Welcome to the second giant-sized Resources For Every GM! Today I want to share with you some more great table-top games for your group to play between adventures, to take a break, or when your missing party members. The games I include today are themed only to the point that I love them all. Each one as something it can offer your game, however, and if you have never tried one of these you should definitely give it a go!
Red Dragon Inn (Slugfest Games): I had heard this game was great on numerous occasions, but no one ever explained to me what it was about. Eventually I bought it out of sheer curiosity and I was pleasantly surprised! This game is all about what adventurers do when they get back to town from a dungeon. What better way to spend that hard earned gold than on drinks and gambling at the local tavern? Each player gets a different character and their respective deck. Each of these decks has a number of similar cards, but they all have different personal cards too. The card titles and images reveal something of the character and some of them are quite amusing. Essentially what the game comes down to is balancing the need to remain in the tavern. Running out of gold or falling unconscious from too much alcohol causes you to exit the game. Cards run the gambit from making others drink, increasing your health, harming others, or sobering up. Then, of course, you can initiate a round of gambling for which certain cards exist or can be used. The rogue is especially good at this.
What makes this game great is there are two, intertwined goals. Stay conscious and don’t run out of gold. Of course each round of drinks (reshuffling the drink deck) costs gold from everyone so you want to make sure you get gold back. Or if that won’t work get your friends so drunk that they pass out and you can take some of theirs and keep drinking! Because survival is the name of the game, there are many methods by which you can win. You can outlast, out maneuver, or out gamble your friends. As long as they get booted out first. It is the fact that these strategies work on a round by round level is great, but paired with each character being geared towards a long-term strategy and the randomness of decks, this game has tons of replayability. Add in expansions and new characters, you have a fantastic game. Finally, this game helps you learn and practice different methods of going about something. Everyone needs to stay conscious and have gold, but everyone does it differently!
Munchkin (Steve Jackson Games): I’m not sure why I haven’t included this game before now, but it definitely deserves a spot on your shelf. Actually, it probably deserves many spots. Munchkin is a relatively simple card game slash semi-rpg. You build a character with item, power, race, and class cards while kicking down doors, defeating monsters, and looting treasure. First person to level 10 wins and its no holds barred. This game is great because it uses a mechanic that, after a few games, becomes second nature to go about play. At the same time though, it is infinitely complex by providing a giant stack of stuff. There a tons of monsters, items, powers, etc. and each game you play, your character will be different. The role-playing part of it is just natural fun that extends from this fact.
Take all of this and throw on top of it different, equally-sized, sets by the pile and you have a game with more replay-ability than you could imagine. Sets include cthulhu, ninjas, steampunk, super heroes, and space. You could also go for branded variants like Pathfinder, Adventure Time, or Gloom too. Then there are boosters to pull in stuff like Kobolds Ate My Baby! and Penny Arcade! Not only is all this true, but they all work off the same relative mechanics (though some might add something others don’t) and can be mixed together. Ninja cthulhu Munchkin? Sure! Oh, did I mention the decks are full of tongue-in-cheek jokes and puns? What more could you ask for??
Fluxx (Looney Labs): I cannot tell people how much I love this game. And yet no one wants to play it. I just don’t think they can handle the chaos because this game just has two rules. Well, to start off anyways. You see the goal is to lay down green keeper cards and have the ones that match the pink goal card on the table. The rules? Draw one. Play one. Of course there are also yellow rule cards which can not only change these two rules but throw everything right out the window. In the Monty Python one, for example, One, Two, Five turns every iteration of the number 3 into a 5. The draw 3 rule is on the table? Draw 5. Blue card makes someone discard 3. Discard 5. It becomes insanity. Add on top of that black creeper cards that prevent you from winning and are forced into your keeper line things get wild.
Of course their are goals that let you win with creepers. And whatever you were just planning when your turn comes up in two more? Yeah well your hand is now whatever the person to the left had AND you have different keepers AND a new goal. Oh and someone reset the rules. But look! You won? How did that happen? That is how this game can go and I love it. It encourages just messing with the status quo, you know the one that doesn’t really exist anyways. You need a handful of partially formed plans to get through any one round of this game and you should be ready to change them every second. Adaptability is king here and sometimes, no matter what you do, the cards could decide someone wins when they weren’t expecting it. The moral of the story is play this, have fun, enjoy the chaos, and practice being adaptable.
Three Dragon Ante (Wizards of the Coast): I wish I could link a place to buy this game, but it’s out of print as far as I know. Which is a shame because it is a fantastic card game. There were even two versions, the second being Emporer’s Gambit and included rules for combining portions of the decks to create variant decks. The thing about Three Dragon Ante is it is a straight up gambling game. Like poker. You bet, bluff, and call out other’s bluffs. Strategy very much depends on what is going on in other hands and what you have to work with. Like poker in all its iterations, Three Dragon Ante simply wants you to end up with all the gold at the end. What makes this game so special is it is clearly a D&D, fantasy world card game. This is the game everyone would be playing in Waterdeep instead of poker.
Now the rules are written to use fake gold and ways you can represent that and suggest ending after one person is dropped out. This works for a written rule set and is especially important for trying to use this in a campaign session. They even provide rules on using your PC’s skills in the gamble (4E if I remember). While this is great the game shines, again, in that its is so well designed. Bring some poker chips and a $20 buy in, and you have the perfect geeky alternative to poker night. Joke about old games and characters, snack, and bluff your way to the winnings. You don’t have to stop when one person drops. In fact if you want a dragon riddled poker night, I suggest doing what we always did with poker. Play a complete elimination. When there are only two left one will eventually fold and end it all. He gets his buy in back and the winner takes the rest. Of course I would never endorse gambling with real money. Well that’s not true, just be responsible folks!
Smash Up (AEG): Another game I love, but sadly one I have not played enough of. Honestly, I should bring it out more because it is a ton of fun. Like other games I have mentioned today, this is one that will help train your mind to adaptability and using different methods achieve your goals. This game benefits from an added twist though. You are not just taking one deck that specializes in a specific way of doing things, but TWO. So, not only does this game teach you different strategies on how to do something but it allows you to learn to synergize two strategies together. Some work really well, others not so much. Either way you need to try your damnedest to win! Smash Up is a fun game that involves building a deck from a number of themed half decks. Dinosaurs, robots, ninjas, pirates, and wizards are just some of the possibilities from the base game.
Just in prepping for the game you can come up with some interesting ideas to inspire your home games. What happens when a group of wizards tames dinosaurs to run into battle with!? What about robot ninjas!? Not only will you get to see these ideas but you can get an idea of how they might work out by playing the game and finding how their strengths and weaknesses interact. You see, you need to build up armies on different locations. Depending on your point value there, and everyone else’s, you get awarded a certain number of points. Sometimes it pays to be in the lead there, sometimes in second. Extra occurrences happen at scoring and your cards may do something then too. It all depends you you picked. Because of the way the game is designed there is, obviously, tons of replay-ability. Add in the expansions like the Cthulhu themed one or the Halloween themed one and you get more and more options. This game is fun, inspiring, and will definitely teach you new ways of combining assets in important scenarios.
Survive! Escape From Atlantis (Stronghold Games)
My gaming group loves this game. It is a ton of fun. Unlike many off the games I have posted, this is much more in line with the classic feel of boardgames. Everyone has pieces, the take turns, they fight each other for supremacy. There are no cards, set-up is easy, and games go quickly. What makes this game different is the fact that it takes those basics and makes something you want to play over and over, and adds some randomization to prevent that play from getting old. An island is formed by placing different terrain tiles down randomly. The island is sinking and the first to go is sand, then forest, than mountain. Each has something on the underside which could spawn a shark, a whale, a boat, or provide something like a dolphin for you to use later. You need to escape the island and make it to mainland, working your way across the ocean to one of the corners and avoiding sea serpents. If that wasn’t enough plays roll dice to move the whales, sharks, and serpents each turn and may have tiles to send them against you.
The wonderful thing about this game is that the boats are really key to getting free, but there are spaces per boat, meaning you may have to bring another colored survivor with you. You may ask why this would be a problem if you get two for their one, but the thing is they are worth different amounts. Ranging from 1 to 6 points each, you must score your survivors at the end. Four 1 point survivors does not beat a single 6 point survivor. The reason I included this isn’t just the replay-ability, fun, or even the expansions (like adding krakens). No, it’s that you aren’t allowed to check any scores for meeples, even your own. You won’t know the enemies’ until scoring, and you better remember yours. Tracking a dozen or so meeples of different worth while trying to bluff, beg, and force your way to main land AND get others eaten by sharks is tough. It is a great challenge that can help GMs and Players alike, all under the guise of a fantastically fun game.