2013: A Games Odyssey

Written by Mikhail H / Published November 20th, 2013 / 0 Comments

Definitely, all of us were disappointed when that "Mayan Calendar Multiball" didn't light. Some of us were disappointed and well-armed enough to do something rash. We're alive? I'm not ready! A few of us disappointed had several billion disappointed's worth of nuclear payload. It only took those few.

We had to move on; It's been nearly a year. My friends and I made the mid-November bike across Lake Ontario, to "Torontwopointo". Incredibly stupid portmanteau, plus mandatory quotations; Toe-ron-two-point-oh. To today, most of the population hangs around Fort Yorkwoods or Castle Loma; not one of us wanted to spend time with Mayor Doug, so we made our way to the latter, up Bathurst. On the way, Soo-Hon wanted to see Honest Ed's, but it was gone. Again, disappointed. While we were there, Sam suggested we check if Snakes & Lattes was open. Imagine our delight.

A commitment to a few hours of bean-planting each later got us all access to the game library, where we were afforded the opportunity to learn games from one of their gurus. I didn't get his name, and it took some getting used to his third eye, but he was courteous and informative, and showed us a few really good games about Space.

Funny how these memes spread even after the entire planet was months offline, but a lot of us left behind disappointed started thinking the same thing. Space is the place where we needed to go to avoid dying out. There's a lot less of us, but also a lot less left of Earth. Space is the Place. Space is the Place.

Anything to do with space, or stars, or -ships got really popular and valuable. A Near-Near-Mint Luke in Bacta Tank traded for more than a few crates of tomato sauce. It was great that the games we were taught weren't yet bartered or salvaged, and in good condition; maybe they hadn't seen much play.

We asked for some heavier titles to begin with, and daunted by Eclipse's size, we instead began with Alien Frontiers, a title where the players are different factions attempting to colonize and control an empty alien planet. Our guru explained it was an interesting example of the Worker Placement mechanic, or a game where players assign pieces to different spaces on the board in order to perform actions, like collecting resources and building things. What set Alien Frontiers apart is that the worker pieces are dice, and are rolled every turn; different spaces require different values, and the player may assign her results as she sees fit. It was a very mean game that required a fair amount of strategy to do well in; exactly what we wanted after a day's pedal. The score was very close until the end, when Sam placed her last Colony skittle on the Heinlein Plains, winning by one.

We then moved on to Race for the Galaxy, a fast-paced card game where we were all different interplanetary civilizations, attempting to acquire key Planets and Technologies before everyone else and be the most impressive dudes around. Cool was that at the beginning of each turn, we all chose one different action, then revealed at the same time: any action one of us chose, everyone else could also do. Our cards in hand served dual purpose as currency: you paid to build cards by discarding other cards. This was very fun; our guru said he knew we'd like it, and that we should consider trying Eminent Domain as well, as it's similar. Since our brains had pedaled a few with the rest of us, we asked for something a little lighter, and maybe with more lasers this time?

Guru, grin on face and third eyebrow raised knowingly, brought over Battle Beyond Space. This was a lot of fun. The board is made up of a bunch of hexes; I was happy from that. We each started with a fleet of ships, and with it one of a few possible incredibly broken powers. We also get a deck of cards, which, drawn once a turn, show us how many spaces we can move, shoot, and rotate. The goal was to shoot down (or ram into) as many enemy ships as we could. It was fast, so we played twice; once I won, using my increased firing range to plink at opposing squadrons, and once where Sam won by basically teleporting around the board and suiciding her ships into ours.

Hungry for one last star trip, we pulled Mission: Red Planet off the shelf and taught it to ourselves. This was an interesting take on Role Selection, where the different steampunk (steampunk!) archetypes we chose each turn— Femme Fatale, Secret Agent, Pilot, and such— let us put colonists on spaceships headed to different regions of Mars, as well as mess around with said flights and passengers in different ways. Mars makes minerals, and the players with the most colonists in each region get to mine those materials. Soo-Hon won off of a few well-utilized Bonus Points cards, which Sam and I could've prevented if we'd seen them coming. It had the same kind of area-control feel as Alien Frontiers, but a little bit lighter and consequently perfect for our last game of the day. (We tried to play Say Anything, but every board for every question said "SPACE".)

We've now taken bunks at Castle Loma, where around an oil drum fire a group of moustaches won't shut up with grandiose plans for a fixed-gear pedal-powered galleon-style spacecraft. Sam and S-H are asleep, but I'm awake and outside writing by candlelight and looking at the sky sometimes. Board games would be perfect for up there; they're hours of fun, have significant replay value, and are just as fun in the cramped confines of a spacepod as they would be on freshly terraformed red Mars rock. Of course, we'll have to come up with ways to keep pieces from flying around. We'll be there soon: the most we disappointed can do is hope that 2014's a good year. Until then, board games. There's always room for those.



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