Sunday, August 24, 2008

Office Games

My office has been on a bit of a nostalgic kick lately. Over the last few days, we've been discussing the possibility of setting up a regular board-gaming session; I figure that we're probably just itching for something fun to do in between the endless series of meetings and forecast reports. The fact that we all seem to have memories of old games that we used to play only encourages us, although I confess that most of us don't seem to have an idea on what's popular nowadays.

Last week I offered to bring copies of the only two workable board games that I have lying around. One of them is the ubiquitous Word Factory, that higher-level form of Boggle that disallows three-letter words on a five-by-five board. The other is a much simpler game called Guillotine, which I've demoed to a lot of kids in my short tenure as a huckster salesperson.

The trouble with the two games is that I don't think they're built for long-term play. Guillotine, for example, strikes me as a little too simple -- it doesn't involve much strategy beyond playing for the highest possible number of points each turn. Word Factory, on the other hand, might end up giving me an unfair advantage over the others -- because I come from a background that involves both writing and puzzle-solving.

So now the question on my end was, what sort of game would be best for an occasional office group? I obviously want something strategy-based, for one... but I also want something with long long-term value, because the game will probably be sitting in the office for a while. Moreover, the fun factor has to be a given.

Strolling through the local game store earlier this evening, I made a mental note of the possibilities. I sort them into two basic categories below, for your convenience:


Monopoly. This was the first game that came to mind, I'll admit. It's an extremely familiar name for everybody, and it plays very differently when all of your opponents are business-savvy twenty- or thirty-year-olds. The problem is that I find it quite random compared to the slate of contemporary board games. Apart from the fact that player advantage is determined by the die rolls, there's also the fact that games can take an extremely long time to finish -- which is not a good quality when most of us have to scramble for meetings in an hour or so.

Pictionary. I find that this makes for a very convenient office game, and it's virtually guaranteed to be entertaining. The fact that we have whiteboards and markers available to us makes this choice a lot more viable. However, I'm concerned about the advantage that part-time artists will have over the non-artistically-inclined. In addition, the game is practically devoid of strategy -- this is really a party game at its core.

Cluedo. In contrast, Cluedo is a childhood game that has an essential strategic component. It's a lot like Monopoly in that our strategic senses are more finely-honed as adults. I expect that Cluedo will fit perfectly into a one-hour timeslot, and it's great for those people who love deductive thinking (i.e. my office). However, I also find it to be a very sedate game -- the excitement value gets lowered a notch when people put a lot of their energy into their thoughts.

Texas Hold'em Poker. I can argue that this game blends excitement and logic fairly well, but management will almost certainly see this for its gambling element. Unfortunately, that's enough for me to eliminate this from my list of possibilities. (Mah-jongg suffers from the same issues.)

Chess. It's a classic, but it's a boring classic. On top of that, only two people can play at a time.

Magic: the Gathering. As much as I like the game, it introduces an element of card-buying into the mix... and I don't want to bring it that far. In addition, the game does have a certain stigma among my generation -- people either have fond memories of it, or they'll avoid it like the plague. I'd rather not go for something hit-or-miss when there are plenty of other options for us to choose from.


Settlers of Catan. This, I hear, is one of the board games to end all board games. It's supposed to have a very deep strategic element, and at the same time holds enough details to keep people's attention focused on the game board. I not only want to try this game out, but I'd also like to bring others into the session as well. The problem is that it's extremely difficult to find copies around here, and I'm not about to go to great lengths just to score one.

Kill Doctor Lucky. This game sits squarely at the top of my "must-find" list. It has one of the nastiest premises ever conceived in gaming memory -- you must successfully kill a doddering old man without having any of the other players witness the act -- and I've only had a total of two tantalizing glimpses of the game itself. It's a reverse-Cluedo of sorts that involves a lot of cheating and backstabbing, which means that it'll make for some really good sessions. Until I manage to find a copy, though, it'll have to remain on my dream list.

Acquire. Dean Alfar swears by this game, and I'm curious enough to give it a try. It's widely available enough for me to know where I can pick up a copy... but beyond that, I have no idea how well the game plays or what dynamics are involved. That means that I have no idea how my officemates are going to receive the game, so if there's any "wild card" on this list, it's this one.

Cranium (or any similar trivia game). I'm a huge fan of Trivial Pursuit, but Cranium seems to be the closest item on the shelves nowadays. The catch with games like these is that the resident know-it-all as a pronounced advantage over the rest of the players. I don't want to pick up a game that rewards intellectualism, mind you, when it might make more than a few people feel as though they don't know anything.

I'm still looking around, of course, and I'll probably make up a shortlist to present to my office as of next week. The more viable games above will most likely be on this list, but if anyone's willing to suggest anything, then I'm all ears.

Of course, there's always the easy way out, which involves installing Counterstrike on everybody's laptops and spending our evenings blowing each other away. But that would hardly count for nostalgia, wouldn't it? :)


Dominique said...

My gang here in Davao started with Guillotine but we eventually settled on Uno as the group favorite. Uno Stacko added some variety to the games. We also played Cranium.

Sean said...

Dominique: Hey, Uno... now that's an idea. The last time I played it, I remember that it wore out its welcome after a couple of weeks, but now there should be quite a few variants floating around.

Dean said...

Go for Acquire. We created a league in the past and got quite obsessed - it's really fun. Bereft of any sf elements, anyone can get into it.

Catan is another game we love. I got my German set in the US years ago and have all but worn it to pieces.

Other games we play, once in a while, include Talisman, Upwords, and Traers of Genoa.

Sean said...

Dean: I figured that you would be an outspoken advocate for Acquire. :)

In my experience, however, Settlers of Catan has proven very difficult to find. I'll try to fish for a copy the next time I go abroad, but it's probably out of my reach right now.

Talisman and Traders of Genoa are two games that I can try out, but Upwords might not be a good option for us. I see a similarity to Scrabble there, and it suffers from the same issues as Boggle and Word Factory -- the local wordsmiths may have a distinct advantage over everyone else.