I was an only child for most of my younger years, so when I couldn’t find a family member or neighborhood kid to play with, I had to get creative. I started with house rules. Elaborate house rules. This led, quickly, to giving up entirely on playing the game how it was meant to be played in favor of just doing whatever seemed most fun at the time. No one was around to correct me or to tell me to play by the rules, so I made up my own.
Mousetrap became an exercise in faulty construction; Operation was a timed agility course. Guess Who was completely unplayable, as was Chutes and Ladders. Trivial Pursuit . . . actually stayed pretty much the same – which, I think, says a lot about its game mechanics.
The best games by far, though, were ones with map-like game boards. You know the type – the board itself depicts the layout of a city or town, and the mechanics often involve travelling from one location to another. My absolute favorite of these was The Baby-Sitter’s Club Mystery Game, but I honestly have absolutely no idea how the game was supposed to be played. I don’t think I ever read the rules, never mind completed the game. It was a gift, probably because I read Baby-Sitter’s Club books like I breathed. I liked to take the pieces and move them around town as if they lived there, as if the town was my dollhouse.
Thinking about this, it got me to wondering – if you had to live inside a board game, which would you choose?
The Journey Home
At first, I thought this would be easy, but when I actually began to go through my collection, I noticed just how awful most game worlds are.
I started with Arkham Horror, because I always start with Arkham Horror. It’s my favorite, and it’s so thematic and moody. Plus, the game board is map, which is not a necessary element for this thought experiment, but it certainly helps things along.
After some initial thought, I paused. Did I really want to live in a town on the brink of unspeakable horror and destruction, where monsters swoop from the sky and prowl the streets? Sure, there’s lots of cool stuff going on, and I would have the opportunity to save the world . . . but man, it’s dark.
So, I moved on to another game that makes its way onto our table fairly frequently – Pandemic. But, no. Any game involving not one, but four deadly, highly transmittable pathogens is probably not one you’d want to risk too much time in.
I then migrated to Pandemic’s mechanical cousin, Forbidden Island. Sure, the two play very similarly, but are wildly different in theme. Frankly, I’d rather be on a sinking island than trapped in Sydney during a viral outbreak, but I still wasn’t completely sold. I like the idea of adventure and relic-hunting as much as the next Indiana Jones fan – it’s the frantic rush to shore up sinking beaches and caverns that puts me off.
Survive, another island game, falls into a similar trap. Fun in the sun and beautiful beaches are one thing, but when the land starts to crumble into the sea, I start to want to go home. Not to mention the sharks and sea monsters . . .
So maybe an island game wasn’t going to cut it. What about something a little less wet and wild? There has to be a game out there that’s not strictly strife and malice, right?
Scotland Yard, at first glance, looked promising. The board game is a map, which is always easy, and I do love London. Plus, while you are tracking down a hardened jewel thief, he doesn’t seem interesting in killing you. He just wants to escape. But, I also think that it would be pretty annoying to never be able to use a car or walk anywhere.
This led me, naturally, to Ticket to Ride. The world here is much safer.
In fact, it’s almost too safe.
Nothing ever happens, and while it might be fun to tour the world on multi-colored locomotives for awhile, I don’t think racing over a featureless landscape could sustain my ongoing attention.
But, I thought, I was headed in the right direction. I needed something that’s interesting, but not life-threatening. And, as gamers, we all know what that calls for – Eurogames!
Power Grid was automatically out because it’s way too much work, but I thought that maybe Agricola could work. You’re busy, yes, but you have a lot to show for it in your expanding family and herd of sheep, even if the time period was a bit more rustic than it is today. In fact, it only seems to be missing one thing…
Which brings me to Viticulture. It’s a little like Agricola, in that you’re planting and expanding. Only you also have visitors, you don’t have to worry about feeding your family, and your crops don’t rot. Plus, you know, booze.
So that’s it for me. I’ll happily live on the picturesque Italian vineyard portrayed on Viticulture’s board. You’re all welcome to come by for a tasting, by the way.
But what about you? What board game would you like to make home?
Erin Ryan is a regular contributor to the site. She’s curious what game you’d like to live in Feel free to share them with us over on our forums!