I’m always incredibly excited when school starts, but not just about learning. A new school year is like New Year’s all over again – so many new opportunities await you. You’re going to meet all kinds of new people, you’re going to join clubs and intramurals and you’re going to go to lectures and events. In short, you’re going to have adventures.
As a recent transfer to Portland, I know it can be hard meeting new people and making new friends. Really, the only way to do it is to put yourself out there, even just a little bit. Let people see what you like, and if they’re interested, they’ll come to you. If you’re living in the dorms, leave your door open. Let the people walking past your door hear your music. Let them stick their heads in and say, “Hey, is this the Lord of the Rings soundtrack? Isn’t it the best?”
But you have to do the same thing – it’s a two-way street, dude. Get to know the people sitting next to you in class. Comment on that guy’s sweet t-shirt or that girl’s quirky necklace – this is Portland, people, everyone has something you can compliment them on. Be nice. It really isn’t that hard. And if you find yourself with a group of people who could possibly be new friends, then take the initiative and organize a group activity.
Personally, I am all about game night. Game nights are easy. You find a place with enough seating for everyone in your group – this may mean sitting on the floor instead of at a table, but that’s okay. No judgment here. Ask some people to bring finger foods while you order a pizza (or whatever food meets everyone’s dietary restrictions. Again, Portland).
The beauty of a game night is that you don’t have to search for conversation topics – that’s what the games are for. The hard part about a game night is what, exactly, are you going to play? What do you have access to? Somebody, somewhere has Scrabble, but you’re afraid everyone will think Scrabble is lame (it’s not). Well, here’s my first recommendation for you: Story War, from Cantrip Games.
Story War is a card game designed by Brad O’Farrell, Tom McLean and Vondell Swain, three talented guys who love games and wanted to make their own. It plays like Apples to Apples, only you get to argue your card. You need three to eight people, and you can play individually or in teams. There are three types of cards – Warrior, Battlefield and Items. Players have three Warrior cards and two Item cards in their hands.
Each round goes like this: One player takes on the role of the Judge and draws one of the Battlefield cards. The last time I played with my friends, one of our Battlefields was on the Plains. After the Judge has drawn the Battlefield, each player chooses from their Warriors the one they think is best suited to the Battlefield. For me and my friends, this meant that the Leprechaun and the Fairy were going head to head on the Plains.
In Apples to Apples, at this point, the Judge would look at the cards and decide which Warrior they think would win on the chosen Battlefield. But in Story War, the Judge has to be convinced. The best part of the game is coming up with a narrative for your Warrior. You have to get creative, and you can use pop culture references. Each card has a little description which is sometimes a joke, sometimes a clue and often times, both.
There is a period of simple open discussion where all the players can describe the actions of their Warriors, and whatever is said goes, so long as the Judge agrees. You can challenge what someone else says, and the Judge must make a ruling.
For example, if you played the Mummy and one of your opponents has played Puss in Boots, your opponent could very well claim that the Mummy ran away from the Battlefield in fear of Puss in Boots, as anyone who has ever seen The Mummy, starring Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz, knows that mummies are afraid of cats, and the Judge could accept that as fact, since it has precedence in pop culture.
After a period of open discussion, each player must give their final argument while the others remain silent. When each player has finished, the Judge then recaps everything that has happened in the battle and ultimately declares a winner. The winning player keeps the Warrior card as a victory card and everything else is discarded. Another player becomes Judge and the game continues.
Whoever has the most victory cards after everyone has played Judge twice is the winner. Of course, there are several other modes of play, just in case you ever get bored with the original mode. Unfortunately right now you can only purchase Story War online, at www.dftba.com, but I promise that if you like games it’s definitely worth having.
Oh, and by the way, the story of the Leprechaun and the Fairy turned into one of heartbreak and betrayal from which only the Leprechaun walked away. It was a very tragic day.
If you’re looking for some other games to play, another one of my personal favorites is Catchphrase, an electronic hand-held guessing game similar to charades but without the acting out. I’m not a huge fan of public humiliation, so charades isn’t really my thing.
Whenever I’m on the look-out for some new and interesting board games, I always turn to Table Top, a show on YouTube where actor and professional nerd Wil Wheaton and his friends Felicia Day, Chris Hardwick and Seth Green play-test board games that might not be on the shelves at your local Freddie’s.
I hope that you try some of these things out and that you enjoy them as much as I do. If there’s something that you’ve totally fallen in love with and want to tell the world about, let me know – I’m always looking for new things to love.