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January 23rd, 2013 JORDAN GREEN | Featured Stories
 

Winter Guide 2013: Neu-Wave Boards

Tabletop games for the snowbound.

ws-board-games_3912IMAGE: Morgan Green-Hopkins
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If you spent the last few decades skiing, you may have missed the analog-game renaissance. Led by efficient and humorless German visionaries like Reiner Knizia and Klaus Teuber, board games are more engaging and accessible than ever. Hell, half of ’em you can play on your phone. Still, nothing beats hanging around a table, destroying your friends’ self-confidence and drinking a lot. Here’s a rundown of a few games to keep you occupied (by Germans) this winter. All are findable at Cloud Cap Games (1226 SE Lexington St., 505-9344, cloudcapgames.com).


Ticket to Ride 

(Days of Wonder, $50)

Players: 2-5
Play time: 45 minutes
Learning curve: Easy

The premise: CHOO CHOO!!! It’s about building railroad routes across the country and trying to forget the tens of thousands of Chinese laborers you’re crushing underfoot.

The play: Players use cards to claim color-coded routes across the United States and Canada. You can build a route between Montreal and Portland and call it the Hipster Express, and then someone can make a joke about the South being racist. Take that, the South!

How you win: Earn points by completing ticketed routes or by having the longest continuous track.

Is there an app for that? Yes, with multiplayer!

Geek factor (1-10): 1. Between the short play time and traditional structure, anyone can play.


The Settlers of Catan 

(Mayfair, $42)

IMAGE: Morgan Green-Hopkins
Players:
3-6
Play time: 90 minutes
Learning curve: Easy

The premise: An oddly hexagonal island must be stripped of resources and settled by competing clans. Build roads and towns and develop new technologies until all natural life is swept aside in the name of “progress.”

The play: Extremely compelling. Catan is probably the most widely loved of the German-style board games, if not of all time. Its size is manageable, and a wealth of expansion packs (Seafarers, Cities, Knights) can add layers to the game’s strategic complexity.

How you win: Reach a pre-determined point total by building towns, cities and roads.

Is there an app for that? Yes, but there’s no online multiplayer.

Geek factor (1-10): 2. Even novices love Catan.


Lost Cities 

(Rio Grande Games, $25)

Players: 2
Play time: 30 minutes
Learning curve: Easy

The premise: You know those archeological expeditions you hear about? That shit doesn’t happen magically. Lost Cities re-creates the fundraising process with cards.

The play: Players try to use color-coded investor cards and numbered cards (in increasing order) to earn profits.

How you win: Have the highest balance when the last card is drawn.

Is there an app for that? Yes, with multiplayer!

Geek factor (1-10): 3. While some strategy and mathematical analysis is involved, luck factors heavily.


Twilight Struggle 

(GMT Games, $60)

Players: 2
Play time: 3 hours
Learning curve: Moderate

The premise: No, not that Twilight. The Cold War one. Who wouldn’t want to simulate those halcyon days when a few questionable decisions could lead to total annihilation?

IMAGE: Morgan Green-Hopkins
The play: Players representing the United States or USSR wrestle for global supremacy from 1945 through the late ’80s. The board (a map of the world) reflects spheres of influence, while action is dictated by dice rolls and historical event cards.

How you win: Reach 20 victory points, have the Victory Point Marker in your favor at the end of 10 turns or maintain full control of Europe—which, good luck with that.

Is there an app for that? No.

Geek factor (1-10): 7. With a moderate difficulty and hefty play time, Twilight Struggle definitely isn’t Sorry. It’s also the highest-rated game on BoardGameGeek.com, so there’s that.


A Game of Thrones: The Board Game 

(Fantasy Flight Games, $60)

Players: 3-6
Play time: 3-4 hours
Learning curve: Fairly steep. While intuitive, there’s a lot to understand.

IMAGE: Morgan Green-Hopkins
The premise: If you’ve read the books or watched the HBO series, you’ll get the machinations behind the game. You are one of six house lords in a continent mired in war, and you’re vying for ultimate supremacy.

The play: It’s so great. No luck, no dice rolls, just your wits. Gameplay depends on convincing your opponents to jack each other up, weakening them just enough so you can stab them in the back. WARNING: The game’s inherent treachery can lead to damaged friendships. Sound great? It is.

How you win: Be the best in the room at politics and manipulation.

Is there an app for that? No, damn it.

Geek factor (1-10): 9; 10 if you decide to role-play the house lords.

 
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