Sentences to Drawings

Saturday night I attended my friend Jen‘s birthday party and while there we played a game of Sentences to Drawings or The Sentence Game. It’s a blend of Pictonary and Telephone that ended up being a tremendous amount of fun.

There are some minor variations that can be found in each version of the rules, but Sentence Game Rules FAQ has the closest set of rules to what we used when we played. Boiled down, each player writes a sentence at the top of a piece of paper and passes it to the left. When a sentence is received, the player draws a picture based on it, folds the paper so the picture alone is visible and passes the paper to the left. When a picture is received, the player writes a sentence interpreting the picture, folds the paper so that only the sentence is visible and passes it to the left. This continues until players receive their original pieces of paper and best results happen with an even number of players. The results are then shared with everyone.

Each game begins with a sentence – often a deeply disturbing or completely abstract sentence – written on the top of a piece of paper. The sentence is passed to the next player, who draws a picture in a futile attempt to depict the sentence. They then fold the paper so that the sentence is no longer visible, and pass the paper to yet another player, who must write a new sentence based on what he or she thinks the picture is showing. Then this third player folds the picture out of view and passes the sentence on to another player, so repeating the process. Please read the terms of playing for the legal stuff.

My drawing skills are very limited, but the game still worked well with the few less talented of us a in the group. Things usually moved quickly away from the original idea with bizarre or hilarious results.

The Sentence Game Online! hosts a version of the game that can be played online and fairly faithfully recreates the game. It doesn’t have the same level of humour and strangeness that are present when playing with a bunch of people in the same room, but it’s still fun.

Back to the Future: The Card Game

For most of last year I attended a game night on Sundays that my friend and former roommate, Matthew, hosted. He put together a zine, Halifax Casual Gaming Federation Annual 2012-2013, commemorating the games we played. Matthew moved across the continent in December and passed the torch to me for organizing the events through The Halifax Casual Gaming Federation.

I’m going to do something a bit different. I’ll be blogging a short piece about games after we play them and then might collect things for a zine at the end of the year.

The first game of the year was Back to the Future: The Card Game, a simple time travel card game from Looney Labs. A timeline of events from the Back to the Future movies is created with 24 cards and each player is given an ID card that lists events required for the goals of a character to be met. The game otherwise follows the core play mechanics of Looney Labs’ Fluxx games: each turn players draw a card and play a card, with most other rules contained on the cards. This simplicity makes it very easy to jump into playing.

The game is very successful at capturing the feel and story of the movies; I was surprised at how faithful the game was to the source material while remaining fresh and fun to play. My memories of the films haven’t been refreshed recently, but it was clear to me that the zaniness and tone of them are retained. Knowledge of the films is not required at all, though some of the references on cards would only make sense to those who are familiar with the franchise.

Back to the Future: The Card Game is no longer available directly from its publisher, but can be found through other sellers. It was created using many of the rules for the company’s other time travel game, Chrononauts, which is still available.

Now you can jump into the action of the Back to the Future movies, with this ingenious new time travel card game! Your mission is to make sure pivotal events are not changed by other time travelers before time travel itself gets un-invented. Using a unique, patented game mechanic for simulating time travel, Andrew Looney now puts you in the driver’s seat of the famous DeLorean!

In this game you are a time traveler, a descendant of one of the characters in the Back to the Future movies. Unfortunately, other time travelers have been tampering with events in your past, endangering your very existence. You must put things back in the ways that seem right to you, then stop Doc Brown from ever inventing time travel, which will freeze reality the way you need it to be, once and for all. The game is played entirely with cards, but has the feel of a board game since important events are represented by a special grid of 24 cards called the TimeLine.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is an accessible, balanced and exceptionally fun German board game of tile laying and feature claiming. I unreservedly love it and consider it my favourite game because it has three traits I look for in games: it is easy to teach, can be expanded greatly and makes space for silliness.

The game is named after a walled southern French town that was founded by fifth century Visigoths. Walled cities similar to the historical Carcassonne form one of the four basic features that players create and claim along with roads, fields and cloisters. Players draw tiles, find places for them on a growing map and claim features with playing pieces called meeples (shortened from “my people”). Points are given to each player as features are completed and players can combine previously distinct features into larger ones for which they compete. At the end of the game the player who has amassed the most points wins.

The game has numerous expansions that add new types of features or new play mechanics. My favourite expansion is Carcassonne: Catapult, which adds a wooden catapult that players use to fling small tiles at the map or at each other. It adds excitement and zaniness to the game and can change the dynamic of play in huge ways. The more than twenty other expansions add other new ways to play so there are always expanding bits of complexity and variety

The base game allows for 5 players, and the Carcassonne: Inns and Cathedrals expansion adds one more, but a third party company has made the game playable with many more players. Meeple Source provides new colours of meeples and character meeples such as pirates, ninjas, zombies, monsters, vampires, werewolves, astronauts, aliens. The extra flavour offered by character meeples enhances the joyful silliness that can be experienced when playing this game.

Carcassonne is a great party game and a perfect way to introduce reluctant gamers to the richness of contemporary board games.

Board Games and Social Play

Board games are experiencing a renaissance. My friends and I have been caught up in the excitement that comes from playing great games with great people. Today we have access to the best games ever played and the social experience they provide is one I value greatly.

Two years ago I moved back to Halifax and began hosting a near-monthly games night. It has become a highlight of my social life and has led to some of the most memorable experiences I have shared during the past couple years.

Board games aren’t the same as the ones I had access to while growing up; European board games have become available in North America and the design process of games here has improved greatly in the past decade. Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, Dominion, Dixit and other games we now play are more accessible, more fun and more rewarding than the games of our childhood. The community building around board games doesn’t seem to be just the contracted geek community anymore, but rather encompasses wide demographics.

Wil Wheaton has expressed the emotional value of games in his blog entry, “on the importance of making time to play the games you like with the people you love“.

Keep playing games. Make time to play games with your friends and family, because it’s surprisingly heartbreaking to wipe a thin layer of dust off a game you love, before you put it back on the shelf because the real world is calling you.

Wil also has a new half-hour board game show on the Geek and Sundry channel, which so far has two episodes, one on the game Small World and another on Settlers of Catan. Settlers of Catan one of my friends’ favourites and a gateway game for the wider world of European board games.

Some games have excited my friends and I tremendously. Ten of my favourites follow and I highly recommend playing them with the best people you know.

  1. Carcassonne
  2. Settlers of Catan
  3. Dixit
  4. Apples to Apples
  5. Who Would Win
  6. Fluxx
  7. Munchkin
  8. Lords of Waterdeep
  9. Citadels
  10. Ticket to Ride