At the recent Essen board game fair—the hobby’s biggest event—we saw 1,000+ new titles. That meant we also saw our fair share of amazing new games. We also saw plenty of titles that were strange, unusual, and/or poop-focused. These are those games.
Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t board gaming’s “Golden Age.”
Worst Game Ever
Worst Game Ever is a joke game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play for a hot 15 minutes. It throws in every single annoying thing about the hobby and makes a game of it. This is a perfect cooldown after a long session of proper gaming, throwing in cards that let you fudge your dice roles, complain about rules, sanction players for looking at their phones, win extra points when someone else makes a pun, and, like, a million other daft things. It is genuinely hilarious, if not the deepest ludological experience. Also, the rules are in pig Latin.
Little Drop of Poison
A charming game of adorable little rats and weasels determined to poison one another to death. What makes this fun is the juxtaposition of the cute artwork and the sheer bloodthirstiness of the play, which takes no prisoners at all.
No, not the Oatmeal’s game of exploding kittens. Dead Cats is another game of felicide, this time concerning Erwin Schrödinger, kind of making it a game about feline physics. Cats are brilliant and the uncertainty concept is fun for a small sitting or with non-gamer folks who might not want to play something heavy. Fittingly, no dice are thrown.
Martin Luther: Das Spiel
This is a game that we’re sadly unlikely to see in English, as Martin Luther (the Protestant reformer) is a particular type of German hero. Still, the game, designed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517, stands as a testimony to the versatility of our hobby. No idea how it plays; we simply loved the concept—and the fact that the game board features a massive picture of his face.
Incredibly, this wasn’t the only game of human ordure exhibited at Essen this year, and it’s yet more proof that the whole gamut of human experience can be reduced to a quick-playing card game. Poop is an Uno-like game where players compete to void their bowels without blocking the toilet. It’s blindingly simple but extremely modular, with various versions easily combined. An adult version exists which turns it into a drinking game, of course.
A fun little card game of nuclear armageddon, Nuclear War celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a new design and a glow-in-the-dark box. It’s extremely 1960s in its execution, and it sees two to eight major world powers endeavouring to nuke one another without getting nuked in return. Gallows humour runs through this game, from the artwork to the rules, in which you can gleefully kill tens of millions on a whim.
Manga is underrepresented in Western board games, so it’s nice to branch out and see how cardboard fans from Japan do it. As you’d expect, they do it with androgynous heroes and incongruously cute monsters. Nevertheless Unicornus Knights is a fast-playing cooperative game of medieval questing and random encounters on a modular board, not dissimilar to playing a JRPG on your dining room table.
Hop romped home with the Ars Technica prize for twee-est game at the entire show, but that’s no bad thing. It’s heavy on the unicorns, rainbows, and clouds, and the game’s massive demonstration area featured assistants wearing pink sparkly unicorn horns. It has a 3D board and nice little minis, but despite the quality of the components, the real fun of the game seems to be throwing a little frisbee at one another, trying to catch it on your horn (or finger) while lying down, with one hand behind your back, over your shoulder, or while someone tries to disrupt you. It looked like a giggle, but it was hella difficult to photograph without seeming like we were taking creepshots of blameless attendants. One for the kids.
A party game with striking graphic design, Deer Lord’s wireframe illustrations were amongst the most eye-catching of the con. It plays with up to 12 people, meaning that it’s not for the hardcore, but it looks fun for parties. Players draw cards which make them duel one another in various ways or do simple tasks. We obviously didn’t get to try it out in a controlled party environment, but this might be the way you’ve always been looking for to get your edgier friends into gaming through stealth.
Fog of Love
An intriguing relationship simulator which, while perhaps not to the tastes of the core Ars Cardboard audience, looks like a genuine attempt in board gaming to break new ground. Two players “act out a stormy love affair from the very first sparks of attraction through in-law encounters, awkward situations, arguments, parties, thoughtful gifts, secret affairs, kids, and reconciliations, to a hopefully happy ending.” It almost sounds like The Sims without the housebuilding, where you construct characters with interesting personalities and bizarre flaws and then try and make it work amidst a developing story, just like in real life.
Queen’s Blade game books
Or a “hentai RPG,” as one of our group described it. These are based on a niche, 33-year-old RPG battling system known as Lost Worlds, in which owners of books, which fully describe a character like a skeleton warrior or a female barbarian or a cartoon sorcerer, fight each other using rules contained within their books. The Western versions are very “RPGs circa 1980 or ’90,” but in the middle of the ‘00s, a Japanese company got hold of the license and made some quite frankly filthy additions to the series, with a cast of female warriors wearing seriously unsuitable body armour. The system itself looks fun, if totally out of phase with a digital world.
This one introduces the concept of the “fable” game, which is like a “legacy” game but which you can play more than once. Fabled Fruit is a quick worker placement game which changes every time you play it, without the use of stickers. Instead, new cards with new rules come down as you complete conditions on older ones, and the game’s objectives and complexity develop with each play. And because it’s all done with cards, you can rest the deck and play it through with simultaneous groups, so long as you record where each group has got to in the cycle of cards. It seems like a fun way to introduce non-gamers to some of the more interesting themes in gaming today.
An instant-include on this list, half for the pun in the name and half for the artwork—featuring orcs, trolls, and hobgoblins at a German festival. The game itself is about providing as much fun for as many orcs as possible. Whoever has the happiest orcs at the end wins.
Cat meeples, ‘nuff said. Okay, fine, there’s more to it than that; this is a game of strolling around a town built of playing cards, collecting items, and looking for cats. It’s a cute little game without enormous depth, but, c’mon, cat meeples!
Source: Ars Technica