So, for a change of pace from my recent posts, I’d like to take a step to one of my other areas of interest: boardgaming. I’ve been into boardgaming for a while. And by that, I don’t just mean playing boardgames, I mean actively developing an interest in them, learning new games and playing them with dedication. I started heavily learning how to play games far more involved than the usuals (RISK, Monopoly, and so on). It’s been about four, maybe five years since I started getting involved in board games as a regular hobby, and I’ve found some really neat stuff.
Today, I want to talk a bit about some of the games I’ve been playing, and give you an idea on whether you’d like them. Today, we’re playing with fiery patterns, questing adventurers, and civilizations building towards greatness…
Tsuro, the Game of the Path
Tsuro is a game about…well, I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to be about, but there’s dragons. The rest of the game is actually pretty abstract, and it involves tiles with curvy paths on them that you play out on the board and use to guide the playing pieces around. More importantly, Tsuro is about dragons, somehow.
Each turn, you have to choose a tile to play, and then any playing piece that the new tile connects to has to keep moving along their path. If you move off of the board, or you run into someone else, you get knocked out of the game! The last player standing wins. It’s an immensely clever design in its simplicity, and it’s a dose of chaos, a dose of luck, and a dose of tricky planning. Generally, games end in hilarity, with players careening off the board or into a massive pileup in the center of the board. The best part of the game is that it tends to wrap up in 15-20 minutes, even with a full eight players, and it’s easy enough to teach to even young people. So far, it’s the only game that I’ve gotten my entire immediate family to play together.
Also, the production values on the game are so good. You can see it in the photo there, but seeing the game in person is even better. They somehow found a way to make plastic playing pieces feel elegant and beautiful. Also, even the rules are gorgeous, lushly and colorfully illustrated. All in all, it’s a lovely game that any boardgamer should feel proud of owning, and it’s also a fantastic game for new players.
Lords of Xidit, Fantasy Adventuring Chaos
Now we turn our attention to a game that I’ve been playing ON THE COMPUTER. More specifically, a site called “Boardgame Arena”, which is kinda like a free (and very legal!) Netflix for board games. It’s colorful, tricky, and has oh so many components and interlocking rules.
In Lords of Xidit, you’re a noble of a fantasy land who’s trying to rid the place of various threats that assail it. Also, you’re trying to win glory for yourself and your family. To do that, you need to travel around the map, picking up different-colored heroes from cities (Peasants, Archers, Infantry, Clerics, and Mages) and then using them to defeat monsters who are besieging other cities. When you do that, you’ll get rewarded with goodies: you’ll get gold coins, be able to build Sorcerers’ Towers in a city, and/or put Bard tokens on the map to make you more famous. In an interesting twist, the winner is the player who avoids having the least of each category of thing. (So the game might eliminate the player with the least Gold first, then the player with the least Bard reputation, then the player with the least Sorcerers’ Towers.)
Also, every player moves at the same time. You secretly pre-program six moves by using a nifty tool with dials, and then execute those moves one at a time. When players get together in the same area, hilarity ensues as they just took the Mage you needed to defeat a monster, but you already planned your turn around defeating that monster…oops. Lords of Xidit can be an intimidating game, but none of the different parts are all too complicated. It’s how they fit together that makes things tricky. It’s a good game for intermediate gamers who don’t mind some heavy thinking and planning.
Through the Ages, AKA Civilization: the Game
You might think I exaggerate, but it is very much Civilization in analog form. Through the Ages is a giant, interlocking masterpiece of different mechanics that I’m still wrapping my head around. It is not for the faint of heart, but at its core is a very rewarding play experience that can be very satisfying when you start to realize how it all comes together.
Your objective in Through the Ages is to lead a civilization all the way from ancient civilization to modernity, managing a complex economy of population, food, resources, actions, and technology. On your turn, you take cards from a constantly-refreshing center row, building your empire by spending various resources on newer, better buildings, technologies, military units, and Wonders of the World. As with Lords of Xidit, they’re a bunch of straightforward rules that all interact in complex ways, but the interactions are far subtler and deeper than in that game. Even on my third playthrough, I was coming to epiphanies about the implications of certain choices in the game. It’s a challenging test to see the big picture.
Through the Ages is the sort of strategy game that I’m glad to be able to play online, because it feels like it’d be hard to sell my local gaming group on it. It’s a lot of the things I like in the game, and not a lot of the things they like. It’s grand, intricate, and often clever in its design, and for the advanced gamer, it’s an absolute feast.
If you’re curious about these games, you can try Lords of Xidit and Through the Ages on Boardgame Arena, and Tsuro can be bought just about anywhere. Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop also did an episode on it. Happy gaming!