Board games have enjoyed a serious resurgence in the last few years, and whether it’s a genuine anti-tech reaction or a simple swing of the entertainment pendulum, it’s bringing people together in new and old ways. Today, April 29, is International Tabletop Day, and classical music fans shouldn’t feel left out: there are always the requisite customized approaches to classics like Scrabble and Pictionary, limiting words and topics to the chosen field. But there have also been, in fairly recent years, a select handful of games designed just for us. If you want to get serious about your classical gaming, you may have to search a bit. But here’s what a little digging produced:
Warbling through history
Launched in 2009, Opera includes instructions in English, German and Dutch, players become members of elite arts-supportive families, and experience a journey through history as well as a challenge of arts administration: can you plan productions, deal with critics, build an opera house and scout composers to find success in this rarified world? Recommended for ages 12 and up, this is a family-friendly strategy game good for students, older kids and history buffs as well as hard-core opera geeks.
Lingering treat for punning operamaniacs
The agonizingly cleverly named Triviata is probably what you think it is: a trivia game all about opera. Considering the enduring appeal of The Met’s quiz segment in their Saturday broadcasts, this almost seems like a no-brainer. The Los Angeles Times gave it a favorable nod in 1990, and there do still seem to be a few copies lying around. Whether or not it would be a good intermission entertainment (as LAT suggested) might take a trial or two (or maybe not). But of the games we found, this one may show the most promise for actual fun in a group. Amazon is probably your best bet.
The card game for the ambitious singer
We actually got a group together a couple of years ago and reviewed Diva, released by a staffer at Classical Singer magazine. It guides players through the various odd jobs (left), speed bumps, egos, opportunities and challenges that might be faced by an opera singer on the rise. The game is a little convoluted (as indeed, the business can be), but we had a good time nonetheless. Read our full review here, which includes some tips on how to plan your evening and make game play running a little more smoothly. This game is still available directly from the creator — see DCal Games for more information.
A serious sourcing challenge
Here’s one that will be difficult (if not impossible) to find, but is worth a mention. A game that mixes trivia with a beautiful, orchestra-inspired board, Virtuoso allows players to show off their knowledge while getting promoted through the players’ ranks. It’s also the most well-heeled offering of the group, with a board designed with the help of a violin maker, this game could strike the right visual tone for a dinner party and would look appetizing next to a beautiful wine flight. The trick is in actually finding a copy, as the 2012 launch was, in theory, to be followed by a 2014 Kickstarter campaign, but the numerous sites that mention the game don’t seem to have any useful shopping information available. It appears that the designer was great at publicity, and garnered significant attention before the game was readily available, and comments to each of the blog posts were plentiful and enthusiastic. But the end product may have been too pricey for a wide enough audience. Too bad — it looks promising. Keep an eye out, and maybe you can snag an early copy! Read Limelight‘s review here.
If you just want to gather with friends, eat some decent food and play someone else’s games, try the GameHaus Cafe in Glendale — with more than 1000 board games and attached cafe, it’s an exercise in hip kitsch and IRL interaction that has created a solid presence in the neighborhood. (They do events, too.) I feel a schmooze coming on…
In the end, it appears that there is actually a big gap in classical-themed games — anyone want to fill it? If you come up with your own game, whether it be a set of musical rules for an existing game or a brand-new creation, do keep us posted.