This month on The Eleven, we’re going to look at Bait Games. This term, I believe, was introduced by Scott Nicholson to describe games that are used to lure people to the table. Games are visually appealing, easy to teach, and quick playing. They are games that can be set up on the table before an event, and when someone comes over to say “What is THAT?!?”, you have something ready to teach and play at a moment’s notice. So here are eleven games I would classify as good bait.
Animal Upon Animal is a children’s game that is published by the German toy and game company Haba. It was designed by Klaus Miltenberger, and was originally published in 2005. Each player has a matching set of seven wooden animals – a monkey, a snake, a penguin, a sheep, a lizard, a hedgehog, and a toucan. There’s also a die and a wooden crocodile. At the start of the game, the crocodile is on the table, and a player rolls the die. This will determine what happens. They may need to stack one or two of their animals on the existing pile (which animal might be their choice or an opponent’s). You may be able to give an animal to another player to place. Or, you may be able to place an animal next to the crocodile, extending the surface area of the pile. If you knock any animals off, you have to take two into your hand. The first player to successfully get rid of all animals is the winner.
This is a very easy game that is very visually appealing – the wooden animals are really cool. This is primarily a children’s game, but it is very engaging and challenging for all ages (the box claims that it’s good for ages 4-99…so if you’re 100 or older, you’re out of luck). The die roll may introduce some extra luck into the game, but it’s a dexterity game, so people with a steady hand will excel. But even if you don’t, the collapse is very satisfying, and doesn’t take as long to set up again as, say, Jenga. This is some very good bait, check it out.
AttrAction is a game designed by Jeff Glickman and published by R&R Games that features 25 magnets that are spread all around the table. On your turn, you choose a magnet on the board (or in your hand if you have any) and flick it. You are then allowed to pick up any magnets that stick together as a result of this flick (but only one set if multiples are created). Once all magnets have been claimed, the player with the biggest stack wins.
This game is all about the magnets, and people are going to hear them before they see the game in action. The magnets are really strong, and come together with a loud CLICK. Of course, if you come at the wrong polarity, your magnet you flicked is going to veer off in the wrong direction and you will say bad words. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. When it’s all said and done, this game lasts five minutes (if that), and you WILL play more than one at a time. This works really well as bait – you might say people are attracted to it.
Ca$h ‘n Guns originally came out in 2005, but the box you see here is from the 2014 reprint by Repos Productions. The game was designed by Ludovic Maublanc, and plays with 4-8 people. The idea is that you are a gang of criminals splitting up the loot from some big heist. However, there’s no honor among thieves. In each of the eight rounds, players will choose a card from their hand (CLICK or BANG), then everyone will simultaneously point foam guns at each other. If you have a gun pointed at you, you can either choose to back away or stay in. Everyone then reveals their card, with BANGS wounding the player being aimed at. Anyone that did not back away or get shot then gets to split the loot, with players taking turns choosing one of the cards involved. The player with the most money at the end of eight rounds wins.
This is definitely a game that will catch people’s attention. If you’re walking through a convention center and see a bunch of people pointing foam guns at each other, you’re going to be intrigued. (I will say that the original edition had orange guns, but the guns in the second edition are black, so exercise caution in where you play it.) There’s deceit and bluffing involved throughout, and it’s fun to see where all the guns are pointed every time. Every time I’ve played, they’ve mostly been pointed at me in the first round. It’s a game you can really get into, and there’s usually a lot of Reservoir Dogs references going on.
Dexterity games are prime candidates to be bait, and Crokinole is the king. This 19th century game is played on a round board, and can either be played 1-on-1, or in two teams of 2. The goal is to be the first to score 100 points. On your turn, you’re going to flick a disk. If there is nothing on the board, the disk must end in the center ring or it is taken off. If there are any pieces belonging to your opponent(s) on the board, your shot MUST hit one of theirs, or it is taken off. If a disk goes in the center hole, you remove it and place it to the side. Once everyone has taken all of their shots (12 in a two-player game, 6 each with 4), you score. Pieces on the line are removed to the next lower region. Pieces that went in the center hole score 20, pieces that ended in the center ring score 15, pieces in the middle ring score 10, and pieces in the outer ring score 5. Whoever scores the most points is awarded points equal to the difference. Alternately, you can play a best-of-whatever match so scores don’t look so lopsided.
Crokinole is a very attractive game that you can just keep set up. It’s easy to figure out – take turns flicking your disks, try to score more points than your opponent(s). The game is very fun, and had a nice charm to it. The downside is that boards are ridiculously expensive, but believe me, you’ll get your worth out of playing them.
Incan Gold was originally published as Diamant in 2005, but this is the 2006 version (now published by Gryphon Games). In this Alan R. Moon/Bruno Faidutti design, players are delving into different levels of an Incan temple to try to collect as much treasure as they can. On each flip of a card, every player must decide whether they are going to go further in, or if they are going to leave. If you leave, you get to keep all treasure you have collected in the round so far, plus you divvy up any treasure that was left over on the path between you and anyone else who left that turn. If you go further on, you’ll see what the next card is. If it’s treasure, you divide it equally among people still in the temple, leaving any remainder on the card to be picked up later. If it’s a hazard, nothing happens…as long as it’s the first time that particular hazard has appeared. If a hazard appears a second time, everyone still in the temple loses everything they have collected during the round. After five rounds, the player who has collected the most treasure wins.
This is not the flashiest game on this list – it’s primarily cards, with some plastic rocks representing the gems. There are some cool tents included in this edition, but it’s not the components that are going to draw people over. It’s going to be the shouts of dismay when a second hazard appears, or the cheers of joy when a single person gets a 17 treasure all to herself. They’ll learn the game easily, and because of the five round structure, you can jump in at any time and have just as much of a chance of winning as anyone else. The more the merrier. I think this is great bait.
Jungle Speed originally came out in 1997 from designers Thomas Vuarchex and Pierrick Yakovenko. In this speed game, the object is to get rid of all of your cards. You take turns flipping one card over from your personal deck until a pattern is matched. At that time, the two players who matched are considered to be in a duel, and must simultaneously reach for a totem in the center of the table. Whoever gets it gives any cards they have played to the loser, who puts them on the bottom of his deck (along with all cards he has played). There are some special cards (all flip, all grab, and color match), and you have to be careful because a lot of patterns are VERY similar. Once a player has successfully gotten rid of all cards, they win.
This is a very fast and frantic game, and will attract people to your table with the shouting and constant cries of anguish because of mistakes or being too slow. The totem is a pretty cool component (and I’m really glad I have a wooden one instead of the rubber one included in the most recent copies). The cards are unique, and this game is a blast. A must if your are building a collection of bait games.
Loopin’ Louie is a rare mass-market game that has caught on with hobby gamers, partly because of its bait appeal. Originally released in 1992, this Carol Wisely design involves a battery-operated crop-duster buzzing farms to scare the chickens. Each player has a plastic arm which they use to try to bounce Louis away from their chickens, which are represented by little disks. If Louie’s plane hits a chicken, the disk will drop. Each player has three, and the last player standing is the winner.
This game is a ton of fun. It’s pretty brainless, but it tends to be pretty loud. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to watch. It’s a kid’s game, but you will mostly see adult gamers with this these days. You should always play with four people, and you can play a bunch of games in a row since it’s so quick. Perfect bait.
PitchCar is a flicking race game where players are trying to get around a track. This Jean du Poël design came out in 1995. It’s really simple – you set up a track, then players take turns flicking their disks around the track, trying to be the first to cross the finish line. If you go off the track, you go back to where you were. There are curves, rails, and jumps throughout.
The visual appeal of this game is what makes it god bait. You can set up the track any way you want, and the more expansions you have, the longer and more complex you can make it. Your cars are disks, and they really fly if you’re not careful. I know I always end up on the floor when playing. This game leads to a lot of cheering, bad mouthing each other, and is really appealing to passersby. It’s excellent bait.
Rampage (soon to be renamed Terror in Meeple City) came out last year from designers Antoine Bauza and Ludovic Maublanc. In this game, players are giant monsters terrorizing a city made of meeples, the little wooden pawns made famous in Carcassonne. It’s another dexterity game (last one, I promise). On your turn, you have two actions – you can move by flicking your paws disk; you can drop your monster on an adjacent building; you can use your breath to try to blow things over; or you can pick up vehicles and flick them across the board. At the end of your turn, you can eat some meeples in your area based on the number of teeth you have. You can also eat floors of buildings once they are clear of meeples. When all floors are gone, the game ends and players score 10 points per complete set of different colored meeples they have eaten, two points per tooth belonging to other monsters they have eaten, one point per floor they have eaten, and individual points based on their character.
I think this game has more setup than any other game on the list (except maybe PitchCar), but it also has a lot of visual appeal and is really easy to learn and play. The scoring is kind of wonky, but you don’t really have to pay any attention to that. Odds are good that you won’t be paying attention until the end – you’ll just be trying to cause as much destruction as you can. It’s a lot of fun, and will definitely draw a crowd.
Tsuro is a path-building game designed by Tom McMurchie and originally published in 2004. The board consists of 6×6 grid of squares. The outer squares have two hash marks on the outer edge. Each of the 2-8 players gets a stone and three tiles. Each tile shows a series of lines that are used to build a path. Stone begin the game on one of the hash marks. On your turn, you play a tile from your hand directly in front of your stone, and move the stone along the created path. If your stone ever leaves the board or crashes into another, you (and the person you crashed into) are out. The last player standing wins.
Tsuro is an incredibly simple game to learn, and plays very quickly. There is player elimination, but the game is so fast, you hardly notice. It’s a very beautiful game to look at as well, and the visual appeal will help bring people to the table. It’s fast and fun, is easy to set up and break down, and is a perfect example of bait.
Finally, Word on the Street is a 2009 word-based party game from Out of the Box and designer Jack Degnan. In this one, two teams are playing a kind of tug-of-war involving letters of the alphabet on a five-lane street. On your team’s turn, you will draw a card, and you will get a category like “An animal that can weigh over 100 pounds.” Your team then has 30 seconds to think of a word that fits in the category, then move the letters of that word towards your side of the street. So, if you said “Hippopotamus”, you’d move the H once, P three times, the T once, the M once, and the S once (no vowels in this game). If a letter ever goes off of your side, you score it. The first team to eight letters wins.
Party games are often good bait, either because they are really funny and loud (like Telestrations) or because they have interesting gadgets (like Tapple). Word on the Street can get loud, but it’s more of a thinky game. The arguments will come from whether or not a word REALLY fits the category, or sometimes even whether it’s one word or two. The thing that I think will really draw people to it is the bits. It’s got a nice long board, and plastic tiles for the letters that show different street signs. It looks pretty interesting, and makes you want to find out more. Then you can reel them in.
Please let me know if you have any other games you like to use as bait. There are probably a thousand good options out there. You can also go check out the GeekList Scott Nicholson started for some more ideas (some of which are on this list). Next month, we’ll take a look at what comes next once you have gotten someone to the gaming table. Thanks for reading!
I think some interesting bait games are:
Paperback: its colourful design is just eyecandy
King of Tokyo: monsters.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: everyone loves exploring haunted houses
Space Cadets Dice Duel and Going Going Gone: probably very noisy
Super Dungeon Explore: chibis, monsters, chibi monsters.
I strongly considered King of Tokyo for this list, but went with Rampage as my monster game. KoT is a great game, and will attract people to the table, I just would tend to use it more as a gateway game since it expands so well upon Yahtzee.
Haven’t played Going Going Gone, but I think that’s an excellent choice. It’s very fast, and the noise will probably bring people in. Good choice.
Of the others, I’ve only played Dice Duel, but I think generally they may be a little more complex than what I’m looking for. Certainly any hobby game could be visual bait because muggles will see it and not know what they’re looking at. The point I’m trying to get across, however, is having games that are also quick and simple enough that people don’t have to spend a lot of time learning, nor do they have to play a lot to feel competitive. But thanks for the suggestions!
Botswana is a good addition to the list. No one is going to say that a game with plastic zebra looks too complicated. Gamers staring thoughtfully at plastic zoo animals is a sight to behold.
I’ve never played Botswana. Thanks for the suggestion!
Are we that vain? Funny how most of that list are some of our group’s Most Played Games… hmmm.