The 5×5 Challenge: Putting our Board Game Collection to Use

A small excerpt of our current collection.

Recently in the board-game blog and podcast-o-sphere, there’s been a lot of the talk about the 10×10 Challenge. The challenge involves creating a list of 10 games, and then playing them 10 times each. Board-game hobbyists have kind of a collective anxiety over not playing their games enough: The board-game hobby, not unlike video-games, is very much driven by hype and Cult-of-the-New, so many hobbyists aspire to enjoy their older games as opposed to going and buying new shiny ones. Well, my girlfriend and I have decided to undertake a slightly smaller scale version of that challenge: The 5×5. We’ve selected 5 games, and will vow to play them each 5 times. Continue beyond the fold to see the 5 we’ve picked, and some thoughts on each of them.

1. Marvel Dice Masters

Marvel Dice Masters is a new Collectible Dice Game published by WizKids. It’s been creating quite a bit of buzz lately, and I was lucky enough to snag a few boxes of the starter set from my Friendly Local Game Store before it was endemically sold out. It’s modeled after Quarriors, with the two games even sharing a designer, and involves creating a squad of super-heroes and buying dice to duke it out with one another. We’ve played it a handful of times already, but really want to use this challenge to delve into the team-building aspects of the game.

2. Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Desert is the most recent game by Matt Leacock, the clever mind behind Pandemic and Forbidden Island. Desert charts some interesting new territory with some pretty unique mechanics: The ‘enemy’ phase in this cooperative board game is a shifting sandstorm that alters the map and leaves sand piles behind, that slow your progress of discovery and might even completely prevent you from moving out! It’s got just about the greatest sense of discovery of any game I’ve played, as you slowly uncover the sand dunes to find hidden items, and great citadels that point you to parts to assemble a massive airship to fly to freedom. It’s a simple to play, mechanically deep game that I’d like to play on the harder difficulties and really master.

3. Summoner Wars

I’ve played Summoner Wars less than 5 times, but it’s already one of my favorite games. It’s a quick-playing tactical game in which 2 mages try to slay each other by summoning monsters and maneuvering around a board. I’m actually planning on writing a more in depth Check out Time on this one shortly.

4. Mice & Mystics

Mice & Mystics is a beautiful and charming dungeon crawl featuring Red Wall inspired mice that fight rat-soldiers and cockroaches in the quiet nooks and crannies of an ancient castle. The real draw here is a wonderful story book that has a lavish fairy tale that you read, with each ‘chapter’ giving you new missions and objectives alongside an endearing story.

5. Smash Up

Smash Up is a straightforward card game that features what AEG calls ‘shufflebuilding.’ At the beginning of the game, you grab two different decks and shuffle them together to create smash-ups of pop culture archetypes: Robot Ninjas, Zombie Dinosaurs and Wizard Aliens fight each other to control bases across the field.

Honorable Mention: Merchant of Venus

Okay, okay, so I said there would only be 5, but I’m including this one too, because it’s got too long of a playtime to guarantee us getting 5 plays done in the near future, but we still both really want to play it some more. Merchant of Venus is a huge and sprawling reprint of the 1980’s classic of the same name. We have the Fantasy Flight Games version which features both the original ruleset and a new updated version of the game. I’ve seen a lot of people who love both versions, for various reasons, so I’d love to get a chance to compare and contrast the two.

Wrap Up: So, that’s what we’ll be playing for board games. I’m really excited, and can’t wait to dive into it more. I’ll be writing up check-ins from time to time to let you know how we’re doing, and how our feelings about the games might change (for better or worse) and we get to put more playtime into them. If you’ve got any opinions on these games, or any others you’ve been wanting to get off the shelf and onto the table, please fire off some comments and let us know!


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