The Desert Island Board Gamer #1

I do love a game with the traitor element at play

Welcome one and all to the first outing for a brand new feature here on Meeple of the Earth.

Desert Island Board Gamer is about the most important, life preserving element to consider, should one ever become stranded upon a little patch of sand and jungle in the middle of the ocean. Which board games are we playing as we await rescue?

In addition to picking three board games to carry us across two months of island life, the stranded also picks two characters from board games as company and to make up the numbers when playing, and two games to burn for warmth. Weirdly mainstream oldies such as Monopoly and Cluedo are immune to flames and cannot be cast to ash.

This idea is of course in no way related to Radio’s Desert Island Discs, which we’ve never even heard of. Moving swiftly on…

To get this new feature underway, I decided to take part myself. To be honest I could do with a holiday.

Let survival commence…

The Survival Games.

My first choice is a game that I wanted in my collection from the moment I first set eyes upon its sizeable delights. However, having finally purchased, and then played the game, I’m still struggling to fall for its charms. Perhaps some time spent upon the shores of a deserted island will allow me to finally fall for the sprawling, adventure heavy action that is Gloomhaven.

We have a game that seems to actually warrant the use of the word epic in its description, this deep, dungeon crawling journey set in the beating heart of a rich swords and sorcery landscape looks to hold incredible scope for extended play without repetition. And, I really want to love it (it cost me a small fortune!), but after a handful of plays, I remain unconvinced. However, if there is a game out there that appears to offer a different experience in terms of storytelling at every turn, and also holds considerably more than a couple of months play, then Gloomhaven is that game. And perhaps the only thing missing from my own time playing that will eventually see the game cemented as a firm favourite is the desert island. No doubt there will be a Kickstarter campaign for the sand and palm tree add-on launching soon.

Next up would be the zombie infested world of Dead of Winter, and in particular its second outing titled, The Long Night.

I do love a game with the traitor element at play. The constant edginess it brings to the table, the stench of suspicion that hangs in the air, and the eventual unmasking of the traitorous rapscallion who was hellbent on bringing the colony to its knees, works like a charm in elevating an already superb survival game to ever greater heights. And it is only on rare occasions that the game ends in fisticuffs, broken families, and sworn vows of revenge.

The game itself has enough going on that I find it never becomes stale. The crossroads cards that bring little moments of storytelling and critical decision making are great at adding another level of immersion in the bleak post apocalyptic world, the new threat that emerges each round keeps everyone on their toes and ensures the challenge for food and warmth is very real, and the falling dice during travelling and zombie slaying adds a sweet little element of tension. The additional inclusion of the bandits and Raxxon that are in The Long Night box work to make an already challenging game, even more of a battle. And I love it!

Dead of Winter was one of the first games I bought outside the mainstream, and it still holds firm as both a personal, and a family favourite nearly three years later. It has enough going on that it can handle multiple plays, and the added hunger from life on a desert island will make the struggle in this zombie riddled board game feel even more real. Just what we need.

The final game on my list of three to guide us through the long days of deserted life is another one that didn’t immediately grab me, but has since begun to get its hooks in. The game is Spirit Island, and, not only does it seem mildly apt, it also holds ridiculous scope for replay. The way it brings unique play style based upon choices of character, and various routes to victory against an ever rising tide of defeat is just utterly brilliant. It is the sort of game that leaves you wanting more, and with its co-op trappings should solidify the desert island friendship on the back of some Dead of Winter backstabbing and sulky faces.

Companions.

Choosing my companions is no easy task. Plenty of board games put little weight into actual character, but there are exceptions. My first companion is from literature, the big screen, the smaller screen, video games, and of course, board games. He is the calming influence on his literary companion, a genius in his own right, and a downright decent chap to have at the table. Dr. Watson, of such classic titles as, Watson and Holmes, is player two. Sherlock’s sidekick always struck me as a little more relaxed than Holmes, he is also a doctor, and can probably build a mean shelter. He can also likely read instantly who the betrayer is in certain games, but that’s a price we’ll just have to pay.

Player three has to be the Explorer from Forbidden Island. I know the character is puddle deep, but they come equipped with other skills. Here we have a character tailor made for this adventure. Someone that can create the camp, map the island, probably grab a few coconuts for lunch, and then be back in time for Gloomhaven, whilst Watson and myself discuss important topics such as world politics and whether there are too many miniatures on Kickstarter.

Burn Baby Burn.

What to burn, what to burn? To be fair I’m never in favour of putting any game to the flames, but, this is a survival situation, so…

The first is a game that I actually loved for quite a long time. Much like Dead of Winter, it was one of the first I bought and spent many happy hours playing, however, the honeymoon is well and truly over. Betrayal at House on the Hill has simply had its time, in fact it travelled well into overtime. Where there was excitement and intrigue, there is now repetition and boredom. Each play has now descended to a point far lower than the basement of the old haunted house, and mention of dragging it from the shelf sees me groaning like many of the ramshackle house’s many horror drenched inhabitants.

The haunts that eventually unfold in the climax of the game are very much hit and miss, and when they miss it leaves me wondering why we’ve just wasted an hour ploughing our way there. It’s like spending a 12 hour flight heading to Disney and then landing at the local travelling fairground on the Co-op car park, where all sense of fun is replaced by the scent of cheap burgers.

I feel bad throwing it into the inferno, but, if it means I never have to play this again then I can live with myself.

My second choice is possibly even more horrific a game to burn. I mean it’s full of adorable little kids, and they’re all orphans. However, Endangered Orphans of Condyle Cove taught me a very important lesson. That style without substance never translates well on the table.

I had watched this one with keen interest when it launched on Kickstarter, I was sold on the art direction, and the dark, gothic undertones of the theme sealed the deal. I pledged, and then waited, and waited. The orphans were somewhat delayed on their voyage to my table, but no fear, as I was sure when they arrived some good board game fun was ahead. Then they arrived, and it turned out the game was a beautfully vivid beige shade of average hiding behind some delicious artwork. The game was destined for a lifetime of gathered dust and frowning looks, as I contemplated what might have been, and now it seems apt it should end its journey at least providing warmth in place of the expected, yet absent, fun.

And there we have it. That is the basics of how this new feature will work, and I would reiterate, it is in no way ripped off from a radio feature we have never even heard about and might not even actually exist. Until the next time, farewell.

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Neil Bason

Neil is a long in the tooth joystick twiddler, re-invigorated by the magic of board games. He spends his time in deepest Cornwall, writing, rolling dice, drafting cards, drinking coffee, and being endured by his family. It is a simple existence.

Latest posts by Neil Bason (see all)

Neil Bason

Neil is a long in the tooth joystick twiddler, re-invigorated by the magic of board games. He spends his time in deepest Cornwall, writing, rolling dice, drafting cards, drinking coffee, and being endured by his family. It is a simple existence.

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