I've discovered that, unless I specifically set aside Geek Time for me, Wil Wheaton, I end up doing nothing but work. This isn't entirely bad, because most of the work I do is geek-related, but I eventually run out of HP, and I have to recharge. by doing some private geeky thing, like reading comics, playing a little Xbox, or getting together with my friends
Think of it this way: reading a comic book gives me a little HP, like 1d4. Reading a graphic novel gives me 1d6+2. Settling in with a good book (Currently reading Spook Country) gives me 1d10, but I can't do anything else for several turns and have to save versus distractions at -2. Playing a video game gives me 1d8+1, unless it's Rock Band with my friends or family, which gives me 2d10+5.
In fact, doing any geeky thing with friends is an automatic additional d10, which is why I like to get together with my friends at least once a month to play hobby games. During these gatherings, I can usually count on going all the way back to my starting HP, and if I'm especially lucky, I'll gain 1d10 additional HP that is lost at a rate of about 1 point every two hours after we've all gone back to our regular lives.
(Incidentally, writing those three paragraphs gave me 1d6-2, in addition to the 3d6+10 I got earlier today when I got to be a voice actor for four hours.)
So recently, I had a bunch of friends over for a game day, and we played some games I loved so much, I wanted to share them with the rest of the class, in case some of you are dangerously low on HP and need some healing:
This is a card game that plays like a CCG (think Magic: The Gathering) without requiring you to buy a bunch of booster packs and participate in the deck-building arms race that makes most CCGs a meta game of "who can spend the most on cards." BoardGameGeek says:
In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.
Dominion is not a CCG, but the play of the game is similar to the construction and play of a CCG deck. The game comes with 500 cards. You select 10 of the 25 Kingdom card types to include in any given play — leading to immense variety.
Dominion plays very fast, and is one of those games that you can play while drinking a beer (or three) and still play (mostly) competently.
There are expansions, but I won't buy them on principle, because that path leads to the CCG stuff I'm trying to avoid or at least limit.
Steve Jackson Games is famous for putting out the classic RPG GURPS, irreverent card games like Munchkin and the Chez games, and war games like Ogre and Car Wars. This is the company's first offering that could be considered a Eurogame, and I absolutely love it. Quoth BGG:
In Revolution! players take advantage of the fluid political situation by secretly bidding for a number of characters, each yielding a combination of territory control, points (popular support) and more currency with which to bid next round. Players win by gaining the support of the people (the most points). Players can gain bonus points by controlling an area of the city at the end of the game. This game is for 3-4 players and takes 60 minutes to play.
What I love about Revolution! is the lack of one clear perfect strategy to win the game. In many respects, it's like poker: you win by playing against the other players as much (if not more) than you play the actual game. It's very simple to pick up (I'd say it takes about 5 minutes to teach) and really needs four players, though you can play with three.
Bonus soon-to-be-released SJ Games: Cthulhu Dice (I played this at RinCon and loved it) and Zombie Dice (which I haven't played, but looks like a whole lot of fun.)
I love cooperative games, where the players are working together against the game itself. Some games, like Shadows Over Camelot, toss the uncertainty of a traitor into the game, while others, like Arkham Horror, are so purely cooperative, they can even be played as solo games. Pandemic is a purely cooperative game that BGG describes thusly:
You are specialists at the CDC/Atlanta where you watch several virulent diseases break out simultaneously all over the world. The team mission is to prevent a world-wide pandemic outbreak, treating hotspots while researching cures for each of the four plagues before they get out of hand.
Players must plan their strategy to mesh their specialist's strengths before the diseases overwhelm the world. For example, the Operations Specialist can build research stations, which are needed to find cures for the diseases. The Scientist needs only 4 cards of a particular disease to cure it instead of the normal 5. But the diseases are breaking out fast and time is running out: the team must try to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while developing cures. If disease spreads uncontrolled, the players all lose. If they can cure all four diseases, they win.
This game looks and feels beautiful, and though it's probably the most complicated to learn on this list, it's not nearly as complicated as an RPG, a historical wargame, or understanding one of us geeks. You can adjust the level of difficulty (from easy to legendary) and if you get the expansion, On The Brink, you can add mutations and virulent strains of the various diseases, as well as a bioterrorist who is working against the other players. You rarely breeze through a game of Pandemic, and even though you start out sort of losing, victory is almost always decided by a razor-thin margin.
Pandemic is so frakking hard to beat, it shouldn't be fun, but I have had more fun losing games of Pandemic than I've had winning a huge list of other games.
Days of Wonder is probably best-known for games like Ticket To Ride and its sequels, Battlelore and its sequels, and Memoir '44 and its sequels. Small World is a very recent release from Days of Wonder, and I think it's one of the best games they've ever published. One more time, let's borrow from Board Game Geek:
Small World is inhabited by a zany cast of characters such as dwarves, wizards, amazons, giants, orcs and even humans; who use their troops to occupy territory and conquer adjacent lands in order to push the other races off the face of the earth.
Picking the right combination from the 14 different fantasy races and 20 unique special powers, players rush to expand their empires – often at the expense of weaker neighbors. Yet they must also know when to push their own over-extended civilization into decline and ride a new one to victory!
Okay, so that description doesn't really capture what's awesome about this game. Let me try to explain why I love it so much: first, it's a map conquest game that comes with different maps for different numbers of players, so you get a balanced game whether you're playing head-to-head or with three or four other friends. Second, the zany characters get different unique special powers every time you play, so there's no point in developing a strategy (or counter strategy) exclusively for Flying Amazons or Dragonmaster Ghouls, because you may not get to use it that often. Third, it employs an elegant scoring system that tends to keep the games close (are you sensing some commonality among the games I really like?). Fourth, it just looks beautiful. The counters and the boards feature great artwork, so it's easy to buy into the theme. Finally, it's a relatively quick game, which is important to a guy like me who doesn't have nearly enough time to play all the games he wants to play.
All of these games are suitable for ages 12 and up, with the exception of Pandemic, which I think is >just< a little to complex for the under-14 set.
Now that I've spent enough time on this post to have actually played one of these games, I'd like to close with three RPGs that I haven't played, but desperately want to play:
Okay, now that I've regained some of my HP, I think I'm ready to go ahead and attempt the Drop Off Packages At The Post Office quest. If I don't come back, avenge my death and immortalize me in song.