Covid-19 has dramatically affected the way we play board games. I live alone and in a different city 50 miles away from my gaming group, this makes playing games during lockdown a tricky prospect. So, what games have I been playing and how am I still playing games with the people who matter most, that’s the topic for this week's Top 3 List.
First up is Just One. Just One is a party game I had heard of but hadn’t played before we went into lockdown. However as I began to research games that would work well over digital platforms, like Tabletop Simulator, Just One was a title that came up over and over again.
In Just One you are collectively attempting to guess 13 hidden words. Each round one player closes their eyes and calls out a number between 1 and 5 selecting a word from a card they haven't seen. The other players then secretly write down a word relating to the chosen word and then reveal them to each other. Duplicate words are removed from the game so that only unique clues remain. The blindfolded player now opens their eyes and tries to work out the hidden word from the clues the players have written.
The game is deceptively simple but every time we play it brings both tension and hilarity. As you write your word you are trying not to cross over with the other players around the table, which generates a tension as you reveal and discover you all wrote the same thing. But the game also generates laughs, certainly among our group, as we look around our clues and see the thought process that leads one player to write “Primary” or “Caucuses” as a clue for Election (they watch too much american tv) or to write “Peach” or “Turnpike” for the answer Toad.
Just One is a brilliant game to play remotely over a digital platform, there are only a few moving parts and everyone is involved all the time and it’s short. Often playing a game over Tabletop Simulator will inflate the playing time, as simple tasks become slightly more convoluted and a twenty minute game bloats out to an hour. Here the game stays pretty tight, clocking around 20-30 minutes and we’ve yet to play it just once!
Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters
As well as my regular gaming group I also play a lot of games with my family especially my younger brother who has cerebral palsy. We’ve played lots of titles over Tabletop Simulator, some are trickier than others due to the family sharing a single PC and needing to hotseat and some, such as the fan favourite Marvel Legendary, do clock in at 3+ hours. However the one that has gotten the most love is Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters.
This was a title I gave my little brother for his birthday in January and it had hit the table around 25 times before Covid struck. It’s a fun little game that I enjoy more than I really should. It has roll and move as a main mechanic and many of the decisions you make on your turn are rather obvious and occasionally dictated by your roll. But it has enough rising tension and a short enough playing time for me to find it enjoyable.
There was no mod on TTS for Ghost Fightin’ Treasure Hunters so I made my own, photoshopping components from stock images etc. When it came to the player tokens though I had a little fun. Rather using generic kids, I added in Fred, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy and Scooby. And then because I had time on my hands I did Peter, Egon, Ray and Winston. Then I thought it could be cool to be fighting ghost pokemon as Ash and Pikachu or fighting Boo and King Boo as Mario and Luigi.
After a while I got a little more adventurous and created a whole new mod, still utilising the core mechanics of Ghost Fightin Treasure Hunters but bringing in missions, special powers, item tokens and the like, combined with the Pokemon theme to create Rocket Fightin Pokemon Trainers. As you can see below it’s become a rather large departure from the original game but it’s gone over with the family rather well.
Finally we arrive at the biggie. Marvel Champions squeaked in under the wire, lockdown wise. I preordered the game in October with the playmat and due to various delays, finally received it in March, just a few weeks before my office shuttered its doors. I had also received the expansions by that point too so I had plenty of content to be playing.
I got the game out and gave it whirl and after 5 months of waiting for it to arrive I was underwhelmed. I played through each of the scenarios until I beat them and tried each hero at least once, then put the game back on the shelf and turned my attention elsewhere.
Then lockdown happened and I was trapped in my flat with one a few games for company…
Okay… more than a few.
One night I thought to myself, I wonder, can I beat every scenario with every hero? And thus a challenge was born. Since then I’ve clocked up nearly 70 plays of Marvel Champions and I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is, rather than what it’s not. My initial plays I approached the game like it was a Lord of the Ring LCG clone and was disappointed by the lack of story and the same overall goal (beat the boss) but playing all the scenarios, solo, with all the heroes is a satisfying puzzle, as you try to initially work out how that hero functions and then how you can use their strengths (and mitigate their weaknesses) to defeat the boss.
So, that’s my top 3 most played games during the lockdown, what games have you been playing, what games should i try out? Let me know in the comments below.