So we finally visited Draughts – the board game cafe in London. The location is really cool, underneath the railway arches, and although the library is smaller than some I’ve seen, it did seem to have all the games I was looking to play and would expect from a cafe. We were a group of 5, so this put some limits on what we could try, but we had a great 4 hours of gaming.
· The Duke is an abstract strategy game, which can probably be described as a chess variant. Now I’m certainly not a fan of chess, but we do play a few 2-player abstract strategy games, so The Duke was worth a try. In The Duke, each player starts on opposing sides of the board and starts with three pieces, including their duke, which they must protect. Players eliminate each other’s pieces by either landing on top of them or by using a ranged attack. Each type of piece has unique moves it can make, which are depicted on the piece itself. When you move a piece, you flip it and its reverse side is a different set of legal moves. Because all of the pieces have the moves depicted on them, the game is really easy to pick up and learn, but the strategy element and planning your moves in relation to your opponent is just too much of a brain-burner for me and meant that the game was frustrating rather than fun. I can see the merits of the game, but it’s just not for me.
· Colt Express has been on my list to try since it was nominated for the Spiel des Jahres and my inner ten year old boy was certainly drawn in by the 3-D train that is the playing board. What I wasn’t expecting was for this to be a programming game. Each player has a hand of cards and they take it in turns to play cards into the central pile. The pile is then flipped and the actions are played out, which include fist fights, firing guns, jumping up on top of the train, picking up loot or moving between carriages. Your goal is to have the highest value loot at the end of a set number of rounds. Our game was with 5 players and was rather chaotic, especially since one player had the special ability that allowed them to play cards face down instead of face up, which meant planning your moves was a bit of a gamble. However, we had a great time with loads of laughs and the short play time (~30mins) meant that no-one was too disheartened by the flying bullets or the random nature of the game.
· Times Up is a party game which starts off kind of similarly to Articulate. With 5 players we played as individuals, however ideally you play as two teams. In round 1, one member in each team is trying to describe the person on the card for their other team members to guess. There is a time limit and the teams gain points for the cards they’ve guessed. When all cards have been guessed (which can take forever with a name no-one’s ever heard of!) you start round 2. Round 2 uses the same cards, which are first read out to the whole table, but you may only use one word clues. In Round three the rule is no words at all, only actions. Unfortunately in our game there were just too many names that no-one knew and a couple of people who don’t enjoy ‘quiz’ type games, so half of the table had a great time and the others forced us to quit the game after round one. With the right crowd and perhaps a UK edition or something other than famous people, I can see this would be fun, but it fell flat for our group.
· Snake Oil is another party game we played last weekend at Draughts. In Snake Oil you goal is to pitch the best product to one player in the group. One player chooses a role from a deck of cards, eg. Santa or Pregnant Woman, and the other players round the table each have a hand of 5 cards from which they select two cards which work together well as their product eg. Leg TV (perfect for reindeer). As in Cards Against Humanity, the active player simply selects their favourite. With the right group of people, who can all think on their feet, Snake Oil can be a really fun activity.
· Khet 2.0 was a car boot sale pick up last Sunday. The principal of this game is super cool – I mean it has LASERS! Unfortunately what lies beneath the very cool aesthetics is a brain burner of an abstract strategy game. Much like chess, and The Duke, as described above, you have one piece which you must protect – it is killed if the laser hits it from any angle. You must use your other pieces to protect it, but the key is that most of your other pieces are mirrors which you can move or turn to try and deflect the laser to eliminate your opponent’s pieces. Trying to plan and figure out the laser’s trajectory is just too much for me to get my head round and it always felt like it would take too many moves to achieve anything. That said, by some twist of luck I did win, but unfortunately Khet is now on the pile for trade as it’s just not going to hit the table, no matter how cool it looks!
Both groups of friends we played with added Colt Express to their collection, so I don’t think we need to, but I look forward to playing it from time to time. Otherwise, the others were a miss for me, unless there’s a version of Times Up with more appropriate cards. We need to visit board game cafes more often and can’t wait for one to open closer to home! Next week I’m looking forward to trying our new acquisitions from Draughts – Raptor and 7 Wonders Duel!