Grinding to Valhalla

Interviewing the gamer with a thousand faces

Twitching toward cardboard

Posted by Randolph Carter on October 8, 2010

Imagine if you will a room with a computer.  On this computer’s desktop are icons for World of Warcraft, Age of Conan, Lord of the Rings Online, Runes of Magic and Risen.  The computer is on but idle. Directly across from the computer is a shelf full of PC games—a makeshift shrine devoted to a hobby that has spanned countless years.

Now imagine also in this room the owner of the computer, a middle-aged man, balding and wearing glasses, hunched over a card table, rolling dice, drawing cards, and flipping through a rulebook as he navigates a plastic figurine around a hexagon board all by himself.

That has been my evening’s entertainment more than once this week.  And here’s the kicker…it’s been fun.

For whatever reason, I’ve found myself lately gravitating toward board games.  Yes, board games.  No, not Monopoly, Clue or Risk.  These are fantasy RP-themed games that have more in common with Dungeons & Dragons than anything else.  And they all offer surprisingly satisfying solo variants.  

Unlike firing up a PC and instantly loading up a PC game, board games often take a bit of preparation.  I don’t see this as a bad thing.  In fact it gives me a few minutes to focus my thoughts as I set things up and come up with a game plan on how to approach this gaming session.

Don’t get me wrong, there can be some disconnect when you try going from years of a steady diet of video games to throwing in the occasional board game.  For me it’s been like using muscles I didn’t know I had (or at least forgotten I had) to make the gaming experience come alive.  But as I’ve said, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m finding myself looking forward to my next board game session.

If you are interested, here are a few of the games I’ve been playing and enjoying:


You play as a hero of Terrinoth tasked to stop the vile necromancer Vorakesh from finding the ancient Dragon Runes and resurrecting the High Dragon Lord, Margath. This “RPG-lite” adventure is less of a dungeon crawl and more of an overland encounter-based scenario.  The sense of impending doom this game generates is quite impressive effective.

Number of players: 1-6

Ages: 12 and up

Setup time: 5 min.

Playtime: 1 hr. +


Thunderstone is a fantasy deck building game where you play as a hero who has been commissioned by the town of Barrowsdale to retrieve the coveted Thunderstone lying deep within the dungeon of Grimhold. In order to accomplish this mission you must enlist the help of other heroes and townsfolk, while acquiring weapons, armor and magic in order to vanquish the evil minions spilling forth out of the dungeon.  For the Thunderstone , at all costs, must be kept out of the hands of the Doom Knights.  Don’t let the deck building mechanic scare you away from this one.  All the cards you need to play are included in the box.

Number of players: 1-5

Ages: 12 and up

Setup time: 10 min.

Playtime: 1 hr.

Ghost Stories

You play a Taoist monk whose job it is to protect a village from a seemingly never ending stream of ghosts and other evil spirits inspired by eastern mythology.  You must rely on the special powers of various village tiles to stay alive and ultimately defeat the formitable spirit of Wu-Feng.

Number of players: 1-4

Ages: 12 and up

Setup time: 5 min.

Playtime: 1 hr.

One Response to “Twitching toward cardboard”

  1. Great choices! I’ve played many rounds of solo Runebound and it is pretty entertaining. If you haven’t yet, make sure to try out the threat track variant:

    It’s the very first rules listed in that file and I think it makes the solo game a lot of fun. Haven’t played Thunderstone solo yet but I do own the game, will have to give it a shot sometime.

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