Bored? Game! – Thebes

I was never the biggest fan of board games.  Playing with my family was OK, but when I was growing up, Final Fantasy VII had a far greater appeal to me than counters and cardboard ever could. Fast forward to last year and a new dark force entered my life: Wil Wheaton. Yes, Wesley Crusher (and more recently Sheldon’s nemesis/pal from The Big Bang Theory) turned me on to the idea of board games with his cool Geek & Sundry web show Table Top, where he plays a board game each episode with a variety of geeky guests.  If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out.

A fact sheet detailing what all of the real life treasure actually is, probably exists so ‘modern parents’ can buy it for their kids as ‘something educational’.

When I got the opportunity to review a board game, then I figured that I could put aside my old prejudices and rediscover the game before the video game, and head back to the old days of the D6. Of course, Thebes doesn’t have dice, but don’t let that hold you back. The learning wall on Thebes is quite high.  You have a board which represents museum towns and places where you have to dig. You research in the libraries (yes, sitting and reading is one of the main actions of the game), get assistants, and the more you have, the more you can ‘dig’ from one of the excavation sites. Once you’ve dug, you set up museum exhibitions in various cities (and you thought that research would be the most boring part of this game). Then you repeat this until three years of your time has elapsed (that’s in game time, although sometimes it can feel like three years in real time). It’s a little dry, very much like the Egyptian tomb you can dig in.

That’s not to say the game is bad: it’s the 2008 winner of the Golden Geek Best Family Board Game, and that’s kind of the problem. With all the strange things that the cards can mean it’s not the easiest of games (ages 10 and up are recommended), but on the flip-side it’s not the most difficult of games either.  Cool for kids, but for adults it kind of falls into the gap of being difficult and not challenging at the same time. Once you manage to get over the wall of learning all the rules, it really does depend on the luck of the cards and objects you draw.

There’s no negotiation, alliances or a huge amount of jostling for position between players. You work your way round the board, try and gain as many points as possible, and then count them up at the end. Also, the archaeology theme seems like it could be cool, but it’s pretty dull. A fact sheet detailing what all of the real life treasure actually is, probably exists so ‘modern parents’ can buy it for their kids as ‘something educational’. The follow up card-based game, Thebes: The Tomb Raiders tries to capture the Indiana Jones spirit a bit more, but dispenses with the cumbersome board, bags and ‘Time Wheels’ and distils the gameplay into simple and more portable cards.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time playing the game with my friends. It’s solid, and passes the time well enough, but I don’t think I would have enjoyed playing the game as much if my friend Dave hadn’t brought along a bottle of rum, and we hadn’t been constantly entertained by the antics of our office’s ‘village idiot’. Don’t worry, Tom, I’m not talking about you (yes I am). Tom did also rate the game ‘Snog’ out of the ratings Snog, Marry or Avoid… enough said.

Take the same game, change the museum research for research in a bio-engineering lab, change the excavations for zombie outbreaks and the exhibitions as a last ditch attempt to assemble a cure to save humanity before it’s overrun, and you would have a more entertaining game for ‘grown-up’ geeks.  You can actually buy that game; it’s called Pandemic.

Designer: Peter Prinz
Mechanic:  Card Drafting/Point to Point Movement
Number of Players: 2-4 (Best with 4, or 3 and one idiot)
Length of Game: 60-90mins
Complexity: Light/Medium







One response to “Bored? Game! – Thebes”

  1. Tom Molloy avatar
    Tom Molloy

    My arm! It’s famous! Also the snog, marry, avoid scale is perfect for games – it works so well 🙂

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