When I was a wee lad, board games were the jam on Saturday nights with the family. Now that I am all grown up, board games are still the jam on Saturday nights. They provide an activity that challenges you to think critically, accept the randomness of life and compete against others, all while cutting out the small talk jamboree you could be forced into otherwise.
As I have grown up, board games, or table top games, have ballooned in popularity. As a kid, I thought there were maybe 10 games in the whole world. Now there are just so many games that they have full-on conventions where the wonders of table-top gaming are revealed and new games and ideas are at your fingertips. Friends of mine went to PAX Unplugged in Philadelphia last year and came back telling me about a game in which you have to compete over pizza slices and a Dungeons and Dragons clone taking place in a science fiction universe.
While those games sound amazing, it remains to be seen if they will stand the test of time. Some of the more classic games are still as great as you and I remember, but others have aged poorly or were just bad to begin with. Here are the best and worst of the table top game world.
Clayton’s Five Up
The only board game that has inspired a member of my family to make a t-shirt based on one of our responses.
A game of cooperation, anticipation and aspiration. Board games are supposed to be social and Jenga is tailor-made for a get-together or a getting-to-know-you.
A One Act Play Inspired by the 2015 Houston-UConn Game
Bob Diaco: I never been to Shoney’s. GNC is my grocery store.
Tom Herman: With God as my witness, I am going to make you go to Shoney’s next time you guys come to Houston.
Bob Diaco: I’ll go. It’s nice of you to invite me and the family.
Tom Herman: Who do you think I am, Jim Calhoun? I’m not made out of money. I didn’t invite your family. I just invited you, Bob. I thought we could play Stratego and nurse coffee refills all morning.
Bob Diaco: That’s a great idea. I’m not going to eat any of Shoney’s $4.99 breakfast platters which include two eggs your way; toast or English muffin; ham, bacon, sausage patties or links; and your choice of homefries or hashbrowns smothered in their signature ham gravy. I am going to eat a MetRx bar and drink up all their Sanka. I am going to do an interpretive dance based on the Battle of Vicksburg right in the dining room.
Tom Herman: Don’t do that when it’s your move. Only when it’s my move.
Bob Diaco: It’s a deal.
A low pressure, laid back board game best suited for a rainy afternoon.
I have never won at Battleship but I always have a good time.
Clayton’s Five Down
An officious bean-counter’s idea of a good time. No board game brings out the worst in human nature more quickly than Monopoly.
The straight and narrow in this game is just too straight and narrow for me. There are many paths to the good life. There are many well-springs of happiness. Not just the “he comes back home at five-thirty, gets the same train every time” path endorsed by this board game.
3. The Easy Bake Oven
None too easy if you ask me. And not even a board game, come to think of it.
More complex than actual foreign policy.
Makes me uncomfortable in all the body parts where I am expected to do surgery. That being said, I do admire its $200 for knee surgery business model.
Johnny’s Five Up
1. Mouse Trap
I have no idea how this works, but it looks awesome. The Chef’s Table of board games. It looks great, but you have no idea how to replicate the result.
2. Hootie and the Blowfish the Board Game
Help Darius Rucker collect all of the VIP passes for tonight’s show, and free his band mates from the ancient Volcano curse on Paradise Island. Don’t Google it, it’s real.
I like to turn this into an RPG. Monopoly is an event that requires fancy dress and martinis.
Hang tenaciously onto Australia. Also, fancy dress and martinis.
In a way, we are all accomplices, and all are damned. Fancy dress and martinis.
Johnny’s Five Down
1. The home edition of any game show
Jeopardy, Family Feud, Takeshi’s Castle, it doesn’t matter. I am the home edition.
2. Chinese Checkers
The nemesis of Mouse Trap. I don’t know how it works, and I couldn’t care less. Looks like one of those crappy wooden games on your table at Cracker Barrel or Shoney’s.
3. Those crappy wooden games on your table at Cracker Barrel or Shoney’s
These always look interesting, but disappoint me every time. I spend the extra time before and after my meals shoving individual jelly packets into Heather’s purse. The perfect crime.
4. Duel Monsters/Pokémon/Magic: The Gathering/Dungeon Dice Monsters/Trading Card Games
Tarot for those without the will to see and seize the future. I have no time for such nonsense.
Clayton has a massive pog collection. We have to look at it every Christmas and I usually fake hepatitis to get out of it.
Phil’s Five Up
My dad taught me how to play Risk. He taught me the best strategy is to build up and dominate in Australia and then slowly advance through Asia. I’m no professional Risk player, but its always served me well, except when I play my dad and we both fight over Australia and forget about the rest of the map.
Risk is a game with so much strategy layered into it, but there is also the gambling aspect that enters the equation when you are attacking and attempting to expand. Games of Risk take a really long time, but the best ones are so well layered in complex maneuvering and decision-making that they are never tiresome. To me, at least.
Oh, you play Dungeons & Dragons? That’s cool. I play Pathfinder. You’ve probably never heard of it.
3. Settlers of Catan
I’m a bit new to the Settles of Catan craze, but I have thoroughly enjoyed my brief time here. Whereas Risk is a game about military domination, Catan is more of an economical exercise, as you must gather resources to best your fellow competitors. Building roads, saving up to construct cities and settlements and developing your empire has never been so fun.
4. Magic: The Gathering
Baseball cards was my entry to trading cards. Pokemon was my first trading card game. Magic: The Gathering is the master class in this medium. Although I haven’t played in years, I could still sit down, tap some mana, play Sibilant Spirit and then hit you with a +8 fireball when I change my deck for the next game.
OK. Mr. Serious Strategy Man is gone. Sorry! is pretty much all about chance, bright colors and giving a big middle finger to your friends. Nothing is as satisfying as landing on the same spot as a competitor and telling them to kick rocks.
Now for a post inside a post. The definitive ranking of Sorry! cards:
- Sorry! card
Phil’s Five Down
As always, in descending order.
5. Candy Land
There is a king and queen of Candy Land. I do not believe in monarchies no matter how many confectioneries they try to distract me with.
Excuse me? No. I will not king you. Kings are tyrants and tyranny is never OK, even on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
You’re telling me this patient has an apple, wrench, butterfly, a bucket of water, a horse, a pencil, a piece of bread and an entire ice cream cone lodged inside of himself? And he’s still alive? This is a modern medical marvel, not a game for children.
If there is one thing I dislike more (or at least as much) as a monarchy it is a monopoly. Whether its robber barons in the 1800s or Amazon today, monopolies are bad. So is this game that drags on forever and lets you simulate the “fun” of either foreclosing or being foreclosed on.
Spelling is for school, not for leisure time.
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