I’ve been trying to play more games this year, so this week is a quick rundown of my recent table game adventures.
It’s 1944. You’re child soldiers, members of the Grey Ranks (Szare Szeregi). Designed by Jason Morningstar, Grey Ranks casts your table as members of the Polish partisans, and their lives before, during and after the Uprising against the Germans. In the hands of players who wish to fully explore the subject matter available to a Grey Ranks game, it is an unflinching and devastating look at the Uprising and life around it.
Due to these mature themes, it’s important to discuss beforehand the overall player comfort with topics such as anti-Semitism, totalitarianism, adolescent sexuality, and violence towards children. The importance of first love is one of the central forces at work in Grey Ranks, and the movements of both players and the roll of a die can bring those young lovers together—or tear them apart across the course of the game.
Grey Ranks plays out across ten chapters, and can be played by three to five people. For optimal conditions, four players is the ideal number for a Grey Ranks game. Grey Ranks is tied to its grid, which served as a horrifying illustration of the characters slow spiral into pain and despair. My first encounter with Grey Ranks was purchasing the game while teaching Judaic Studies. My first time playing with the system was a fellow player’s recent hack of Grey Ranks. I fully intend to play through Grey Ranks this year.
You can buy Grey Ranks here.
A Penny For My Thoughts
In A Penny For My Thoughts, your characters guide each other through forgotten memories and events that led you to Orphic Institute for Advanced Studies. The experimental drug Mnemosyne™ and the aid of your fellow amnesiac patients may bring your memories back to you, but will you want to keep them? Penny , after a single play, ranks up there with Fiasco as one of my favorite games. The use of the pennies felt strange at first, but the handling of the pennies gives a physical weight to the events that transpired in your past. Designed and written by Paul Tevis, developed and edited by Ryan Macklin. Buy it. Play it. Love it.
You can buy A Penny For My Thoughts here.
Race to Adventure
Designed by Chris Ruggiero, Eric Lytle, Evan Denbaum, Race to Adventure is put out by Evil Hat Productions. You can save your friends, travel the world and fight pulp villains in this family-friendly board game. Things to love about this game:
- It is astoundingly gorgeous.
- The footprint of the game takes up less than half my dining room table. This game is so tiny you could play it on a picnic table, even one of those dinky half-size picnic tables.
- Race to Adventure is part of EHP’s Spirit of the Century setting, so there’s plenty of other RtA related content to dig into once you master this board game.
It took us more than the 20-30 minutes listed on the box to play, but we were teaching ourselves out of the box, and everyone playing had been working overtime that week. I’m fairly confident that once you know the rules, the game goes by at a much faster clip.
You can buy Race to Adventure here.
Pandemic: On The Brink
Designed by Matt Leacock and Tom Lehmann, Pandemic: On The Brink is an expansion for the fantastic Z-Man Games board game Pandemic. Employees of the CDC, you raise against time across the world to keep four diseases from wiping out mankind. The expansion includes new roles, new special events, and a number of new challenges. Think of this as the mod that takes playing Pandemic to Insanity mode. The reason I love Pandemic as far as its mechanics is that even playing it at a low difficulty is still enough to make you sweat. It’s also a co-op game, which I usually enjoy more than competitive/player v player games. If Pandemic gets you interested in the world of virology, the app game Plague Inc from Ndemic Creations may be up your alley as well.
You can find Pandemic retailers—or order from the publisher if you don’t have a local game shop—at their site.