Two New Campaigns

This week saw the start of two new RPG campaigns as I returned to Chicago. The first was another Apocalypse World campaign with my IRL group, in which we’re playing the denizens of an aquatic nightclub after a global flood. My character is the proprietor, a Maestro D’ named Grave, and the establishment is called At The Gates, built on a floating platform above a sunken city. It’s quite a departure from our previous AW game, but shows great promise.

The second campaign that started is actually the return of my old Engel campaign, played via Dogs in the Vineyard. The last time I ran Engel was in mid-2008, and it remains one of my most fondly remembered campaigns. I’ve been hesitant to bring it back, but the timing seems right and I have some ideas of where to take it that seem cool enough to make it a worthy continuation. This first session rocked, although it was mostly setting up the new ideas and was, perhaps, a bit of a pageant with the characters going from encounter to encounter. My favorite part was thrown in during play, though: the characters, taking the sewers to avoid the battle raging on the streets, hear something very large walk pass on the surface above them, rattling the walls and shaking loose the dirt from the ceiling.

Board Game Thoughts

My family isn’t all that into RPGs, but they do like board games, and since I’ve been visiting my folks the past few weeks, I’ve been playing a *lot* of games.  Mostly these have been strategy/tactical games.  Let’s see if I can remember all the ones I’ve played:

  1. Colossal Arena
  2. Carson City
  3. Last Night on Earth
  4. Clue: The Great Museum Caper
  5. Risk
  6. Zombie State
  7. Bang!
  8. Space Hulk: Death Angel
  9. Defenders of the Realm
  10. Arkham Horror
  11. Munchkin
  12. Pirates of the Caribbean Pirate Dice

That last one my older brother and I also used to tweak the rules of a pirate game he’d bought that has very high quality pieces, board, etc, but very poor rules to go along with them.  So, then, twelve or thirteen board games, some of which I played more than once.  (I also played Dogs in the Vineyard with some friends, but that wasn’t with my family.  And my younger brother and I started playing Dungeon World, an old-school hack of Apocalypse World, but we didn’t get much farther than character creation, unfortunately.)

While Risk and Clue: The Great Museum Caper are old family favorites (although I hadn’t played Clue: TGMC since highschool), and many of the others (Last Night on Earth, Arkham Horror) were very familiar to me, several of the games were new, including Colossal Arena, Carson City, Zombie State, Space Hulk, and Defenders of the Realm.  Of these new games, I think Zombie State is probably my favorite, although Colossal Arena and Space Hulk are also highly enjoyable games, and Defenders of the Realm seems to work when you’d like the experience of playing Arkham Horror without quite so strong narrative elements or Yog-Sothothery.  The only one I didn’t really like was Carson City, which has far too much in common with Settlers of Catan for my taste.  (I know Settlers is quite popular in most corners, but I am not any good at it and find it frustrating, as if there is some central mechanic to the game that everyone else has read but have conspiratorially kept hidden from me.)

Many of the newer games had strong narrative or story elements, which (in addition to their excellent rules systems) are what make them of especial interest to me.  There’s a web forum I frequent entitled “Story Games” which is mostly about RPGs but is so named because it wants to encompass all games in which a story is told or formed through play.  It’s a purposefully vague and inclusive definition, but I find this not to be a disadvantage.  I suppose there are people out there who self identify as exclusively RPG players, but my own allegiance is more to the narrative form (of any sort), and as pertains to games I’ll go anywhere I can create a sense of story.   To be fair, I’ll happily play other games as well (I especially enjoy strategy games like chess or Risk, and get addicted to puzzle games like Tetris) but those games I consistently find the most enjoyment in have a narrative element; be they RPGs or board games.

What games do you all play with your family members?  Are they more “traditional” games like Scrabble or Monopoly, or do you have family members who are interested in war or strategy games, or even RPGs?

Also, what cool board games, if any, have you played recently?  Any experiences with any of the games on my above list you’d like to share?