Saturday, October 21, 2017

A partially informed guide to strategy games I've seen at Target

Posted By on Sat, Oct 21, 2017 at 1:53 PM

If you want a snapshot of how games once siloed in nerd culture are seeping into mainstream game play, look no further than the shelf at your local Target.

I've been visiting the location off Lake Ave. for seven years. Back in 2010, there was nothing outside of your usual Monopoly/Risk/family games. Then I saw Ticket to Ride pop up, followed by more titles typically lauded only in strategy gamers' circles. Now they have a whole shelf dedicated to it.

click to enlarge The shelf has expanded again in the few months since I snapped this shot. - NATE WARREN
  • Nate Warren
  • The shelf has expanded again in the few months since I snapped this shot.

So here's my "Partially Informed Buyer's Guide to Strategy Games I've seen at Target," including some of my favorite titles:

Settlers of Catan w/Various Expansions
Seems like 75-percent of hobby board gamers in the world cut their teeth on Settlers of Catan, often referred to as just Catan. You can go onto Reddit's r/boardgames and still see people occasionally post pictures of the Catan cupcakes and pillowcases they made, or Catan forehead tattoos they made their toddlers get. It's an area control/trading game with some random luck thrown in and, aparently at one point is being played in an episode of Big Bang Theory. I guess the Green Bay Packers were quite competitive about it at one point, too. I had a different pathway into board gaming and was never that curious about this game in particular. Board game designs have come a long way since the 1990s, which is when I believe Catan was released, so we're focused on other things. Pick it up if you want a proven entry point into the hobby.

Forbidden Island
OI've only played this once, a cool little game. You and your fellow players are on an island represented by tiles that are gradually disappearing under your feet. Each player has distinct abilities and must work with the others to get to a chopper together and fly away before the whole thing goes underwater. Pretty dang fun and not very tough to learn.

There was a lot of buzz about Spyfall when it came out in 2014, and it became a major hit. That's quite a feat considering the market is wildly saturated with thousands of new titles every year. Definitely worth a look!

Another huge hit from Vlaada Chvatil, one of the most inventive designers in the industry. I bought Codenames on my cousin's recommendation. It's a team party game where spymasters have to safely guide their teams of operatives to locate friendly agents using a trickier-than-it-looks "word clue" dynamic. My team got our asses kicked on our first and only play, but this will definitely be on our table again.

This co-op game has a massive following. I played it once and captured my impressions in this post.

Super Munchkin: Guest Art Edition
This is one of the more polarizing titles out there. From what I understand, it's a tongue-in-cheek card game where a bunch of adventurers are trying to slay a beast or something while mercilessly screwing each other over the whole time. Depending on who you talk to, this is either a hilarious lark or an interminable slog of "crabs in a barrel."

King of Tokyo
Yahtzee meets a monster battle. Reviewed here by me earlier. The more drunk I am, the more fun I have with this game.

Sheriff of Nottingham
In Sheriff of Nottingham, all the players take turns being the Sheriff. Your job? Stop contraband from making its way to market. This sets off a great bluffing game as to what's in your opponents' bags on market day. If you catch them with illegal goods, it's lucrative. Guess wrong and it sets you back. It left me wanting to play it more.

This is a unique and lovely game. I reviewed it here.

The Coup
Another great social bluffing game, this time set in a future where various characters struggle for power. Once you get the light rules down, you can run several games of this in an hour. A perfect example of "less is more."

If you want a more creative take on area control wargames like Risk, give Smallworld a look. You play as one of several fantasy races vying for supremacy on a map. Except you have to bid for the races you want to play, and a nifty "randomized power" mechanic ensures that the same race never plays quite the same twice. Good game!

7 Wonders
One of my favorites of all time. See my review here. I bought 7 Wonders in 2011 and it still gets into the rotation regularly, even with our growing collection. This is a must have.

Like a crack rock but in card form. I love this game. Here's my review.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill
This game is kind of bananas. It's a cooperative "explore a spooky mansion" affair until something called "The Haunting" triggers any number of bizarre end-scenarios with their own objectives. In the game I played, one of the characters became a housecat and the rest of the players all shrank in size. Our goal was to get to the attic and fly a toy plane to safety before being eaten by the cat. We all got chowed on. If you like lots of fanciful game twists, give Betrayal a try.

Nate Warren is a Colorado Springs-based copywriter who offers both the veteran gamer and the uninitiated a local window into the burgeoning and wildly creative world of hobby and designer board games enjoyed by fanatics and connoisseurs — around the corner and and across the globe.

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