Updated: Jan 27
A Busy Gamer....
Work. Kids. Life! llike Spiderman or Elastigirl, if we aren’t multitasking like a superhero, we are slipping, right?
But with everything we mere mortals juggle every day, it’s a wonder we have time to breathe, let alone participate and enjoy our amazing hobby. However, for that very reason, no matter how busy we get, there should always be time for games. In fact, my own primary coping mechanism for managing today’s relentless sensory overload (not even counting the homeworking-home schooling-emotional explosion that has been 2020) is the soothing, familiar, and reliable activity that is board gaming.
Blessed with an amazing 5 and a half year old (I lose count of the times I have been chastised recently for forgetting that all important 6 month maturity boost!), career, husband, home, and a family that is as engaging as it is diverse, life is busy, like, what-day-is-it-when-did-I-last-shower-can’t-remember-my-own-name level eventful.
And so, whilst I may covet the sprawling, heavy hitting immersive games dominating Boardgamegeek’s top 100 spots, that halcyon time-generous space is not where I am at right now; not even close. Currently, I am on survival mode; fruitlessly trying to stop my son cameoing on work Zoom calls whilst scheduling like a general preparing for battle and ceaselessly online shopping delivery slot hunting on my smartphone.
Indeed, my son now builds Ocado vans out of construction blocks and his go-to greeting when the doorbell chimes is “hello again Mr Amazon Man”. (Passive-aggressive judgment from a 5 year old is harsh!).
Truly, I feel more Wile E Coyote than Wonder Woman. When I can shoehorn 15 minutes (dare I shoot for a whole half hour) into the liminal zone between the day’s human hamster wheel spinning down and me falling unconscious in front of a book only to drag myself out of bed 5 hours later, I need a hit and I need it fast; get in, game, get out.
Now, I know I could rely on an app to get my fix; Sagrada, Castles of Burgundy, Jaipur... the number of tempting little icons waiting patiently on my tablet have multiplied faster in the past six months than drunken bunnies at a barn dance. Plus the rapid advancement of digital and online playing formats preserving social interaction and enabling game groups to endure has been one small high point in this otherwise dark and devastating pandemic-age. But, as a board gamer, when I do find myself app-ing, I can’t help but miss the tactility of a physical game; that special calming effect which touching components and parsing turn information in a multidimensional way that only tabletop gaming can provide. On that basis, in case you too find yourself with a gaming itch that an app can’t scratch, I am sharing with you three of my favourite little-big hitters.
I would highlight that this selection box of rapid-fire tabletop games are not just quick because they dispense with complexity in the same way that apps eliminate set up and tear down time. Despite their swiftness, their boxes runneth over with depth, strategy, and the much sought-after “crunch". They are the snatch and grab petrol station, deep-fill, all day breakfast stars of the board game sandwich buffet.
And so, without further ado, here are three of my favourite speedy yet satisfying games you can squeeze in between the daily working, washing, and worrying:
Tora’s Top 3 Games For Busy Gamers
Hanamikoji (EmperorS4 (2013) 2 Player)
In Hanamikoji, designer Kota Nakayama has sharpened the “I cut you choose" mechanic to such a degree that it makes Kill Bill‘s sword feel like a melted marshmallow. In a game comprising just four prescribed actions, you will experience something sounding remarkably like your own brain squeaking under the strain of objection as you seek to earn the favour of seven skilled Geishas.
Staying true to the theme of this piece, set up time is minimal; 7 large numbered Geisha cards are lined up along a central space with a circular marker placed on top of each one. Players then receive 4 small square tiles apiece (each depicting one of the permitted four actions) and a hand of 6 smaller, numbered cards. The remaining smaller cards, having discarded one at random, are shuffled and form the draw pile. Each player then takes it in turns to draw another card and carry out one of the available one-time only folks moves. Whoever secures 11 victory points or 4 of the seven Geishas is declared the winner. Kaia!
Now, underestimate this small-box, big think game at your peril; the other--worldly sensation as the magnitude of your decision making crawls over you like Japanese knotweed is on a sand-in-your-knickers level of discomfort. In four small but exquisitely unbearable turns, you will either become the calculating victor or the architect of your own failure; whatever the result, it is going to be directly attributable to your actions; in Hanamikoji, there is nowhere to hide!
As an out-and-proud analysis paralysis sufferer, I have an overwhelming love-hate-love relationship with this game as it forces me down a strategic path from which there is no return. In the space of just 15 minutes, I routinely blast through a mental and physical marathon, repeatedly hitting the metaphorical wall like a bag full of warm custard. Having to make such profoundly game altering decisions without any buffer, break, or filler is a lot of crunch in very little time…..and I.love.it.