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Subject: the impossible game--most thematic filler? rss

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Byron Campbell
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I'm fairly new to this hobby, and though I'm catching up quickly, there's still a lot I don't know. That's why I'm hoping you can help me find the impossible game.

I LOVE games that tell a story. Better yet, I love games that feel like I'm living a story. Unfortunately, the best games in my collection--Betrayal at House on the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and soon to be Android (haven't played it yet, but I'm already in love with the rulebook alone)--are also the longest, the heaviest, and the most expensive. That doesn't always go over well with the group I'm most often gaming with: my wife, her sister, and her boyfriend. They all like games that are quick, easy to learn, and (my wife especially) cheap. Their favorite game right now is Hey, That's My Fish!. I like it, too, but when I'm in the mood for a board game, it's not usually the first thing I think of.

So, here are my criteria:

1) The game has to be highly thematic, and not a boring theme like war, politics, or economics. Something in line with the games I own and the ones in my wishlist.

2) It has to be playable in about a half an hour, but it should still tell some sort of a story in that timeframe. Doesn't have to feel epic, but it should feel like something other than pushing pieces around on a board.

3) It has to be teachable in under ten minutes. This is especially important since, when I'm not playing with these three, I'm playing with a fairly wide rotating group of mainly non-gamers, so there may be new players popping up every once in a while.

4) It should be available, preferably on Amazon, for under $30. Most of my buying money is Amazon gift-cards. I'm not really interested in buying used unless it's OOP, or unless you personally want to propose a trade. Under $20 is best, but I understand that's highly unlikely.

5) In case I'm not being picky enough already, I'd like something with a mix of euro elements and some chaos. I'm not luck-averse at all, but I like to feel like I'm using my brain more than I'm rolling dice.

6) I don't care if it's co-op or competitive, cards or boards. As long as it meets the above criteria. Great artwork is a HUGE plus, though.

A few ideas that are ALMOST right:

Mansions of Madness: This is going to be my next big purchase, but it'll probably have to wait until close to Christmas. I think it meets all these criteria except possibly length and definitely cost (especially if I let them play investigators most of the time).

Red November: Had my eye on this for a while. Big Bruno Faidutti fan, based mostly on reading his Ideal Game Library. It's in the right price range, but right now only the big box is available (I liked the tiny one), and I just had to get Android first.

Munchkin: Axe Cop: This is probably the right weight, and the artwork/humor are miles better than any other Munchkin games, but I'm worried it will be TOO light to satisfy me, and thus turn into another That's My Fish.

So, does this game exist? Or am I going to have to design it myself?

P.S: Please don't suggest Descent: 2nd Edition, my wallet can't handle it.
 
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J Sinnett
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I'd suggest perhaps Citadels, for starters. Yes, the theme *seems* somewhat dry, but the tension and bluffing in this game are spectacular.

I'd be hesitant to go with Munchkin; while the game isn't complex, it's also very much *not* filler. I've had games of Munchkin go over two hours before.
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Chris Ferejohn
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Betrayal at House on the hill costs $30 and takes 45 minutes, so I'm not totally sure why that's a miss. OK, I guess the play time is a *little* long.

Mansions of Madness is both longer (~3 hours, possibly more) and more expensive than Descent. I highly suggest you consider getting Descent in place of it.

How about The Resistance? Good theme. Tells a story. Simple rules. Cheap. Don't know about "euro-y" I guess, but seems like it fits everywhere else.

And parting shot, in what possible world is "war" a "boring theme"?
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Byron Campbell
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Thanks! Got Citadels already, and while I love it, that's not getting on the table much yet either. I wouldn't mind suggestions for other games along a similar vein, though.

Resistance...I was under the impression that game required a larger group to play, sort of like Werewolf? I may be wrong.

War...just isn't my thing. I'm sure it's exciting if you're actually there, but as a theme for entertainment it's overplayed. If it's a war between magical bunnies and clockwork robots, I'd be happy to look into it. But if it's WWI/WWII/Napoleonic Conflict/any historical theme, I'm just not interested.
 
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Chris Ferejohn
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HikariStarshine wrote:
I'd suggest perhaps Citadels, for starters. Yes, the theme *seems* somewhat dry, but the tension and bluffing in this game are spectacular.


The upcoming Libertalia seems like it might be a good fit in a similar vein. Unless pirates are boring to you too (honestly can't guess after the "war is boring" bit").
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Mikko Karvonen
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I think Forbidden Island meets all your criteria.
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Witek W
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Maybe 7 Wonders? - building wonders of an ancient world, plays 30 mins, around 30$ on amazon.
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Samo Oleami
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If by thematic you mean a game with some sort of narrative and dramatic arch, I can't imagine any game shorter of 40 minutes to satisfy this (and this is in the most restricted sense of narrative - I can't play games shorter of 30 minutes because of this).

So what you have is neatly themed games (which is not same as thematic).

BAHOTH seems like a win, not sure why it failed?

Some ideas:
Mr. Jack - 2 player deduction game, not thematic, but nice original theme and art looks fine.
Munchkin - it's filler, it's thematic, it's light, it's simple, it's not short though
Aye Dark Overlord - thematic, evil and frenetic: it's a storytelling/roleplaying game of high stress and adrenaline. Rules - can be ignored. needs at least 4 players.
Survive! - this is probably what you want: simple as it can be but tells the same (simple B-movie) story of people getting eaten by sharks. Problem: not for sensitive people. Fun with the right crowd.
Galaxy Trucker - if you execute the second phase of the game, it's probably very simple to teach. and it is thematic. and it is a ride. strategy not included.
King of Tokyo? - thematic filler with more than zero strategy. or so they say.

Citadels look alikes:
Meuterer - better theme implementation, but harder to teach than Citadels (still not much, but if that's the problem, ...)
Havana - not sure if lighter, more "serious"

Personally I'd bring something like Time's Up or Dixit.
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Ed Bradley
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King of Tokyo all the way
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Christopher Boat
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Android: Infiltration
Mundus Novus
Witch's Brew
Nefarious
Locke & Key: The Game
Cave Troll
Ice Flow
Meuterer

Most of these play relatively fast and meet a lot of criteria.
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Chris Bender
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Fwing wrote:
King of Tokyo all the way


+1 to King of Tokyo, and I'd also add Roll Through the Ages.

Magic: the Gathering is also fun, very thematic, relatively easy to teach, and is a great multiplayer game. You can often score a bunch of commons and uncommons for not a whole lot of cash if you look around. Try and stick with recent core sets. However, getting this game ready to play would require a bit more work than just buying a game like King of Tokyo (you would need to build some decks).
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Byron Campbell
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Some good suggestions here, gotta look into some of these. Thanks so much for reminding me about Survive! I agree, it fits what I'm looking for perfectly. Already picked up Forbidden Island, and it is a big hit, but don't want it wearing its welcome thin too quickly, especially with me. Right now that and the penguin game are the only ones my wife will play on a reliable basis.

The conversation usually goes "wanna do something?" "Sure, as long as it's not a board game." "Oh...." "Fine, let's play the Penguin game." I don't usually feel like pushing it beyond that point, but I also don't want to restrict board gaming to "invite a bunch of people over for a huge event."

I'll explain about Betrayal since a couple people have brought it up. I love it. May even love it more than Battlestar. My sister in law loves it too. I think my wife likes it, just like she likes Battlestar, but whenever I suggest it she doesn't feel up to playing. It does FEEL like a "big" game, with all the tiles and cardboard bits, and while it usually runs under an hour the last game we played took two. So right now it's a "great for game night main event" type game, and I'm looking for a "great for a quick game before bed" type game, I suppose.
 
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Nathan
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HikariStarshine wrote:
I'd suggest perhaps Citadels, for starters. Yes, the theme *seems* somewhat dry, but the tension and bluffing in this game are spectacular.

I'd be hesitant to go with Munchkin; while the game isn't complex, it's also very much *not* filler. I've had games of Munchkin go over two hours before.


I've had games of Citadels take 3 hours before though too, it does depend on the game life. However, the theme comes from the people you play with, which is what makes this a great game.

My 2 cents: Saboteur. It is pretty light, and very similar to the Resistance, however I feel like it tells more of a story. And the theme is on the table in the form of the tunnels, and you really do feel like you are smashing up each others equipment and blocking them off.
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Karolina Soltys
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You can take a look at Dark Cults - it is very rules-light and easy to explain (actually, you can get rid of most of the rules and play it as a pure storytelling game, or make up some house rules) and it *surely* tells a story. It's out of print, but you can print&play a copy. It is a 2-player game, but I believe it can be played with 4 (2 people playing Life and 2 playing Death and alternating).

You might also like Onirim - cheap, quick and light, but still with some learning curve/strategy. It is an abstract game, but I still think it is rich in theme thanks to the beautiful artwork which nicely evokes the setting of weird dreams and nightmares.
 
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Matt Green
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kittenhoarder wrote:
I'm looking for a "great for a quick game before bed" type game, I suppose.


Ah, that might change the suggestions a little. King of Tokyo still sound like it hits more of the original criteria than any other game I can think of, but I would add Medici to the suggests list too. My wife enjoys it and it plays pretty quickly with 3/4 players.

It might be worth suggesting a few two player games that often get wheeled out when people look for 'spouse friendly' titles Jambo and Jaipur are the two most often suggested. Morels gets good press for similar reasons but I've not playeed it, as does Pillars of the Earth: Builder's Duel. Jambo is fantastic and well recommended.
 
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Sean Boyll
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Matching all your requests will be tough. Here are some that fit real well.

The Downfall of Pompeii
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation
Eruption
And another +1 for King of Tokyo
 
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Rich Charters
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+1 Citadels. Good flexibility on the number of players. Lots of fun.

I'd also suggest Flash Point: Fire Rescue as it has flexibility on the number of players. Perfect for a filler as people can join in mid-way through the game. Also, an easy game to not-finish because you are not determining a winner anyway.
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Clyde W
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kittenhoarder wrote:
Thanks! Got Citadels already, and while I love it, that's not getting on the table much yet either. I wouldn't mind suggestions for other games along a similar vein, though.

Resistance...I was under the impression that game required a larger group to play, sort of like Werewolf? I may be wrong.
The game is amazing at 5. It's also good at higher playercounts as well, but definitely 5p is one of the best numbers for the game. We play it over on the forums if you'd like to try your hand at playing before buying, and sometimes we run theme-rich roleplaying verisons of the game (set in space, mobsters, Lovecraft, etc).
 
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Ryan Newell
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Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game comes pretty close to fitting all your criteria.

EDIT: Looking at your wishlist, I'd say we have pretty much the exact same taste in games, so yeah, I'd definitely recommend Death Angel.
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Ralph T
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There are a lot of full length games being suggested. Especially Citadels.
I would suggest 7 Wonders, Ascension: Deckbuilding Game, Grimoire, BANG!, The Castle of the Devil, Quarriors!. Each has a thirty minute play time. Magical Athlete on tanga looks very thematic as well but has an hour expected play tome.
 
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- Ghost Stories
- Small World
- Space Hulk: Death Angel – The Card Game
- Race for the Galaxy
- Roll Through the Ages: The Bronze Age
 
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Byron Campbell
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Wow, thanks for the flood of suggestions! Thought I'd take a minute to respond to a few of them.

The following games seem to fit the ticket:
Survive!: This one's been on my wish list since I saw it reviewed on Cardboard Children, but it somehow completely slipped my mind. It's quick, fun, simple, thematic, AND fairly cheap, though right now it's $40 on Amazon ($10 more than I'd like to spend). Good call!
Ice Flow: Here's one I hadn't heard of, but I'd say it's just as good a fit as Survive, and even cheaper! I'm not sure how the gameplay holds up, as I just skimmed a review, but after seeing the board art and polar bear meeples I am already sold. It's hard to say no to a pretty game.
Locke and Key: Never heard of the source material, but the art looks great and the theme is just the sort of thing I'm into. It's also nice and cheap.
Castle of the Devil: This one looks great! I really like the art and the theme is perfect. The cover has a really cool Castlevania-esque vibe.
Grimoire: I've looked into this before. I love the idea of the spellbooks, but was worried that it might end up being too light in the end?
Morels: Ok, I'm intrigued. Probably not the top of my list, but gathering mushrooms is a unique enough theme to get me interested.


These games I would like to get, but don't meet one or more criteria:
Ghost Stories: We love co-op games around here, so this one's on my purchase list, but it's a bit pricier than I'm thinking, and the official playing time is 60 mins. Definitely getting it at some point, though.
Small World: Same, except for the co-op bit. Especially (re: cost) because I don't see myself enjoying this to its fullest without buying a couple expansions. Love the board art again here, though.
Dark Cults: I'm definitely intrigued, and if I can print and play I will probably give this one a go. My wife doesn't want to be put on the spot to make up a story, though (this goes for Aye, Dark Overlord as well).
Cave Troll: This probably meets all my other criteria, but it must be OOP, because I'm not seeing anything "cheap" on Amazon.
Witch's Brew: Same. Shame, because this looks like a blast to play. I may add this to my "seek out a used copy" list.
Meuterer: Has this even been released in the states?
Galaxy Trucker: This is no cheaper than Mansions of Madness! If I'm going to be spending this much, I might as well get Mage Knight. I know it's not quick or light, but it fills two niches that need filled for me: deck-building and questing. Plus, theme seems more fun. Will probably pick up Galaxy Trucker eventually, though.


These are some games I have no interest in at this time:
Death Angel: The theme doesn't really appeal to me. Reminds me too much of Gears of War. Don't think my wife would be interested in it either.
Roll Through The Ages: I don't think I have an interest in a pure dice game right now. I much prefer to get my randomness from card draws. This goes for Quarriors too.
Ascension: I've been looking for a deck-building game that's not Dominion, but I'm not sold on this one yet. If I got any of these, Storm of Souls seems to have the best art.
Medici/Jambo/Jaipur: Theme does not speak to me. I might give Jambo another look.
King of Tokyo: There's nothing inherently wrong with this game, but I also recognize that it's riding a hype train right now, and I'd like to wait for that to die down before I make any decisions regarding it. Same with Descent: 2nd ed.
Infiltration: If I like Android, I ought to like this, right? I dunno, based on what I've read, I don't know if there are enough tactical decisions here to keep me interested.
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Chris Sessoms
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Thebes Is also a really thematic filler game, less than an hour after you understand how to play.
 
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Christopher Boat
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I probably should've warned before suggesting Witch's Brew. It took me nearly 6 months to track down a copy, and as far as I can tell it's even harder to find a copy now.

Didn't realize Cave Troll became rare either. Looks like the older edition is still pretty cheap- lots of people trading it and there's a copy for $20 in the marketplace, though I couldn't speak for the quality of that edition.
 
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Samo Oleami
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I dunno, I wish you all the best and good luck with this quest, but me thinks that you start with 4 requirements that can not be met, unless for very restricted value of what they normally mean (thematic and short and strategic and easy to teach), and then you add up also cheap and avaliable in US. It's a tough gig.

First suggestion: changing buying habbits
Meuterer costs 7 eur at the publisher, while you're at it add Kutschfahrt zur Teufelsburg to the order (the original Devil's castle). Add travel and customs and it still the final price shouldn't be high (both are 2 very small decks of cards and fit in a very small package).

Second suggestion: think about your group.
Can they adapt to you or do you need to adapt to them?

If you think they can adapt to you check Race for the Galaxy. It's thematic, takes 30 min to play, it's highly strategic and it's not that expensive. You will need a week to teach it with occasional swearing and throwing of cards against the wall - but if family won't sent you to Hell by then you'll end up with replayable card game that meets all other requirements and should keep you all occupied for a while. (or take a look at 7 wonders for simpler, but less stategic and replayable game, still a good one. neither is high on interaction though).

If this is not an option, then just accept what they like and appreciate they play with you at all and play what they want to play. Try to find other people or gaming groups to play what you want to play.
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