I’m not the only psychotic weirdo inventing abstract strategy board games in my lonesome free time. Here are four more just from the past several years, all of which are a million times better than any of my games (so far).
Catchup (Nick Bentley, 2010)
Nick Bentley is a neurobiologist, which means he’s smarter than you. He also wears good hats, and has invented at least 2 immortal strategy games. The most fun and perhaps marketable of these is Catchup. Drop stones on the board, and try to end the game with the largest group. The tricky part is that taking the lead at any point gives the opponent an extra stone to drop. It’s got a scoring track. It’s named after a condiment. It won’t scare grandma away, but it just might have her up late, bleary-eyed, analyzing her tactics. Go to bed, grandma.
Slither (Corey Clark, 2010)
Two opposite sides of a square board are black, the other two are white. Connect your sides with an orthogonally connected chain of stones before your opponent does hers, by placing one stone per turn and, optionally, moving a stone already on the board. The only complication is your opponent’s mind. Is it the Pong of board games? Is the Pong of board games actually better than Pong itself? If only all strategy games felt this little like pretending to try and solve a Rubik’s Cube in public and this much like, just, a coherent sequence of human thoughts.
Xodd & Yodd (Luis Bolaños Mures, 2011)
A pen and some graph paper is about all you need to enjoy the square board version of this peculiar and ingenious tactics game with someone right now, since it’s a placement game wherein stones are neither moved nor captured. The player with the fewest distinct groups of stones at game end wins, but! Both players may play either color stone and, crucially, every turn must end with there being an odd number of total groups on the board. This odd number malarkey justifies itself 3, 5, or even more than 7 times over the course of the first game, unless your handsome game design savant’s mind has worked it all out already.
Oust (Mark Steere, 2007)
There is a certain breed of Chess fanatic that chronically overestimates the machismo factor of their game of choice. “I’ll, man, I’ll destroy you at some Chess bro. I’m, like, on that Chess shit, man. What, you don’t want to play? Oh, you’re scared. Yeah, you’re scared I get it it’s cool, dude, you’re a pussy it’s cool whatever.” Maybe it’s because checkmate incorporates the word “mate” so they expect their skills will carry over. Regardless, these fine gents are playing the wrong game. Oust is the only, ahem, board game that will put hair on your balls. It’ll put hair on your ovaries. It’s the most violent configuration of black and white stones on a board yet conceived. Losing in Oust is like rereading the last few chapters of George Orwell’s 1984. Winning in Oust is like realizing you’ve overthrown a fascist dictator just to become one yourself. Playing Oust is how Anna Gunn preps for playing the role of Skylar White on Breaking Bad. It should be called Domination, but that’s already a game, and guess what- it sucks. No problem, though: “Oust” sounds just fine and it begins with a big round vowel, big and round like the hissing, sputtering vortex of bloodlust the game represents.