Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BoardSpace: the Lost Games

Last Friday was the one year anniversary of my registration with the games site BoardSpace. I didn't really know what I was getting into! I love strategic board games (chess, go, etc.) and this site has nothing else -- 32 of them as of this writing. As the year has gone on, I've repeatedly discovered another game there that I like, and then another. You can play any of them live against another person and, for most games, against a computer opponent as well.

What's fascinating about BoardSpace is the selection of games. They're all lesser known games, some of them pretty obscure. But, it's not just an arbitrary mish-mash. The site owner makes sure to select good games.

Even after a year, I still haven't tried all of the games there. I haven't even tried most of them. That's mostly because I prefer to spend my time playing the games I've already learned. These are the games I'm enjoying and playing the most now:

  • Santorini: This is my favorite game at BoardSpace. It's a remarkable game. The rules are so simple yet the play is very complex. (That combination is my primary criterion for a good game, "go" being the exemplar.) It has a chess-like feel to it, in spite of the fact that the players have only two pieces each, and on a 5x5 board! It packs a lot of strategy into a small space and a short game. A player's first few games will be "interesting" because there are several traps and gotchas that one will probably run into (also like chess). ... The computer opponent is a great trainer, but has stopped being interesting for me. I really want to find a good human opponent and see if this game holds up well under serious analysis. I think it will.

  • Dvonn: My most recent discovery there and I can't stop playing it. It's radically unlike any other game I've played before. It's challenging and requires a lot of foresight and calculation. The rules are few and straightforward, but I won't repeat them here. See the official site.

  • Tablut: This is a really cool game. First, it's asymmetrical. One side is trying to get the flagship off the board and the other side is trying to capture the flagship. All of the pieces move like rooks in chess. It's based on an old Viking game.

  • Warp6: This is a racing game, with dice as pieces. The bit of chance introduced by the dice should not usually determine the outcome. It's like backgammon in that way. (It could be called "Space Backgammon". ... "Spacegammon"?) It's a fun, lighter game.

  • Cannon: This game only came to the site a couple of months ago. It really got me started playing a lot on BoardSpace again. It's a great capturing game with the interesting mechanic, as the name suggests, of being able to capture pieces at a distance if you have three pieces lined up in a "cannon". As the summary at BoardSpace notes, it's "a very tactical game."

  • Medina: I've only played this game once, but am anxious to try it again. It's a multi-player, requiring 3 or 4 players. The computer opponent can only fill one seat, therefore you always need at least one human opponent to have a game. ... The rules are a tad more involved than I normally like, but it seems to be well worth it to learn.

  • Hive: This is the most popular game on the site. It has a broad appeal. It's fun and easy to learn. It just seems like everyone who tries it likes it. It has no board either! You simply place or move the hex pieces and the pieces themselves sort of become the board.

You should give this site a try. Anyone can play anonymously as a guest to check it out. But, it's good to register and get a rating and picture. And, here's a quick tip for new players: When you're trying a new game, play an unranked game against the computer before you start playing regular games.