Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Our Tabletop Games

Since I got married, my husband and I have discovered we really enjoy playing tabletop games. We already had a couple to begin with, but then we started collecting games and now, a little less than 2 years into our marriage, we have a decent amount of games we really enjoy! Here are some brief introductions to the ones we have on our shelves now. I even called upon Jacob to contribute some brief thoughts on each game if he wanted. He did want.

Forbidden Desert, one of our newer games. It's an extremely difficult co-operative game where everyone works together to find the lost parts for your ship, which has crash landed in the desert. But at the end of every turn, the sand storm you're in gets worse, and if your team runs out of water or gets overrun by sand, everyone dies. If you gather all the parts and get back to the launchpad and take off before anyone dies, you succeed! It's a really tough game, but when you manage to escape, it's really satisfying.

Jacob's review: "Forbidden Desert was fun, despite that it reminded me of the movie Sahara, which was the worst. Despite how it reminded me. Despite it reminding me. Grammars are hard."

Batman Love Letter (or is it Love Letter: Batman? It doesn't seem to actually SAY "Batman" on there so much as just have his picture) is a Batman-themed version of the two-person game Love Letters. While Jacob and I haven't played the real one, the Batman version is a lot of fun. Your goal is to end each round with the highest-scoring Batman villain in your hand. If you have the Joker (8) and your opponent has Robin (4), then you win! But each card has a special characteristic that can change the way the game works. Play Two-Face and switch cards with an opponent. Play Poison Ivy and force your opponent to discard -- and if they discard the Joker, they automatically lose. It's an simple, enjoyable game with very short rounds, so you can easily play for as long or as short as you want.

Jacob's review (when I asked what he thought about "Love Letters"): "Isn't it just 'Love Letter'? I draw Bane all the time, which makes me lose, but it's great."

Gloom is one of my favorites, and we've collected both the Cthulhu version and the Unfortunate Expeditions expansion. It's a story-telling game where everyone gets to control their own family of unique characters. Your goal is to make your family as miserable as possible, and then kill them off with plenty of misery points before anyone else has a chance to cheer them up! Get a card that gives +15 for a happy wedding? Marry off an opposing family's daughter, and they'll be stuck with a happy character until they find a way to make her miserable again. Meanwhile, stack as many diseases, shunnings, paranormal encounters, and wild animal attacks on your own characters to make sure they die as miserably as they lived.

Jacob's review: "One time, I made your dog get married to a woman, but the woman divorced him right on the spot, so he left, and then he found happiness again and he got married again, and then his wife died, I think, and then YOU were gonna go make him die alone, so I made him live contentedly with an older married couple, and live out his days with them and it was quite nice."

Munchkin. Pictured here are Munchkin Cthulhu and Munchkin Adventure Time, but there is a ridiculous amount of Munchkin games out there. I've played it before we bought it and didn't care for it much, but Jacob really enjoyed it. Turns out, I may not like Munchkin when it's played the way it's meant to be played: with 3+ people. We tried our hand at two-person Munchkin awhile back, and I've loved that. With Munchkin, your goal is to rise through the levels by defeating monsters, and half the fun for me is siccing extra monsters on your opponents or trying to get people to help you in exchange for treasure. With just two of us, it's easier for me to resort to a blackmail method: "I will NOT raise this monster from level 18 to level 51 if you give me all the treasures you get from killing it." There's no one else to turn to for help, so this method can make for a really interesting (and sometimes very intense) game of negotiation and bribery. Way more fun than any other way I've played it!

Jacob's review: "For Adventure Time Munchkin, I had to take initiative and memorize 'Kee'oth Rama Pancake' for one card that I've never been able to use on it. It's still amazing. Cthulhu Munchkin is OK, it's more boring. It's not as unique as Adventure Time."

Fluxx was one of the first games we got into together, as we got Star Fluxx as one of our wedding presents. We quickly started expanding, and now we're just collecting them all. Fluxx has the same basic set of rules for all its games -- collect the cards that meet the goal on the current goal card. But anyone can change the goal card to something that benefits them or put down new rule cards where you suddenly have to get rid of half your cards or play the special keeper card that lets them steal one of yours. The game changes constantly, and it's a delightful mix of strategy and luck. Each Fluxx game is significantly different, too -- it's not just new pictures. In Zombie Fluxx, a huge amount of the cards are zombies, and if you have even one on the table, you can't win. In Pirate Fluxx, you can force everyone to talk in a pirate accent or call you "Captain" with the right card. A couple of these are out of print, so we were pretty fortunate to find some game store copies!

Jacob's review: "We played all of them once at one time. It was the worst. But Fluxx is amazing. Fluxx is great, all of them suck."

We just played Jaipur for the first time a few weeks ago, despite having it since Christmas. Turns out, it's really interesting. Your goal is to trade and sell enough goods to make you the richest merchant in the game. Sell more of the same kind of items at a time, and get a bonus, but you can only have seven cards in your hand, so you can't horde too many. It's also really hard to tell who won until the round is over and you count up points, so it feels really even -- and important thing for me, as I don't like feeling like I'm either overpowering or being overpowered. We've only played this once, but I'm glad we own it!

Jacob's review: "Money games are great. Yay capitalism."

Once Upon a Time is a game my family ended up buying after I introduced it to them. It's a great, gentler game for people who like storytelling more than they like competition. Everyone gets dealt a hand of cards with popular children's story elements, like "prince" or "under a spell," or "forest," plus an ending card, like, "Then they got married and lived happily ever after." Use as many of yours on your turn to create a beautiful fairy tale, but others can jump in if you mention one of their cards, or if they have an Interrupt card that lets them take over the story whenever they want. This is an awesome one to play with people who like to get creative, though we haven't played it in awhile.

Jacob's review: "I can't remember Once Upon a Time, but it was neat."

Pandemic was another very early game for us. Like Forbidden Desert, it's a complicated, nearly-impossible co-op game, but instead of escaping from a desert in a plane, you're trying to stop a disease from taking over the world. Everyone works together to research cures and treat sick people, but at the end of each turn, the disease spreads to new cities, and every so often an epidemic breaks out and the disease spreads really fast. This is definitely not one you can expect to win all the time, but like a lot of co-op games, it can be fun to play with especially analytical younger players who can contribute their ideas as you all help them out to win together.

Jacob's review: "It taught me more about geography than Carmen Sandiego."

Ha, Qwirkle. We bought this one after seeing it on Tabletop and thinking, "That looks pretty fun." Well, uh, turns out I hate it. I find it immensely frustrating and don't ever want to play it at all. It's a lot more luck-based than a lot of these games, but unlike Fluxx or something else where you can't necessarily plan, the gameplay in this one isn't interesting to me either. It's also one where if you don't get ahead quickly, it can be difficult to catch up, and I just find those frustrating, because I do get competitive, and if I know early on who's going to win and I don't particularly enjoy the gameplay... why bother?

Jacob's review: "It's scrabble with colors and shapes and everyone tries to force themselves to have fun but everyone loathes themselves just for taking it out of the box which is sad because scrabble with colors and shapes should be amazing."

I actually have never played Pleasant Dreams. I kickstarted it, as did some of the people I follow on Twitter. The art is gorgeous, but I've never actually sat down and played it. It's supposed to be playable for one person, though, so maybe I'll have to do that soon!

Jacob's review: "'Pheasant Dreams' would be pretty fun."

This awkward collection of pictures is a tribute to the party games we own/bought/were given that we never play because we don't have anyone to play them with. Or we don't like them as much as we thought. Most people know Apples to Apples and Cranium, but Imaginiff is a game that I played once with Jacob wayyyy before we were dating, so I have a bit of a soft spot for it, and Quelf is a game I've never actually played and know very little about.

Jacob's review: "'Social games'. With 'friends'. Eww."

A game we bought awhile back and only recently started playing (but love!), this is Betrayal at House on the Hill. It's like a light RPG where you send your characters exploring through a haunted house, except halfway though something happens where one of the characters is revealed as a traitor and things take a different turn because players start fighting against each other instead of together. There are 50 different scenarios, so there's LOTS of replayability -- the first time I played it, I was the traitor trying to kill them with ghosts, and the next time, we were all fighting against a demonic fiddler. It's fun and interesting and I'm glad we finally got around to playing it.

Jacob's review: "BAHH: It's a sheep blat when you shorten it. That's fun. Also the game is fun! It's like co-op with the added fun of maybe you get to kill your friends!"

Carcassonne is one of the newest additions to our game library. You build a world made of roads, cities, monasteries, and gardens, and place your game pieces to score points on these various places. I have a feeling it's going to be really replayable because the world has a different layout each time. This is one of those games where the total score isn't in until the very end of the game when you count up all the points, so it's not always easy to tell who's winning right away unless you recount everything every time. This keeps gameplay fun for me because there's always a possibility that I could end up sweeping the points at the end.

Jacob's review: "Meeples are adorable."

We purchased Arkham Horror a year and a half ago, spent forever setting it up... and then never actually played it. One of these days we're going to clear all our stuff off the dining room table and try to play it for real.

Jacob's review: "I'm staring at it right now because it's directly in front of me. Sometimes it seems like it's always been in front of me, watching me, laughing at me. Inside. I can hear it. The unattainable."

Machi Koro was a game we tried at our local game store on Tabletop Day and discovered it was super fun, so we ended up buying it. Jacob compared it to Monopoly, in that you're buying property and reaping the rewards, but I like it WAY more than Monopoly. Gameplay moves much faster and, I think, is much more satisfying. Your goal is to buy up the four big improvements for your town by buying little improvements that earn you more money. Spend too much and you won't have enough left over to afford your goals, but spend too little and your opponent will make money faster than you.

Jacob's review: "It's like Monopoly but now everyone is having fun and not just me."

A trivia game specifically for geeks, with categories like "fantasy," "sci fi," "comics," and "games," Jacob usually beats me at Geek Out -- but it's still a lot of fun. The premise of this one is that your trivia card asks you to list things, for example, "two superheroes who wear yellow" or "four characters from the Narnia series." Your opponent can then outbid you -- "I can name six Narnia characters!" and you go back and forth until someone wins the bid. But then they have to actually name all those, or you lose points. Get too confident and you could end up needing to name 16 different movies where someone encounters their future self, only to find yourself flagging by 13. It's fun and silly and I like it a lot.

Jacob's review: "Trivia usually is lame. Yay for some peeps making a trivia game that's great and not the worst."

And these four are all Jacob's. I've never played any of them with him. I have no idea if they're fun or not. Well, the Monopolys wouldn't be. :-) But I don't know about the others.

Jacob's review: "Monopoly is the best and I always win because I don't whine like, 'WAAAAH. I wish I could have more Baltic Avenues! Booo. Maybe I shouldn't have traded everything I owned for all those trains! Can I have a re-roll? No? I hate everything and I'm going to bed. I hope you die.' I don't do that. Monopoly is fun and everyone should love it and have a great time. I also always win. That's pretty nice."

And those are the tabletop games we own! (Thus far.)

What are your favorite tabletop games? What games do you own that you've actually never played?


  1. Cool post! It's always fun to hear what games people are playing. :)

    I only got into tabletop games a few years ago myself (Fluxx and Munchkin were among the very first games I bought.) It has pretty much become my new favorite thing to do. Fortunately, I have friends who have taken a liking to it all too, so there tends to be gaming once a week or so. Me, I could play everyday. Well, almost. Introversion and all that.

    I got to try out Forbidden Desert some time ago at a friend's place. That game kicked our butts HARD. We started on easy difficulty and lost. Then we lowered the starting sand level to even below what the game recommended for beginners, and we STILL lost. We were 5 people playing though, which probably had a lot to do with it. More sand piling up before you get a chance to do anything. Pandemic works the same way, I find. I've also tried out Gloom, which was fun, and the standard version of Love Letter has been a long-time favorite. Oh, and Carcassonne is great, natch.

    On my hypothetical Boardgamechart, my top 5 would probably be some combination of Sentinels of the Multiverse (co-op superhero card game), One Night Ultimate Werewolf/The Resistance (similar-ish quick social deduction games), Chaos in the Old World (demons taking over a fantasy world), Castles of Burgundy (dice-&-tiles based game where you're building up your estate in Burgundy), and my latest addiction Lord of the Rings: The Card Game (another co-op, but works really well solo too). And then there's Cosmic Encounter (aliens!) Libertalia (pirates!), Smash Up (aliens andpirates and ninjas and dinosaurs!), and... many others.

    I think the only games I own that haven't gotten properly played yet are Space Hulk: Death Angel (yet another co-op card game, this one with space marines), and Chrononauts, which is from the same people who made Fluxx. It has some similarities to Fluxx in that there's a fair bit of random "take that" cards, but it's all about time travel, so you're traveling back in time to stop Titanic from sinking or stealing the Mona Lisa, or preventing John Lennon's death so you can go back to the future and get The Beatles' never-made Green Album and stuff.

    1. Oh, hey, we've played Chrononauts! We don't own it, but we bought it for my sister-in-law for Christmas, so we've played it with her. It's interesting, but the rules are kind of complicated, so I think we might have been playing it wrong...