Quarantines, lockdowns, social distancing and the like may be the case in 2021, but there’s one trend we’re excited to see: Rising interest in hobbies that are niche, nerdy, or both, from puzzles to ceramics to the all-popular board game.
Even better news, it’s almost board game season here in Portland. When the weather turns invariably cloudy and rainy, many Portlanders retire to movie theaters, bookstores, and game nights.
Here, then, are four new (similar) board games from local manufacturers to add to your shelves this fall. (Or get one and take it to one of Portland’s great game cafes.)
This is the first game from Black Labrador Games, a Lake Oswego-based company owned by brothers Charlie and Andrew Watson, longtime science fiction fans looking for a creative way into this universe.
“It started with some kind of art I was making in my spare time that we wanted to turn into a television show,” says Andrew Watson, a graduate of the University of Oregon’s Product Design program. “The idea turned into a tabletop game as it was more in our wheelhouse. We love board games and have been playing them for as long as we can remember, so we thought we’d give it a try.”
The two spent six years tinkering, testing and re-testing their idea before launching it this fall. They start on Kickstarter with plans for a holiday release and then plan to sell online, going direct to gaming enthusiasts and looking for distributors.
According to Watson, the goal of the game is to build a crew and compete with up to three other players, racing through an unknown galaxy (undoubtedly a far, far away one) and searching for resources. Upgrade your ship or “hire” new crew members to stay one step ahead of other players. Watson created all of the artwork himself and notes that the game board is customizable and set up by players, so it changes every game. Allow 20-45 minutes for a full game round.
Both are from Pink Tiger Games, game designer Ami Baio’s Portland-based studio specializing in “cute, nice games.” Baio first attracted attention in the game-playing world you think you know me, a card game that aims to encourage players to get beneath the shiny surface of social media and find out what they really knew about their friends. Her goal, she says, is to create games that make players feel “seen and heard, games that inspire conversation and connection.” Bonus: Their games are designed to be easy to learn and don’t come with an encyclopedia-length rulebook.
In other words: not warlike Battleship or the cruelly random twists and turns of fate that await you slides and ladders to be found here. rabbit, rabbit is a trivia card game for up to 10 players that celebrates global myths and ancient folklore. (The name will be familiar to anyone who sleepily murmurs “rabbit” upon waking on the first of each month – good luck, of course. IYKYK.) The box contains 350 cards, each with bonus trivia and context to share after the question has been answered. The illustrations are by Portland tattoo artist Kirsten Holliday.
The game was inspired by an article she read about New Year’s traditions around the world and was in development right at the start of the pandemic. “I felt inspired and connected by the knowledge that people around the world have always wished for stars, sweep away bad luck and more – and try to make sense of life and the universe,” she says.
rabbit, rabbit is available now while lost for words is slated for release in November after completing a successful summer Kickstarter that far surpassed its $8,000 goal. Aimed at two to seven players, it is a card game that highlights 300 words from 70 different languages, each representing a different emotion or experience not easily translated into English. (Think glee. Know it when you see it, couldn’t tell what it actually means.)
You play the game by sharing your experiences with that particular emotion; Baio also teases “extra action cards” to make the game, in her words, “slightly strategic.” Fun fact: lost for words is her first co-developed game, which she co-developed with her teenage son Eliot.
This one isn’t exactly new. Rather, it’s a reboot and update of the 1906 game designed by feminist Elizabeth magic and identified by Monopoly historians as that game’s “lost originator” who fought Parker Brothers to be recognized as its rightful creator . Magic’s intention was to warn against the evils of monopoly and to highlight the economic inequalities of Gilded Age life.
Their game was last revived by a Portlander named Thomas Forsyth, the owner and manager of yourPlay, the official publisher and distributor of the present day Landlord’s game. In 2019, yourPlay began selling a faithful replica of the 1906 version The landlord’s game. This is sold out, but an updated version with more “user-friendly” components is now available for pre-order. (Follow them at @LandlordsGame on Twitter for updates.)
At first glance, the rules in the replica edition sound similar to Monopoly: “The aim of the game is to get as much wealth as possible and the player who has the most cash, cards and houses at the end of the game hat is the winner or millionaire.”
But take a closer look: When was the last time you drew a card in Monopoly that allowed you to buy Lonely Lane for $25? and contained the following quote: “The flat tax would immediately equalize opportunity – the dream of all time.”