It’s All Geek to Me: Laying my cards on the table

In All Geek to Me, Columns, Columns, Opinion

geekWhile I usually take the time to speak about things of the digital realm, some of my compatriots and I have experimented with several tabletop games in recent months. Boards, cards, plastic figures, cardboard tokens and extensive rule books are the name of the game in today’s column.

Now tabletop games are not a new interest of mine, but the amount of them I’ve been playing certainly has increased. The zeitgeist amongst my group of friends has resulted in the rash purchase of several games that we have delved into at a fairly brisk pace, moving on to the next after playing a few times.

For those who are curious about tabletop games or looking for new games to add to your own collection, you might like some of these. They range from simple to complex, but the learning curve is short and discovering a new game with friends is all part of the fun.

The start of this recent wave began with Android Netrunner, a two-player competitive card game set in a dystopian future where global corporations rule. One player plays the corp while the other plays a hacker—called a runner—attempting to bring them down. It’s interesting because, unlike most card games where the two sides are roughly equivalent, the two players have completely different play styles and victory conditions.

From there, we moved on to another card game.

With the third season of the HBO adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s book series recently starting, we prepared ourselves by playing A Game of Thrones: The Card Game. Each of the players (up to four) takes control of one of the noble houses of Westeros in an attempt to out-plot the other players and claim as much power as they can.

While this is a card game, it’s notable for being one that is not strictly one-on-one; alliances and rivalries can be created and dropped as the game goes on. Though it’s one of the more complex games of the ones we’ve played, it creates a great tension of strategy.

Should you attack player one, since he’s vulnerable this round, even though that would, in-turn, leave you wide open for player three? This kind of strategy is what makes this game so interesting.

Moving from fantasy and back to reality, we discovered A Few Acres of Snow. Playing as either the French or British in early colonial America, you’re tasked with beating back your opponent, even though the army and infrastructure to do so has not been fully developed at this point in history. Designed to mimic the slow pace of war movements and bureaucracy of the time, the game does an excellent job of making you feel like you never have enough moves to do all you want to. At some point you’ll have to lose some ground somewhere.

Finally, I had been sold enough to make a purchase myself.

I chose Risk: Legacy. As the name implies it’s a variant of the classic Risk game we all know, but adds rules that allow the game to go in a completely different direction. Rather than seek total world domination, the goal is always to capture specific strategic points to claim victory.

Craziest of all, however, is the ability to permanently alter the game board. I don’t mean permanently for that game, I mean permanently. Certain territories can be fortified or weakened. Cities can be placed and named on the map. The winner of each game gets to sign the board themselves. Even the rules change as the games go on, as the box contains extra cards you aren’t supposed to open until certain conditions are met!

So why would I sit here and describe my new nerdy pastime to you? To get you interested! Many people see tabletop games as something only for advanced nerds and always seem to think every game is Yu Gi-Oh or Dungeons and Dragons, but that’s not always the case.

If any of these games have caught your interest at all, I highly recommend you to check them out. If you like Cyberpunk, look-up Android Netrunner. For fans of A Song of Ice and Fire or the HBO adaptation, A Game of Thrones: The Card Game is a great experience. If you’re looking for something a little more familiar, but with a crazy twist, give Risk: Legacy a shot.

Tabletop games don’t have to be intimidating. Take the first step and see some of the great multiplayer challenges there are out there.

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