Cardboard Cinema: Board Games For Video Gamers

great board games for video gamers 3

board games for video gamers

Zombicide

There are too many zombie games and most of them are no good. This applies to both video games and board games (and movies for that matter), so recommending a game with this theme can be tough. How do you cut through the noise and find the games that actually make proper use of this theme? And when you do narrow down the zombie games to the great handful, how do you pick the one that is right for you?

I hope to one day cover the other great and completely different zombie board games on a future edition of Cardboard Cinema (be on the lookout for City of Horror and Dead of Winter, folks), but Zombicide is the one that has the easiest “in.” After all, this is essentially Left 4 Dead shamelessly transplanted to board game form. Thankfully, the execution more than surpasses that elevator pitch. This is one of the most flat-out entertaining tactical games out there right now.

What separates Zombicide from the countless other games where you movie little plastic people across a board and shoot a bunch of stuff is the sheer volume on baddies on the board. This is the only zombie game out there that properly captures the feeling of being surrounded and feeling trapped. This is the only zombie game that truly creates a genuine horde of undead adversaries. Like every zombie story, every game of Zombicide begins with everyone around the table picking off single ghouls and laughing about how easy everything is. Like every zombie story, every game ends with the entire team wounded and on the run and screaming and trying very hard not to die as a literal army of rotting flesh closes in on all sides. As a fully cooperative game (the zombies are controlled by the game itself through an ingenious system where they move toward the “noisiest” player), Zombicide unifies every player in the ultimate “us versus them” scenario. You win together or you die, screaming, together.

This is a thematic game through and through. Nothing about Zombicide is especially subtle and the mechanics all exist to create a fast and furious game full of dramatic moments. Gamers looking for something thoughtful need to look elsewhere. But if the thought of Left For Dead twisted into a turn-based tactical action game sounds up your alley, prepare to go all-in on Zombicide.

board games for video gamers

Eclipse

You can’t walk two steps through the worlds of video and tabletop games without stumbling over a 4X game. Standing for “explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate,” this genre typically puts the player in control of a kingdom or empire and lets them loose to build forces, manage an economy, and attempt to expand to nearby turf before their enemy can… and kill them if they get there first. This genre has produced its fair share of classics for a reason – this is an engine that encourages drama and excitement and action and everything else that you play games to experience. Games like Alpha Centauri and the Civilization series have stood the test of time.

While there are countless 4X board games to recommend to video gamers looking to take the plunge into the tabletop world (every serious gamer will have to face Twilight Imperium at some point), Touko Tahkokallio’s space opera simulator Eclipse is guaranteed to please serious gamers and ambitious novices alike. Everyone wants to battle for control of the galaxy and this is the rare “epic” board game that lets you do so in under two hours.

This gigantic box is densely packed with components and ideas and concepts and little bits and bobs, but it’s strangely accessible. This is what happens when you wrap American board game concepts of war, destruction, and chaos and wrap them in elegant European design concepts that allows you to read the table and assess in any situation in a single glance. Blowing shit up in Eclipse is just as satisfying as running a functioning economy and both are accomplished through reason and careful thought. Blundering into every conflict is how you lose this game.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of Eclipse is ship customization. Although every player controls a unique alien race with its own strengths and weaknesses, every ship starts on equal footing. This changes quickly. As you increase the size of your coffers and research new technology, you can start adding cardboard upgrades to the ship schematics on your player sheet. Suddenly, your fighters are so much faster than your opponent’s… but his warships are so much deadlier than yours. This makes every game of Eclipse a special kind of nail-biter. Every 4X game will find your wheeling and dealing, making alliances, breaking alliances, and watching your borders like a hawk, but this is the rare game where you literally have no idea what kind of fight you’re in for until you’re knee-deep in the game. Knowing that your enemies and allies have fleets with unique advantages and disadvantages makes negotiation all the more intense. You can tailor your threats and they can respond accordingly.

Other games offer upgrades and some level of customization, but Eclipse beats them all for simplicity and, more important, pleasurability. Outfitting your ships and surprising your opponents with your new designs is fun. And that’s all that matters in the end, really.

Previously on Cardboard Cinema…

Board Game Recommendation Grab Bag

Star Wars Board Games, Episode 2

Star Wars Board Games, Episode 1

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