NY Times tackles board games

I know z22 was referring to FFG’s so-called “big box” games in his post, but don’t take that “anything from Fantasy Flight Games” comment literally. They have plenty of games that are newbie-friendly, including their Silver Line and excellent titles like Blue Moon (a card game), Blue Moon City, Ingenious (an abstract), Lord of the Rings (cooperative), Wings of War, and the crown jewel: Kingsburg, which is one of the best dice-based games ever made and is very easy to learn/teach. I’d much rather teach a newbie that than Dominions, for example.

Speaking of Fantasy Flight, I just saw at BGG that Buy.com is offering the new version of Cosmic Encounter for $37.30 w/ free shipping, which is a great deal: http://www.buy.com/prod/cosmic-encounter/q/loc/106/209959126.html

I would add Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation, which is a fantastic (and easy to learn) two-player game, and they also now publish Cosmic Encounter–one of my favorite boardgames ever, and pretty simple to learn despite being an “American” game.

Also, anyone thinking about checking out a FF game should check out their website. They offer PDFs of the complete rulebook for every game that they sell, which gives you the opportunity to see what a game is about before you buy it. It’s in the “Support” section on each individual game page.

Titan–another of my favorite boardgames ever–is not actually that hard to learn. The rules are fairly short and straightforward, but I agree that it’s not a particularly casual-friendly title for a few reasons. Most notably the length (it can make for some very long games–six to eight hours, easy), and also because it’s fairly grognardy, with frequent hex-based wargamey tactical battles that involve a fair amount of downtime for players not directly involved.

I finally got replacements for the damaged parts in mine from Valley Games, and the amount of progress I’ve made with this game since then is less than impressive. Like I’ve opened the box, admired it, sighed, and then put it away at least 3 times. As with Fortress America, I know it’s not as complicated as it seems, but damn it’s hard to get past that first impression.

What do people do in these mega boardgames during downtime when they are not directly involved? Drink?

Beats me. I only ever planned to play Titan 2p. Other games I’ve played of similar scope, such as Arkham, provide you with different phases of play that virtually everyone has to participate in. That is, instead of long ass turns, you have a bunch of mini turns to keep things moving. I’ve seen it work very well with 3 players, can’t say what it would be like with higher numbers.

It depends on the game, but in Titan, the battles tend to be entertaining even if you are just a spectator, and watching other players move and recruit is your means for trying to puzzle out what units they have hidden in their stacks, which is a key part of the gameplay. So it is generally worthwhile to pay attention even when you are not actively taking your turn.

problem is, people then start looking at BGG, see what is popular and think they should be playing caylus and le havre and other rotten efficiency exercises. i am pretty sure this drives a vast number of people away from board gaming.

I dunno, Caylus isn’t really the rage on BGG right now. I mean, it still has a very high user rating, but it’s not even on the “hot games” list sidebar at the moment. Someone looking at BGG right now would think they should be playing Dominion or Small World. Which is not a terrible thing to think, really.

Are you sure you quoted the right person? I didn’t mention BGG anywhere in my post. :)

We BS, drink, poop, drink, and talk about nerd stuff.

We avoid games with downtime. Board games have moved on from Monopoly ya know :). There are plenty of games where downtime is either non-existent (I’m The Boss is an example of this as well as the new trend in board games cooperative games) or where you nearly welcome downtime because it gives you a chance to think about your next turn (Agricola does this well).

Yeah I don’t see newbies coming to boardgamegeek to check out Caylus much. Yes it’s in the top ten but for better or worse, boardgamegeek is a site for those involved in the hobby, not those brand new to the hobby. I still think Funagain does a good job with introducing newbies to games, most of the other sites are again places for people who know what they are looking for.

Titan has a real problem with that but it’s a remake of an ages old game. In the FFG big box games, there’s usually enough strategic options to give you plenty to think about when it’s not your turn. Also many people meta game–“Don’t do that, do this!” kind of thing and explaining all of that and arguing about it will take up most of the down time.

For better or worse, the groups that I game with don’t drink; not that it’s prohibited or anything but it just doesn’t happen. I used to provide beer at my game days but no one drank it, so I stopped (it was Sam Adams for those who may be critical).

When we play monster games that don’t require a lot of paying attention to other people’s turns we generally play Xbox during downtime or get a side game of Risk 2210 A.D. or something similar going. I don’t play a lot of those games these days though because there’s just too much good stuff out there to commit an entire day to one game.

Most of the top games have a reason for everyone to be involved on everybody’s turn.

So most of the time you’re yelling for person X to get their ass back into the room.

Someone from Long Island Boardgaming mentioned that bit on BGG, and said that yes, that was supposed to be Vinci, and not the Da Vinci Game.

This has been an issue for me in some of the more boring games. My favorites either have super-short turns or lots of interaction per-turn. In Princes of the Renaissance, for instance, every players turn is putting something up for auction, meaning every player is involved (through the auction) in every turn. There’s as much strategy is what you bid high for as there is in what order the auctions are played in.

Which is another failing of articles like this: Mentioning games that are out of print (or having in-print games you mention go OOP by the time your article hits the stands). Much of the money I’ve poured into my collection has come from selling an OOP game for three or more times the price I paid for it and buying new stuff (including inexpensive reprints of sold OOP games).

We liked LotR coop game, but don’t think it’s good at all as an intro “real” game. I had decades of experience and children not only genetically predisposed but very deliberately conditioned to understand and and enjoy these games. That was enough to enjoy, but we discovered major errors in our rules interpretation until our 3rd game.

The boys & I really like 3p Titan too. But while it’s not as complex as it may appear, the games can be extremely long and it does suffer from players possibly being eliminated very early. Also it can appear that one player takes an insurmountable lead. That’s usually not the case, but can cause despair if less experienced players are the ones behind. We all also enjoy playing Colossus (http://colossus.sourceforge.net/), which has a lot of interesting variants but is good for learning rules & strategy. And if all your opponents are computers, the early elimination & despair issues can easily be ignored.

My personal feeling has always been that this is Titan’s single biggest flaw. It’s still a fantastic game, though, and once you have two people eliminated, they can get some other game going on the side.

I played Small World today. It’s a better Vinci but it still suffers from long downtime between turns. You can’t plan for your turn when it’s not your turn because the board situation can change with each player. This means that each player has to re-evaluate what they want to do nearly every turn. I’m not going to pick it up.

On the other hand, Finca was fun for a light Eurogame and I will be getting it when it comes out in the US in about a month. Cavum was interesting, I need to play it more. I wasn’t impressed much with Bombay, the new Ystari (Caylus, Amyitis, Sylla) game, it was mostly boring.