.

I really hoped that I’d be part of the resistance but of course I got a spy card. I’m terrible at lying so my tactic was to stay quiet, which made people start to suspect me. I started throwing out some accusations, some of which made no sense at all. Despite my poor efforts, my team of spies were able to fail enough missions to win the game and uphold the evil regime. Horrah.

The Resistance
Players: 5–10
Ages: 13+
Vaguely interesting fact: The Cafe Games venue sells pints of beer for $10. That’s about £6.40. Ouch.
Verdict: This is an awesome game and, if I can just develop the ability to lie convincingly, I’ll be amazing at it.

Board game review: In The Money

At Board Game Club we don’t just play the well known classics like Scrabble and Monopoly. Oh no, we also play the slightly random, niche (and occasionally crap) games that I find at local charity shops. A recent meeting saw us finally attempting In The Money, a game that I bought about a year ago but kept ignoring because it looked complicated. It was complicated.

In The Money mid-game and clearly not set up just for this photo.

It’s never a great start when you can’t work out what the aim of a game is. We got there eventually and I shall attempt to summarise. To begin with, everyone draws a team leader card out of accountant, banker, lawyer, PR executive, stockbroker and surveyor. You then build up a team and earn income through your team’s skills and status symbols. This allows you to move up the game board to the board room. In order to end the game, someone then needs to become the chairman and hold two successive board meetings.* The winner is the person with the most money at that point.**

The box describes In The Money as “the City of London send-up game”. As someone who’s never worked in the city, I wasn’t too sure about having to pay £1,000 funeral expenses for a team member threatened by a management buy-out rumour (as one chance card required) but the two accountants playing felt that, yes, they might be lured to a rival’s team by the promise of a solar powered calculator.

I can’t remember who we declared as the winner of In The Money – it felt more like an experience that we all got through together.

* None of us achieved this. 

** If you’re thinking that the game doesn’t sound that complicated, please note that I have neglected to mention the treasurer, the governor, market conditions (bull and bear), interest rates, loans, blackmail, fatal stress cards, predictions and the wind of change.

In the Money
Players: 2–6
Ages: Unspecified
Vaguely interesting fact: The companies named on the board are listed in the back of the rules with their contact details. It seems that they are all defunct now though; hard to believe that In The Money didn’t shift enough units to have an impact on business.
Verdict: It took us quite a while to get our head round this game and we realised near the end that we’d been doing a few bits entirely wrong. However, it was actually fun and we vowed to give it another shot some time soon.

Totally awesome board game collection

This evening I was struck by how very fine my board game collection looks these days, so I took a photo of it. This is that very photo:

a rather awesome board game collection piled up in a somewhat hazardous fashion

Quite the selection, I think you’ll agree. I actually have a few more than that but there isn’t space for them up there*. A few of the games were gifts, some were family games, and the rest are from eBay or charity shops – new board games are ridiculously expensive. With space being at a premium, games have to earn their place on the shelf and many, such as  The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Eclipse 1999, have gone straight back to the charity shop after just one go.

I’m always looking out for new games to add to the pile so if you notice anything vital that is missing from my collection, do let me know in the comments. (No need to tell me that I need Settlers of Catan though, I’m well aware of this fact.)

* What you can’t tell from the photograph is that this is very high shelf. The games are actually rather hard to reach and it is just a matter of time until I receive a board game-related head injury**.

** I can’t decide if this would be more or less embarrassing to explain at A&E than the recent alcohol-related head injury that I couldn’t remember getting. I suppose they’d pity me, rather than judging me, which would be something.

Awesome board game collection
Players: Many and varied
Ages: All ages
Vaguely interesting fact: One of the oldest known board games, Senet, was played in Predynastic Egypt circa 3500BC.
Verdict: I need to find more space so that I can house an increasing number of board games.

Nothing says Sunday afternoon like a good board game

Nothing says Sunday afternoon like a good board game and so last weekend I played The London Board Game with a couple of friends. The board for this game is the standard tube map and the playing pieces are tube carriages. The aim of the game is to start at one of six major stations, travel to six destinations that you have been randomly allocated and then return to your starting point. Whenever you change lines you have to take a hazard card which will either totally thwart all your plans (the fourth time I was instructed to go to Victoria to take a sight-seeing tour with my aunt it started to lose its appeal) or enable you to screw with your opponents by sending them to such delightful and out-of-the-way stations as Lewisham or Leyton.

Throughout the game, players have opportunites to open and close stations. When done effectively, this can cause huge problems – just try getting from Warren Street to Camden Town without going through Euston.

The frustration, nay, exasperation, that we felt at times during this game accurately captured our feelings associated with tube travel. Being trapped between two closed stations for many turns while trying to roll the six that would release me brought back memories of the time I spent 45 minutes stuck underground between Stockwell and Oval. The only thing missing was the constant updates from the driver who had absolutely no information but was clearly trying to stop any claustrophobics from freaking out.

However, we felt that to fully recreate the atmosphere of the tube you would need to play the game crammed round the board with 11 strangers, at least one of whom would have penetrating BO and another of whom would be pressed up against you a little more closely than was necessary. Making eye contact with other players would result in instant dismissal from the game.

The London Board Game
Players: 2-6
Ages: 7+
Vaguely interesting fact: This game was first released way back in 1972. We played a new edition that includes the whole East London Line and shows Blackfriars as closed.
Verdict: A simple but fun ‘roll and move’ game. While luck plays a big part, there is enought room for tactics to keep it interesting. This game will make its Board Game Club debut in February.