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Cardboard Diaries: A Change Of Pace

A Life In Boardgames

Hello youse,

The first thing you'll notice is that the column isn't called Cardboard Children anymore. From here on in, it'll be called Cardboard Diaries. And after the jump, you'll understand why.


Today I started filming on Burnistoun. It's a sketch show, and I'm in almost every scene, so it's hard work. But it's great fun. Like a six week holiday camp. Because of the filming, we're switching our regular board game night to Saturday instead of Sunday. Louise and Richard (I'll tell you all about those two in the weeks ahead) are also in the show, so we'll all be up early on Monday mornings. Late night sessions of big Fantasy Flight games are certainly a bad idea when you have any ideas about getting up early. My biggest concern is finding time for midweek board gaming. We'll see how it goes.


Today it happened. There was a little bit of downtime between scenes, and I was on the lunch bus with Richard. What's the lunch bus? Well, it's a bus with tables inside, and it's where cast and crew have their lunch when you're moving from location to location all the time. So, there's me and Richard having a coffee. And I say “We could have been playing a wee game of Magic right now.” And he goes “I have some decks with me.” And he did.

See, that's the thing about gamers. ALWAYS PREPARED. You should always try to have some kind of gaming shit on hand in case the opportunity arises. Now, I don't mean that you should carry a board game wherever you go. You don't want to be that dickhead who turns up at people's houses and says “HEY GUYS! WE'RE DOING THIS TONIGHT!!” But when you think you might be around other gamers, and think there might be a bit of downtime, be prepared. There are a lot of small games out there that you can slip into a pocket.

Some suggestions? Sure!

1. MAGIC: THE GATHERING – We'll talk about this in a minute, but, yes. DAMN yes.
2. YOMI – The brilliant Yomi is a card-battle game styled after 2D beat-em-ups like Street Fighter or King of Fighters. You can learn how to play Yomi in minutes, and what's left after that is a game of psychology. It's all about anticipating your opponent's next move, just like in those video games we mentioned. You can also use the cards as normal playing cards if you like, which basically means you have a hundred games in your pocket if you have Yomi with you.
3. BUZZ IT! - I've mentioned this brilliant party game before. It's an electronic timer and a deck of cards. The cards say things like “WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR PARTNER” and then you quickly leap around the table asking people for answers against the clock. It's hilarious.
4. WARHAMMER: INVASION – More cards, sure, but maybe the best two-player card battle game of them all. Buy the base game, make a couple of decks, and ram them in the pocket. You can easily play without the players' capital city boards if you know the game well enough. Great stuff.
5. WEREWOLF – There's about a million versions of Werewolf out there. Ultimate Werewolf, Werewolves of Miller's Hollow – any of them will do. If there's a big bunch of people, and they're people who are up for some fun to pass the time, you can pull this out of your trousers and save the night. You probably all know how to play this. Many of you “internet people” will have played it as Mafia on an internet forum or something. Some players are werewolves, and everyone else is villagers. At night, the werewolves kill a villager. During the day, the villagers vote to hang a suspected werewolf. A great game that gets everyone involved. And it fits inside your underpants.

Yeah, so, back on the bus. Richard says he has a couple of decks. It turns out it was a couple of duel decks he'd bought. Knights vs Dragons. And they're great decks. Great fun. I don't have to explain anything about Magic, do I? Here's what I will talk about – something that is often ignored in all the chat about new release blocks and tournament legal standard draft mana screw deck nerf broken power cards. Magic is an incredible game. It's still an incredible game. It's been around for so long now that we've all started to take it for granted, but Garfield's design is still a miracle. Man! The great thing about playing around with theme decks and duel decks and such is that you have that nice little initial period of unlocking the strengths of the deck. “Okay, so this power can pump this to do that and then this can do this... nice.” And it's through doing this that you realise all over again how great the game is.

So yeah, a couple of games on the bus, with the 3rd AD looking on and saying “Fucksake! Goblins and dragons?!” Magic. Magic.


So sore today. We did a bit of filming on Monday with a coffin, and it had clattered off my shoulder and forearm and ear. Don't ask how. Anyway, Richard wasn't in, so there was no opportunity for some Magic. I did have some time to check out what's been happening in the wide and wonderful world of board games, though. Excitingly, the rules for the new Cosmic Encounter expansion have hit the web, and that means that the release is just around the corner. The new expansion is called Cosmic Alliance and as well as bringing yet more new aliens into the game, and some white spaceships for an EIGHTH player, there are rules for team games. I'm not sure how I feel about the notion of playing in teams in a game as vicious as CE, but maybe it's there to make those enormous eight player games run a bit more smoothly. I dunno. We'll see soon enough. It's something I definitely need to organise, though. Take over the back room of a pub, get eight bodies together, and stab each other in the back for a few hours. That'll be my summer.


Exhausted. Amazing day's filming, though. Kung-Fu fight scenes, stunts, the whole shebang. Lying in bed, knackered. I had a read on boardgamegeek about Republic of Rome, a board game I've had for a long time. I've never managed to get it on the table. It's too intimidating. Some people say it lasts for ten hours, and the rulebook is just impossible to get your head around. It's this big, dry, densely written thing. Ugh. I quite often open the box and look at all the stuff. It looks amazing, and by all accounts it IS amazing. I just can't drag myself through those rules. And so this is what I do – every few months I do some reading up about it until I fall asleep. One day. One day.


More Magic. Another game of Knights vs Dragons, and then a game with some other duel decks I can't remember. One deck was Black, with lots of sacrifice combos, and the other was a multi-colour deck that was really annoying to play against. I didn't enjoy those decks as much, despite Black being my favourite colour to play with. My own black decks are always annoying themey things. I rarely play Magic to win – I enjoy coming up with cards that work together in funny and weird ways. (My favourite Magic cards are the ones from the Unglued and Unhinged sets – these are comedy cards that turn the game into a hilarious, chaotic party game. Even shuffling a few of the cards into each deck can make for some great fun. Here are a couple of my favourite cards from these sets - and )


No filming over the weekend. Long lie-in! This was supposed to be our board game night, but we had to switch it over to an early Sunday game because Kenny wasn't available. So, I decided to take a trip to the board game shop. Now – here is my essential list of board game shopping advice.


1. NEVER EVER go to the board game shop when you've just been paid.
2. That's it.

Oh boy. I came home with a lot of games today. Too many games, to be honest. Before you all think I'm mentally ill, I'll say that there was a sale on. And hey, I'd just been paid. Here's what I picked up...

SENTINELS OF THE MULTIVERSE – Reviews have made this co-op superhero card game sound interesting. First impressions are that the art is just awful. Awful. I mean, really awful. Maybe the art style will grow on me.

VOLTRON: DEFENDER OF THE UNIVERSE – This will be the first time I've played Monsterpocalypse. This set is a self-contained two-player game that lets Voltron and Lo-Tron battle each other, and is fully compatible with other Monsterpocalypse stuff. First impressions? Cool toys. Cool toys, baby.

RA – This is a Reiner Knizia game, from before he just started slapping his name on any old shit. Some say it's his best game. As far as I know, it's an auction game of some sort. If it's his best, that means it must be better than LOTR: The Confrontation, which means it must be amazing. First impressions – beautiful components. Big wooden Egyptian tokens. Lovely.

NINJATO – I know next to nothing about this, other than the fact that it has a Ninja theme. It's from Z-Man Games though, and most of their games have been fantastic of late. Nice board and lovely card art. I'm looking forward to trying this one out.

SUMMONER WARS: MASTER SET – I've spoken many times before about how wonderful Summoner Wars is. The new Master Set introduces a bunch of new armies inside a big awkwardly sized box that is going to give me some serious shelving headaches. If you haven't played Summoner Wars yet, you're crazy.

RISK: METAL GEAR SOLID – I had to. I had to. I love Risk Legacy so much that it's changed my mind about Risk to a great extent. And MGS is maybe the best IP in video games. Apparently, this plays in a couple of hours and allows you to recruit Bosses into your army. If Snake is your Boss, for example, he can sneak troops through enemy territory. There are also cards you can purchase – you can take control of Metal Gear Rex and nuke opponents' territories, and you can hide inside cardboard boxes. It's Risk with that weird Kojima twist. I can't wait to play it.

In the weeks ahead I'll be trying all these games out, and more. I'll also be telling you about who I play with, photographing our board game nights, and making some videos where we ALL give our opinions on the games we play. This week I'm going to try to introduce some non-gamers to board games, and see how we get on. I've got big plans for these diaries – I hope you'll stay on board! And please, talk about anything that's come up in the comments section below. Any of you played any of these new games I picked up?

Signing off. It's Board Games Night tonight. Can't wait. See you next week when I'll tell you all about it!

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