That excellent fellow over at Leaflocker asked, "If you had to go away for a few years, what are the five games you'd have to take?" We will assume there was an unspoken, "and why?" tacked on to the end there.
To understand my choices, you need to know that the attribute I value most highly in games is something I shall somewhat nebulously term 'flow'. If I were to attempt to
define it, I'd say that it is that quality which allows you to easily lose yourself just quietly making
your choices while sipping a cup of tea. These are games in which you can accept it gracefully when you realise you have made poor choices, games that give you the ability to adapt, games in which your turn generally consists of a decision, not a roll of the dice, and games in which your choices don't bog you down. No raised voices, a quiet afternoon with good friends. Gaming Zen.
The first game I'd pack would be Cribbage. At the core of Cribbage is a bog standard, versatile deck of playing cards which can be easily repurposed for any of a thousand other card games you might know, prominently including numerous forms of Solitaire for the lonely traveller. But I'd take the peg board too. Cribbage itself is very luck-based, and by no measure the most strategic of games, but it reminds me of my father, brothers, and Opa. Best played with an open bottle of Port and positive male role-models.
The second would be Coup, complete with the Reformation expansion. This game fits in a large pocket, can be enjoyed with up to ten players, and has so many great opportunities to mess each other up. Coup is a bluffing and memory game in which players are dealt face down two agents who they influence at court. They can claim the power of any type of agent they choose in order to take an action, but other players can attempt to call them out on this. If they do have that agent, the other player suffers a loss of influence. If they don't, they suffer a loss of influence. In the early phases of the game, practically everyone pretends they have a Duke and an Ambassador (or Inquisitor). Factions are shifted, assassinations are blocked, and coups are launched. The base set makes it a good game, but the expansion makes it a great game. Best played with a little bit of Scotch.
My third choice is Agricola. This Superior German Farming Simulator is one of the best board games of all time. OF ALL TIME. You take on the role of a farming family living in a wooden hut. Your goal is to improve your farm in order to feed your family, with the winner being the player who improves the lot of their little farming family the best. There isn't a great deal of player interaction, aside from the choices you make denying that choice to other players. But it is still a reasonably strategic offering for when you want to think about what you are doing. This game can be hit and miss for flowing well, but the good times more than make up for the bad ones. Best played with pizza, but make sure you have paper towels handy to keep the grease off of the cards and pieces.
My fourth choice is Jaipur, though I still don't own a copy of it yet. This neat little game is about canny trading of luxury goods and hoarding all the camels. There is something very special indeed about such an engaging two player game, and it works well when you are at home with your partner or catching up with a friend over tea. It possesses seriously superior 'flow'. There is minimal to no stress involved in playing this game, although your choices matter and your opponent can and will dick you over. The box is very small, and it is easily transported. Best played with Assam tea, and scones with jam and cream.
My fifth choice is Carcassonne, another game all about the superior 'flow' for me. In this game players take it in turns to build the countryside loosely themed as the city in France. You pick up a tile from the pile, place it wherever you like in a legal position, and then choose whether or not to place one of your meeples on the tile in one of several ways. It is a game about positioning to your own advantage, and anticipating the positioning of your opponents. Once a piece is placed it cannot be moved or removed until it scores, and your supply of meeples is quite limited. Although for up to 5 players, I find it immensely satisfying to play one on one. Although I continue to be very happy playing the base game, there are innumerable expansions which I am yet to play. I own many of them as I did buy myself one of the "Big Box" versions of Carcassonne, but if I were travelling and space was an issue I'd probably just take the base game plus the river expansion. I have a wonderful Carcassonne nemesis in Ale, who is a couple of games up at the moment I think curse her hide. Best played with Darjeeling and Jam Fancies.
So there you have the five games I'd pack were I going away for a couple of years. With the exception of Agricola and maybe Carcassonne, they all pack down extremely tightly indeed, and I'd be tempted to always pack one no matter the length of a trip.
Answers to my slightly smug Bonus Quiz! Did you spot the theme?
In Neverwinter Nights 2, what is the name of the evil ranger who joins your party?
Which former Australian minister presided over a scandal involving kerosene baths?
- Bronwyn Bishop
Who was the eighth Catholic archbishop of Sydney?
- George Pell
Who did Ian Smith most famously portray?
- Harold Bishop
In the chess piece relative value system, which other piece has the same value as a knight?
Who is channel 10's long serving entertainment reporter?
- Angela Bishop
Which member of the X-men comes from a police force in a dystopian future?
Who said, "We was too late. The Reverend Grundy bit the ceiling"? A point each for the character and the actor.
- The Bishop, played by Terry Jones
Who was the first Australian politician to respond to an interview entirely in emoji?
- Julie Bishop
Who was the executive officer of the USS Sulaco?