Here are the longer games I played during my stag weekend.
I like boring looking board games. I’m not sure why - maybe it’s that I think they must be so good they don’t have to worry about looking good. Suburbia takes the form of nothing but bits of cardboard: cardboard hexes, cardboard score sheet, cardboard money. There are a few wooden tokens per player to track income and score, but that’s as three dimensional as it gets. There isn’t even a board, as such: you build up the board out of hexes as you go along. Anyone who looks at it would be forgiven for never even giving it a chance.
Oh but if you do, there’s a world of complexity. This game very, very quickly becomes super, super deep. Your first few turns are quite simple, if somewhat marred by the fact that none of the buildings you can buy in the first phase are very interesting (do you want to buy some landfill for your town?), but very quickly you become bogged down in difficult choices and a heap of bookkeeping. Sometimes Suburbia is about watching your opponents, sometimes it’s about planning for the future when you don’t actually know what the future holds, and sometimes it is about just trying to keep up with what’s going on in your town. Definitely not for everyone. I love it.
Some board games come and go, and some games hang around forever. In my head, Small World is quickly gaining Settlers of Catan and Monopoly status in that it just seems to be everywhere, and everyone seems to have played it, and it never goes away. I’m not sure why Monopoly is still hanging around, but Small World is still here because it’s simple, it’s interesting, it is hard to solve, and it’s a lot of fun. It also doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is really important in a game like this.
To me, Small World is what Risk should have been: it has territory control, reacting to players, manipulating forces, and no hidden elements, but it doesn’t have dice and it doesn’t last all day. Our brains like territory control: we like seeing our units cover the board, we like collecting victory points as little tokens. Our brains also like nice artwork, and Small World has heaps of that. This is one of those games that’s just built to make you happy. I don’t know if I want to play it every day, but every time I play it, I love it.
Holding your hand of cards facing outwards, so that you can’t see it but everyone else can, is possibly my favourite mechanic. In Hanabi, the only way you find out what you’re holding in your hand is through other people using up hint tokens to tell you, but what they can tell you is limited. Herein lies an interesting problem: those who are more seasoned at games and have a better poker face will do a better job of not telling you about your cards than those who aren’t, so playing this game with a group of skilled players might actually end up harder than with a novice group. I don’t get to play Hanabi enough, because it’s quite a brain-intensive co-op game, and that doesn’t really appeal to a lot of people I play with, but I do really like it. I’d like to get “good” at it, whatever that actually means.
You don’t need me to tell you that the 2nd highest rated game on Board Game Geek is good. Instead, I’ll tell you not to play it drunk in a room full of loud drunk people. It takes about 3 hours to get through if you play it that way, and Simon and Marcus win because they are playing as a team which is definitely cheating and also they are the least drunk.
I can’t get over how Risk Legacy takes such a bad game and makes it such a good one. It is a master class in game design. We only played one more game (we’re now 3 in) but we opened another of the secret envelopes, and again, it completely changed the game. We all cannot wait to play it again. I simply can’t praise this game enough.