… what the UK is to bird watching
Picture your local library down the street: small and limited in books unless you make a request 3-5 business days in advance but still with enough genres to please the young and younger and for you not to go any further. Now imagine that same library but with board games instead of books.
When PC told me about going to a board games night with some locals, I was horrified I have to admit I had my reservations. Don’t get me wrong: I love board games, I grew up playing different board games with my father but this was a whole new level. The only German board game I knew (and sucked at) was the Settlers of Catan which my colleagues back in Mauritius were crazy about. I imagined myself in a room with sweaty and smelly men with terrible social skills right out of Stuart’s store from the Big Band Theory and the prospect of that wasn’t appealing at all. I did however agree to put my reservations aside and go there with an open mind – and if I didn’t like it, we could always leave early. We ended up leaving way past midnight.
Every Monday and Friday at 7 pm a group of people from enthusiastic 7 year olds to experienced 80 year olds gamers (I may be exaggerating a bit but you get the gist) in the play room in the Pellerhaus (Egidienplatz 23, 90403 Nürnberg). The way to the play room is actually through the back door rather than the front one, so if you are going down a dark alley, then you’re at the right place. We reached there a little bit later than seven but groups had already been formed and play already started. That didn’t pose any problem though. Before we knew it, we were sat at a table playing against two cheeky German gentlemen well into their fifties (or maybe I’m just bad at judging the age of people) talking about everything from game strategy to why Franconians are different from Bavarians.
Our “mentor” thought this would be a good one to start with and get us into the gaming spirits. Blokus is basically a multiplayer tetris game in real life. It’s designed for two to four people and it’s mostly based on strategy. Whilst our gaming partners knew what they were doing, we (or maybe that’s just me) putting my tiles where they fit rather than doing much thinking and taking the occasional advice from the experts. The aim of the game is to end up with the least number of squares tiles at the end so the obvious strategy would be to use the polyminoes with the highest number of squares at the earliest possible. I’m not sure how it happened but we ended up ganging up on PC at some point during the game. Maybe they just dug my accent –the joys of having an almost-British-turning-American accent – and preferred to bully the only other person they could instead. There’s even a travel version of the game for two people which eliminates the ganging-on-the-weaker-player problem and which could definitely be interesting on the road.
2. Love Letter
I think they probably chose this one just because I was a girl although the game itself wasn’t at all girly. We did however lose of our German gentlemen when this one was brought forward; the game itself is designed for two to four players so between us three, we could still make it work. The background story – which our remaining German gentlemen took pleasure into telling me us not without adding some dramatic fake tears for the sake of entertainment – goes as such: eligible men of a kingdom named Tempest are trying to court Princess Annette who alas is locked in the palace. Therefore the men, in this case the players, must rely on other people within the palace to deliver their love letters to her. You can read more about the story here. From a deck with only sixteen cards containing cards such as the ultimate card of the Princess to the Chamber Maid to the Prince to the Guard, The aim of the game is to be the last suitor – player – standing at the end of the third round; PC got the Princess in this one, lucky him.
(All four of the above obtained from the official website)
3. Camel Up
There is no way other way to describe this one other than to say that it was FANTASTIC. We joined a family and we were a total of eight at the table, which is the maximum number of players the game allows for. The game involves camel racing and gambling. Disclaimer: no animals were harmed during this game. In a race of five camels around a pyramid, the aim of the game is to guess who will come first and second, based on which you make your bets. The earlier you place your bets, the more money you get. There is a just one little catch: the camels are not very trained runners and sometimes land on top of another camel and ends up being carried to the finish line. A tip I was given: the one on top is most likely the one going to run the furthest. I also quite liked the pyramid which also worked as a dice shaker which releases one die at a time – the kids and I would always go for that during our turns. I ended up with the most money at the end of this one with a whooping amount of 21 whatever-currency-the-game-uses.
4. Ave Caesar
This is yet another racing game designed for two to six players but without any weird camels jumping on top of the other. You are in the Roman Coliseum racing your chariots around a track which has bottlenecks and lane changing restrictions, which makes it even more interesting. Racers have to take three laps around the track stopping to say “Ave Caesar” at least once – if you don’t, you lose the race. I was in the front after the first lap but then just got ganged up on by the rest of the racers and ended up finishing very last. Not cool.
5. Dungeon Fighter
Dungeon Fighter is the epic adventure of some heroes adventuring into a three-tier dungeon and rallying their forces to fight the monsters before they get you. It definitely was the best game of the night and we certainly ended up on a high. This one was different from the others as in your opponent was the game itself rather than the other players. It’s a bit like seeing a video game come to life. There were several parts to the game and took a while to set the whole thing up and explain all the rules, translating from German to English. Shout out to everyone including the kids who were patient with me that night and kind enough to speak in English rather than German. We started the game with the dad of the family we were playing with earlier and his 7-year old who was just mostly interested in throwing the dice. We had to rope in the 9-year old who was sorta the expert of Dungeon Fighter and knew all the rules and characters specifics by heart. Impressive.
So at the beginning, everyone chooses a character. I got to be Randolph, the wise mage who could turn monsters into frogs whilst PC chose to be the… drunk Irish Brokenstock – what do the Germans and Irish have in common? – who can offer immunity to fighters. At each corner of the dungeon, there is a monster lurking and waiting for you. You have to throw the die and hopefully activate your powers – each die a number of surfaces which activate the special abilities of the fighter – and the number your die falls on determines how much damage a monster gets. Some monsters have special throwing techniques, e.g. fighting Medusa requires the fighter to close his/her eyes during the battle, i.e. when he/she throws the die. Defeating a monster earns the group gold coins which special weapons and throwing techniques causing more damage can be bought – the boys got me the “throwing the die under one leg” technique, probably my most unladylike behaviour in public for a long time. But oh the giggles. We definitely got amusing looks from the other gamers but they all knew what we were up to so no judging done. We were however unsuccessful in defeating the highest rank monster at the exit of the dungeon but we didn’t go down without a fight or in this case, without a good laugh!
That was the end of a terrific night in Nuremberg and one that I wish to repeat if the opportunity presents. If you’ve made it this far, you are great – I know that board games are not everyone’s cup of tea. And if ever you are in Nuremberg, I’d highly recommend going to this; it definitely is an interesting as well as fun way to meet the locals. You can check their website (in German) for upcoming activities although you’ll be sure to find someone there on Monday or Friday evenings. There also are similar activities in other cities as stated on the website although I cannot vouch for that.
May the Force be with you!