Every board gamer has their collection – that pile of games, big or small, which we love to play and share. But what’s a gamer to do when they are heading abroad, away from the sanctity of their game library and the good times those games guarantee? What do you do if you’re the kind of person who thinks a 2-hour flight is too long to go without some interactive entertainment?
Today, two of Gameosity’s intrepid explorers share a few travel-friendly games, as well as the logic with which they were chosen for this most recent getaway. Is it possible that the judicious application of board games could enhance a week at the most magical place on Earth, or would we just be wasting space that could otherwise be used for overpriced keepsakes and unnecessary trinkets? Would park security harass us as we tried to play Eight-Minute Empire, because the only kingdom allowed was the Magic variety? Find out as we explore the games that managed to stow away on our trip to Disney!
So, a bit of context.
The last time I was in Disney World, I had a great time. Not only was I coming down off the roller coaster of awesomeness that was my wedding, but Disney represented a total break from the endless commitments that define adulthood – a chance to just run around and be carefree with my wife. It was awesome.
Five years later, I found myself packing for Disney once more. In some ways, very little had changed since our last departure – the cats were running around, confused by the flurry of activity, my wife was clean and organized, and I was simultaneously worrying about our schedule and also making us run behind it. Typical stuff. But this time, there came a moment during the packing tornado that both she and I stopped in front of a wall of our living room to contemplate. Our collection of board games stared back at us, serene and vast, silently asked us a simple question – what games would we be taking?
It may seem silly, taking board games to the most magical place on Earth, but my wife and I are gamers, and we like to have the option to break out into our favorite pastime no matter where we go. So we stopped and looked over the collection, trying to decide what we could bring along.
Andrew: Well, whatever we take, it should obviously be small, but it should also play fast, since we’d likely be playing places where we wouldn’t have lots of time. So that rules out a whole load of good games…
(For the record, on our last visit to Disney, ‘Tigger’ had hugged my wife just a little more enthusiastically and for a few moments longer than I would have liked. I remember these things.)
We contemplated. Jess is very partial to the indirect competition of worker-placement games, such as Lords of Waterdeep and Targi. I like some dice-rolling and light area-control. And so after a few moments of consideration, Jess went back to meticulously folding clothes for the suitcase and I went about shoving three small game boxes into my backpack (where they fit much easier than the Fresco Big Box ever could).
The first of those games, and the one we spent the least amount of time debating, is a little gem from Gamewright called Quixx. The celebrated and ingeniously clever Quinten Smith from Shut Up & Sit Down (well, I celebrate him, anyway) said once that “…judging from Quixx’s cover, it was shit”. With all due deference to Quinns, I’m pleased to say that his knee-jerk reaction was wrong (though, like everything else SU&SD does, it was said with a kind of level, perfect comedic delivery that also made it hilarious).
Quixx is a very simple 10-15 minute dice-roller, the rules of which can be summarized in all of five sentences: Players take turns rolling the colored dice and scoring the rolled numbers on one of four colored tracks. The hitch is that numbers can only be scored in order, so if you decide to score, let’s say a red 5, you can’t then go back and score a red 4. If it’s not your turn you aren’t obligated to score any numbers, but if you don’t score on your own turn, you must take a penalty. Play continues until either 2 lines have been scored completely or until someone takes 5 penalties, at which point players add up their score, subtract any penalties, and declare a winner.
Gameplay-wise, Quixx couldn’t be simpler – roll the dice, decide which number or numbers you will score, and then pass the dice. But that made it absolutely perfect as a travel game. We could play it anywhere we could roll, with runaway dice being the only real concern. Also a plus is that the structure of scoring means that all players are engaged during every roll, not just their own, so Quixx essentially has no down-time.
Jess: Quixx isn’t my favorite game because it isn’t really deep, but it was perfect for our trip. The box is tiny, so we took it everywhere, and it plays so fast we could play it anytime. Quixx is good for a quick fix. See what I did there?
Jess: Tigger would have laughed.
Of course, Jess was right – Quixx is ideal as a filler, but we also wanted to bring something with a little more meat on its cardboard bones – which is a gross way of saying that, sorry. Worker placement games, among Jess’ favorites, are rarely small, nor do they always scale well for 2 players. Fortunately, we had one that met both those requirements with ease.
The Builders: Middle Ages is one of the tightest, cleanly designed games in our collection. Published by Asmodee, there is a whole lot of game packed into that little 5″ x 5″ tin. Taking up just a bit more table-space than Quixx, The Builders still manages to be a satisfyingly deep experience for 2 to 4 players.
In turns, players draw workers from the labor pool into their work force and then assign those laborers to various building projects. Each project has requirements in four different crafting disciplines, and each laborer has different skill levels and salary requirements. Players try to complete projects as efficiently as possible, reaping the rewards in coins and victory points. First player to 17 points worth of completed structures wins!
Andrew: Holy hell, where did they all come from? Those meeples aren’t even from The Builders!
With a fast-play game and a worker placement game safely tucked into my bag, we decided that the last game we would take could be a little bit bigger, both in size and playtime and would cater to my enjoyment of area-control gameplay. Eight-Minute Empire: Legends, from Red Raven Games, could not have fit the bill (or my backpack) better. While we have never managed to actually complete a game in the titular eight minutes, this game’s appeal comes from its gorgeous art and smooth, quick play style.
Players will attempt to move across the beautifully drawn islands, deploying their armies and building castles as they try to be the dominant force by the end of the game. Actions are selected from a bank of available cards, with each card giving both a 1-time use ability as well as some persistent benefit throughout the game. As players choose cards, they can begin to build strategies around the bonuses which they are accruing. After a set number of turns, the game is over, territorial control is determined, bonus points are added up, and a winner is declared!
Jess: Eight-Minute Empire: Legends really is a lot more complex than it first seems like it will be. Initially it just looks like you’ll be pushing little cubes around the map, but the card-driven action selection adds a surprising amount of depth.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly. And the game comes with a whole mess of optional components which can add extra bonuses, extra victory points, variable player powers, even hidden treasures! It’s got so much to offer, all wrapped up in a really small, very well-made box. Eight Minute Empire: Legends is one of my favorite games period – its travel-friendly nature is really just a bonus.
All three of these games were great choices for our trip and we heartily recommend them not only as games to have in your collection, but as games to take with you when you want to game on the go. Their small size made them easy to bring along and their gameplay qualities made them fun and engaging without ever overstaying their welcome.