I’ve talked before, on this blog, about my love of the Geek & Sundry series Tabletop – but I wasn’t quite prepared for the effect that it would have on my friend Rossy. He’s been rather taken by some of the games featured on the show, and gone so far as to buy them, as well as obtain another one – free and legally – that I’ll come to later. Of course, given that I presently live with him, his wife Becca and his baby daughter Amelia (aka Cutest Baby in the World), I’m getting to benefit from Rossy’s increasing love for tabletop gaming.
Well, I already owned Munchkin (again, thanks to Wil Wheaton, via this video), so we got a chance to get into that particular game already; it’s one thing to watch Wil Wheaton and his friends play the games, but it’s quite another to play them oneself. As well as buying a couple of booster packs for me, Rossy bought himself Munchkin Conan, Munchkin Booty, Star Munchkin, the Munchkinomicon, and the Munchkin Fairy Dust booster pack.
Munchkin: Like Dungeons & Dragons, but without all that silly role-playing... (Picture credit: Steve Jackson Games)
Dare I say it: as good as Munchkin is, the later games (the first three in Rossy’s purchase list are full, standalone games in their own right) are even better than the original… One of my favourite parts of these games is in Star Munchkin: There are some weapons which can be combined to make a single, two-handed item, and their combat-strength bonuses stack – it does seem to make the weapon ridiculously over-powered, but it’s fun, nonetheless.
Rossy has achieved an overwhelming grasp of the rules and cards, and plays with jaw-dropping deviousness! Out of all the games I’ve played with Rossy and Becca, there have been just two victories for Becca, and I’ve not won at all! Fortunately, aside from being someone who doesn’t mind losing (though I obviously prefer to win), it’s still a great deal of fun playing against the two of them.
Here’s the best example of Rossy’s Machiavellian strategy: There’s a card in original Munchkin which you play to make someone else fight a monster in place of the current player. Usually, you’ll use the card on your own turn, to force them to play in your stead (your victim gets the levels and treasure, if they win). However, Rossy (one level away from winning) used the card to pull the monster to him, so that he could beat the thing and win the game instead – and there was nothing we could do! (shakes fist at Rossy, while laughing).
The other game which Rossy decided to purchase, as a consequence of Tabletop, is Gloom. If you’re not familiar with the game, the idea is to make your selected (fictional) family members as miserable as possible before killing them off in horrendous ways, while also trying to sprinkle good events onto your opponents’ families. The player with the lowest score wins; if you need more of an idea of what the game’s about, check out the Tabletop video. It’s a half-hour well-spent, in my view.
The marvellously miserable game of Gloom. (Picture credit: Atlas Games)
But in Gloom, it’s not enough to simply play the cards you have in your hand – a lot of the fun to be had comes about from concocting a story to go with the cards you play. It’s a wonderful opportunity to let your imagination run riot, particularly given the nature of the mishaps and fortunate happenstances listed on each card. Now, Becca was severely lacking confidence in her storytelling ability – and repeatedly stated that she was “rubbish” at storytelling. It was very pleasing to learn that she’s actually pretty good at weaving a tale or two, sometimes venturing into the surreal – on Tuesday evening, for example, Balthazar the dog was peeing against a tree, which suddenly came to life, grew legs, and chased the poor pooch through the park!
Last but not least, the other game that Rossy obtained was Cards Against Humanity (NSFW advisory for language). Thing is, with this game, you can either purchase a high-quality version, or print out your own version for free – with the permission of the makers, who helpfully supply a PDF with all the cards in it. This was the only viable option for Rossy, because although the game is priced at a reasonable(-ish) $25 in the USA, it costs around $75 to get it in the UK! Cutting out over 500 cards was rather tedious for us, but we got through it rather quickly.
CAH is most definitely NOT a game for children – and I suspect that it’s unlikely to be seen on Tabletop: The subject matter on many of the cards is R-rated (I’ll spare you examples), and does require a slightly sick sense of humour to enjoy it. Players become the judge of the game, in rotation, and reads out one of the black cards – it’s either a question, or a fill-in-the-blank statement. The other players must choose one or more of their ten white cards (according to what the judge’s card requires) that they feel fits with the card. The judge then chooses which they think is the best submission, and the winning player gets a point (we tend to play it so that the winning player gets the card, for ease of keeping score). It’s sort of a nastier version of Blankety Blank (or, if you’re American, Match Game).
It’s an enjoyable game, though it’s not as appealing, for me, as Munchkin and Gloom. More often than not, we tend to choose cards which amuse us (and hopefully, the current judge), and there are many opportunities for this to occur. However, each game takes a long time to play, and I found it easy to get bored. Admittedly, we could cut down the number of black cards, but this wasn’t something which occurred to us. It’s perhaps best played when you’ve got a few drinks inside you (something which isn’t an option for me, these days).
Rossy’s not the only one acquiring tabletop games, though. As mentioned, I purchased Munchkin (back while I was in the States, actually), and I won Zombie Dice from Geek & Sundry (which is presently in the tender, loving care of Kristal). And I also managed to get my grubby paws on the PC version of Ticket to Ride – thanks, once again, to Rossy; he bought me a Steam bundle with it in, and even outside the bundle, it’s a steal at around $10 for the base game (Amazon has the physical board game on sale, at the time of writing, at $37.79, down from $49.99).
Become a railroad baron in the award-winning game Ticket to Ride. (Picture credit: Days of Wonder)
The idea of Ticket to Ride is to complete train routes according to the “ride tickets” you have, by playing sets of coloured cards. It’s a fun game, although I’ve only played it against computer opponents, so far. It does have a much slower pace of play, though, than many of the other games mentioned here: You have to carefully take many possibilities into consideration before taking your turn – something which Tabletop didn’t really get across, given that they’re only a 30-minute show.
It’s rather a shame that games like Munchkin and Gloom aren’t available for computer-based play, so that I can at least play with friends around the globe, aided by something like Skype or Mumble. But there’s a definite bonding experience by playing in person, with friends and/or family. And there’s a wealth of games out there, beyond the realms of Monopoly, Risk, and Snakes & Ladders (Chutes & Ladders). If you don’t already play tabletop games, I think you’re missing out!