Board games are often set in imaginary worlds dreamt up by the designer. This gives them a lot of leeway with rules and backstory in the game. They can introduce fantastic elements, magic, or even create a whole history that gives purpose to the actions players take. However, sometimes that relationship is reversed, and games are invented to suit the fantasy worlds they exist in.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we decided to take a look at some imaginary games that were created to support a narrative in books, movies, or TV shows. Sometimes the rules are fully fleshed out and might work well as a real game. At other times, we’re left to imagine what the game actually is and how to play it.
One of the most memorable board game-related movie quotes of all time was uttered by lovable (if a bit stuck up) droid C3PO, as R2D2 and Chewbacca played a round of Dejarik on the Millennium Falcon. After being warned that Wookies have a tendency to rip out people’s arms if they lose, C3PO suggests, “Let the Wookie win.”
In the world of Star Wars, Dejarik is a popular holographic game played across the universe. The game tokens are represented by vicious creatures, and when activated, they jump into battle and destroy their opponent’s pieces. It seems a bit like Chess, but with much harsher imagery. According to the Star Wars Wiki, the planet Abafar hosts a junior Dejarik Club, where, understandably, Wookies are expressly forbidden to join.
In George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, the game Cyvasse is mentioned quite a bit. The rules actually make it sound really cool. It’s so popular, that in the city of Volantis, there are even Cyvasse parlors (perhaps similar to a board game café). At the start of the game, a screen is set up between both sides of the board, allowing players to set their pieces in secret. It’s not until they have their figures set in place that they get to see their opponent’s placement. This interesting twist cleverly mimics the fog of war. Martin has said that Cyvasse is a mixture of Chess, Blitzkrieg, and Stratego.
There are a number of fictional games mentioned in the excellent Robert Jordan high fantasy series, Wheel of Time. Sha’rah is a game where players work to capture and control the Fisher, a neural piece on the board. Snakes and Foxes sounds like it would be a really interesting game to actually play. Two players have their own set of pieces on a board similar to Checkers, but each player’s pieces have their own unique properties and abilities. It’s mentioned that just like a game of Tic-Tac-Toe, it’s impossible to have a winner if both players are familiar with the rules and strategy. Stones is also mentioned in the series, and sounds like a game very similar to Go.
Board games appear quite often in animated series like The Simpsons and Family Guy. Usually, these are nothing more than simple parodies of existing games, like Gallipolopoly, Battle Boat, Guess Whom, and Ravenous, Ravenous Rhinos. Titles like this don’t really suggest much of a game beyond whatever they’re parodying, but one of the funniest and strangest imaginary games comes from Ren and Stimpy. It’s quite fun to try and picture the rule set for Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence, and what combination of factors in the game might force you to do so. Could this be considered the first Legacy title?
Our world is full of amazing distractions, including board games. It stands to reason that the characters living in fictional worlds would also need devices to help them get away from the realities they’re faced with. It’s a lot of fun to see the types of games that writers and directors have their characters play. There’s a certain freedom in creating an imaginary game. You don’t really have to have the rules fully figured out. You just need enough flavor to give the audience a sense of what people did for fun in a galaxy far, far away.
What do you think of imaginary games? Are there any we missed? Comment on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday and let us know what are your favorite games that never existed.