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The Socumentaries: Board Game Soc

Not sure if you want to take the plunge into the dizzying world of the University’s 200+ societies? Don’t know your Blowsoc from your Bladesoc? The Socumentaries team endeavours to sample as many societies as possible so you don’t have to.
Soc-umentary – A factual article about a society, presenting the facts with little or no fiction. As in, ‘Did you see that socumentary about Fashion Soc? That shit cray.’

I know what you’re thinking when I say Board Game society. You’re remembering Christmas spent hunched around a Monopoly board, yelling at relatives and conspiring with siblings. Either that or Dungeons & Dragons, right?

Well, it turns out board games aren’t just for Christmas.

 Board games aren’t just for Christmas.

Last week I turned up (a little late) to one of the society’s regular Tuesday sessions. Laid out at the front of the room was a frankly impressive display of board games spread out over four or five tables. Everyone was already well underway with the gaming, and seemingly engrossed. Presented with an overwhelming choice, I decided to jump straight into the thick of it.

The first game I played was called Shadow Hunters, which involves being assigned a secret identity at the start. In each round, no matter how many people involved, there are three groups of characters: shadows (bad guys), hunters (good guys) and neutrals.

You don’t know anybody else’s identity, but you have to work it out based on small clues (easier said than done). You can also collect damaging and healing items. Then a lot of bloodthirsty and often random attacking takes place.

board games- 1st pic

Each character has their own conditions to meet in order to win. Generally shadows have to kill all the hunters, hunters have to kill all the shadows, and neutrals have to do something strange and arbitrary.

In the first round I played as a neutral whose win conditions were either die first or be one of the last two to survive. As soon as somebody died who wasn’t me, I realised the game would be harder than I had hoped. I spent most of the rest of it trying to convince people that I was a good guy while simultaneously stabbing everyone in the back. Sadly, this backfired and I was quickly killed by someone with an assault rifle. Perhaps not the best tactic.

I spent most of the rest of it trying to convince people that I was a good guy while simultaneously stabbing everyone in the back.

After that I tried Seven Wonders, a game where you want to be the best civilization that ever was. No tall order, really. Over three ages you have to gather resources, military power, wealth and technologies, and maybe build an ancient wonder along the way (yes, it is a lot like the empire building computer game you may be thinking of).

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My civilization didn’t have the strongest army and it was very lacking in basic resources like wood and stone and housing. I was proud, however, that I didn’t come last.

We finished up with a few rounds of The Resistance, a brilliant game that I am nerdy enough to have played before (and may also own). Think more secret identities, deception, bare-faced lying and confused yelling and you’ve got the idea.

We finished up with a few rounds of The Resistance, a brilliant game that I am nerdy enough to have played before (and may also own).

Other board games that I didn’t have a chance to try included: a game where the aim was to escape a haunted house; Pandemic, where you have to save the earth from a deadly infection (like the mobile version but in reverse); and a spaceship-building game. I really wanted to try the spaceship one.

Afterwards I spoke to society President Tim Winstanley. He told me the society currently has 60 games and is always on the lookout for more.

I asked him why he thought board games hold such appeal. He said it was the memory of childhood, along with the massive variety – some board games are strategic, some funny, and some take a lifetime to master.

Some board games are strategic, some funny, and some take a lifetime to master.

But there was one game I didn’t see among the substantial line-up. What of Dungeons & Dragons, one of the most famous fantasy board games in popular culture?

Zak Armstrong, Vice Treasurer, was quick to speak up: “It’s too complicated to play here – games can take months or years. It’s barely a board game, really.”

“But I’m hoping to get a copy for our collection soon,” added Tim.

So that’s Board Game society in a nutshell, really. Not everybody can agree on what exactly defines a board game, but everyone has a lot of fun anyway.

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Yet if there’s one thing I’ve discovered about board games, it’s just how engaging and social they are. There are few ways better to get to know someone so well and so quickly than bargaining with them for resources or accusing them of trying to off you.

There are few ways better to get to know someone so well and so quickly than bargaining with them for resources or accusing them of trying to off you.

Come to Board Game society if you want to meet friendly, fun people who can explain complex rules better than you can spell your own name. You will experience excitement, anger, betrayal and supreme joy all in the same seat, and spend hours getting more engrossed in the intricacies of ancient trade routes than you ever thought possible.

Come to Board Game society if you want to meet friendly, fun people who can explain complex rules better than you can spell your own name.

To find out more about Board Game society, visit their SU page.

Lydia Cockerham 

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