Well, did you start the new year well? Did you spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with your loved ones? Maybe you even dutifully sent a sign of life to your distant relatives?
Actually, it is quite a decent time after all. The scent of cookies and flickering candlelight fill the room, and if no one has made a flower pot stove yet, at least the freshly unwrapped wool socks provide cozy warmth. In these moments, when the December stress falls away from you, there’s nothing better than playing together. After all, you don’t want to risk spending too much time talking to family members, having to endure Uncle Eugbert’s opinion on geneticizing climate stickers, which are only on the state’s pocket anyway…. no, a game is just the thing right now! But video games? Some people strongly inclined towards analog are already rolling their eyes. Are you STILL playing those shooting games? Someone brings up a line with square eyes, the elders laugh a tad too loudly at it, and your mother chuckles and continues with the anecdote of how you were a kid with that chronic gastrointestinal disorder…. BOARD GAMES! Board games are something everyone can agree on for the holidays. Besides, you regain control of the situation because only you know the rules. And for a change, why not play a board game based on a video game to break down prejudices? Unlike movie adaptations, they have a not-so-horrible reputation, and this one even has some decidedly positive reviews.
You heave the heavy cardboard box onto the table and push aside a mountain of winter kitsch decorations. Space is a must for modern board games, according to Kickstarter law. Yet this one gets by with a surprisingly restrained number of miniatures, instead relying more on cards, cards, cards, a huge game board, a book, and even more cards. Conveniently, it’s cooperative and you can get started right away, as the instructions present you with the rules in tidbits as you play. You choose characters and place them in a devastated house. To avoid shocking you with the thematic background, you first explain the mechanics. Worker placement must be in your ureuropean family’s blood. And indeed, it works quite well at first: you divide up the tasks of clearing junk, searching for food, and building a bed. When the bed is built, satisfaction sets in. On to the next phase of the game.
Now it is to be decided who will guard the house and who will go outside after sunset. You avoid the word “looting” and instead paraphrase the situation as wanting to look for a trader in the neighborhood for honest bartering. This may be about a war scenario, but we’re playing civilians who want to maintain their humanity. All will be well! A pile for exploration is shuffled together and off we go. The included book comes into play, describing nearly 2000 random encounters. Of course, the first is not the merchant, but we meet helpless children wandering the streets. Their parents are dead, they are hungry and beg us for help. But we don’t have enough food ourselves. It’s our first round after all, damn it! Maybe it would have been a trap anyway. While we leave the kids to their own devices and it gets noticeably quieter at the table, the next card is revealed. Oh, we discover a room… Shall we explore it? Of course! The anticipation of supplies lifts the spirits again for a brief moment. But then it turns out that there are several corpses lying here. The unbearable stench and mutilations are described in detail. Reading aloud makes you uncomfortable. Oh yes, there was something… you could ignore certain elements because there were color codes for disturbing content. That would have been a good idea. Aunt Trudhilde’s disapproving snort reveals that this round will not be finished. Someone suggests Monopoly. You sigh.
The board game conversion of This War of Mine is a fascinating experience that takes the concept of serious games from the screen to the table and works very well solo. Basically, it’s an anti-war board game. As such, it offers both strong emotions and a strategic challenge not to be sneezed at… but is definitely not suitable for every group. That’s something to keep in mind before packing it for the next family reunion.
This post is also available in: German