Desert Island Games
by castaway Richard Garfield
Desert Island Games is a recurring feature in which TGR readers and figures in the game industry tells us which ten games they'd take with them to a desert island. No restrictions are imposed on which ten games are chosen. Cards, pencils, paper, chess, checkers, backgammon, go, and ample opponents are assumed.
On a trip to a desert island my game cargo would emphasize my game philosophy, which centers around variety. I love variety in a game, the more novel situations that can come up, the more game states there can be, the better. A mildly interesting note is that the games I take will be very different from the food I take, since being one of my favorite foods doesn't require being appetizing often. I don't think I would like lobster if I had it every day. But many of my favorite games I could play often (or so I fantasize!)
To maximize variety, I want to maximize game types, so I will want at least one card game, one board game, one role playing game, and so forth. I am glad I am given things like cards and chessboard for free, because I really couldn't get along without these essentials.
Trading Card Game
I hate to be so predictable, but Magic has to go along and I may as well get it out of the way up front. Magic truly earns a place on the platform of variety. Every week I play new games, but almost every other game I play I play some Magic, simply because the supply of new game states never seems to be exhausted, and I don't even have to learn a new game to enjoy them. Even when a card mix dulls, I play leagues by different rules and I construct new drafts, and the game becomes as challenging and as varied as I want. It took a few years for Magic to replace RoboRally as my favorite game of my own design, but it finally took the spot.
Role Playing Game
I long for time to roleplay, and people to roleplay with consistently. The only reason I don't roleplay now is because of the amount of time and energy players have to invest, and I would make sure I have both on a desert island. I have never been much for the storytelling roleplaying styleó I like a mechanical system upon which I can weave the roleplaying experience. I would probably have to take along Call of Cthulhu, even though my philosophy calls for me to take something like GURPS.
Cosmic Encounter really defies any easy classification. Cosmic Encounter I dearly love, as it taught me what it truly meant to have variety in play.
I don't really go for military simulations. The closest thing to a wargame I like is probably Titan. Titan I have sworn off twice-- as an alcoholic might swear off drink. There is probably no other cardboard game which has done that to me. Titan has an amazing capacity to compress apparent time. I have no idea how many times I have left a Titan session finding the sun up or down, whichever is maximally disconcerting at the time.
It is pretty hard for me to leave Boggle behind, but I am afraid I have to go for Scrabble over the long haul. I have certainly had summers on which Scrabble games hung like pearls.
I am going to go a bit obscure here and take Flash, a German game. There is probably an English version of this game which I am unaware of, in fact it is probably a direct steal from an extant parlour game like most party games, but I don't know of it, though I know close games. In Flash a keyword is selected and each player lists 6 (or 8?) words that come to mind when the keyword is spoken. You only score if someone else said your word, and then you get the number of points equal to the number of players who listed that word. The game is simple, quick, easy, and sometimes really interesting.
Hard call for railroad game. I really like quite a number of them. I would probably have to go with an 18xx game, simply because of their depth. The only one I have had a lot of experience with is 1839 (eastern US), and I am told that is one of the more flawed of the series. I would probably go with Germany (1835) on reputation, since I have only played it a couple times.
Light Strategy Boardgame
Acquire is a must. It is so essential I could probably justify taking it as part of my classic game allotment that gives me Chess and cards for free.
I really can't get along without some sort of outdoor game. I loathe excercise for the sake of excercise, but love sport. I would take frisbee and boundary markers for Ultimate Frisbee, with the intent of setting up some frisbee golf courses as well.
I have quit the most classic of the political games, Diplomacy, due to a rather intense series of Diplomacy games that drained my desire to play it any more. I will probably go with Junta, the political game that I have my fondest memories of.
Richard Garfield is the creator of Magic: The Gathering, RoboRally, The Great Dalmuti, Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, and Netrunner, all from Wizards of the Coast.
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