In an unprecedented move, tonight I forwent miniatures gaming for some good ol’ fashioned boardgaming. I’ve been on such a minis kick for the past few months that I’ve increasingly felt the desire and need to play some boardgames. So I planned to spend the night with Les, Laurie, Chris and Sherry. And it was a great night.
We started off with my new copy of Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2nd Edition):
I have been anticipating this new release since it was first announced. I’m a fan of the first edition, but being an Epic game its playtime was daunting to most people who had played it, and so it was hard to get it on the table. The new edition has streamlined a lot of the rules, cut back on almost all of the special abilities, and is now easier to pick up and play, all the while keeping the same fun and theme of the original.
Set in the Runebound universe, although not in Terrinoth, Descent is a dungeon-delving game pitting one Overlord against 2-4 Heroes, allowing games of 2-5 players. The new format sees 2-part scenarios, which each seem to take 1-1 1/2 hours to play, for a total of 2-3 hours playtime, a nice drop from some of the original scenarios. Each encounter (one of the two parts of the scenario) has a small map made up of 5 or so of the 2-sided, gridded puzzle pieces of varying rectangular shapes, showing either outdoor or indoor locations. Each scenario also has pre-set monsters for the Overlord to set upon the Heroes, or else carry out some plan that the Heroes need to foil. In the intro scenario, for instance, the Overlord needs to get 5 of his goblin archers across the board and out to win. The Heroes need to kill the goblins’ boss to win. Easy peasy. Our game, with 5 new players, only 1 familiar with the game (well, 2, but Les only had limited experience), took 1 1/2 hours of play time. With turns going much faster as the players learned the game mechanics.
I was the Overlord and the others took on the Heroes, with one Fighter (Sherry), Defender (Laurie), Necromancer (Les) and Thief (Chris). These are not exactly the archetypes and classes chosen, but you get the idea. I didn’t really zoom my goblins across the board as fast as I should have, but I did not hold back on beating up on the Heroes. In this game, you don’t die as a Hero, you just get knocked down and can be revived or stand up on your own on your next turn, so I didn’t have to worry about hurting anyone’s ego by killing them off. It was a fun game, and ended with lots of laughs as Chris the Thief, who for the rest of the game did not really do much, walked up and landed the killing blow on the boss, Mauler, who the rest of the team had been beating on for two turns already. It was funny, and nicely thematic, and it looks like everyone involved is interested in carrying out the campaign included in the book. This is great news to me, as playing the campaign was one of my goals when I decided to pick up the game. Hopefully I’ll have more to report on that in coming weeks.
As the night was still young I was dragged into two more light little fillers. The first was Geistesblitz.
This fantastic games brings dexterity and pattern recognition into one neat package. There are five small objects on the table (green bottle, grey mouse, red comfy chair, blue book and white ghost) which are also represented on cards, one of which is flipped faceup from a deck each round. Each card will show two of the listed objects in cutesy artwork. However, either both objects will be off colour (red mouse and green ghost) or only one of them will be correctly coloured (white book and red chair). Players need to quickly determine which object is correctly pictured OR which item’s shape AND colour are not represented. So in the above examples the correct items would be the blue book (as red, green, mouse and ghost are present) and the red chair. Once you’ve figured it out be the first to snatch the object off the table, and you get the card. The game ends when all the cards in the deck have been collected. The winner is the one with the most collected cards, and thus most correct deciphers/fastest snatches.
Our game was hilarious. It was new to myself, Chris and Sherry, and for some reason (I don’t have the proper psychological/nueroscientific background to know) I am pretty good at the game. At least compared to the others. I think the scores were 2, 5, 11, 18 and 24, with me taking the most. Laurie came in second, and was real good and fast, too. Poor Chris took forever to start catching them. We figured his brain works in a different way than Laurie’s and mine. We did the matching and grabbing in such shockingly quick time that we all were sort of amazed. We took a couple minutes to try and figure out how our brains actually did it, but it was hard to slow our thought processes down enough. For me, it might have something to do with all my experience with Jungle Speed.
And the next game was, in fact, Jungle Speed!
This is a game I happened to have played a lot between 2006 and 2010. According to my old BGG account, I played Jungle Speed 63 times, plus a half-dozen with the Expansion. And that’s only what I logged! I played it with TABS gamers at TABS Thursday meetups and TABSCons; on Mondays with other volunteers at a soup kitchen; at work with school aged children; at church with my youth group; heck, a group of us even got complete strangers to try the game at one of the Harry Potter book launch nights at Indigo in downtown Toronto! I played it plenty. And, as I found out tonight, I’m still pretty good at it, even after a good two years’ absence.
Jungle Speed is another dexterity + pattern recognition game, but I think a touch simpler than Geistesblitz. Well, sort of. Each player has a portion of a deck of square cards that on one side has a certain shape in either orange, green, purple or yellow (plus some special cards). In quick order around the table players flip the top card from their stack onto another stack in front of that, face-up. When two shapes match, both players with matching cards have to snatch the wooden totem in the middle of the table. First of those players to do so gives their flipped stack to the slower player. The goal is to get rid of all your cards. There are some other rules in the game, but I’ll save that for when you play it. And you must play it. There aren’t too many people I’ve played it with who didn’t enjoy it, so it comes highly recommended.
Once again Chris’ brain was not made for this sort of game (and don’t get me wrong, he’s a great game player, just not with these types of games, apparently). And once again I excelled, finishing first, and convingly. This play, along with Geistesblitz just before, definitely renewed my interest in this sort of game. They’re clearly not for everyone, but I’d imagine it’s fun to be part of even if you’re not the one winning, as there always happens to be lots of yelling and cheering and moaning going on.
And that was my gaming night! It was very nice to be able to sit down to some fun board games again, after such a long hiatus. I have a feeling that I’m going to start balancing minis with boardgames again in the coming months. As Andrew says, I’ve begun my ‘swing’ back towards boardgames, part of the neverending pendulum-like nature of my, and his, gaming attitude.
Thanks for reading.