Vintage Board Games – The Cult of the Old (5/24/2019)

It seems like everyone these days is concentrating on “the cult of the new” where board games are concerned. We are guilty of doing the same thing, come to that, but we do not want to ignore games that are older. Defining “old” in board game terms is hard to do and feels very arbitrary. Hold old is “old”?

For our purposes, we are going to declare any game published in the United States before or during 2017 to be “old”. Games published elsewhere but not brought over to the U.S. until recently will not count as old for our purposes so Kashgar, for example, will count as a recent game because, although it was published in Germany in 2013, it was not published in the U.S. until this year.

So here are our recently played “vintage” board games . . .

Codenames: Duet

Codenames Duet Cover
Codenames: Duet
was published by Czech Games Edition in 2017. The game was designed by Vlaada Chvatil and Scot Eaton, with artwork provided by Tomas Kucerovsky. Codenames: Duet is a 2-player version of the very popular game, Codenames. It is a cooperative game, not a competitive one as the original game was.

Pros:

  • This game is short and can be played multiple times in a gaming session;
  • It is a cooperative game. We very much enjoy cooperative games at our house;
  • The game is both easy to teach and easy to learn;
  • The game can be made easier or harder depending on the challenge level wanted by the players;
  • The components for the game are of nice quality. The cards are two-sided with different words on each side;
  • The replayability is very high with this game. Not only does it have different words on each side of the card, but there are around 250 cards in the game.

Cons:

  • If you are looking for a game to play with more than 2 players, then this is not the game for you, even though the game does include rules for team play;
  • This game is already a challenge, but if the vocabulary level of the players is unequal it will be more of a challenge than it might otherwise be.

Bottom Line: Beth and I both enjoy this game, although we are terrible at it. We have never played the campaign. We just play a couple of games in a row and can generally knock them out in less than 30 minutes. This one stays in the collection.

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Dead Men Cover

Dead Men Tell No Tales was published in 2015 by Minion Games. The game was designed by Kane Klenko, whose game Covert we recently reviewed here. The artwork for the game was done by Jason D. Kingsley and Chris Ostrowski. This is another cooperative game, although very different from Codenames: Duet.

Pros:

  • This game is a cooperative amalgamation of Pandemic and Flash Point: Fire Rescue, two other cooperative games that we really like. The cooperative mechanics are very strong in this game – the players really need to work together or they will likely lose;
  • The components for this game are very nice, especially the deckhand and player tokens – although we did upgrade the player tokens to the miniatures available for the game (see picture below);
  • This is a good family game as it is both to learn and to teach;
  • The game features a mechanic that allows the players to save actions and pass them on to the next player;
  • The game can be made easier or harder depending on the challenge that the players want;
  • There are variable player powers for each of the characters.

Dead Men Minis

Cons:

  • The rule book for this game could use some work. For example, there is a paragraph that tells you what the rewards are when you defeat one of the skeleton crew, but does not detail what the rewards actually do. You have to look later in the rule book to find out what the Grog and Cutlass tokens do and even then, the rules for them are not on the same page.

Bottom Line: This game is in Beth’s collection and it will remain there. She loves cooperative games and this one is very fun to play. Both of us enjoy the game play with this one.

Sanssouci

Sanssouci Cover

Sanssouci was published by Ravensburger in 2013. The game’s designer is Michael Kiesling – we own several of the games he has designed in tandem with Wolfgang Kramer and enjoy them all. The artwork for Sanssouci was done by Julien Delval and Harald Lieske. This is a tile placement game with a bit of hand management thrown in for good measure.

Pros:

  • The game’s components are very well done, although there is nothing flashy in them;
  • The game is short – easily playable in 30-45 minutes, depending on the player count. This game plays very well with 2 players. We cannot speak to the other player counts;
  • The game is easy to both teach and learn – your turn basically consists of choosing one of the cards in your hand to play and then moving one of your player pieces, if you can, and scoring it. This is a good family game – you can teach it to just about anyone;
  • There is a decent amount of strategy game, but it is not a deep game;
  • There is an advanced version of the game for experienced players.

Cons:

  • There is luck in this game – luck in the draw of the cards and of the tiles. If you do not want any luck in your games, this is not a game for you.
  • If you are looking for an in depth strategy game, this is not a game for you. There are strategic decisions in the game, but they are not deep ones.

Bottom Line: We both like this game a lot. This is not a deep strategy game, but we like it for when we are looking for something lighter to play, but still want a game with some strategic decisions to be made.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cover

Notre Dame was published originally in 2007 by alea. A tenth anniversary edition was published in 2017 by alea and Ravensburger. The game is designed by Stefan Feld with artwork provided by Harald Lieske. We have the original version of the game as well as the New Persons cards that were issued 2 years after the original publication. The New Persons cards are included in the tenth anniversary edition.

Pros:

  • The components are OK, but nothing to write home about. The artwork on the person cards is very nice and the fact that each of the player decks has a different back is a nice touch;
  • The primary game mechanism is card drafting, a mechanism that Beth and I both enjoy;
  • The game plays quickly as a 2-player game, the only player count that we have any experience with;
  • There is a lot of variability in the game, especially if you have the New Persons expansion;
  • There is luck in this game in the cards the players draft, the cards that come out that the players can recruit in the round, and in the number of rats that come out each round. The luck can be mitigated to some extent, however.

Cons:

  • If you want a game with no luck in it at all, then this is not a game for you;
  • The theme is pretty meaningless in the game.

Bottom Line: I am a Stefan Feld fangirl. It does not matter to me that the theme is meaningless in the game, although it is not as bad as in other games of his. It remains in my collection.

Old Does Not Mean Bad

Just because a game is not cult of the new does not mean it is a bad game. We hope that these looks back into “vintage” board games helps reacquaint both us and you as to just how good older games can be.

As always, for these and thousands of other games check out BoardGameGeek!

– Stasia

2 Replies to “Vintage Board Games – The Cult of the Old (5/24/2019)”

  1. GARY COLLINS

    Nice list! We’re fans of Sanssouci, have pondered but not purchased Notre Dame and never heard of Dead Men TNT. Pros and cons are well presented here and compelling. There goes another paycheck! Sanssouci is lite fun and makes me wonder how people ever devise theses themes and mechanisms. Very creative.

    Reply
    1. Gary.

      Always glad to see another Sanssouci fan! We are big fans of Michael Kiesling around our house. I am glad to know that you find our pros and cons list helpful. If you are interested in Notre Dame and Dead Men, Richard Ham (Rahdo) has done play throughs of both games. You can check them both out on either YouTube or BGG. His gaming tastes highly reflect ours – a multitude of the games that we own are based on his recommendations.

      Stasia

      Reply

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