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.
Beth fell last Saturday and broke her left elbow and, although her left is not her predominate arm, it is still painful and cumbersome. Because of her injury and her inability to work for a few days, we have been able to get more games to the table than normal. Our “vintage” board games list is going to be in two parts this week, one with lighter games and one with heavier ones.
So here are our recently played heavier “vintage” board games . . .
Paperback was published in 2014 by Fowers Games. The designer of the game is Tim Fowers and the artwork for the game was supplied by Ryan Goldsberry. This is one of the few word games in our collection.
I am a fan of deck building games and I also enjoy word games, so this game that combines the two was a natural for me. Beth is not as big of a fan of word games as I am, but we play this game cooperatively. This is a game that can be played either competitively or cooperatively, so it is up to the players as to how they want to play. There are also ways to make the game more difficult and several other variants that can be added to the game. Three years after the game was released, a small expansion entitled Paperback: Unabridged was released.
In the cooperative version of the game, the players build a pyramid of cards that they are trying to get rid of during the course of the game. The base level of the pyramid is built of 5 cent cards and the cards that the players need to buy get progressively get more expensive until the last card, which costs 17 cents. We find the game very challenging and rarely win, but we have a great time trying!
The competitive version of the game, which we have never played, still allows a measure of cooperation between the players. If a player simply cannot make a word with the letters on the cards in their hands, they can ask for help with the other players. This is a great mechanic that ensures that the game moves along while players stare blankly at their letters trying to come up with a word.
Merlin was published in 2017 by Queen Games. The game was co-designed by Stefan Feld, who is responsible for two of Stasia’s all-time favorite games, Macao and The Castles of Burgundy, along with Michael Rieneck, who designed the popular Pillars of the Earth. This game takes the roll-and-move mechanic and puts a new spin on it.
The theme behind the game is that Arthur is looking for an heir, so the players are trying to impress him by completing missions, building up influence and sending out their henchmen to do their bidding. All of this is done on a rondel. The players use dice to move their player markers around the rondel. In addition to moving their own tokens, they can also move Merlin but unlike the player makers, Merlin can move either backwards or forwards.
One of my favorite things about this game is the ways in which the players can mitigate their dice rolls. They can use an apple – every player is given one at the beginning of the game, and they can use the flags. The Grail and Excalibur also grant special abilities. The game also includes an advanced version that adds special abilities granted by the henchmen. Beth and I never play without this variant.
The only real beef that Beth and I have with the game is the colors. I really have a problem telling several of the colors on the player boards and the tokens themselves. Every other part of this game works for us. It is not our favorite Feld game, but it is getting up there the more plays of it that we get in.
Lords of Waterdeep was published by Wizards of the Coast in 2012. The game was designed by Peter Lee and Rodney Thompson. The artistic team for the game was headed by Eric Belisle.
In Lords of Waterdeep, the players are seeking to satisfy the demands of one of the lords who secretly rules the city of Waterdeep. The agents of each of the players are deployed to locations on the board, each of which gives the players the ability to hire adventurers, gain new quests, earn money, and build special buildings.
Lords of Waterdeep is a great gateway game for players ready to move beyond “beginner” board games. This worker placement game is straight forward and easy to understand. We appreciate the game for its ease of play. Even my casual gamer husband enjoys this game.
To make the game more accessible for gamers, rather than casual gamers, we recommend playing with the expansion that was published a year after the base game, Lords of Waterdeep: Scoundrels of Skullport. The expansion adds a little more complexity to the game without making it overly complex.
And yeah, this is one of the games we blinged out a bit, replacing the adventurer cubes with adventurer meeples . . .
Tokaido was published in 2012 by Funforge. The game’s designer is Antoine Bauza, who designed Ghost Stories and 7 Wonders. The artwork for the game was provided by Xavier Gueniffey Durin. This game takes the players on a trek across the East Sea Road in Japan.
Along the way from Kyoto to Edo, the players will encounter other travelers along the way, stop at farms, contribute to temples, buy things at villages, and take other actions. The game features set collection at the village stops as well as in the panoramas that the players can piece together.
This is another gateway style game that can be upgraded to make it more for gamers by adding the Tokaido: Crossroads expansion, which basically doubles the choices that the players have at each of the different location types. It also adds in a gambling mechanic. We would not add this expansion when playing with casual players.
The 2-player game introduces a neutral player that the players take turn in moving, potentially blocking the other player from a location that they wanted to use. There is upkeep at only 2 of the locations for the neutral player, the Temple and the Inn, and that is it. The neutral player is easy to keep track of and implement.
This game is just gorgeous. The artwork of the board, the artwork on the cards and tiles, we cannot find fault with any of it. And yeah, we sprang for the upgraded metal coins. . .
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 Board Game Geek here.
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