Have missed posting here, but i am in internet challenged Phagwara, little place, lovely farmhouse, cool swimming pool, near Jalandhar in Punjab… We are teaching about 3000 young people the Utsav Act I in Jalandhar… in a farily big university campus called (you won’t believe it!) “Lovely Professional University”. It has 15,000+ students studying here!!
But this post is not about Utsav, its about games, so lets get started! 🙂
So far i have talked about Art of Living and Guruji, books, music and food… one of my other passions is games, PC games as well as board games. Most people on my side of the world limit themselves to either mindless shooting or mindless driving games on the PC. Snakes and ladders, ludo, chess and monopoly are perhaps the only board games that most people have played or even heard of…
So in this post, contrary to most people’s expectations i am going to talk about board games! 🙂
A few years ago, when dinesh and i were teaching in Australia, I had ventured into this very small “hobby” shop in Melbourne and saw over there this whole host of games in big boxes… very attractive to look at, they seemed to promise a different world of interaction and excitement, and so i bought my first game: Elfenland. Beautiful board, superb pieces, terrific gameplay. Utter value for money, especially when we group of 5 adults got beaten by a 12 year old (all of us were playing for the first time!). Turned out to be one of the most difficult games to play, requiring intense concentration and ruthless cunning. Not recommended for a lazy afternoon, but definitely a game where a group of friends can pit themselves against each other over strategy.
So excited over the purchase, i went online to find out more and lo! an entire world unfolded before me… just google board games and you will see what i mean. The next game that i got which was highly recommended on the net was Settlers of Catan. Couldn’t understand the rules, and gave up on it, until i reached Montreal in Canada and went to stay at Antoine’s lovely home. Turned out that he was a board game enthusiast. His favourite game Settlers! He taught, i learned, we played. When i got back to India (with the expansion pack, and another game from the canadians Elasund as a gift), i taught the game to friends here, and it remains one of the best games we have ever played. It has almost everything a great game should have: Strategy, luck, fun, interaction between players, you name it… and the way the game is designed, the game board changes every time you play (it’s random), so a strategy that worked in one game, simply will not in another! This taught me that i should read and re read the rules and give any game a fair chance before giving up on it. btw, Elasund was a great game too, though Settlers was far superior.
Then on our next trip abroad, dinesh and i went board game shopping. Remarkably difficult to actually find a board game shop! We couldn’t find any in LA and New York( there must exist some, we just couldn’t find them). So we resorted to online shopping. Though if you ever have a chance to visit and buy stuff from a proper store, please go! It’s usually full of people who love these games and are extremely opinionated and love to share their views with anyone who cares to ask. The owner too is usually very enthusiastic and will rarely point you to game you will not like. They can be expensive, $40-$80, so its nice to read up on the games, listen to people in the shop about the game and then buy.
Between dinesh and me, we own many games now. Here is a partial list and brief description of the more memorable ones:
Ticket to Ride Europe (comes in 3-4 flavours, Europe is the best), it’s perhaps the best introduction to board gaming. Very well balanced, with nice strategy elements, a brilliantly designed board and pieces, it’s really good fun to play with 4 players. One of the games we keep coming back again and again to. This is a game anyone can learn to play in a matter of minutes, and is suitable for ages between 9 and 99 :). I would heartily recommend buying this one and playing it many many times!
Age of Empires III: The board game. not the PC game. Another very cool game. Lots of little interesting twists, nice board, many, many pieces. Its an attention grabbing and very beautiful game, has a huge board…
Colosseum, set in ancient Rome, a very nice fun game about being a manager of the Roman Circus.
Hoity Toity, a very different type of a game by the makers of Settlers. Its soooo much fun to play about 7-10 times. Then the novelty wears off unfortunately, but definitely worth playing a few times. (I will gladly lend my copy of it to anyone provided i get it back)
Power Grid, a fairly riveting strategy game, not too pretty to look at, and the paper money used in the game sucks, but has classic gameplay and nerve wracking choices to made…
Maharaja, a game set in Northern India about building palaces (palaces are represented by beautifully coloured marbles) is a nice blend of luck, fun and strategy. Not played it as often as i thought we would play it…
Pirates Cove, a game which has huge doses of luck and is unbelievably fun to play. I never thought after playing it once, we would play it so many times, it actually gives ticket to ride a run for it’s money in terms of how many times we played it!
Ra! The ultimate fun auction game. Everyone should play this one!
Caracsonne and its many expansions: a Tile Laying strategy game, can be pretty interesting and is a nice way to spend a rainy evening… very easy to learn and another quickie intro to board games.
Thuirn and Taxis, a transportation game in Germany (one of the places on the game board is Baden Baden, where our German Ashram is). It’s another of those strangely simple yet utterly addictive games.
Pillars of the Earth where the action takes place in the shadow of a Cathedral being built, and you conspire to contribute to its building while making money and getting fame… the premise is based on Ken Follet’s novel of the same name. Made me want to read the novel, but have not yet got around to doing do 🙂
Princes of Florence, is where you are a prince with an estate, and how you develop that estate to attract geniuses, who then make works of art to make you famous. The point of the game is get fame, but to get the geniuses to come to your estate, you need to spend money… so quite a nice tight rope walk between money and fame. Play it with a gujju and you will definitely win, coz he will be so busy making the money and not paying attention to the fame points! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Puerto Pico is one of most tight fisted games i have ever played. You have to really make every penny count, and its cut throat competition till the very end. Not a game for beginners, and definitely for a patient, mature audience.
Notre Dame our newest acquisition is quick to learn and fun to play. Only played it once so far, so can’t really comment too much on it, except that i lost by 4 points. rashmin won 🙂 and we didnt notice that 3 hours had gone by…
All these games that i have written about take between 2-3 hours to play the first time you play. After the first 2 times, when everyone knows the rules, its definitely more fun and much quicker to play, and can take between 1-2 hours to finish.
There are a few games that even after knowing the rules take a solid 4-5 hours. We own only one of those, its called Railroad Tycoon: The Board Game (Not to be confused with the PC game of the same name which btw is absolutely brilliant but i will talk about that game on some other post). Its good fun to play, fantastic strategy, changing starting conditions make each game completely unique. But if you make a mistake earlier in the game, the game mechanics are unforgiving and its impossible to catch up, and people just give up. A game only for very mature players.
There is another game called Shattered Galaxies, which takes an hour to set up, a week to learn and about 10 hours to finish….
In this time of electronic and individual entertainment, board games are very refreshingly basic, loads of fun, mentally challenging, and can be just plain addictive. When Guruji is not in Bangalore Ashram (physically), we have had many sessions and everyone who has come and played with us, has come back again for more… They do require patience to learn and teach, but you will be rewarded for the time you spent 🙂
Unfortunately none of these brilliant games are available anywhere in India as far as i know… infact if anyone knows where such games can be bought in India, please post a comment here… and so you will have to start being really nice to friends in the US, Europe (European board games may not be in english, but you can download instructions), Canada, Australia and New Zealand… They may be available elsewhere, but i don’t know… In Singapore for example you have to order and wait 40 days before they get the game for you at almost double its US price!
Finally, Thanks a lot to Sarang and Abhishek, my buddies in the US, for keeping us supplied with all the games we have asked for 🙂
and i hope that post makes up for the few days of silence from my side… Tuesday, i will be in Delhi, with more reliable inernet connections, and so postings here will become regular again… hope to see you guys soon… please do keep leaving comments, i love reading them and it gives me encouragement to write! 🙂 Leave questions on the YES!+ website, i get a collated list from there which i answer in the QnA series…
and oh yes, Dinesh has written a huge post on Shivaratri in Surat, he is a perfectionist and so is polishing it up before he posts it here :)… hopefully we will all get to read it before next Shivaratri…