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Natural20's Random Thought Table - Game Night Alternatives Print
Written by Brian Nisbet   
Jun 26, 2009 at 07:41 AM

Brian talks about things you can do if not everyone makes it to game night for the group.

Back when I was a younger man than I am now, Saturday afternoon was when we played D&D. It was a party of six and the time was sacred, bar holidays and the like. But now, life is a little more complicated and sometimes not everyone can make it to game. So what should you do if this is the case (assuming that you actually want to see your friends so you aren't just rushing to cancel the evening's plans!)? Articles about this have been written down through the ages, but the options change, so I figured it was worth updating and adding in my own thoughts. These possibilities are in no particular order and some of them do require some preparation, but you can take a mention of any actual product in here as a recommendation of something you should go out and buy anyway!

  • The easiest of all is to play a boardgame. I'm making the assumption here that wherever you play has a collection of them to choose from. What you go for, of course, depends on how long you have, but most games these days aim to take less than two hours at most. There are exceptions, such as Battlestar Galactica, which can last for a lot longer, especially if you have new players, but they're the exception. Games like Trans America/Europa, Battle Cattle, Tsuro or Race for the Galaxy really win here as they can be played in about thirty minutes (or far less in the case of Tsuro), giving you plenty of time to switch game if someone really isn't enjoying themselves. The middle ground is occupied by games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassone, Antika, Agricola, Thurm & Taxis or a host of other excellent games for five or so players. Most of them also require very little set-up and are pretty easy to grasp in short order, so they don't require you to have played them before.

  • Next on the list is the theory of just roleplaying. If you're playing a regular game I'm going to make the mammoth assumption that you know your character pretty well and so should be able to just chat in character. Maybe the plot won't allow you to do this naturally (if the last game ended with a cliffhanger it might be a little difficult just to sit down and have a chat while the ninjas wait patiently to attack), but maybe you can go back to some downtime you had in the past and just chat for a bit. It could be important, it could just be telling stories in character. This is an excellent opportunity for the PCs to get to know each other better and also for you to explore your own character. How would they react to certain concepts or stories? How do they feel about things the other PCs have done (or claim to have done)? Some of the best roleplaying I've been involved in didn't have any input from the GM at all.

  • The final suggestion I'm going to make is to play a different roleplaying game entirely. Not every game requires elaborate set-up, plot, or even a GM. There are lots of games out there (many of them referred to as 'Indie') that involve brief character creation, simple plot creation and a lot of collaborative effort. Often the rules are very straightforward and while there's lots of opportunity to roleplay, they can be very quick to get in and out of. There are a lot of such games out there (take a look at and associated sites), but I want to mention a couple of my favourites. I'm going to go into more detail on some of these in a later article, but if I had to pick a top five I'd go for: 3:16 – Carnage Amongst the Stars; Poison'd, Spirit of the Century, Prime Time Adventures and Hot War. There are many other excellent titles out there and quite a few of them are also suitable for campaign play, but as something different to try for a night, they're well worth checking out!

  • User Comments

    Comment by GUEST on 2015-12-21 02:42:32
    I'd echo Doug's thought aboaut Puerto Rico. Everything fits on one screen and you can play without reading the rules if you know the boardgame. I have found that some iOS games can get me into a board game. Ghost Stories is the example for me at the moment as I struggled with enjoying the board game but the ipad version is good as the ability to touch an icon and find out what it does really helps. There is still a steep learning curve but the ability to learn on the move is a great benefit.I have clocked up over 100 Ascension games now and now the card game has got expansions out I want these on the ipad. It's a far better game than I reaslised with the card version and is another game that has drawn me back to the paper and cardboard versions of games from the iOS ones. I play Age of Conquest (Europe) for my Risk fix. It also comes out in a variety of world lands. (Americas, Asia, World and others).Does anyone else use DIcenomicon for all dice rolling now?

    Comment by GUEST on 2015-12-22 12:17:48
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