1.30.2007

Games in the Flesh

Microsoft recently announced that a version of the German highly-acclaimed board game Settlers of Catan for Xbox 360 would hit Xbox Live Arcade next month. A lame board game port, you say? Oh no!Tabletop games go sadly unappreciated among most gamers these days. When I studied game design at school, we worked exclusively with paper-and-pencil games for the first portion of the class. A good tabletop game gives you a stripped-down game design. Rarely will you hear graphics, sound, modes, or framerates discussed at all in tabletop game criticism (and if you do, please let me know what game you're playing). You're really just getting the game, raw, minus all that pesky technology. It's important, too, to realize that tabletop games have a variety of genres just like console games. Consoles have the FPS, RPG, and Fighter, for example; tabletop has party games (Taboo), classic simple games (Monopoly, Risk) and the more challenging strategy games. I don't claim to be the most educated about the best tabletop games out there, but I know Settlers, and I recommend 360 owners jump on it.

"But wait!" you exclaim (quietly). "Doesn't turning a tabletop game into a console game change it drastically?" While I think that does happen in some cases, this looks to be one of those where you'll be playing a tabletop simulator, meaning you won't be traveling around in villages, you'll be sitting at a virtual table with virtual cards. This also strips away some of the biggest inconveniences of tabletop games: you don't have to clean up the board when you're done (though hopefully you can still customize it as in the real-life version); you can play online with friends, and don't have to send out an embarrassing Evite for a "Settlers Party: BYOB"; you don't even need friends, and might even make them online playing, though I can't imagine that being the best friendship.

In short, play this game, and give board games a second look. While, just when console gaming is sneaking into the cool-kids club, board games may pull you back to dork status, it's worth it!

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