Two years ago, I wrote a recap of a 24-hour board game charity marathon I participated in titled 24 Hours to Play With Your Food. Fundraisers are held throughout the year and culminate in the 24-hour marathon. That first year, we raised $14,000 for Souls Harbour Rescue Mission here in Regina, Saskatchewan, a local organization that provides services such as a soup kitchen, men's and women's shelters, a free clothing store, and addictions counselling. The idea behind the event is that those of us who are able to sift through a shelving unit of 100+ hobby games to choose which to play with friends and family, you're a relatively blessed person. Not everyone is so lucky, and so we wanted to give back. The first event was such a success that it has become an annual event. Last year we raised about $26,000 and, this past weekend, we held the event in its third incarnation and raised $37,000. That's enough to to provide almost 11,000 hot meals, almost 1,500 overnight stays in the shelter, or put 3 women and her children through the year-long addictions counselling program. It's very heartwarming and invigorating to know that I helped contribute a lot of good to people who could use some more good in their lives.
But this is a gaming website, so I'll pass on to you the games I was able to enjoy throughout the 24 hours.
I started the event involved in one of three simultaneous games of Friedrich, of all things (the fact that about 10% of the 120+ participants were playing Friedrich is both crazy and awesome). I played as the Prussians, trying to fend off attackers from all directions. Unfortunately, I spent too much energy being aggressive on the northern and southern fronts, leaving my flank weak and prime for the taking, which Russia successfully did. Interestingly, a different nation won in each game. (Prussia was the only won to be shut out, so I guess I wasn't the only one who had trouble defending on all fronts.)
After that, I partook in a few games of Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. This is a co-operative tabletop video game in which one player is on a laptop trying to defuse a time bomb by solving a bunch of puzzles (i.e., which wire to cut). The other players are given the printed instructions on how to solve each of the numerous types of puzzles. So one player can see the puzzles but doesn't know how to solve them while the other players know how to solve the puzzles but can't see what they look like. And this is all against the clock. Lots of frantic instructions and descriptions that lead to laughs or cheers, depending on whether or not we blow up. Fun game.
Next, I got in a few games of Legendary Encounters: An Alien Deck Building Game. This seems to do a pretty great job of capturing the settings of each movie, though I think the characters could come through more strongly than they do. We played Alien and Alien: Resurrection. This game is HARD, as any good co-op should be.
Next I taught a six-player game of Dune. Finally, I got to try my grail game after so many years and it did not disappoint. Not to say the experience was flawless. I found it to be a bit awkward to teach, in part because I'd never played it before, in part because I was using an old rule book for a different edition and trying to account for the design changes, and in part because my teammates were razzing me by playing Spice Up Your Life by The Spice Girls on their phone as I tried to get through the rules. The basic rules are surprisingly simple and intuitive (apart from the fact that everything is COUNTERclockwise), but the nuanced and substantial differences between how each faction plays makes good strategy difficult to determine. House Harkonnen and the Spacing Guild shared a sudden victory in the second turn. I would love to play this game on a regular basis with 6 dedicated players because I think it would blossom with experience. With or without The Spice Girls as the background soundtrack, I've yet to decide.
A few family-friendly fillers made appearances. I played in five games of No Thanks!, three games of That's Life!, two games of Red7 and one game of Can't Stop. These easy to absorb games are welcome inclusions in an event as brain burning as this one.
I also enjoyed (yes, enjoyed) a rousing game of Monopoly. I don't think too many other games generated as much interest from people walking past than this one, which is impressive considering there was stuff going on like a 40-person game of Codenames being played on a projector, a few games of Kingdom Death: Monster. Nope, everyone wanted to know about Monopoly. We were asked questions such as "You're playing Monopoly?!" and "Why are you playing Monopoly?!" and, simply, "Seriously? Monopoly?!" But, played by the actual rules and not by the "old wives' tales" house-rules that people tend to use (e.g., getting cash for Free Parking), it's actually a pretty decent negotiation game that doesn't really deserve the bad rep it gets from hobbyists. Are there better games? Of course there are, but we had as much fun playing this as anything else we played at PWYF (and more fun than several of them, really). The fact that we played at a break-neck speed also helped. Our game took about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. We used my buddy's copy, though, which I hated. It has a mid-2000s, computer-generated aesthetic that's just... wrong. That's not how Monopoly Man is supposed to look when he wins $10 for second place in a beauty contest!
I tried The Captain is Dead. The designers are obviously fans of Space Alert, but I prefer the predecessor. Both are basically whack-a-mole, but the real-time play and heightened need for communication between players in order to program your actions in Space Alert makes for a more fun and dynamic game. I did appreciate the character options, though. I chose the janitor.
Each PWYF, my team has played a few sessions of Letters From Whitechapel, so we made sure to keep up the tradition. This time we played three sessions (we probably would have only played two, but one was ridiculously short). This is a favourite of mine that's maybe inched its way into my top three games. It's a zero-luck game (no card draws or dice) that is full of delicious, wonderful swings of luck (players guessing rightly or wrongly). No other game generates as much tension for me, especially when playing as the Ripper and silently watching the investigators narrow in on your hidden paths, hoping they don't notice the beads of sweat forming on your forehead.
One of the last games we played (at about hour 23) was Res Publica, a 25-year old Reiner Knizia game that was one of the first he had published. It's a dud. Queen Games must have only reprinted it because his name is on the box. It's really just a slightly modified derivation of Go Fish. One of my teammates kept falling asleep in the middle of the game. Granted, he's fallen asleep in the middle of a game once every year at PWYF once we get into hour 22-24 (previously Doom and Carcassonne), but, after we tallied our scores, his comment was, "well... that was terrible."
All-in-all, I got in over 20 game sessions at this year's PWYF, in part because my epic games (Friedrich and Dune) took about half as long as I was anticipating. Plus, I played a lot more fillers this time around. Tonnes of fun, and a very rewarding experience.