I attended two TableTop events this weekend in (relatively) nearby towns. One was on Saturday, the other, Sunday. Both ran for four hours, from noon on and were organized by the Game Master himself, Wayne Moulton. This man likely has more board games than any twenty of your friends. His basement is a veritable museum of tabletop fun, strategy and variations on the concept of what a game is.
Personally, I played a handful of games at each event. I’d like to review each briefly and recommend them all. Bear in mind a proper game review would require running through the game a few times, at least. I only had the opportunity with most of these to see the game once, from one player’s point of view.
Day 1: Langdon Public Library in Newington, NH
The Resistance: Avalon
This is a mafia/werewolf style hidden role game where each player is dealt a card setting them to the role of Merlin, one of Arthur’s good and true knights, or Mordred and his evil cabal.
The Good: For those who have played this type of game before at parties with handmade cards, this game offers both a step up in production value and complexity, as it has cards and tiles with nice art for use in dealing out characters, voting on teams to be sent on quests (the presence of an evil character may cause the quest to fail, telling you that there’s someone working for Mordred in that group, but they can also vote to let the quest succeed, so it takes deduction to determine who is working against Arthur.)
The Bad: The learning curve is steeper than with other games of this type I’ve played. One game was not enough to create a strategy, so I was just flailing about, trying to be observant until it was over. Also, the bad guys get the chance to gang up, because instead of one at the start of the game, there were three, and they all immediately knew who the others were, having the advantage from turn one.
My first exposure to this game was with a thematic shift one might not expect: Breaking Bad. I’m not a TV watcher these days, and it’s not one of the shows I’ve taken to watching online, but the game is straightforward and quick enough that it didn’t matter. The next day, I got to play the original.
Game play was dictated entirely by the cards, of which there are a mere 16. There are varying numbers of each cards, each of which has a power, such as ‘compare cards with another player, the player with the lower card is out of the game.’ Seems harsh, right? Well, the game moves pretty quickly and you play a number of games/hands based on the number of players to determine the final winner.
The Good: Quick play, straightforward rules, even when you’re out, you’ll be playing again in two minutes unless someone gets the final point and wins, then you can play again or do something else.
The Bad: There’s nothing really bad about the game, it’s quick and easy to learn. For more depth, there are thousands of other games. For those five minutes waiting until that game of Munchkin is over so you can regroup into new games, it’s perfect.
This is a card/ knowledge/paying attention game. Essentially, everyone takes turns drawing cards. Most of the cards will have a symbol and a subject on them. The symbol links you to any other player with the same symbol in front of them and you have to name something from _the_other_person’s_ subject when your symbols match. You have to pay attention to see when your symbol comes up (or in the case of a wild card being in play, your symbol or the other symbol on the wild card.)
The Good: It’s an information based game. Much of it is trivia centered around things you may learn in everyday life or at school. Types of fish, cities in various countries, etc. Thus, it’s accessible to people of similar age groups.
The Bad: Less ‘bad’ and more a weakness of any trivia game, the very young often haven’t been exposed to the information, though they do have fun trying most of the time. Also, by the same token, information can sometimes be questioned, which slows down the game during discussion/hitting up the Internet or some other reference.
This was a very different kind of game for me. It centers (nominally, the theme has little to do with actual game play, unfortunately) on goblin wrestlers. Each round, players are dealt cards, from which they choose one to keep and one to play on one of four ‘matches’ with different win requirements and rewards. This is a drafting games, so the cards are then passed to the left and the process continues.
The Good: Once you get the rules, it would be pretty quick to play. The first time it was just about stumbling through, as with many of these games.
The Bad: The developers missed an opportunity to home in on their chosen theme and add more than flavor text to the game play. There’s also almost no player interaction.
This French game requires no language but that of emotion and facial expression. The cards have only pictures on them, from which can be interpreted many scenarios and emotions. The art is beautiful, with each expansion featuring a different artist. Game play is similar to Apples to Apples or Malarkey in that one person chooses/has the ‘right’ answer and others guess what that is while trying to get others to choose their answer.
The Good: It’s lighter and set up a bit more democratically than Apples to Apples, as well as inviting interpretation of the images and allowing for creativity in making up a sounds, story or gesture to represent what you think the card evokes.
The Bad: Unlike some games where you can limp along even if you’re not very good at the particular mechanic the game uses, one can easily be left in the dust.
Overall, I believe a good time was had by all. We played cool games and interacted with people of varying ages for good socialization.