About Me and Gaming
I love two things most in life during lockdown; food and board games. I wanted to combine the two, and during these topsy-turvy times I’ve scrabbling around for anything that brings me joy. Like much of the UK, I am under pretty strict restrictions still, so we are still only able to play two-player games or things that are zoom-able.
At the moment, I have more time than ever before, it’s “spare-time”. In the PC (pre-covid) times I was one of those people who was mad busy every day. I used to go to the gym before work sometimes, I’d work a second job after my usual 9-5, I was involved in team sports and triathlons too, so I was always training or dashing about. Enter March 2020, and I can now do none of those things, and my hour long commute has been exchanged for six steps to the home office.
Lockdown is when we fell hard into gaming. We both liked playing games, we would often take a game of Hive or something with us to bars and restaurants whilst we were on holiday, but it wasn’t a thing we did much whilst at home. We had friends who played loads of games, but most of the time when we saw them we would be training on the bike or out running and then just chilling out, so we didn’t really play much. Initially when lockdown hit we set about trying to “complete” Netflix, like most of the country. But after a month or so, TV became boring and with the weather being so nice and only being allowed to exercise once a day, we started sitting out in the garden more and more. Initially reading, and then playing games.
Fast forward 9 months, and here I am, proud owner of a games room, and a collection of around 100 games. We play games probably 4 times a week, sometimes just a quick hand of Monopoly Deal (this is an excellent quick game even if it does have Monopoly in the title), sometimes five or six games in a go on the weekend.
Pairing Food and Games
So now, in an effort to spice up game night, we have started doing themed games and meals. We pair a meal with one of our favourite games. Much like wine and food pairings, but with added games. Pairing food and games has been a benefit for me in two ways. A) it takes time to think about, plan and cook the meal. In lockdown I have nothing more abundant than time. And B) it gives a more immersive experience, so I get a touch more escapism.
Now, this does call for a bit of imagination in some cases. I mean for games set in space, the themed food is either just a ready meal or a snack of freeze-dried raspberries. So I moved all space themed games off the potential list for these. In times of crisis I want good food. In this article I’ll give you a few of my top pairings of games and food.
So first up, an Arabian game night. This theme is quite generalised. The games that I chose to play are kind of set in a made-up version of an average of a whole load of geographical areas. Having looked it up quickly, the Arab World is a collection of 22 countries in Northern Africa and the Middle East. So I based my food on Morocco, and went for a firm favourite; tagine.
Game: Five Tribes
Food: A warming and fruity tagine served with unleavened bread and couscous. I went veggie with aubergine carrot and onion, but chicken is also great. The spice baharat is your friend with a tagine.
Five Tribes is a meeple moving game where you are trying to gain control of cards on the board to gain the most victory points. The movement is a bit Mancala-esque (another firm favourite in my house). You pick up all the meeples from a tile and move, dropping one off at each card until you drop your last meeple. At the last card you get to collect all the meeples matching the colour of the one you dropped. Each coloured tribe has a different action associated with it, all of which help you to amass victory points. Each in totally different ways, so you want to choose the tribe you collect each turn carefully. You also want to choose your card carefully as you get to do the action of the card; claiming djinns, placing palaces and oases, or buying from the market. And if you collect the last meeple from the card you also get to claim the card as your own by placing one of your camels on it. This means you get the victory points from the card at the end. We absolutely love Bruno Cathala’s Five Tribes. It is quite thinky, but we didn’t feel the game was slow or crunchy. It was so good, we had to play a second round.
Picnic in the Forest
Now I did warn you that you had to be imaginative with this. So I was trying to come up with something that could be in some way linked to Everdell. I did think about rabbit or squirrel stew, but I don’t eat much meat, and the idea of eating your workers did not sit well with me. I had to go meta. The berries in Everdell really remind me of pomegranate jewels. So I ran with that.
Food: Zahtar Roasted Chicken (or Ficken) and pomegranate seed couscous salad. Zahtar is one of my favourite new spices to use, it has such a warming feel to it. Ras-el-hanout is also an excellent shout, and it goes with any protein. I’m not veggie but we have reduced our meat intake significantly, purely for environmental reasons. So we often add protein to our meals through pulses and the Quorn Pieces (Ficken). An added benefit is that you can cook this straight from frozen in the pan which makes it that perfect meal to knock up with cupboard staples. For an extra bit of variety add some mixed seeds into the couscous along with the pomegranate jewels, and veggies (diced carrots, celery, cucumber, tomato and pepper).
Everdell is the most beautiful game in my collection. There is no game that even knocks on its door. The evertree gives it such table presence. It may well be unnecessary and a bit of a faff, but for me it is an essential part of playing the game. Everdell is a woodland themed worker-placement engine-builder. On your turn you either place workers out in the wood to collect resources or you buy cards for your tableau. The cards are either critters (cute little animals) or constructions . These cards have either an immediate effect or a recurrent effect that happens at the beginning of each season. Most of them are also worth victory points. The hardest thing about Everdell is making sure you don’t fill your tableau up too early, I always do this! Each card is worth points, and there are a number of public objectives which are also worth points. Everdell will stay in my collection forever more. I think the next purchase for me might be the Spirecrest expansion which I hear adds some great new stuff to an already quite frankly spiffing game.
Happy playing, and wash your hands (before handling games after eating).