Edmonton Gamespiel 2019

I love board games, and so I feel an unnerving pressure to attend local events. A good kind of pressure, a deep-tissue massage.

We only went for the last afternoon, but we experienced what happens every time I crack open a new board game: new paradigms, new lenses through which we see microcosms before total immersion. I lose myself in these worlds, loving the way mechanics can be reflective of our own rules, things we might strive toward, or just ways in which we can be something more than ourselves.

The best game we played this year was Naga Raja, a two-player duelling treasure hunt game that entwines betting, combat, Indian Jones exploration and the satisfaction of pipeworks grid puzzles. The game had the wonderful combination of multiple interacting elements and mechanics, while remaining easy enough to understand the basic structure and flow. I regret to inform you I didn’t win the match, nor did I win the raffled copy of the game. Somehow, however, I feel that a serpentine ruler will slither its way into my game cupboard nevertheless…

Another game by the same company (Ilo 307) was Planet, where you build a planet by attaching magnetic tiles to your very own dodecahedron. Animals will spontaneously emerge, or perhaps flock to, the planet most abundant in a particular type of biome. While the mechanics were simple, the three-dimensional tactile aspect retained interest as we flipped our own, and each other’s planets to try and plan the next moves. Trying to keep a mental model throughout proved a form of calisthenics for spatial reasoning.

Tiny Towns was an adorable game that showed how resource acquisition can be a double-edged sword, discouraging wanton hoarding or collecting of anything but what you need, a notion and theme that is perhaps an appropriate lesson for the young and old.

Then there was Tokyo Highway. Oh, Tokyo Highway. What I’d like to call String Railroad 3D. What a neat concept, but wow, do I wish I had surgeon’s hands to be successful. In a two-player version, I managed to demolish highways faster than a sharknado. I can only imagine the rich satisfaction a 4-player game would entail, which would no doubt harbour toddler-level joy through ruination of an established order.

Thank goodness we have such outlets as games, or who knows what the babbling, insufferably adorable destructoids might do to the world as we know it.

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