Boardgames for the Video Gamer

While any tried and true electronic gamer may have their holiday game lists already picked out, what if you wanted to try to expand their horizons with a gift that would move them out from in front of the screen and bring them a bit more face to face interactivity with other folks? As a big fan of games of all types, here’s a short list of candidate boardgames designed to fit within the gaming choices of any given type of electronic gamer.

If games and puzzles are their thing, look no further than the new game FITS by Ravensburger. It can best be described as competitive Tetris. Players use Tetris-like pieces to slowly fill up their play area. Played over several rounds, the game gets particularly interesting when players need to leave specific spaces uncovered while simultaneously trying to cover up others. The non-confrontational style of the game (you can’t mess with anyone else’s board) makes it nice for family or solo play. Additional game boards are free to download online, giving the game even longer legs.

If Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games are their thing, there are several games that have a WoW_Adventuresimilar look and feel. One obvious one is World of Warcraft: The Adventure Game published by Fantasy Flight Games. Rather than the long, drawn out, tactical focused World of Warcraft: The Boardgame published by the same game company, WoW: The Adventure Game focuses more on the fast-paced, quicker style of play that still allows players to build up a character as they journey around the board attempting to “become the best” adventurer. In this version, character customization is weaker, but the speed of the game and player vs player combat has been much improved.

Gamers who love exploring the settings of RPGs or building up their own custom character as they adventure should check out exploration games such as Descent (by Fantasy Flight) and its many expansions. Descent has one or more players each playing a character pitted against one player controlling all the other monsters in the game. Characters slowly build up power throughout the game, and some expansions even allow players to PH_Holiday_Bundleprogress in power from session to session. For those that crave even more character customization, you might as well go all out and try the new version of the granddaddy of RPGs, Dungeons and Dragons (by Wizards of the Coast, now in a 4th edition). New players should check out the holiday special two-pack that includes both the Player’s Handbook (the most important book for beginners) and the Player’s Handbook 2 (which more than doubles the kinds of characters and powers available) all for the price of a single book. Finally, those gamers addicted to the story and plots of jRPGs (Japanese style RPGs where character developments is rather limited, but the story is very important) may want to try the game Tales of the Arabian Nights (bArabian_Nights_boxy Z-Man Games). This game is a sort of cross between a boardgame and a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Players go on quests and adventures resolved (in part) by reading a developing story (there are 2000+ tales to experience), in an effort to become the most successful hero or heroine of all!

Civilization Building Games
Even though the original Civilization PC game developed out of a boardgame of the same name, the quest for a boardgame that through_the_agescaptures much of that PC game’s feel without taking a day or more to play has been a long one. To date, the game that comes closest to capturing the feel of developing and growing a civilization is Through the Ages (published by FRED Distribution). Players use a personalized scoresheet to track income, resources, and development while a main scoring area tracks victory points, technology, and military strength. Developments, buildings, wonders, and leaders are depicted in cards which are purchased each turn providing the main source of decision-making within the game. While the game is a bit light in military action (it is there, just not as prevalent as in the PC game), it does provide a very good Civilization feel roll_through_the_agesand can be played in less than three hours. (Yes, that’s a long time but it come in at least half as long as its nearest competitor.) If you want a really short game, Roll Through the Ages (also by FRED) is a dice-based set collection game that also incorporates the idea of buying developments and building wonders while managing a civilization. Playable in under 30 minutes, I enjoy the game not only for its fast play but for its nice wooden pegboard components.

Flight Simswings_of_war
Flight simulators have also become a niche product of the PC arena, but they are living well in boardgames in the form of Wings of War (by Fantasy Flight Games). A very simplified version of a dogfight, this game has players planning the moves of their airplane several turns at a time. Moves are then revealed and players’ planes are moved around the table as they try to vie for a shot at the enemy. With quick playing action and the ability to play with many players at once, the game gives all the fun of playing in a dogfight with very minimal fuss over rules and bookkeeping.

Economic Simsage of steam
A classic PC game, Railroad Tycoon, focuses entirely on managing a fledgling company into a financial powerhouse. While many, many boardgames are essentially economic simulation games, there is an entire section dedicated to “train games” where players pick up and deliver goods using trains in order to try to develop the most lucrative company. The grand-daddy of them all, Age of Steam (FRED Distribution) is often considered a harsh mistress as small mistakes early on can quickly spiral out of control. A revamping of the system was produced this year simply entitled Steam: Rails to Riches steam(Mayfair Games) which has some optional rules to make thing friendlier. Finally, the flashiest (fancy plastic pieces and large game boards) version comes in the Railways of the World (FRED Distribution) version which is perhaps the most forgiving and easiest for beginners to grasp. Most versions have expansion maps of all sorts, allowing gamers to pick their favorite area and see how successful of a rail baron they can become.

battlestar_galacticaGamers who are addicted to the Sci-Fi setting have most likely come across the new version of the Battlestar Galactica television show. Fans of the show will have hours of enjoyment playing Battlestar Galactica: The Boardgame (by Fantasy Flight). It is primarily a cooperative game as players try to outwit the Cylons, but every game has the possibility of one or more traitors in the mix, ready to mess everyone else up (and remain hidden, if possible.) Even worse, some players may not find out they were Cylon agents until halfway through the game! Best with a group of four or more players, it has plenty of nods to the television show, which can help draw new boardgamers into the game.

conflict_of_heroesThe world of computer wargames is much smaller than its heyday back in the 80s and early 90s. However, fans of wargames should definitely check out some of the newer boardgame based wargame titles. The standout for the past year has to be Conflict of Heroes (by Academy Games). Using some of the largest, sturdiest cardboard chits (pieces) I have seen in a game, this game manages to cram many levels of detail into a rules set that is very simple and quick to play. Facing, terrain, mobility, and more are all folded into simple rules that are easy to memoir44_layoutremember and don’t require looking up any charts for combat resolution. If you’re looking for games with more “flash” and nearly as much substance, check out the Memoir ’44 series of titles by Days of Wonder. The game uses little plastic figures for all the units and has a quick-playing set of rules that can be used to reenact a wide range of battles and skirmishes. Multiple expansions are available that provide for different armies (Soviet/Japan, etc…), larger battles, or new rules (such as air power). In particular I enjoy the premade Overlord maps which are double-sized and can be played by two teams of up to four players each at the same time. Gamers who enjoy a more fantasy-themed battle can try BattleLore instead (now managed by Fantasy Flight Games), which uses nearly the same rules as Memoir ’44 but is set in a world of high fantasy.

No matter the type of electronic game, there is probably a boardgame out there that will, at least in part, provide a familiar experience and has the added benefit of providing players with a bit of face to face social interaction at the same time. I hope one or two things above may have caught your fancy. I urge you to check them out online or at your friendly local game store to learn more about them.

One Response to “Boardgames for the Video Gamer”

  1. Nice reviews. I have been wanting to pick up Conflict of Heroes, but the price and stack of other games I haven’t played yet have prevented me.

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