Monday, 19 December 2011

Games for many who don't game...

The latest update from the Castle - and therefore latest addition to the lists I’ve been writing, has been delayed somewhat by the pageantry and general celebration surrounding state visits.  I was planning on getting this written and posted sooner, but the schedule was interrupted (not unhappily) by family, friends, the odd beer or two, cricket (ahh, the season is starting again), episodes of Red Dwarf, a scampering lad much obsessed by dinosaurs and jumping (not necessarily in that order), and a game of Finca.  

Such was my level of disconnection with the online goings-on in the board gaming world that I even managed to miss much of the furore over the flavour text for Fantasy Flight’s new version of Fortress America, a game which, I must be honest, doesn’t really interest me - though I am always fascinated by watching the slow-motion style train wreck of internet outrage.

In any case - on with the show...

Often on game sites around the web we like to create a differentiation between those who game, and those who don’t.  We categorise people as gamers and non-gamers, and while this is often a useful distinction - when we’re looking for games that might be suitable for a particular audience not familiar with the tropes and features of the usually more rules-intense hobby games we enjoy so much - it can also sometimes carry a connotation of negativity.  

This list is of games for many who don’t game.  I am not attaching any judgement to that attribution - I often play games at family gatherings and I’m sure that a great many others do the same.  Note everyone will love playing games as much as I do, and nor should they.  I am not the sort of gamer who believes that people enjoying hobbies other than mine is the thin end of the wedge, and that the obvious thicker end is a world riddled by ideological divides, calling out for a master to impose a new world order.  

Of course, should the world ever require such an authority figure, I would, with a heavy heart, assume the duty.  As long as there was some sort of larger-than-life Gothic throne and scepter that went along with it of course - that sat atop a giant edifice dominating the city-scape of my new-world capital like a chess King on a draughts board - and monogrammed slippers too.

In any case, I digress...

Here are the first two of

5 games for many who don’t game

Published by: Rio Grande Games
Designed by: Uwe Rosenberg

Bohnanza is a quick playing card game of trading and bean farming.  Players are trying to collect and play certain types of bean down to their limited fields (spots in front of them) - the trick being that cards must be played in order from the hand, and that cards cannot be swapped around (in other words - when you draw cards, they are added in order to the back of your hand, and cannot be placed just anywhere).

If you cannot play a bean card of a type you already have growing, and have no spaces left in your fields, you must tear up one crop and plant the next.  Of course - the more cards you can manage to get down in a field the more points they’ll be worth when you harvest them.  Different beans are worth different amounts, and are more or less common - which adds some depth and an interesting layer of decisions to the game.

All this means that gifting cards, trading cards and generally being clever with your hand is rewarded.  Bohnanza is a highly interactive game, that plays much more simply in practice than either the rules book or my ungainly description might otherwise suggest.  It is an excellent little game that is full of slyness, pleading, excitement and tension.  Well worth owning whatever your tastes in games I think.

Published by: Northstar Games
Designed by: Brian and Amy Weinstock

Crappy Birthday is a very simple party game published by North Star games, a publisher who has established themselves as a master of this style of game.  In Crappy Birthday players receive a hand of large cards.  Each card has a photo on it, usually of something a tad bizarre.  Each turn it will be a different players turn to receive gifts - every other player will select a card from their hand showing a gift they think that player will dislike the most.  The receiver will decide the gift they most dislike, and the giving player will gain a point.  The receiving player will change, hands will be refilled, and new gifts selected... it’s that simple.

Crappy Birthday has an interesting design paradigm - it is touted as a game that can be given as a gift, opened, and played immediately.  In this it succeeds very well.  The game is a lot of fun, and the wide selection of gifts as well as the large cards and photos make for an amusing game.  We often play several games in a row.  While the box stipulates a player count of 4-8 I can’t see any reason why you couldn’t play with more, I’ve successfully played with 11 - and I’m sure 12-14 wouldn’t be impossible - though cards might start running short with more than that.

It’s also very easy to modify the game, we have often played a round where the object was to give the gift the judges would most dislike (as per the usual rules), followed by a round giving gifts they would most like.  We’ve found this works very well - as your hand of cards doesn’t stack up with cards that are mildly interesting - it may well be the oddities of our group, but many of the gifts on the cards are actually things we wouldn’t mind getting!

All in all Crappy Birthday is an excellent little game; don’t expect a lot of depth, but for a game that is easy to break out and play, for something that causes some hilarity and much fun and table talk, it is a great little game.  The fact that it is easy to mess with the rules without causing too many headaches means that Crappy Birthday has a good level of replayability for this type of game.

Tune in next post for 3 more games for those who don't game... In the meantime, if I have egregiously left out any all time classic games for many who don't game - feel free to post them in the comments!




  1. I see now how I jumped the gun in suggesting Bohnanza for the previous category...and I thought I was being so patient, waiting until you'd posted all five before I jumped up exclaiming "ah ha, you missed one!" :-)

    PS, Beer, Red Dwarf episodes and Dinosaurs are some of the greatest things to ever have existed!..Can't say the same for cricket though.

  2. I had a hard time placing Bohnanza - I had a lot for both categories - in the end I put it here because I've played it a bit with extended family who play things like 500 and whatnot and it has done very well. I missed heaps I think! :D

    Ha! That is absolutely true! - glad to see they are currently filming the next series of Red Dwarf - very excited to see how that'll turn out!