Game Days

Twilight Imperium III

Last Monday was a bank holiday here in the UK.  Bank holidays, so called because almost everyone – even the banks – get a holiday, happen about half a dozen times a year.  They’re perfect opportunities for organising a game day.

You know everyone has a day off work, so there will be loads of people who can potentially play games for the entire day.  The question is, what do you play?  Do you go for an epic 6-hour war game like Twilight Imperium?  Do you try to fit 3 or 4 solid euros in?  Or do you play One Night Ultimate Werewolf again and again for the entire day?

Wait, what?  Isn’t One Night Ultimate Werewolf a 10-minute filler?  Surely no one would play it all day?!  Well I sure wouldn’t, but we had a group once who played it from about 10pm until 4am the next day!  Some people really love that game.

For me personally it comes down to a choice between playing one long game or several medium length games with the odd filler thrown in.  We have a number of people in our gaming group who like playing long games.  The typical suggestions (roughly in order of popularity) are:

  1. Twilight Imperium III (TI3)

The epic 6-player space 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, eXterminate).  Many people consider this the definitive game in the 4X genre.  I really like it.

  1. Runewars

Only for 4 players, this is a fantasy-themed 4X game (although it doesn’t really feature any exploration as such).  It’s good, but I prefer TI3.

  1. Battlestar Galactica (BSG)

This is a co-operative game with one or more traitors.  A cross between a standard co-op where you are managing disasters and a social deduction game.  It’s good, but in all honesty it’s too long for what it is.

  1. Through the Ages

I would say this is the definite civ-building game, except it doesn’t have a map.  It gives you the feel of an epic civ-builder better than any other game though.  Three players is probably the sweet spot.  The four-player game can drag unless everyone is on it.

  1. Arkham Horror

Despite the release of the shorter and more streamlined Eldritch Horror, which does a very similar thing, Arkham Horror still gets played.  It’s a co-op, adventure game set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft.  I really shouldn’t, but I think I prefer it to Eldritch Horror.  Something about the length makes it feel more epic.

With the exception of BSG, I would happily play any of these games, but then you have to consider the opportunity cost.  If you choose to play TI3, that’s a lot of other games that you won’t be able to play in the same time.

However, you can always play those shorter games at other times.  It’s rare that you get the chance to play TI3, so perhaps you should make the most of the opportunity.  Ahh, decisions, decisions!

Another issue that always enters my head is food.  If you’re playing games all day, people are going to need to eat.  If you can play at a boardgame café, you can always eat there.  My local game group books the conference room at a local pub every now and then, so people can order food from the bar.

If you’re playing at somebody’s house, pizza seems to be the standard provision for game days.  It’s cheap, plentiful and everybody seems to like it.

I’ve seen more than one drink spill across a gaming table!

Now I’m not as bad as I used to be, but when people start eating and drinking while playing one of my games, I start to feel uneasy.  Greasy fingers make short work of cards and I’ve seen more than one drink spill across a gaming table in my time!

I used to have this motto, that games were for life, not just for Christmas, and if you took care of your games, your children and your grandchildren will be able to enjoy them as well.  However, there are just so many really good games being produced each year, that there are too many to try to keep them all, and the older games lose their lustre as game design improves.

So I don’t worry too much these days if people are eating slices of pizza in one hand while holding their hand of cards with the other hand.  Not too much, anyway…

The last thing I tend to think about during game days is, rather strangely, exercise.  I’m a fairly active person and I find it uncomfortable sitting still at a table for several hours at a time.

My ideal game day would involve a half-hour yoga class at about 3pm to stretch out the muscles and get the blood flowing before settling in for the rest of the day.  Somehow, though, I don’t think I’d be able to persuade the rest of my gaming friends to join in!

I love game days.  They feel like pure decadence when they come along.  How do you like to spend yours?


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Jonathan Hicks

Jonathan is the director of Maven Games. He blogs and records podcast episodes several times a week. Whenever he isn't doing anything else, he designs games.

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