It's the end of the year, and so I want to take a page to reflect upon the games we've seen in 2014. So many of them! Too many! The easiest way to do it would be by using some kind of list, right? Right? RIGHT.
THE GAMES OF 2014
- Alien Uprising - I never played this one. It had a great cover. But too expensive. Heard a lot of good things. Good designer. Space people all standing over a map pointing with serious faces. Looked real good. But in this year of a million games, how can you even.
- Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game – I couldn't even find this! It was sold out to pre-order or some such nonsense. It's a version of the Marvel deckbuilding card game “Legendary” that is set in the Alien universe. Apparently it's really good, and very very hard – which is as it should be. WHY CAN'T I GET IT ANYWHERE? WHAT EVEN IS THIS STUPID HOBBY OF MINE? IT'S JUST PICTURES PRINTED ON BITS OF PAPER AND IT WILL ALL BE GOING INTO A RUBBISH TIP WHEN I DIE.
- Five Tribes – Oh, I played this one. I covered it on here a few weeks back, so I won't talk too much about it. Days of Wonder don't release too many games, but when they do they are often a home run. This is a very good board game. Very good indeed. It's colourful, quite deep, with some clever concepts. And it's so heavy! I mean – it is full of wood! Full of DEAD TREES. Congratulations, world.
- Rivet Wars – This was a little miniatures battle game thing. Lots of lovely little minis. Funny little squat soldier minis. It was about EIGHTY QUID when I saw it in the shop, and I said to the guy “EIGHTY QUID?!” and he just smiled and rolled his eyes. I mean, it looked great – like the GBA game Advance Wars on a board. But just how sure do you need to be about something before you'll spend eighty quid on it? INSANELY SURE.
- Concept – Wait. CONCEPT. STOP EVERYTHING.
Okay, so Concept isn't a game I own (yet). But it's a game I've played, and I want to tell you all about it. It is a clever thing, and a fun thing, and it's probably more of a pastime than a game. It's certainly not the kind of game you'll pull out when you want to smash your enemies into the dirt. But it might be the kind of game you want to play when you want to explain to your enemy that you're talking about “dirt” using symbology.
Let me explain. Concept has a board covered in graphics. Shapes and images and colours. There are moons and suns and the colour yellow and a square and a squiggly line. There's rain and lightning and a love heart and a skull. There's purple and black and an eye and an idea. There's symbols to show sizes and directions – bigger, smaller, up, down. There's “in”. There's “out”.
To play the game you draw a card. On the card there are words and phrases. You choose one, and then you tell it to the other players by placing little markers onto the board. You can tell people it's a film by placing your main marker on “film”. But then things get tricky. Let's say you're trying to do “Gremlins”. You'd place a marker on “film” then maybe a cube on “night” and a cube on “water” then maybe on “skull”. Or maybe you'd put a cube on “creatures”. Or maybe a cube on “Christmas”. Or maybe -
Hey, shut up! I heard someone just say “This is Charades” in their head. Yes, you. It was you, wasn't it? Dismissing this game with “This is Charades” is a big mistake, because this is all happening on a board and you're not waving your arms about and you're not hating it. It's also completely different because the removal of performance from the thing strips it right down to the communication of ideas. It's fascinating to see how people use symbology to communicate a concept. It's also fascinating to see how quickly people can understand what someone is trying to say.
This is real cave painting stuff - people trying to express ideas through crude shapes and colours. I think this would be a wonderful tool to use with kids to help them understand how ideas are transferred from one place to another. It's a great game, yes, but it's also a great illustration of how we human idiots do what we do.
We're all just scratching out shapes, really, aren't we?
Concept has a scoring system, but it's not something you should really care about. It's a beautiful-looking board game that can be played with any group, of any age, and it's sure to impress. It's also not as expensive as any of the other games I've mentioned today.
Now, some people won't like Concept. They'll fall hard on the “this isn't a game” side of the line. And – okay, yes – they might have a point. You're not going to really compete when you play this. You're going to participate in a sharing of ideas. When someone is struggling to get across their mystery word or phrase, the natural instinct is to help that player express the idea. The game encourages players to help other players out and co-operate in putting together the building blocks of the concept. That's beautiful, right? Well, for some people this might not be what they're looking for in a game, but that's their loss.
I highly recommend you check out Concept. It's one of the very best of 2014, and I can't believe I've waited this long to tell you about it.
When I return after the break, I will return with – YES – my GAME OF THE YEAR AWARDS. See you then. And have a dicey Christmas! And a good one!