S. & S. Music Factory Commentary Jam Session – Board Games
Adam’s picks: Monopoly, Go, Risk, Parcheesi, Stratego, Othello, Hex, Quarto
Here’s the thing about Adam’s games: I have only actually played two of them, ever. I mean, what the hell is “Hex”? “Quarto”? Did Adam just make these up or what? Yeah, OK, Adam, I’ll follow your “Quarto” with MY genius pick of “Praxatron.” Best. Game. Ever.
Anyway. Monopoly, a lovely first pick by any stretch of the imagination, kind of grates on me because I think it’s a stupid game, and it’s WAY too high-maintenance – board, game pieces, property cards, money, chance, community chest, houses and hotels, dice – in addition to being a huge pain in the neck to play, the game is ruined forever if the dog chews up even a tiny portion of it! That doesn’t happen with chess, my friends, and you can ask the half-shredded white bishop in my house if you don’t believe me. But I won’t begrudge Adam this choice, since it is the archetypal non-generic board game. Plus it’s perhaps the only game for which people display quite that level of fervent, violent loyalty to particular game pieces (I’ve seen people trade away vast amounts of money before the game has even started for, say, the wheelbarrow.)
Go is allegedly one of the great games of all time, but it’s insanely complicated and requires a lifetime to master and, let’s face it, who doesn’t just want to play some Museum Caper Clue instead? Risk has a pretty hilarious premise, until people start taking it too seriously, and then it’s just unsettling. I’ll admit that I’ve never played Parcheesi and haven’t the faintest idea what it entails. Why yes, I AM too lazy to look it up. Thanks for asking. And would it be possible to come up with a name stupider than “Stratego,” which, in addition to being really half-hearted-sounding, doesn’t even have the same pronunciation as the word from which it purportedly derives? In the future, stick to sober, adult game names such as “Hungry Hungry Hippos,” OK?
Luckily, Adam’s draft is totally redeemed by the brilliant sixth-round pick of Othello. Incredibly straightforward, yet surprisingly entertaining. You can play it in a car, you can play it at the bar. You can play it in my house, you can play it with a mouse. Well, not really, but you CAN make a homemade version that works pretty well.
Final grade: B. Big points for classics, and confused sheepish overcompensating points for games I’ve never heard of, but ultimately this draft only contains one game that’s actually fun.
Sydney’s picks: Trivial Pursuit, Clue, Battleship, Connect Four, Chinese Checkers, Operation, Scene It?, Twister
Let’s get one thing straight: I freaking love Trivial Pursuit. I could take or leave the whole dice-rolling, wedge-involving, rainbow-ordered-circle-making, legitimate “game” part of it, but there’s just nothing more enjoyable than sitting around and reading Trivial Pursuit questions to pass the time. That said, a certain incident circa sophomore year of high school, involving some really OBVIOUS cheating, has poisoned my relationship with Trivial Pursuit vis-à-vis Sydney. So let’s just move on.
Clue is an absurd game (and what’s the deal with those tiny pencils they give you?), but it has a certain peculiar charm, I think. Nice second-round grab. Battleship is idiotic beyond description, but it was the first vertical board game pick in the draft, and for that, I am impressed. Connect Four is one of the most enjoyable games in this entire draft, AND it had one of the catchiest little jingles in the history of commercials. Go for it! Connect Four! Go for it! Connect Four!
Chinese checkers is a nice, simple game that also makes a good last-minute desperation gift, since there are so many tasteful, attractive versions of it. Operation may be riddled with egregious medical inaccuracies, but any game that teaches children to embrace invasive surgery as a solution to minor physical problems is OK in my book. I don’t know what Scene It? is, but any game with a pun AND “pun”ctuation in the title wins me right over. And Twister was a smart last-round pick, even though (come ON) it’s not really a board game. Also, those of us who have serious problems distinguishing left and right have always hated it because it draws attention to our bizarre brain deficit. But we can at least recognize that other people seem to consider it a classic.
Final grade: B+. A great draft, but sorry Sydney, cheaters don’t get As.
Chris' Picks: Scrabble, Checkers, Yahtzee, Boggle, Cranium, Trouble, Sorry, Guess Who
Chris started out with the very strong pick of Scrabble. Any game that rewards people for their prowess of two-letter words gets a star from this commenter. Checkers is a standard. Who doesn't like saying "King me"? Yahtzee, while not technically a board game (where’s the board, you may ask), is fun and requires almost no skill. Boggle is an excellent game (although its boardgame-y-ness is also debatable), especially when your opponent is a beginner and can only find words like "eat".
Getting back to board games that use actual boards, Chris selected Cranium. Cranium is truly the chimera of board games, combining other games such as Name that Tune, Pictionary, Charades, Trivial Pursuit, and a spelling bee, to name a few. It also involves clay that gets all over whatever surface it touches.
Sorry was a heart-wrenching game. Getting sent back to the beginning was always such a drag. Guess Who, while a last round pick, is a sexist, sexist game. There were maybe 5 cards with women on it and if you picked a woman, you were basically screwed, making any player hate women. For this very reason, this commenter is opposed to Guess Who.
Final Grade: C+. Nice start, but this was a draft of boardgames.
Sarah’s Picks: Chess, Backgammon, Candyland, Mastermind, Life, Mancala, Museum Caper Clue, Chutes and Ladders
Sarah began with the be-all-end-all of board games, Chess. I mean, people devote their lives to the game and develop computer programs to play it. And then the computer programs duel each other! If that’s not a board game, I don’t know what is.
Sarah, truly the child at heart of this draft, ended up with both Candyland and Chutes and Ladders. What’s not to like? They’re both fun and colorful, with incredibly simple rules, very much the gateway drugs of board games, leading children onto harder games like Mastermind.
Mancala and Mastermind both got bad reputations due to their close associations with classrooms and terms like “high educational value.” I could never truly enjoy a game I played in class. Life could be fun, especially with pink and blue kids in the back of the car. Much like real life, losing the game of Life was not fun. Coupled with the potential Social Security collapse, the game instilled fear of entering the not-as-nice retirement community in the hearts of many.
Final Grade: B. Chess is great, but let's face it, Life is depressing.