Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend take on table games. Check out our full coverage of board games at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
At the recent board game fair in Essen, the hobby’s biggest event, we saw more than 1000 new titles. That meant we saw quite a few great new games as well. We also saw a lot of titles that were weird, unusual and/or shit-focused. These are those games.
Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t the “Golden Age” of board games.
Worst game ever
Worst game ever is a prank game, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to play for 15 minutes. It throws in all the nasty stuff about the hobby and turns it into a game. This is a perfect cool-down after a long session of good gaming, throwing cards in to help you roll your dice, complaining about rules, punishing players for looking at their phones, winning extra points if someone else makes a pun, and, like , a million other crazy things. It’s really hilarious if not the deepest ludological experience. Also, the lines are in pig Latin.
Small drop of poison
A charming game of cute little rats and weasels determined to poison each other to death. What makes this fun is the juxtaposition of the cute artwork and sheer bloodthirstiness of the piece, which makes no prisoners at all.
No, not the Oatmeal’s game with exploding kittens. Dead Cats is another lucky kill game, this time involving Erwin Schrödinger, making it a kind of game about cat physics. Cats are brilliant and the uncertainty concept is nice for a small meeting or for non-gamer folks who might not want to play something heavy. Appropriately, no dice are thrown.
Martin Luther: Das Spiel
This is a game that unfortunately we won’t see in English, as Martin Luther (the Protestant reformer) is a certain type of German hero. Still, the game, designed to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses in 1517, stands as a testimony to the versatility of our hobby. No idea how it plays; we just loved the concept – and the fact that the game board has a huge image of his face.
Incredibly, this wasn’t the only game of human ordure on display at Essen this year, and it’s all the more proof that the whole gamut of human experience can be reduced to a quick-to-play card game. shit is a uno-like game where players compete to empty their bowels without blocking the toilet. It is dazzlingly simple but extremely modular, with different versions easy to combine. There is an adult version that of course turns it into a drinking game.
A fun little card game of nuclear armageddon, nuclear war celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a new design and glow-in-the-dark box. Extremely 1960s in its execution, it sees two to eight major world powers trying to destroy each other without getting a nuclear weapon in return. Gallows humor runs through this game, from the artwork to the rules, where you can happily kill tens of millions on a whim.
Manga is underrepresented in western board games, so it’s nice to branch out and see how cardboard fans from Japan are doing. As you might expect, they do it with androgynous heroes and incongruously cute monsters. Anyway Unicorn Knights is a fast-paced cooperative game of medieval quests and random encounters on a modular board, not unlike playing a JRPG on your dining table.
Hop romp home with the Ars Technica award for two-est game throughout the show, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s tough on the unicorns, rainbows, and clouds, and the game’s huge demonstration area featured assistants wearing pink sparkly unicorn horns. It has a 3D board and fun minis, but despite the quality of the components, the real fun of the game seems to be throwing a small Frisbee at each other, trying to catch it on your horn (or finger) while lying down , with one hand behind your back, over your shoulder, or while someone is trying to disturb you. It looked like a giggle, but it was damn hard to photograph without making it look like we were taking creepy shots of impeccable servants. One for the kids.