If I were forced to list three things that I have a history of disliking about board games, I would arbitrarily choose the following: Firstly, “pure” deck-building games, because the era of the hybrid is upon us. Secondly, cooperative games. And thirdly, fixed market pools in deck-building games, as opposed to the “river”-style markets of games like Ascension. Give me some variety! Some uncertainty! Some drama!
Aeon’s End, designed by Kevin Riley and published by Action Phase and Indie Boards & Cards, is a cooperative deck-building game with a fixed market pool. If I were a keeping-track man, that would make three strikes, and if I understand baseball correctly that means it’s time to pick up another chili dog and head to the car before the second inning starts. Fortunately, I’ve never counted past two in my life, because Aeon’s End has quickly become my latest obsession.
Occasionally, being adorable is exactly what a game needs.
By way of example, consider Kodama: The Tree Spirits from Action Phase Games. Here’s a game that, if it weren’t so darn precious, might have everyone slamming their heads against the table. Not in the sense that the rules are complicated or the game is especially frustrating. Rather, because the goals lend themselves so fully to a tightly-controlled competition of wits where a single misstep can see you plummeting in the rankings. Transforming it into a zen-like game about growing a tree so you can house some cute-as-buttons forest spirits? Magnificent.
Think of board games like a heist. You’ve got a target (winning the game), a plan both staffed with clever people (the other players) and enabled by innovative mechanical apparatuses (the rules), and any number of ways for things to go wrong. It’s the sort of analogy that feels so right because it can be applied to pretty much anything. A movie is a heist. A book is a heist. Stealing a bucketful of Fabergé eggs is a heist.
Scoundrel Society, which is about a gentlemen society of thieves seeking to fleece a mark of all their worldly possessions, single-handedly proves the point. Because when it comes to a heist, you can have all the right ideas, people, and tools, and still fall flat on your face right as you’re moseying out the door with a Rembrandt tucked under your coat.