In Eight Games different board gamers share the eight games they’d select in eight different situations. The link to each game’s listing on Board Game Geek is given for you to find out more.
This month Dave Dawkins, board game designer, writer, game consultant, actor, director and gerbil wrangler chooses his Eight Games.
1: A game to take to granny’s house:
A family friendly afternoon.
Some gaming experiences draw you in with an interesting puzzle, or a tense set of circumstances. You need to engage your brain right from the word go. The thrill of a good game often involved working out that puzzle better than anyone else. For a friendly afternoon, where everyone can just enjoy playing whether they win or lose, we have Dixit.
This is a game about intuition and just enjoying the experience of playing. The game is gloriously simple. It involves a basic selection and judgement process common to many party games. Players will have a hand of ten cards. The lead player will select one secretly and come up with a word, phrase, sound, movement – something that gives the other players a hint as to what’s on the card. The fun part comes in that every other player will also pick a card from their hand that they believe satisfies that hint. The cards are then all shuffled and turned over, so no one knows which card came from which player. You have to guess. If you get the lead player’s card, they get points, but that hint should not be too good, or really obvious, because if everyone guesses the card, they get no points.
The illustrations on these cards are stunning dreamscapes of weirdness and wonderment. The whole beauty of presentation, and easy banter generated, means this game has never failed me with a group of people maybe not familiar at all with modern board games. It introduces several interesting ideas, like every player requiring an action on every turn to avoid downtime, multiple players scoring on the same round – things that have appeared in much heavier games. So, it’s a great game for granny, if you later want her to play Forum Trajanum. What’s the heaviest game your grandmother plays?
2: A game to take to a restaurant:
Play around the drinks and cutlery.
Hive (specifically Hive Pocket)
I rarely visit a pub or restaurant with small tables. If I’m going out to meet friends, it is usually to play games. But sometimes it’s a good idea to have a little something to play with smaller tables. There are some great games that can be played without a table at all, such as Palm Island or Maiden Quest, but even with the smallest table, we can have Hive!
Hive is a really fun tactical experience. The pocket version is great to carry anywhere. A lot of smaller games, or games that fit into small boxes, will spill out all over the place when play begins. Hive tends to stay in a relatively contained area, so it’s ideal for tray-tables on trains, planes and even the fold-down armrest between the rear seats in a car.
The game can be confusing for beginners, with each piece having their own movement and placement rules, so it’s often compared to chess for that reason. However, once the game is absorbed, the sheer variety of ways the game can begin makes it much more fun than chess. It’s also a much better option between a learner and more experienced player. Unfortunately, it is two-player only, for much the same reason as Chess, or Go, or most of those ancient abstract table games.
3: A game to take to a reunion:
Some people you want to chat to, others… not so much.
People lose touch. Lives move in various, different ways, pulling apart even the closest of friends. There are plenty of light party games that can help people interact, but for my money, Say Anything is a great way to actually connect with people and learn who they are, or just remind them who you are.
This game involves another selection and judgement mechanism. In each turn, a player will pose a question – these can be taken from the cards provided by the game, or may be something interesting the Questioner thought up themselves. They’re usually leading questions about ranking something – a penchant the human race seems to enjoy indulging. We love our top-ten of things. … or eight … The other players will then write their answers down, and the Questioner will select in secret the one they think best answers their question. The twist being, that players will vote on which answer they think the Questioner has picked. So, even if they haven’t come up with a good answer, the players can still make points by picking the right answer.
This game usually leads to hilarity and bewildered expressions of “Why did you pick that?” All of which can help people re-connect, or discover each other anew.
4: A game to take to a primary school:
Arm yourself with multiple copies and take over a whole classroom.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle
Kids are often brought up on a staple fare of dry old games – often called classics. These offer little in the way of fresh new experiences. The idea that players might have to work together to defeat the game itself is still something people have no idea exists.
Hogwarts Battle is a great little co-operative game for players as young as eight – I’d also add in a few random copies of the original Pandemic, which is another game I’ve seen eight and nine year olds really enjoy. I’m sure it’s probably teaching them something important about teamwork – and in the case of Pandemic, where Karachi is in the world. The main thing they should learn is that board games offer a wide variety of experiences, from party games, dudes on a map wargaming, simulations, abstracts, and co-operative.
5: A game to take to a youth club:
Hook in the next generation of board gamers.
Why should newcomers to the industry – potential future pundits, designers and group leaders – think that board games are bland cube pushers? No! I say let them eat cake! With pink flowery frosting, rich, creamy filling, and those little silver balls of sugar, or whatever it is they’re made out of.
Everdell is a beautiful game, that has amazing table presence. This one really captures the attention on looks, with a stunning, three-dimensional tree, beautifully illustrated cards and main board. The gameplay is rock solid as well. There is a basic, worker-placement mechanism for gathering resources, card buying for engine building and offering further worker options, and a satisfying end game. I highly recommend this for gamers of all levels, but if you want to make some new players hungry for more, feed them something truly delicious.
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).
This is a tough one. I’d probably bring something I’ve designed myself, so they can see my cleverness. I’d take along Tafl Up – a simple abstract game of making your pieces into stacks. It’s a great little game as it doesn’t involve player elimination in any way, and yet plays a lot like the classic chess, checkers and viking tafl games. Also, it can play two, three or four players. I could show them how to play in five minutes and then spend the rest of the interview slaughtering them with advanced strategies.
Then they’d know how clever I am. And probably be too terrified to give me the job.
Maybe I should rethink this.
7: A game to take to a hospital:
No brain-power needed.
Stuck in bed. Bad food. Nothing to do. But enough about my home-life. Hospitals can be truly awful places. Lying there, contemplating your own squishy mortality, can engender all kinds of negativity. Patients often wonder why no-one is coming to visit them. It’s not like the patient is on holiday. They’re just down the road, in a different building than where you might normally visit.
So, let’s take them on holiday. Tokaido is a wonderfully restful experience that can be played well with very little in the way of thought. It’s literally about taking a holiday. In feudal Japan. Along one of the Gokaido – the five main highways in ancient Japan. The Tokaido is the coastal road between the old capital of Kyoto, and Edo, the new capital of the Tokugawa Shogunate, that would eventually become Tokyo.
Players take turns simply walking down the road, visiting hot springs, temples, shops, and stopping to paint beautiful panoramas of the coastal landscape. Each activity helps score points in various ways, even stopping to eat at the inns each night. It’s a wonderfully simple and easy to learn game that creates as much of an experience as it does engender competition. I rank this, like Dixit, as a game I enjoy for the experience as much as the winning. And for some poor soul, cooped up in their hospital bed, a little vicarious world travel is just what the doctor – wait, has anyone else made this joke yet..?
8: A game to take to a cabin in the woods:
You have lots of time and lots of space.