Number Two on the Meeple Like Us Ten Top Best Board Games 2018 Edition!
You might feel sorry for our bronze medalist, kept standing on the podium as part of a cruel practical joke. Spare a thought for these poor buggers… so close to the gold that they can probably smell the chocolate underneath the foil. Second amongst winners, but first amongst losers. They have greatness in their cardboard and they know it. Maybe what they really lacked was the hunger – the raw will to win that all real champions need. Seriously, if you don’t find the stronger boxes in your collection trying to eat the weaker ones in the night can you even really believe in evolution?
However, maybe we have a different story here – both games are former champions. Maybe they’re just too old. Too tired. Too bruised to hold on to the most cherished award in the gaming world (we assume). They’re old hands though. Maybe they lost this battle, but the constant war for our affection never ends. Be on your guard, #1 – nobody is ever truly down and out. You’re not the best board game. Not any more. But maybe you could be the best board game next year?
Michael Picks: Scrabble (Down from #2)
|Accessibility Report||Meeple Like Us|
|Complexity||Medium Light [2.10]|
|BGG Rank||1744 [6.28]|
At the two year mark of Meeple Like Us, I still thought that no game could ever dislodge Scrabble from its position as my favourite game of all time. And to be honest, there are times that the position of #1 and #2 is decided only by a mental coin-flip. It’s still that close. Ahead of many excellent games I have played over the course of this project it is still Scrabble that represents, to me, an apotheosis of board game design. It is a terrible word game, don’t get me wrong. That’s because fundamentally it’s not a word game. Scrabble, you see, is a war game. Scrabble is about area control and area denial. Your letters aren’t for words – they’re weapons. They’re the munitions you’ll leverage to stop your opponent from being able to make words of their own. You don’t want to show off your vocabulary here – that’s how you end up getting stomped. You want to play the most miserly words you can so as to keep the good multipliers out of an opponent’s reach. If you can’t take a tile, you need to burn it so nobody else can have it. It’s hard to find people that will play Scrabble with me these days, but make no mistake – this is the closest thing I can think of to a perfect game. Those that would do it down simply aren’t playing it to its full potential. This isn’t a game that shows itself off in its best light with clever wordplay. The only book you need to have read to excel in Scrabble is the Art of War.
Pauline: If you like it so much, why did you refuse to play it the last time someone offered?
Michael: They were good, nice people. They wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I’d happily play with people like me. They say war is politics conducted by other means. Scrabble is that, but in word-game form.
Pauline: Maybe if you thought of the game as more like a conversation you wouldn’t feel the need to cite Carl von Clausewitz.
Michael: No bastard ever won a game of Scrabble by dying for his country. He won it by making some other bastard die for his.
Pauline: These aren’t the kind of things people are supposed say about board games. This is more like what they say about a fight club.
Michael: The first rule of Scrabble Club is – stick them with the pointy end.
Pauline Picks: Jaipur (Down from #1)
|Accessibility Report||Meeple Like Us|
|Complexity||Medium Light [1.50]|
|BGG Rank||127 [7.51]|
Long before Michael got obsessed with boardgames, I tried to get him into card games. If only I’d been able to convey my enthusiasm for those in a way that could set a fire going in his black little heart. If only I’d managed to get him as enthused about hearts and rummy as he gets about Concordia and Lords of Waterdeep. It would have been so much cheaper, and so much more minimalist. Buying a hundred new games would have been as simple as picking up a new pack of cards.
Jaipur reminds me of the best card games I played with my grandparents as a child, but it’s got a whole load of extra sparkle. It’s fast, it’s furious. There’s a little bit of luck, but not too much. Just like Concordia, it’s a Goldilocks game. It’s so quick. It’s so elegant. It’s surprisingly deep for such an easy, breezy game.
I think that it has things in common with the engine builders that I am so keen on because it is basically a game of minimax and I am all about optimisation. It’s all about finding the right time to make a trade – where you haven’t left it too long but also haven’t gotten jitters before the big score comes along. I’ve bought Jaipur for my mother. I’ve bought it as a wedding present. I’ve played through the app campaign on both my phone and tablet and we’re pretty far on in the project of wearing out the physical cards. I just never get tired of this game.
Having said that, there are a few factors that knocked it off of the top spot in my affections. It’s a two player only game that plays very quickly so you soon develop an understanding of how your common opponents are going to act. It can occasionally become a little samey as a result, and you need time away before you remember why you liked it so much. Make no mistake though, as my #2 game of all time I still love it to pieces.
Michael: It’s a little sad that each of the small-box, two-player quick card games on one of our lists isn’t on the other. It means you don’t always get what you want from me, and vice-versa.
Pauline: Do you think that’s a reflection on the state of our relationship?
Michael: If that were true I’d want to spend my time hanging out with pretty geishas and you’d be happiest in a bazaar selling exotic spices and making so much money you could choke God with your pocket-change.
Pauline: So that’s a yes, then.