Board Games: A Quick Introduction

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved playing board games. When I was a kid, I enjoyed all the classics: Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, Clue, and any other game you can find on the shelf at Target for $9.99. As I grew a little older and started having sleepovers that would last until 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, the nights were often fueled by the competition brought on by games of Monopoly or 5- to 6-hour marathon sessions of Risk. We also ventured into the world of uber-nerdom by getting into Magic cards and playing a Dungeons and Dragons rip-off known as Hero Quest.

In my early 20’s I stopped playing as much, as I got burned out by the super long play time of my favorites. Also, in hindsight, the base strategy of these games really isn’t all that complicated. Any Monopoly player worth his or her salt knows that you buy everything you land on, use your best argument skills in the trading phase, and then get lucky with the dice.¬†Through the years we discovered a couple of games off the beaten path that became group favorites. One was Solarquest, a Monopoly clone that required a bit more strategy in that you had to concern yourself with fuel. While I still love to play Solarquest to this day (and certainly much more than Monopoly), it still has the problem of taking FOREVER to complete a game.

Enter the new era of board games, ushered in by the now somewhat well known Carcasonne and Settlers of Catan. These games address my two main issues with the classics, the most important of which is length of play time. These new games generally take between 60 and 90 minutes to play. They are also much more strategy based and require varying techniques based on your opponents. These games have also begun to appear on mobile devices and home video game consoles. Both Carcasonne and Catan are available on the iOS app store and through Xbox Live and the Playstation Network.

As this is Stew Over’s first board game post, you’ll notice that our old category for Video Games has changed to Gaming. A new sub-heading of Board Games has been added. The good news is that you can expect a series of posts on the topic. In subsequent posts, expect to see reviews of both new and classic strategy board games. In the future, we will expand our board game coverage to include both social games and children’s classics; however, for now, we’re sticking to strategy games. With that in mind, we have devised a scoring system that will be used to judge each strategy game we review.

Scoring Categories

Components (out of 5): This section will rate the components of the game. How cool is the board? Are there lots of neat pieces? Are the pieces of high quality, or will they easily get stained or even broken with extended use?

Skill (out of 10): Think of skill as the antithesis of luck. I prefer games that require a high skill level and leave little to chance. For reference, Candyland would receive a 0 in this category.

Replayability (out of 10): One of the most important questions when playing a game is whether you’d like to play it again. Does the strategy of the game allow for multiple playthroughs?

Complexity (out of 10): A complex game is one that takes a while to learn and even longer to master. Does the game have a lot of different rules? Are there a ton of different things to remember? This category can be tricky as you don’t want a game that is so complex that it isn’t fun to play. The rules can be complex but at the end of the day need to be easy enough to remember and eventually master.

Fun (out of 10): Arguably the most important category, if a game isn’t fun, it’s not worth playing.

The five scoring categories will produce a total score (out of 45).

 

Scoring Metric

41-45: Outstanding. This is a game that gets almost everything right.

36-40: Excellent. A game that might not be my ideal, but one that I still very much enjoy.

30-35: Good. More noticeable flaws but still very well designed.

25-29: Decent. A game with quite a few flaws, but that doesn’t mean I won’t play it if the group is right.

20-24: Mediocre. The game isn’t broken, but I’m sure you can find a game that is much better.

15-19: Poor. The game might be playable, but I wouldn’t suggest it.

10-14: Bad. If you ask me to play this with you, I’ll come up with an excuse to do something else.

5-9: Broken. No one should be playing this game unless you were able to create a great drinking game out of it.

1-4: Crap. Stay away unless you like torturing yourself. Not even alcohol can save this game.

 

Of course you may prefer a different style of game than I do, and therefore you might prefer a game that does not score well on my rating scale. For example, you might prefer simpler games. Also worth noting is that the group of people you play with is essential in determining how much fun you will have with a game. If you like complex games but you’re playing with friends who don’t like to think as hard when they play, you might want to look for a game that gets a lower score in the Complexity category. As you can see, I’m anticipating some healthy disagreements on some of my scores. I’m looking forward to talking about them with you in the comments.

My final note is that I’m scoring each game under my ideal gaming conditions, which means playing with other experienced gamers who enjoy the same types of games that I do. This is an important point. Obviously, a complex game played with some newer players who aren’t interested in thinking very much will not be much fun for either the new player or the experienced player.

Stay tuned for my first review coming soon!

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