Christmas is coming (II): Free Board Games

Although video games have reigned supreme as Christmas presents for kids (and many adults) for some years now, traditional board games are making a come back.

Board games offer entertainment for all family members, and, in the same way there is a healthy amount of open source video games around, there is also a healthy number of high quality Open Source board games to choose from.

Sovereign

Sovereign is a board game of competing civilizations.

Sovereign is a board game of competing civilizations.

Take Sovereign, for example. In this game you have a series of competing civilizations that must fight over resources and territory. The main objective of the game is to collect seven of one type of victory card. Players must balance their play between expanding cities, building units and researching technologies.

Sovereign is distributed under a Creative Commons license BY-SA, meaning you can modify and redistribute the game, as long as you include attributions to the original creators. The community behind Sovereign is growing daily, and there are always new downloadable territories and maps on which to play.

Free Trader

Another cool game, in this case a solitaire, is Free Trader. In Free Trader you play the captain of merchant spaceship. You travel the galaxy buying and selling goods and defending yourself from space pirates, overzealous police patrols and so on. The objective of the game is to be able to pay off your spaceship before you get bagged by the bad guys.

This is another Creative Commons game and many variants and remixes exist.

Deadly Harmony

Deadly Harmony captures the spirit of fighting games of 90s.

Deadly Harmony captures the spirit of fighting games of 90s.

Deadly Harmony is a game that attempts to capture the flavour of old Kung-Fu movies of the 70’s and classic arcade fighting games of the early 90’s. You will take on the role of a fighter in a one-on-one bout of martial arts. This game is about reading your opponent, knowing what they are going to do next, and being a step ahead.

Again Deadly Harmony is distributed under a Creative Commons license.

DIY

Talking of “creative”, if you feel like designing your own games, there are plenty of open source game systems that provide designs for counters, cards, maps and boilerplate rules to help you on the way.

Piecepack gives you a gaming system and pieces to create your own game.

Piecepack gives you a gaming system and pieces to create your own game.

Check out Piecepack, for example. This is a set of pieces created for the budding game designer. Download the pack you need, design your rule set, and make a new game. If you need some examples to inspire you, take a look at the list of games that already use the system.

And then you have Dvorak, a card game where the players create the cards and the effects they have on the other players and game play as they go along. New cards can also be added to the deck during game play, as long as everyone agrees it is a good idea. Now, how cool is that as a concept for a game?

Vassal allows you to play popular board games online.

Vassal allows you to play popular board games online.

If you can’t get a big enough group of people to sit around a table physically, you can still enjoy a good afternoon of board gaming with Vassal. Vassal is a game engine for building and playing online adaptations of board games and card games. You can use it to play in real time over the Internet or by email. Vassal also allows you to download existing games (called modules in Vassal parlance) and get playing right away. Vassal runs on all platforms, and is free, open-source software.

And Much More

If you want to discover more open sourced board games and engines, take a look at the listing at Board Game Geek. The site lists literally hundreds of games, both open and proprietary. Whatever genre you are looking for, you are sure to find it there.

Cover Image Credit: Settlers of Catan 2, by dekok for freeimages.com

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