There I was, cruising across the Atlantic toward my new home on the Spanish Riviera, when suddenly the ship shuddered and alarm klaxons pierced the maritime serenity. Its hull pierced by an errant iceberg, the ship was going down. I'd taken my game collection aboard with me, unwilling to trust the airport gorillas to handle them it with appropriate care. Now, as I peered into the lifeboat, I realized I'd only have enough space to take ten games with me. Fortunately, the lifeboat was already stocked with a couple of decks of cards, a bunch of dice, plenty of pencils and paper, and a checker/chess/backgammon set so I could focus on other selections.
First into the boat was my mutant Cosmic Encounter set-- a complete Mayfair set with the expansion, plus a homebrewed Eon set with extra powers and homemade cards. I spent many, many long nights playing Eon Cosmic in college when I should have been studying, and I still prefer their Flare rules to Mayfair's emasculated rewrite. But Eon Flares are virtually impossible to come by, so I had to create my own deck of cards. Mayfair's set came along in case my fellow castaways insisted on using an authentic set (although real players know that Eon's is the "real" one).
Sometimes Cosmic can take a little too long to play. When we're in a more relaxed mood and looking for something a little quicker (because once we get marooned on the desert island, there are going to be all sorts of demands on our time), Wiz-War will come in handy. It may be silly, and frankly Teleport and Permawarp practically guarantee a win, but Wiz-War is just too much fun to be left behind.
I didn't want my language skills to atrophy while waiting for rescue, so I made a quick pass through my word games and came up with Big Boggle, the 5x5 version of Parker Brother's classic word search game. Big Boggle doesn't suffer from long idle periods between turns like many other word games, making it ideal for any number of players. Indeed, more players increases the challenge of finding words nobody else finds, which is the fun of the game. And with Big Boggle we can ignore the annoyingly common three letter words (how many times can you write EAT, ATE, TEA anyway?) and focus on the much more interesting longer words. I've only met one person who's my match in this game, but perhaps long hours of practice on the island will help my fellow castaways give me a run for my money.
Speaking of money, I suppose there won't be much use for cash on our desert island. But to remember the days when accumulating wealth consumed our every waking thought, I pitched Acquire into the lifeboat. This spirited game of hotel mergers deserves its long-held position in the Games Magazine Hall of Fame. I only recently began playing this classic, and I'm sorry I didn't pick it up sooner. Although best with at least four players, even the two-player rules make for a worthwhile game. An important factor to consider since I really wasn't sure how many people would be shipwrecked with me.
Also excellent with a variable number of players is White Wind's rail game, Santa Fe. Strategies change each game depending on which cards you draw and how the rail network unfolds. The number of players in the game affects tactics, since each individual's control over the railroads' expansion lessens with more players in the game. With two players, Santa Fe is a fairly simple game. With four or five players, it's a game of forethought, planning, and outguessing. Definitely worth its weight in the lifeboat.
It was a safe bet that we'd have plenty of free time on our desert island-- time which could be well applied toward a longer, more involved game. Quickly scanning my collection, I grabbed my copy of Titan. Although some people dislike the randomness of movement on the masterboard, I actually enjoy that part of the game more than the tactical conflicts on the battlelands. I've never played the game with more than three players and even those games took hours to complete. With a full complement of six, Titan would undoubtedly fill many idle island days. Hmm... maybe it would be a good idea to bring along my Magic deck (and encourage my fellow passengers to do the same) to help pass the time while we wait for our turn.
In any group situation there will inevitably be a struggle for power and dominance. What better way to practice for that eventuality than by a few games of Junta? Tempers would undoubtedly flare on our island, and Junta provides the perfect medium for harmless revenge. I tend to be very successful as El Presidente of La Republica De Las Bananas, but it is much more fun to be the Minister of Security and take pot-shots at the other players. This game of double-dealing, assassination and revolution is not for the easily-frustrated, but with a smidge of role-playing and a good sense of humor, Junta is a real gaming coup.
Why stop with a single jungle republic when you can have the whole world? That's the idea behind Steve Jackson's classic game of paranoia and conspiracy, Illuminati. Players lead secret societys which try to control various fringe groups like the Boy Sprouts or the Society for Creative Anarchism. As in Cosmic Encounter, each player possesses a unique special ability to help him achieve his goal. Illuminati goes one step further, though, also giving each player a unique additional win condition. Players are forced to ally with each other to protect against rivals, but alliances can change in the blink of an eye. In Illuminati, every player can interfere during another player's turn, so you're always involved with the action.
I almost miss the small burlap sack in a far corner of my collection, but when I realize that it's the card game Grass, I toss it into the boat immediately. I like this game of illicit drug peddling more and more each time I play it. There's more strategy to this tongue-in-cheek game than most people realize. The trading and card-passing mechanisms, uncommon in games like this, help elevate Grass to a cut above most other card games. Grass is the most fun you can have with marijuana without breaking the law. Then again, I doubt there will be any laws on our island...
Hmm... only space for one more game in the lifeboat. When we
finally get rescued, we'll
definitely want to have a party. And what's a party without a party game?
My choice is Taboo, easily the
best party game to come along in years. In case you've been,
Uh-oh. Someone's trying to pitch my games out of the boat so they
can put emergency food
supplies in. I've gotta run.
[Desert Island Games Index] [Next Desert Island Games (issue 3.3, #7)]
The Game Report Online - Editor: Peter Sarrett (email@example.com)
Uh-oh. Someone's trying to pitch my games out of the boat so they can put emergency food supplies in. I've gotta run.