Met some great folks at PAX East this year and they gave me some great suggestions. Since April has 5 weeks, I figured I would share another fave five board game references.
Anime Crimes Division | S1E2 – Yugioh
When someone commits a crime against Anime in Neo Otaku City, they don’t call the police; they call the anime crimes division. The second episode follows an art heist plot. Valuable art goes missing, and investigators Diesel and Joe have to go undercover to find it. The missing art is a special Promo Yugioh Card that’s made its way into an underground Yugioh dueling circuit.
While there is some strategy in Yugioh, the game is notorious for having rare and powerful cards that totally unbalance the game. Theft of valuable cards is something that is common both in the anime and in real life. While a criminal organization based around a card game seems far fetched, Yugioh seems designed to encourage this kind of behavior. Anime Crimes Division bridges that concept into the crime drama formula, giving us all the over the top shonen tropes in a setting built like NCIS.
West World | S1E6 – Dominoes
The first time we see Ford encounter the maze in Westworld, it’s branded on a table where two hosts are playing dominoes, instead of poker. There are two things that dominoes are generally known for.
The first is setting up long sets of chain events. Like dominoes, we come to know that events have been put into motion that will inevitably lead to their inscrutible conclusions; these violent delights have violent ends. The maze marks the mystery of Arnold, and the pieces he left behind, waiting as part of a chain reaction.
Secondly, dominoes are known for making connections. You look at hand of dominoes and you try to see where the pieces fit together best. Maieve is trying to connect a forgotten past with an ambitious future, Bernard is trying to connect what he thinks he knows with what he is learning, and Dolores is trying to connect so many many broken parts of herself.
The dominoes are a small element, but they portend the greater things to come.
Royal Pains Commercial | Operation
Hank is a surgeon and his brother is the get-rich-quick-nathan-lane-style accountant slash business guy. It’s a low hanging gag, you’d expect the surgeon to be great, but it’s the comedic relief brother showing the skill. However, it’s also a pretty solid metaphor for their relationship.
Hank’s brother is good at ‘playing the game’ of socializing in the Hamptons, while Hank finds that his skills as a surgeon can only take him so far by himself.
Also, yes, I will reference a board game in a commercial for a pretty mediocre television drama. It’s pretty well done reference and I like it. What are you gonna do about it?
Yu Yu Hakusho – Taboo
Our ragtag protagonists enter a mansion to fight a bunch of nerds with access to unnatural dark energy. Each nerd has a realm where they can impose their own rules and if anyone fails to obey those rules the nerds get to harvest their souls.
Kaito, a linguistic nerd, sets up his realm as a game of taboo, where people can’t speak certain words or letters. He has a longstanding feud with Kurama, who routinely one ups Kaito in highschool.
Playing a party game for one’s soul is an unorthodox choice, but it paints Kurama as a genius in a way that would be otherwise difficult to convey in a show mostly about punching monsters.
Betrayal at House on the Hill | Haunt 37 – Chess
Betrayal at House on the Hill is one of my all time favorite board games, where you investigate an old house to find out what sort of horrible thing is haunting it. You explore the house tile by tile, and each room adds a ton of personality, including a game room complete with a chess board.
If you come across the skull omen, you’re likely to encounter Haunt 37 and you’ll have to play chess with Death for your very life. While chess against death is a common trope, you actually don’t see it much in the kinds of horror films Betrayal references in its haunts.
To turn chess with death into true horror movie fair, the designers added a roving murderer for players to simultaneously contend with; in case chess wasn’t exciting enough for you.
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