Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

5 board game worlds we'd like to live in

Exploring the trails, taverns, and surprisingly friendly mechs of our favourite board game realms.

A cardboard house isn’t exactly top of most people’s fantasies, but hey, it’s been an odd year. The more we’ve stared at the boxes sitting idle on our shelves, the more we’ve found ourselves wishing we could clamber inside them. No, not in the dark, squished up between a rulebook and miniatures. We mean plunging our minds directly into the worlds they contain. 

The board game worlds we’d like to live in

Board games are so often framed around frenetic warfare and similarly unpleasant occasions. A rare few, however, offer tantalizing universes we’d love to explore (or at the very least, some quality places to grab a drink or two). To that end, please indulge our reverie as we muse over five board game worlds we’d love to live in.

Tokaido

Board game worlds we want to live in tokaido
 

A moment please, for the poor feet of our fantasies. Stretching from Kyoto to Tokyo, Japan’s famous eastern sea road measures in at roughly 320 miles of walking. That’s a blister guarantee if we’ve ever heard one. But if our experience matched up with designer Antoine Bauza’s 2012 take on the setting, we’d suffer those sore feet in a heartbeat. 

In Tokaido, there’s no room to get wearied by walking when each stop along the way offers delicious meals, soothing hot springs, or a scenic vista. Sure, you’re competing with other travelers, but the worst conflict you’ll encounter is failing to add the last strokes to a painting because someone else took your spot. Oh no. Now, which way was it to that onsen again? 

Pros:

  • Gorgeous views
  • Scrumptious meals
  • Did we mention the onsens?

Cons:

  • 300 miles is an awful lot of walking
  • Your friends have probably already booked out the next town’s noodle house

Gloomhaven

board games we want to live in gloomhaven

Are we seriously looking to get punched in the face by an Inox, robbed by bandits, and forced into a necromantic ritual? Listen, we know Gloomhaven can at times make Mordor look like a child’s birthday party -- albeit an oddly dressed one. However, there’s one crucial, redeeming feature: Gloomhaven has a stellar pub.

In a year which has seen our movements more restricted than usual, reading about our Jaws of the Lion crew returning to their drinking hole between missions has left us unexpectedly envious of plastic miniatures. If we need to brave demons and vermlings to enjoy a pint with our pals, then so be it. Open the gates, please!

Pros:

  • A pub! 
  • Possibly even with decent beer/cider on tap!
  • A city only somewhat ravaged by rampant infection

Cons:

  • Extreme likelihood of death.

Scythe

Board game worlds we want to live in scythe

Don’t let Scythe’s many mechs fool you. This supposedly conflict-ridden landscape isn’t as harsh a place as you might first believe. Take a closer look at the many encounter cards included, and you’ll notice a recurring theme of farmers just getting on and enjoying their lives while mechs and warlords bumble around in the background. Most options see players collaborating with the land’s inhabitants, helping with construction jobs or sharing stories and meals. Popularity is crucial to success, so it pays to please the proletariat!

Despite the premise, conflict is remarkably rare in Scythe. Even when things do get heated and several mighty machines rumble into battle, the end result just sees the losing side sent packing back to their home island. Given noone actually seems to die, that just sounds like an excuse for another walk in the countryside. Sign us up (just not for the army).

Pros:

  • Beautiful farmland/woodland/mountains with an abundance of natural resources
  • Tamed bears and tigers
  • Free rides in cool mechs!

Cons:

  • National leaders are clearly populists
  • Inconsiderate mechs keep starting fights in the middle of your farm
  • Large and noisy factory nearby

Barenpark

Board game worlds we want to live in barenpark

Real zoos thrive off animal diversity and questionably sized lion enclosures. Over in Barenpark’s world of cardboard make-believe, however, bears are the only hot commodity. Well, bears and koalas, because apparently some folk -- looking at you, board game designers -- can’t tell the difference. Fauna faux pas aside, we’re utterly in love with the idea of a world in which a bear-only zoo is not just a tourist attraction but something that every country demands.

Judging by the expression of the furry fella on the box, these bears are having a marvellous time of it, too. So when we say we’d like to be in the world of Barenpark, what we really mean is that we want to be a bear in it. Yes, we’d absolutely give up speech and opposable thumbs to be waited on hand and foot by a doting human audience. Don’t pretend that’s weird.

Pros:

  • Ethical animal enclosures
  • Golden bear statues
  • Finally becoming a bear

Cons:

  • We honestly can’t think of any

Roll for the Galaxy

board game worlds we want to live in roll for the galaxy

Space -- no longer the final frontier but a chance for mighty empires to exert their influence and dominate the stars. Except, have you ever actually seen anyone fight in Roll for the Galaxy? Sure, there are supposedly military worlds with gruff looking aliens, but all they do is add more dice to the rolling pot. We’ve never seen them genuinely get in a scrap.

Take a closer look at the planets and technologies available to develop, and a far stranger, far more interesting universe begins to emerge. One of the most expensive and powerful worlds you can create is Galactic Trendsetters, the tile for which features an image we can only describe as a Daft Punk rave of the future. Take a moment to think on that: The most powerful force in the galaxy is an interstellar disco. Now that’s a utopian future we want to be part of!

Pros:

  • Space travel, duh
  • Space-age parties
  • Even the meeples look like they’re having a boogie

Cons: 

  • All writing has been replaced by confusing symbols that no one can ever remember

Those were our picks for board game universes we’d like to plonk our butts down in for a well earned reality break. But where are you escaping to mentally these days? Let us know some beautiful or entertaining board game universes by dropping us a message on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deckbuilders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to hstenhouse@rektglobal.com.