Tabletop games were never really my thing before COVID-19.
Other than Monopoly being pulled out of the cupboard by my stepson post-Christmas dinner every year, they weren’t something that regularly made an appearance in our house. We were all much more likely to reach for a controller than a box.
But things gradually changed during the lockdowns. There was only so much time you could spend in front of a screen after being stuck in conference calls all day for remote working. We found ourselves being more open to activities outside of video games, including at-home escape rooms, treasure hunts and even a tabletop RPG (TTRPG) run by game master Kevin on his TheLawfulGeek channel.
During one of the respites where the UK government declared it was safe to see others at a safe distance, Pete and I visited some friends for a coffee. We got to talking about how we’d been passing the time over the past few months and they mentioned how a sister had introduced them to the first board game below. It sounded interesting, so we placed an order and waited for our copy to arrive.
That’s how it began. In June this year, we decided to take a spontaneous trip to the UK Games Expo and it opened our eyes to what we’d been missing. We came back from Birmingham with a few board games and, while video games still take up most of our spare time, we’ve been broadening our horizons and slowly adding to our small collection since. Here’s a round-up of some of the games we’ve tried so far along with the boxes we haven’t yet opened.
While video games still take up most of our spare time, we’ve been broadening our horizons and slowly adding to our small board game collection.
T.I.M.E Stories by Space Cowboys was the game recommended by our friends and the one which started our collection. Its emphasis on narrative and time-travel really appealed to my love of the adventure genre. The basic box includes the Asylum scenario, in which players must work together to prevent the formation of a temporal fault in a 1920s hospital. We’ve since purchased The Marcy Case expansion, about a mysterious plague sweeping through a quiet American town and a missing girl. Surely not related to COVID-19 at all.
Chronicles of Crime
The title we’ve played the for longest amount of time so far is Chronicles of Crime by Lucky Duck Games. This mixes a board game, an app and a touch of virtual reality (VR) for an interesting experience. You’re presented with five cases in which you travel around London, interviewing witnesses and suspects, searching for clues in 3D scenes and piecing together the evidence. I’d recommend it if you’re a fan of detective mechanics – just don’t blame me if you get really competitive and want to get a 100% score on every case. I’m speaking from experience here.
The Night Cage
We bought The Night Cage by Smirk and Dagger at the UK Games Expo after realising everything we’d picked up so far was very detective-based. We decided to try something a bit more ‘horror’ and this game caught our eye. Up to five players are trapped in a labyrinth of eternal darkness and must each collect a key, find the gate and escape as a group. Tiles are placed and discarded so the path constantly changes and there are dangers lurking around every corner. It’s the perfect thing to play on Halloween by candlelight.
Zombicide by Guillotine Games is our most recent play and was recommended to us by several of the lovely staff at Nerd Base. As well as revolving around zombies, Pete wanted this one because he seems to be drawn to any board game which includes miniatures – and there are a lot of them in the box. You choose a survivor, find weapons, shoot the undead and gain experience to level up your skills. But the more enemies you kill, the more they spawn, so you’ll end up laughing at the mess you’ve made for yourself.
Mansions of Madness
Speaking of miniatures, our most recent buy was Mansions of Madness by Fantasy Flight Games. We haven’t attempted to play it yet though because a round can take between two and three hours, so we’re waiting for a free afternoon on a weekend to be able to really get into it. Players take on the role of investigators during a harrowing adventure through the dark halls and alleyways of Arkham, and apparently have an unpredictable map, intricate puzzles and bloodthirsty monsters to look forward to.
Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
I mentioned above that we found ourselves focusing on detective-based releases at the UK Games Expo, and Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game by Portal Games was another we brought back from the show. We’ve been holding off on this one as we’ve still got a couple of Chronicles of Crime files to finish. It seems similar in style, with players gathering information, deducing clues and following leads, but there’s also an overall narrative thread that connects the five cases which sounds intriguing.
Alice is Missing
Alice is Missing by Hunters Entertainment was bought on a whim after browsing through Amazon while being stuck on a conference call for a couple of hours. This is a role-playing game about the disappearance of Alice Briarwood, a high-school junior in the small town of Silent Falls, and is played non-verbally through the sending of text messages. We’re planning a Christmas getaway with friends-of-the-blog Phil, Tim and Jake in December so I’m going to try and rope the lads into playing one evening.
Finally, we have Monochrome Inc. from the Adventure Game series by Thames & Kosmos. I added this to my order after seeing it on the Amazon page while purchasing a jigsaw puzzle recommended by Katie from Musings of a nitpicking girl a couple of years ago. It’s another one we haven’t got around to playing yet though simply because we’ve been distracted by other activities. Advertised as being ‘similar to a PC game’, it tells a story of a biotech company with some nasty secrets through cards and communication.
Other than discovering we enjoy narrative-based cooperative titles, we still don’t really know what we’re doing when it comes to board games.
Other than discovering we enjoy narrative-based cooperative titles, we still don’t really know what we’re doing and are looking forward to learning more at the next UK Games Expo in June. We’re also planning to visit a few board game cafes in the surrounding area while my stepson goes to the MCM Comic Con with his friends at the end of the month.
I like the ghostly premise of Mysterium and there’s something about Tales from the Loop: The Board Game which intrigues me, so maybe they’ll be future purchases. I’m always looking to hear from the experts and will gladly take your advice though! Are there any tabletop games you’d recommend?