Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Take the key and lock her up, my fair lady... (Reprised)

A few months ago I wrote a little piece recommending a couple of really fun party games (Celebrity and Werewolf) and afterward, people starting saying to me: "Great job on the party games, Matt! Now, how about you share some of your wisdom regarding more traditional board games?" Well, once again no one has said that in so many (or any) words, but I'm still going to pretend as though people have anyway, and take some time to promote two games that I recommend checking out the next time you find yourself walking down the board game aisle looking for something to spice up what will ultimately be an otherwise uneventful gathering of friends, coworkers and/or family.

"Don't just SAY how you feel man, TELESTRATE that emotion!"


Telestrations may sound like some new-age form of gesture-based communication, but it is in fact a relatively new board game that's a little bit like Telephone meets Pictionary. Each player (anywhere from 3-8) gets a little dry erase booklet and pen and selects a card that gives them the word they're going to sketch to start the game off (there's also a die roll involved but I don't want to scare anyone off just yet). During the first round all players draw, to the best of their ability, the word or phrase on their card, which can range from simple objects such as "Shipwreck" and "Muscle Car" to more abstract terms like "Bird and the Bees" and "New York Minute". No letters or numbers can be drawn, just like in an a traditional game of Pictionary.

After the 90 seconds are up every player takes their pad, and hands it to the person on their left. Now each player's job in the second round is to look at the drawing on the pad they now have and guess what it is they're looking at. On the next page of the booklet, they write down their guess (in words) and pass it once again to the left. And now the third round beings, where the players must once again draw the words in front of them on the following page. This continues as necessary until the booklets have made a full circle and come back to the original players.

A sample game containing Epic Failure

Now the fun begins. More often than not, like in a game of telephone, the final drawing will most likely not at ll match the original one. Each player takes their turn going over the progression from their original word to the final drawing, doling out points to other players as they see fit. Yes, the scoring system in the game is inherently arbitrary (though, on top of the 'casual scoring', there is supposedly a 'serious scoring' system in place in the instructions*), but even as a highly competitive no-nonsense gamer, I really do think this is the most fun way to play. Each player can give a point or two for highly accurate drawings/guesses (and this is of course based on what the player in question saw before them, not necessarily the original word) or just for highly creative/bizarre/hilarious responses. If the final word actually does match the original, then the player gets 2 (or if you want, a MILLION) points himself. The game runs for three rounds, or you know, until the wine runs out.

Quick random example of a near-pants-wetting moment - someone started off with "Car Air Freshener" which led to a drawing of a pine tree hanging from a dashboard mirror in between two car seats. This drawing got mistaken as a Christmas tree sitting on top of a butt (the two car seats). So the new word became Christmas Butt, and every subsequent drawing was a more elaborate iteration of this theme. And the best part was that Christmas Butt was never misinterpreted!

One final note about this game, which should tell you how it usually goes over. My friend Maddy who introduced the game to me told me that she had a 100% conversion rate with the game - whenever she introduced it to a new group of people, someone from that group went out and got the game shortly thereafter, myself being one of those people. And the first time I brought it over a friend's to play? Two immediate purchases, and one more potentially forthcoming. The game is highly entertaining, and I honestly haven't had this much fun with a board game since I first discovered Taboo (also a classic) many years ago.

The game retails for $30, though you can often find a sale online.

Hey hey, don't run away just yet - it's non-nerdy friendly!


I mentioned this game briefly in the post about my most recent trip to PAX, and while the game is certainly a gaming convention enthusiast's delight, I think the appeal spreads much farther than that.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people who are willing to sit still long enough to play a game of chess, Stratego, or even poker (all games I also love) are at least potentially recruitable into a game of Munchkin, which is a combination of Dungeons and Dragons (without all the books, dice, and a generation of nerd-related shame behind it) and Magic: The Gathering (without the hundreds of dollars of investment into a "winnable deck" and a generation of broke nerd-related shame behind it). You're basically playing an adventure game, complete with classes, races, equipment, monsters and treasure based soley on random card draws.

Everyone starts off drawing from two decks of cards - the Door pile (which contains all monsters, curses, races and class cards, and the Treasure pile, which is filled with stuff you want. Once the game begins, each player takes turns turning over door cards, and either fighting monsters or building up their character. Fighting a monster is as simple as counting the number of bonuses you have (from your level, race, class and every relevant item you have on you) and seeing if they beat the monster's level. Defeating a monster raises your level. Every player starts at level one, and the first player to reach level 10 wins.

See? Look at the adorable pictures - now roll for initiative!

I won't spend too much time going into the intricacies of the game, since like with many other things I discuss on this blog, either you're already on your way to purchasing the game now, or you've already starting scrolling down and aren't reading this line anyway Jeff, you fucking poser. Ahem. Suffice it to say that the real fun comes in messing with the other players. Players can all interact with one another at all times, trading items, assisting in battle, forming alliances. But of course, it's much more exciting to HURT another player - say, when one player hits level 9 and is about to win. Players have all sorts of ways of messing with another player's progression, adding or strengthening monsters to a battle, backstabbing them, preventing them from running away. It's actual a pretty fun scene to just sit back and watch as during the beginning of the game everyone's doing their best to help the other players, either to get some of the loot, or to simply level the playing field. But towards the end it's every man for himself, and sometimes threats such as: "If you do that and he wins I will make it my life's mission to DESTROY YOU...in the next game we play!" eventually come out. That one came courtesy of yours truly.

The average game can typically last more than 2 hours, so again the biggest hurdle to climb is patience on everyone's part. Also sobriety is probably encouraged here more than in the other games I've played, but probably the same level you'd need to play a decent game of poker. And I suppose taking advantage of someone who's inebriated at the Munchkin table might have its merits. Bottom line: you probably want people who can really invest themselves in a game and aren't just looking for something to do until the pizza arrives.

The game retails for about $25, and has many many (admittedly a little too expensive) expansions, iterations, and actual board to make it more of a traditional RPG-style board game. Still not satisfied? Well then...uh, yeah, just go out and buy some Magic cards, and some D&D books, because man...you got the bug.


Well, that'll just about do it for now. Now I return back to hunting for new and exciting electronic and non-electronic games to spread the word about. Until next time, happy gaming friends!


Currently Playing: Halo 3: ODST - I just completed the not-so enthralling campaign, but that's ok because I mostly got the game recently just to be able to take part in the Halo: Reach Beta starting next week!

*The first instruction is, strangely enough, to push the stick in your ass up an additional 3 inches.

1 comment:

David Scholl said...

Should also check out the game Apples to Apples. Lots of fun if you play with your own rules and a few drinks. Basically each person gets 5-7 cards, you flip a card in the center and it has a word on it, everyone minus whoevers turn it is throws down a card, here the rules vary. You're supposed to throw down the card that will be the most closely associated with the turned over card, but you end up picking whatever makes you laugh the most. Whoever has the most amount of hands won at the end "wins"