Tavener's Treasure Trove
This month, I thought I'd dazzle you with a few of the more unusual games I've encountered over the past few years, …
Situation 4 (Parker)
Situation 4, and its sister game, Situation 7, are competitive jigsaw puzzles; in the game, you get a board, two jigsaws with pictures corresponding to the jigsaw on the board (but colour-coded, so you can tell who played which piece), and various counters. Players choose a colour of jigsaw, and sit on opposite sides of the board; at the start of the game, players can only play pieces that join to the side of the board closest to them; later, they can play anywhere that adjoins a piece they have already placed. Players may also get special counters when they complete some sections of the board, e.g. parachutists (which allow you to build next to an opponent's piece of jigsaw instead of your own), and tanks (which prevent opponents from playing adjacent to a space). At the end of the game, when the last piece of jigsaw has been placed, players score for each section of the board placed, and gain bonus points for placing certain tiles. This is a fast and furious game, with some tactics, which can be played by two players, or two teams of equal size.
Lemming is perhaps best described as "Lemming billiards" - each player controls a group of lemmings, and tries to have their lemmings go off the cliff last - not an easy feat, since each move, a lemming will try to dash 4 spaces towards the cliff! The game is governed by a pack of numbered cards, each number corresponding to a lemming… so all lemmings are guaranteed to move each sequence, in a random order. When a lemming's turn to move comes up, it will dash 4 spaces straight forwards unless it hits another lemming (in which case the moving lemming stops, and the new lemming dashes off instead), or the owner of the lemming can place an obstacle in its path, causing it to careen off at an angle. The game is quite bemusing, sometimes requiring players to visualise long sequences of collisions, but ultimately, the lemmings hit the cliff one by one! Fun, but the game is desperately in need of some miniatures, instead of the cardboard counters provided… I find giant rats work very well.
Deep Space Navigator (Tactical Templates)
Deep Space Navigator is an unusual space combat game. Each player controls a space ship, and competes to blow the other player(s) out of the sky. Each ship is shown by a coloured dot on a piece of paper, and a stencil is used to determine how fast a ship is going, and where it can move to next, based on its last position… changes of speed and direction cost fuel, the amount depending on how fast you're moving, and how large the change is. The stencil also governs the damage an attack does, based on the range of the target. A separate piece of paper is used to track fuel, and damage to the ships. Simple, clever, and eminently portable, since all you really need is the stencil, a few sheets of paper, and some coloured pens!
Dark Cults (Kenneth Rahman)
Dark Cults is a two player storytelling game, kind of a precursor to Once Upon A Time; one player represents the forces of evil, the other the forces of light. The players start by creating a character, who then gets embroiled in some dark and sinister plot; the players alternately play cards from their hands, which determine how the story develops; typical cards are character cards (e.g. "an escaped lunatic"), atmosphere ("murky dank fog"), and location cards ("the foreboding cemetery"), and each card has a piece of suitably sinister artwork, in a style similar to Edward Gorey's. Like the Sherlock Holmes card game, each card specifies which types of card can be played next, so the story develops in a fairly coherent way. There is a point-scoring system for both players, based on the final sequence of the cards (which ends with death or an escape), but… who cares? The story is the fun bit, and I find the scoring completely irrelevant!