See All

Popular Colonial Board Games (Category)

These are the board games with the Colonial category.
See All

Forum Posts

A Touch of Evil: Dark Gothic (Colonial Horror) - Part 1 - YouTube image
A Touch of Evil: Dark Gothic (Colonial Horror) - Part 1 - YouTube (https://youtu.be/8LV0rweJdb0) [Dark Gothic: Colonial Horror]Like| 0 comments | [+]
Problematic themes in Boardgames Like| 12 comments | [+]
Pet peeves in historically themed euro games. Like| 2 comments | [+]
See All

User Activity Feed

One of my all time favourite games is #Archipelago, it embodies so many of my favourite aspects of games: negotiation, hidden information, semi-cooperative play it is a game that has the best, most-petty, hilarious discussions and at its best I've rarely enjoyed sitting at a table moving meeples around so much.

However, I do think that the game is very much one of those that gets significantly better the more you play it with the same group and one that makes it easyfor people to bounce off of hard. I'll explain: when the game is first set out and the rules taught it appears very much to be a Euro/4X game. You gather resources, get upgrades, hire (or brith) new meeples, explore new sections of archipelago and build an empire. If you play it like a straight Euro game it isn't great: everything is slow and resource gathering is inefficent/can feel impossible, you don't have enough actions and the traitor (although they are definitely the 'good' or at least 'best' player morally speaking) seemingly has the easiest time rallying the native peoples to overthrow their colonial oppressors and bring the game to a premature end. (On a side-, but important, note, the other glaring flaw of this game is that it very much puts the players in the role of the bad guys casually exploiting an island and its people, and while within my group of friends we are pretty aware of this and use it to spark discuss and comment on how awful we are I can absolutely see this being a deal-braker for some and I wouldn't blame them in the slightest.)

Rant over, the problem with the way the game presents itself is that it is in reality a negotiation and deal-making game much more that it is a Euro-game. The way we have found it plays best, is when everyone is cutting deals and trading with each other while trying to get an edge. The semi-cooperative aspect really comes to life when you are negotiating who is going to use their hard earned resources to deal with the current crisis and how much you are going to pay them for it. The engine building side takes off when players are trading freely, as this is a free action, and so instead of having to use all your actions to collect 1 stone, 2 cows and 2 wood, you instead use one action to collect 8 pineapples and then trade them to get everything you need from other players. When you are trying to work out who is the 'traitor' and then working together (while of course trying not to make any real sacrifices yourself) to economically stifle that player and taking over their 'territory' (no one really owns anything in the game which is amazing) to limit their influence that is is when the game takes off and is a non-stop joy. However, the game doesn't mudge you to do these things at all, it is very much a sandbox, and while I love that aspect in many ways I can see how other people might try it once, not like it and then never bother again. So while I could say that they are just 'playing it wrong' and blame other players instead of the game. I think it is a legitimate critiscm of the game that it hasn't made how it wants to played clear, either mechanically or otherwise, and as such has made itself less accessible than it could have been. 

However, I adore this game, and whenever I teach it I make a point of highlighting these aspects. It still usually takes people at least until the second game to really grasp what makes the game tick, but once they do I've had so many people fall in love with it.

This is great and the "ideal player count and conditions" is what triggered me to do the same with my list with those two ideals in mind.  Your process and format are fantastic!  As I read through the games we've both played I note that we have similar thoughts which drive me to look at the games I haven't played on your list and seriously reconsider some games I've been so-so on.  Doing 20 games was tough but I hammered through and here's what I came up with:

20. #Marvel Champions: The Card Game - I thought this would be a little higher and to some degree it feels a little like #Firefly: The Game which I feel is a great game, tons of fun to play, but has a sort of "niche" spot on my shelf and tends to not rank among my top tier games.  Champions is still a great game, lots of fun, and very engaging.  In trying to consider why it gets bumped down I might argue that the length of play with the ideal play number (3-4?) is fairly long.  Even a two-player game takes a decent amount of time.

19. #Root - I finally got to play a three-player game the other night and the magic of this game came through for me.  I can see this moving up my list over time with more plays.  The "gotcha" aspect of this game is would keep it from being much higher as I tend to gravitate away from such games.  That Root makes this list at all is a testament to how much fun it is.

18. #Castles of Mad King Ludwig - has been in my collection for several years now and remains a staple.  4 players is the best to play with but the other player counts are well balanced and there is a solo option as well.  The market arrangement at the beginning of each round is one of my favorite aspects to this game.  

17. #Terraforming Mars - this was a tough one.  I enjoy this game and it remains an engaging experience when it hits the table.  The solo on this is quite fun as well.  It's been a while since I've played but still makes the top 20 with solid mechanics and gameplay.

16. #Everdell - this was a very very challenging game to place!  I'm not sure if it's the long setup or a slight untightness in gameplay that keep it from being higher.  I don't often have ideal options to play and there are a few "gotcha" cards that drive it down slightly.  The components and art are off the charts and this is one of the few heavier games my entire family will play.

15. #Viscounts of the West Kingdom - is a game that could rise as time goes on.  I taught Becky and she did well on her first game (beating me of course) and this might end up passing #Paladins of the West Kingdom at some point.  This is a deck-building game with lots of crunchy mechanics.

14. #Teotihuacan: City of Gods - was another challenge to rank as I have fewer plays but it has a very engaging rondel and the player interaction on the board is fun and the theme is well balanced with the mechanics.  This is a well-designed game.  The solo mode is quite nice.  If there is a knock on this game it might be the extra setup with dice when you have less than 4 players.  

13. #Tapestry - is very fun with one of the longest setups of any game I have (competing with Everdell) but the components and gameplay are creative and a five-player game is perhaps the most engaging.  I am looking forward to getting #Tapestry: Plans and Ploys and seeing how much that adds to the game.

12.  #PARKS - I wasn't 100% sure this would make the top 20 but with the #PARKS: Nightfall Expansion it moves up past other games and is a relaxing and enjoyable game that feels like a walk in the park.  The art is beautiful and the player interactions are easy going.

11. #Anachrony - Wow...I thought this would be higher but the setup probably shifts it down slightly.  Still, it has a fantastic time travel aspect, great engine building, and asynchronous player boards, make this an awesome game to play.  The solo mode is fun as well.  Takes up quite a bit of space.

10. #Paladins of the West Kingdom - gets the edge into the top 10.  Everything said was spot on.  The solo version is very well designed.

9. #Rococo: Deluxe Edition - I wasn't sure where this would land but it edged out Paladins as I liked the 5 player count and the art and gameplay I felt were the slightest bit better.  It too has a great automa.

8. #Maracaibo - I would not have thought this would have made my top 10 last year but I find myself wanting to play this more and I think a 4 player count with the campaign mode makes this a tantalizing game to play.  The colonialism theme could be a little edgy for some folks but doesn't standout as a focus and the theme is more set in an era than encouraging poor behaviors through gameplay.  

7. #Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island - this is another game I didn't think would make the top 10 but it is a great game with a very hard solo experience.  With four players this game is engaging and incredible to play and I think was years ahead of it's time when it came out with combined components, theme, and mechanics.

6. #Heaven & Ale I had to juggle to decide if this would beat out Robinson Crusoe and decided Heaven and Ale gets the edge.  Excellent euro-game that hits the mark on time, strategy, and intriguing player interaction around the rondel.

5. #Wingspan - is just great at 5 players and remains an amazing game with beautiful art, interactive gameplay, and still gets more plays than any other game in our home.  The solo mode is quite good as well.

4. #Clans of Caledonia - is a great economic resource management game with a nice tight game time and mechanics.  I could probably play this one over and over again using the different clans.

3. #Gloomhaven - such a great game and dollar for dollar you'll be hard-pressed to find a game that gives you more bang for your buck.  Solo or with others this is an amazing game.

2. #Viticulture: Essential Edition - this is a game that shines under the ideal conditions.  Worker-placement with some engine-building, this game is so much fun and the race to 25 points is engaging.

1. #Scythe - gets the top spot.  It checks all the boxes that a game can check for me and with 6-7 players is off the charts fun.  When I first bought this game I thought it would be moderately fun.  After multiple game nights now this game is the bar to beat.  

 

Games that might challenge for spots next year: #The Gallerist depending on set up and how brain-smashing the interlocking mechanics feel.  The solo might factor in as well. #Brass: Birmingham could sneak in there after a few game nights. #Raiders of Scythia feels like a game that could push for a 10-20 range spot. #Obsession feels like it has the best possibility to get into the top 10.  I can see it making a move this year for sure.

I thank each and every one of you who has responded thus far. But, as reminded me yesterday, I asked for your viewpoints without giving ya'll mine. So, I will do so here, now. But, before I give you my answer, I do want to give just a little bit of background.

I am a person who read a LOT growing up. In fact I averaged over well over 200 full length books a year until 2016, which was the year that my son was born. Something I always found very interesting, and even important, in books was to determine the worldview of the author. For me, analyzing the plot, the rising crescendo, the denouement, the whole fabric of the book is and was fascinating. I loved looking at the little literary devices that the author chose to use. But, for me, the most interesting part of reading was trying to determine what the worldview of the author was when he/she wrote the book. Reading does broaden one's horizon, in some very potentially helpful ways. And, it can change the way one thinks. I however have found that if one can identify the worldview, that does tend to armor you a bit against bad worldviews. I think most of us can do this to some point. For example, in my post I mentioned Mein Kampf which is Hitler's famous book wherein he lays out his views on all sorts of stuff. I will further mention The Communist Mannifesto the worldview in this book is super obvious. And, I think that most people with the bare modicum of logical thinking and historical knowledge won't have a problem reading it, they won't be swayed by it. They are aware of the worldview, usually before they even go and read it.

Why do I spend this time talking about books in a post about games? It is because I find many similarities between books and games. I do find that games are often, not always, expressions of a small part of the designers worldview. I think that it is a much more limited medium, but, in great games, there is often some sort of authorial intent behind the game. Again, this is a more limited medium than books, but, it is interesting to think of the authorial biases going into the design. If nothing else, even in the simplest games, there is interesting ideas of what the designer thinks of fun.

 

Why do I spend this time on this preamble? It is to explain why I really cannot seperate the art from the artist. I honestly don't believe that there is such a thing as a neutral medium. Any medium in which one communicates to another, be it books, or speech, or visual arts, or films, or etc.... is inherently subject to the biases and views of the communicator. Even if they are just "writing books for the money" the books that they write do give interesting messages about what they believe the masses want. The same goes for movies, or pictures, or, ..... Games.

 

So, if I cannot, or at the least find it very difficult to, seperate the art from the artist, what is my responsiblity in choosing where to spend my time and money when it comes to games?

  • I agree with that being informed is important. I think it is ok to call out bad stuff. I think it is even important to call out bad stuff. But, far more people pass judgment without understanding, or desiring to understand the context.
  • I will, almost necessarily, at a minimum, engage with people I disagree with in any medium I consume. This includes games. Of course, some games, were designed by people who's actions or worldviews whose views are actually repellent. I will  not find, I doubt that you will, find a game, or any other medium, whose creator(s) line up with your worldview.
  • G.K. Chesterton reminded us that "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." I do think that it is ok to draw lines and say that "everything on that side of the line, is something I won't touch." I don't think it is a problem to see cultural appropriation in Tascini's game, for example, and decide that you won't devote time or money to them. I, for example, have decided not to play games by Harry Wu A.K.A. John Bohrer because of the generally despicably way he has treated everybody in the game design industry who has worked with him. It is almost as if he really does see himself as adopting the worldview portrayed in one of his 18xx games.
  • Actively reject the bad. For instance, if you are playing a game by Eklund and you see racism, or you see praises for colonialism, reject it. Reject it personally, if you are playing with someone, point out the problem and dialog with it.
  • I think it disengenious to have huge problems with games that glorify colonial conquest, for example. But, then love a good fantastical or sci-fi 4x game. I recognize that there are some differences, in that in the colonial conquest one, real people were, and continue to be affected. That being said. Both games are representing and fostering the same worldview. I believe that you have a equal responsibilty to call out the problematic issues with the scifi game as with the historical game.

 

Do I think there is space for morally repungant games in my collection. I think, for me, yes. I cannot answer that question for you. I remember the first time that I toured the holocaust museum in Washington D.C. My overwhelming feeling was that real people, ordinary people, were the perpetrators of this atrocity. Ordinary people, conservative Christians, looked the other way during Hitler's rise to power, and they even enabled him, because he did institute effective economic reform. I was privilaged to speak with a survivor or Auschwitze one time. The stories he told were made even more chilling when I remembered that the horrors he saw and experienced were perpetrated by humans who were "merely doing their job." I do believe that this lesson is important. I don't think we are in some sort of special place in human history. I don't think that we are really at a higher plane than our slave owning ancestors, or our ancestors that enjoyed public executions, or our ancestors who viewed torture as the most expedient ways of arriving at the truth. I believe that when we lose sight of this fact. When we lose sight that we, as humans, are prone to ignore the suffering we are inflicting on others in the pursuit of our own good. For me, if I play a game that I violently disagree with, it does do a valuable service reminding me, that real humans perpetrated the problems I have with the games. We are often reminded that the slave trade was trade in humans. This is a lesson we dare not forget. But, neither dare we forget that this trade in humans was, in fact, perpetrated by humans. And, that, even people who rejected the slave trade, supported it by their tastes for commodities produced by slave trade. So, to the extant that games require me to examine my position, jostle my mind and remind me of a blind spot that I might have, than these games with problematic games can serve as a valuable part of my collection.

That being said, I would hesitate to play a game with problematic issues with, slavery for example, with someone whose life has personally been negatively affected by slavery or the after effects. I however would play it with someone who might be turning a blind eye to the after affects, and engage with them about it afterwards, to try to get them to see if they have some sort of complicity.

👏 👏 👏 

Great insight.

I want to comment on your point about colonial games vs. 4x games. I brought up this thread last night to my wife and we started talking about it. We even talked about how colonial games are frowned upon but fantasy games with a similar theme/mechanic are fine. One must remember that fiction--including genre fiction like SFF--mirrors our world. As a writer and reader of these genres, I have seen and heard countless times how such-and-such a theme hearkens back to this-or-that experiences in our world. That said, 4x games do seem colonial. My wife brought up some points such as in #Tiny Epic Kingdoms (in two-players, at least) where there is a "local" or, in this case, a Lost Kingdom, faction that you can harry and conquer. Some might say that this is colonialism. And yet, it somehow feels different because it's in a made-up world with fantastical races such as elves, dwarves, and creepy lizardfolk.

My wife and I also talked about lines in the sand. When is it OK to play a game with a certain theme, and when does it become too much? You mentioned how reading books with bad worldviews can be informative and, thus, be protective against such worldviews. I agree with this. Ignoring information because it's uncomfortable--even painful to recall--can be damaging. Knowing is half the battle, as they say on Saturday-morning television, and I think that's true. Learning about such worldviews can help us identify red flags in the future and, hopefully, avoid what happened in the past.

But I also think there is a limit to how such views are ingested. Media that actively promote bad things is media I will stay away from. However, media that touches on those same topics but in a different light is media I will consume, as it is not glorifying said attrocities but rather showing it for what it is. For board games, I enjoy combat-based mechanics and themes. From WWII games to arena combat games, they are interesting, engaging, and fun. But, there are games, such as #Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery, that I will not play due to the nature of the game. Was life like that back then? Sure, maybe (if this is historically accurate), but it's the way the game is created that keeps me from it. I'd play a different Spartacus--same theme, same mechanics--if the content were more family friendly.

This is an interesting subject with a lot of room for interpretation. And, honestly, I think the answer--and the extent of the answer--is going to be different for everyone.

I don't necessarily feel a need for games to have a message but often appreciate when they do. I like how #Archipelago mechanically and thematically allows for greed and selfishness to cause the game to end as well as highlighting how you as a colonial power are actually the bad guys. 

I also enjoy the satire (turned up to 11) of #War on Terror of you as the 'good guys' are inevitably drawn to fund and use terrorists against each other which will also then inevitably be used against you later in the game.

Oh man, I'm not going to look into too many of these games, but dang does Rodney's #1 look right up my alley.  Imperial Struggle or whatever they're going to end up calling it.  I love Colonial History.  Diplomacy, Economy, Combat, Area Control.  Yes please.

I think you are entirely missing what the actual objections to colonialism in games are. its not that games are made about the theme, its that they sweep over the theme, they ignore the darkness, they present the colonizers as heroes and the colonized as either invisible, or totally lacking in agency. 

Its not that colonialism is something that games shouldn't do. it's that they present such a distorted lens on a complex issue that it causes upset and annoyance. They are like wargames, if only one side got to act and the winner was which one of the different general on the victorious side completed the most maneuvers and collected the most postcards from visiting different towns. Utterly warped. 

They buy into a 19th century viewpoint of the world, of "Fatal impact" and lack of agency among colonized people. Of racial and societal superiority and cultural darwinism. 

It's not colonialism that offends. Its the erasure of actual colonialism and the romanticism of the colonizers POV that does. 

I hear you, and I agree that the romanticizing of "great colonizers" is as objectionable as colonialism was. But, I still maintain that those do offer valuable teaching opportunities. 

If you push the theme to space, it will probably make it more palatable. BUT it will continue championing, and maybe to a certain extent fostering the cause of colonialism. Fictionalizing it does not justify the attitudes behind it. 

I do think that the idea mentioned earlier about haveing sensitivity reader to help guage the suitability of the theme could be a good idea. Because we do need more games that engage Wynn these issues in a more thoughtful manner. 

But the teaching opportunities just reinforce the misconceptions. I'm sorry, but games like Marciabo have all the teaching value of "intelligent design vs evolution". The board game which asks you questions about evolution, and then gives you biblical quotes as to why evolution is wrong. All they teach is ignorance. 

All you are learning in most colonialism games is that white people are real people who make decisions and do things, and brown people are resources, inert and passive and have stuff done to them. As i said above, they present such a skewed, European primacy POV that they actively work against education.

Most colonialism board games are as educationally useful as a US civil war documentary that never mentions slavery and just says "for reasons of domination the north invaded the south, and the south were the good guys defending their homeland from invasion". 

This is an interesting topic. While I’m not personally offended by Colonialism or other historical situations as themes I do think it all needs to be done with sensitivity as has been stated. I appreciate the game publishers that have  taken the time to write a bit i the rule book explaining their approach to the theme of the game and acknowledging the situation and not condoning the actions of the times.

Stoll I don’t see many publishers going this route because, they want to sell their games to a wide audience. The same game themed as a space exploration  game will probably end up selling more. 

I think this can be a touchy subject for a lot of people. Being a white male who lives in SoCal, I personally don’t see or feel the effects of a lot of issues(regardless of time in history) that my close friends of color feel, such as: slavery, colonialism, gentrification, racism, etc. I’ve had some very deep and helpful conversations with my friends who are minorities about some of the things they face on a daily basis. Not just in movies, commercials, interactions with people, but even in board games certain themes or concepts may evoke hard thoughts or feelings in certain groups of people. With that said, I do think there should be certain concepts to be avoided, though not all themes because really ANY THEME could do that. For instance, I wouldn’t exactly want to play a game centered on trading/selling people, however I would have no problem playing a zombie game (sorry @marshwiggle92 haha). A gray area would be games that deal with guns in general. I am completely fine playing these games, but in light of the many shootings here in the States, this may make some uncomfortable. Do I not play this game because of another’s conviction? No, but I will probably avoid playing with that individual.

Whether we see it or not, and regardless of how far removed we are from particular moment in history, these things shape the lives of people around us. So on a personal level, I can’t control what designers are putting in games, so I have to be mindful about what I am buying. Second, I have to realize some designers from other countries have a completely different perspective on life and history than myself so I need to take that into consideration. Third, I need to know my audience/who I’m playing with. Because I have deep friendships with people of color there is no way I would even own a game that would buy and sell people. This may again evoke issues that started from not moments, but systems constructed overtime by people, that were used to dehumanize others throughout history. These moments and systems still have their ripple effects today, therefore games dealing with human value in a realistic/historical setting should tread lightly, because if not they might very well continue to perpetuate the problems previously mentioned.

hopefully that made sense haha

There are lines that I draw. I also will not buy a game that is just about buying and selling people. Though, I will buy games that have slavery as in colonialism. Maybe that is a double standard. 

I guess my view can be summed up as saying that history is profoundly important. The USA is the country I am most familiar with. I have lived most of my life in the rural US, I still own a house there and expect to move back at some point. BUT I do believe that we I in the the USA are in grave danger of forgetting the consequences of history. 

I am saddened when I see confederate statues being torn down in the southeastern states for the same reason I would be saddened to see the last remnants of the Berlin Wall torn down. Not because I admire the wall or the confederate generals, but because I believe that forgetting them and the wrongs that they committed dooms us to repeat them in some way. 

We need to be sensitive in subject matter with those we play with. I agree with that. And I try to take that in consideration the  same way I take game weight, or language issues into the consideration. But I do wonder if it wouldn't be more sensitive to play the game and wrestle with the issues the game or memorial raises. For instance, in the case of a memorial, could one not put a sign on the memorial that says something like, "Lest we forget the depths to which our fathers stooped." In the case of the game can the game master not say something similar? 

It’s hard because board games and statues/flags are very different media. For instance, one is in the confines of my home and has (hopefully) no ties to honoring bad moments of history. Whereas the other is a public monument placed for the sole purpose of honoring people and ideals of those bad moments of history. Though I think we could in some way “deface” the statue, I don’t think a sign would be enough. The sheer fact that a flag is flown and a statue remains is because those ideals are still embodied by so many people even if they may not own slaves or commit hate crimes.

But in regards to board games, even as one is not a liar because they claim to “be the villager”, I do not think one is supporting the ideals of the Nazis while moving a pawn from one place on the map to another. However, I would say the more microscopic action of trading slaves and maybe even colonialism is where it gets a little tricky even within a “closed system of ethics” because of its many implications regardless of a designers warning. This may sound a little harsh, but the designer at think it’s okay because they aren’t real people, however that is what they thought in real life with real people all those years ago.

I think teaching opportunities are necessary, however I think it would be much better not brought up because of a board game or statue, but rather by real life scenarios, simply because a game or object will at some level not connect to real life. It’s also hard to bank on these teachable moments while allowing a game or statue to perpetuate harmful ideals since there is no guarantee a conversation will happen, however the statue/flag/game will continue to do what it does in spite of that.