Filling in today for your standard contributor, is…her husband. I haven’t the time (or really the inclination) to come up with a compelling pseudonym, so…I’m the hubby. Weak introductions out-of-the-way, all right, let’s dig in!
Today I wanted to discuss “spontaneous gaming.” I classify this as when a table top game breaks out with little forethought or planning, and usually in a public place or atypical venue. For instance, I used to work in a hospital. I had the pleasure of unplanned, intermittent lengths of downtime due to nature of my position. I also had the pleasure of interacting with many, many patients. I met with patients whom suffered from conditions that allowed few opportunities to leave their rooms, or…move. I found very quickly that the best way to alleviate the pain and frustration of a physical malady, is by entertaining the mind! This became an increasing practice of mine as I found more, and more regular patients to interact with.
Now, the key to making a “spontaneous” game session work, is having the right game. This requires a number of considerations:
1) Length of play. If a game shows even a hint of going over 20-30 minutes, it’s a no-go.
2) Footprint. If a game exceeds the (admittedly smaller) size of a standard bedside table, it’s a no-go.
3) Gameplay. If a game isn’t particularly engaging, or has a longer period of downtime between player turns, it’s probably a no-go. What’s more, the more simplistic the rules are, generally the better experience you can have in an “on the fly.”
Having run some games through this algorithm, and having tried to account for universal appeal (have to account for non-gamers out there,) we have my following list of games that I found most favored by people for “spontaneous gaming”:
1) Fantasy (Asmodee)
A Simple, set collecting card game for 2-4 players. So, this game has a general (you guessed it!) fantasy theme, wherein you collect all manner of cards (representing forest inhabitants) in the hopes of having to most by the end of the game. This game plays in about 15-20, doesn’t take up a lot of space, and has a more engaging form of gameplay. See, on every turn, the cards (which range from goblins, to elves) you play effect both you and your opponent’s cards. It’s a good way to keep a person’s head in the game, and trying to formulate their own strategies. Deceptively simple, intriguingly deep.
2) Mr. Jack Pocket (Hurrican)
Excellent theming and puzzle-like gameplay make this little game shine! A 2 player game in which one player controls the Jack the Ripper killer, and the other player controls Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, and a dog. The detective player moves his characters around the edge of a modular grid, taking actions in an effort to investigate several key suspects to determine who the actual killer is. Meanwhile, the killer player is taking efforts and actions to undermine the detectives. If after a few turns the detectives haven’t found the killer, the killer wins. This one is a bit on the heavier side as far as rules go (as far as quick games go), so the first game may be spent primarily getting accustomed to the mechanics for newbies. But, once both players are well acquainted, this game gets TENSE! Nothing beats the verbal jousting you and your opposing player will have during turns: “I know friggin’ well that the killer is in that center square! You can’t run from me!” “…Yes I can!!!” Also, nothing beats a when a patient waxes rhapsodical about getting away with murder to an unaware member of medical staff. Classic! In summation, the game takes up a moderate amount of space, plays in roughly 15 minutes, and will call for attentiveness from both players during each turn in order to assure victory.
3) Lost Legacy (Alderac Entertainment Group)
I thought hard about choosing this PARTICULAR title. See, it holds the distinction of being the spiritual successor to the INSANELY popular card game: “Love Letter.” Personally, I love them both. And, I must also admit, Love Letter plays better as a 2 player game, than Lost Legacy. That said, I had to choose Lost Legacy. It simply doesn’t get enough attention, and it is a fine game in its own distinction. The largest difference between the two games is in their approach to other players. Love Letter emphasizes eliminating other players, whereas Lost Legacy (though still having the option to eliminate other players) emphasizes deduction. Lost Legacy plays virtually identical to Love Letter, insofar as you have a small deck of cards, you draw one card each turn, play one card each turn, et cetera. Lost Legacy’s whole bent is trying to find the location of a single card, and doing everything you can to improve your odds of finding it before anyone else. I REALLY like that approach, I like protracted rounds where everyone has a chance of victory, even if slim. The game plays in roughly 5-10 minutes, takes up extremely little space, and features quick and engaging gameplay.
Though I referenced my time playing with patients at a hospital, these games are accessible in most any public situations. I’ve had some fantastic times just whipping out Lost Legacy in a restaurant, or Mr. Jack Pocket at a park. It’s also truly fantastic to have people approach me and what I’m playing. It’s always a nice thrill to give someone a taste of the hobby, and for it to be a positive recieved…that’s just a great feeling! Either way, I’ve prattled on far too long as it is. So, until next time, live by the board! (I’m just gonna steal that tag line until I come up with one for myself!)