Episode 533: It’ll Make Sense When We Start Playing

On the Overthinking It Podcast, we tackle Board Games.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Jordan Stokes, and Matthew Wrather sublimate their murderous urges into moving small tokens over a paper board printed with a hyperreal candy heckscape.

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7 Comments on “Episode 533: It’ll Make Sense When We Start Playing”

  1. Charlie X #

    Thanks for this episode. I’m a big board game person and it was interesting seeing the takes from the Overthinkers.

    Like Fenzel, I tend to narrativise elements of games when they’re not necessary. I like to name some of my pieces and justify some actions through that. Viticulture is a worker-placement game about making wine in Tuscany and the neutral worker anyone can hire has been named Tristram in our group. Tristram is that piece of crap kid on his summer job who will work for anyone for a day, slacks off, samples too much of the wine and reckons this will make him ‘deep’. Still, he’s someone you often need to hire.

    Personally, as far as the ‘golden age of board gaming’ which has been going on for the last decade, I use it as a social ritual to replace sports or anything like that. As offline multiplayer video games have lessened, I’ve seen a lot of people spill over into board games as a way of having personal social engagement.

    Jordan mentioned a real sense of worship of newer games over necessarily good games. There’s a definite ‘cult of the new’ for board games, although time tends to wear down some board games and keep others on the top of the heap. There are definite better versions of Catan and Dominion, but those have good brand recognition and are simple enough to teach anyone.

    We’re seeing some fun mechanics entering play at the moment. Games like Scythe and Spirit Island show that simply colonising or conquering a place through military might aren’t all that’s involved with such conflicts. Legacy games (including Risk & Pandemic) create transgressive experiences where you write on and tear up game components. This often uses the justification that players will probably not play the board game more than 20 or so times and when shared in a group, the cost of this kind of game is minimal. Finally, Kickstarter has been a mini-revolution in board games which are often very expensive to produce. It’s caused a sharp increase in board games being created and ideas being explored, although sometimes quality and testing have been sacrificed.


  2. John C #

    As one alternative possible origin for the diversity of new games, I might point to one specific entity: James Ernest’s Cheapass Games. He/they specialized for a while in high-end sets of the generic equipment used for most classical games (pawns, money, etc.) and then no-frills knockoffs of a bunch of those games, the “Doctor Lucky” games being version of “Clue” with a thin story that you’re committing the crime rather than solving it.

    Hard to say for sure, of course, but it seems like pointing out that you’re mostly paying for fancy boxes might drive some creativity and desire for novelty.

    And congratulations on the anniversary, of course! I’ve gone back as far as the RSS feed went when I subscribed, and still want to go through that final/first half. To Mark’s point, thinking about the last ten years, I kind of wonder what the reaction of 2008-John would be hearing about what’s happened since. Or maybe I fear that reaction, since my recollection of 2008-John is that he was kind of a jerk who bought into certain philosophical and political positions that can safely be described as “wrong” in many so senses of the word…


  3. Cimmerius #

    Regarding Jordan’s podcast competitive game of who wins by getting their quote as the title I feel like Fenzel is the running champ. Even if you account for how many more episodes he is on than the other podcasters.

    I think someone should crunch the numbers and give us all a final answer.

    I think someone else should crunch the numbers.


  4. An Inside Joke #

    I guess it qualifies more as a card game than as a board game, but I’m surprised you guys didn’t select Apples to Apples as the game to start the new Renaissance of gameplay with young people. Even if it doesn’t count as a board game specifically, I feel like Apples to Apples made it “cool” to break out a game at a party or get together for people in their teens or twenties, which paved a road that Settlers of Catan came down a few years later.


  5. Crystal #

    My favorite game Battlestar Galactica is both collaborative and antagonistic. It’s a more niche genre known as co-op/counter-op where some counter-op agents are hidden amongst the group of players working together. If you’ve seen the show, you know the basic premise. Humans are working together to get to a new home planet, but Cylons are secretly hidden among them. You can’t tell if someone is a Cylon by looking at them, but there are occasionally game events that offer infomation. There are all sorts of ways to sabotage the humans, but there are also a lot of differences of opinion that can look like sabotage. I often ask myself “Is that other player a Cylon or are they just incompetent?”

    Everyone takes a character from the TV show and you can play in character, though most people typically don’t. I’m known for guarding my president title with my life, which has caused many people to assume I was a fracking toaster.

    It’s definitely the game I have the most stories about. There’s less abstraction, especially if you’ve seen the show, and the game tends to have exciting reveals, what with players being outed as Cylons. That makes it easy to remember highlights. Like the time a Cylon player gamed the system so two dozen light raders fired on the Galactica, destroying the ship, and dooming humanity. That was rough.


  6. clayschuldt #

    The discussion about how drawing a 4 in Sorry allows you to skip the board made me think about other ways to “game” the board game rules.
    I realized I’ve been doing this with Monopoly for years. Exploiting the banks limited amount of houses prevents other players from building up.
    In “Clue,” I always falsely accuse a character of murder to force them to move to a different location. It is super mean.


  7. Mark Lee OTI Staff #

    So I finally got around to seeing the movie “Game Night” from earlier this year, and to the best of my recollection, it didn’t even come up in this episode, and I don’t see it in the comments here. I guess not a lot of people saw it? Which is too bad because that movie is so, so good, both as a piece of comedic entertainment as well as an exploration of how adults sublimate conflict and insecurity through social relationships.

    All that is to say, go watch “Game Night.” You won’t regret it. It’s on HBO Now, for now.


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