Top 10 Beasts of Burden

“Hey, friend…want to play a board game with me?”

Sure, I will go grab a bowl of snacks and some drinks for us — probably go use the restroom real quick, too.

“Great, I’ll get it ready”

……. ::shuffle, shuffle:: …….. ::sort, sort:: …… ::distribute, distribute:: ….. ::shuffle, shuffle, shuffle:: …….

Okay, I’ve got everything ready….wait, did you start without me?

“Oh, no….just still getting it set up, almost done — just need to sort four my decks and I’ll be ready….”

This week, I wanted to have a quick discussion about some games that — while very fun — come with an almost tangible feeling of burden as well. For most of these, the burden is in the setup – just so much time and/or effort to get the game ready to play. In other cases, the burden may be in game tear-down, or even in mid-play responsibilities.

#10 – 7 Wonders Duel

I put this one in the 10 spot, because compared to the other games on this list, the setup of 7 Wonders Duel isn’t too bad, but it is a bit cumbersome when you consider the small box size and 2-player, PvP nature of this game. Any game with cards will generally require shuffling, and Duel has a few stacks that need shuffled…but not just that, the sorting-shuffling combo as well. Plus, the card pyramid for initial setup and then again for both the 2nd and 3rd rounds. No worries, though, I love this game and will power through every time!

#9 – Outlive

Outlive is not alone in its type of setup, it’s just the best example I can give from my personal gaming experience. This game has a lot of little components that need organized and then the various locations on the board need properly setup — some with components, some with tiles (and those tiles need shuffled first) — and you essentially get to perform these actions before every new round.

Outlive’s fun fortunately outweighs its burden, so I’ll gladly break this game out any time its an option. [Luckily, my friend who owns this game has invested in some nice storage for the components that helps speed up our process]

#8 – Dice Forge

Dice Forge is a pretty game and has a fun dice-construction mechanism that is cool. You are culling and upgrading the sides of your two dice, instead of a card deck. That involves a bunch of little sides to be available, though — and organized. Now, if done properly, the main burden comes at the end of the game — which is one of the unfortunate parts of Dice Forge. A burdensome setup can be overcome, because you have the actual gameplay to look forward to. But in this case, the tear-down takes a lot of effort and at that point, the fun of the game is already over.

I will give this to Libellud / Asmodee, they definitely put effort into giving you a well-organized box and it helps — without that, this game would be a mess!

#7 – Tiny Epic Zombies

The game box may be tiny, but this Gamelyn Games’ cooperative adventure is anything but tiny when it comes to setup: card shuffle for board creation, lots of components to organize, shuffle and draw three missions…then follow setup rules for those missions, then create the card decks…make deck A and shuffle, make deck B and shuffle, then take some of that and create deck C….

Instead of annoyed, though, I guess I’m just impressed with how full of an experience these Tiny Epic games can put into a small package.

#6 – Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth

For a large, narrative campaign-style game, the setup is not too bad. The app tells you how and when to setup the board and keeps track of your stats and gear. That said, there are a lot of decks in this game and I feel like I am shuffling forever to get the game ready. Then, there is also the aspect of keeping some stacks properly organized and then searching through them to pull out a specific card you need or that you have unlocked. And the cards are small…which just makes them more difficult to handle.

In a best-case scenario, just find a space to get this game out and leave it out….

#5 – Sentinels of the Multiverse

The setup for Sentinels is actually not too bad. Determine which characters, villain(s), and location you will use and then shuffle those decks. The well-known burden of Sentinels, though, is during the gameplay. There are lots of tokens in this game and you will constantly be adding / taking away damage points from your characters, the villain and his minions, plus whatever comes out of the location deck. On top of that, you will get temporary buffs/debuffs throughout the game and need to properly denote those with more tokens — and pay attention so that you don’t over-or-under use any of them. Plus, the villain keeps flipping and changing his rules.

Sentinels is a very fun game, but one that can cause a player to despise it at times with the heavy maintenance that is required throughout a game session.

#4 – The 7th Continent

Setting up a game session of the 7th Continent is not too hard. Get out your character and starting cards….read the curse card and put out your starting location….and maybe even shuffle the action deck to get it ready. And off you go!

No, the burden of the 7th Continent is in tear-down. Pessimistic opponents of this game tease or condemn it for turning players into librarians at the end of play. While harsh, that’s not inaccurate, either. When finishing a game session (but still in the midst of a curse), tear-down includes a very efficient pack-up/save of your game state, which is actually very quick. The greater burden is then re-organizing the cards that were used during the game. Every card is numbered and unless it was ‘banished’ from the game, needs put back in correct order because it could come out again in the future as you potentially retrace your steps.

Unfortunately, this is an eye-rolling part of playing 7th Continent, but not too bad in the grand scheme. When it really hits hard, though, is when you have completed a curse (either from victory or death). Then, the whole game state — including banished cards needs re-organized, which will definitely take a chunk out of the time you set aside for “gaming.” That said, since curses will take several hours to complete, this full reset won’t be TOO often of an occurrence.

#3 – Rise to Nobility

This game is starting to really grow on me, especially since I have been playing it solo, trying to win against the scenario cards the game provides.

That said, for a solo gaming experience, there is a lot of time that goes into getting Rise to Nobility setup. Lots of components to organize, several decks that need shuffled/organized/shuffled. A couple sets of tiles that need shuffled and setup — and you will need a lot of table space, too. Even if you are playing by yourself, your gaming presence will be large with Rise to Nobility.

The between rounds cleanup phase is a bit burdensome as well. I have had to force myself to slow down and carefully walk through the rulebook’s steps to make sure I don’t miss something during cleanup…because it is very easy to do.

#2 – Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game

To start, let me say that when I made my 2018 top 100 list, Marvel Legendary was the King sitting at #1. So, just know that I love this game and it is one of my most-played titles of all time.

But man is there a lot of setup time to this game — I have become pretty efficient over the years, but there is still a lot required for every single game’s setup. First, select a scheme and a Mastermind. Then, add in the appropriate villain groups to make a Villain deck, adding in Bystanders as necessary — make sure to shuffle the Bystander deck first. And shuffle the Wounds deck. And the Sidekicks deck. Then, pick your roster of five Heroes and shuffle that deck of 70 cards — properly shuffling and randomizing 70 cards (thick cards that are too nice to shuffle in the conventional method) takes some creativity and….time. Oh, and when doing all of this, make sure you apply whatever adjustments either the Mastermind or the Scheme require for this game.

Whew — there’s a ton to do in getting this game setup, but my son and I totally find it to be worth it!

#1 – Gloomhaven

Surprise, surprise. Massive box, massive campaign, and yes…massive setup. When my family was playing this game regularly on Tuesday evenings, I would spend a portion of my Monday evening just getting the game setup and ready for a new mission — to try and reduce the game time on Tuesday. Getting ready entails finding all the board pieces a scenario requires, the enemies and their stands, plus their stat cards and attack decks and getting all of that organized, shuffled, prepared, etc… Then, make sure the city, road, quest decks are set aside. Pull out player boxes, get those opened and situated. Done? Good, now we can play the next night.

Then during the game, lots of upkeep and tracking of monster stats, buffs, debuffs, element charges, initiatives, etc.

As I mentioned earlier with Journeys in Middle-Earth, Gloomhaven works so much better if you are able to have a dedicated space to leave the game “in progress” over long periods of time.

Well, that’s my list of “Burdensome” games. What ones would you add? Which board game that you like gives you a pit in your stomach when you think about setting it up?

For more board game top 10 lists, reviews, and discussions please follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1 and YouTube

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