Number Five on the Meeple Like Us Ten Top Best Board Games 2019 Edition!
Past the coach-house, things start to notably improve. The buildings seem less built up, and the games you pass less wary. The first half of the journey through the list is always harrowing – it’s hard to be on the periphery of a war, and this engagement has been going on for years. Here though, things are more stable. There are few raids on these heartlands, and few causalities. Still, that’s no cause for complacency. There have been high profile assassinations in the past. People remember last year’s brutal decapitation, and the legacy of the regime change still haunts the stones of the road. Still, there’s safety to be had this far from the cliff-edge of oblivion and it can be read in the slightly more relaxed creases of every box that wanders the cobbled streets.
Michael Picks: Concordia (Up from #7)
|Meeple Like Us
Concordia has bungie-jumped up and down this list for a while, and I honestly think the position it takes up on a yearly basis is just a function of how long ago it was that I played it. It has the appealing property of being almost frictionless – every system meshes together with the elegance of a fine Swiss watch. But also that elegance makes it feel a little… flightly. Concordia is a game that works better on the table than it does in memory, and when constructing a top ten list that’s not a beneficial feature. Concordia is effortless, and that means it doesn’t quite stick in the mind because there are no rough edges on which your recollection will snag. Suffice to say though that this is a veteran of the list and it has never seriously been in risk of being evicted. I have still to try the Salsa expansion, which sits snugly on my shelf beside the original and appalling box of the vanilla game, but I anticipate it giving an extra lease of life when I finally give it a go. Concordia is a modern masterpiece, and has well proven at this point that it has the staying power to merit that description.
Pauline: It’s constantly weird to me that you argue that games needs design problems to be interesting. Do you really think a perfectly flawless game would be boring?
Michael: Probably. Mistakes are a natural outcome of human involvement. I can imagine a flawless game designed by an algorithm but finding it is not why I play games. I play games because it’s interesting to see how people compensate for their human limitations.
Pauline: I thought you played them because you’re an overgrown baby pretending to be a grown up? I’ll say this for you, your many massive flaws and human limitations certainly make you interesting to me.
Pauline Picks: Sheriff of Nottingham (Stable at #5)
|Sheriff of Nottingham (2014)
|Meeple Like Us
|Medium Light [1.66]
Sheriff of Nottingham is a lot like Once Upon a Time in that the fun it generates depends on the group around you but it has held its value the more I’ve played it with different groups. In fact, it hasn’t just held its value – its value has accumulated like a wagonload of smuggled crossbows in the middle of the post-Brexit apocalypse. I think this year mostly I’ve been interested in exploring lighter games since they work well for the kind of groups I tend to be playing with. Sheriff of Nottingham works really well in that capacity.
Sheriff of Nottingham reminds me of a game from the eighties that I still have somewhere – that one is called Smuggle, which in turn is a rebranding of an earlier game called Contraband. Sheriff of Nottingham is a much more elegant game though it shares a lot of similarities.
True story, my father once caught me lying in Smuggle and I burst into tears and offered him all my money to make him stop gloating. In Smuggle you all draw from a shared deck and that means there’s a lot of leaked information. Sheriff of Nottingham is a lot more interesting because you all get your own hand to manage, and even picking up and discarding can be part of your elaborate bluff. You don’t need to worry too much about the lies other people have told – it’s all about keeping your own lies straight. I didn’t enjoy Smuggle much thanks to that traumatic experience in my youth but I’ve gotten a lot better at social deduction since I was eight even if I still don’t know what my own tells are. Sheriff of Nottingham is quick to learn and offers a wagonload of good natured fun.
Michael: Sweden has the largest black market in all of Northern Europe, and the bureaucracy here is such that I completely understand why. Even trying to give money to a bank makes me wish I was smuggling illegal Scottish whiskies or high-grade narcotics into the country. It would be a lot less stressful.
Pauline: You know by saying that you’ve probably got a permanent black mark against you on your record? Now you’ll never be able to join a supermarket loyalty program or create an account on the Lidl website.
Michael: Look, all I am bringing with me to Nordea is five apples. That’s all, five apples. Been a good year for apples. I WILL GIVE YOU ALL THESE APPLES IF YOU JUST LET ME OPEN A GODDAMN BANK ACCOUNT.
Pauline: Do you have receipts for all those apples? We can’t accept them unless we can track their journey from the orchard and determine the providence of every penny in your pocket.