Gameological may be on a lighter publishing schedule for the next couple of days, because the site’s “nerve center,” as we never call it, is located in New York. At time of writing, a large hurricane will also presently be located in New York. And given that our electrical situation is already a bit patchy, I expect for site operations to be touch-and-go for a while.
Even as we hunker down and remain indoors, though, that doesn’t mean we have to stop playing. The TV people seem to believe this is the end of civilization as we know it, so what better time to retrace human history than with a series of non-electricity-requiring board games? Gameological has a whole day’s worth of board gaming activities planned for those of you in the path of the storm and those of you experiencing a sympathetic urge to stay inside and dick around all day.
Morning: The Settlers Of Catan
In the beginning, the wandering tribes of humanity settled down and gave birth to civilization. Using the light of daybreak to illuminate your Settlers Of Catan set, you can recreate this epochal shift on your dining-room table or storm-bunker floor. Founded on an assurance that your settlements of brick and lumber will stand the test of time—no Mother Nature here to wash your dreams away—Catan reflects the fundamental optimism of the first human settlers. Then again, with the “robber” character leaching resources from society, there’s a touch of foreboding here, too.
Break for lunch—the menu includes granola bars and cold canned vegetables—with the breezy city-building card game Citadels. Where Settlers addressed the population’s basic needs, in Citadels you must construct the great medieval metropolis. Outfit your burgeoning town with a cathedral, a palace, a school of magic! But note the darker sides of human nature at play, as everybody in Citadels has an ulterior motive—like the Bishop who’s siphoning gold from the city’s religious establishments—and deception is the key to success, lest an Assassin or Thief guess your intentions and lay your best-laid plans to waste.
Afternoon: Twilight Struggle
And now we see civilization at its peak, with the entirety of the globe given over to a struggle between two mighty and irritable superpowers. Whether you’re playing on the side of Uncle Sam or Uncle Joe, the concerns of Settlers and Citadels will seem so petty now, as you’re fighting for the very future of self-government. Countries are mere pawns in this tense recreation of the Cold War, where the continents are tallied on a scoreboard and the Space Race is one enormous penis-measuring contest. The title of this epic game also takes on a literal slant amid a power outage, as you’ll struggle to finish it before the sun sets.
Evening: Forbidden Island
We like to think that when nature confronts us with an existential threat, the better parts of ourselves will emerge, and we’ll learn to work together. That’s the premise of Forbidden Island. This game dispenses with the usual antagonism and forces players to work together and escape an island where the water level is rising quickly. It’s a great way for non-New Yorkers to get this week’s Manhattan experience.
Night: Lost Cities
Some day, centuries after the floods consume us all, the archaeologists of the future will unearth our once-proud empire and pore over the clues they discover. Why were these people so obsessed with olive gardens? And were these “Wii Fit” talismans believed to ward off evil under-the-couch spirits? You can get a taste of that future archaeologist-adventurer life with Lost Cities, a two-player card game in which you commission your own explorations of civilizations that crumbled long ago. Plus, it doesn’t take up much space—suitable for illumination by emergency flashlight.