Playing board games can really flex your mind. ESPECIALLY if it’s a German-style board game (or Eurogame) — the Mecca of board gaming culture. We’ve gotten a ton of games over the years: Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Carcassone — the kind of games that Monopoly and The Game of Life just can’t measure up to.
What makes these games so different?
Well, in short, American games really dumb it down. While there’s some strategy involved in the board games we grew to know and love over the years here in North America, they’re fairly straightforward — oftentimes you get to the end of the board and you win. Or you’re the first to get rid of all their cards, and you win. Or you make everyone else lose all their stuff, and you win. There’s prompts on the board that tell you what to do, and it’s all very… linear.
But have you ever played a game with a 16-page instruction manual in size 8 font that eloquently explains everything you need to do in a game?
If you haven’t, don’t stress — it’s not as daunting as it sounds. The big mystery behind these games is the finesse in the strategy — you get a goal for how to win the game or when the game’s finished, but because of the way the games are put together, there are a near infinite number of ways that someone can play to win the game!
For example, with Catan: Cities & Knights (an expansion of Settlers of Catan), you can choose to upgrade your cities to gain the victory points you need to win. Or perhaps you’ll choose to defend the island against the constant threat of a barbarian invasion. There’s always the option of colonizing all the land around you and really getting on the nerves of everyone you’re playing with. Eurogames are so versatile.
If you’re looking to get into these games, there’s a ton of resources out there to help you figure them out.
- Board Game Geeks is a good online resource to learn everything you need to know about any board game out there. I’d pay close attention to their list of top-ranked games, since these are ratings put together by people who love to game and care enough to let you know what they think about the way they work.
- If you’re in the Toronto area, Snakes and Lattes is a ridiculously amazing board game cafe in the Annex — the staff is friendly and knowledgable, the food is delicious, the no wi-fi rule is awesome since it lets you focus on gaming, and their selection of about 2000 games is ASTOUNDING. A good place to start if you have no idea of what you’re doing.
- And if you’re looking for starter games, I’d say start with what we started with:
- Settlers of Catan, which will set you up for board-style games
- Race for the Galaxy, which is good for an understanding of the card-based games
- Puerto Rico, which teaches you all about turn-based games with different roles and strategy based on choosing things before your opponents can get to them
- and Carcassone, which teaches you how to play with your opponents, leveraging their moves for more points — all while trying to screw them over at the same time.
With that said, you’re looking at someone who’s often used to his wife beating him. …in board games, of course. But after a narrow victory in Dominion: Intrigue (by ONE victory point, no less!), this seemed like a very fitting entry to write.
And now I’m off to strut like the peacock I am some more, since the amount of thinking earns you the best thing of all when you win — a rump-shakin’, pelvis-gyratin’ victory dance, the likes of which the world has never seen before!
–Casey E. Palmer