Out of the Forest

February 28, 2007, 6:22 pm
Filed under: board games

After months gathering dust on the shelf, the hubby and I took down Ticket to Ride: Europe the other day, and have played several games since. I’d forgotten how fun and intense this board game can be!

A bit like Rummy with trains, your task is to connect the cities of Europe with train routes in order to gain points, and you do that by collecting sets of matching cards. It’s very simple to learn, but unexpectedly complex and intense as you try to complete your routes before your opponent, and without getting blocked by your opponent’s trains.

The original version of the game used a map of the United States instead of Europe, but I’ve read the versions are very similar otherwise. There is also an edition set in Germany as well.

Happily, it plays great with just two people, which is a plus for couples. We’ve played it with up to six before, and it was fun then too, though more challenging.


January 23, 2007, 8:44 pm
Filed under: board games

I think there is beauty in mystery, and excitement in the hunt for solutions. Mystery can be a key element to any artform, and when it is, I’m hooked. Even so with board games!

Perhaps the best mystery board game is Mystery of the Abbey, from Days of Wonder. A bit like Clue, but much more complex and open-ended in terms of investigation, Mystery of the Abbey is a great game for boardgame geeks and mystery fans alike.

Like all games released by Days of Wonder, Mystery of the Abbey features gorgeous game pieces and a beautifully illustrated board. In terms of quality of pieces, there really is no better game-maker, to my knowledge, than Days of Wonder. When the board is out on the table, with its detailed illustrations of each room in the abbey, it is just nice to look at.

If you’ve read Umberto Eco’s murder-in-a-monestary novel The Name of the Rose, or seen the film, then you’ll have some idea of this game’s theme. It is set in a medieval monestary, and each player is a monk who resides there. Brother Adelmo, a fellow monk, has been murdered, and its up to you to identify the killer from a list of 24 suspected monks. You gain information about the suspects primarily through the careful and thoughtful questioning of the other players. You can ask anything, so long as the answer does not require them to specify a monk by name.

There are other ways to gain information, like stealing information from other players, or visiting the library to consult its powerful books. Once you think you have identified the killer, you can make an accusation, and pray you will not be proved wrong.

There are some elements of the game that are rather strange. As is the case with real monks, for example, you must attend mass in the chapel throughout the day (at the end of each round), which means you never have long to explore the board during a particular round as you are constantly being shuffled back to the chapel. Also, because you are able to make point-earning revelations throughout the game regarding certain characteristics of the killer, it is actually possible to score the most points and win the game without being the player to make the successful accusation!

But these oddities only add to the charm of the game. This is certainly a game worth owning and playing, especially on those stormy nights at home.

For a fascinating history of the game, checkout the website of Bruno Faidutti, the game’s distinguished author.

December 31, 2006, 1:41 am
Filed under: board games

My mother surprised us all this Christmas by actually giving gifts that were cool. The best of these being the German tile-laying game Carcassonne. Now, the husband and I have been playing its successor, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers for awhile now, so I was very excited to try out the original. The differences between the two games are mostly thematic, though the rules of the original to seem to be a bit more simplistic. And that is generally a good thing, I think. The rules are simple, but the strategy remains as complex as you choose to make it, rather like life, I guess. And I find a certain beauty in that. I also think that the look of the game, once all the tiles are played and you’ve created a colorful, meandering landscape, is rather pleasant to look at.

I guess for now I prefer the Hunters and Gatherers version a little more, just because it has more of a nature theme, including forests and wild animals. But both are great, and both play well with just two players, making it perfect for quiet nights with the lover in your life.