If you’re reading this, chances are you already know a bit about board games. Well, as you’ve chosen to click on a link starting with "chitsandgiggles" you either understood the pun and are therefore familiar with the hobby or you’re into some weird stuff. Which is fine by the way, we live in the 21st century, just keep it to yourself. However, if it’s the cardboard chits you love, it’s also likely that you’re curious about my choices for this much discussed topic.
That's right, the debate over how to introduce games to your friends has been around for as long as board gamers have been playing these games, because what's a game without friends? Is a board game still a game if there's nobody around to compete with? Of course, there are the much touted gateway games that are often recommended like Catan and Ticket To Ride which suffice as great introductory titles for new players, but what if your friends hate trains or are put off by the idea of swapping sheep cards for rock cards to pay for coloured bits of wood? Well, this is hopefully where we come in.
The most important thing to know is that whatever games you choose, sometimes you just can’t win. Whichever titles you pick, be they new or classic, European or American, well known or obscure titles, some people just won’t be wooed over to the dark side. You and your loved one/best friend might find your interests sync up more than your PC and your iPod ever will, but if they don’t share your passion for Cosmic Encounter, don’t waste any more time trying to force them to enjoy it. Not everybody can ingratiate themselves into the hobby, the same way you might never see yourself falling in love with speed knitting, cup stacking or frisbee golf (all real things, I kid you not)
If they’ve agreed to try something though, congratulations! You’ve passed the first hurdle, and ultimately the highest one too. I know that isn’t how athletics competitions work but there’s no more room left in my head for metaphors. Therefore, from here on out, choice of game is key. You don’t want to scare them off. Even if they love the shows, if you throw Game of Thrones or Firefly at them from the off they are likely to feel overwhelmed by it all and suddenly you’ve ruined your chance of a new game partner. Instead, you want to give them something simpler to get their teeth into, like a soft cookie. So here are five ‘cookies’ I’d suggest for this very purpose.
Pick a Pig/Pick a Dog - Gryphon Games
This is one of the most frenetic card games going, and aptly very quick to learn too. The game consists simply of a deck of cards, with a cute picture of the games mascot character (a pig or a dog depending on the pack you choose) on the back. However, all pictures can vary in five ways; left arm cradling some popcorn or not, big or small, wearing sunglasses or not, etc. When you begin the game, you lay out a grid of these cards all face up in between the players and at the signal turn over a card dealt to you. Then the race is on as you all simultaneously try to grab any cards from the middle that either match your most recent one or differ by a SINGLE change. The rounds usually last between 20-30 seconds, and you usually get about 3-4 rounds in a game before the stack of cards is exhausted, meaning this usually ends up being a brief affair.
There may not be enough to entice hardcore gamers here, but reaction games are an easy way in for the newcomer and offer enough fun to most others regardless of tactical content. For an added challenge, you can mix the ‘pig’ and ‘dog’ packs and play exactly the same way except there are even more differences to look for. The genius thing about the ‘Pick A’ collection is that it appeals to a large variety of players, from old folks to young ‘uns and people of different skill levels can all take part. Having said that, I wouldn’t recommend challenging your preteen nephews to a game unless you’re prepared to dial down your competitive spirit a tad because you’d probably destroy them and that wouldn’t be very sporting now, would it?
King of New York - IELLO
When most people think of board games, they imagine an actual board for some reason. I think that’s a fair point, because if some wise guy came up to me when I was sixteen and asked if I wanted to play this new board game and then proceeded to throw a load of cards down on the table when I said yes, I’d have called him mad. Mad! Luckily, strange men didn’t approach me in my teens, and so when looking for a game to show friends new to the hobby, I try to show them something with actual bits of cardboard that they can touch; a real board game if you will.
King of New York has you playing as a fictional monster on an actual board representing New York City, trying to defeat all your rivals while gaining enough fame by destroying stuff before anyone else can. The game involves rolling six dice, with each face giving you a different action, but it allows you to reroll up to twice in case you don’t get the results you wanted first time around. It’s an interesting idea because ultimately it can decide your strategy for you, wherein you might originally try to attack and demolish things but if you only roll stars you could find yourself going down the points route to victory. There is fun to be had, and it’s quite easy to grasp which is to its credit. It’s actually the follow up to the very similar ‘King of Tokyo’ but I chose this one because it definitely fits the theme more, with the addition of buildings to destroy and military units that can attack you, bringing in a danger element lacking in the latter game. Also, as a side note, the art style is fantastic and it always helps your cause when showing off a new game to somebody, particular to those as shallow as I am.
Concept - Repos Production
I don’t believe any sane person out there truly loves charades. It’s the sort of game you might suggest “as a joke” when the power goes out in your flat one evening, while you try to locate those three candles you bought for the bathroom in IKEA that one time but dumped them in your storage cupboard as soon as you got home because they were the wrong scent or colour and now you’re regretting not putting at least one of them next to the bath now or buying a torch. You may even attempt a game just to kill a bit of time until you can start checking Facebook on your phone again, but I don’t know anybody who plays it regularly because it’s just so dulllll. Which is exactly why it came as a surprise when this new game was shown to me, and I found myself enjoying it. A lot.
Concept invokes the main idea from the classic game of trying to mime out words and phrases, but takes away the awkward bit where you stand in front of your friends and flail your body parts around repeatedly (“It was ‘Where the WIND blows!”) Instead, you are given a board with a lot of illustrated squares. Each of these represents a concept; for example one box contains a speech bubble, which can be used to describe a quote, phrase or word. The first few times you play, you’ll probably find yourself referring to the helpful key chart to figure out what some of the blocks mean. However, it doesn’t take very long to grasp how the differently coloured token mechanic works and it’s not much longer before you find yourself agonising internally over why your friends cannot make the simple leap from ‘life is short’ to ‘killing time’, but in the epically frustrating way that only truly great games can make you feel. And that’s just why the game works so well. Everybody knows the rules already, it’s just a cleverer way to play the exact same game.
You can read Part 2 of this article next week!