Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Signs of spring: The first backyard boardgame of 2013

Spring has made its long-awaited appearance here in northern Virginia.  The birds are singing, the Washington Nationals are winning (or at least they were before they went to Cincinnati), and the boardgames have finally started to come outside.

Professor Plum patrols the White Hall
while the Rembrandt self-portrait
stands under the watchful eye of a
security camera
Clue: The Great Museum Caper
Well, in point of fact, the afternoon of Easter Sunday wasn't quite warm enough for outdoor gaming, but the occasion did call for a family boardgame of some kind, so we decided to trot out our old favorite, Clue: The Great Museum Caper (designers John Labelle and Thomas and Dave Rabideau, publisher Parker Brothers).  My sons are getting particularly cagey at this game.  The 12-year-old went first, and he led the rest of us on quite the wild goose chase.  He nabbed four paintings before making his escape, setting a very high bar for the rest of us to try to beat.  The 17-year-old went next, and he did very well until my character spotted him in the museum.  It wasn't long before we caught him red-handed.  By this point, the game had taken so long that Kathy and I decided not to even take our turns as art thieves but to declare the 12-year-old the winner of our Great Easter Museum Caper.

Ingenious always goes better with
wine and crackers
A few days later, Kathy and I had time for only a short game, so we went to Reiner Knizia's brilliant abstract hexagonal tile game, Ingenious (designer Reiner Knizia, publisher Fantasy Flight Games).  I'm very fond of this aesthetically satisfying game, even though I'm sure I don't play very thoughtfully.  The game is always more fun with a glass of wine or a beer, though, and after all, it's all about having fun.

A civilized backyard
afternoon of spreadable
cheese and Robber Knights
Robber Knights
The highlight of this weekend came when the weather finally warmed up enough to allow Kathy and me to enjoy our first backyard boardgame of the year.  The challenge with these games is to make a selection that is small enough to fit on our outdoor coffee table and substantial enough not to have components blowing around with every little breeze.  Robber Knights (designer Rüdiger Dorn, artist Michael Menzel, publisher Queen Games) is always a satisfactory option for this setting.  Today we enjoyed cocktails among the chickadees while we played this tile-laying and -claiming game.  I've lately taken to comparing RK to the Zoning and Bidding Phases of Sunrise City, which is a richer game (but which takes up a little more time and real estate - if you'll pardon the pun).  Today, I went for quantity over quality and ended up with a lot of one-point castles, but not enough to overcome Kathy's locked-down three-point cities.  I also used up my knights and tiles too aggressively, and she was able to finish with an unanswerable six-point play to win the game with a score of 26 to 23.


  1. I love that you guys play board games. More people should, in my opinion. They're so creative and you learn much better strategy face-to-face than you do online. :-)

  2. Thanks, Jenny! Truly, half the appeal of board games is the social aspect. It's such a fun way for Kathy and me to spend time together.

  3. Outdoor board gaming is my favorite. I'm pretty jealous you're just starting it up for the year...down here in Florida its only mid April and the threats of moving indoors to avoid the heat are already starting!

  4. Yes, Emily, right about now is the perfect time of year in Virginia. It won't last, though; by June, the humidity and mosquitoes will have us retreating under the bug netting. And Kathy just reminded me that this year we'll have the 17-year cicadas as well.

  5. Hey, I thought Kath wasn't into abstracts...Yinsh, anyone? LOL

    1. You know, Stephen, I can never tell by looking at an abstract whether Kathy will like it or not. She loves Ingenious but is very tepid about Hive.

      Last year, Josh Edwards posted his Top Ten Abstracts, and it's a really good list. Yinsh is #5. There are some good honorable mentions as well as additional very good abstracts listed in the comments.