The Ultimate Board Game & Tabletop Christmas Gift Guide!

Ohhhh it’s that time of year again. Yep, the time of year where it gets too cold to stand outside for long periods of time, and people decide to decorate their houses with glittery ornaments just because a rotund man in a funky red and white outfit is going to come down their chimney at midnight. Ho ho how wonderful.

What ACTUALLY happens at this time of year though is we all get stuck trying to figure out what to get people as gifts, so I’m here to tell you the answer is simple… get a board game! You can even play it ON THE ACTUAL CHRISTMAS DAY, how lovely and magical is that!

The following list is a list of board games I would GENUINELY recommend (because they are all great), and covers (and I’m pretty confident here), every single type of person that you would ever know in your life. Hurrah! Plus, there’s a bonus description of each game just because y’know, some people won’t know, and that’s totally fair.

Simply read on until the type of person you’re buying for pops up, and choose something from the list!

I’m buying a Christmas gift for…

…the person who likes board games but has only ever played the classics

  1. Carcassonne – Score points for building castles, roads, and farming… farmland, obviously
  2. Forbidden Island/Desert – Work together to escape from the island/desert in a race against the clock
  3. Survive: Escape from Atlantis – Get all your people to Escape from Atlantis before everyone else whilst also simultaneously drowning other players people and eating them with sharks
  4. Machi Koro – Beatifully illustrated game where you draft buildings and cards to construct the best city

…the person who has absolutely no idea about board games but you think they might like one

  1. One Night Ultimate Werewolf – Use social deduction to figure out which player is the werewolf and stop them before they kill everybody
  2. Sushi Go/Sushi Go Party – Take turns to choose different sushi (and pudding of course) to have for dinner, different combos score points
  3. Love Letter – Try and get your love letter to the Princess before anyone else by staying in the game as long as possible

…the person just getting into tabletop as a hobby

  1. Takenoko – Score points by either growing bamboo combos, eating bamboo with a panda, or arranging your bamboo garden in the right layout
  2. Kingdomino – Build a kingdom in a pattern that scores the most points by taking turns to add land to your kingdom
  3. Tokaido – Score points by having a better holiday than everyone else in Japan (also this game looks INCREDIBLE)
  4. Pandemic – Save the world together by stopping a contagious outbreak from spreading

…the tabletop nerd who loves reaaaaaally heavy games

  1. Great Western Trail – Earn money and victory points by keeping your cattle in the best possible condition to sell in Kansas City
  2. Scythe – Area control with farmers and mechs with almost no random elements, set in a dystopian future
  3. Lisboa – Use your influence as noblemen (or women) to reconstruct Lisbon after the great earthquake (and tsunami… and fire, it was a bad time) of 1755
  4. Kingdom Death: Monster – Develop a character and settlement over multiple sessions whilst fighting incredibly difficult monsters through a unique AI system (legacy, also really really expensive)

…the tabletop nerd who hates really heavy games

  1. Jaipur – Be a better merchant and trader than your opponent to win an invitation to the Maharaja’s court (2 player)
  2. Photosynthesis – Grow trees in a forest better and… more, than anyone else (honestly not as boring as it sounds)
  3. Codenames – Word association game between 2 teams where you have to guess all your teams spies via their ‘codenames’ before the other team
  4. Burgle Bros – Work together to steal something valuable in this classic tower heist with brilliant humour and varying levels of difficulty

…the D&D Dungeon Master

  1. Dungeon World – Free yourself from the constraints of classic D&D with this narrative driven and player focused dungeon crawler
  2. Misspent Youth – Rebel against the system (DM) as anarchistic teenagers in this combative and competitive episodic role player
  3. Dread – Horror movie pen and paper role player using a Jenga tower instead of dice to decide your players fate
  4. Any dice – (no literally, any… and they’re called polyhedrals… naturally.)

…the person who loves a good murder mystery (or just mystery in general)

  1. Mysterium – Work together as a team to solve a murder mystery through picture association before the night comes to an end
  2. Sherlock: Consulting Detective – Travel around london to solve complex and difficult murder mysteries as the Broad Street Bullies in this open world whodunnit
  3. Betrayal at House on the Hill – Explore a haunted house and survive whilst a member of your party turns traitorous and tries to kill the group (LOADS of different stories here)

…the person who loves card games (and played Magic: The Gathering as a kid… or now for that matter)

  1. Arkham Horror – Living card game where you work cooperatively to beat encounters using player built decks
  2. Android: Netrunner – Living card game set in a dystopian future with player built decks where each player sets out to score points by either advancing corporate agendas, or stealing those agendas with ‘netrunners’
  3. Dominion – Medieval themed deck building game where players draft cards to their hand in order to score the most victory points
  4. MORE Magic: The Gathering cards – Ok so it’s low hanging fruit but come on, nobody can really have TOO MANY magic cards right? (Just make sure to buy the right colour)

…the Strategist who loves chess (or games like chess)

  1. Hive – Deploy and move bugs around in this chess-like, mensa award winning strategy game (great for holidays as well)
  2. Onitama – Strategic oriental themed game where players compete to either manoeuvre their master across the board or capture the opponents master using sets of positional moves
  3. Santorini – Play as a greek god and race against the other player to reach the top of a building in Santorini (unfortunately this may be out of print)

…the person who loves to lie and bluff their way to victory

  1. Coup – Lie and bluff your way to being the last player with influence left in the game
  2. Sheriff of Nottingham – Lie and bluff (or tell the truth) your way to earning the most money through smuggling (or just bringing) goods into Nottingham under the watchful eye of the Sheriff
  3. Skull – Deceptively simple push your luck bluffing game where players bet on how many flowers they can reveal from each players stack before revealing a skull

…the person who loves collecting, or building… stuff

  1. Settlers of Catan – Collect resources and score points by building settlements and roads
  2. Lords of Vegas – Play as powerful developers in an early Las Vegas, vying to make the most money and win the most points by building and running the biggest and most profitable casinos (this game is quite long)
  3. Ticket to Ride – Score points by building trains in various routes across America (or whichever version you choose to buy)
  4. Diamant – Pretend to be a rubbish Indiana Jones by pushing your luck against other players to collect the most amount of precious gems from an Aztec temple
  5. Castles of Burgundy – Classic medieval themed eurogame in which players collect and match tiles to score points

…the person who will only ever play party games (I’m looking at you cards against humanity…)

  1. Secret Hitler – Work as the German government to stop fascist regimes being pushed through by players disguised as fascists/hitler
  2. Funemployed – Card based party game where players try to convince each other why they should be employed for a certain role using ridiculous qualifications
  3. One Night ultimate werewolf – Popular version of the hidden traitor werewolf party game
  4. Monikers – Take turns in getting team members to guess well-known people by either describing or imitating them
  5. Bucket of Doom – Take it in turns to come up with ridiculous ways out of random situations from card prompts in your hand

…the person you don’t want to spend much money on (secret santa anyone?)

  1. Love Letter – Try and get your love letter to the Princess before anyone else by staying in the game as long as possible
  2. Fluxx – A card game where the victory conditions, play style and purpose of cards literally changes constantly (or in flux you could say… badum, tsh)
  3. Sushi Go – Take turns to choose different sushi (and pudding) to have for dinner, different combos score points
  4. Skull – Deceptively simple push your luck bluffing game where players bet on how many flowers they can reveal from each players cards before revealing a skull

…the person who only ever plays board games with their other half (2 player)

  1. Hive -Deploy and move bugs around in this chess-like, mensa award winning strategy game (great for holidays as well)
  2. Patchwork – Compete to score points by designing the best looking patchwork quilt (how lovely)
  3. Onitama – Strategic oriental themed game where players compete to either manoeuvre their master across the board or capture the opponents master using sets of positional moves
  4. Jaipur – Be a better merchant and trader than your opponent to win an invite to the Maharaja’s court (2 player)

…the person who already owns ALL the tabletop and board games ALREADY

  1. Honestly can’t help you here I’m afraid

Phew…

Well, that’s it! The one and only ever board game and tabletop christmas list/gift guide you could ever possibly need!

And if there is someone you’re buying for who doesn’t fit into one of these categories, well then send me a comment and I’ll try my gosh darndest to find a game that they’ll love!

That or I’ll just recommend one of the games above…

Yours festively,

Chris

Out of Print Board Games that I wish were in my Collection…

We spend so long talking about all the amazing new games coming out all the time (well maybe not this blog personally, but you know, like ALL the blogs in general), what with Kickstarter going on, and… other stuff, in the industry. Turns out though, there are a LOT of old games (and some popular newer ones) that just havn’t been printed in a really long time, that people are entirely missing out on. Some well know, some not so much.

It’s like that old stack of vinyl that you inherited from your [insert elderly relative here] that you never got round to playing because, well, you just don’t have a record player, and really who has one of THOSE these days.

Well, again, turns out everyone and their hipster sister has one, and maybe you SHOULD play those records after all. So let’s stick some dusty vinyl on the old turntable, then crank it up until the speakers start to make that weird crackly distorted noise that means you’ve probably turned them up too high, and no doubt the annoying neighbours will be over any second to complain.

1. Fireball Island

We start off with an absolute classic. A classic which I, being the millenial blog writer (or ‘blogger’ as people more commonly call them) that I am, clearly had no idea about until the remake was announced this year.

But then immediately jumped onto the hype wagon.

According to those who actually PLAYED the game at one point during their lives, this game was one of few to merge the intersection of game and toy (thank geek and sundry for the commentary), and almost everybody in the community is looking forward to having this much loved 3d board back on our tables.

Sign up for the Kickstarter announcement here

2. Fury of Dracula

Another classic that has stood the test of time (enough to have 4 iterations of it printed throughout it’s life), however, another seemingly not popular enough (which I find hard to believe) to warrant regular reprints.

It’s the big daddy of the hidden movement genre and a game that everybody deserves to have played at least once, though I have played it never.

Do want.

3. Santorini

Here we go again, another game you’ve talked about before Chris I see the pattern here.

This one is genuinely out of print though, and it’s probably the one I’m MOST bitter about if I’m honest. Mostly because I’m a sucker for a great looking game and I just LOVE 2 player abstract strategy. Probably to my detriment because I’m not actually particularly good at them. I’m getting better though! Surely! I must be, right? Just one more game, I’ll win this time!

Not a chance.

4. Kingdom Death: Monster

A truly monolithic beast of a tabletop game, and THE legacy game that made legacy popular again. This one is one of the most funded Kickstarters ever, and also probably the most EXPENSIVE games ever (prove me wrong).

So, naturally, because it is really popular (and no doubt because the creators are spending their lives tirelessly poring over the intricate details of v2.0), it is out of print.

Not that I have that sort of hard cash to drop on a board game if it WAS in print, but you know, a man can dream.

5. Container

OH thanks there, end the article on a ESPECIALLY EXCITING SOUNDING GAME.

It’s about shipping containers guys, hold onto your hats here. This is gunna get CRAZY.

You basically compete, to move shipping containers around, and you score points to win. REVOLUTIONARY I know.

For some reason though I STILL WANT IT. Maybe it’s the sticker on the box art that tempts me with the hint at the ‘investment bank’ add-on (oh how tantalising!) Or maybe it’s the title in GREIGE (yes that’s a combo of grey and beige, get on board folks) CAPS that really gets me going. Or maybe it’s just the fact that the game comes with little container cuboids that you get to stack neatly onto little container boats and move around. Yeah it’s definitely that. OCD thank me later!

Also, this one is also just coming to Kickstarter after being out of print for A LONG TIME (fact checking is hard), so go get it! If you’re into that sort of thing…

End

Yes, you heard, thats the end of the list. Fact.

Yours out-of-printedly,

Chris

The Most Questionable Board Game Themes Ever…

Now sure, themes are something I talk a lot about on this blog but you can never talk about them enough right?

Or maybe I’m just a little obsessed with games that have good themes.

Thing is, some of these game themes just don’t make any gosh darn sense when you translate them into actual real life. Because I’m sure that’s what the publisher and designer absolutely intended for us to do when they created the game in the first place…

This often doesn’t actually make the game worse in my eyes either, it makes them better. The weirder and more obscure the theme is the more excited I generally am to sit down and play it. You’d hope that the actual game is good as well but sometimes that just isn’t the case. How dare they trick us with amazingly drafted themes into playing something boring and terrible! Unbelievable. In this day and age…

So without further ado, here is my list of games where the theme doesn’t really make sense in real life if you think about it good and proper like.

I’ll think of a catchier title later…

1. Snakes & Ladders

Ahhhh the king daddy of children’s games. For most people, this is their first foray into the board game world, and why wouldn’t it be! You literally roll a dice and move your piece up the board until you reach the end. First person to reach the end. It’s simple and full-on random.

The actual idea of snakes and ladders though in general is very confusing. Well, mainly the snakes if I’m honest.

Sure, why not, it’s totally like real life. When you stand on a snake you slide down it all the way to its tail. Hate it when that happens.

Need some ladders to climb back up…

2. Photosynthesis

Seems to me it would be a little weird to suddenly have an idea to create an incredible game around the theme of ‘the scientific process by which plants convert sunlight into food’ but hey that’s just me I’m sure.

The more games that get created, the stranger the themes start to get just simply because, well, everyone else has probably done all the good ones already. Like Cthulhu… fantasy… fantasy Cthulhu… zombies… zombie fantasy Cthulhu.

What I’m saying is the bucket of theme choices is starting to run a little low, or at least, you have to scrape the sides a little bit in the hope of getting something good.

And whilst maybe not my first choice of themes to pick when deciding on what game to play, I’m kind of a fan of this. It’s like the hipster environmentally conscious theme choice. Well done guys, now go grab yourself a cup of organic, freshly ground, only-the-best-beans-from-a-totally-underground-source-in-east-london-because-nothing-else-will-do coffee. You’ve earned it.

3. Codenames

But spies! Such a normal, and everyday theme right?

Not really in this case, at least in my opinion, and whilst the theme itself may seem generic and middle-of-the-road, the execution is anything but.

Great game by the way, but I can’t for the life of me ever remember any spy movie where the spy agency just hinted at something close to the spy’s codename, instead of just plain saying it. It’s a codename for a reason you know, like, so that nobody knows the name of the spy. It’s not like the codename itself is a giveaway, so you have to come up with a codename for the codename to get around the fact that people might already know the codename. It makes no sense!

Well, not in real life anyway, but it’s a game! Play on…

4. Pie Face!

So this is what it’s come to. You were writing a generally average quality and also totally respected blog until you wrote the name of that game just now. We’ve devolved into a place where we just call out bad christmas present cash grabs from last year and explain why they don’t make any sense in the real world.

Of course they don’t make any sense, it’s a pie going in someone’s face for Pete’s (hi Pete) sake, what more of an explanation do you want. Think of it as a contemporary take on a medieval torture device, where instead of getting brutally killed as part of a gruesome and bloody display in front of a large group of people, you simply get ritually humiliated in front of your loving family members and lovable pet dog (if you have a pet dog obviously, if not ignore that).

5. Chess

But why would you ever DARE call this game out Chris?! I can hear you from all the way over here criticising me. Well well well, don’t get your knickers in a twist (presumably this happens before you put them on? Otherwise that’s some serious yoga moves you’ve got going on there).

This game is on here because, lets be honest, the THEME of chess is loose, confusing, doesn’t make any sense in real life, and purely exists for the purposes of having really cool looking pieces. At least in my opinion, feel free to school me on the history of the game.

Imagine a fictitious  battle where the king and queen line up alongside a knight, a bishop and also the tower of a castle, to take on an opposing army of also the exact same opposite. So real life.

Yours questionably,

Chris

 

10 Old Board Games that Still Stand the Test of Time

Some things are better left in the past.

But then some things are better left not left in the past. If you get what I’m saying.

Ok, what I’m saying is some stuff should NEVER BE RELEGATED TO THE PAST IN THE FIRST PLACE. Like the following games for example.

These games are the stalwarts of the industry, those games that have stood the test of time, and not just because they love to create drama over something entirely luck based at your family Christmas (I’m looking at you monopoly…). But instead, they stand the test of time because they are just REALLY  REALLY genuinely good. Mechanically, thematically, other reason-ily, just totally good games.

Lets start with some more recently republished and updated classics…

1. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Ohhhhh I do love this one.

So much so that I must mention it in about every other article I write on this site, it’s just that good!

This one started out life relatively recently (compared to some of the ancient games on this list) in the 1980s as a text based folio of mysteries, murders and character  dialogues. Now that might SOUND boring, but it actually won the Spiel des Jahres in 1985 it was so gosh darn good. And that was WAY before all these board game hipsters (myself unfortunately included) started getting involved.

And whilst you’re here why not give my actual real life review a read…

2. Survive! Escape from Atlantis

Sticking with the 80s theme are we. Yes.

Also: awww look at that adorable child sticking his nose up against the glass of a pod under some water in what appears to be definitely the actual city of Atlantis. Definitely not some flimsy, plastic, sugary Disney ride thats for sure…

I’ve distracted myself. Back to the article!

Survive is an example of a successful game, much like Sherlock, that has been reprinted time and time again over the last 30+ years.  It is a classic survival game, that actively encourages people to be mean to each other, which is brilliant, but in a way that doesn’t seem overly mean and aggressive, double brilliant!

Alongside that it’s also a wonderful game for people getting into the hobby of board games, and continues to have replay value despite being very very simple on the surface (something I would consider a positive).

3. Backgammon

Right, less of that 80s  ‘Stranger Things’ faux nostalgia muck and more of the GOOD ANCIENT super historical stuff, ok?

Ok!

Backgammon it is then.

I am a huuuuuuge fan of backgammon. And much like a lot of old timey abstract affairs it involves a geometric print playing surface and some round monochrome tokens as playing pieces.

Backgammon is great because it’s strategic, has a lot of replay value, has never needed to have different rules or mechanic changes added to make it more enjoyable, and actually has a fairly decent ability for the loosing player to come back late in the game and still win it.

4. Fury of Dracula

I want to suck your blood? More like I want to play your amazing but actually very very long hidden movement game. Nailed it.

Ok, YES we’ve come right back to the 80s again but don’t blame me! Blame the people who keep reprinting these clearly excellent games. I wish I had a game that would be reprinted and have its rules rewritten 3 or 4 times over the next 30 years. Pretty sure that counts as a win in the industry.

This game is the original modern hidden movement game (not sure there are any non-modern hidden movement games but I’m just gunna go out there and say there are JUST IN CASE someone fact checks this…), whereby one player assumes the role of Dracula, and in a bid to be really super vampirical and totally  badass, tries to evade capture for a specific number of turns.

This game can sometimes suffer from being TOO LONG, and if you’re not a fan of long games, but really want a hidden movement mechanic then go for  ‘Whitehall Mystery.’ Because that is also good.

For the original big daddy though, Fury of Dracula is where it’s AT.

5. Dungeons & Dragons

Ok, ok, choose some older games they said. Well, I’ll go one decade older but THATS ALL YOU’LL GET.

Well, maybe it’s not all you’ll get (see the rest of the article). But is IS where I’ll start.

The 70s! What a wondrous time of brown and orange coloured interior design, trousers with the foot holes cut a little bit to widely, and television sets being large cubes with bulbous screens that made a weird high pitched noise whenever you turned them on. A glorious age for sure.

Not only was the aesthetic glorious though, as was the tabletop gaming. 1974 was the year the now infamous Gary Guygax (and Dave Arneson) brought the legendary role playing system of Dungeons & Dragons into the world.

I mean, what more needs to be said really. This one goes from strength to strength. Hell, it was even a major plot point in one of the decades most watched television series.

6. Risk

70s not good enough eh?

Fine.

Lets go back 2 WHOLE DECADES MORE. To a time of very businessman friendly calculated risk. Or not so calculated risk as my plastic troops keep telling me. ‘Stop invading people without properly planning a milatary strategy’ they whine at me from the game board. Well, rather fight than be the boring guy who just sits back  and watches everyone else rip each other apart, only to come back strong at the end and suddenly invade everything whilst everyone else is looking, right? Nobody likes that guy.

Everybody likes Risk though. Well, maybe not EVERYBODY, but at least enough people to keep it in print, including tons and tons of licensed versions, for just about 50 years.

7. Chess

Oh, so you want to go OLDER STILL.

Well then how about some 6th Century gaming for you.

I honestly don’t really have much to say about this one. It’s Chess, and it’s bloody brilliant. Abstract strategy at it’s purest, this game will never get old, is incredibly deep whilst being incredibly simple, and will be played for generations and generations to come.

Everybody should own a Chess set. It should basically be a human right at this point.

8. Santorini

The original version of Santorini was conceived around 30 ish years ago, as far as I can tell from loose descriptions on the internet (don’t blame me I just can’t be bothered to fully read the kickstarter page).

Sure, it’s not the oldest, but what it lacks in age it makes up for in just, well… really really good gameplay.

Like a lot of the games on this list it is an abstract strategy affair for 2 players. Unlike a lot of the games on this list however it has a theme that really elevates it to the next level. As players you take control of greek gods looking to rule the city of Santorini (you know, the place in real life with those lovely blue domed roofs that you see on people’s holiday  instagram posts), and the first player to move their piece to the top level of a building wins the game.

Again, like so many on this list, it is deceptively simple, but incredibly deep, replayable and most of all just plain fun.

9. Go

NOW we’re getting into the REALLY RUDDY OLD stuff huh?

Yeah you know it, it’s Go!

Yes, the game that some super crazy smart guy just got beaten at by an even smarter and super machine learning-able AI that google has developed.

As far as games that stand the test of time go this one is the absolute KING. It is the most abstract of the abstract, the most strategic of the strategic, and it even has a built in difficulty modifier. So if you totally suck, you can play with a handicap!

I’ll be needing that I think…

10. Love Letter

Ah the last game of the list! Finally I can stop writing!

I mean, finally I can stop… providing you all with such valuable and  relevant information.

Nope, that’s still bad.

Moving on, the last game is a wonderfully simple game called Love Letter.  I’ll be honest here as well, this game actually isn’t old at all, and after researching more is really just a very excellent and quite new game.

It’ll definitely stand the test of time though. Actually, scrap that, this is my new number 10…

Actual 10. Mancala

Look! It’s so gosh darn simple you can play it in the gosh darn SAND ON THE BEACH.

Another monster old game, this one is good, but I’d probs choose one of the others to play if I’m honest.

Where Mancala shines, is in it’s sheer simplicity.

Actually, that’s where the majority of these games shine to be honest. Just design simple games people! Can’t be that hard right?

Yours historically,

Chris

How to Find Balance in Tabletop Narrative & Theme Design (and storytelling in general)

Everybody loves a good theme. It is literally what stops some games from being complete and utter trash to be honest, and a great theme can really elevate a board game to the next level.

What’s great about tabletop is that there are so many non-traditional themes out there that break out of the mould of stale fantasy or sci-fi (or Cthulhu, just stop please!) I’m talking dental practice board games, games where you are a stroppy teenager who just listens to metal music in there room and plays computer games all day (ok maybe that one was just me…), games where everybody is a spec of dust and you have to beat the other specs to become the most… speccy? You get the point. Also none of those are actual games but part of me kinda wishes they were. Not least to relive my nerdy isolated youth involving lots of angry music.

With the theme being key to game design though, and more and more hobbyists expecting detailed and intricately balanced theme and gameplay nowadays, it has never been more important to the success of a game or ensure that the theme and narrative design is 100% on point. And that is why I have created this list. It’s all about balance really, because we all know a game that is all mechanic or all theme is usually just boring as hell…

1. Be familiar, without being cliche

Oh hey guys I can totally relate to being a spec of dust right now! Since we’re totally playing the dust spec game that inventions earlier (and definitely doesn’t exist). You know, due to feeling small and insignificant and prone to growing mold if left in a cold, damp place for extended periods of time… nobody? Ok just me.

Familiarity is your foot in the door with your players, but it shouldn’t shape your entire game.

It’s like a tool you use to get people to go ‘ooooh right I get it, that’s what you mean,’ or ‘ahhh no way, now you’ve explained this horrendously complicated mechanic to me in narrative terms within the context of this relatable story I totally get it!’

See, easy.

The trick is to making sure you have just enough of a level of familiarity to frame complex game mechanics and nuances in a way that people can get really easily.

2. Be accessible, without being dumbed down

Now this is a 2 parter because accessibility really comes in 2 forms.

The first is the kind of accessibility that lets visually or hearing impaired people participate in your game with minimal difficulty. You should 100% build this into your game from the get go. It’s very important.

The second level of accessibility comes in the form of players learning and adapting to your game quickly. This means getting your players to a point where they feel in control, and understand how to not only play the game, but succeed at it, as quickly as possible. Preferably without detracting from the quality of the game.

So how do you do this? Well a few ways really, firstly through simplicity and clarity of copy. Really refining your rules down to a point where they are suuuuuuper clear and straightforward, and for Pete’s sake get a copywriter to proof read it (hi Pete!)

Secondly, context. Phrase things in a way that reflects the familiarity and context of your theme. Posing complex problems in the context of human decisions and emotions make them far easier to understand.

Thirdly, don’t be afraid to use visual devices like colour or iconography to help people with recognising things they are going to be doing multiple times. The human brain is trained to recognise patterns, so use that to your advantage!

3. Be intriguing, without being overly complex or abstract

‘Ooo he’s so mysterious’ a random girl said to her archetypical teenage friend. ‘Yes, but also he’s a spec of dust’ said the friend.

Specs of dust are abstract ok. Probably too abstract to understand in the context of a relationship right? Maybe the girls were specs of dust too? Maybe she has a thing for specs… of dust (not just eyewear).

You were intrigued though right? Ooo the mystery.

The point is, it’s good to be mysterious, intriguing and have some surprises in your narrative and theme, just don’t make it too abstract. Abstract is ok with familiarity and context but without being able to recognise what is happening in a way that relates to the actual game, the meaning of that intrigue and mystery is lost.

4. Be evocative, without being purple

Ah man I’m gunna so decorate every room in my new house full purple. My girlfriend will love it, I know her least favourite colour is purple but just wait until you actually seee it in person.

Not convinced.

Yeah neither am I.

I’m not talking about paint colours or interior decorating though I’m taking about the literary definition of purple. That overly long wordy and flowery explanation that should have just been explained in a few simple sentences kind of purple. Bad purple! I also have a dog called purple.

Ok I don’t, but now I’m just sad because I don’t have a dog. SIGH.

There is a right and a wrong time for purple prose. Right time: an overly dramatic description of the scene that starts the game. Wrong time: explaining how your innovative turn mechanic works (and how basically any functional game mechanic works).

5. Be inclusive, without being vague

Here at BGLA we loooooove to be inclusive.

No seriously, that wasn’t even meant to sound sarcastic, I know it did.

We DO care though, and you should to when you’re designing your game! Being inclusive should be paramount to the design of your game, after al, you do want to get as many people as possible playing right?

There are a couple of exceptions and things to balance here though. If your game is designed to fill a specific niche. Go after those people first, and then work on inclusivity. Sometimes certain types of games only appeal to certain types of players, and your core demographic may be more important than watering something down to appeal to everyone.

As with everything, it’s all about the balance.

Yours balancingly,

Chris

5 Classic 90s Cartoons that NEED Board Game Adaptations

Now, you guys are gunna go ahead and tell me that all of these already HAVE board games, but I’ll believe it when I hear it.

So then what I’m talking about here are clearly just games that I am not aware of, but probably have been made already due to the fact that most of them are already popular and successful IPs in their own right. Make sense? No, probably not.

So if you can imagine this, me, being a child at one point in my life. Most probably a while ago but I was a child at some point, and during that short stint as a mentally underdeveloped adult there were amazing and incredible cartoons on TV (much as there probably are still now, I just don’t know what they are any more as I don’t have children and/or am not an 8 year old). These included small babies talking to each other and causing mischief, an even smaller child concocting experiments in a secret lab whilst his sister proceeded to ruin everything, and an overly macho and womanising douchebag called Jonathon.

Now, as a way to possibly relive my youth for an unsustainable and incredibly brief period of time I have decided to revisit some of them, and also imagine how they could be made into something that more closely fits my new, more adult hobby, of board games (YES it’s an adult hobby, no need to laugh!)

1. Pinky & The Brain

Imagine a world where 2 pesky rodents where always on the verge of becoming the leaders of a borderline   fascist dictatorship. THIS is the world of Pinky and the Brain. Now, if you havn’t seen it, I’ll simply explain it this way. One very smart mouse plots to take over the world yet  is always inevitably foiled by his unfortunately stupid companion. Presumably Pinky just wanted to feel like he wasn’t being left out but the lesson here was that you shouldn’t be nice to dumb people just because they want to  be part of your plans for world domination. That’s a surefire way to failure my friend, much as The Brain learnt repeatedly across a 10 minute slot of our Saturday morning TV programming.

Good moral lesson there though clearly.

Basically, I just want a 2 player board game that has you team up to execute a plan to conquer the world. It would play out as scenarios, involve a Sherlock: Consulting Detective level of investigating and planning, and culminate in you either taking over the world or failing miserably.

2. Dexter’s Laboratory

A wonderful fan favourite for those lucky kids that had Cartoon Network. For the rest of us, we just had to have sleepovers at friends houses and binge on Dexters Laboratory for 8 hours before heading back to the basic terrestrial TV selection at home. Oh, what a tough life! How dare our parents deprive us of the deeply educational nature of having access to a 24 hour cartoon channel. How dare they indeed!

Dexters Lab for those of you who don’t know, involved a tiny boy who was a science genius, having everything ruined by his annoying sister. Not dissimilar to the setup for Pinky and The Brain if I’m honest.

Imagine this; a game where you all play Dexter or one of his scientist friends, concocting experiments and robots to rid the world of an evil genius boy super  villain. Except one of the players is secretly Dee Dee, and plots to ruin all of the experiments, taking sides with the boy super villain for some super important reason like ‘he was really cute’ or something equally ‘Dee Dee’. Way to gender stereotype 90s cartoons.

3. Ed, Edd n Eddy

Sticking with the Cartoon Network (or maybe Nickolodeon) shows here, Ed, Edd n Eddy sees 3 idiot friends do dumb boy stuff and get away with it for the most part. It’s one of those shows where the parents are always too tall to fit on the cameras, their heads in the clouds and their ominous yet friendly voices resounding from the heavens. Go go gadget appealing to the key demographic!

Wouldn’t it be great to have a simple card game though, everybody plays an ‘Ed’, and competes with each other to build or construct the most ridiculous prank or contraption, before inevitably getting grounded. Last person standing without being grounded wins!

4. Rugrats

See, I never watched the rugrats much but I felt obliged to add them to this list simply for their cartoon pedigree. It was a staple of any 90s kid’s cartoon diet. A look into the minds and lives of small babies who each have very distinct and unique personalities and characteristics reminiscent of a sitcom. Or maybe even a soap opera for that matter. I can hear the them song in my head as I write this (also pretty sure 90% of kids from the 90s can play it on piano).

This game though is about a group of children being left alone or getting lost in various locations, and having to work together as a team to figure out how to get back to your parents. Cue typical traitor mechanic, cue etc etc.

Either that or you just all compete as babies in the baby ring to become baby king. Seems pretty cool.

5. Powerpuff Girls

Last but by no means least we have the classic and unforgettable power puff girls. Featuring no other than the best named bad guy in all of Cartoon history (don’t quote me on that)… Mojo Jojo.

So basically, you’re telling me the story is a guy who was sad about… something, biologically engineered 3 super human and superhero children, to you know, comfort him in life and also take on the worlds most notorious criminal and super villain, a giant green monkey with a funny name.

Cool! Got it. Totally on board.

Maybe the board game for this would involve hidden movement, one person plays Mojo Jojo secretly moving around some… place, crime scene or something. He is trying to steal the secret key for something important or where there is a lot of money, and you; the Powerpuff Girls, are working together (using your powers) to find Mojo Jojo and stop him before it’s too late!

Sounds pretty good to me.

Yours cartoonishly,

Chris

5 Board Games that sound like Bad Holiday Novels (you know, the crap ones you only buy at the airport)

Picture, this. You walk into the airport at god knows what time in the morning, on your way to a lovely package holiday to somewhere sunny because who the shit would want to live in this godforsaken place for any longer than absolutely necessary. It rains, it snows, it sleets, it winds, it storms and it lightnings sometimes. Gross.

Then, for a second as you make your way through the over handsy security check, you remember… a book! I don’t have a book to read! How else will you spend the precious time roasting myself alive in the sun without a good (subjective), cliched and trashy holiday book to read. And we all know you don’t have a kindle because those are a magical and fascinating technology that you both a. don’t understand, and 2. think are weird and don’t have the same ‘feel’ as book. Not to mention the fact that they take up far less room, how dare they! I want my suitcase crammed with kilograms of literally hundreds of sheets of paper obviously! None of that magic voodoo kindle shit.

Then there is a glimpse, a flicker in the corner of the room. The light from the moon (because it’s still the night, the cheap flights leave at 3am don’t you know) sends a glimmer off an overly glossy front cover in the distance. You have no idea what the book is called because the name on the cover is so gargantuanly (definitely a word) huge, that the only way to gauge what the book is about is by guessing from the overly graphic and erotic illustration on the front. It depicts a man with hair that definitely needs a cut, caressing a (normally very respectful I assume) lady who has accidentally let her silky nightgown fall to almost far enough to warrant it being soft core pornography.

The perfect holiday romance novel. I’ll buy it!

I would too.

(Just FYI none of these novels are real. I’ve literally just made them up for fun. At least I found it fun… tells you a lot about me really. Or not, I’ve honestly no idea.)

1. Russian Railroads

The Game: A train theme game that sees players compete to be totally industrious and very strategically minded railroad owners, competing to have the best most shiniest railroad in all of Russia (I assume, clue’s in the name there.)

The Novel: A murder most foul, on a train journey so long. Who could possible figure out whodunnit?! Except for everybody reading this book about halfway through of course! By jove, he’s killed him by coal poisoning (IT’S A THING OK, didn’t check it but definitely a thing.) With a strange and almost… randomly selected bunch of characters that could almost resemble someones actual friends and family in real life (yes, I’m looking at you, the AUTHOR OF THIS FICTICIOUS BOOK.)

When did the murder happen (the book tells you), and who could have possibly committed the crime (it’s the creepy looking guy  in the corner), we won’t possibly know until we finish reading… Russian Railroads.

Totally Buying it.

2. Santorini

The Game: An excellent and amazingly well designed 2-player abstract affair, designed around the theme of the actual place Santorini, and it’s history.

The Novel: A sordid love triangle unravels in fits of passion and lust on one of the most sun-kissed isles of the southern Italian coast. Who knows exactly where this incredible and winding story of romance and erotica could take us, except for maybe… somewhere, not very interesting. The characters all suffer from a sense of wanderlust and their dialogue is stinted and forced. Think of this as more… 50 shades of beige, with a bad package holiday backdrop. The only thing getting turned on here is the  self-indulgent author and their wildly inaccurate and flailing fantasies.

Hurray for holiday books!

3. Captain Sonar

The Game: Judging from the cover of this game it looks like you play a guy called ‘Captain Sonar’ (I assume), who can somehow balance a small submarine on one hand whilst simultaneously rocking a very solid crew cut. From the description on Board Game Geek, this is  actually a 2 team co-op game which sees 2 opposing teams (obviously), taking different roles on a submarine in an attempt to fire a torpedo in the right direction first, and blow the other team up. Fun!

The Novel: Man I sure do love superheroes. Especially when they are absolutely and completely made up just for the sake of a quick cash in with the current marvel/DC/comic book movie bandwagon! Captain Sonar, I bet his power is incredible! Like he can find out how deep in the sea stuff is by bouncing his sonar voice off of it. Or find out how deep a hole is by bouncing his sonar voice off to it. Wow! What an amazing power, I wish I could do that.

In fact he was the subject of a very terrible and gruesome ‘sonar experiment’ when he was in his early twenties. He was part of a environmental wellbeing activist group who were testing out some dangerous sonar experiments to find out some stuff about things under water and guess what! He was diving at the time! Oh gosh no! What a series of dramatic and noteworthy events! This led him to develop his crazy sonar power and go on to save many fish and find lots of cool stuff under the seas and oceans of the world.

Whilst also finding his true love (gotta get the sub-plot in there).

4. Navegador

The Game: Oooo it’s a euro affair alright.  I think. At least , it’s a fairly heavy strategy affair as games go, and sees players collecting things, trading things, hiring people to do things. All in the good old fashioned name of combining your privileges with your achievements. Easy!

The Novel: Ooo, what does the name mean, it’s so mysterious I bet this will be good! Actually the opposite couldn’t be any closer to the truth, but that’s why you bought it in the first place! I mean who cares if the name itself even means anything, or if it’s just a randomly selected group of seemingly illegible vowels and consonants. Not me!

Imagine, a far off land of mystery and intrigue. A desert with hot springs and a marketplace with camels and… other stuff they have in hot climates. The plot reminds you a bit of a cartoon version of almost exactly the same story, one where he’s, shall I say, ‘one step, ahead of the hoodwinks’, and he  ‘only steals what he can’t afford.’ Which in the life of this guy is really, pretty much everything. How can we possibly be convinced to root for such an untoward and generally quite scruffy thief you ask? Well, we can’t. That sort of thing is against the law don’t you know, and the writing certainly isn’t convincing anybody.

5. In the Year of the Dragon

The Game: Players play rounds (months) in a bid to try and survive through the ‘year of the dragon.’ That’s where the name comes from at least.

The Novel: A Borderline racist war thriller based in feudal China. The person who wrote this novel wears a kimono on the reg despite not having any family ties to the far east, and loves to tell everybody about their amazing Mandarin tattoo (not the orange you idiot). It means peace and love though. Sure it does…

For some reason throughout the book everybody keeps referring to ‘the emperor,’ despite the fact that we have absolutely no idea who this emperor is, or what purpose he serves the story, except for some bland historical rhetoric. The protagonist is a particularly moody fellow with no relatable characteristics and for some reason is seemingly willing to simply throw himself headfirst into any and every unstable conflict going. The book ends with him just straight up dying. Guess it should be emotional but to be honest I’m glad the moody bugger is dead.

The end.

Yours bookingly,

Chris