Games for Groups: Part 2

Continuing on from last post (and again in increasing complexity, sort of), here are some more games that work well with 6 or more players!

Ca$h ‘n Guns

cash-guns

In Ca$h ‘n Guns (and yes, you do need to spell it with the dollar sign), you’ll take on the role of gangsters splitting the pot after a successful heist.  However, adrenaline, greed and firearms do not make the best bedfellows, and before you know it you’ll be threatening each other with bullet sandwiches – provided you actually loaded your weapon!

Ca$h ‘n Guns is easy to teach and there’s nothing quite like counting to three and seeing an arsenal of weaponry appear over the table, Mexican Standoff-style.  It can easily accommodate up to 8 players, and so makes a great choice for when you need something for more players.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

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One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a super-quick game that compresses the tension of a game of Werewolf into a single round, fraught with heated debate over the identities of the various players.  A single round will last only around 5 minutes, after which it’s easy to play another one.  There are a wide range of roles, and for everyone’s first game it’s probably best to only play the simpler roles – after that, throw them all in and see what happens!

Due to the short rounds and ability to cope with up to 10 players, One Night Ultimate Werewolf makes a great game to play when waiting for more serious games to start at a board game meetup.  The quick rounds guarantee that people won’t be left awkwardly waiting around for too long and it’s easy to include others after a quick demonstration.

The Resistance: Avalon

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The Resistance: Avalon is a social deduction and traitor game that works well with 6 to 10 players, and is a great ice-breaker at board game meetups.  You’ll need to try to identify the traitors among your team – or, if you’re a traitor yourself, throw others off your scent!

The Resistance: Avalon includes a lot of variety in the box, with special roles to bring out once everyone knows the base game, and games typically take about half an hour.  If you like the idea of bluffing your way to victory, and need something that will play well with up to 10, this fits the bill.  Just make sure to remind everyone to get involved – there’s much more to the game when everyone’s hotly debating who they think the traitors are!

Space Cadets: Dice Duel

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Easily the heaviest game of this post, Space Cadets: Dice Duel is a tense dice-off between two teams of starship pilots.  It works best with 6 or 8 players – unfortunately, odd numbers don’t work terribly well, unless you don’t mind unbalanced teams.  You’ll be taking turns as quickly as you can roll the dice, and you’ll need to co-ordinate closely with your colleagues if you want to come out victorious!

Learning Space Cadets: Dice Duel can be difficult, and it helps to have an experienced player on hand to supervise for others’ first game. Playing without the Sensor station can also ease the difficulty curve.  However, if you’re willing to take the plunge, you’ll be surprised how intuitive the game is after you’ve taken the first few moves, and you’ll be frantically strategising with your colleagues before you know it.

Games for Groups: Part 1

For most games out there, the optimal number of players is somewhere between 3 and 5.  It’s why on the Board Game Flowchart, a good two thirds of games are in the ‘3 to 5 players’ category.  However, it’s not always the case that you can get that number of players – what frequently happens is that you invite a bunch of your friends to play board games, some of them won’t make it, some will, and you end up with a number of people and only one or two games that can actually accommodate them all.  Nobody is really willing to split off into smaller groups to play separate games because, hey, you’re all friends and you want to hang out!

Likewise, if you’re at a public gaming group, you want games where a lot of people can join in.  However, there’s a somewhat different set of problems here – it’s highly unlikely that more than a few people will know the rules of any game you choose to play.  Also, as soon as you start making a motion to start a game, a new person will probably walk in that needs to be incorporated into the group, making it necessary to put that game away and select another that works with the new number of players. So, it helps to have a good stable of games that work well no matter how many players you need to accommodate.

Games need a different set of qualities when you will be playing them with large numbers.  It’s difficult to teach complex rules to bigger groups, so they need to be relatively straightforward.  Games have a tendency to really stretch out when you have more players, so ideally they will have some form of simultaneous play mechanism, or for turns to be short enough that you don’t have to wait all that long until it’s your turn again.

So without further ado, here’s a handful of games that work excellently with 6 or more players, in increasing degrees of complexity.  This is by no means a definitive list, but it can provide some inspiration for those needing a game that works well with larger numbers, and I plan to have a few segments covering these sorts of games.  I won’t be including games that theoretically take 6 or more players, but nobody would ever play them with that many because it would take literally forever and drive all the players insane (I’m looking at you, Caverna).

Dobble/Spot It

Dobble

Dobble (or Spot It in the US) is an amazing reflex game that can be set up and taught in seconds – just take two cards, ask players to identify the common symbol, and they know everything they need to know!  It works great with any number and can easily accommodate more at the drop of a hat, allowing new players to just join in as they arrive.  It makes an excellent game for board game meetups, as there’s now no reason that everyone needs to sit around waiting for others to arrive – you can just join in!  According to the tin it goes up to 8, but there’s nothing really stopping you from going higher, apart from practicality.

Shadow Hunters

pic1215982_mdI haven’t written a summary on this one yet, but I will soon!  Shadow Hunters is a hidden role game where some players are Shadows (that is, monsters), some are Hunters, and others are neutral characters.  The Shadows are trying to kill the Hunters, the Hunters are trying to kill the Shadows, and each of the damn dirty Neutrals have their own unique agendas.

Shadow Hunters plays up to 8, and although it features sequential play, each player’s turn is usually lightning-quick – move somewhere, draw a card and play it, and attack a character if you want.  It encourages social interaction and has some light deduction, making it good for groups with fun reveals when you find out that the person you were attacking all game was actually your ally.  It’s light and contains lots of player conflict but nobody’s going to really take it too personally.  Its main drawback is that some of the anime art features improbably-breasted women, but that’s only on a handful of the cards and easily ignored.

7 Wonders

Contains Seven (7) Wonders! Well, until you get one of the expansions.

A staple of board game meetups, 7 Wonders fits the bill of an easily-taught game that has a deep enough strategy to interest players who have already played it before.  While it plays best with three, it can certainly be played with larger numbers – up to 7, of course – and its simultaneous play mechanism means that a game with 7 people is not likely to take all that much longer than a game with 3 or 4.  The more players you get in the game, the more random the game itself can feel, but there is still good scope for strategy and building up your empire.

It’s difficult to have a game with any real depth when you have 6 or more players, but 7 Wonders is a fine choice for these situations where something with a bit more substance is wanted.  Its main drawback is perhaps that it’s been too popular – many boardgamers have overplayed the base game and would rather play with expansions, and it’s difficult to teach all the extra expansion rules to those picking it up for the first time.

Evolution

pic2357588_mdIf 7 Wonders is played out in your group, Evolution makes a great substitute.  In Evolution, players take control of a number of prehistoric species, and can give them a range of adaptations by playing Trait cards on them, making them carnivorous, giving them the ability to evade enemies by climbing, giving them foraging skills and so on.  Players will collectively choose how much food is available in a general supply, then try to adapt their species in such a way that they can best survive, or at the very least, prevent other species from surviving!  The player who ends the game with the most points (calculated by how much food they eat, final species population and some other factors) is the winner!

What makes Evolution a great game for groups is that the rules are relatively easily explained, and the gameplay emerges as players start to understand how the cards interact.  A player may think herself safe with her climbing creature, until her opponent’s carnivorous creature develops the ability to climb and snacks on her species with impunity! Evolution works excellently with 6 as the game length is determined by how quickly the deck of Trait cards is depleted, and with more players, more of these will be drawn.  Furthermore, the rules allow players to perform their creature upgrades simultaneously, and after all players understand the options (which usually takes a round or two), they’ll be growing their species however they see fit.

The F Word

There is a word that I feel is entirely unhelpful when discussing board games, that nonetheless finds itself into practically every discussion on the topic.

That word is ‘Fun’.

‘Fun’ is highly subjective word.  People use this word to recommend games to others, to let them know that they had an enjoyable experience.  In effect, when people use the word ‘fun’, they are saying ‘I can’t describe exactly why I enjoyed this, but I did, and I think you would too.’  Their intentions are noble, but not always well-placed.  At best, you’ll try the game and enjoy it as well!  At worst, you won’t enjoy it, and you will say, ‘No, that game, and by extension the hobby of boardgaming, is Not Fun.’

One much-maligned board game is Munchkin.  For many boardgamers, Munchkin is one of the first games they really enjoyed, and they have fond memories of it. They recall being inches away from winning before one of their friends sabotaged them, of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, of being the thorn in the side of their opponent and exulting in their misfortune.  So, many people go away from Munchkin and think to themselves, ‘That game was fun!’

Then, when other, more serious boardgamers tell them ‘Sorry, Munchkin isn’t fun’, these people feel offended, and rightly so.  They had fun!  They’d remember if they didn’t have fun.  How can Munchkin be both ‘fun’ and ‘not fun’ simultaneously?  Who are these stodgy grognards who have set themselves up as the final arbiters of fun, anyway?  In this way, the word ‘fun’ can drive a wedge between people who otherwise should be enjoying their hobby together.

If two people can describe a game as being both ‘fun’ and ‘not fun’, ‘fun’ must be the result of an individual’s response to a game, and not the game itself.  It can be a helpful word if you happen to know the tastes of the person you are talking to, but most reviews are written for anonymous audiences.  You can’t know whether someone will find a game fun when you don’t even know who they are, so it’s much better to describe what makes it fun instead.

In writing board game summaries for Tea and Board Games, I have tried to avoid using the word ‘fun’ as much as possible.  To my knowledge, there are only three summaries that even feature the word (try finding them yourself!).  Instead, I’ve tried to describe what makes the game fun.  What kind of player interaction does it have?  Do you have a strong sense of agency within the game?  Does it allow for social interaction and creativity? Answering these questions give much better indications of whether someone will like a game rather than falling back on the word ‘fun’.

Maybe you enjoy tense games, like Space Alert or Escape.  Maybe you’d rather something light-hearted, like A la Carte or Animal upon Animal, maybe you’d prefer a brain-burner you can really sink your metaphorical teeth into for hours on end, like Through the Ages or Mage Knight.  Games can be polarising, and the game that you personally enjoy the most is likely to be a truly miserable experience to someone else out there.

The best policy is to just try new games and work out what you enjoy. Think a bit more about what you enjoyed, and why, and discuss your reasoning with others. Your own personal journey in working out what you enjoy is what makes the hobby of boardgaming so compelling, and it’s a journey I hope to be making for a long time to come.

Then again, that’s just the kind of thing I find fun.

Finding a Gaming Group

So hopefully you’ve had a look through the Board Game Selection Flowchart, and a few board game summaries, and found a handful of games that look pretty interesting. That’s great! However, this is only the first step in boardgaming, and the next step is often the hardest – finding people to play with.

Boardgaming is a social hobby first and foremost. While you can play online implementations of board games, these tend to distill the game down to its pure mechanics and lose the most important part – sitting down with people face-to-face and sharing an experience.

The easiest way to find people is to ask your friends. Arrange a board game day, get everyone to come round, set a time for lunch or dinner, and make sure there are snacks. If your own house isn’t big or clean enough, hold it at a quiet local pub! So long as you make sure to buy a few drinks and maybe a meal, they won’t mind. It’s basically what these places exist for – ‘pub’ is short for ‘public house’, after all. You’ll want the odd pub-friendly game, like Skull and Roses or Sushi Go if you’re taking this route; games that won’t take up too much table space or time.

However, your friends might not be all that into board games, or might not all be free at the same time. Or maybe you’re just looking to expand your pool of gaming partners! If so, your next best bet is to find a public boardgaming group. These are everywhere, and the best place to find one is on Meetup, Facebook or just in Google. I’ve come into a new city and done a Google search for “<city name> board game group”, and found a number to choose from. Make sure it’s active though – sometimes they’ll say ‘every Wednesday’ but haven’t actually met up for over a year.

When you do go to a public board game group, I cannot stress how important it is to show up on time. By showing up on time, you’ll get a bit of time to chat and meet the organisers, as well as getting the pick of games. Plus, it can be very difficult to find people to play with if you turn up late; everyone may already be in a game and you’ll need to sit and wait until a game finishes and hope there’s room for you in the next one, which can mean a bit of awkward sitting around.

Generally, the board games played at public groups are of moderate weight, usually averaging about 3 or 4 cups of tea on the Complexity Rating. If you’re a complete newcomer, you’ll always find people happy to accommodate you with a lighter game too, though. Don’t come along with a whole stash of your own personal games, at least not the first few times – you’re unlikely to get a chance to play more than one of them anyway. Bring two or three at most, and you don’t even need to bring any at all if you’re happy to play what others have on offer – this is often the best way to discover new games! I make it a goal to play at least one new game at each meetup, and it’s important to give others the chance to share something they love.

If there still doesn’t seem to be a group in your area, don’t lose hope! In these cases, I recommend getting a few light party-style games, like Concept and Dixit, and suggesting them at gatherings. You’ll be surprised how quickly people take to them, and you’re likely to discover that a few people are actually already keen boardgamers – if not, you may even convert a few!

Good luck, and happy gaming!

The Board Game Selection Flowchart

So now I’ve finished 99 board game summaries, finishing out what I’m going to call ‘Season One’ of Tea and Board Games!

The final game is Twilight Struggle, a two-player game that has the distinction of being the highest ranking board game on Board Game Geek for over four years running!

Why am I stopping at 99?  Well, because that’s how many games I could fit on my Board Game Selection Flowchart, which was the impetus behind writing these board game summaries in the first place.

So have a look at the flowchart, and see if you can find some games you like!