Monday 3 March 2014

Complicated Boardgames: Top Three Best Bets

By Ashley and Ka of The Meeple’s Republic

8 hours of a day is generally reserved for work or a cross-continental flight. Could it also be spent playing a SINGLE GAME?! Oh yes friends, a far cry from Settlers of Catan, there are big, component-filled, burly, complicated semblances of board games out there, complete with text books and cheat sheets. Not all big games take 14% of a week to play, but there’s generally a high level of commitment necessary from you, dear player, if you’re going to hunker down and open one up. To save you wasted hours learning something that doesn’t even know how to spell fun, we’re giving you our top picks for complicated games that are well worth the effort to learn and play. Be warned: some of these may scare off your casual gaming group, and all are best learned from someone who already knows how to play!

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA – The show has a cult following, and so does this board game. While the members of the both BSG cults tend to be one in the same, this semi-cooperative race-to-find Earth-and-avoid-destruction-by-Cylons is fun even if you haven’t seen the show. While you’re trying desperately not to lose food, population, fuel or morale, you’ve also got to deal with saving civilian ships, making repairs to Galactica (your ship) and trying to fend off Raiders. There is a ton going on in the game itself, on top of trying to figure out who among you might be an evil robot! Is it worth all the bits and pieces just to play a hidden roles game? Yes, most certainly. The feeling of success and camaraderie when you manage to stop yet another horrible thing from happening is incredible. Plus the opportunity for each player’s role to change as the game goes on makes the accusations and betrayal aspect especially interesting. We commend any gaming group who tries to learn this out of the box, but highly recommend learning this from someone who already knows how to play.

SPACE CADETS – This uber-complicated “party game” doesn’t have 800 pieces or 15 action points to spend per turn, and that’s what makes it great. First off, it’s not reeeeeally a party game but feels like one, with lots of shouting, laughing, and racing against the clock. In Space Cadets each player is a member of the crew flying a space ship on a mission. It’s particularly complicated because people are all doing something COMPLETELY different. Each position has its own mini-game to play, all of which are played simultaneously during a timed round. The results of each game are pooled together to redistribute energy, gather crystals, evade energy ships, amp up the shields, and other typical space ship type actions. Many of the mini-games are based on luck, making the things mighty tricky. Things get even trickier when roles change, or if there’s a core breach, and you need to frantically pass cards around the table to complete a second game in the same amount of time you were just barely getting through the first! AHHH! It will certainly induce laughs, and cheers of victory if you manage to beat the clock. If you’re patient Space Cadets can be learned fairly easily using the rule book and these training videos (assign roles, and then have everyone watch their own video). Good luck on your mission!

MAGE WARS – And now for something completely different: Mage Wars. It’s a 2 person battle of rival wizards on a simple board proving the best complicated games don’t need a metric tonne of people, components or time. Both parties get a customizable book of 50 different spells from which to summon magical creatures, harvest mana, create curses, adorn yourself in armor…the list goes on, and the spells build up on one another. Much like chess,
and you know how complicated chess really is, you’ll both move within the board casting spells, trying to anticipate what the other is doing. Except you not only have to choose the right spell, but also watch that you can afford the mana for your overall grandmaster wizard plan. Oh, and once you’ve cast a spell it’s gone forever, so you’ll have to figure out if now is really when you want to use that spell anyway. The plethora of spells means not only are you heavily strategizing, but you are almost always frantically changing that strategy given your opponent’s last move, and your dwindling spell options mean the game doesn’t drag. Knowing complicated games aren’t always fun the first time around, there’s even an “apprentice game” with half the rules so you can easily learn this one right off the shelf.

Ka & Ashley are the Most Honourable Chairwomen of The Meeple’s Republic, a social events company in Ottawa, ON. They love good food, good beer and good people. Oh, and of course bringing people together with board games! You can find their serious opinions and silly faces on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

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