I promised that we would be doing some photo specials. This is the first of those, and I bring you a handful of beautiful games. We are going to look at some nice untouched photographs. I don't want you just to glance and move on – I want you to take a moment of quiet contemplation with each piece, like you would on a visit to some art gallery with a new sexual partner. Imagine that your latest sexual conquest is beside you as you pretend to be deep in thought. I will talk a little bit about each game too, with particular focus on the visuals.
Let's look at our first selection of games that GOT THE LOOK.
U GOT THE LOOK
It's another reason why board games RULE. You can hold them in your hands. You can admire them, stroke them, and go all gooey-eyed over them. Sometimes I like to just set one up and stare at it for a little while.
Often, when I play a board game, I get lost in thought while staring at some artwork. Then when it's my turn, everyone shouts at me and make me cry.
I'm not saying that it matters if a board game looks like shit. Some of my favourite games look like a cardboard horse ate some ink pens and then did a shit on my table. But a beautiful looking game elevates the experience to new heights.
Let's appreciate some games that sho nuff do be cookin' in my book...
Cosmic Encounter is the board game that every gamer should own. You already know this, because I tell you ever other week. But what makes the newest edition of Cosmic Encounter extra special are the plastic spaceships that each player gets to play with. These look like flying saucers and feel almost like little poker chips. They stack without fear of toppling and just feel so beautiful in the hand. And look at the planets too. Thick cardboard discs in your player colour, letting you set up your home system exactly how you want it. So beautiful.
God. So beautiful.
When the expansions for Cosmic Encounter were announced, people were just as excited for the introduction of black and white plastic ships as they were for the extra game stuff.
These are some of the best board game components ever, in possibly the greatest board game ever designed.
Colosseum was one of the first board games I bought when I started to get back into the scene. I love stuff with a Roman theme, so when I saw it in the shop I had to bring it home. I'm glad to say that the game still stands up all these years later. It's a game where players compete to stage the most impressive Colosseum show in Ancient Rome. It's like an episode of The Apprentice, with Team Impulse and Team Lynx running around shouting into their blackberries about Lions and Virgins. You need to expand your building, bid and trade to get the performers you need, and lure dignitaries to your show on the big day. It's a beautiful, light, quick game.
In the photo above, we can see that the Emperor himself has turned up to be entertained. He is a decorated red wooden pawn. Behind him, another wooden pawn dignitary is draped with the finest silks. These pawns make Miss Scarlet look like a proper fucking mess.
A gorgeous game.
Dixit is a big favourite of mine.
This is a game about art. You look at images and then express something that's been evoked by those images. That's what the whole game hinges on, but not in any dry, pretentious way. I won't go into a rules explanation here – it's enough to say that you must give this beautiful, fun party game a try. It can't fail.
The first three Dixit sets were all by the same artist. When I heard that the brand new “Dixit Journey” would feature artwork by a different artist, alarm bells started to ring. Fortunately, the new art is stunning.
You don't have this yet?
MALL OF HORROR
It's exciting that a new take on Mall of Horror is coming, with Asmodee's City of Horror. But what saddens me a little is that more people won't be able to get their hands on the original game, with its unique, dark artwork.
The idea to make the cards that you use in the game look like Polaroid photographs is genius. It's the first thing people comment on when they see the game.
“Oh, cool! The cards look like Polaroids. This looks like fun.”
Later they will be saying: “IF YOU FUCKING VOTE ME OUT OF THIS BUILDING I WILL - NO, JOHN! NO! I WILL WALK HOME! FUCK YOU, I WILL WALK HOME AND I'LL BE LOCKING THE DOOR!”
And then there's the board, with ink markings everywhere, and scribbled notes. It looks like chaos. Like the end times.
I love this game. It's the best zombie board game ever made, with its focus on the human dynamic in an unthinkable crisis, and the components (those cards, the plastic zombies, the rough and scrappy board) just push it onto another level.
Hunt it down and pick it up – because this version will never see print again.
Think about that. Gone for good.
Takenoko is a game about tending to a bamboo garden, and caring for a cute panda. Awwww. Each player scores points by fulfilling objectives – these involve laying plots and growing bamboo, or moving the panda into a plot to munch away at some delicious bamboo for its big furry tummy. Awwww. It's a light, fun game that plays in 45 minutes. What's not to like?
Well, the components are TERRIBLE.
No, sorry. What I meant to say was HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THESE COMPONENTS, MARGARET. The gardener and the panda are little pre-painted miniatures, and the bamboo is stackable, colourful plastic. There are beautiful little wooden counters and gorgeous tiles. Even the plastic inlay for the game is amazing, with a place for every piece.
Just look at that photo. Quality of that level in a board game is as rare the panda itself. The big cuddly panda. The big fuzzy-wuzzy pandy wandy with its big snuggly-buggly tum-tums.
Oh, poor forgotten Ninjato.
Oh, poor overlooked Ninjato.
Ninjato is a wonderful board game. As a ninja, you invade houses, make bribes and sway the balance of power in 12th Century Japan. It's a tense action selection game, with a lot of tight decisions and a strong sense of theme.
The most brilliant aspect of Ninjato is the house invasion stuff. The core ninja shit. Whenever you choose to invade a house, to steal its treasures and swing house influence, you have to defeat guards. You have to choose whether to sneak or fight. You have to choose whether to keep pushing on, or whether to turn back. This push-your-luck mechanic shoots an extra thrill through the centre of Ninjato. It's fantastic. You get to shout “BANZAI!” It's a RULE.
And the artwork. Man. A beautiful board. Gorgeous ninja skill tiles and envoy cards. And the counters you use to choose your actions? They are large wooden shuriken. If you lose you can plink one right off your opponent's annoying nut.
I'm sure many of you will be encouraged to hunt down Ninjato just by looking at that photo. I know what you people are like. Materialistic dopes, terrified of death, desperately seeking any kind of distraction. Just like me.
Ninjato helps. Get it.
My excitement over Jim's Sir, You Are Being Hunted has got me in the mood for....
THE ROBOT SPECIAL! NEXT WEEK!
See youse then!