I love games. I love jumping on platforms. I love building the longest road. I love finding the hidden sword. I love curing diseases all over the world. I love trading gems to win the favor of the court. I love cutting the final wire as the clock clicks down to 0:01. I love beating the bad guys, making my civilization thrive, and–nobody is more surprised about this last one than me–I love fishing.
Now I wouldn’t say that I only like the hardest, most punishing games that exist. Because I don’t. A poorly constructed experience will tune me out as fast as anyone. Well…maybe not quite as fast. I like giving a new experience my attention and letting it breathe. Part of the game for me is learning to understand the game, but my patience is not without its limits. I want a new game that makes me think differently about the way we can replicate experiences. I like discovering new methods for interacting with concepts and interfaces. These experiences are critical to how I approach gamification of our clients' content.
The games I appreciate the most are the ones that really challenge my sense of what a game can do or be. I’m an experience junkie. If you can create a totally new experience through the game that is compelling, I’m in.
So for those of you who don't enjoy slogging through a bunch of terrible games to find the good ones (and even for those who do), here’s a short list of games that are guaranteed to satisfy. Put them on your holiday list for yourself or a loved one. And remember, if you buy a game for a friend, in many cases they will need someone to play it with (re: you).
SENTINELS OF THE MULTIVERSE
Many board/card/video games are adversarial. The game is completed when a winner is declared. This can really be a drag sometimes when the other players already have the skills or know their strategies and you are the newbie. Some video games have a co-op mode so you and your friends can blow things up together instead of blowing each other up, but there is still usually someone else on the end of the blowing up.
So what about true co-op experiences? While certainly not the only cooperative game on the market, Sentinels of the Multiverse is one of the best. The game is made up of many different decks of pre-defined card decks (no deck building for the game nerds out there). Each deck allows you to control asuperhero from a completely new universe of characters. Many of the heroes bear a resemblance to some more well-known superheroes, while still feeling fresh and new. You and your friends each take control of a single hero and an “automated” deck controls the villain and the environment in which you choose to have your battle for Truth and Justice.
Each character plays differently based on the rules of the cards in their deck. They can activate Powers that feel distinctly appropriate for the character archetypes they represent, so playing a new character deck makes the game feel totally new. The villains also feel appropriately powerful, but surmountable as you and your friends openly discuss strategies and plans to overcome the likes of Citizen Dawn, Grand Warlord Voss, and Omnitron. Another unique aspect of this game is the way that the game mechanics help tell a story. Some cards cause you to cause damage to yourself to gain some other advantage, and initially this seems like a disadvantage. However, if you look closer and read the title of the card and get the spirit of the game, you see how it actually makes sense that the the uber-powerful Legacy takes damage for the whole team because that’s what Legacy (*cough* Superman *cough*) would do!
The Greater Than Games' Sentinels core set comes with 10 hero card decks, 4 villain card decks, 4 environment card decks, and chips to help you track hit points and character statuses. There are many expansions with dozens of heroes, villains, and environments, but there is plenty of play value if you just pick up the core set and save the world from being crushed by the malevolent Baron Blade.
Have a big family or huge group of friends who all like to play together? 7 Wondersallows you to play with three to seven people at a time (two players if you use altered rules; eight if you buy an expansion set). This is a cool feature, but not what makes this a great game by a long shot.
Each player controls a civilization of the ancient past. You are all attempting to build up your own civilization and earn the most victory points at the end of the game. You do this by collecting and playing cards that allow you to focus on different aspects of your civilization: Resources, Science, Culture, Trade, or Warfare.
There are three decks of cards representing the three different ages of the civilizations. At the beginning of an age, all of the cards for that age are passed out to the players. Now here’s the kicker: You get to pick one of those cards and then you give the rest of your hand to the player next to you. Depending on how many players you have, you may never see that hand again.
So, you can implement a number of different strategies based on the cards that you receive. And you also have to consider which cards you DO NOT want your neighbor to have. Sometimes you get a hand with nothing of use to you, so you can discard a card to get some coins or “burn” a card to build one of the stages of your civilization’s wonder of the world, which has its own advantages and victory points.
The card-passing mechanic truly sets this game apart. Sometimes in resource management/strategy games like this, the table can go quiet. Asmodee's 7 Wonders has you engaged with your fellow players all of the time. Not only are you bemoaning the amazing card you had to hand to your neighbor, but you can also purchase resources from each of your adjacent players to build up your civilization. It might feel a bit overwhelming at first, but after one game, you’ll have the hang of it. It’s really fun for large and small groups and keeps the evening lively.
KEEP TALKING AND NOBODY EXPLODES
I was lucky enough to attend the XOXO Festival this year where I discovered this gem of a game (and several other cool, independently-produced video and board games). The concept is simple enough, but you’ve probably never played anything like it. One person enters a room. That person is the only person that can see a bomb. The bomb has a timer and it is going to explode. The rest of your team has a manual. This manual has the instructions that allow you to defuse the bomb. The defuser has to communicate everything that he or she can about the details of the bomb to help the team with the manual decode the clues and tell you the right buttons to push, the correct wires to cut, and the perfect sequence of lights to activate to save the day.
The game can be played by having one player (the person defusing the bomb) set up with a monitor that no one else can see, but a more visceral experience comes to life when the game is played with an Oculus Rift or a Samsung Gear VR and a game controller. The person defusing the bomb has their senses cut off and is immersed in a virtual word while speaking to the other players. This sense of isolation truly heightens the experience, but either way you play the game, the sense of accomplishment and relief from defusing a fake bomb cannot be understated. The tension runs high, and everyone works together to save the day.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a great game to build communication skills and share a lot of laughs with your friends.
RIDICULOUS FISHING: A TALE OF REDEMPTION
Many mobile games copy each other and can become quite tedious once you recognize their similar DNA. This is not true of the arcade fun of Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption. Here is a one-player experience that might get you deeper (get it?) into the world of mobile gaming.
Does Ridiculous Fishing have a story? Probably, but who cares? Here’s what happens: You’re a fisherman. You cast your line with your mobile device and move it side-to-side to avoid fish and other sea life on the way down through the murky depths. Once you snag something, you start moving back up and (again) moving your device side-to-side, but this time with the goal to catch every fish you can, as you quickly ascend to the surface. And then you're done, right? NO! Once the fish break that water tension they fly into the air, you use your array of firearms to shoot them out of the sky (you know, fishing). You sell the fish for big wads of money, and then use it to buy better fishing gear and get back to angling.
Note: On the developer’s press page, under Features for the game, it mentions–not once, but twice–“Fish that become hats.” This is not a mistake.
It’s fun. It’s humorous. It’s addictive. It’s easy to learn and takes time to master. It’s the perfect arcade time waster with enough upgrades and items to collect to keep you coming back for quite a while. And most importanly, it's availabe for iOS and Android.
If you have a game about which you feel strongly or that inspires you, we’d love to hear about it. Tweet it to us @NogginLabs. Thanks and have a great holiday!