5 Games That Got Me Into Board Gaming (Brandon Rojas)
Hey! Hi! I’m Brandon… well, ANOTHER Brandon at least. I’ve been playing modern board games since around middle school, starting with Magic the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons (as most do) but it wasn’t until recently that I truly found out what the hobby had to offer, and how it would become a major part of my life.
So what better way to show that with a top 5 list of games that got me INTO board games! These aren’t necessarily my top 5 all time favorite games (well, two of them are), but are a list of the games I played that showed me board games could be more than Monopoly. (However, I do have a special relationship with Monopoly, but I’ll save that for another day!)
In 2010 I attended my first PAX expo (at the time, the only PAX) which was mainly a video game focused convention, but branched out into other areas too. After the group I was with got our fill of the exhibit floor we ended up wandering over to the board game room where we would proceed to stay for hours trying all sorts of strange and new board games we had never heard of. It was an incredible time, and all I wanted to do was play more. I NEEDED to play more. So I started my collection, and it’s grown ever since. And, while my collection is meek compared to others, I treasure almost every game in it. So without further ado, my top 5 games that got me into board gaming!
#5 - Fluxx (Specifically the Monty Python edition)
I said above that I attended PAX West in 2010 (more on this in a bit!) and if you have never been to a standard PAX, you spend A LOT of time waiting in lines. Be it to get into a panel, or waiting to try the newest video game, you are sitting around for periods of time. So what better way to pass the time that with a game? Some people sitting near us broke out this game that was nothing more than a deck of cards and sounded like they were having a rip-roaring time! We had to know what this game was since these people were enjoying so greatly. When we asked, they told us and invited us to join. The game was easy to learn and we were able to jump right in. Soon enough we too were laughing right along with our new friends. I get the impression that many people look down on this game, but Fluxx showed me that a game didn’t have to be super complicated, overly long or full of pieces to be fun.
#4 - Stone Age
That weekend, we had so much fun with Fluxx that we decided to go down to the main board gaming area and check out what they had to offer. A friend randomly grabbed a box that had the words Stone Age written across it and brought it back to the table for us. None of us had ever heard of the game, nor did we have any idea what it was about but we threw caution to the wind and dove in. It took us a while to fully grasp the game, but when we did, we were loving it. It proved the complete opposite of Fluxx to me. There were games out there that made you think, strategize and outwit your opponents while still being fun. The friend who picked up the box eventually bought the game, which a few years later would lead us to buy one of my favorite games of all time (more to come!).
#3 - The Resistance: Avalon
When the poker boom of the mid-2000’s hit, it was all the rage in our friend group...for everyone but me, anyway. Bluffing is not my strongest suit so I shied away, especially when actual money was involved. But then along came Avalon. I can’t even recall where/how/from whom I heard about the game, just that it was a game about being deceptive, which of course turned me off from wanting to play. How could I compete my with friends who played poker religiously with each other? I would stand out like a sore thumb when I was lying. But a good friend from that group had his bachelor party coming up the following weekend, so I said screw it, let's try this out. They like board games, they like lying to each other, this should go over well. Well, not only did it go over well, it was essentially the highlight of the whole bachelor party weekend. At one point we had gone out to a casino, and almost an hour later we were heading back to the hotel room because the groom had just not stopped thinking about Avalon and wanted to play again. So we did, round after round. And hell, I was even able to bluff my way into winning! I learned that bluffing games COULD be something I was good at when I finally gave them a chance.
#2 - Dominion
In the years after first learning Fluxx and Stone Age, I wanted to start my own collection. I had gotten a taste and needed more. So I took to the internet to ask what I should buy. There were a ton of great suggestions, but the one that came up over and over was Dominion. Knowing basically NOTHING about the hobby yet, I thought “okay sure, lots of people said this so I might as well!”. I grabbed a friend, took a ride out to a game store and picked up a copy. We got home, broke it out and and were immediately overwhelmed. Even as we read through the rule book, we felt lost. There were so many cards! And on all those cards were so many numbers and words! What does +2 Buy mean? What the hell is a “Duchy” and why is it green? Eventually we said let's just play and see how it goes. Well, within 15 minutes of realizing we were educated adults and still have the capacity to learn, we were blowing through turns. Everything made sense; everything just flowed. Play a card, chain it together with 3 more cards, buy new cards, discard, shuffle, repeat. Dominion was the first game to start my collection, and also introduced me to deck building games, which to this day is hands down my favorite mechanic in games!
#1 - Twilight Imperium 3E (TI3)
I said above that this list was mostly about games that got me to really enjoy the hobby and not so much a favorite all time list. Well, TI3 is the exception. TI3 is my #1 favorite game of all time, as well as what made me fall head over heels into a hobby that will be with me for the rest of my life.
I was hanging out a friends place after having taught/played a game of Stone Age to some other friends and got talking about wanting to play something bigger. Something that really had weight to it. Something EPIC. I had slowly been reading up on stuff and said “hey… I heard of this game Twilight Imperium we should check out. It has political stuff but also big space wars and aliens and whatnot. I don’t know, it looked like Star Wars or something? Plus it has cool mini spaceships!”. So my friend pulled up the Amazon page and his jaw dropped. $100 for this thing! There was no way he was going to spend that much money on a BOARD GAME! But then he read the description. And then the reviews.
Two weeks later we were punching out sheet after sheet of cardboard. That first game took us almost 8 hours to play. The first 4 were purely reading the vast amount of information in the rule book, the second 4 the game itself. But it was everything we were looking for. There was political intrigue and espionage. Shady trade deals and bribery of all sorts. Large scale space battles! We were floored. We had to play again, we had to show this to our other friends. For the next year, we were playing TI3 once a weekend.
TI3 made me realize how board games can be the sum of their parts perfectly - a wonderful marriage of theme and mechanics in one box. The stories and memories that would come from these games are still with us to this day. And now with the arrival of Twilight Imperium 4E, we are preparing ourselves to usher in new stories and memories all over again.
So how about you? What games got you into the hobby, and proved that board games are much more than meets the eye? I hope to hear some of the stories you have to share, and hope that you enjoyed reading mine!
Good luck, Have Fun out there and catch y’all next time!
In case you forgot since this was long, I’ve been Brandon Rojas. I’m an avid board, tabletop & role player, craft beer enthusiast and seasoned video game player, having blogged and podcasted about them in numerous places in past. If you want to chat and this or anything else, you can always find me on Twitter at @BrandonHRojas probably posting something goofy and nonsensical.