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Cardboard Children: The Cull Part One

How do you decide which games to keep?

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Hello youse.

Well, the cull is underway. Actually, I’m going to capitalise this… Yes, The Cull is underway. I have too many board games, not enough time to play them all, and not enough room to store them all. So some of them have to go. And I thought it might be interesting to document that process here over the months ahead. As this is primarily a column about board game recommendations, perhaps it would be a worthwhile thing to explore why certain games will be leaving my collection. What has happened to these games over time? Is it me or them? Why are they facing The Cull?

Dominion

The first to go is Dominion. I’ve always liked Dominion, but I’ve never loved it. I’ve always respected it as a design. It was the game that popularised deckbuilding as a board game mechanic, and it spawned many games that built on those foundations. Many of those games I love, but Dominion just sits there, unplayed. It’s a game so popular that it has seen many expansions, with a brand new one just announced within the last week or two. It’s unarguably an important game, a major milestone in game design. And right now, right now as I write this, if you were to ask me if I fancied a game I would sit right down and play it with you. And I’d enjoy it. But The Cull is merciless.

Dominion is simply a game I no longer need. If I want to enjoy the kind of play that Dominion offers, I remain far more likely to play something like TRAINS which has an extra layer of strategy on top of all the deckbuilding and combo-creation. Hanging onto Dominion would only make sense if I treated my board games as a “collection”, featuring all the historically relevant board games I’d played. But I don’t want to keep board games in that way. I keep them to play them, and that’s why The Cull exists, and why Dominion is gone.

What about you? Would you keep significant games in your collection just so you have them?

Agricola

Oh, I love Agricola. Who would have guessed that I could love a game about making a wee farm so much? You’ve all played this by now, I bet. You’ve all made a wee farm and been punished for not having all the animals and veggies, and been hammered for not growing enough food to feed your wee family. Oh god, it’s such a good game. I’m always baffled when people say the game is bland, because the richness of how the story comes through is an absolute delight for me. The story is a simple one, of course – you are a farmer – but it absolutely punches through all the mechanics and makes itself heard. The game is stressful in places, yes, but have you ever met a farmer? They are all, without exception, off their nuts. It might be the most exhausting and stressful job on the planet. So why expect that Agricola should be stress-free? The stress is right, but it’s coupled with a really calming sensation that comes along as you build your farm. Building and growing is fun. Agricola is part of the reason why I want to grow my own vegetables in my garden (The other part of the reason is Rune Factory on PlayStation 3).

So why am I getting rid of it? Mainly, it’s because of Caverna.

I love Caverna even more than I love Agricola. It doesn’t tell as strong a story, because the story is a bit far-fetched. You’re dwarves in a cave or something, and you’re making a kinda cave farm in a cave, and you can go on adventures and stuff. In a cave. But my goodness, it is much more fun than Agricola. There’s a huge amount of freedom too – it feels less restrictive, and you can breathe a little more as you expand and experiment with different setups. It definitely feels like an improvement of the Agricola design, and so something has got to give. Why keep both? They are so very similar, these games. They are elbowing each other in that design space elevator, and when that elevator goes ding, one of them has to get off.

I’ll miss Agricola. A part of me wants to keep it, but it’ll be far better off in the care of another loving owner, because I want to have fun in caves from now on. And now I imagine that people will tell me, in the comments, why Agricola is actually the better game. Gah. Maybe it is. But it isn’t.

Or is it?

No, it’s not.

It’s sad, isn’t it? This cull, I mean. Maybe I’ll regret this one.

Battles Of Westeros

Before Fantasy Flight brought back Battlelore, they released Battles of Westeros – a game drawing heavily on the Battlelore system, but set in the Game of Thrones universe. So you had the Lannisters and Starks and stuff, fighting on a beautiful hex-grid battlefield, and no-one was shagging or being topless for a change.

I really loved this game, because Richard Borg’s game system (as seen in Command & Colors, Memoir 44, Abaddon, Battlelore, and so on) is just one of the best wargaming rulesets out there. And I loved the little spin this one had, where generals needed to be in the thick of the action to properly execute commands.

So why is it gone? Well, Fantasy Flight did bring Battlelore back. And it was brilliant. I reviewed it and said so.

I suppose I don’t need Battles of Westeros, because Battlelore is far more inside my area of interest. Fantasy creatures and stuff. Crazy spells. Skeletons. And it’s another refinement of the game system. Maybe Battles of Westeros is a bit clunky beside it.

Nah, there’s another reason. A true one.

I played this game with my lovely ex-girlfriend. We played it a lot, and she won again and again. She was the best at it, as she was the best at every game we played together over the years. As she was the best of the both of us at most stuff. And I want her to have it, because it’s rightfully hers.

Sometimes, when we cull, we are driven by necessity.

And sometimes by emotion.

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Robert Florence

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