Put Down the iPad and Pick Up the Knife - Intrigue Review

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Put Down the iPad and Pick Up the Knife - Intrigue Review

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Game Name
There Will Be Games

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What was clearly meant to be a joke now has a pretty audible ring of truth to it.  Someone would read a review and respond with something along the lines of, "This game sounds really fun, can't wait to play it on the IOS in a year."  And how can we blame that person?  We've been spoiled by some really great implementations of some of our favorite games as of late. In a few cases, I've found that I might actually like a few games that I had initially written off (such is the case with Ascension).  The fact of the matter is that it's easier.  No set up, no take down, no referencing the rules, and a hell of a lot less money spent.  Yet what is happening with these games that play so well on IOS is that we don't want to play them in person anymore.  It makes you think about just how few games there that really benefit from having the people you're playing with there at the table with you.

Kinda depressing when you get down to it, right?

Luckily we have games like Intrigue to come back to and remind us why we got into this weird hobby in the first place.  Really, folks, this is it.  This game boils down all the frivolous bullshit that even the best games wrap themselves up in and gets right down to the heart of the matter.  Pure player interaction in a potent, concentrated dose.  The goal is simple:  Get rich.  Everyone has a palace with four job openings.  Each of the four openings has a different payout.  Everyone is sending their family members out to get jobs, but you need to bribe in order to get them.  If they go for a job that someone else wants or already has and they don't end up getting it?  They're dead.  Gone forever.  Too bad, so sad.  (Okay, so they're really sent to the "Island of Misfit Scholars," but the fact remains that you'll never see them again)

The game is pure negotiation, so it lives and dies on socializing.  What might be even more important, however, is whether or not you and the people you play with can even take the game.  Being friendly isn't an option here.  Betrayal and someone not getting their way is baked into the design.  This is one of the most mean spirited games you'll ever play, make no mistake about it.  I've seen people walk away who, while enjoyed it, felt emotionally drained afterwards.  My brother in-law and his girlfriend (both of whom love Survive!) had a fight that went on for some time after the game ended.  I thought for sure that the end of their relationship would forever be on my shoulders.

A good number of board games have proven that they play well on a digital platform, some of them play better, and I'm sure we'll continue to see examples of both cases.  But Intrigue is to board games what the first Bioshock is to video games.  It's what Watchmen is to comics.  Not in the way that those examples set such high standards for their mediums, but that it uses what makes its medium unique to provide an experience that you couldn't get anywhere else.  For Bioshock, its gaming's history of stringing the player along through the narrative.  For Watchmen (and many of Moore's books), it's the marriage of image and printed words and the reader's ability to control the pace with which they absorb it.  And for Intrigue, it's people.  I know that's why I'm here.

Josh LookFollow Josh Look


One night during the summer of 1997, Josh Look's cool uncle who owned a comic shop taught him how to play Magic the Gathering. The game set off his imagination in a way that he could not sleep that night, and he's been fascinated by games ever since. He spent many afternoons during his high school years skipping homework to play Dungeons & Dragons and paint Warhammer minatures, going on to discover hobby board games in his early 20s. He's been a writer for Fortress Ameritrash and is the creator and co-host of the geek culture podcast, The Wolfman's Lounge. He enjoys games that encourage a heavy amount of table talk and those that explore their themes beyond just their settings.

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