Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Free Tabletop Games!

Most of what we tend to highlight for The Summer Of Free focuses on entertainment experienced online or on your computer. But this week I want to showcase some free, geeky entertainment options that, although starting on your computer, will quickly find their way to your tabletop.

Board Game Geek

This is easily the biggest, most exhaustive website about boardgames on the web. And while there are certainly a number of free "print and play" options on the site, paper and ink cost money. The TRULY free entertainment found on this site is in the numerous variants for games you already own.

Go ahead, take a quick look at your game closet. If you're a tabletop geek of even the slightest degree, you've probably still got some games that you used to enjoy playing, even if they've been collecting dust for awhile. Now go to, enter the name of your game in the search field, and when you find it in the database, scroll down on its page until you see the "Forums" section, or scroll down further to the "Files" section. With just a little bit of browsing you're almost guaranteed to find a rules variant that will add spice to your game, or flip it upside down into a whole new experience!

Here are just a couple variants for one of the most popular geek games that totally breathed new life into my experience:

1. Magic: The Gathering, Cube Variant (Allows you to create a balanced, self-contained version of Magic that makes great use of all those old cards you have, while ditching the never-ending, costly "collectible" aspect of the game.)

2. Magic: The Gathering, Horde Variant (Allows you to play the game solo or in co-op with other players against an automated opponent deck! I modify these rules and instead of using any tokens I just use regular creatures, but otherwise use the rules described here to determine the behavior of the automated deck. I've really enjoyed combining this with the Cube variant!)

I've also tried out and enjoyed numerous variants/additions for my other favorite games like Thunderstone, Doom and HeroQuest (for which there seems to be an endless supply of material).

But how about the worst-case scenario? You like geeky things, but you've never actually purchased a proper "geek" tabletop game. Your closet is full of a bunch of "family" games. ("Family" being code for "the same old boring crappy games that everyone grew up with and liked for a few years before entering the 5th grade and forgetting they exist.") Is your situation hopeless? Far from it! Here are just a few cool, geek-friendly variants I found for games that are probably already in your closet!

1. Battleship: Search And Destroy (Either print and play the game sheets provided or just use these rules with your orginal Battleship game!)

2. Clue: Zombie Mansion (Requires printing just a few pages)

There are even some great Candyland variants including 2-Player Ninja and Saving Candyland, although I'm partial to the Nuclear War variant.

And if all you've got is a deck of traditional playing cards, (for which only the most boring, arbitrary, and pointless games in the world have been created, in my opinion) there's hope for you too at! They have a page dedicated to combat games, many of which actually pay attention to the images on the cards and construct a logical fantasy theme!

Currently, the most interesting game to me on the site is Card RPG, which uses normal playing cards to simulate the monster-killing, treasure-looting fun of an RPG!

So even if none of these examples float your boat, you can still put off blowing your cash for a little while longer. Just scan your way through these pages for a bit and enjoy the crazy ideas others have come up with. You may just find a gem to enjoy over the weekend!

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