Over the last few years tabletop gaming has matured. Card and Board games are no longer just the Ker-Plunks and Mouse Traps brought in for the last day of school but complex and immersive narratives. Part role-play and part counters and dice table play these games can put players directly in a world not by surrounding them with photo-real environments but by forcing them to strategise, plot and problem solve in the same way the characters would need to. Complex gaming has always been available as anyone who has killed hours over Risk or got caught up in the Games Workshop explosion of the 90s will attest to, but in recent years the draw of these expansive and expensive games has grown to the point that they are readily available in high-street shops.
Why? well, these games tap into the growth of 'nerd' culture as mainstream, meaning a generation brought up on Transformers, Star Wars and Superheroes can delve into equally evocative worlds. The games are beautifully constructed using quality materials and stunning artwork and feel like they are luxury items produced for adults and collectors. They are social, and not in a way that involves swearing at Americans over a headset. These games can form the centrepieces of entire evenings with close friends who like to share a glass of wine and some Kettle Chips over some political manoeuvrings in Westeros. The growth of these games is sustainable because they can't easily be pirated and as such don't depreciate. If you want to buy a copy of Heroquest it's going to cost you the same as it did in the 90s.
As a keen (but by no means expert) tabletop player I thought I'd use this as a platform to try and turn the unfamiliar onto gaming, to help those at a similar level as me navigate through the incredible amount of choice available and to give those higher level hardcore gamers someone to bully over their mis-understanding of rules. These recommendations will be broken down into the following sections:
OverviewThis section will cover some of the key objectives, basic rules and the story and/or mythology that surrounds the game. It should give you a good idea of the genre you are going to immerse yourself in and what kinds of general activities you'll be getting up to.
Table PlayThis section is concerned with what is happening in front of you. What pieces do you need to move? How many cards will you need in front of you? Do you roll dice?
Above the TableWhile your hands are busy with the above you may need to keep your eye on the person next to you. Most games will ask you to either co-operate and strategise as a team or to screw over other players to win. Basically, this section will try to determine whether the game will end in an argument.
CraftOne of the big draws of these games is what you get in the box. This section will talk about art, tactile materials and figures.
Experience LevelAs fun as some of these games can be some of them can take a little while to get the hang of. This section should help determine whether you're ready to play or whether you might need to work up to it.
OverallA summary that alongside my final recommendation will mention price, availability and expansions.
As always comments, corrections, counter-points and recommendations are always welcome in the sections below. Good gaming!