Massively Overthinking: Tabletop and boardgames for MMORPG players

    
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Last week, following the crowdfunding of an Elder Scrolls boardgame, the MOP staff got derailed by a discussion on boardgame prices (it’s expensive, y’all). MOP’s Sam showed off a pic of his massive collection (a tiny sliver of which sits atop this article), and pretty soon we were all sharing our favorites (and also whining about the prices).

Not so fast, people – this is good content! So for this week’s Massively Overthinking, we’re going to stick a pin in MMORPG chatter and talk about boardgames, albeit from the perspective of people who love MMO and multiplayer titles long enough to write about them for years and years and years. Writers and readers, tell us all about your favorite tabletop and boardgames – how big is your collection, what’s your favorite, what do you play with your kids vs. your friends, what’s your best recent acquisition, what would you recommend most heartily to MMO players specifically, and what boardgame will you never ever play again?

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): I tend to prefer digital card and boardgames since they’re cheaper and easier to set up (shout out to Armello!), but yes, I do have some physical ones, though I rely more on my group’s boardgame master, since she’s got a great collection we can mooch off of.

In my own collection of boardgames and stuff and enjoy (sorry Mega Man Boardgame), a recent pickup is Mysterium, as it’s co-op but also works better the more you know about your fellow players.

On the opposite end of that is Cthulu Fluxx. I like the Fluxx games in general since people can come and go whenever, but the Cthulu version also has ways for everyone to lose, so it can have a PvPvE feeling at times.

I also have a lot of fun with Joking Hazard, which is kind of like Cards Against Humanity but not as bad and more story-driven. MMO players in particular may enjoy the Forbidden Island boardgame, as it’s both co-op and gives everyone powers to work together.

The Unlock! games are sadly a one-time play series as they’re like an escape room, meaning once you’ve done it, you can’t exactly un-do it, and my boardgame leader and I have a decent memory, so we know the answers. The good news, though, is she’s traded completed Unlocked! sets for ones she hasn’t done at boardgame conventions, so that’s cool.

We’ve also enjoyed Settler of Catan (whose game creator recently passed away), Quacks of Quedlinburg (always a big hit with the gamblers), and Bärenpark, which I will never win because I spend way too much time focusing on collecting bears like they’re pokemon. Quacks is good for everyone I think, but the other two may be a bit more old school, as some people get pretty confused with Catan and Bärenpark kind of feels like Tetris (do kids still like Tetris?).

While I know Gloomhaven is popular and there are a lot of MMO players who enjoy it, it’s just way too much work for me. Super expensive, takes up a lot of physical space, and a lot of stuff to keep track of. It’s not easy, either. My boardgame master I think finally finished the entire campaign with an online group via the online version, but I think that also says a lot about it as a boardgame.

For card games, I’ve played a lot, but the two main ones I used to play were Magic the Gathering (land destruction, baby!) and Pokemon (energy removal, baby!). In fact, I’d been a regular and top player of the Pokemon TCG until I found Asheron’s Call, at which point I stopped going to the weekly meets. Probably for the best, since with me out of the way, my little brother was selected to become their gym leader. So proud! Honestly, I feel like for MMO PvP fans, both work, but especially now that they can be played online. I still have all my various TCG cards, but I’m very much retired and should probably make space.

Andy McAdams: I like the idea of the boardgames more than reality. We have a (very) modest collection of boardgames that we play super rarely. I think the game we’ve probably played the most of is Dominion. I do love the Unstable Unicorns – pseudo-universe of games. I kickstarted Here to Slay (only played it once- but loved it) and then Casting Shadows. I really love the art style for those games, but we just don’t play very often.

Ben Griggs (@braxwolf): I’m kind of an MMO anomaly in that I don’t play very many board/tabletop/pen and paper games. But I do remember being very impressed with a game we played when the kids were younger called Forbidden Island. It’s cute, quick, and the idea is for players too work together to escape a sinking island. Each player character has different special abilities, so coordination is vital. And because the game is co-op, all players either won or lost together, thus evading any hurt feelings that competitive games sometimes produce among kids (and dads)!

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): I sold a bunch of my games the last time I moved cross-country, but we’ve been trying to build back up, at least with boardgames, ever since – particularly the last few years when my kids have gotten old enough to play with us. I’ve tried to focus on smaller games, both in terms of box size and in terms of length, so they never become a slog. In fact, most of what I buy doesn’t have a typical board at all but rather uses cards as the play space. Easy to store, carry, set up, learn, and play. My parents come up to visit with us a lot in the summer now, and they’ve always been big on boardgames and cardgames too, so anything that can work for three generations of player is ideal.

Most recent favorite is one we picked up for the kids for Christmas, Ravine. I think MMO players and especially survival sandbox players should give it a look; it has a fun cooperative element to it, where the group is really playing vs. the environment and making decisions together. It was kind of what I wanted the Oregon Trail cardgame to be, but that one knocks most people out too early and took too long (I should hunt for house rules for it because it has tons of potential).

Eliot also talked me into getting Bananagrams, and that was extremely fun, although it definitely favors a certain type of wordy human (it’s less fun to play in a group of varied verbal skill/reflexes). Word games usually end up permanent faves for me, but they’re not necessarily something every MMO fan would gravitate toward.

Least favorite is Monopoly. It’s my son’s favorite, but I find it both unfun and boring. Sorry, kid.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I became something of a forever DM – a status that I definitely don’t mind – after running my very first D&D 5E campaign about two or three years ago. Since then I’ve started to get into the bad habit of slurping up other sourcebooks for no other reason than “maybe I’ll use them sometime later, who knows.” Specifically, I have Lancer, Ironsworn, Chronicles of Darkness, and Mage: The Awakening 2E, and I’m currently running a D&D campaign using the Sky Crawl ruleset.

Other tabletop things of note include a whole bunch of MechWarrior Dark Age Heroclix minis, as well as multiple card games like The Last Gasp, Superfight, What Do You Meme, and Joking Hazard. Those are all of the physical games, anyway; mercifully the TTRPG books I’ve got are digital copies. Mostly.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): We’re pretty big fans of Munchkin in our home, which checks a whole lot of boxes. It’s humorous, never the same game twice, marinated in RPG elements, and wonderfully expandable. Other favorites include Dungeon! (a great classic RPG boardgame), Magic the Gathering, and deck-builders like Dominion.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): Boardgames? We can talk about boardgames? Wahooo! Although my family and I took a hiatus from playing games for a time after moving, we are trying to get back into our family games nights. Besides a large assortment of boardgames, we also have just as many different card and dice games. I may have a whole cupboard and a cedar chest all full of said games. I even had to replenish my kids’ games because I had given all ours away just a couple of years before adopting our munchkin. We also played TTRPGs regularly, but I’ve been on hiatus a while due to health so I can focus on fixing up the house.

As for types of games, ours run from ancient copies of Scrabble, Parcheesi, and Monopoly (try the Monopoly card game if you wanna have another version that is shorter) to one of the limited-edition boxes of a game developed by a friend (Eight-Minute Empire) and a Hometown Monopoly created about my hometown. As for types, we have a chunk of strategy games, many word games, and plenty of trivia games. I have 15 versions of Trivial Pursuit! Personally, I also love pretty much everything word gamey! Setting aside card games, family favorite boardgames would have to be Rail Baron, Samurai Swords, and Talisman. The first is about building train monopolies across the US, the next is Risk-like but with swords, and the last is basically a D&D table-top adventure turned boardgame. By and large, I think most of our favorite are card games.

I’d like to get Ticket to Ride, but amusingly I now have the computer version of it along with many, many add-ons thanks to Humble Bundle. There are other games I have met and loved at friends’ houses, but dernitall if I haven’t forgotten the names before buying them. I have also Kickstarted a game called Abducktion that I’m seriously looking forward to receiving it! For Kickstarter games, I’ve also gotten the ARP card game Here to Slay (but I haven’t managed to play it yet) and a Mint Tin Mini Skulduggery dice game with tiny skulls that seriously fits in a mint tin. One game I Kickstarted sadly never materialized.

Sam Kash (@thesamkash): Hello, my name is Samm and I am a boardgame addict. I simply cannot stop myself from buying boardgames. I just have so much fun getting together with my group of friends IRL, grabbing some snacks and drinks, and spending the next several hours pouring over cards, tokens, and minis.

You tell me there’s a co-op campaign dungeon crawler with miniatures and I’ll Philip J. Fry you all my monies. I just want to play them all. I freely admit that there aren’t enough hours in the weekend to play all the games I already own, much less the ones that are coming out. And yet, even just today I went on and bought into the 2nd edition of Oathsworn. It really is kind of a problem.

Now, Euros and similar worker-placement games usually are not my cup of tea. It works with my group mostly anyways because we tend to stick with co-op games. I find we all actively chat and enjoy hanging out more when we aren’t focused on being “the winner.”

Personally my favorite has been Middara. The story is very fun, and the branching paths are great. I especially think MMO players would enjoy it. The ability to fully customize your hero to play how you want it to is unparalleled.

The one I doubt I’d play again is the Tales from the Loop game. What a stinker.

I could talk all day about boardgames. If anyone has recommendations or just wants to chat about them, you know how to hit me up!

Tyler Edwards (blog): As I have mentioned many times in the past, I have been a regular player of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons for quite some time — I would have started about a year before I was hired here at MOP, roughly. I don’t play quite as much as I used to, as burnout has set in a bit, but I am still playing in a semi-regular Rime of the Frostmaiden campaign (as a Sea Elf Paladin/Warlock), and I occasionally take part in one shots or other short adventures. I have also created third party D&D content for some time now, releasing through Dungeon Masters Guild or contributing to Dungeon in a Box’s adventures.

I would like to try more TTRPGs, but it’s hard to find the time, and non-5E groups especially are hard to come by. I own three rulebooks for Achtung! Cthulhu 2D20, and I have played only one session so far, though I did enjoy it a lot.

I have also recently launched my own indie tabletop RPG, Wyrd Street!

Beyond that, my tabletop gaming is mainly devoted to card games. Co-operative card games specifically, as I have little taste for competitive play. There is actually an MMO tie-in here as it was my great love for the deck-building progression systems in The Secret World and Magic: Legends that inspired me to begin diving into the world of physical CCGs.

I split my attention between no less than four card games: Sentinels of the Multiverse Definitive Edition and the three co-op “Living Card Games” by Fantasy Flight Games — Lord of the Rings: The Card Game, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, and Marvel Champions.

Lord of the Rings is my favourite. Partly that’s because of my fondness the source material, but I also have great love for its mechanics. It is a bit rough around the edges, and the difficulty can be extreme, but the way the designs of cards and scenarios capture the theme and flavour of Middle-earth is nothing short of sublime, and the potential for creative deck-building is nearly endless.

Second place goes to Sentinels. As I’m both a player and designer, the simplicity and readability of Sentinels gameplay just delights me. The Definitive Edition plays smooth as silk, with nary a trip to the rulebook to clarify any arcane interactions. Whereas all the Fantasy Flight card games are burdened with a certain degree of jank and messiness, Sentinels is incredibly polished. The only knock against Sentinels is that there’s no element of customization. All decks are pre-made and cannot be significantly altered. But even that isn’t so much a problem as just an itch the game doesn’t scratch for me.

I have a tempestuous relationship with Arkham Horror. I was incredibly impressed with it out of the gate and even sang its praises here on MOP, but I started to fall out of love over time. It may almost be too creative, with each scenario feeling like a whole new game to learn, and I found it didn’t have a lot of replay value after seeing the full story of a campaign. I wound up selling a good chunk of my collection, and I’m still not sure what my future with the game will ultimately be.

I initially spurned Marvel, but I got suckered in by the one-two punch of expansions focused on the Spider-Verse and the X-Men, the two Marvel properties I actually enjoy. As with Arkham, I am a bit mixed on it. Despite being the most recent of FFG’s card games, it’s by far the least polished, with messy rules that sometimes flat out don’t make sense. Its deck-building is also extremely stripped-down, leaving little room for interesting customization. However, it is a lot easier than Arkham Horror or LOTR, making it a nice low-stress alternative, and it’s hard to deny the simple pleasure of tearing through some Sentinels with a good Wolverine deck. I find myself thinking of it as the “fast food” LCG; it’s objectively inferior to more thoughtfully made alternatives, but sometimes you just want something easy and satisfying, you know?

I could never really get into hobbyist boardgames, despite trying a lot of them. I find them mostly too complex and too abstract, with the mechanics seeming divorced from the fantasy of what the game is supposed to represent. Do not get me started on Settlers of Catan.

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!
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