In Eight Games different board gamers share the eight games they’d select in eight different situations. The games are not explained, but the links are given to Board Game Geek listings for you to find out more.
This month Lucy Rycroft-Smith chooses her eight games. Lucy is an academic at Cambridge University and tweets as @honeypisquared. She is part of the team that runs HandyCon, a biannual gaming convention with a focus on friendly, open gaming, in Maidenhead. See https://www.handycon.co.uk/ for more information.
1: A game to take to granny’s house:
A family friendly afternoon.
Egyptian Rat Screw
Something I find particularly insidious is the bland, unimaginative place between sexism and ageism that women of a certain age get relegated to once society decides their value has decreased – as their bodies no longer support babies and their attitudes no longer support other people’s idiocy. My mum has now been a grandmother for fourteen years; I work with extraordinary academic colleagues at Cambridge who fit this category; my own grandmother and great aunt are still happily living independently and continuing to learn languages, engage with politics and volunteer on local committees well into their 90s. Grandmothers – indeed grandparents – are a broad church, and categorising them by age or the coincidental fact that their children happen to have children seems bizarre to me. Which game would I take to visit my particular grandmother – not a granny, but decidedly a Nana? Something that would make us both laugh like drains, as we have so often over the years: Egyptian Rat Screw (played with just a deck of cards) is one of my favourite games for a good cathartic giggle.
2: A game to take to a restaurant:
Play around the drinks and cutlery
I spend a great deal of time travelling internationally to conferences, and find conference dinners can be less-than-enthralling. How to solve the problem of passing the time in between courses with colleagues for whom English may not be their first language and when there is not a great deal of time to teach complex rules, not to mention a lack of space in the suitcase? My tried-and-tested go-to on these occasions is Cockroach Poker: small box, simplicity, bluffing, easy way to learn names of those on your table, not too much of a footprint. Extra points if you learn the names of the eight creatures in someone else’s language, or try to do by sound only (spider, anyone?). I still find the French word for ‘toad’ inexplicably hilarious.
3: A game to take to a reunion:
Some people you want to chat to, others… not so much.
A crowd-pleaser than works in a noisy room, with plenty of fast action and tense bluffing – the obvious choice would be Skull (and Roses). I’ve watched entire pubs of people gravitate to watch six-player games of this, with roars of frustration and cheers of delight from onlookers as the cards are revealed. Bonus: you can skip the small talk about who’s had babies and/or got married (yawn) as it’s pretty engrossing.
4: A game to take to a primary school:
Arm yourself with multiple copies and take over a whole classroom.
It’s hard to pick just one! I was a primary teacher a few years ago and I made full and joyous use of games in the classroom and have written about my experiences extensively. I think my absolute favourite was Snake Oil: watching a six-year-old trying earnestly to sell me a pair of cheese trousers while an Ofsted inspector looked on grinning is a particular career highlight. We extended the game into cross-disciplinary learning too – with entire sequences of lessons based on designing and marketing some of our weirder creations. Fart Carnival kept us going for weeks.
5: A game to take to a youth club:
Hook in the next generation of board gamers.
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend with a houseful of teenagers recently (my daughter and her friends). Rather touchingly, they were happy to hang out with us – due, I would suggest, to the hilarity of the games we were playing rather than our company per se. We played Telestrations – an instant hit with almost everyone I play with, mostly because much like Wikipedia and philosophy, it seems there are only ever at least six degrees of separation between any starting sketch and something that looks rather more – shall we we say – penisy. I figure if teenagers are going to draw them anyway (and I was a secondary school teacher first, so I can assure you they will), they might as well draw them to amuse us all.
6: A game to take to a job interview:
Demonstrate your best qualities and answer questions while you play? (This really should be a thing)
The Shipwreck Arcana
My area is mathematics, so if I was interviewing someone I’d take along something deliciously mathy and logicky like The Shipwreck Arcana. Not only is it a beautiful game, but really intense on the strategic working through/ruling out possibilities, so I reckon that would give me a good measure of them! I also picked this one because it’s cooperative, and one of my favourite things about my job in academia is the extraordinarily high degree of collaboration.
7: A game to take to a hospital:
No brain-power needed.
In all my years of gaming, I have always stated perfectly straight-faced that there is one game – the best game of all time – that never fails to have players whooping with joy every single time. When I get out the box, everyone laughs, because it looks so childish – but do not be fooled, this is an incredibly enjoyable game for everyone. There are two levels of difficulty, so you can play against children and still compete hard. It’s fast-paced, intense and completely absorbing. I speak of course, of Loopin’ Louie, the undisputed best board game of all time. (Quite seriously, I would hope that in all but the most tragic of hospital scenarios it would raise a smile and distract from pain, and it’s also easy to wipe clean).
8: A game to take to a cabin in the woods:
You have lots of time and lots of space.
Oh My Goods!
I’m choosing – despite the fact that it’s Halloween – to interpret this one as romantic, rather than creepy, and accordingly have chosen a game that I would just love to have the chance to play over and over again with my partner, without real life getting in the way. For two-player fun and replayability, it would have to be Oh My Goods – fast setup, exciting play, satisfying engine-building, and I always want to play it again straight away afterwards. (It’s an ugly game and not a particularly inspiring theme, but I’m presuming I’ve got nice things to look at out of the window in this scenario).