Board game weekends are actually a pretty common thing for me these days. When my friends get together, we usually try to keep our numbers low so that we can play just about everything. This weekend though, I left Orange County to meet up with seven friends I haven’t seen in a very long time. The goal: to play as many board games in 72 hours as our fragile human bodies would allow.
We also had a few first-timers in the group. So, in addition to seeing which games scaled well, it was great opportunity to see which games were new-player friendly. For some titles, we stretched the recommended group size and met with some complications. In most cases though, everything was still playable with eight people.
I have a group of friends that I’ve known for over a decade at this point. Some of them, I met in Junior High and the rest I got to know in High School. We’re all in our 30’s now and even though we’ve stayed in touch, our entire group hasn’t been in the same city since the 90’s.
Our formative years were all spent being as painfully geeky as possible We initially bonded over pen and paper role playing games and, to this day, our Vampire: The Dark Ages sessions are still some of my favorite gaming memories. So it actually actually makes perfect sense that we’d all get into board games at some point in our lives. It’s just something that managed to stay off our radar until we had moved to different cities.
When I found out that Phil was actually amassing quite the nice game collection, we started talking about introducing this amazing hobby to the rest of our friends. Between the two of us, we took more than 10 games to Austin. Next time we do this, we’ll have to plan for a week instead of a weekend. We ran out of time before we got to games like Battlestar or Eldritch Horror – really long form games I’d love to play with those guys.
I truly hope that getting together every couple years to catch up and play games becomes a tradition of ours. As amazing as this hobby is, the best expression of board gaming is when your table is surrounded by your closest friends.
Players: 2 – 6
Time: 20 minutes
Learning Curve: Easy
Phil brought this one and we thought it’d be one of the more popular games since it’s fast, and you can play with so many people. However, the games all felt a little too quick. When you know that the game is going to only last 10 to 20 minutes and there are always five people claiming Duke, it’s easy to let impatience and frustration get the better of you. I ended up calling people out really early on, instead of laying low like I should have. It’s a great way to start a day of board games, but any time we jammed it in the middle of other games, it just felt a bit too insubstantial.
If we do this again, I think I’d suggest we play Coup at breakfast and then put it away for the rest of the day. It’s also a great way to introduce new players to this type of hidden-role mechanic. Some people aren’t comfortable with bluffing and a 20 minute time investment to determine if you should play Battlestar Galactica or Dead of Winter later is a no-brainer.
Verdict: Great introduction to the hidden-role mechanic. Length of game and player elimination mechanic makes it difficult to keep large groups engaged.
Time: 60+ minutes
Learning Curve: Easy
No one saw this game coming. I’m sure it had a lot to do with my poor explanation of what it was. I think I said something along the lines of “just sit down and try it, it’s like Taboo”. So, it’s totally fair that I got yelled at in round two for not explaining the game properly.
The confused looks everyone shared while picking their cards was priceless. No one understood how we were going to guess any of the more obscure titles by only using a single word clue. It only took a couple cards into round 2 to have it click for my buddy Jason. Once he realized that he would need to reference the clues from round 1 rather than try to come up with new ones, we all started laughing and the game carried on. That laughter never really stopped and by round 3, everyone who wasn’t in our game had crowded around to watch us play. When the dust settled, we took a short break to laugh and reflect on just how incredibly inappropriate some of our clues were. Then we immediately started a second, larger, game.
Some of our clues became running jokes (Bill Cosby) for the rest of the weekend and when it was time to pack up and leave, most of us agreed that it was the game of the weekend.
Verdict: Buy this game. Unless you hate having fun.
Time: 30+ minutes
Learning Curve: Moderate
The game is meant for two to four players, but we made it work with more – it just starts to take forever. It actually felt perfect with three players (go figure). When you get to five or more, rounds take too long and locations get overrun before you even get to your turn. This is the game we played when people started to fall asleep and only a few of us forged on into the night.
Some class combinations can make the game feel really unbalanced, but with its charming art style and simple learning curve, this is the one game I walked away from the weekend wanting to buy.
Verdict: Perfect game for anyone who likes CCG’s. Avoid pushing the recommended player limit. Zombies are OP, Kittens still cute.
Players: 2 – 4
Time: 7000000000000 minutes
Learning Curve: Moderate/Difficult
To be perfectly honest, I turned around for three seconds and four of the guys started this game. I didn’t play at all. I dislike it simply because it never seemed to end. I think the final run-time was something like 4.5 hours. The board looks beautiful though.
Verdict: Far better games exist that require this type of time investment. Buy Talisman on Steam instead.
Time: 30+ minutes
Lurning Curve: Easy
I didn’t really like this game. Isaac ended up with a couple upgrades early on that let him take “money” from other players in exchange for healing and started using that money to buy even more upgrades. He had close to eight by the end of the game. I’m not sure how common that is, but it felt really snowbally and there weren’t any mechanics to remove upgrades from people. To me, it seemed like once a financial leader was established, the game was over. I went through the motions but it always felt like I was playing an impossible game of catch-up.
It should be noted that Isaac loved King of Tokyo. I actually think this was his favorite game of the weekend, so take my experience with a grain of salt. I only played one game, which I lost.
Verdict: Game felt half-baked and possibly geared towards children. Might be really interesting with an expansion that adds extra mechanics to deal with power-creep.
Time: 30+ minutes
Learning Curve: Difficult
This was one of my favorite games of the weekend. The biggest caveat I’d include is to really know whether or not your friends are into the type of game that requires a substantial amount of lying.
For new players, following the mechanics of the game while being aggressively coerced at every turn was a lot to handle. A couple of the veterans at the table found ourselves constantly explaining why some of the voting didn’t add up and why some people were suspicious. If you have a couple strong personalities at the table, it can be pretty overwhelming for the new players.
I’d suggest vetting a group of friends with something like One Night Werewolf or Coup. Those games seem to have a much lighter touch and stronger mechanics to lean on. Resistance is all about a social-game that can really make some players uncomfortable.
Verdict: Amazing group game if the personalities involved are into this type of mechanic. Avoid leading with this. You might end up with new players who have a bad experience and then carry that over into other hidden-role games.
Time: 90+ minutes
Learning Curve: Difficult
This was my first eight person game of Elder Sign and it didn’t suck! In fact, it’s probably the best game of Elder Sign I’ve played so far. We drew Yog Sothoth and ended up only failing two missions the entire game. Despite Isaac playing Hearthstone the whole time, we finished this in about two hours and no one died. With eight players, it felt like we had enough special abilities to actually deal with almost any challenge on the board. We also had plenty of hit-points to soak the incoming damage. A player could spend a couple of rounds healing or trading in trophies and we still had enough other bodies to throw at the investigation.
I love how thematic the Arkham Horror games are and really regret that we didn’t have time to play Eldritch Horror – I think we all would have dug it.
Verdict: Difficulty can ramp pretty steeply depending on the luck of the dice and card order. I’d suggest introducing this when you know everyone is comfortable with board games in general. Picking out an easy Ancient One might be a good way to start.
Surprise hit: Monikers
Longest game: Relic
Most divisive game: Resistance
Most played game: Smash Up!
First game: Coup
Last game: Elder Sign
Mike, Phil, Isaac, Jason, Paulino, Chris, David, Richard