I know that’s kind of a boring thing to talk about, but I’ll be damned if I don’t love good flavour text. That being said this was a really hard list for me to make. There’s so many games out there with great text. This list is in no way a ranking of the games themselves and whether they are good games or not, just a list of how great the flavour text is and how it can add to the game experience you have. With that said; here goes!
3. Arkham Horror from Fantasy Flight Games
Like it or lump it, Cthulhu is here to stay in the board gaming world. I’m not an H.P. Lovecraft nut, but I do enjoy the mythos and think it makes for a unique horror theme. I chose Arkham Horror because the manifold cards in that beast of a game have very rich, very dense text on them. If you take the cards out of the game it’s a really long, and really hard co-op (not a bad thing). The flavour text of the cards, however, really evokes the feeling of crushing, impending doom bringing the game to life. Even mundane encounters in a diner seem creepy, out of the ordinary or just plain horrific. That’s the beauty of Arkham Horror; there’s so many encounter cards which are divided by region on the map, and then each card is subdivided into your specific location. So you’ll read one of three encounters on a card based on your location, so each chunk of flavour text is specific, poignant and thematically rich. Also it means that the replay value goes through the roof, as an added bonus.
I suppose you could substitute this game with any of Fantasy Flight Game’s Cthulhu games (Elder Sign, Eldritch Horror, etc.) because they all carry the same great text, it’s just that Arkham Horror has the story at an 11 based on just how much text there is on the encounter cards! I realize this game isn’t for everyone but if you want a dark, creepy story line with encounters of the unknown this is worth the time investment.
2. Nemo’s War (2nd Edition) from Victory Point Games
Primarily a solitaire game, Nemo’s War does what every good solo game should do, in my opinion: that is weave an unbelievable narrative. Each game you will construct a deck with a host of different narrative conclusions, and each time you play the deck will be made with different story cards, etc. As you can imagine, each of these story cards presents a challenge of some form to overcome but the accompanying text is part of what makes Nemo’s War such a great adventure game.
For me, solo games need a good story, otherwise I’m just pushing cubes in a dry intellectual exercise. The source material in this game is the quintessential high adventure novel from Jules Verne; 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The story cards carry the same prose style, suspense and great tone you’d expect from reading the book. As such the game elevates to a level of adventure that is way beyond the mechanics of the game (which are still really crisp and clean). The story cards and text mesh really well with the ‘archetype’ you chose to play as. If you’re playing a more combat heavy focus, then the cards you use to build the deck will reflect that, tailoring your experience even better.
The second edition of Nemo’s War is a premium product and I cannot recommend it highly enough as a solo adventure game.
1. Dead of Winter from Plaid Hat Games
Dead of winter is a ‘Crossroads’ game. The Crossroads cards are where the flavour text finds it’s home. Dead of Winter isn’t an easy game by any stretch of the imagination. Like all good co-ops it provides a great challenge, and requires the perfect amount of cooperation, luck and planning. As a game, I have a blast playing it, trying to put out all of the metaphorical fires and staying ahead of your impending death. But what makes this game excellent are the cards. Each card has a great little story driven scenario that is read out and then offers a choice which will change the game in some way. The choices are either personal choices, or group based voting, which themselves provide great narrative and interaction, but the actual text is where the story is provided.
The level of detail in the small scenarios, and moral quandary they often put you in are visceral because of the language used in the cards. The best part of these cards is that they are not some arbitrary turn based story. The player whose turn it was previously draws a card from the deck at the beginning of the next turn, and the instructions at the top will say ‘read aloud when…’ and you will do exactly that. A player may be dodging their way through zombies and frostbite to forage supplies at the supermarket, when lo and behold, the Crossroads player starts to read the card! Each card is so rich with theme, tension and great visual clarity with what the situation provides. On top of that the card may never be read on a turn as the triggers for said card may not be met. That means you get a different and unpredictable story each time you play. I’ve played this game four or five times without ever having the same card come up, let alone the various expansions you can get to beef out the Crossroads deck.
Seriously, I love this system. It gives you a great story without sacrificing the pacing of a game, because the cards don’t always come up. Mechanically they also fuel the actual game, so for me, it’s the perfect synergy of narrative and game progression.
So what are your thoughts on the best games with flavour text? The Honourable mentions for me were Lord of the Rings LCG from Fantasy Flight Games and Ranger from Omega Games.
“The source material in this game is the quintessential high adventure novel from Jules Verne; 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The story cards carry the same prose style, suspense and great tone you’d expect from reading the book.”
I’m glad you liked the prose. Obviously, some things are straight quotations from the book, but often I had to channel the characters and supplement the prose of Jules Verne with seamless verisimilitude. Of course, now that I’m working on the Expansion Packs for Nemo’s War, there is a lot more narrative writing (and fun historical research!) to do and I’m enjoying every minute of it. I very much want to maintain the high quality prose in those future releases.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Game designer Phil Eklund is well known for rich and enlightening texts on cards as well as part of the rule book. Among the Pax games the latest even demonstrate a thesis about the role of the bankers. Greenland is both casually fun and educating. Really good and fun games to play, and when not playing a good read.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think I’ve only played High Frontier that Phil was involved in, it was a really great design.