There’s something joyful about perfectly sized, weighty little packages.
When I first saw Glenn pack all the ocean-hued tiles of Deep Sea Adventure back into the box, I was impressed. That’s a whole lot of game that fits inside a footprint smaller than an actual foot. It’s the sort of game you could pack into your top pocket, discreetly flashing a corner of it to passerbys to lure them to your game dungeon.
This type of package – 11 centimeters long, 6 centimeters wide – is exactly the same for all games produced by Japanese publisher Oink Games. Bright colours and stylish designs cover the cardboard, but never involve more than three or four key shapes and colours. Inside each box, there’s a bounty of oddly-shaped tokens and thick cards.
A lot of the art, architecture and design that comes out of Japan marries simplicity and complexity perfectly. It’s part of the cultural history. Iki is the word for the Japanese aesthetic ideal that is straightforward, measured, ephemeral, romantic, audacious and smart all at the same time.
“Chic” is UK the dictionary translation for all that – so it’s no wonder we can’t grasp the same style.
I’ve fallen in love with the design and production of Oink Games’ boxes of fun. But the gameplay is great, too.
Often simple, the games are aware how social tabletop gaming should feel. Abstract illustrations let you focus on your friends, your family and everyone else around the table. There’s no complicated fiction or lore to get lost in. If there is, it’s simple with a good dose of humour and self-awareness. Take Maskmen, for example, which has you building a roster of lucha-libre wrestlers to appeal to sponsors.
Here’s a few highlights to get you started.
A Fake Artist Goes To New York
I enjoy games that make me/my friends feel foolish. This is a co-operative drawing game, where players take turns to add one line to a drawing.
Everyone knows what they’re supposed to be composing, expect one person – the ‘fake artist’. She has to blag her way through brush strokes, trying to guess what the others are drawing without being found out.
Deep Sea Adventure
Under the sea, it’s never a good idea to ‘push your luck’. That’s why Deep Sea Adventure is thrilling. It’s about diving deeper and deeper underwater to fetch treasure with limited oxygen supplies.
The decisions you make when treasure-gathering affect all the other players around the table. It’s a great, tense game that doesn’t require abstract thinking like some others.
For… Masked Men….
Tiles in Masked Men fit together very satisfyingly on the table. That’s good too, for a game all about the changing ranking of wrestlers, slotting new competitions into their appropriate power level.
Each player is trying to make their wrestlers win at any cost. It’s all about deducing the power levels of wrestlers on the table, and being strategic about who and when to play next.
For the End of The Night
50 questions has always felt to non-confrontational for me. “Is it an Animal?” I do not care. “Is it a vegetable?” Please cease questioning me, Sarah.
Insider twists the concept by letting one of the question-askers know where the answer is. They have to subtly guide the questions asked without being found out. It’s not the most rigorous game, but it’s fun to test people’s poker face three drinks into the night.
(Note: you don’t need to spend $20 to play this. Oink games are as much about the shelf-jewelry than the mechanics)
Depending on your gaming group, these are great games to pack with you and bring out when you need some excitement. Oink Games plop out games at an impressive rate, which can be hard to keep up with. Their most recent release is a re-release of an old game ‘Rights’, with a totally new (more colourful) design, and set in a world of fictional, hilarious startups.