This post is almost entirely about board games. If you’re not interested, stop here.
As some of you will no doubt realise already, I have at long last gotten Chrononauts and War Of The Ring, two board games I’ve been trying to get my hands on for some time. Not being ones to want to wait until Geek Night, this Saturday, Claire and I have played each, once, over the last two days. Here’s our results:
Chrononauts is a product of Looney Labs, the guys behind the stunning Fluxx. The players are time travellers, trapped in Earth’s “real” timeline and trying to restore key events of the last 150 years to the configuration that will allow them to travel ‘home’ – and win. But they can also win by patching lots of paradoxes (holes made in the fabric of spacetime by the combination of incompatible events) – putting new histories in to replace damaged bits of time, or by collecting artefacts from certain historical periods.
People’s goals and identities are secret, so you need to infer what people are trying to achieve from the distortions in time they seem to be causing. And you might need to keep your own goals secret too – if you use explosives to destroy in advance the iceberg that the Titanic hit, in order to save it, you’ll attract attention from other time travellers who might re-plot the course to make it hit a different one just to spite you!
Players are encouraged to come up with nanofiction (very very short stories) to explain ‘how’ they’re achieving things – don’t just say “I’m flipping 1941″… explain how you’re preventing (or causing) Pearl Harbour to be bombed by the Japanese… then look at the “board” of cards and see what repurcussions it has on the rest of the century…
It was fun – although I think we both found it a little confusing for the first few turns (how am I supposed to achieve these goals, exactly?). It’s easy to dive in to (“Draw one! Play one!” methodology), though, and good clean family fun.
War Of The Ring
War Of The Ring has rapidly climbed to number 4 on BoardGameGeek‘s Top 100 Games list. It’s a sightly Risk-esque board game but with a semi-simultaneous turn structure and funky themic special rules.
This was, to be fair, fucking challenging to get into. The pair of us spent about an hour sorting out the pieces (hundreds of the buggers) and reading all the rules. Claire decided to play the Free Peoples of Middle Earth, so I took control of the Shadow Armies. These two sides can win – militaristically – by capturing the cities and strongholds of the other: and statistically, the Shadow – with a respawning army – will eventually achieve this goal, given enough time.
But the real hope for the Free Peoples lies in the Fellowship Of The Ring – Frodo and Sam, guided by the Companions of the Fellowship, use a secret ‘movement track’ to sneak across Middle Earth to try to get the One Ring to the crack of doom and destroy it. And the more effort Sauron puts into finding it on a given turn and preventing them from destroying the ring, the less resources he has with which to command his armies.
Various special cards make combat variable and allow a variety of techniques to be employed; from quick raids on enemy territory to extended sieges around Middle Earth’s strongholds. At one point, Claire had got the Fellowship successfully East as far as the Woodland Realm, and had started trekking South towards Mordor, before my Nazgul caught their scent and started forcing them to use the ring – and suffer it’s corruption – to escape. This caused the fellowship to seek sanctuary with the dwarfs of the Iron Hills, at which point my armies stormed the Woodland Realm, Rivendell, Minas Tirith and – finally – the mighty Helm’s Deep, and win. Could have been a closer thing, and I’m sure we’ve both learned a shedload about the game.
We thought it’d be particularly useful if we played one such 2-player game of War Of The Ring; so that if we play the 4-player version on Sunday, at least some of us can explain it all (and no – we won’t play on the same side!).
Geek Night This Sunday
Of course, we can play both these games – and the other usual stuff – on Geek Night, if people want. Chrononauts is for up to six players, and War Of The Ring supports 2-4 (in ‘teams’ of 1-2, between whom control of armies is split).