Before writing further, it’s an important thing to mention that I do not LARP, dress in cosplay, or attend Renaissance festivals in the proper attire. No, my role playing adventures are mostly single serving, short-lived experiences with board games, which I believe is just as fun, and just as important.
Why is roleplaying important?
Well, other than spicing up your love life, role playing is the best way to experience something. It’s why creators theme games in the first place. Imagine playing a popular game, I’ll use Settlers of Catan due to its popularity, without a theme. Every Time you roll the dice an area produces A, B, C, or D. You need ACD to build a square, and BC to build a bar. Also, you can always trade a B for a D if that’s what you need. The game would be the same, the strategy would work, and there should be no difference; the only thing missing would be your emotional connection to the idea that you own land and raise sheep, and you need those sheep to feed your city. Embracing this connection is the difference between a game of rules and poor decisions, and an experience where the 4 year long drought meant your monopoly on grain fields was forcing you to test your mettle in the logging industry.
Why is role playing REALLY important?
This, my nerd friends, is the key. If you are like me, you have a group of friends out there that you struggle to be yourself around. They miss your star wars quotes, don’t care that there is no season 2 to Firefly, and wouldn’t be caught dead talking about last weekend’s campaign; they’re your good friends, but you can’t figure out how to bridge that gap between college football and Comic-con. The answer: Board games. I can generally get a group of friends or another couple to come over and play a game. Have dinner, chat around the table, and pull out Libertalia (a pirate based card placement game) for a quick game over some beers. If, as the role player, you can take those opportunities to physically stab your opponent’s card with the tiny cutlass token, and curse them with a gruff “Take that ye filthy sea vermin”, you will see a dramatic drift in the overall attitude of the group. What started as a game in the background is quickly become a battle royal between 4 pirates as they scour the seas for booty!
Once a group of friends has dabbled in a simple role playing experience, it is easier to convince them to take a leap into the deeper, darker recesses of nerdom. This is exactly how, years ago, me and 3 friends (NOT your typical gamers) were coerced into starting a D&D campaign. This is how I have convinced many people who have never played a game more advanced than monopoly to pick a race in Terra Mystica. This is how you start moving your friends towards the dark side. Role playing in board games is a gateway drug. I urge you to be the pusher.
Some decent gateway games:
I would be remiss if I didn’t give you a few friendly suggestions on simple games that encourage minor role playing. In no particular order:
- Zombie Flux: The reason for Zombie Flux versus other fluxes is it encourages the use of “moaning like a zombie” as part of the game. Basically they HAVE to. It’s also going to be at the top of a future list of top 10 easiest games for new gamers. So for those friends who don’t want hours of learning before hours of gaming, it’s the bees knees.
- Libertalia: I mentioned it in my post for a reason. It is quick to learn, easy to play, and is completely pirate themed. Pirate is probably the easiest of all the fake accents to pull off, and one of the most fun.
- The Red Dragon Inn: If you don’t believe acting like drunken adventurers will inspire some role play, you’re wrong. Especially if you are already drunken adventurers.
- Pandemic: Naming viruses and working together to stop them is always fun. Particularly when one of your diseases is “stupidity”.
- King of Tokyo: Although this will be more like the role playing you did as a child with your TMNT action figures, it still counts. If you can get your friends wife to aggressively knock over your monster with hers, you know they are enjoying it.
- Small World: Peaceful Orcs vs. Flying Gnomes? Sure. This one might not be for the newer to games, but can encourage the use of interesting language.
- Mice and Mystics: A story based game for ages. Simple to learn, played as chapters, this game will envelope you until you ARE the mouse.
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