Saturday 11th April was International TableTop Day, a day dedicated to… table-top games! TableTop Day started three years ago as a way for people all over the world to celebrate board games, RPGs and card games together. With help from game publishers (like Steve Jackson Games, Looney Labs, AEG, Mayfair Games and Calliope Games), Geek and Sundry gave away Tabletop Day Packs to events across the globe with exclusive prizes, including limited edition Dixit cards, special Felicity Day character cards for Dead of Winter and Dead of Winter itself – see the official Swag video here.
Geek & Sundry presents the best in internet television and online’s foremost geek voices. Founded by the producers of the hit web series The Guild, Geek & Sundry offers a diverse line-up of shows that create a hub for fans of comedy, gaming, comics, music, and literature around the world. Spearheaded by prominent geek figureheads, the network features original content by Felicia Day (The Guild, Dr. Horrible, Eureka) and Will Wheaton (Star Trek, The Big Bang Theory).
TableTop day was originally the brain child of Will Wheaton and Boyan Radakovich, who together created the ‘Tabletop’ show on the Geek and Sundry’s YouTube stream. They wanted a day where lovers of table-top games could come together and celebrate their shared passion, and entice others into the genre. Last year, TableTop day was celebrated in 80 countries over 7 continents, with over 3000 events in total, and this year, I guarantee there were even more!
I went down to my local game shop, Athena Games, at 10.30 to see tables already set up upstairs for Munchkin, Cash’N’Guns, Jungle Speed, Dobble, Dead of Winter, Settlers of Catan, King of Tokyo and many, many others. Downstairs, there was a full, and amazing, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire role-playing game being set-up (a dice-rolling, character-driven and open-ended adventure game set in the bowels of the Star Wars universe, shortly after the explosion of the Death Star and dealing with characters on the fringes of galactic space); I didn’t know where to start! There was one game in particular that I wanted to play, and that was Dead of Winter after hearing many, many excited gasps about it from others. But whilst I had been eager to turn up at Athena, it took a moment to gather enough other people to play. In the meantime, I decided to play Jungle Speed to wake up my reflexes (which I knew would be useful when coming to fighting zombies with dice rolls).
Jungle Speed is a fast-paced game of intricate Snap with a ‘totem’ in the middle that you have to grab. It is also one of my favourite park games as it is easy to pack into its red bag and doesn’t take much explaining to get people to play. I introduced it into my friendship group last summer, and now they all groan about it because invariably with the speed of the game, and with my clumsiness, I did manage to punch quite a few of them in the face. Luckily, Saturday was quite a docile game, and whilst I was told I was like “a cat” with my reflexes in getting the totem, there were no stray punches or crushing of fingers.
As the game finished, I looked over to the Dead of Winter table to see already four of the five player spots had been taken, and so I quickly nabbed the last one before choosing my characters (a hunky fireman and a very clever doctor) and settling in to watch the zombies swarm. Through a series of dice rolls and card shuffling, it was quite easy to work through the game, but what it did require was teamwork. The reason I was so excited to play this game was that every time you played, the objective would be different, but also there would be the chance that one of you was a traitor, or that simply through bad management, the crisis would be not solved. You had to play as a team and to fully commit yourself to working together to be able to flush through the draw cards or kill all the zombies and put up barricades. I liked it for how we had to all plan our turns carefully, where upon survival could fall down to one person’s pivotal action.
That is not to say that we didn’t mess up, and that it wasn’t funny. My first turn, I took my hunky fireman out into the wild, braving the exposure of the streets, only to roll a ‘bite’ mark on the dodecahedral dice – there was only one on the whole dice, a 1/12 chance and it came up on my first roll – which immediately killed him, meaning that whilst he could have saved a lot of new characters from the wastelands, he turned feral himself and decided brains were the new delicacy. But it was through this that we realised we needed to be careful, so every person who needed to move we made sure had fuel so that they didn’t have to roll the die when moving (because they were driving), after all a 1/12 is still quite a high chance for how many times we had to roll that dice.
Whilst my games were fun, Tabletop Day itself was really hotting up, and it was fantastic to see how celebrated the day was. The whole of Athena was full with people lining up to try the games, and the ‘Tabletop SWAG’ was raffled off to anyone who tried three games that day – I played a quick game of Dobble to try to claim a prize, but came away empty-handed. It was really warming to see so many people honouring table top games, many of whom I had not seen in the shop before. Even after the store was closing, there was still a dedicated hub of gamers who wanted to carry on playing, so I vacated to a nearby grassy verge to play a game of Werewolves. Having the chance to play games with people I had never met before, let alone ones where we had to work together to survive a zombie apocalypse, is exactly the kind of thing that should be celebrated, and games of any medium are wonderful for how they can break down social barriers.
If I have enticed you into the idea of table-top games and you are hungry for more information, Dean has written three fantastic features introducing the board games and their history, which you can find here. Otherwise, if you want to jump in yourself, try one of the games already mentioned, and of you don’t like the sound of any of them, I suggest getting a game like Smallworld, Avalon or Dixit. Otherwise keep an eye out for our (generally) weekly board game review series: Bored? Game!
Where would we be without games, huh?
Thank you to Athena Games for the pictures.