board games for movie fans

Welcome to Cardboard Cinema, the monthly column where we pair great tabletop games with great movies. In today’s edition: games that capture the spirit of films from Quentin Tarantino, Rob Reiner, Duncan Jones, John Carpenter, George Miller, and the Marx brothers. From light party games that will loosen you up and get you laughing to complex adventures that demand some serious commitment, we’re offering “game and a movie” double features for all tastes.

Foam pistols, ludicrous fantasy adventures, and great heaping barrels of paranoia and distrust, right after the jump.

cash n gunsThe Game: Cash ‘n Guns

The Movie: Reservoir Dogs

Like in Reservoir Dogs, a game of Cash ‘n Guns begins after the heist is over and your gang of crooks have returned to their hideout. Also like in Reservoir Dogs, everyone is armed and untrustworthy and ready to point a gun at anything that moves. The big question is, of course, whether or not anyone is actually going to pull the trigger.

The big gimmick of Cash ‘n Guns is that every player is armed with a foam pistol. Each round, the players divvy up a new round of loot from their recent robbery, but everyone wants a bigger piece of the pie. That means a lot of gunplay. Or rather, the threat of a lot of gunplay. Literally every round begins with the players simultaneously pointing their weapon at another player at the table, but whether or not they intend to use one of their few precious bullets (or if they’re just bluffing) was already determined by a secretly selected card. Tough talk, threats, bargaining, and begging ensues as everyone tries to make sense of the tangled web of violence around them. Do you back out and lose money or risk your life because you think so-and-so isn’t actually going to shoot you?

As you can surely tell from the goofy box art, this is no serious game. Cash ‘n Guns is a very silly experience and those ingenious foam guns bring out the ham in everyone. As the game goes on and players begin to double- and triple-cross one another to add more loot to their stack, grudges form and things get hilariously personal. I’ve yet to see a game of Cash ‘n Guns that didn’t devolve into shouts of feigned rage and maniacal laughter from all involved. It makes you want to break out your best tough guy dialogue to threaten your opponents with retribution should they try to cut you out of a deal. After all, every player has the opportunity to back down before committing to their real or fake threat to open fire on their friends and family members.

Cash ‘n Guns is the only party game in existence that is entirely built around Mexican stand-offs, macho posturing, and high body counts. Not everyone usually makes it to the final round of this game, so the stakes are deliciously and hilariously high. Play with the right crew and the amount of swearing around the table will rival any Quentin Tarantino movie. A game only takes 20 minutes, but it feels like you’ve played an entire crime movie.

arcadia questThe Game: Arcadia Quest

The Movie: The Princess Bride

Some people will look at the design choices on display in Arcadia Quest and roll their eyes. The overly cute chibi figures and cartoonish monsters make this look like kids’ stuff at first glance. But don’t be fooled – much like how Fred Savage complained to his grandfather about how he was reading him a “kissing book” in the early scenes of The Princess Bride, Arcadia Quest‘s silly aesthetic masks one of the most compelling and hilarious fantasy games of recent years.

Arcadia Quest is admittedly a bit of a commitment. Players assemble parties of heroes and embark on a quest to rid a city from the hordes of evil. Like an RPG, characters level up and gain loot that carry over from game-to-game across a larger campaign. Like any great miniatures game, the (thankfully pre-assembled) figures are detailed and look amazing on the table. Like Rob Reiner’s beloved 1987 fantasy tale, the inherent humor of the whole thing is what keeps you coming back, not the sword fights (although those are pretty great, too).

Because Arcadia Quest is all about being a huuuge dick in what initially appears to be a fairly standard fantasy tale. Each player’s band of heroes wants glory only for themselves and the game rewards you for picking fights with the other players, ignoring the traditionally heroic tasks of each mission so you can pummel each other instead. It’s like the Lord of the Rings if the Fellowship shattered into four factions that proceeded to stab the crap out of each other because each of them wanted to be the one to throw the ring into Mount Doom. It’s petty. It’s ridiculous. It’s fantastic.

This is a deep and satisfying game filled with many avenues of victory and tremendous moments of drama and action. Chucking a fistful of dice in a Hail Mary attempt to kill a goblin warrior and steal his artifact and actually succeeding will never not be exciting, but Arcadia Quest is Arcadia Quest because your buddy will then sneak up on you, stab you in the back, and run off with your new toy to win the game. Come for the fantasy adventure, stay for the ridiculous comedy that arises on seemingly every turn.

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