[First published on Tabletoptribe.com]
It?s October. Any week now, fan boys and girls will be pitching tents outside their local Apple store, ready to unburden themselves of $1000+ to get sweaty mitts on another overpriced smart phone/fashion accessory.
Apple aren?t the only one ? the Hydrogen One from Red will set you back between $1200-$1600.
Good luck to ?em I say (they?ll need some luck in the stampede at opening time), but if you fancy making do with your free Andriod phone and spending over a grand on something equally excessive instead? how about a board game?
Yes, a $1000+ board game. Yes, such things exist, and I?m not talking about absurdities for the Trumps of this world, like diamond-encrusted Chess sets or editions of Monopoly with real cash (although that?s the pauper?s edition to some).
Stupidly expensive, but not what we?re talking about here?
No, these are relatively (for tabletop games) mass-market items available through retail outlets or Kickstarter campaigns. They also differ in having a modest buy-in for some fun: they expand on a core set and add content (and cost) through scores of expansions.
Can you make do with just the base game? I guess we?ll find out, but even so, why torture yourself, eh?
Take my money already and give me more expansions!!!
If you want every piece of content, or just some of it (a nonesense, lightweight, casual attitude. Get everything), then you?re going to have to start eyeing up expendable internal organs or auctioning off the kids.
You?ll be needing their bedrooms to house these games anyway.
(N.B. Costing is calculated using manufacturers? published MSRP/RRP. You can always get things cheaper if you shop around.)
9. Star Wars: Imperial Assault
Total Cost: ~$975Minimum Buy-in: $99.95
Publisher: Fantasy Flight GamesNo. of players: 2?5Play time: 60?120+ minsAge: 12+
Get your dressing gown on and be the Jedi you always dreamed of.
Okay, so it?s actually a fraction under $1000 but Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) are milking their Star Wars licence for all it?s worth, so expect the overall catalogue and cost to continue rising.
This is dungeon-crawling, Star Wars styley, and it?s bloody great. You can already adventure in many of your favourite film locations (Hoth, Tatooine, Bespin, Jabba?s Palace etc.) and new content is added all the time.
There are awesome minis, sumptious artwork, great quality components. Okay so the game box comes with the usual useless FFG cardboard trench insert, but if you?re the artistic type you?ll be wanting to paint your miniatures anyway so go and buy yourself a custom insert.
After all, what?s another $40?
The core box will keep you going for a while, but it?s fairly generic adventuring. If you want more canonical fun then you?ll be after an expansion fairly quickly.
8. Descent: Journeys In The Dark (2nd edition)
Total Cost: ~$1045Minimum Buy-in: $79.95
Publisher: Fantasy Flight GamesNo. of players: 2?5Play time: 60?120+ minsAge: 12+
This is dungeon-crawling? dungeon styley. Set in FFG?s Runebound universe, you and friends can murder innocent monsters who are just minding their own dungeon business. Then steal all their stuff. Happy days.
Although only just creeping over $1000, there?s a constant stream of new stuff, but this is FFG?s own IP, so you can hardly blame them for a big product line. There are miniatures galore here, and everything is smothered in that rich FFG syrup of component quality, all housed snugly in another crap insert.
Initial buy-in is a little cheaper than most of the wallet-smashers in this list, but you?ll be wanting lots of new stuff to keep things fresh for the players.
7. Zombicide: Black Plague
Total Cost: ~$1150Minimum Buy-in: $99.99
Publisher: Cool Mini or Not/Guillotine GamesNo. of players: 1?6Play time: 60?180+ minsAge: 13+
Anyone with half a brain (provided it hasn?t been chewed on by a zombie) will realise that a zombie apocalypse should be faced in medieval armour and brandishing the biggest stabby-smashy-spikey thing you can get your gaunlets on.
As such many would say Zombicide: Black Plague is the only zombie-killing game worth playing, in an ocean of zombie-killing games. And they?d be right.
Now it?s worth pointing out that the total cost of this game system is based on the inclusion of the forthcoming Zombicide: Green Horde expansion/stand-alone game, that was recently funded on Kickstarter to the tune of $5M.
You?re actually pretty sorted with just the core set, which gives you enough scenarios and gameplay to satisfy even the most ravenous of zombie-killers. The expansions are really there to give you variety in monsters and survivors.
Which should be all the excuse you need to go out and buy every last one of them.
6. Heroes of Normandie
Total Cost: ~$1200Minimum Buy-in: $69.99
Publisher: Devil Pig GamesNo. of players: 2+Play time: 30?60+ minsAge: 12+
Of all the games in this list, this was the biggest surprise. Surely cardboard alone can?t be that expensive? It is very pretty cardboard I guess?
Heroes of Normandie (HoN) has an art style that you?ll either love or hate, although if it?s the latter you may have to accept you?ve possibly forgotten how to judge properly. It takes a caricatured approach to WW2 without crossing the line into the comical.
This sits well with a game that?s more Hollywood war movie than Olivier-narrated documentary. This is Kelly?s Heroes, Saving Private Ryan, The Dirty Dozen and Inglorious Basterdsall rolled into one. Which is a bloody marvellous mix.
Luckily for fans (and developer Devil Pig Games) WW2 was the go-to cinematic war before Vietnam turned up, so has numerous infamous raids and battles to draw on. And produce expansions for.
Naturally you?ll want them all, along with the extensive custom storage solution Devil Pig Games offers to house them in.
Total Cost: ~$1215Minimum Buy-in: $89.99
Publisher: CMON/Guillotine GamesNo. of players: 1?6Play time: 45?180 minsAge: 13+
As we?ve already confirmed, the way to face zombies is in full plate armour and brandishing a battle-axe. But if you insist on grabbing your boom-stick and poncing about like the survivors from The Walking Dead (okay, perhaps not that ineffectually), this is your option.
Pretty much everything already said for Black Plague applies to this miniatures-heavy zombie-basher. Don?t expect deep and novel gameplay ? it?s beer & preztels entertainment all the way.
Unlike Black Plague there are a more of the big box expansions for you to burn money on, which probably accounts for the higher price point over its medieval stable-mate.
There?s plenty more expansions where this came from?
That said the core box is a tiny bit cheaper, and still provides plenty of fun if you don?t want to blow twelve hundred bucks on (arguably) a simplistic game garnished in superbly sculpted plastic to justify the price tag.
Of course if you?re not content with coloured plastric, you can always go the whole hog, invest $100s more in painting supplies and bling the minis up.
4. Cthulhu Wars
Total Cost: ~$1600Minimum Buy-in: $200
Publisher: Petersen Games/Green-Eyed GamesNo. of players: 2?8 (Up to 4in the core set)Play time: 60?90+ minsAge: 14+
Quite possibly the greatest (and most expensive) Lovecraftian Cthulhu-themed game ever made, from the creator of the famous Call of Cthulhu RPG, Sandy Petersen.
True, you?re going to have to lay down a fat wad of cash just to buy into it, but even if you stopped there you?ve got something that will keep your family/gaming group happy for years to come.
However, there?s few games that offer as many expansions as Cthulhu Wars, whether it?s extra player factions, new independent monsters or brand new maps to fight over, so chances are you?ll be tempted to spend extra. And then tempted some more.
Nowhere near the entire catalogue ? this is only about $700 worth?
The game is only available through Petersen Games from their online store or regular Kickstarter campaigns, so supply is probably going to remain fairly limited, which at least should maintain the value of your excessive investment in plastic.
3. Shadows of Brimstone
Total Cost: ~$2050Minimum Buy-in: $99.95
Publisher: Flying Frog ProductionsNo. of players: 1?4Play time: 120+ minsAge: 12+
The first game on our list to break the $2000 mark, Shadows of Brimstone has a truly overwhelming number of expansions and supplements to add to your core set, And talking of core sets you even have two full-sized, full-priced offerings to choose from. It?s presumably advisable to get both to save you agonising over which is better. FOMO FTW!!!
We?re back to dungeon-crawling again, this time in a Wild West full of folklore and horror varmint deservedly waiting for you to fill them full of lead. The two core sets see your posse exploring mines and swamps, but the wealth of expansions has crafted a world so big you could probably lose yourself in it for years.
Chucking all those dice might not be to everyone?s taste, but if that?s not off-putting and you revel in a character progression campaign, you?ll understand why fans of this game often stop playing anything else for quite some time/forever and start selling off the rest of the contents of their house to keep things fresh.
Image: Thirsty Meeples
It?s also rare in the dungeon-crawling category in that you can play it solo without having to emerge from your Luddite shell and grapple with one of those new-fangled digital apps. To be honest solo play may be compulsory anyway as you start to shun sunlight, obsess over scavenging and lose all your friends. But hey, it?s a small price to pay (metaphorically. Literally it?s bloody huge.)
2. Kingdom Death: Monster
Total Cost: ~$2500Minimum Buy-in: $250/$400 (Kickstarter pledge/Alleged retail price)
Publisher: Kingdom DeathNo. of players: 1?6Play time: 60?180+ minsAge: 17+
Most relatively experienced gamers who are reading this list, and haven?t been living in a cave, will probably have guessed this game would be at the top spot. Well it almost made it.
That said, the staggering $12.4M the 1.5 version of the game attracted in pledges on Kickstarter back in January meant new of the game even made it to mainstream press, so even non-gamers might be dimly aware of this co-op survival horror game.
It?s not without controversy either, which befits a game with so much, frankly, tit-and-arse hanging of it from every angle.
Whilst the game understandably features almost-naked and fairly gritty survivor models, along with some truly ghastly monstrous horrors to terrorise them, many of the Kickstarter campaign stretch goals and add-ons featured ?pin-up? miniatures, in a bizarre Manga style that many felt didn?t really gel with the art style of the rest of the game.
But hey, it raised over $12M, so obviously a lot of folk really liked it, although it would appear that most backers were in it for the gritty gameplay and horror minis rather than a few tacked on bits of Hentai soft porn.
Despite forking out so much for the game, and unlike many games on this list, buyers are expected to actually assemble the miniatures themselves!
Best get the glue out and put aside a week of evenings?
What?s also amazing about the backers who pledged millions on Kickstarter, is they?re perfectly satisfied to wait until 2020 to get their hands on the final product.*
And let?s face it, it?s Kickstarter, so that might even get pushed back further. Respect.
*In fairness to the Kingdom Death team, they are trying to get the core set out this month to backers, but everything else will be drip-fed over the next two to three years. Just in time for version 2.0!
1. Advanced Squad Leader (ASL)
Total Cost: ~$3200Minimum Buy-in: $25
Publisher: Avalon Hill/MMPNo. of players: 2Play time: 120?480+ minsAge: 12+
Breaking the $3000 mark is this venerable old 1985 hex-based wargame. We?re allowing this on the list where we?ve disallowed other wallet-bashing war games like Warhammer 40K and Star Wars: X-Wing/Armada, as it?s still played with essentially board game components: shuffling around little counters on a big piece of paper or cardboard.
?Miniatures?? Toy soldiers are for little children, old chap.?
If Heroes of Normandie is just all too cartoon-like and lacking the gritty realism of real combat tactics and overarching strategy, then feel free to immerse yourself in the granddaddy of WW2 war games. Word of warning though: ASL has a notoriously? erm? thorough rule book.
For example, get your laughing gear round this:
2.2401 GUN DUELS: Vs a non-concealed, non-Aerial DEFENDER?s declared Defensive First Fire attack on it, a vehicle may attempt to Bounding First Fire (D3.3) its MA (/other-FP, including Passenger FP/SW) at that DEFENDER first, provided the vehicle need not change CA, is not conducting an OVR (D7.1), its total Gun Duel DRM (i.e., its total Firer-Based [5.] and Acquisition [6.5] TH DRM for its potential shot) is < that of the DEFENDER, and the DEFENDER?s attack is not Reaction Fire (D7.2). Neither the +1 DRM for a Gyrostabilizer nor the doubling of the lower dr for other ordnance in TH Case C4 (5.35) is included in the Gun Duel DRM calculation. The order of fire for non-ordnance/SW is determined as if it were ordnance [EXC: TH Case A can apply to non-ordnance/SW only if mounted-on/aboard a vehicle that is changing CA; all such non-turret-mounted fire is considered NT for purposes of TH Case C, and A.5 applies to any type of FG]. If the ATTACKER?s and DEFENDER?s total Gun Duel DRM are equal, the lower Final TH (or non-ordnance IFT) DR fires first and voids the opponent?s return shot by eliminating, breaking, stunning or shocking it. If those two Final DR are equal, both shots are resolved simultaneously. Any CA change the DEFENDER requires in order to shoot (5.11) is made before the ATTACKER?s shot if the DEFENDER?s total Gun Duel DRM is ? the ATTACKER?s; otherwise its CA changes (if still able to) after the ATTACKER?s shot. After the initial Gun Duel has been fully resolved, and if otherwise able and allowed to, that DEFENDER may announce another attack vs that ATTACKER who in turn may declare another Gun Duel; this time the printed ROF of one firing weapon on each side may be included as a negative DRM in that side?s Gun Duel DRM calculation. Only the ATTACKER may declare a Gun Duel [EXC: not if the DEFENDER has done so as per 5.33].
If that doesn?t put you off, you?re in for a rare treat with ASL (and should possibly consider counselling at some point). However, a starter set will only cost you a paltry $25, so you can fairly safely experiment to see if it?s for you, and then take your pick from the $3K worth of supplements. Enjoy!
My, that?s quite some troop build-up. You can practically taste the tension and excitement?
I?m actually ?reliably? informed by the ASL aficionados of my acquaintance that it?s not as frightfully complex as the above rule book example might suggest, and ?once you get the hang of the basics it?s all pretty straightforward.? Yeah. Right. I think I?ll wimp out and just stick with Heroes of Normandie, thanks very much.
ASL ? it?s a young man?s game. (Image: Boardgamegeek)
For the more hardcore amongst you, be prepared for huge sprawling campaigns and games that can last all day, but in fairness I?ve played my fair share of miniatures war games that can take a day or even whole weekend to resolve, so I won?t hold that against it.