[Editor’s Note – Aaron R. Davis has the week off, so today we bring you a special guest column by our good friend Chris Kirkman. Kirkman used to write the spectacular Lost: Down the Hatch recaps on this site and now he runs his own website called Dice Hate Me, a blog about his lifelong love of boardgames and the bitter hatred of the dastardly dice usually found within.]
I will happily admit that I’m pretty easy to shop for around the holidays. Any amusing trinket will usually bring me extraordinary glee, especially if it is shiny or has pretty pictures on it. However, when it comes to gifting me games or game-related paraphernalia, the gifter may often find themselves in dangerous territory since, well, I have a lot of stuff. Thus, consider my utter shock and surprise glee when my in-laws presented me with a gaming gift that was both new and incredibly thoughtful – The Games Bible. As I thumbed through the pages after the gift wrap had all been torn asunder, I also began to realize that this little gift deserved yet another adjective – awesome.
The Games Bible, by Leigh Anderson, is a hefty little tome chocked full of all kinds of gaming goodness. The book is broken down into 18 chapters that share the full rules of a diverse set of games that often require nothing more than a pen and paper, a deck of cards, a couple of dice and/or some coins/pawns/matchsticks. The chapters are divided into interesting sets such as Games of General Cleverness, Brainy Games for Two, Indoor Frolics and the intriguing and educational Victorian Parlor Games.
Many games in The Games Bible will be instantly familiar; there is an entire chapter titled A Card-Game Refresher and full rules for other classics such as badminton, croquet and Nine Men’s Morris. However, for every common game like Liar’s Dice, there are even more strange and wonderful entries such as Yoga Ball Jousting, Pussy Wants a Corner and Charles Ate a Goat Testicle in Nigeria (I’m not lying, check out page 22!).
Here, for your sampling pleasure, are excerpts of a handful of games that I found fascinating and noteworthy:
This little mindwar can be found in the Brainy Games for Two category. All you need to play is a standard deck of cards and a handful of nickels and dimes – or simply two different denominations of coins.
The gist of the game is thus: the two players are rulers of rival factions/kingdoms/governments. Each wants to find the other faction’s leader and assassinate him, or use influence to turn the people against their ruler in a coup. At the start of each game, the players secretly arrange their “country” by laying out specific cards, face down, in a six by three-card grid in front of them. These cards will be the King (the leader), as well as his court, an Ace, which can be used as an assassin and number cards two through eight, which represent the populace. Players then place five coins, heads up, on the top of cards in the row closest to them. These are the players’ spies, and they are used to move along the grid, uncovering cards and granting each player a glimpse into the structure of their opponents’ countries. Spies can be flipped at any time (turn the coin to tails) to indicate that the card underneath is now a supporter of a coup, adding a certain number of influence points to the effort.
Players can win by activating the assassin – the Ace – and successfully snuffing the enemy leader, or by creating enough coup supporters to total 25 or greater influence points in the enemy country.
1,000 Blank White Cards
This completely wide open nonsense game was played by me and my friends long before I even knew there was an official game with a semblance of structure. In 1,000 Blank White Cards, players take a stack of blank cards, choose a title and/or description, draw a picture and then tell how many points are added or deducted from a player’s score when the card takes effect. Depending on how silly and/or creative the group is, some cards may state rules that change the game, or give instructions to do something that has no effect on the game whatsoever, but will be fun to watch another player make a fool of themselves.
Each player then takes the cards that they have created and begin playing the game. Each turn, players can play cards directly on another player, to the middle of the table (affecting everyone), or on themselves. At any time, a player can pass and draw another card, usually creating something that will cripple the points leader or force them to regret being the leader. And … that’s it. The rest is madness, mayhem and, quite often, a masterpiece of silly theatrics.
This racy little “game” is from the Victorian Parlor Games section, and makes you realize just how sexually repressed a group of people can be who thought that a woman showing off her ankles was akin to appearing nude in Playboy. In Hot Cockles, a gentleman kneels in front of a lady and places his face in her lap while the rest of the party guests walk by and slap his hand. He must now deduce, one by one, which guest was the slapper. Oh, those wacky Victorians.
Ministry of Silence
I would love to tell you about Ministry of Silence, but System won’t allow it. The details and objectives of this exercise are for top-level clearance, only. The following details are cleared for Level 1 participants:
- There are 14 to 16 participants in this exercise.
- Some of you are not what you seem.
- All of you have obtained certain clues that can be used to achieve the objective of this exercise. Unfortunately, it is illegal for most of you to talk to one another.
- We are watching.
I have only had the chance to read about half the book, and experience far fewer of the games, but I am more than eager to try out almost all of them. As a self-proclaimed components junkie, I must admit that I love cracking open a new board game and watching all the goodies come spilling out; The Games Bible really has none of that since every game is distilled to its basic bits. That’s totally fine by me, though, as I can use some of my favorite components to play most of the games.
Although The Games Bible contains quite a few interesting challenges for two players and a small group, I feel the book’s strength lies in providing some fascinating large group activities. Many a time have I been at or hosted a gathering with 10 or more guests, each of varying levels of game geekiness. Trying to find a game that can accommodate so many people with such a wide variety of gaming tastes can be daunting. The Games Bible can give frustrated hosts a plethora of possibilities so that you all don’t have to sit around and play Mafia for the hundredth time (and if you do, it’s in here, too – on page 132!)
Some gifts seem nice at the time, but they end up collecting dust on a shelf. I can honestly say that The Games Bible will gather no dust, its cover soon beaten and worn as any well-used and well-loved book’s should.
You can find The Games Bible here. You can find more of Chris Kirkman’s game reviews at Dice Hate Me. Or, you can revisit his old Down the Hatch recaps by visiting the archives.