Thursday, 6 August 2015

Blaugust 7/31: Just My Schtick In A Box

When we set down our plans for Blaugust I listed Fridays as the day that I would describe the process of packing the important contents of Parliament House into three suitcases. Unfortunately, I've been so focused on the important things like posting every day in Blaugust, my actual packing has been somewhat stilted. Since the confirmation for flights came through yesterday and we have officially only 47 days remaining in the country, we'd better be getting a move on.

One thing that we have started packing away is our collection of board games. Our little collection might not be much by the standards of some of our friends, and even starting to look a little dated by modern carboard standards, but they're very dear to us, so we've decided to try and pack up a selection of the games we love to take with us. Unfortunately, this little collection of cardboard boxes could pretty much fill one of our suitcases all by itself, and we do need to take some clothing and similar items with us, so things need to be rationalisd somewhat.

The first thought was the creation of some kind of custom multi-purpose gaming set, but though it seemed to be potentially possible, since that seems like a big project for two busy people trying to pack up their lives we decided to just cut back on the unneeded pieces and see how small we could make the package. Here's the contents of those boxes that didn't make the grade.

When we play Dixit, a beautiful art game that plays like a mix between Balderdash and Apples to Apples, and deservedly won the Speil Das Jahre award back in 2010 against some stiff opposition, it's generally because we're playing with a large number of people. We never use the rabbit tokens. And if you're not using the rabbits, you don't need the scoreboard either. The game works fine just writing your guesses on the the back on an envelope. We're just taking the cards, the rest can sit in the box for the next three years.

Fun Fact: We once stole the portfolio of an artist friend of ours (conveniently known as Flix) and made her a personalised version of this game.

It used to be that I knew nothing about Majorca, but now I gave a game about farming fruit there, I guess it know that at least in some part of its history is had fruit on it? This one comes with a lot of space-filler cardboard that we don't need, but I couldn't possibly play it without all those gorgeous wooden fruit counters, so almost all of this stuff has to come.

Fun fact: It is possible in a very rare and probably contrived situation to break this game in such a way that no-one can ever move their meeples on the windmill, which makes it impossible to gain more than one type of fruit and near impossible to reach the end of the game. We consider "fruiting the moon" the Holy Grail of Finca, and will award a full victory with ivy leaves and a place in the history books should anyone ever manage to pull it off.

Seven Wonders
If you've never played the drafting card game that has taken over as the gold-standard game to beat, do yourself a favour and find a friend or a local board game club or cafe that owns it, and give it a try. It's a beautiful, well executed game that so often turns out surprising results, and I can never work out who is going to win except that it's not going to be me. Even when it is. Taking everything but the cards for two-player, because that ain't never going to happen. Even taking the score-sheet, because it's not big and it's just so darn handy.

Fun fact: We don't own any of them, but there are four expansions to the game, each of them adds something new and exciting, and you can combine them with excellent results. This is how you design a game, people.

Settlers of Catan
This one's an old family favourite that we've been playing since I was a kid. The older versions of Catan pack down a little nicer, but the modern versions with the large water tiles are kind of unwieldy to downsize...we could go without them and just use the land hexes and the movable ports they provide in this version, but it could get pretty confusing, so I guess we take it all. Leaving behind three of the purchase cost cards and just taking the one, if we're playing with new people that need them they'll just have to share.

Fun fact: There IS an expansion to Catan that doesn't suck. It's not the one you think it is.

Introducting new people to board games that aren't monopoly, scrabble or trivial pursuit? Nine times out of ten, the classic tile-placing game Carcassonne is my go-to. The rules are simple enough to understand, you can play it friendly-like or go for the throat, depending on the company, and there's enough chance to ensure that you don't have to worry about having to find a way to deliberately throw the game to make sure that you don't win by a huge margin. Again, this is a game that you can play without the scoreboard, but it's just BETTER with it, so we're taking everything but the ludicrous cardboard space-fillers and the rules of Mayors and Abbeys, and expansion that we don't even own.

Fun fact: My nemesis and I once made a Carcassonne puzzle for the LoAP puzzle hunt, and I'm still pretty confident that it's the best one that we've ever made.

Ticket to Ride: Germany
I love Ticket to Ride, but we've pretty much played it out amongst our regulars, so I have fond hopes of finding some newbies to play against on the other side of the world. We have the superior Marklin German set, and in accordance with my long-held prejudices, we've never even popped those tokens out of the sprue, and we certainly won't be taking them with us. We will, however, be taking the passenger tokens, because they make fine stations if you want to steal a rule from the Europe map (they're from Europe, right?) to play a nice calm, friendly game.

Fun fact: I once won a five-player game on this map in which I was the only player to score a result in the positive numbers.

Ticket to Ride: Africa
Along with Germany, we also own the African expansion for TTR. If you've not played it, it's a vicious, vicious little bastard of a map with some different mechanics, and that gives more opportunities for tactical play than most of the others, but in which I always feel luck plays a greater part, as there is much less flexibility of route choice. There's not a whole lot in the box to leave behind.

Fun fact: We often try to use the Team Asia rules on the other maps (indeed, we were going so long before anyone we knew even owned a copy...), with varying levels of success. According to pretty much everyone, though, this is a terrible map for it. Just don't.

San Juan
San Juan is the card-game of the hit board game Puerto Rico. We have both, but if you were to ask us to pick between them then San Juan would win every time, which is why we're taking it with us and Puerto Rico will be staying home. It's a rare wonderful example of a game that preserves all the spirit and flavour of the original but strips out all of the clumsy mechanics right back to the bone. Beautiful and elegant, this has been a favourite of ours for a long time.

Fun fact: I'm leaving the scoresheet at home in the hope that people will forget to score points for the Palace. I hate the palace.

As you'd expect from a Cheapass Game, this one doesn't come with anything you don't need. Unfortunately, as you'd expect from a Cheapass Game, it doesn't come with everything that you do need either. As I didn't have enough appropriate tokens, I've also got to pack this big bag of poker chips. Which will at least let me play poker if I ever had the strange compulsion, but does weigh quite a lot, and leaves my poor Raumschach set without all its pieces. One day I'll find the perfect set of tokens, Alice, one day.

Fun fact: Cheapass games has a lot of their older games available for free or donation on their website. They're not the best games ever made, but in my opinion there's a lot of amusement to be had in there. Take a look.

King of Tokyo
Some games are brilliant in their simplicity. This one basically boils down to a deck of cards, some dice and some score tokens, but it's all the gumpf that really makes it. Who doesn't want to play at being a rampaging monster and crush a city and some rival monsters every now and then? Unfortunately for packing purposes, all this peripheral gumpf is so good that we're going to have to take it all...

Fun fact: In most games, I don't care what colour or token I am, it's all the same to me, but there are three exceptions. In Tantrix, I play red (like everyone else that's ever read the rulebook cover to cover). In Monopoly, I play the boot. In King of Tokyo, I play the King. If the King wore boots and had bright red fur, I might never stop playing.

Samurai Sword
This is a remake of the classic western game BANG!, set in Japan. The sherrif is an emperor, the deputies are samurais, the renegade is a ronin and the outlaws are ninjas. It's very similar, except that nobody ever dies and gets forced to go make the tea. We play a lot of this, and shouts of MANCATO! often fill the air long into the night. As you'd imagine for a card game, there's not a whole lot of extra stuff here, but we'll leave behind the Italian rulebook.

Fun fact: Our copy of Samurai Sword features swapped portraits on two of the cards. Which is irrelevant if you're not familiar with Japanese folk tales, and incredibly unsettling if you do. I like to not tell new people and watch which ones squirm when they notice.

Playing Cards
For good measure, I figured I'd better stick some cards in as well. You can never have too many cards, right? A canasta deck seems logical. As does my much prized Mao deck. I can't leave my hideous bohemoth of a frankenstined Uno deck behind (I've never counted how many cards there are, and I hope never to have to), either. And of course, one of my patented 'custom' 500 decks. Maybe you can have too many cards after all?

Fun fact: The Chinese Gong-Fu Poker deck is staying behind. I intend to have it Creepily Sweep my storage shed while I'm away.

The result
Well, it all fits (or it did before I went rummaging...) in THIS handy box that we got with our soup pot, with just enough room left over for my folding chessboard if I can ever find it. All we'd need would be some little colour-coded cloth bags to allow us to have a slight chance of actually FINDING the pieces for any particular game. I suppose that we COULD put the whole thing in a suitcase...but maybe a more tightly controlled cull is going to be required if we're going to be able to pull this thing off....

Fun fact: I like big pots, and I cannot lie.

And finally, just for those of you that don't believe there can be a Blaugust Friday with a goofy picture of me in a tie, here's what I was wearing while packing that box. In case you can't quite see, the star attraction features technicolour Australian animals and landscapes drawn in indigenous-style dot and line art styles. I happen to think it's pretty rad.

A writing prompt or two for my fellow Blaugustinian gamers of both the cardboard and the electron variety short of an idea today:
1) Do you agree with my choices?
2) If you had to go away for a few years, what are the five games you'd have to take?
3) When was the last time you saw a brand-new mechanic in a game?
4) I value efficiency and flexibility in a game. What are your priorities in game design?


Pichy said...

I have one major gripe with TTR Marklin: the train cards are an atrocious design. The use of actual train carriages of set colours set to a white background makes everything look washed out and ambiguous. I most often play TTR with over-50s. They can barely see the symbols. Most of them don't even realise that there are symbols. The original train cards establish each colour through both the art of the train and the background behind. They contrast the two with black outlines. It's much more visually striking and easier to grasp.

You also totally need to test my game at some point before you vanish.

Alethea said...

Fair criticisms Pichy, but the whole point of Marklin is to have that plethora of product placement. I mean the first player is the one who owns the largest Marklin collection!

Plus they're larger than the American cards, which is a win.

Without your family's constraints, I greatly prefer the Marklin deck. I love the variety of trains and their unique characteristics. How else are we going to fight over the Bell (et al) cards?

I think you can get standalone TTR decks as well, though you'll need to pull the 4+ trains from Marklin to supplement the normal deck.

Thom: You mentioned multi-purpose gaming set and my brain pinged "ooh maybe I could build that"... but then I saw how much you fit in the one box and I think you've taken care of the problem pretty well.

UnwiseOwl said...

In my opinion, the symbols are irrelevant to everyone that isn't colourblind, and for those that are the symbols are very possible to find if you know where to look. I love the Marklin trains so much that of we're playing a different TTR I generally try to use them instead, they are smashingly beautiful, and the large size is great too.

UnwiseOwl said...

This is the stone soup one? I'm totally up for that.

Alethea said...

Did I ever post my TtR redraws to my blog? Derp I hope I haven't lost that art.

Mark said...

You know, I reckon you put a little bit too much length in your ties and not enough width in the knot. Should sit just a touch above the belt, if I remember rightly.

1) No. You took Catan. Eeeeeeew! But San Juan, Carc, and 7 Wonders all very solid choices.
2) This will be a blog entry for me, stay tuned!
3) Elysium, with the way the power columns work.
4) Flexibility is important. I like a game where I can screw up early, realise it, and by clever cunning turn it into something very acceptable. Also... the way a game flows. I like to lose myself in it a little.