What is it about charity shops and film tie-in board games? (Or television tie-in board games or even film-of-the-book tie-in board games, for that matter?) With Buffy the Vampire Slayer the Unplaytested Boardgame, I'd thought we'd reached the nadir of merchandising, but then, like a sparkle in the daylight, New Moon came glittering into our lives. Unopened. For a fiver. The unopened part is particularly telling - like some sort of well-meaning aunt stumbled upon this as the perfect Christmas present for her youf-ful nephew and his "rock and roll" music. "Look, Thomas, this has pale people and astronomical whatsits on it, just like those 'medal' bands you listen too!".
Regardless of the game's original provenance, as of last Wednesday night, it was cracked open and laid out for our distinctly non-Twilight, non-tweeny, thoroughly non-amused friends.
So how'd it go?
New Moon is incredibly straightforward. The goal is to reunite Edward and Bella. (None of us had read more than half of the first book (Anne!), so we weren't entirely sure what split them apart. I do hope they're ok - they seem like such nice kids.) The board, a figure eight shape, is divided into eight scenes. To win the game, you need to succeed in a challenge in all eight scenes. Once you collect all eight, you've successfully reunited our lovebirds and the day is won.
Challenges can take two forms: trivia and activities. We quickly learned to dread the trivia questions - especially as the only non-Bella, non-Edward character we could name was "Jacob" (who, despite repeated attempts, was never, ever the answer). The trivia also explored the deepest, darkest banalities of the human condition. It is possible that Bella's new car stereo is incredibly important, and if so, I apologise. But as a trivia answer (repeatedly), its significance boggles the mind.
The activities, however, were a blast. They ranged from the ridiculously simple ("Roll dice! You win!") to the wonderfully silly ("Which of your friends likes the beach the most? Everyone secretly writes their answer down, then, whichever of you picked the friend who was chosen the most, you win!"). Again, some sort of rudimentary knowledge of the Twilight mythos would have been very handy - both for the person addressing the challenge and those of us that had to determine whether their answer was correct. Bex, for example, rattled off six Cullens with great confidence. How were we to know she was lying?
We played in teams (one of the several variant rules included in the box) in order to speed things up a bit. It still took the better part of an hour, mostly because we were universally incapable of answering a trivia question. A bit of cheating (apparently there isn't a Cullen named "Frogface") helped us all get out of the game.
Mechanically, the game is fine. Better than fine - it actually works quite smoothly. The challenges are structured in a way that keep everyone involved, regardless of whether or not it is your turn. And there's a certain social element to many of the questions that makes the game personal for you and your friends (e.g. who likes the beach, who is the best at sports, who has the worst sense of direction, etc). It isn't exactly the 500 question Purity Test, but it is discussion-provoking, giggling, family-friendly fun.
The weird thing is, if we had actually cared (or known anything) about New Moon, the game would've been far less enjoyable. We sardonically stumbled into the game's sweet spot - it is more cooperative than competitive and more social than strategic. Had we boned up on Twilight trivia and tried to go Sun Tzu with our beach-based decisions, it would've made for a very different experience.
In fact, given The Lord of the Rings equivalent, I can imagine beating myself up for days for not knowing how many mirthril doorknobs studded the fourth gate of Minas Tirith. Or arguing with Anne over "which of your friends would be the most rebellious fRemade" in the Bas-Lag Board Game. The irreverence - and the irrelevance - of the New Moon questions made the game fun. Any expectation of actual success would've put a dampener on things. Obsessive fandom is already competitive enough, and needs no further encouragement. It is therefore much safer (and more enjoyable) to chase someone else's sacred cows than to wrangle one's own.
So for us, New Moon made for a good evening - oddly near the top of the list of the rubbish games that we've experienced so far. That said, it is going straight back to the charity shop. We've reunited our star-crossed lovers once, and that's enough. Any more would be pushing our luck.