Games at the Movies

You can keep Christmas and you can toss Halloween straight in the bin because this is my most favourite time of the year. When Moira Rose claimed boldly that her favourite season is “awards” on the fantastic Schitt’s Creek, I felt that on a molecular level.

Art is subjective, handing out competitive trophies for the “best” of that subjective art does sound a little peculiar, but I simply do not care. I get sucked into the old Hollywood glamour of it all. I love seeing a journeyman actor celebrated on stage. I love seeing a production designer thank her underlings for their tireless contribution. And I especially love seeing an Editor cry.

But the reason I thrive in awards season above all others is that it’s a celebration of my first love – the movies. I am a fanatic. I remember my first cinema trip like it was yesterday – the neon lights, the popcorn, the patterned carpet so beloved in the 1990s. It remains my happiest place, my refuge from the ills of the world.

Yes, dear reader, we are on the Road to the Oscars. It’s the big night on Sunday 10th, and of course I’m hosting a party. Sure, I could just have people round to sit and watch the show, judge the red carpet looks and play .that will be a meme’, but what if I wanted to go one step further, and make a day of it? What better than playing a few movie-themed board games?

When you get the opportunity to combine two loves, to engage with your favourite stories in a whole new way, it is an unbridled thrill. Where other tie-ins tend to fall apart – video games have a tricky relationship with their movie counterparts, and a fun activity is watching what happens when a book lover sees a “Now a Major Motion Picture” sticker – the relationship between the big screen and the board game is actually a very healthy one!

Without further ado, here are my nominees for Outstanding Achievement in Movie-Related Board Gaming.

Blockbuster

This is a fantastic trivia-based party game that takes its branding from everyone’s favourite video rental store that we wish still existed but doesn’t because we preferred pressing a button on a remote control to getting dressed and going to the high street, but we’re not supposed to say that part, are we?

A head-to-head game, you split into teams and put your collective movie knowledge to the test over two rounds. In the first, one representative of each team competes to name as many movies as they can in a specific category. You’ll then split off into your teams and try to help your team guess six movies with a single-word prompt, a quote, or your best impression of Buster Keaton.

With a board set up to look like a Blockbuster Video Store car park, it’s delightful before you’ve even started playing. When you add in the race-against-the-clock element, the adrenaline starts pumping and suddenly you’ve forgotten entirely what Chicken Run is about, the silliness takes over.

I adore this game, and not only because – in a past life that occasionally does the rounds on TikTok – I was able to use my vast knowledge of Jennifer Lopez to great effect and claw back a round for my team in an episode of Lovely Board Games.

Jaws

One player takes the role of Shark, lurking off the coast of Amity Island, while the others pay Shark Hunter. You’ll have character cards that define abilities and help dictate the gameplay. The game is split into two sections – Amity Island and Orca.

In the Amity Island phase, the shark is terrorising the innocent beachgoers, and players need to try and pinpoint the shark’s location to avoid swimmers turning into lunch.


Flip the board over and we’re in the Orca phase, an all-out battle on board the sinking boat, using cards and strategy to offset attacks while trying in turn to launch attacks of their own.

If the humans kill the shark, they win. If the shark’s attack succeeds, the shark wins. And there’s an added, unofficial mini-game to see how long it takes for someone to make the joke “We’re gonna need a bigger board.” What japes!

In a fortuitous turn, and one genuinely not planned on my part, this was our most recent entry into Board Game Club on the channel. You can watch our gang play through it here!

 

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31

John Carpenter’s The Thing is an undisputed classic and a prime example of the Social Anxiety model of horror filmmaking. This is the school of horror that reflects our fears that ‘the call is coming from inside the house’, and that the killer could be anyone, even someone you know so well.

It’s something we as audiences are really drawn to, and that’s reflected in our tastes for board games as well, with social deduction games being ever-popular. So, naturally, there’s a perfect marriage of the two worlds in this game of bluffing and deduction.

Playing as one of twelve characters taken from the movie, players work together to undertake a series of investigations with the goal of eventually escaping the outpost. Except, secretly, some of your number aren’t humans at all, but imitations, working against the rest of the team. Find them, or be consumed by them.

It’s an excellent movie tie-in, and brilliantly demonstrated on – where else – Board Game Club. Watch here!

Cluedo

Okay this is cheating, and I hold my hands up to using the opportunity to flog not only my favourite game but one of my favourite films. That’s two weeks in a row now. Apparently I have unearthed a dormant Tim Curry agenda.

While the film-to-game pipeline is actually quite a successful one, as I hope this list demonstrates, the same cannot be said of the reverse… Except in this particular example. A bit of a cult classic now, the utter nonsense of Clue: The Movie is a joy to behold and points to how cinematic the original game can be when played right.

The setting, the characters, and even the element of mystery solving, all give it quite a cinematic feel. There’s Miss Scarlett’s Femme Fatale, the Big Reveal moment with the cards in the envelope at the end. Beyond Clue itself, Knives Out steals the game’s Mansion on a Hill setting for its own board-game-esque mystery.

And any excuse to show that I have memorised Madeleine Khan’s fabulous “Flames On The Side Of My Face” monologue is time well spent.

Hollywood 1947

And sticking with the social deduction mode, here we have a game dripping in Old Hollywood Glamour and Old Hollywood Suspicion.

Set in the McCarthy era, you’re trying to root out who are the Patriots and who are the Communists. Each player will be given a role card – and someone will be a Rising Star, someone who doesn’t care about either side but just wants to be in the movies.

You’re making movies and you each have a different job to contribute – writers, gaffers, the works. These roles each contribute in different ways, but it ultimately comes down to strategy, dice rolls and secret card placing.

Every player who is allowed to contribute to the movie places a card face down that attempts to push the agenda of the movie being made to their side – communists will lay down communist cards, patriots will lay down patriots. The cards are shuffled and revealed, and the film is assigned either way.

It’s a game of first to four. However, if you arrive at a seventh round, the Rising Star will attempt to make it a tie, and thus win the game for themselves.

And yes, of course, we’ve played it on the channel, so lights, camera and indeed action.

Enjoy Legacy Games? Check out Get into Legacy Games for Dan Layton’s top six picks.