As you may have guessed, I’m mildly obsessed with board games. It’s my preferred past time with my wife. But, just like any hobby, there’s a reason for the obsession. With me and board games, one of the reasons I love them so much is because they make my mind work to solve problems in new, engaging ways. But I think the biggest reason I love them so much is because of the stories they tell.
Yes, narrative board games are real, and they’re awesome. In fact, one game designer uses “board games that tell stories” as something of a catch phrase. Let me give you some examples of board games that provide the player with an engaging narrative. Of course, some are seeped in theme, while others may need more of an imagination.
Champions of Midgard
Champions of Midgard is one of those games just dripping with theme. You’re a viking at a town called Midgard. During the game, you recruit swordsmen, spearmen, and axemen to fight off invading trolls and nearby draugr. If you’re feeling daring (and what viking isn’t?), you can set sail across the seas to slay more powerful creatures, such as a fenrir cub or the dreaded dreki (I prefer the dreki myself because, well, dragons).
But it’s not that simple. See,if your warriors attack but fail to block, they’ll die. Likewise, traveling the seas on a viking longship is dangerous business. Unless you’re fortunate enough to get clear skies and calm waters, you’re bound to lose men (and food!) when you get lost, or to whirlpools, or even the fears kraken!
Of course, there are ways to avoid such horrid fates. Visit the sage before a journey to get a peak at what the sailing conditions will bring. Perhaps there will be clear skies after all. If not, at least you’ll know to pack extra food (or bring on board a sacrificial swordsman to lose to the whirlpool).
From buying supplies to slaying dragons, Champions of Midgard offers a rich experience that is hard to find elsewhere. The board artwork is vivid, the player actions offer myriad choices, and the battles are stressful, to say the least. After all, if you lose your warriors to a troll, the troll will pillage the village, and you will be blamed for it. Not great for a viking to lose in such a manner.
I love this game. I get sucked into the theme and hidden story every time I play. In fact, I wrote a novelette based on the events of the game, titled For Glory and Honor. Click the link to read it.
Tiny Epic Galaxies
This game has a splendid them of space exploration, colonizing planets, and taking resources that your opponents thought were theirs. While the theme is most definitely there, an imagination really makes this game blast off.
Rolling custom dice to determine available actions may seem a little boring, but trust me, it’s not. There are plenty of ways to mitigate a bad roll, but you must be a good manager of resources first. It takes energy to re-roll, and if you want to follow someone else’s action, your galaxy needs culture so you can spend it.
In this game, you blast off from your galaxy and explore planets, colonize them, and grow your empire. Despite a lack of space battles, this game is still quite immersive and a definite favorite. So much so, that I wrote a short story based on this game’s events (shocking!). It’s called Sacrifice for Humanity, and you can read it by clicking the link that’s the story’s title.
The only thing better than a game of capture the flag outside is a game of it on your table. Flag Dash has two teams vying for the opposing team’s flag. Bring that to your side, and you win. Sounds easy?
Each character has special abilities, and the other team doesn’t know what you’re going to do before hand. In fact, every player reveals their actions simultaneously, along with a token dictating the priority they wish to take said action. Plans change mid-turn when you planned on moving up on the flag, but were instead pushed back by a grumpy tech nerd.
The playing field has secret tunnels, walls, and other obstacles to keep things interesting. As far as I can tell, this is the best capture the flag board game past, present, and future (if someone plans on making another variation, they have a high bar to cross).
This next part may shock your system, so be ready: I wrote a short story for it. I call it Turf War Revisited. And, yes, you can most certainly click the link to read it.
No, that’s this section’s title, not the name of a game.
To close, I encourage each of you, fair readers, to find stories and narrative in whatever it is you do. For me, board games are living stories, acted out turn after turn. There is satisfaction of being the storyteller while controlling the fates of the pieces on the board. If you think about it, it’s not much different than what writers do.
And that’s why I love board games so much. Sure, I’ll still play more abstract games, but give me a good theme and great mechanics, and I’ll be so far down the rabbit hole that you’ll need to come down after me.
And oh what stories we’ll have to tell.