Board Game Stew

In case you didn’t know, I am a player. No, no, gosh, no. I do not gad about with various ladies: I play games. Video games, mobile phone games, and board games. I grew up playing the classics, such as Monopoly™, UNO™, etc., and some lesser known family favourites like I.Q. 2000 and West Edmonton Mall: The Game. Right now we have a few great games on rotation in the Bly household. The list is small, yet it is mighty. Take a look and you might find one you’d like to try!

The Pillars of the Earth (Shown: Game board and components. Not shown: Betrayal, lust, the guy who plays Stephen Hawking in that movie)

Pillars of the Earth® (With Bonus: World Without End™) Based on the Ken Follett Novel, Pillars of the Earth, the focus of the game is resource management and worker placement. If you haven’t played this type of game (often referred to as a Euro) this would be a great one to start with. As a master builder you send your workers out to gather resources: wood, stone, sand, and metal (rare). Your craftsmen (carpenters, masons, glass blowers, etc.) use the resources to help build Kingsbridge Cathedral and earn you Victory points. Along the way a number of events take place to help or hinder your progress. The base game is for 2-4 players, but 99% of my Pillars of the Earth games have been head-to-head versus my wife and we’ve pretty much split the wins, trying out a number of different strategies throughout. There is a sequel to the book and so…a sequel to the game! In World Without End players contribute to a number of building projects, but also must balance being a loyal subject, pious church member, crafty business person, and do one more teensy thing: Face the Plague! Both games are highly enjoyable but I would recommend PotE first and foremost because it is a very accessible game to jump into and a little more straightforward than WWE. Notes for Newbs: While there are a number of different strategies and variables to keep up with, the order of actions is printed directly on the game board and you aren’t required to do anything really fast so there’s lots of time to check card text and make decisions.

Blokus (Blue Player has won, Red was humiliated, Yellow has improved, Green has reduced overall consumption of wheat but not necessarily in relation to the game)

Blokus™ I enjoy games with stories, money, fighting, dice, cards, meeples, resources…but Blokus doesn’t have any of that. Blokus has coloured translucent tiles of various configurations that one must use to claim space on the Blokus board. To win you must place all, or the most, pieces. Bigger pieces are worth more but take more planning to place effectively. If you don’t pay attention you may find yourself stuck in a very tiny area of the board without much room for tiles. Even if you do pay attention this may happen. Luckily, if you stare long enough at the board you will harm your eyes and brain, but also, you will find a way to break through your opponents’ barriers and branch out into new areas. Blokus is for 2-4 players (or my wife and her three unlucky victims). Notes for Newbs: This game is quick to learn but there’s a lot of room to develop strategy once you are experienced.

Anomia (West’s turn, flipped up blue waffle-thingy, matched with East; West must name a Type of Music before East can name a Currency. Both will probably splutter out things like GLUB! and TRAPEZOID! before any valid answers.)

Anomia™ A good party game should be quick to learn, simple to play, and a fun, even when you’re losing. Anomia stands out as a recent favourite party game. As cards are flipped face up, players with matching symbols race to name an example from the category on their opponent’s card. Cards are collected as points and everyone has a great time and/or starts to hate each other! Notes for Newbs: Small and portable, quick to learn, but you have to pay attention and think fast!

A Game of Thrones (Shown: Valyrian Steel, Messenger Raven, The Iron Throne, some House Greyjoy components. Not shown: Incest)

A Game of Thrones™ Last but definitely not least, GoT is certainly the most complex game on my list. 3-6 players become the great houses of Westeros and compete to control the most territories containing castles and strongholds. This can be done by one or more of the following: all-out combat, some resource management, and winning a number of blind bids that lead to different houses gaining and losing various advantages throughout the game. Two special aspects that stand out about this game: 1. Each house has a unique initial set up, with a home stronghold, a few loyal territories, and a deck of House-specific character cards to be played in combat actions and 2. There is an ever-growing (non-player) Wilding threat which all players must face together. Houses can make and break alliances, pursue power through influence or military strength, and put their own needs before the needs of the many or strive to keep the Wildlings at bay. This game is deep but worth the work! Notes for Newbs: While individual aspects of the game are simple, there are a lot of them. Give yourself plenty of time for that first play through.

Do you have a favourite board game to play with the family? You can let me know by GOING TOTALLY BONKERS, cutting individual letters from a variety of books and magazines, then gluing said letters into a message on the soles of a nun’s feet. Blindfold the nun, tie a stick to her head with a dangling Twinkie at the other end; the nun will follow the scent of the Twinkie straight forward until she arrives at my door. Then, comment in the area below to let me know that there is a nun in my yard and I will go read her feet.

Coming Soon: Board Game Stew Junior! A look at our favourite games for younger players!