So it’s a very surreal time in our world right now. You’re awake and on the internet, so I’m sure you’ve heard of COVID-19. In fact, since much of the world is shutting down for a bit right now, you’ve probably been directly affected by it. So consider this post to be a Public Service Announcement – some gaming suggestions to help you beat the Self-Quarantine Blues.
PNP Arcade is an online site where you can find games that are available to print and play. This site hasn’t been around for a very long time, maybe a year or so. But they’ve amassed a large catalog of print and play games from publishers like Button Shy, Formal Ferret, Grey Gnome, Tuesday Knight, Weird Giraffe, and others, as well as from independent designers. Many of the games have a small cost associated with them (usually under $5), but they also have a wide variety of free games. So as long as you remembered to also stock up on printer paper and ink while you were hoarding all the toilet paper and hand sanitizer, you’ll be good to go.
Yucata.de is an online game platform where over 150 board games are available to be played online with real people from around the world. The site takes its name from their first game, Yucata’ (a 1996 game from Stefan Dorra), and has expanded to include games like At the Gates of Loyang, Automobiles, Bruges, Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers, Egizia, El Grande, Glen More, Guildhall, Imhotep, Jaipur, Luna, Mystic Vale, Port Royal, Red7, Roll Through the Ages, Saint Petersburg, Snowdonia, Targi, The Castles of Burgundy, Thunderstone, and (most recently) VOLT, as well as many others. Games are played asynchronously, so you can take a turn, and as long as you play again sometime in the next month, you keep your games going. It’s a great site with lots of content to explore.
Or, if you prefer playing in real-time, I’d suggest BoardGameArena. This site has a number of games that can be played in the moment, or asynchronously. And there are a lot of classics available – 6 nimmt!, 7 Wonders, Carcassonne, Caylus, Coloretto, Hanabi, Incan Gold, Innovation, Lost Cities, Puerto Rico, Race for the Galaxy, Seasons, Stone Age, Takenoko, Terra Mystica, Through the Ages, and many others are available to play for free (though some games can only be started up by premium subscribers). They just posted a news item saying they’ve had lots of increased traffic lately and are working on speeding things up, so be prepared for that. But it’s another place to find some online games.
OK, let’s get to some actual print-and-play game suggestions, all of which are free to download over at BGG. D100 Dungeon (Martin Knight, 2017) is conceived as a kind of RPG for one player. Basically, you can print out the rules, several copies of the maps, and a LOT of charts. Each turn, you’ll move further into the dungeon trying to accomplish different quests. You will frequently be directed different charts, and will roll a d100 (aka a d10 and a percentage die) to determine your result. It’s a VERY random system, and you’re pretty much just along for the ride, but it’s fun making up the story as you go. I’ve been enjoying it a lot recently, and my character Qarl just found a Legendary Cloak of the Gods, so that was cool. All the files you need are at BGG, and there’s a printed version available if you want to get that. All you’ll need to provide is a d6, a d10, a percentage die, and something to write with. And also a lot of paper.
Speaking of big books to print out, the Doctor Who Solitaire Story Game (Simon Cogan, 2009) is pretty massive. Like D100 Dungeon, this is an RPG-like game for one player, and puts you in the role of some incarnation of the Doctor. You’ll basically be running around, having adventures, fighting monsters, trying to save the universe – you know, standard fare. It was redesigned and reissued in a second edition in 2017 to include the lore of the Twelfth Doctor, and includes a lot of familiar enemies. If you’re a fan of Doctor Who, it’s definitely a game you should print out and play. The whole thing is free over at BGG, but the designer requests that you make a small donation to the charity of your choice after downloading it.
Oh, you don’t want to print out that much stuff? OK, fine. One page stuff for the rest of this post. Raging Bulls (Mark Tuck, 2017) was an entry in the 2017 BGG Solitaire PNP contest, and ended up winning second place overall. It’s a puzzle where you’re building fences between posts on the outside of a field in order to enclose bulls. It’s a roll-and-write style game where you’re mostly just drawing lines, so a straight edge is pretty necessary. I really like it, though it’s one of those games that doesn’t laminate well since the straight edge tends to erase marker lines. It’s a good one, however.
The xx72 series of games (Mike Heim) consists of four games at this point – 1572: The Lost Expedition (2016), 1672: The Lost Crew (2017), 1972: The Lost Phantom (2017), and 1872: The Lost Crows (2019). All of the games are basically map building and exploration games where you’re trying to escape from danger and get out alive. They’ve always been storytelling games, even encouraging you to keep a journal of your adventure, but the last couple have also included a choose-your-own adventure element with different paragraphs to read that go along with your actions. 1572 and 1972 are both really good, and I encourage you to check them out. I have not yet played 1872, but I will someday, maybe soon. I didn’t really like 1672, but your mileage may vary.
Austerity (Jake Staines, 2015) came out of (and won) the 2017 BGG Solitaire PNP Contest. This one is a cube pulling game, where you are trying to keep your country’s finances from collapsing. You pull cubes from a bag that activate events, then try to fund various institutions that will hopefully pull you out of debt. If you don’t want to use cubes (or don’t have any), you can also print out some tokens to use, though you’ll still need to have a bag or cup or something to pull them out of.
Endless Nightmare (Morten Monrad Petersen, 2013) is a game that you can’t win. You just can’t. You’re basically walking through the dreamworld, fighting Nightmares and trying to survive as long as you can until you lose. That’s the way it’s presented. It’s basically a beat-your-own-score game, which I normally hate, but the way this one is presented really appeals to me. The designer went on to found the Automa Factory, which does solo versions of many Stonemaier Games (such as Viticulture and Tapestry), as well as others (including Patchwork).
Pencils & Powers (Mark A. Jindra, 2017) is a series of roll-and-write dungeon crawl type adventures. Basically, you roll dice, then assign them to different spots – one will determine what shape you’re drawing on the board, one will determine what treasure you find, and the other will determine which monster gets stronger. Your goal is to defeat all six monsters in the allotted number of turns. If you run out of health, you’re dead. It’s a pretty fun game that can be played solo for your highest score (grr) or can be played with other people to see who does the best.
Utopia Engine (Nick Hayes, 2010) is a game I have sung the praises of before, and will continue to do so. The idea is you’re living in a world where Doomsday is rapidly approaching, and you have to complete the Utopia Engine to save everyone. You’re looking for parts through a roll-and-write mechanism where you’re trying to make two three-digit numbers that are as close as possible to each other. The game is amazing, and if you only print and play on game on this list (even though you’ll need to print TWO pages), this should be it. I’ve only tried its sequel, Beast Hunter, once, but it was also very interesting. If the theme seems a little too real to you these days, just ignore it because the game is awesome.
So there are my suggestions for you, and I hope you enjoy them. Now please excuse me, I’m going to leave the light-hearted realm and get a little preachy. Please don’t be one of those people who subscribes to the “one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic” line of thinking. So you see that only 70 people have died in the US from the coronavirus, and you’re thinking, “That’s only like 0.00002% of the population. This uproar is ridiculous.” OK, but when you consider that there are 4000 cases so far, that means this disease has about a 2% fatality rate. If every person in the US caught it, we’re talking about 6.5 million deaths. Does that seem like an insignificant number to you? “OK, but I’m in the prime of life, I’m not going to die.” No, you probably won’t. But stop disregarding the lives of that 2% that WILL. I don’t want that many deaths on my conscience, and I know you don’t either. 2% is not a statistic. 2% is a lot of families that will be grieving thanks to this disease. Slow the spread, wash your hands, stay home if you need to, and STOP MAKING THINGS WORSE BY IGNORING IT.
End of rant. Thanks for reading!