Games of Auld Lang Syne: 7 classic games that never grow old
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and games of auld lang syne.
It’s so easy to focus solely on the latest releases when choosing games to review, that I thought I’d change things up a bit and reflect on some of my favorite games of auld lang syne. I have so many old favorites that I still play, I decided to narrow the field by eliminating games that aren’t currently in print. I wouldn’t want to get you all excited about a game only to tell you that it’s not available right now. That would just be mean.
All of these games of days-gone-by were first published at least 10 years ago and all of them are currently in print. I’ll start with the oldest, provide a quick overview, then follow up with more detail on a few of them in my next few posts. Some, I’ve already covered in great detail, in which case I’ll just link to that post. 🙂 On to the games…
I was quite averse to even trying this game. Somehow I had gotten the impression that Acquire was long, arduous and cutthroat. Not liking games with lots of direct conflict, I avoided it like the plague. Turns out I was wrong on all counts. It’s neither long, arduous, nor cutthroat and there really isn’t any direct conflict, just a vying for majority stock in the seven hotels (original versions) or companies (later versions). Actually, vying for majority stock isn’t even the goal of the game, the goal is just to make the most money and become the wealthiest player.
Game play is quite simple and straightforward: 1) play a tile to the board, if that causes the creation of a new company or a merger, resolve that; 2) buy up to 3 shares of stock – if you can afford it!; 3) draw a new tile. The room for strategy, however, is expansive. While there is randomness in which tiles you draw, everything else – including which stocks sky rocket – is dependent on the players’ actions.
So what was my reaction after I finally played it for the first time? I loved it and immediately asked to play it again!
A new version of Acquire just released at the end of 2016. I’m planning to acquire a copy shortly and will post my thoughts on it after playing it a few times. The publisher made quite a few changes, so I’m intrigued to see how those work before commenting.
Can’t Stop (1980)
I first met Can’t Stop on Board Game Arena when my husband introduced me to the game. It was immediately addicting even though I lost big time the first several times I played. My husband remarked that he had owned and loved it as a kid, so I went looking for a copy, discovered it was back in print (end of 2014) and immediately acquired a copy for Tim for Christmas. Man was he surprised. It’s hard to surprise my husband with gifts.
At any rate, we stocked it for awhile, until it went out of print again. I’m quite happy to say it’s available again!
So what’s the game like? Can’t Stop is a push-your-luck dice game. Your goal is to be the first player to claim three columns, by reaching their tops first with your cones – they look like the safety cones used on streets. Once a column is claimed, it is considered Closed and you can no longer play in that column. The columns are numbered 2 to 12 which corresponds with the possible results you can get with a pair of dice. You advance your cones up a column with dice rolls. You each get your own set of colored cones to keep track of your progress in each column – placed or moved at the end of your turn if you’re successful.
On your turn, take the three tracking cones (usually white), then roll the 4 dice. You have to use the dice you rolled in pairs. So, a roll of 1, 3, 4, 5, would provide the following potential combinations:
- 4: 1 + 3
- 5: 1 + 4
- 6: 1 + 5
- 7: 3 + 4
- 8: 3 + 5
- 9: 4 + 5
Arrange the dice into the two pairs you want to use. Sometimes you can only use one pair. You can progress in up to three columns (signified by the three tracking cones) on one turn, but your turn isn’t over until you either decide to Stop or Crap Out. For example, if in previous rolls that turn, you had already committed your tracking cones to columns 3, 7 and 10, you would only be able to use the 7 you rolled (3 + 4). Should you ever roll a dice combination that won’t let you advance in one of the three columns you’re working in, you lose all progress made that turn. Remove the white cones from the board and play passes to the next player.
The push-your-luck element of Can’t Stop makes play quick, lively and very addicting. It’s just as fun with 2 players as with 3 or 4. You can even buy extra cones from the publisher or the Board Game Geek Store and add another player or two.
Scotland Yard (1983)
Scotland Yard has you and your fellow detectives running all over London chasing down the elusive Mr. X (played by one player). Mr. X’s job is to move from point-to-point around the map of London via taxi, bus or subway, ducking, hiding, back-tracking even to confuse the detectives (the rest of the players) pursuing him. While the detectives almost are almost always informed of Mr. X’s mode of transportation, his exact location is only sighted a few times during the game. The pursuing detectives also move by taxi, bus or subway, attempting to apprehend Mr. X by moving onto his current location. If the detectives don’t apprehend Mr. X within a set number of turns, Mr. X escapes to continue his nefarious crime spree.
Scotland Yard has seen many iterations, reboots and re-themes in its long print history. Among the most beautiful and thematic re-themes are Fury of Dracula (currently available, but out-of-print) and Letters from Whitechapel (between printings right now). In 1991, Parker Brothers added it to its Clue line as Clue: The Great Museum Caper with a neat 3-D board. New York Chase and seven other re-implementations are listed in the Board Game Geek database. Scotland Yard is itself in print and available as I write this.
Robo Rally (1994)
I love Robo Rally. It is the most chaotic, crazy, fun, programmed movement racing game you’ll ever play. Each player takes a cute little robot figure and places it on the starting line. Then it’s a race around the factory floor to make it to all of the flags first. Of course, there are all sorts of things on the factory floor to impede your progress like fast and slow conveyor belts, gears that will turn you around if you end your turn there, laser beams to watch out for – and don’t forget your fellow robots. They shoot their own laser beams at the end of each turn – you don’t want to be in front of that! Your fellow robots may also get in your way or push you around and set you off course.
It’s crazy fun!!!
First published in 1994 by Avalon Hill with a few hard-to-find expansions, just the base game of Robo Rally was later reprinted by Wizards of the Coast. Recently it got a reboot, this time with pre-painted robots and a few other changes. I can’t wait to try it and plan to write it up here afterwards.
Carcassonne is an old favorite of mine. It’s a tile-laying game of short-term area control – sort of. I’ve become a Carcassonne Completist – determined to own every expansion and mini-expansion, though not every spin-off. It seems to be a losing battle. Recently I had all but 2 of the 40 expansions and mini expansions (some are just 1 tile). Then just as the last 2 arrived from Germany, I discovered they’d printed a couple new promo tiles. Grrrr!
Carcassonne play is simple: draw a landscape tile and place it, then optionally place a meeple. When you place a meeple:
- on a Road, he becomes a Robber and scores you 1 point per tile of the road when the road is finished.
- in a City, he becomes a Knight scoring you 2 points per tile when the city is completed.
- on a Cloister, he becomes a monk, scoring 9 points for you when the cloister is complete: surrounded by 8 tiles, 4 sides and 4 diagonals.
- lying flat on a field, he becomes a farmer. Farmers score only at the end of the game, yielding 3 points per completed city served (touched) by the farm.
After scoring a completed feature, you get your meeple back and can use it again in a later turn.
Each large expansion adds new tiles, new meeples and new rules. Some of the mini-expansions also add new game pieces and rules as well. Many of the promo mini-expansion just add a few new tiles, usually some new twist to the rules.
I’ve never played a game with all of the expansions, but I have played many games with multiple expansions. I even created several Themed Carcassonne Combos that if you played all of them you would’ve played almost all of the expansions – well, at the time I wrote it anyway.
Carcassonne got an updated look in 2015 with new artwork. I covered it in a post here. I’ve also written about the six numbered mini-expansions, my favorite –The Phantom, the large Hills & Sheep expansion and the Carcassonne: South Seas spin-off.
Now if I could just get those last few tiles before they make more!!!
TransAmerica is one of the first modern board games I learned when we really got into board games. The concept is simple: connect the five city cards in your hand by rail, one city from each of the five colored regions on the board, before any of the other players connect theirs.
TransAmerica is played over a series of rounds. Players start with their locomotive at the Engine House at one end of the score track. As they score points each round, they move closer and closer to the Barrier at the other end of the score track. You don‘t want want to hit the Barrier, so scoring points is a bad thing.
At the beginning of each round, players choose an intersection on the map of the United States – great for teaching kids geography – as their starting place, marking it with their depot (colored wooden disc). On your turn, you can place one or two rails: if you cross a river or mountain, you can only place one rail, otherwise you can place two. When laying your rail, you must always be able to trace a connection back to your depot. Connecting your railway to a fellow player’s increases your possible routes/rail placements. Eventually, everyone will be connected before the round is over.
When a player connects all five of his cities, he displays his cards to confirm it. Then the other players show their cards and count the least number of rails required to connect the rest of their cities, moving their locomotive towards the Barrier on the score track accordingly. The player who successfully connected all five of his cities doesn’t have to move his locomotive at all.
Collect all of the cards, shuffle each color separately, deal a new set to each player, choose your starting locations and take turns playing rails again until a player connects her cities. Record the scores moving locomotives along the track. Rinse and repeat until a train crosses the Barrier. The player closest to the Engine House wins!
TransAmerica is a fun and quick family game. I’ve taught it to kids as young as four – they don’t have to be able to read, just be able to match the city names on their cards with those on the board. We used to teach and play it all the time, then it went out of print. Now that it’s available again – in a bigger box for some reason, though exactly the same game – we can introduce it to more families!
Ticket to Ride (2004)
Ticket to Ride is one of my favorite games of all time – in all its many forms! I never tire of playing it, so it of course deserves a spot on this Games of Auld Lang Syne list. I really need to write about my favorite games more often. Too many games, too little time. But I digress.
Ticket to Ride is a set collection, route-building game. The designer, Alan Moon, somehow came up with the perfect formula balancing interesting game play with simple, streamlined rules.
Each player starts the game with a set of four Tickets each showing two cities that need to be connected (should he decide to keep the Ticket). You have to keep at least two of them, but you can keep more. It’s a good idea to try to keep Tickets whose routes can overlap or travel in the same general direction. Any Tickets completed by the end of the game score you the points noted in the corner of the Tickets; any not completed score that number of negative points. Players also each receive four colored Train cards. The colored Train cards correspond with the colored spaces on the board of the routes you can claim.
On your turn, you can do one of the following actions:
- Take 1 or 2 Train cards from the face-up selection of 5 cards, from the top of the deck or a combination of both. If you take a face-up Locomotive (wild card that can be played as any color), that’s the only card you can take that turn.
- Claim a Route by laying down cards of the color and quantity corresponding to the entire route between two adjacent cities that you wish to claim and placing your colored trains to signify it. Grey routes can be claimed with a set of any one color of Train cards. Locomotives are wild and work as any color.
- Take Tickets. You’ll usually only do this when you’ve completed or almost completed your initial Tickets. Remember any uncompleted Tickets at the end of the game score negative points. Don’t announce it when you’ve completed a Ticket. Completed Tickets are only scored at the end of the game. To Take Tickets, draw four Tickets from the top of the Ticket deck. You must keep at least one, but you can keep more than one if you desire.
When one player has two or fewer trains left, after claiming a route, all players, including that player get one more turn. Then the game is over. Players then each reveal their Tickets, one at a time, tracing the path between the cities depicted on their Ticket – or not if they weren’t successful – and scoring points accordingly. Finally, the player with the Longest Continuous Route of trains, score a 10 point bonus. The player with the highest scores wins.
And that’s the game in a nutshell. I don’t exactly know why I never get tired of playing Ticket to Ride. I do like to mix it up and play the different maps, though.
There are several stand-alone Ticket to Ride games: the original USA, Europe, Nordic Countries, Marklin, and the latest – Rails & Sails. Ticket to Ride: 10th Anniversary Edition is a must-see – a must-have in my book! I resisted for a few weeks then broke down and bought a copy for myself. It sports a larger, more beautifully illustrated board, 5 unique train model sets in matching colored tins, the USA 1910 Expansion, and bright shiny new graphics throughout. It’s lovely. You can use the new trains on the small maps: only the long 5- and 6-train routes hang over a bit.
There are also lots of Map expansions for Ticket to Ride: Legendary Asia & Team Asia (my favorite), India & Switzerland, Heart of Africa, Nederlands, and United Kingdom & Pennsylvania. All of the Map expansions can be played with either the original USA Ticket to Ride or Ticket to Ride: Europe. You use the train pieces, scoring markers and Train cards from either base game. Each Map expansion includes the necessary map board, Tickets and any other special components needed to play it.
Every expansion and stand-alone game provides its own additional set of rules, adding just a little more complexity, while building on the same simple game play. I would rate the two maps in Rails & Sails and United Kingdom & Pennsylvania as the most complex of them all. Rails & Sails just debuted near the end of 2016, so I’m still getting to know that one. One side of the board is a world map, the other features The Great Lakes. To get across the water, ships are added to the mix.
All in all, despite its age, Ticket to Ride remains a current favorite.
I hope I’ve demonstrated with this list of Games of Old Lang Syne, that games of days gone by can be just as exciting and fun to play as the latest entry to the Cult of the New list. More so: you know them, you like them – love them even. Playing them brings back fond memories of past plays and times spent with friends and loved ones. Plus, you don’t have to spend time learning new rules: just sit down and play.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and games of auld lang syne.
And days of auld lang syne, my dear
and games of auld lang syne.
We’ll raise a cup of kindness, dear
to games of auld lang syne.
Copyright © 2017 by Tina G. McDuffie. All rights reserved.
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