So a thought occurred to me last night as Neil (of The Chaps) and I played quite possibly the most nail-biting game of Dreadball, or any game, that I’ve ever played. The thought was this: board games are awesome.
I don’t know why this comes as a surprise to me seeing as I cut my wargaming teeth at the age of 7 on Hero Quest and Space Crusade. Even now I still remember the thrill of excitement when I opened the box and read the rules and set up my first dungeon. Even now, almost 24 years later I look at the artwork and still feel that spark of wonderment.
Of course, by today’s standards; the models are shit. I mean spectacularly. But you know what? Back there and back then they were the most incredible things I’d ever seen and it took me on a life long journey of boards, armies and dice that I’ll never trade and never forget.
But back to the present. Ish. As I say, it was the monthly games night and Neil and I were playing the Dreadball game to end all Dreadball games that went down to the last rush and the last dice throw that won me the game. Next to us Ian and Jeremy were playing Memoir ’44 another, by pure chance, hex based game.
What made it so good was that we all got to sit around a single table – a barrier of munch separating the boards – the games were hugely fun, were over in under two hours and didn’t require an hour either side to set up and tidy away. Now, I’m not opposed to a tabletop game. Of course I’m not, I have two full companies of Ultramarines for crying out loud. I’m all for boards, crammed with scenery, hundreds of models and dozens of dice. But board games have their place too. Even over a skirmish game which still requires faff and time to set up.
I suppose my thought is this – a board game, if well written, can have a tremendous amount of variety and diverse outcomes all wrapped up in a relatively restrictive setting. Let’s go back to Hero Quest. The outcome of a quest was determined as much by the people playing and the routes their heroes took as it did the dice being rolled, the objective or the beasties they had to face.
This thought has run in parallel with a couple of others I’ve been having recently. The first is that time for me is about to come in extremely short supply. At least for the next few months. The second is that I have so much shit, I don’t know what to do with it when I do find myself with a rare window of free time. And the third is that for some of it I just don’t care enough. No matter how awesome a range of models is or how good a game can be potentially, if it’s hours of debate over badly written rules or page flicking because the book was compiled by a room full of retarded monkeys then what’s the point? It’s meant to be fun, after all.
As wargamers we invest a huge amount of time and effort into our hobby so the return absolutely has to be there and I’ve begun to wonder if there is a strong enough one for certain games that I collect and play. This isn’t to say that’ll jack them in. At least not yet. But it does mean that I’m going to start looking at games that give me a better return on the investment I make both financially and my time.
My recent forays in to boardgames like Last Night on Earth, Guards Guards, Dreadball and observing Memoir ’44 has presented me with a new and relatively inexpensive avenue to enjoy a game with my mates that doesn’t require a huge outlay for any of us. Granted there is a sliding scale. Level 7 by Privateer Press and Super Dungeon Explore are around the £40 and £65 respectively but both are still relatively inexpensive games that still retain their roots in wargaming. But with the likes of Halo Risk out and Mass Effect Risk on the way it’s hard not to have one’s heard turned by the more conventional wargame.
This isn’t to say that I’m hanging up my tape measure or anything like that but it’s an avenue of wargaming that needs far greater exploration and far greater attention paid because, when time is short, a board game allows you the opportunity to play a game and often allows the entire group to game together especially with the likes of Level 7, Zombicide, the soon to be released Warhammer 40,000: Relic by Fantasy Flight and the recently announced Firefly the Game from Gale Force 9 .
I’m still madly in love with Mordheim. 40k is still my jam and Godslayer has me and The Chaps so hot and hard we can barely look each other in the eye, but you know what? I have room in my heart and in my cupboard for a couple of boardgames. And when it’s a school night and everyone needs to be in bed by eleven, I think something like Level 7 or Dreadball fits the bill nicely.