Okay, it’s really near a gift giving day, or a family gathering day, or something like that and you kind of think ‘I should have brought some games with me’ and now you realise you’re out of luck on that front because shipping timing sucks and so does everything else right now. This is also me pretending you’re travelling to visit people this Christmas, because, well, ha ha, but hey, you may be one of the people reading this blog who just… doesn’t Christmas.
That sounds nice. I hope you have a great december.
Anyway, thing is, there are games you can get, card games and board games you can get, for extremely cheap that take advantage of the types of services that are, for some reason, still open at Christmas time in a European or European-settler state: Officeworks.
Print and Play is a great thing to get into and it can be a great way to test out games you wouldn’t normally consider buying or playing because they’re, well, small. When you want to sit down and play a game with the family at a gathering, odds are good you want something with the majesty of a Monopoly box, or that commands a table like a Monopoly box, or that elicits groans from people you secretly hate because you want to punish them in the guise of having fun, like a Monopoly box. But Print and Play games are cheap to buy, you can download and print them, and maybe even get them printed nicely at a store that’s open, and then the version you have may only last the duration of the family visit but who cares if they go away after that point.
It’s also just something I like because at their heart, sitting around and playing with bits of paper with stuff written on them feels like a very holiday activity to me, and maybe that’s because I grew up weird in a cult.
Anyway, here’s a bunch of extremely cheap or free card games you can get from PNP Arcade and that will give you a board game experience without necessarily requiring you to spend a lot on shipping or going to a physical store right now when that definitely sucks.
Raging Bulls is a simple little game where you roll some dice, make some choices, and are trying to keep bulls from killing one another by keeping their attention focused on fences and reaching for a hammer. The thing about this game that I want to remark on is that it’s very easy to get and get going – it’s one page, you need a pencil and some d6ses, and you can steal them from the family box of Monopoly. You don’t need to cut things out or prepare anything special – it’s just a sheet of paper which dupes you into doing graph theory.
There’s a very real chance you don’t already own a copy of Handsome in which case now is a great time to try it out. See, Handsome is a word game, like Scrabble or Scrabble: Avengers, but what makes it stand apart from its normal peers is that its scoring system is more about controlling access to letters than it is about necessarily remembering a bunch of two letter words. Handsome is a game where being good at long words is useful, because the longest word will break ties, so you’re inclined to have some good strong thinking time.
It’s a game that doesn’t encourage chattering until after the scores, so if you want a game that makes everyone shut up for a bit, Handsome is great.
Two Rooms and a Boom is kind of iconic these days because back in the days of conventions, it was one of those big scaled up games that showed what you could do with a crowd of forty people all sharing the same game and trying to work out their place in it. It’s also a game I recommend anyone try out in a family situation, specifically because it’s a rare game where people who are only kinda engaged can still partake and have fun, and where you can make use out of the fact that most people have some sort of ‘different rooms’ situation at their family gathering. Lots of variety, lots of roles, but also the basic game is very simple and so are the rules.
And finally, one that isn’t from PNP Arcade:
I really like Inhuman Conditions, which is to say I like watching people on youtube playing Inhuman Conditions. The game is also sold in a really lovely box that I find personally aesthetically wonderful. What lies under that overproduced hood though is a tight game that is freely available in print-and-play form and even has a set of rules available for skype play.
The basic idea of Inhuman Conditions is that one of you is an interviewer like the guy who gets shot in the first five minutes of Bladerunner and the other is an interviewee like the guy who shoots him in those same five minutes, but maybe you aren’t and don’t. The interviewee could be a violent robot, a sneaky robot, or, shock, a human, and the game has all these systems for tuning to this in a really interesting way.
Now I may have said ‘I like watching it,’ which is true. I’ve never played this game, and probably won’t until I get to do face-to-face teaching next year (fingers crossed) because it is absolutely not the kind of confrontational, inquisitive, aggressive one-on-one game I get to play in my play group which also includes a pair of actual literal children.
Now, these are not reviews, not per se. Like, I know I like some of these games (Handsome for example lived in my pocket for a few weeks there). They are however, games that I know work and are cheap-or-free and you can conveniently get going on, during a time when, you know, going to the store might be hard, but you still want to spend time interacting with someone you like.