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They’ll Bury You In A Lunchbox

I’ve always been an avid video gamer, but lately I’ve started to get into tabletop games as well. One of my colleagues is a newly-discovered tabletop geek, and every day he brings a new game in to the office for us fellow geeks to play over lunch. We get a pretty impressive mix of new games and old favorites, and it’s always a good time.

Lately we’ve been playing Last Night On Earth, a zombie survival horror game. I’d always heard from my friends back home in Michigan that this was one of their favorites, so when we discovered a mint-condition used copy for sale at a local game meet-up not long ago, we purchased it for our office’s lunchtime game crew. Today was our third game, and by this time we felt familiar enough with the rules to try an advanced scenario (rather than the beginner scenario where the only goal is to kill as many zombies as possible before sunrise).

The scenario we drew was called “Burn ‘Em Out!” The heroes were tasked with finding certain special items, and then using them to blow up three zombie spawn points. Two of our four heroes died and a third (the trusty sheriff) was bitten and transformed into a “zombie hero”, but the lone remaining man — a drifter from the outskirts of town — just made it to the final spawn pit with a stick of dynamite before time ran out. Much to the chagrin of the player who was controlling the zombies, the hero team won the day. Although I’ll admit that for a while there, it didn’t look good!

This is just one of the many games that we’ve played over lunch, with additional titles including everything from Carcassonne and Dominion to my beloved Elder Sign (I’m a huge fan of Lovecraftian themes) and Small World. Just yesterday, for example, we set up a rousing “welcome-back” game of Carcassonne in honor of my boss’s wife who had just gotten back from China, and who is pretty skilled at the game. I ended up winning in a surprise farming coup that took nearly the entire game to set up and execute. The final brick in the wall came courtesy of another player, who handed me the win by putting down the tile I needed to connect all of my farmers to a contiguous area without ever realizing the ramifications of their move.

For anyone who is new to the newly-resurgent world of tabletop gaming, Wil Wheaton’s fabulous web video series Tabletop offers an entertaining and well-made introduction to some of the more popular games out there right now. Or if you’re looking for a distinctly European take (complete with wacky set pieces) on tabletop games both new and old, I recommend Shut Up & Sit Down, a web video series hosted by Englishmen Quinns and Paul.

Whether you find yourself gravitating more toward the “Ameritrash” or “Eurotrash” camps, or charting your own course altogether through independent and print-and-play titles, it’s astounding how much fun you can have playing games without ever picking up a joystick, a mouse or a gamepad. Even better, playing tabletop games is an infinitely more rewarding social experience than screaming at twelve-year-old teabaggers on Xbox Live.

Now that I’m familiar with Last Night On Earth, I’m hoping I’ll get to play a round with my friends up north next time we drop in for a visit!

Meanwhile, our crew is still trying to find enough time and enough participants to play the epic Battlestar Galactica tabletop game, complete with fleet operations, Cylon double-agents and insane amounts of intrigue. Maybe some day we can take an 8-hour lunch.