Monday, August 16, 2010

Tabletop Games and You: Choices for a Better Tomorrow!

Hi, everyone! I'm angie k and I'm a gamer!

(Waits an appropriate amount of time for "Hi angie k!")

Gamer. Usually that title is used primarily for those of us who play video games, either on our portable devices, computers, or television consoles. But there's another type of gaming that is quite popular with "the kids today" - tabletop gaming.

Yes, yes, I'm sure that table top gaming is nothing new to some of you. Some of us pride ourselves on how many games grace our gaming shelves, closets, and/or rooms (Yes, rooms). But not everyone is a table top gamer, and I realized that perhaps it's because people need some hints to get them started. So, here are some of my favorite tabletop games.

Dominion, Rio Grande Games, 2 - 4 players, 8+

You! You're a monarch! You have a small kingdom, but you want more! More land, specifically. You think you can achieve this goal. But! You have neighbors. They are also monarchs. They also want more land and think they can achieve this goal. They present a problem. You and your neighbor monarchs enter a battle for.... dominion.

Dominion is a card game. A very, very fun card game. There are three types of cards: victory, kingdom, and treasure. Victory cards represent your land: estate, duchy (I have never played a game where someone, usually me, has been able to resist humming Musical Youth's catchy "Pass the Dutchie". Different duchy, still amusing... to me.), and province. The person with the most victory cards at the end of the game wins. Sounds easy? Yes and no.

You get a basic deck at the beginning of the game composed of treasure and victory cards. On your turn you use your treasure to purchase more treasure cards, more land, or kingdom cards that have various actions such as attacking other players or turning your cheap treasure cards into more expensive treasure cards. But you have to be careful; you only get to pick five cards from your deck at a time. Victory cards might win you the game, but they take us useless space in your deck. You can try to win by buying all the cheap estates, but that means your chance getting a hand that is low in treasure or action cards. Or, you can hold out to buy the expensive provinces, but by the time you get that much gold at one time, others might have bought up all
the cheaper land and ended the game.

Dominion is customizable. Of the twenty-four kingdom cards you can choose from, you only put ten out on the table for the game. This means there's a lot of variety in what cards you put out and how you play the game. With the expansions there's even more variety, meaning hours of fun. The instructions give you a few examples of good sets to play with. Here's one I've tried and like: Cellar, Bureaucrat, Throne Room, Moneylender, Feast, Thief, Remodel, Gardens, Festival, Laboratory. And, remember, the Moat is your friend when the Militia is out and about.

Frag, Steve Jackson Games, 2 - 4 players minimum/best with 4 - 6, 12+

First of all, I'm just going to state the obvious: Steve Jackson Games rules. From Munchkin to GURPS, Chez Geek to Car Wars, Zombie Dice to Nanuk and everything in between, SJGames is just an all around awesome game company. There. Stated. Full disclosure. I'm biased. I heart SJGames. Moving on. Frag. Frag is "a computer game without a computer". You set up a board with spawn points, you create your character by setting how many health, speed, and accuracy points you have, and you roam around the board shooting your other players. Sounds simple, yes? It is. Boost your weapons and your armor and frag your enemies to win. Just avoid the acid pits, loosing your gear, and hope that your internet connection doesn't freeze on you.

Dungeon, TSR, Inc, 1 - 6 players, 8+

Yeah, so, Dungeon isn't exactly what we'd call a recent game. Released in 1989, Dungeon is like the board game version of D&D. No, not 4e, 3/3.5, 2nd edition, or even AD&D. It's Dungeons & Dragons on a board. And it's awesome.

You and your friends are heroes (a warrior, an elf, a dwarf, a wizard, a paladin, or a thief), and you want treasure. So you enter a dungeon and kick open doors to fight monsters and take their stuff. But, the further down in the dungeon you go the nastier the monsters get. And they, uh, sometimes kill you. But if you can beat your friends to the good treasure rooms, get enough treasure to win the game, and get back to the dungeon entrance before they do, you win. Dungeon is a fun, simple game. If you happen to have friends who have it put on your cloak, turn on the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and go get yourself some treasure. (I may or may not have actually put on my cloak, turned on my copy of the LOTR soundtrack, and busted out this game to play by myself on some slow Sunday evenings. May or may not have, people, may or may not.)

Pandemic, Z-Man Games, 2 - 4 players, 10+

Oh, y'all, if you haven't played Pandemic you are missing out on a fun game. I've lost games of Pandemic that were more fun than winning other games. If you're looking for a cooperative game, look no further. In Pandemic, you and your friends are a "disease-fighting team waging a battle against four deadly diseases". Each turn the diseases spawn. If you don't eradicate the existing samples and come up with a cure to get rid of them entirely, the entire world is doomed. Seriously.

When I say that it's a cooperative game, I really mean it. Each player gets a randomly assigned role card: scientist, operations expert, researcher, dispatcher, or medic. No one role can fight the diseases alone, so you have to discuss strategy with your fellow players. Now, this can cause problems if you play with folks that are... overzealous about strategy. I hated Pandemic the first time I played it because, out of the four of us, two players discussed strategy and just told the forth player and myself what to do on our turns. It sucked. But I mentioned that, and the next time we played it went much better. To win at Pandemic you have to be comfortable coming up with strategies, asserting your thoughts, and being able to listen to your team and reach a consensus. When a game goes well it's really, really fun.


So, there you go. This weekend, try putting down the 360 controller, call your friends, head down to your local neighborhood game shop and check out these games. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.



  1. Dominion is by far one of my favorite games! Glad you mentioned it! I'm still obsessed with beating one of my friends who ALWAYS wins!

    Pro-tip: Go for the Duchy! No one ever stocks up on those before the 8 gold cards are gone, so they're a great solution when you're low on gold!

  2. I've always wanted to try out more tabletop games, but my only real exposure to some of the nerd favorites these days is the Munchkin series. I played a LOT of that in college. I'll have to keep my eye out for opportunities to play some of these suggestions.