Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Dead of Winter is a meta-cooperative psychological survival game. This means players are working together toward one common victory condition--but for each individual player to achieve victory, they must also complete their personal secret objective. This secret objective could relate to a psychological tick that's fairly harmless to most others in the colony, a dangerous obsession that could put the main objective at risk, a desire for sabotage of the main mission, or worst of all: vengeance against the colony! Certain games could end with all players winning, some winning and some losing, or all players losing. Work toward the group's goal but don't get walked all over by a loudmouth who's only looking out for their own interests!
Games with hidden traitors are some of my favourite games, I love the co-op, nature whcih gets every talking together combined with the tension of not knowing who to trust.
My top three games with this mechanic are #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game, #Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and #Shadows Over Camelot. I thought I might run through how each of them utilises this mechanic and how they each enhance it:
Shadows over camelot
This was the first heavy hidden traitor I ever played (and lost). It is older but still a phenominal game. You each play a knight of the round table going off on quests to save the kingdom, completed quests/missions get you some white swords, failed quests get you black swords. Majority at the end of the game wins. Now this game helps the traitor out in two ways: First, every turn, before the do their actions, the active player has to chose one bad thing to do, all of them are awful and it is often unclear which is the worst one at any given time. This casts suspicion on everyone (especially when you chose to draw an evil card and it goes south fast) and helps them hide their villiany. The other thing is that the game prevents you from even making explicit claims about what cards you are holding. The cards are what are used to complete the quests (both numbered cards for most missions and very specific cards for certain uber-quests), this both prevents everyone from just comparing cards and working out a perfect plan and also allow the traitor to bluff about what cards they have, fake unfortunate miscommunications or bad guesses about what someone else needs without arousing too much suspicion as everyone is making those mistakes (just some more genuinely than others). All this mkaes it very hard to pinpoint and accuse the traitor (if there even is one!) and ramps up the tension. This is also a super hard game and I have almost never won when there is a traitor around the table.
This game has guarranteed traitors around the table but they are can be very tricksy to find. It also does a great job of capturing the slowly degrading situation of the fleet portrayed in the tv series. Each character recieves cards every turn of two or three out of five possible colours (depending on their character) there are ways to get other colours which can muddy the waters. Each turn some kind of crisis will occur, and between all the players you must contribute cards equal to the difficulty of the crisis. However, on each crisis, some colours will count positively while others will count against you. All the cards are handed in face down and players aren't obliged to contribute and shuffled so you can't tell who gave what (although you do know how many cards each player gave). As such, cylons are trying to either prove themselves as loyal by playing helpful cards or trying to sneak in harmful cards without realising suspicion. To help them, each crisis two random cards are added into the pile so you can never be entirely sure where certain cards came from. This always leads to brilliant moments as players try to work out who (if anyone) tried to sabotage the mission and raise suspicions.
This game also has mechanics that allow you to check to see if someone is a cylon, they are difficult to come by and only the person who plays the card gets to see and can lie about the result. However, the game throws a curve ball in that new character cards are handed out again halfway through the game. So someon who was once a human who you trusted may become a cyclon part way through. This does a great job of resowing doubt in everyone's minds. Which again is very on theme.
Dead of winter
Probably my favourite of the three although that may be just because I own it so have played it more. This game may or may not include a traitor, which always allows for some doubt in your mind when accusing someone. Each player (and the traitor) also have secret personal objectives which are usually fairly straightforwad and require hoarding of a particular type of supply or barricading the camp to a certain degree. These do a great job of making everyone suspicious as everyone will deviate from the 'ideal' actions at various points or secretly hold on to items that the team needs as you only win as a non-traitor if both the team wins and you complete your objective. As such accusations quickly start flying but it is hard to be sure. This gives plenty of cover for the traitor, as well as a good excuse if they are caught out in a lie 'it's for my personal objective, honest'.
The other great thing about this game is that you each have a little team of survivors you control who can absolutely die (quite easily in some cases) and so people act to protect their own characters at the expense of the team (or hoard all the best items for themselves because they are suspicious of who can be trusted with them). The corssroads cards also add some interesting choices for the traitor as they try to chose/convince the team of the option they think will harm the colony without damaging them too much.
Anyway, those are some thoughts on how traitor mechanics can be eleveated and done in interesting ways. Do you guys like hidden traitor games? Which is our favourite?
I've never actually created a Top 10 before, but I figured it was a good way to finish off this week's challenge. While this probably will change slightly each week these are mostly games I have played a bunch and consistently loved:
10) #The Defence of Procyon III - a game I have currently only played on TTS, however it is a gorgeous asymmetric skirmish game that feels so ambitious. I love it online and anticipate it leaping up the rankings once I get to try it in person.
9) #Nemesis - I have only played this game about 3 times but have never had a bad time with it. It is thematic and tense, it is a game that creates narratives and memories. While too pricey for me to buy I will never say no to a game.
8) #Architects of the West Kingdom - my favourite worker placement game, the eco-system that is created, the multiple paths to victory, the engine building, the moral track opening and closing opportunities. There are so many great mechanics at play. It also has more player interaction than a lot of worker placement games while feeling less mean at the same time. Also the art design is great.
7) #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game - this has ended up on a number of lists this week. I think it is a wonderful hidden traitor game, I like how much ownership you feel for 'your characters' so people will try hard to prevent them dying and as such harm the collective whole. That combined with everyone having a secret mission means there are plenty of moments when someone does something'suspicious'. It has great discussion as you plan as a team and also question people's actions. The crossroads cards are a lot of fun when they come up, we always play without reading out the mechanical consequences so the team are just making a decision based on the 'story'.
6) #13 Days: The Cuban Missile Crisis - By far the smallest game on this list, but packs so much into that space. The mechanics are really beautifully integrated, with each action usually having consequences (good or bad) further down the line. I love the bluffing, the fact that you have to balance where and how you put down influence with your 'Defcon' otherwise you start a nuclear war and lose the game which creates a real flow to the game. The cards are all actual events that happened during the war which is pretty cool. Cannot recommend this enough as a dedicated 2P game.
5) #Cry Havoc - Such a tense asymmetric area control game, you only get 15 actions the whole game (which can be as straight forward as drawing a new card or activating scoring for the round) so evrything you do is meaningful. The dynamic set up by the asymmetry of the factions is brilliant but also gives player plenty of room within it to make strategic and tacical decisions. It also has one of the best combat systems I have ever come across in a game: there is no luck involved just a lot of preparation and maneuvering. Plus the fact that there are different objectives in a battle means that both players can get what they want out of a battle (or neither). Just a wonderful game.
4) #Great Western Trail - This game is one of the best examples I have seen of a integration of theme and mechanics in a more Euro style game; all the actions feel pretty intuitive and are interesting. Dubbed 'the cow game' by my friends, it has so many routes to victory, a couple of nice points of player interaction and is just wonderfully evocative as you walk down this path with a handful of cows, building as you go. There is a great sense of progression as the board fills up and you each specialise in certain ways, each of which feels exponentially powerful. It is a tonne of fun.
3) #War of the Ring (Second Edition) - Such an epic game, the best 2P experience I have had with a board game. It captures the feeling of the books so well: this unstoppable wave of evil sweeping across the land with just little pockets of resistance, with all hopes on this fellowship as it trudges relentlessly across the land. Both sides feel like they are up against it from the start which is excellent. The only real downside is how long it takes to play so you can only crack it out every so often.
2) #Archipelago - I rave about this game constantly. It is in my opinion the best game (that I have played) to get players to cut deals and negotiate and by being a big open 3X (no combat) game gives huge scope for how those negoitations can proceed. We've had some fascinating dynamics appear in the game as people monoploise a certain resource or go around nabbing 'other peoples' (no one owns anything which is cool) hexes with some sneaky town building. The semi-coop aspect is very cool, as it forces compromise or you all lose. Also, the secret scoring objectives that you each have one of but that all the players score at the end means you are all watching each other carefully to try and work out what they are (and that knowledge can also be traded). It's just excellent.
1) #Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 - Such an epic experience to plays through with a group of friends. It takes an already solid game and game on game changes it up in significant but understandable ways. While the story presented by the game is fairly minimal that is actually genius as it gives space for you as a group to create that narrative through your actions. You imbue your characters with personality and grow very attached to them (I'll never forget Horatio Peck or Gabriel Hanes). I won't spoil any of them but the games keeps you massively engaged throughout with twists and changes to how you play. If you can get a couple of friends to commit to playing it, it is such a worthwhile experience.
What do you guys think? What are your favourites?
Human interaction is what makes board games one of my favourite activites, having a group of people gathered around a table laughing and engaged with each other is just amazing. It's what sets board games apart from a lot of things for me. Here are my favourite games that get players to look up from the board and engage in interesting and memorable moments together:
5) #XCOM: The Board Game - One of my favourite co-op board games, the app integrates so well and prevents quarterbacking in a non-oppressive way. The fact that you each are in control of a substantially different element of the game means everyone feels important and useful. The interaction comes as you, against the clock, try to plan and respond to what the game throws at you. You each feel like you need the limited resources provided so are negotiating but also aware that your team mates are doing important work. In the second half of each round, where things are resolved, suddenly the time pressure is off but you are all very invested in each dice roll as they have impacts for all of you. The dice are mean in this game, so every victory gets a cheer and failures bring groans but aren't unexpected so it never feels like someone is letting the team down.
4) #Nemesis - I love the tension in this game, it's semi-cooperative (but mostly competitive) nature means you are invested in what other players are doing and will occaisionally assist each other in a series of alliances of convenience while secretly working towards your own goals. So you chat and plan while also being deeply suspicious of everyone else's motivations. As such, the chat around the table while this is being played is always great.
3) #Captain Sonar - This is a great game if you can get eight people together. Team based games are rare and Captain Sonar really knocks it out of the park. Similar to XCOM, you each have a very specific role but here they are all highly integrated meaning you have to be in constant communication with your team to succeed. Feeding information to each other but because you can take turns as quickly as you are able, there isn't time for you all to weigh up the best move. So you tell your teammates what you can, in the most subtle way you can as the enemy sub is listening in the whole time. There is a wonderful energy to this game I would highly recommend it. And after the game the discussion is brilliant as you all describe the mistakes you made.
2) #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (also true for #Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game or #Shadows Over Camelot) - All of these hidden traitor games are great. It is one of my favourite mechanics as any decision can spark suspicion and therefore an interesting conversation. You are for the most part working as a team, so planning and negotiating together but always holding back just a little as you eye everyone up. I like Dead of winter especially as everyone has secret personal objectives and naturally leans towards keeping their own characters alive which means everyone will end up doing things that seems suspicious. This also gives the traitor an excuse for doing unusual things. Similarly the crossroads cards are great for sparking a discussion, occasionally a moral one as you decide between your own sensibilities or what you think might be mechanically best.
1) #Archipelago - You've all heard me rave about this game before, it's, in my opinion, one of the best games to allow players to make interesting deals and negotiate to try and gain an advantage. The semi-cooperative nature ensures forces players to talk about how to handle that turns crisis. But it is also a game where you will lose if you try to go out alone. You have to trade and make deals to get access to certain resources. All the while though you are trying to figure out what your opponents scoring objective is (as everyone scores them) and even this information can bartered for. When I've gotten a committed group and around this game something pretty magical has happened each and every time.
What games do you find get players talking? Do you like that in a game?
Not sure if this will be of much interest to anyone else but thought it might be nice to share some of my favourite memories of playing games from the last few years:
5) The time I was betrayed in the most glorious fashion in #No Honor Among Thieves. So this game is all about betrayal: you each have a small gang of criminals that you aquire throughout the game but in order to have a good chance of pulling off a mission you have to partner up with one or more other players. You agree beforehand how you will split the treasure (which is binding). During the mission you can play cards to improve your chances and players not involved can play cards to hinder you (another reason not to go it alone). If you do succeed however, you get the chance to betray each other to steal a greater portion of the treasure. Now, some of the cards/gang members have special powers that only trigger once the first 'betrayal' has happened and the game becomes a lot more brutal from then on in. As such it is usually not until maybe a thrid or so way into the game that anyone betrays someone else. Now imagine this: after a couple of rounds of eveyone just recruiting/ going on easy missions on their own to gather a crew and drawing cards on my turn I go on the first 'proper mission' of the game, taking one other player along with me, agreeing a roughly 50/50 split. The other players hassle us but we play some cards and succeed the mission. At this point we both have to play a card (which could be nothing or could be a betrayal) face down and reveal them. I play a card that gives me a bit of extra cash (from the bank) for a betrayal-free heist, thinking it is a pretty safe bet, but this guy, this sneaky sneaky guy (who admittedly is the leader of a criminal enterprise) plays a 'Magnificent betrayal' which not only allows him to steal the entire haul out from under me but having broken the 'seal' on betrayals then proceeds to activate an ability which allows him to send my best gang member (who i obviously sent on the mission) to jail. So there I am, penniless, with my best guy locked up. Now comes the most hilarious part, it's his turn next and he goes on a jail-break mission, 'rescues' my old gang member from prison and as such adds him to his own gang and cause I had spent all my cards ensuring we completed the previous mission there was nothing I could do to stop him. The whole table, myself included, were in fits of laughter at the sheer audacity of the scheme and how flawlessly I had been played. Needless to say a lesson was learned that day.
4) The time I sailed away from an exploding ship in an escape pod in #Nemesis. I love nemesis, I think it is a glorious thematic mess of mechanics that just seem to work. In the game everyone has a a secret objective to fufill, mine was to kill Player 2. Now, in Nemesis you can't just walk up and shoot your crewmates so this is quite a tricky thing to achieve, but there are ways to get creative but we'll get to that. The game had not been going to well for us, the ship was on fire, crawling with aliens and we were all pretty beat up, as such I decided that the best thing to do was hop on an escape pod and hope that something killed Player 2 for me. Me and Player 3 (not my target) made it to one of the escape pod rooms, there was only one pod but it can hold up to two people, so no problem. However, I realised on my turn that I had enough cards to fix the pod I didn't have enough to also enter it and while I had no reason to want harm to befall my compatriot I had no clue what his objective was: he could well just jump in the pod and eject without waiting for me, even if I didn't fix it, he had enough cards to fix it an abandon me; a dilemma for sure. However, I was playing the 'captain' character which has a very convenient card that allows you to command another player to move to an adjacent room (usually used to help your team out), I played it thinking on his turn he could come back into the room, fix the pod and then I'd get in and wait for him (cause I'm good like that). Now, what I hadn't predicted was that when he moved into that room he rolled the one face of the dice that triggered an alien to spawn there, which was promptly joined by another alien during their movement phase. He didn't have the cards to safely flee so promptly spent the turn trying to kill these aliens, to partial success. Back to my turn, I fixed the pod and hopped inside. Now, I could have waited to see if he survived the attack, but if an alien had followed him into the escape pod room, I would have had to fight it before I could launch. Being the upstanding and loyal captain that I am I promptly launched the pod immediately and benefitted from the extra leg room. A turn or two later the whole ship exploded quite spectacularly, killing everyone onboard as I floated off into space imagining the medal they would pin on me for bravery.
3) The time stubborness ended a game of #Archipelago in two turns. Archipelago is one of my favourite games of all time because so much of it is driven and decided by human interaction. It is a semi-cooperative game where you play the bad guys colonising a series of Islands, be too awful though and the native population will rise up and murder you. Each round there will be a collective 'crisis' for a certain resource which you as a group of players have to provide or the unrest will rise proportionally. Now, I was playing a game with just me and my partner, there is no crisis on round 1 so at the start of round 2 the first crisis of the game happens: it's for fish. Neither of us has fish, but we both have 'exploration tokens' which can be used as a wild resource. Now, the level of the crisis is proportional to the number of workers (which rises throughout the game) so we only needed one fish to solve the crisis, the unrest had crept up a little (and again, the level of unrest needed to lose is proportional to the number of worker), so if we didn't solve it we would immediately lose. We both new this but neither was willing to disadvantage ourselves this early on and demanded that the other one stump up the token. You contribute in turn order, my partner went first, and I told her that if she didn't solve it I wouldn't. She called my bluff and passed, at which point my stubborness would not allow me to back down so I also passed and we both died at the hands of the natives (which let's be honest is the morally best ending for this game).
2) The time my friend won a game of #Catan with nothing but sheep. I spent many hours playing Catan at University (mostly cause we were poor and only had two board games and a pack of cards between us) but will always remember this game fondly. The board was set up randomly and all the sheep tiles ended up close together with not especially high numbers on them, my friend (let's call him A) ended up with that as his starting location. He got a fairly lucky start and quickly surrounded those tiles (mostly to try and get at the other resources adjacent) as well as a 3:1 port. Now something extraordinary happened, the numbers (which I think were like a 5, a 3 and an 10) just kept coming up, time and time again. It was astonishing, I had been thinking I was sitting pretty on my hay-6 and wood-8, but no, all that was coming up were mountains of sheep, I think at one point he had like 12 sheep in his hand! Anyway, he proceeded to build everything with sheep: roads lined with wool, settlements and cities constructed out of nothing but sheep stacked on top of other sheep, even whole armies equipped with nothing but wooly jumpers. It was hilarious to us all, as we willed the dice to come up with any other number to no effect. I exaggerate a little of course, but it was really quite remarkable. Anyway, he won quite handily and rules over his sheepy kingdom to this day.
1) That time I convinced everyone to gang up on my friend over something quite trivial to avoid suspscion and betray them all in #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game. Now I have a friend (let's call her M) who loves to aquire things in games, given the opportunity even co-operative games she will happily go off hoarding items as opposed to contributing too much to the collective goal. This is a hilarious and well established trait which has led to us exasperatingly begging her to hand over an item or two to help her fellow players with varied success. Anyway, come to a game of Dead of Winter and I am the traitor, the game hasn't gone great with very minimal work needed on my part but we are coming up to the end and there is a chance they could still pull through. My biggest worry though is my personal objective is to have at least two more survivors on my team than any other player, I currently have that but M is thinking of getting another one. So I have to convince her not to while also not raising suspicion on my self as I need to not be banished in order to sabatage the final crisis to ensure there down fall. The team has a plan of how to successfully win which doesn't need any extra characters, so I start reminiscing on all the times M has hoarded things unecessarily and although there is no apparent downside to adding an extra character at this point there is also no advantage. I slowly turn the group against M, saying that we don't know what might happen, and why risk victory just to get an extra character. Everyone piles in and we manage to pressure M do not play the card. M however, was getting suspicious and tried to rasied these concerns, but by that point the mob wasn't listening and I was able to sabotage the mission and bring the whole thing crashing down on their heads, much to everyone's shock and amusement except M, who was absolutely fuming about all this and I'm not sure has ever truly forgiven me! (She has of course, as she is a great sport in games, but jokingly has not)
Anyway, hopefully they provided some entertainment and reminded you of some of your treasured gaming memories, I would love to hear them....
Three/four players is what most board game tend to be designed for, which in general works great: there is only so much down-time, it's usually possible to get 3 people together of an evening (when there isn't a pandemic) and most boards/tables are quadrilaterals so everyone can sit on one side. All nice and easy.
But what happens when that extra person turns up to games club, or that family member who never wants to play games decides to join in? Here is my list of games that play 5 or more people, while there are obviously a number of excellent party games that play way more than 5 I have tried to keep this list more focused on slightly more involved games.
5) #7 Wonders - Had to be on the list, right? While actually not one of my top games it allows up to 7 players to play in the same time it would take 3. All your actions are simultaneous and as all the player interaction is mechanical you don't have to worry about negotiating (part of the reason it isn't my favourite) but as a game to warm up with before splitting into smaller groups for heavier games it is pretty decent.
4) #Coup / #Cockroach Poker - both great little bluffing games, I have only played one game of cockroach poker so I am less certain of it but I have played a tonne of Coup and always loved it. It takes minutes to play and the moments where you have to look someone in the eye and claim to have a contessa so their assassin (which they might not even have) doesn't kill you when all you have is a lousy ambassador is excellent. It creates hilarity every time. Cockroach poker seems to have these same kind of moments but even more frequently and is just pure bluffing without any of the interconnected powers of coup: kind of a boiled down version (not in a bad way) while I'll need to play it more before I can decide which is better, both are great and play up to 6 with minimal downtime.
3) #Not Alone - One of my favourite light games. It is a one vs many, with the many being up to 6 astronauts stranded on an alien planet awaiting rescue and the one being the native creature who, depending on your take, is trying to track them down to either eat or befriend them (I like to imagine the alien just gives them hugs until they agree to stay on the planet). Either way, the astronauts simultaneously and secretly select one of 5 locations to visit, each with their own powers, at which point the alien choses one location to go hunting. The alien has a deck of powerful abilities to even the odds a bit. Over the game the humans can gain individual access to up to 5 new locations with more powerful abilities making it harder for the alien to know where to go to catch them. However, every time an astronaut plays a location that card stays played in front of them, narrowing their choices for the next turn (there are locations that allow them to pick cards back up) so the alien can narrow down their choices and pin on human in. The game is won if the humans willpower lasts long enough for rescue to arrive. Overall it is a bluffing and second-guessing kind of game, there is a satisfying level of progression for both sides and it is usually a very tight game, with some great moments of tension.
2) #Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (Also, #Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game and #Shadows Over Camelot) All of these hidden traitor games are great fun and work best with 5 people. there are wonderful moments in each of trying to work out why someone is doing something you wouldn't expect but there are often good reasons and accusing someone falsely has serious consequences. I love the dynamics around the table that these games create, with suspicions mounting and things generally going wrong. Dead of winter is the one I own and have played the most, and I love the crossroads cards that add in fun moral dilemmas to the game, plus the fact that your characters can die and that you each have a secret objective makes people act selfishly even if they aren't the traitor. The mix of cooperation and uncertatinty of who to trust is great.
1) #Archipelago - Possibly my favourite game of all time, it is a semi-cooperative euro game with a possible hidden traitor and secret scoring objectives. It is so so good! It is a little rules heavy but if you can get 5 players into it, the negotiating and deal-making that can happen are sublime. This really is one of the best games to get people looking up away from the table and really interacting with the other players. You are trying to work out what their secret objective is as evryone can score off of everyone else objectives and as you have limited actions per round, successful trading (which is a free action) gives a real advantage. I could go on and on about this game but I will just say that you should absolutely check it out if you get the chance.
Pssst.... hey you. What's your favourite pirate game?
I've got a pretty respectable collection, but I don't get to play as often as I'd like with other people, so I play solo games a lot. However, many of the games in my collection weren't designed for solo play, and I've either created solo variants or played with user-generated solo variants I've found on BGG.
Do you have a favorite non-solo game that you like to play as a solo variant?
The ones that stick out to me are:
Dragon Brew (although there is now an automa available)
Above and Below
Dead of Winter (TONS of solo variants and scenarios available for this)
What are some of your favorites to explore?
A few weeks ago, I did something unexpected.
I saw there was a live Kickstarter for 1861/67, and I backed it immediately. Me, the Euro gamer who judges whether or not he'll like a game based on the percentage of beige on the table. Me, the person for whom turning wooden pieces into other wooden pieces is the idea of a perfect weekend. Me, the person who will probably end up naming his future firstborn Uwe Pfister Feld Gerdts.
In ages past, I've tried to venture outside my dry-Euro comfort zone. I tried to play Ameritrash games: Dead of Winter, Journeys in Middle Earth, and anything FFG offered that could snap me out of this comatose German aversion to anything that remotely reeks of fun. But to no avail--every time I tried to engage with plastic miniatures and beautiful graphic design, I spent entire gaming sessions looking over my shoulder, wondering if my beloved Concordia felt betrayed, asking myself if the dead, empty eyes of the sad men on Great Western Trail's cover would ever take me back.
But then I saw something that would haunt me forever.
Capstone's new edition of Irish Gauge.
Look at it. Feast your eyes on that beautiful, minimalist graphic design. Look at the delectable little choo-choo trains. The placid greens, the muted hexagons, the obtuse-yet-simple table of numbers. But surely it wasn't for me. Train games are for middle-aged nerds who collect stamps, and I'm a cultured Eurogamer. I don't manipulate share prices--that's beneath me! I'm too busy turning salt into bricks into food into tools into wine into cloth into cold, uncaring victory points in the Mediterranean. Auctions? Hah! What is this, 1997?
So I guiltily tucked it away. I kept my little transgression hidden in the deep, dark recesses of my cardboard-obsessed mind. And for a while, I was happy. But then I finally got the chance to play a game I'd been dying to try; I finally played Brass: Birmingham. I have trouble categorizing the Brass games: are they economic simulations? Are they Euros? Do they share DNA with the rest of Martin Wallace's games, which are decidedly not Euros? These questions will surely go down in history as some of the greatest unanswered mysteries of our time. But what isn't a mystery is the fact that Brass: Birmingham is special.
A bloat of obscure rules, concepts, and grammar coalesce into a cutthroat tapestry of economic manipulation--a knife-fight between British gentlemen who dare say you're bloody daft for interfering with their capitalistic machinations, and by jove they will strangle you with the coal-and-soot-laden invisible hand if they have to. It's a nasty game, and it's an unusual game, and it is special. I can say with confidence that it is probably the best designed board game I've ever played. To boot: if you're a sheepish Eurogamer like me, it is infinitely more palatable than the barebones economic rampage that is train games.
The first time I played Brass: Birmingham, I lost. I lost by a lot. But I had a hell of a time losing, and try as I might, I just couldn't get the game out of my mind. Maybe, I thought to myself, Maybe I could be into economic board games? Maybe I could love games that aren't beige? Maybe, somewhere deep inside, there is a part of me that could be confrontational, and conniving, and cutthroat? Ah, but it was in between print runs. Bad luck. There was nothing for it.
Weeks later, I saw that my local game store had a more innocuous--and civilized--game on sale: Gugong. I'd played it before and remembered liking its spin on the worker placement mechanism, so I drove out to pick it up. I don't know how the timing lined up so perfectly, but there, in the midst of the chaos and cardboard mayhem, were the two games that had been plaguing me for weeks: 1 copy of Brass: Birmingham, and several copies of Irish Gauge.
I did not stand a chance. Faster than you can say Kennerspiele des Jahres, I had 3 new games in my shelf.
The first time I played Irish Gauge, I hesitantly introduced it to the table as some train game I saw at the store for cheap. It was a lie designed to obfuscate my shameful obsession. Oh, how wonderful would it be if this impulse purchase could somehow ride the wings of serendipity to rise above the fray of mediocrity? (The table is the perfect place for melodrama). So we played. And it was fantastic. It was beyond fantastic--it was revelatory.
Look, don't read this word-vomit as a review. It isn't. Irish Gauge, by all regular metrics, is a fine game. Fans of the cube rails genre (to which Irish Gauge belongs) don't even consider it the best cube rails game--that accolade many of them reserve for Chicago Express, or, if the pedantry will allow, Wabash Cannonball. But it is a solid game of auctions, company value manipulation, and general economic skullduggery. And it's a whirlwind--what with its one page of rules and its breezy mechanics for determining dividends, the whole thing plays in under an hour. It basically begs you to play it a second time.
Irish Gauge is a game, but it's also an argument. It is likely the simplest, most stripped-down version of itself, and so on that merit it makes a case for the value of barebones economic games. What it abstracts away is dross; what it keeps is a spatial puzzle of optimization and tenuous alliances. There is a fragile balance to be found in this type of game, not unlike the fragile balance I later came to enjoy when I played Pax Pamir.
Brass: Birmingham, that lumbering behemoth, planted the sick notion in my head that economic games might be as fun as the driest of Euros. Irish Gauge convinced me of that fact. For the longest time, I refused to consider these types of games as the expansion of my horizons--too mean, too complicated, too mathy. Not enough story, I thought. You can't ask that much of me; I play games to have fun, not to do homework.
But here I am, a convert brimming with potential. If economic games are for me, then why not the Pax games? Why not COIN games? I am once again excited to discover new things--I feel once more the thrill I felt when I first became a hobbyist, when every Shut Up & Sit Down video was an exciting new possibility, when every game on Wil Wheaton's Tabletop could possibly be the game. I eagerly await the arrival of my first 18xx game as my cardboard pantheon grows to include names like Wehrle and Russell and Wallace and Tresham. It doesn't mean I've turned my back on the chorus of passive-aggressive Germans who brought me into this hobby. It just means there's room in my heart to be a little bit sinister.
[Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[Nemesis, Archipelago, Cry Havoc, War of the Ring (Second Edition), Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, Architects of the West Kingdom, 13 Days: The Cuban Missi...]
[Nemesis, Archipelago, XCOM: The Board Game, Captain Sonar, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[No Honor Among Thieves, Nemesis, Archipelago, Catan, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[Coup, Archipelago, 7 Wonders, Not Alone, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[Forgotten Waters, Sea of Nadia, Tiny Epic Pirates, Merchants & Marauders, Sea of Legends, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
[Power Grid, Above and Below, Scoville, Kodama: The Tree Spirits, Dragon Brew, Azul, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game]
$453,373 / $50,000
Two new expansions for the renowned Planet Apocalypse boardgame PLUS a sourcebook to bring the Apocalypse to your D&D 5e campaign
Ends in 12 daysSee Kickstarter
Board Game Giveaways
Games similar to Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
Report an Issue
Issues can include a duplicate database entry, wrong price shown, or any other information issues that can't be resolved by editing the game page.
Submit a Video
Promote community contributions! It can be your own video or a video by someone else.
Link to an Expansion
Help create a better connected game database and link to an expansion to this game.
Create a Price Alert
You'll get a notification when this game's price falls below the amount you set. This feature is only for US prices currently.
Submit a Review
Promote community contributions! It can be your own review or a review by someone else.