In The Board Game Revival, Jodie Frain checks out Ticket To Ride, Patchwork, Carcassone and Bohnanza.
During what can only be described as the board games’ golden age, independent games are certainly becoming increasingly popular once more. Despite the age of technology, recently there has been a clear uptick in the board game culture in Dongguan and beyond.
Inevitably, nothing lasts forever. So of course board games weren’t going to stick around for too long, despite the fun we had back in the day. However what’s remarkable is the resurrection of the tabletop trend, bringing people together in various social settings once more. It’s interesting to see how the gaming culture has playfully switched from the dying board game era to a generation of video games, followed by a shift back to the concept of collective gaming.
Whether the appeal comes from the idea of interacting and socializing through playing – as opposed to going solo or staring at a screen – or the fact that board games tend to keep us gripped with strategy and rivalry, many of us are going from bored to board. Perhaps it’s the familiarity of something that we grew up with that has sent us back in time? Who knows. Whatever the reason, there is certainly a strong sub-culture developing.
Guangdong has a thriving board game WeChat group, and with the number of active players and events held, there is most definitely a strong sense of community amongst the local gaming scene. However the trend is not only taking place in Dongguan, but all over the globe. Board game cafes have been on the rise in many countries such as the USA, Germany and Brazil, to name only a few, welcoming locals and tourists into their space to enjoy some good old gaming in the original way.
When we think about board gaming, we think of groups of people sharing a social experience in a comfortable setting, entertaining each other with tactics, strategy and negotiation to fulfill the specific aim of the game. What could be more brilliant than that?
Video games can be a whole load of fun; however there is something so real and raw about face to face competition and social interaction that the changing dynamics seem totally understandable. Yeah sure, you can play Call Of Duty with other players using a headset, or ‘go two player’ on Assassins Creed, but you can only stare at a screen for so long before your eyes start to hurt and boredom creeps in. With social gaming, you are able to really embrace the excitement of figuring out who killed the murder victim in which room, with which weapon, in a mysterious game of Cluedo. You can see the disappointment in another player’s face when you bankrupt them in a game of Monopoly, or feel slightly smug when you ‘checkmate’ someone on a chessboard.
Reverting back to the roots of gaming means that these classics are being dug up and pulled out of the back of the wardrobe, reinstating the blurred boundaries between fiction and reality once again. We tried out some of the newer games that are brining players back to the tabletop.
Designed for 2-5 players, Carcassonne is a tile-placement game representing the southern French landscape. Each tile may feature part of a castle, a road, church, grassland or some combination thereof; and must be placed adjacent to tiles that connect logically. For example a tile with a road on it must be placed next to another tile with a road on it and connect accurately.
Players take turns to turn over a tile and make their move on where to place it. Following this, each player can decide whether to place one of their meeples on one of the areas, and when that area is complete, the meeple scores points for its owner.
The game ends when all of the tiles have been picked up and placed down and the winner is determined by the amount of points scored by the completed areas claimed by each player. During a game of Carcassonne, participants are faced with decision-making and the opportunity to create difficulty for their opponents by playing tactically.
As a newbie to this particular game, it was enoyable to get involved in something I hadn’t played before. A group of four of us at HubHao engaged in a round of tile-placing, meeple-assigning and decision-making, to share the experience of playing Carcassonne. The game lasted for around 45 minutes and managed to engross us all throughout, due to the satisfaction that is received through completing areas on the map.
A charming little gem, we were able to see the game literally expand and unfold as more tiles were placed on the table and the landscape grew into a mass of meeples, roads and castles.
For other great gateway games, try the classic Settlers Of Catan.
“To bean or not to bean!” That is the question. Designed for 3-7 players, Bohnanza has been published in several editions with the original German edition supporting 3-5 players. With a playing time of approximately 20-40 minutes, Bohnanza is a card game which involves farming and negotiation.
Colorful cards portray comical beans of different sorts and the objective of the game is to gain coins by planting fields of these beans before harvesting them. As the game begins, each player is dealt five cards and they absolutely must play the cards in the order they have been dealt – switching around isn’t permitted. The principal restriction is that players can only be farming two or three types of bean at a time, which means sometimes a field has to be sacrificed and burned down. However as the game goes on the deck presents beans at random and so players must successfully negotiate and trade cards with other players to increase their number of cards in each set.
Each type of bean presents a number on the card which shows players how many cards of that particular set is needed before they can harvest a field, and thus collect their coins. For example, the coffee bean card displays a number ‘4’ as that is the amount of cards needed before a player can turn these beans into coins. When the deck runs out, the discard pile is reshuffled and re-used. This takes place twice.
Fun and light-hearted, Bohnanza is a great family game that can be enjoyed by all. Whilst playing, I found the negotiation aspect particularly entertaining, as it was interesting to see who chose to help out those in need of a particular card and who preferred to see their opponents’ crops burn!
For other card trading games, check out Jaipur.
As the only two-player game that we decided to play and write about, this was shorter game that the others, with a playing time of only 15-30 minutes. Patchwork involves several patch pieces of various shapes and sizes, which must be placed in a circle around the main patchwork game board. Both players navigate around this board with their colored counters, whilst choosing one of three patch pieces to place on their personal 9×9 patchwork quilt. With a resemblance to Tetris, the quilt is formed through the careful placing of the selected pieces, with an aim to fill as many spaces possible to score the highest.
Buttons act as currency in the game, and players start with five buttons. As the game unfolds, buttons are collected and used as payment for purchasing pieces. Upon reaching the last step of the main board, scores are determined by individual patchwork quilts and the amount of buttons each player has. An extra little bonus, single tiles are placed on the main game board every few spaces, offering a way of filling in any difficult vacancies on the patchwork quilt.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing Patchwork as it was aesthetically challenging and pleasing at the same time, in terms of trying to construct the patchwork quilt. This little number is perfect for filling in a spare fifteen minutes with a friend.
In search of another great 2 player game, why not try Hive?
Ticket to Ride
Choo Choo! Focusing on intense tactical and strategic decisions, Ticket to Ride features a large map of railway routes in North America which players aim to claim as their own. At the beginning of the game, players select three destination cards each with a different journey to complete across the board. They can choose to fulfill either one or two of the given routes. Each person is allocated a colored train and these trains are placed on the board to represent a completed course.
The game goes on with players either drawing different colored train cards, claiming a route, or drawing more destination cards. At the end of the game, extra points are given to the player with the longest continuous route.
What was interesting about this board game was the element of fear and anticipation that came from wanting to finish a route without it being disrupted by an opponent, keeping us on the edge of our seats just enough.
When I took my first destination cards, luckily I had picked two which presented doable journeys and so those were the cards I kept. Within ten or fifteen minutes both of these journeys were accomplished which meant choosing more destination cards. This time I wasn’t so lucky. I picked the most realistic to reach and managed to complete the route – eventually. However as the game went on, routes had been claimed all over the board and so collisions were unavoidable! Destination cards weren’t always so kind either – many of them offered difficult and time-consuming routes.
At the end of HubHao’s shared gaming experience, I have to say my personal favourite was Ticket to Ride. After initially getting my head around the rules, I really got into the swing of things and appreciated the need for strategy and discretion to be successful. Despite the game lasting for almost an hour, nobody became bored or felt as if the game dragged on for too long. The anticipation and the competitive atmosphere was enough to keep us enticed throughout.
If you are looking for another game of strategy to keep you entertained for hours, give Power Grid a go.