Thursday, May 24, 2012

More Than Monopoly

What immediately comes to mind when I say the words "board games"? For most people, you probably think about the picture on the left. Monopoly. Scrabble. Life. Candy Land. Those I'm sure you're all familiar and have probably played at some point. But Puerto Rico? Agricola? Acquire? Power Grid? That's an island, a soft drink, a business term, and a new exercise DVD (you think). Those are actually also board games, four of my favorites actually.

Board games have been a part of my life since I can remember - playing Chutes and Ladders and Sorry, Life and Monopoly, you know, the games everyone plays. However, I noticed a game that my dad, uncles, and cousin would play every now and then at family gatherings. It most definitely was not Monopoly. It was not Yachtzee or Clue. It was called Acquire. It looked interesting, putting tiles on a board and getting to buy stock in hotels. When I was 11 or 12, they let me sit down and play the game with them. Acquire definitely was not Monopoly or any of the other games I had played. It was more "grown up" and, in fact, 1000 times more fun. Since then, I've been hooked on the board game hobby.

As I said at the top, the games I play most people wouldn't recognize. They would take a look at the boards and pieces and think, "That looks hard." I would respectfully disagree with that statement. The goals of these games - what most board game enthusiasts refer to as strategy games or Euro games - are very straightforward, i.e. accumulate the most wealth (Acquire) or power the most cities (Power Grid). The game's objective is easily explained. The "looks hard" part comes from how you achieve that objective. In Monopoly, you basically roll the dice, either buy a proper or pay rent, and then can negotiate trades with fellow players. In Acquire, you have several decisions to make each turn. Which tile do I play? Do I grow a current hotel chian or start a new one? Which stocks do I buy? Do I try and compete with this person over that chain? These games are relatively easy to pick up, but mastering them takes play after play. That's why I like these games - easy to learn but takes time to figure out all the strategies.

If you're intrigued by the thought of doing more than just rolling and moving, here are some excellent titles to cut your "strategy game" teeth on:
  • Ticket to Ride - In TtR, you're collecting train cards in order to build routes across America and earn points for connecting two cities. This is a great introductory game and still gets play in our house.
  • Carcassonne - This is another game that is fun to play, as you lay tiles to build the countryside of Carcassonne and then have the option to lay your wooden people (meeples) on the tile you just laid to "claim" a certain feature on the tile. My only caution with this is the scoring is slightly complicated, so a thorough read of the rules is required.
  • The Settlers of Catan - You've probably heard of this one, as it was one of the first of these games to go mainstream. In this game, you roll dice, collect resources, trade for resources with other players, and try to be the first to 10 victory points through building roads, settlements, cities, and special cards. Plus, you get to ask your fellow players, "Got wood for sheep?" How can you beat that?
And this post would not be complete without a few of my favorite games:
  • Agricola - The theme of farming on the surface does not sound interesting, but this game is a lot of fun and the variety of cards added to the game means your plans change from turn to turn. G and I play this game more often than the others we own.
  • Power Grid - Auctions, resource management, network-building. This game can be a brain-burner. When my family plays this, we know going in that the game is going to be tense and come down to the wire. Just a fantastic game.
  • Airlines Europe - From the creator of Ticket to Ride comes this new game. I received it as a Christmas present this past year, and it is quickly becoming a favorite. Again, the goal is simple. Invest in airline companies; help them grow; and score the most victory points at the three scoring rounds in the game. Wonderful game.
There you have it. What are your favorite games? What are your favorite board gaming memories? Let us know!


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