Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Surviving A Non-Electronic Christmas

This was originally published on Forces of Geek on 12th December 2013 but this version is ever-so slightly longer because it's Christmas and I'm feeling generous, it's totally nothing to do with the fact I had a word count restriction or anything... 

I hope it doesn't come across that I dislike board games because I bloody love 'em! So I hope you enjoy reading it, my next post will more than likely be after Christmas, so I hope you all have a great day full of food, merriment and plenty of games!


Christmas will soon be upon us and with it comes the obligatory social interaction with our families, tolerating bad food, being peer-pressured into wearing a stupid hat and having to be nice to our siblings. But the worst thing about Christmas is being gifted a brand new console or receiving shiny new games only to be told you can't play any of them because it's anti-social.

All this joy ruined by social convention. So sad...
(image via NintendoLife)
The alternative? Playing board games and family games with your relatives. Yep, unfortunately for you this activity is mandatory every festive season. But fear not dear gamers, because I have a few tips on coping with a non-electronic Christmas and for the most part, it's all about viewing them as video games.

That's right...imagination, bitches!

Personally I enjoy board games, whether I'm playing with my relatives or not. But if you don't like them or just don't feel like playing them then try thinking about them differently. 

For example, Monopoly can be more than a property buying and trading game where people squabble over who will be the banker. Imagine the game is part of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood..and I don't mean imagine you have contracts to fulfil on your relatives, as tempting as that might seem.

Why do we look so damn awesome? Oh, yeah..we built this city!
In Brotherhood, you have the opportunity to rebuild Rome by buying and renovating properties around the city. 

Mwahaha! I have ALL the properties!
Try imagining Monopoly the same way you view Rome, start small and build properties every chance you have.

Soon you'll have amassed most of the board and if you keep upgrading your houses to hotels, eventually everyone will become so annoyed with you for making it impossible for them to traverse the board that they'll all get bored and restless; thus ending the game early. Success!

Of course, the latest title Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is about pirates and this can turn a rather dull game of Battleship into a huge canon fight which starts with a few friendly shanties but ends with the pillaging of your opponents ship for treasure and precious cargo...like those chocolate coins they weren't keeping an eye on when they were too busy focusing on their next move.

Little does he know but his son just pocketed the keys to the car!
Want to jazz up Connect 4? Try playing speed Connect 4, it will force your opponent to panic and make the wrong move, if it works on us in games like Columns, Tetris or Puzzle Bobble then you'll have the advantage over your non-gaming relatives, given your experience with fast paced puzzle video games and quick time events.



However, if your mum is anything like mine, then don't play it with her or risk losing horribly because she is obsessed with Candy Crush Saga and may very well embarrass you by winning and then making you play again, and again and again. 

Damn those little plastic enemies! 
Risk is a board game that can divide families so think of it as your personal war room, create alliances with gullible family members only to betray them at the opportune moment, use the skills afforded to you from years of war based strategy games like the Command and Conquer series to dominate the world map.

To make things really interesting imagine the board is Earth as seen from space from your command station in Mass Effect 3 and your pieces all represent your crew members.

The fate of the world rests on you and your decisions...
 By placing a strong emotional attachment to the plastic horses and cannons you will undoubtedly be more determined to win and during the downtime when your opponents are deciding what moves to make, instead of making small talk with your family you can try to imagine what Tali looks like under her mask, or join Kaidan for a Canadian beer on the Citadel (Yes, please!) or spend some quality time with Garrus shooting at things - after that, how can you possibly let them all down?

It is your duty to your crew and your planet to destroy your enemies and it's up to you to protect the entire galaxy from the Reapers.. er I mean, your relatives.

Make sure you use the excellent reflex and hand-eye co-ordination skills that a life of gaming has gifted you with and completely obliterate younger siblings at Operation. Even better if you've played Surgeon Simulator or Trauma Center: Second Opinion. Actually, the former will probably hinder your chances given how infuriatingly difficult it is and the latter is, well...a little bizarre to say the least. Then again, it's no less weird than a patient who seems to have ingested a butterfly, has an elastic band in place of a leg and various implements and objects inside him like pencils and apples...wait a minute, maybe Operation is like Surgeon Simulator after all?

Calmly remove each piece with the ease and grace gifted to you from years of gaming while your little brother or sister gets increasingly frustrated and sets of the buzzer multiple times until they inevitably throw the whole thing across the room...which you'll effortlessly dodge using your perfectly honed reflexes, of course.

I like Scrabble yet playing it with family can be infuriating given that the age gap can potentially spans wider. Your younger sister didn't do so well with spelling, your grandfather forgets his own name sometimes and your mum knows all the impossible three letter high scoring words...it seems pointless even trying.

But this is where you're wrong, you have an ace up your sleeve (well...not literally, that'd be silly, you're playing Scrabble not Poker remember?!).


Knowledge is power and this is your chance to bust out some killer words that the rest of your family will be so baffled by they might actually accept as real words and if they don't, then you've entertained yourself for an hour at least. By utilising video game words to your advantage you may well win the game, just don't expect any achievements or trophies.

Begin with actual words so not to arouse suspicion, real words found in games like, 'Elixir' for example, land that 'X' on a triple points tile and you'll soon be on your way to victory.

As the game progresses try your luck with made-up words like 'Chocobo', "Shmup" or 'Noob" (although, I think 'Noob' is legal as it's in the Oxford dictionary which not only horrifies me but gives you all the more reason to use it).

If your family prefers something less wordy there's Cluedo (or Clue), which lends itself perfectly to being re-imagined if you pretend you're the world's greatest detective...Batman. That's right, you can use all those hours playing Arkham Asylum and Arkham City to make Cluedo more entertaining. That and YOU CAN BE BATMAN!

If it helps, try spending the entire game speaking in a gruff, Dark Knight Christian Bale voice and when called up on it by your relatives simply explain that you're getting into the spirit of the game and playing a character, it is a murder mystery after all.

Reverend Green...or The Riddler?!
Start by pretending you're investigating a murder in Wayne Mansion and be sure to preface all of your notes with "Bat" (Eg. it didn't happen in the Bat-Library, the evidence suggests the murder weapon was a Bat-Candelabra, to the Bat-Conservatory! etc.).

"Oh my God...it was Professor Plum in the Bat-Kitchen...Alfred?!"
Of course if you reeeeeally must, you could always persuade your family to play a few boardgames on your console, Trivial Pursuit and Monopoly spring to mind as they won't immediately rule those out. Feeling confident? Then you could try and push the boundaries by suggesting your family tries one of the many Mario Party games?

After you've lured them in with a few safe titles and they open up to the idea of video games, encourage friendly competition between your grandparents on one of the many Just Dance or Dance Central games. Then film them attempting to play and upload their embarrassing but hilarious attempts to YouTube as your gift to the world this Christmas.

Whatever you do, I hope I've made the seasonal foray into board games with your family more exciting by injecting a few video game elements into them.

And if you're still struggling, I have one more tip for you. The ultimate way of dealing with the annual tradition of socialising with family is to imagine you are all in a game of The Sims.

Just don't be tempted to start fires or lock family members in rooms - it's just not Christmassy, even if you have downloaded a ridiculous Santa costume for yourself to wear while wreaking havoc.

Merry gaming, all!



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