14 April 2022
The million-stretch-goal Kickstarter is missing one thing, a smaller, and possibly magnetic outing argues Christopher John Eggett
I love a big game. A table hog. A gold-leaf-encrusted cardboard calf to ritually slaughter at the table. We all do, when we can make it happen.
But sometimes these games spend a long time on the shelf, just because you can’t commit. Even the extremely good Ankh: Gods of Egypt, with its big minis but fairly modest footprint (for a CMON game) might struggle. Bigger, ‘event’, games certainly have their place too – you’re not really meant to get those off the shelf. But Coffee Traders or even the (personally) much-loved Dungeon Degenerates don’t get a look in on a game night because their set up and teardown times can get in the way.
And so here is my proposal. Kickstarting a game should not only mean the savvy publisher with enough know-how should offer the deluxe, miniature laden version of the game, but they should offer the opposite – the travel version.
Imagine playing the two-player game of Ankh with simple (maybe magnetic) tokens and a couple of hands of cards. Maybe they could be very small cards, or durable Hive-like tiles. You know, so you can safely play the path of warring gods slouching toward monotheism by the pool without worrying too much about spilling a cocktail on it. How about Nemesis, but shrunk down with a wipe clean board that you draw the doors and effects on? Maybe this is pushing it a little bit too far, but there’s a certain appeal to replaying parts of the Alien movies in the comfort of your own (possibly caravan shaped) escape pod.
If you’re agreeing with me on this it could well be because you too haven’t had a holiday in a long time, and the hint of ‘travel’ at all is exhilarating. The luxury of time that is not in any real need of filling. The next holiday I embark on will come with a handful of small and elegantly replayable games like The King is Dead, Oh My Goods!, and, yes, Hive. The recent crop of two player games from publishers like Nuts! offer compact, DVD-box-scaled games that pack the punch of much bigger games without the overheads. Mini Rogue offers co-op (or solo) dungeon delving with a small deck of cards, a couple of trackers and a few shuffleable admin cubes. It’s not Descent, but it also doesn’t need an iPad and a certain amount of construction work. Only one of these games can be smuggled into an evening unexpectedly.
Importantly, I’m not saying that we should create a roll and write version of everything, or change the rules in any meaningful way. No, we should just abstract the games down to their strategic parts, and allow players to pick up a game in the same way that a few spontaneous rounds of Hive can be offered with the mere ‘chk-chk’ noise of hexes poured on the table.
All of us have space in our lives for little games that work really hard, so why not just make some of the big games little? What’s more, there might be an argument that stripped down, somewhat-abstracted and durable games will be the ones most played. After all, wouldn’t it just be nice to get your favourites to the table more often?