So this last weekend my fiancé, Emma, and I headed down to the big smoke to attend the last day of the Olympic Tennis. A grand day was had, but that's not what this blog is about (your sighs of relief are almost audible as I type). Whenever we go anywhere, holidays, daytrips etc I usually throw a few easy fast play games in the bag on the off chance I can catch Ems in a moment of weakness and persuade her to play a game. It's not that she doesn't like gaming but there are a few unwritten rules I have discovered over the years. Rule One: the game rules have to be explainable in under 10 minutes. And; Rule Two (the main rule): the game itself can't last longer than an hour, preferably 30 minutes. If those two rules aren't followed then even though we might get one game in, a general board games embargo starts that could last months. This rules out about 85% of my games straight away, most them being big box strategy games. Usually backpack games include Chez Geek, Pass the Pigs, Guillotine and Citadels (chuffed to bits I managed to squeeze that last one in, it nearly didn't make it due to the ten minute explanation rule).
Well as we were off to the Olympics I wanted something with a sporting theme. I knew I had nothing in my collection so off I went to Board Game Geek (BGG). I'm sure all of you reading this know about BGG but just in case it's an online database of pretty much every board game ever with news, rules, reviews, modifications and so much more. One of the things it has is Geeklists. These are lists of games that people have put together along a specific idea or theme. There are four I subscribe to, one about solitaire games, one about computerised versions of games with AI, one about Android versions of boardgames and another with games that are free to print and play. The last one is great, it is a list of hundreds of games that are completely free. True you normally have to pay for paper and ink to create them using your own printer (hence the title) but some of them don't have many components (and even ones that do can usually be played in virtual tabletop software but more on that in future posts). I remembered seeing a dice game one day whilst 'browsing' called Decathlon. It's one of those games that needs barely any components, just one page of black and white printing and eight D6's cadged from other games (or your disturbingly large dice collection if you're anything like me).
The game plays a bit like Yahtzee (this was my 'in' to get Ems interested as that's one of her family's favourites). It has ten mini games, each of which uses a set number of the eight dice. It is, as the name suggests, based on ten track and field events. Each mini game represents a separate event and each is nicely structured managing to evoke feelings of the real event and remain different enough from the others so that things don't get repetitive. You can play against as many people as you want (or as few, technically solitaire too). It played quite quickly with me and Ems taking it in turns to go first in each event. There is obviously a lot of luck involved as it's a dice game but there is a surprising amount of tactics involved in deciding what to re-roll and what to keep. The only thing we'd do differently next time is that for running events we roll at the same time, one die at a time. We did this for the 1500m and the tension was great.
It was a close run thing with only a handful of points between us as we went into the final event. I managed to win by a tiny amount but obviously I was humble in my victory as otherwise Ems would never play again ;)
Given it's tiny nature (a sheet of paper and 8 D6's) and interesting fast play, Decathlon will definitely be going on more breaks/holidays with us.
The rules on BGG can be found here.