Who doesn’t love traveling? As we speak (or rather, as I write) I am laying in a bed in Anaheim, California. When gaming is as big a part of my life as it is, I have a hard time leaving it behind just because I’m outta town for a couple of days. I also have a hard time determining what games I’m going to bring with me. I thought I’d explain why and how I brought the games I did, and hopefully it can help you make the most of your next trip.
First and foremost is storage. If any of you know me personally then you know that I like the chance to play my games to be a treat, and as such prefer to keep them in the best condition possible. I sleeve almost all my cards, in any game, period. The only exception may be when the cards are merely laid out on the table. But if the cards are going to be held in a player’s sweaty, greasy paw for more than a couple of seconds at a time then you can be safe assuming I’ve sleeved them. Once the cards are sleeved, next is bagging them so that no stray cards or pieces get lost.
Speaking of pieces, the less the better. This should speak for itself. When playing a game in a new-to-you environment with unpredictable circumstances it is always going to be at your own risk. More pieces just means greater chance of something getting lost. And let’s be honest, when you’ve got half a dozen pieces of luggage it’s easy to miss that one stone resource that’s fallen under the sofa-sleeper. It’s best to just stick to card games. They take up the least space, both stored and on the table, and have the least chance of coming home incomplete.
Nothing is more unappealing to me than finishing to play a beautiful game, one everyone around the table enjoyed, only to pull out an old tattered game box to store it in. You know the kind, with the faded, white corners? Maybe it has a large crease in the lid from bearing too much weight? It makes me cringe just thinking about it. Don’t our games deserve better? I feel like storing them in anything less than a equally beautiful and pristine. And I can speak from personal experience when I say that nothing will ruin a game box quicker that shoving a couple of them into a backpack along with a bunch of other odds and ends for a long weekend.
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit, I may be a little on the eccentric end of the scale but the principle has to hold some level of truth with most others, right? Anyways, here’s a trick for those of us that do care a little bit more than may be necessary.
Whenever I get a new expansion, if the content will fit in the base game box, I try to store the expansion box someplace safe. I’ve ended up using these expansion boxes for shipping games to others in trades and sales. I’ve also used a couple box covers as art that can be cut out and framed. But another great use is for storing multiple games when traveling. For this trip I was able to use an old expansion box (from a game I have long since sold) as a means to store three small card games. I have no reason to keep this box in the first place, and as such could care less what type of condition it comes home in.
Now let’s talk games. What does one bring when traveling? Well, if your trips are anything like mine then gaming isn’t always a for sure thing. So my advice is to bring a small variety of games to cater to a broad spectrum of circumstances. I like to bring a filler game that will play quick and simple for a small group. I also thin it’s good to have a large group party game, potentially a social deduction game. And lastly a game that has a little meat on it’s bones. This should be sufficient given any number of players or time restraint. With that said let me introduce the games I selected for this trip.
This one is an interesting little gem. I think the quickest comparison would be Uno for gamers. It has its roots in the family of traditional mass market games, but has a ruleset that befits some of the more involved card games in the hobby. The deck consists of seven color sets each containing numbers 1-7, for a deck of 49 cards. You will have a hand of cards with only one objective. When your turn ends you have to be winning or you’re out. How do you put yourself in a place to be winning you might ask. Simple, every color card has a winning condition. One color for example might be having the most pairs, while another might be to have the highest number. On your turn you either need to play a card or discard a new rule that would place you as “winning”. If you fail to be able to do so, you’re out. The rules are very simple but managing your hand of cards is a real challenge and can be very rewarding. In addition, a single round can be played in a matter of minutes or you can play to a predetermined score over various rounds for a longer game.
Don’t Mess with Cthulhu
I used to really enjoy social deduction games but have since grown tired of the recycled mechanics and forced behavior. While Don’t Mess with Cthulhu is still a social deduction game, it somehow finds a way to approach the genre differently in a way that feel fresh. Like most games of this type there are two teams, good and bad. The good guys want to find all the elder signs hidden amongst the facedown cards. The bad guys have a much simpler job, find the single Cthulhu card. Each round players will receive a predetermined number of these investigation cards. They will get to examine them and then must shuffle them and line them up facedown in front of them. So each player will know what is front of them, but not where. Then players will take turns investigating each others cards looking for either the elder signs or Cthulhu.
The first twist on the genre is that the bad guys, like the good guys, never get to find out who is on their team. This gives the bad cultist players an additional challenge as they too must determine who they can trust. The next twist is that the Cthulhu card could either end up in front of one of the cultists or one of the investigators on any given round. A simple solution would be to announce that you are an investigator and that you have Cthulhu in front of you, but that is very dangerous. Now you become a prime target for a single cultist investigation that could win them the game. All players are encouraged to lie, and possible tell the truth, at any given moment. This game will definitely appeal to those who are looking for a new social deduction experience.
Man do I love this game. I think it’s safe to say this game falls into my top 10 of all time. I love games that are replayable not because of the game setup but because of the behavior of its players. High Society is a auction game that is driven by the players and their decisions each round. Each player at the start of the game receives a deck of money cards. In the center of the table is a central deck from which one card will be revealed each round that players will be bidding for. Like most games you must bid higher than the player before you or pass, removing you from contention for the current card. Bidding will continue bidding until every player but one has passed. That player pays their money facedown infant of them and they reveal the card for the next round.
What appears to be a traditional bidding game has a few wrenches tossed into your best laid plans. First is that players will never receive change and must only add cards to existing bids to create new bids. Let’s look at an example. The current bid is $18,000 my previous bid was $12,000. So now I must add a card(s) to remain in the running. Do I simply add my $8,000 to bump me up to $20k? The problem could be that if the bidding goes around again then I would need to spend what is probable my 4th money card, all of small denominations. This would ruin me for the rest of the game. Or do I overpay by adding my $15,000 card, maying my bid $27k. This would save me one of my valuable cards, but lose me more money in the end?
The deck also features some negative cards that turns the auctioning process on it’s head. Players begin bidding to not take the negative card. The first play to pass is forced to take the card, not paying anything, but forcing all the other players to pay their bids for absolutely nothing. This is absolutely brutal and will make you second guess your decision not to take the penalty every single time. The single biggest feature though to note is that when the game ends, before players even add up how many points you’ve won. Players must first count up how much money they’ve got left. The player with the least money is immediately disqualified, regardless of how many points they have. So be thrifty. But also aggressive. But also cautious. But also reckless. You see the dilemma?
I absolutely love this game and will forever recommend it to anyone and everyone. If I get only one chance to play a game on this trip this is the game that I’m going to be pulling for. The important thing to remember is that while gaming is always fun, at times it must take a back seat to other plans. Like Disneyland, for example.