Features// Michael Fox's Table Top Gaming Column

Posted 1 Feb 2013 17:00 by
Hello! Michael from Joypod here. If youíve listened to the show, you know that Iím the one who doesnít actually play anything apart from Dark Souls.

If youíve not listened... well, youíre not missing much, just four idiots arguing a lot. Admittedly, a lot of it is down to me mentioning board games on the show and getting Dave annoyed. Heís going to be even more pissed off now; SPOnG has asked me to do a regular column on tabletop gaming.

So, here it is! Now, this isnít going to focus on reviews and such stuff Ė if you want that, you can head over to The Little Metal Dog Show and read all the stuff Iíve written there. I want to take a more editorial approach with this column, take a look at whatís happening in the world of gaming and hopefully drag a few more of you into it.

Sure, your only experience may have been an abortive game of Monopoly one Christmas a few years back where the board got flipped some time during hour four, but Iím here to tell you that thereís a lot more out there.

Now, most people who play board games regularly will recommend a few titles for anyone who expresses an interest in trying them out.

This holy trinity normally consists of Ticket to Ride (build train networks across a sprawling map), Carcassonne (lay tiles to build an ever growing map filled with towns and fields) and Settlers of Catan (trade resources to build towns and cities on a randomly generated island).

If you canít find someone to play with and donít fancy splashing the money out on them Ė after all, you may not like them and you donít want to piss £20 or £30 away on a whim Ė you can always try them on iOS. Theyíve all been translated into digital versions and are all decent conversions, but frankly Iíd say investigate a few other titles that are equally deserving of your attention and cash.

First up, Iím going to suggest Love Letter. Part of AEGís Tempest series of games set in a shared universe, this is a quick playing affair where youíre looking to eliminate your opponents to catch the eye of a Princess.

The entire thing consists of 20 cards and a bunch of cubes and can be picked up for around seven quid, meaning that even if you pick it up without trying it out beforehand youíre not exactly breaking the bank. You play one card per turn, follow the instructions on it and do your damnedest to work out what everyone else is holding.

Eliminate everyone else and you take the round, get a certain amount depending on how many are playing and her heart is yours. Sounds daft, but really most games are. Put your shame aside and play the damn thing.

The mention of party games normally brings to mind titles like Balderdash, Articulate or any of the fucking dire LOGO series. Personally Iíd prefer to see them all chucked on a fire than actually play them, but this isnít me being snobby. I honestly believe that there are so many better games out there. Games that donít get the nod because these are all you see on the shelves around Christmas.

Next time, donít be lazy. Donít go for these easy, crappy options. Try out something like Telestrations, an excellent game based around Chinese Whispers and the classic Broken Picture Telephone.

Players start with a word then draw it on a pad, passing it to the next person who must write down what they see, then passing to the next who drawsÖ you get it. Itís quick, accessible and a damn sight better than Trivial Bloody Pursuit for the umpteenth time.

If you fancy something that is a bit more along the lines of a traditional board game where thereís dice to roll and bits to move around a board, Iíd suggest checking out the rather splendid Canít Stop.

Originally released back in 1980 and designed by the legendary Sid Sackson, thereís a reason itís still available today: itís bloody good. Again, itís super easy to get your head around and plays quickly, so itís an ideal choice for people who donít want to throw themselves into six hours of staring at the same board (not that thereís anything wrong with that).

In Canít Stop youíre focusing on one thing Ė pushing your luck. You roll four dice then make two pairs out of them however you please, then move your pawns up the tracks on the board representing those numbers.

You can stop at any time, which allows you to start from a much better position on your next turn, or just keep going. However, you can only progress up a maximum of three tracks on one turn, so rolling a combination that doesnít let you go any further sees everything youíve done consigned to the dustbin.

Get to the top of the track and you claim it for yourself. Get three and you win. Itís a simple, glorious little game that anyone can play. Oh, thereís a great iOS version too, ideal for a quick five minutes on the bus.

I could go on. I often do, but I shanít. I could recommend a thousand different games but that would be mental Ė if you have even a passing interest in trying them, get out there and find somewhere that will let you do so, be it a games night in a pub, a store that does demos or even that odd bloke at work who wonít stop talking about dice (hi!).

Playing tabletop games involves a little more effort than crashing in front of a screen with a controller in your hand but manÖ itís worth it.

Stay tuned for more next time!


Umberto Eco 1 Feb 2013 17:25
CyberJohn 1 Feb 2013 21:55
.....Resonance Imaging. I use it but it is called NMR in the lab - Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (spectroscopy). It is exactly the same thing as MRI , but they changed the name because the word "nuclear" scared some people. Just as the word "like" annoys some people ;]
John 7 Feb 2013 14:00
what does mri stand for Michael ? x
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