Wait…how do I play

I personally have not played to many board games outside of the popular ones such as Monopoly, Life and Battleship. This means my experience is very novice and results in me playing these games to understand how they function, rather than win them.  

Week 1- Codenames

Codenames was the first game I played week one that involves working in two competing teams taking turns to contact their agents by giving single word hints and numbers. The mass market social word game is all about communication with the central theme and setting being you as a spymaster working to not only contact your secret agents, but working against enemy agents through espionage and avoiding the dreaded assassin. Games that have this simplicity also have the benefit of being very marketable with different editions such as a the Harry Potter and Marvel versions. It is also accessible to a majority of ages and lasts for a short time frame of around thirty minutes.

It should be noted that all of us in our group of four had never played this game before meaning that our first playthrough predominately featured us tyring to figure out how to play. First we looked through the instructional booklet providing varying degrees of useful information at least from a personal perspective. Being a visual learner, therefore I find it difficult to learn from reading block texts. However as can be seen below, some of the information has visual aids mainly with the games layout and the roles of each card which helped immensely. To further assist how the game was played, I watched video tutorials that previewed a round of the game.

Once we understood the process of how to play. Playing the game twice through was fairly simple and not particularly competitive but rather cooperative. As the game involves you using related words and numbers to have your teammate choose the correct cards, a lot of the game involved us simply stating each word with the number one. For example if the codeword was shark, then the hint would be water 1.

Social interactions are key in any successful gaming experience especially Codenames. Therefore the games levels of ‘fun’ is mainly determined by not only who you are playing with, but how many players as well. With us only being a group of four that didn’t know each other and had not played the game before, the level of enjoyment is likely much weaker than experienced players in a larger group who know each other. This is not necessarily a disadvantage as this game as a result of its fundamental mechanics and design, can force players to be creative in order to achieve success. This is done with the hints that players must come up with where a prior friendship could offer an advantage over the opposing team. The rules in the game where you cannot say a word that is overly obvious such as starting with the same first syllable and no foreign versions of the same word limits the pool of options to further emphasise originality.

Overall I think I would enjoy Codenames after a few more plays, however the level of simplicity and replay ability definitely make it a must. The fact that it was awarded with the 2016 Spiel des Jahres the most recognisable board game award speaks volumes to its success and reach.

Week 3- Sherriff of Nottingham

In week three I played Sherriff of Nottingham, A family board game involving each player being a merchant out to earn the most coin and goods, while also sneaking in illegal contraband and avoiding the sheriff. In this game your skills of bluffing will thrive in a game that lasts roughly sixty minutes. The theme and setting of a medieval market place is played very cartoonish with playful graphics that aren’t meant to be historically accurate depictions.

Again much like Codenames, None of us had played Sheriff of Nottingham before in our group of five. However unlike codenames, I was able to grasp the roles and goal of the game much more quickly and in turn had an enjoyable experience. As the game progressed my strategy involved playing the game without using any contraband relying mostly on gold gained from the inspection period. During the period I would also act suspicious by offering bribes and looking away from the sheriff each time I said how much I had. Throughout the two rounds of the game, I lied only two times with one of those being by an early mistake as I was still learning how the game was played. The second time was when my goods were starting to not be checked giving me the opportunity to subtly sneak in all contraband. When I acted as the sheriff I made sure to only check bags that I was extremely sceptical of, a majority of the time however I would not check bags as to not run the risk of paying others. At the end of the game I finished with a hundred and seventy three points winning the game.

The factor of the game only having two rounds creates an incentive to act quickly in order to acquire the most while also not acting suspicious. The fact there is also no right or wrong way to play the game strategically makes for various approaches that solidifies it as a game that thrives on negotiation. Being able to barter with other players to not inspect your bag makes the inspection period of the game the most crucial and enjoyable part. The worth of the cards is also a crucial factor as the contraband will give a significantly larger amount of coins than the regular goods, rolling the dice on your chances of being searched. Games of this particular genre are not for everybody as some people don’t like the basis of a game being lying and deception, however those who love social conflict and a battle of wits this is the game for them.

Personally I highly enjoyed Sheriff Of Nottingham as it fit into the kind of board games I gravitate towards. This will definitely be a game I will replay in the future.

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