From board to digital

The Manitoban staff gives its picks for games during social distancing

Image provided by Outset Media


Matthew Doering, editor-in-chief

Even more soul-sucking than fixating on the daily increase in the spread of COVID-19 may be the absence of research and conferences as our academic lives are turned upside down during this time of physical distancing.

Luckily, the board game Alchemists can fill the void otherwise occupied by continual worry left by the pandemic-induced university closures.

Worried you are falling behind in your research? Alchemists offers the tantalizing challenge of deducing the nature of ingredients, and how to blend potions for healing, speed and wisdom. Or for poison, paralysis and insanity.

Not progressing with grant writing? Alchemists offers five coveted grants to boost your reputation — alchemical H-index anyone?

Unable to focus on writing papers? Publish your theories about bird claws, toads and scorpions. Or discredit the pterido-theories of your fellow alchemists.

Missing the inundation of tasks assigned to graduate students? Never fear, Alchemists ensures there’s never a shortage of potions for the lowly, oft-forgotten grad student to drink. And if there’s a risk of insanity, the grad student might just get paid for the research.

Of course, a board game review when non-essential businesses — sadly, though responsibly, including game stores — are shuttered, and physically distancing ourselves is the new norm, seems unhelpful. Luckily Alchemists is available as a module on the Vassal board game-simulation engine.

Alchemists offers a way to minimize social distance, and connect over the most anxiety-inducing aspects of academia, with your next conference arriving one turn sooner than you prepared for.

A self-isolation filled with this grad-school-in-a-box will leave you a calmer, more rational, more critical student when university life returns to whatever normal we’re headed for.


Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Joseph Gonzales, audio editor

Did coronavirus cancel your vacation and you’re missing out on an island escape?

Animal Crossing: New Horizons has you covered.

The fifth game in the console series, New Horizons builds upon the features in previous versions, but the concept remains the same: inhabiting an anthropomorphic community made up of animals from all across the kingdom that you interact with and build up your community alongside.

With its vibrant colours, heartwarming animations and a beautifully produced soundtrack which changes depending on the time of day, New Horizons provides a virtual world for you to play in.

And that is more than just a pleasant distraction from the current situation in the outside world.

From the moment you start, a tanuki named Tom Nook and his two sons, Tommy and Timmy, give you a task to begin work on turning your deserted island into a thriving locale.

This can involve gathering materials to help build new homes for visitors to move into, catching fish and bugs or finding fossils to donate to the local museum.

Regardless of what you set your mind on doing in New Horizons, a quick check of the time might show that two hours have passed without you noticing.

There is no right way to play the game and what you decide to do can change from day to day.

Whether it’s hunting for tarantulas to sell or annoying your anteater neighbour Antonio, New Horizons is a great way to find some downtime and have an island adventure.


NHL 20

Jason Pchajek, sports editor

With the COVID-19 virus currently creating a lockdown of sports leagues and recreation facilities across the country, many Canadians are sitting home missing the familiar scent of a hockey locker room, or the rhythmic clatter of plates at the local gym.

Thankfully, the world of video games has just the ticket to keep you active through this tough time with EA Sports’ NHL 20.

The latest edition of the long-running sports simulation franchise has everything a hockey fan needs to live out their own pro dream.

And everything that fan needs to finish the NHL season currently on hiatus.

Want to see your favourite club lift the Stanley Cup?

Jump into “Playoff” mode where you can finish the season the NHL can’t — and if you’re a fan of, say, the Detroit Red Wings, do what your squad couldn’t.

Can’t hit the ice with your friends?

Well grab your pals and head out to the virtual outdoor rink for some properly social-distanced fun.

The “Ones Now” mode allows three players to go head-to-head in order to see who truly dominates the outdoor sheet.

Or maybe you’ve got that pro dream you could never quite reach in real life —  don’t worry, everyone has a story. NHL 20 has you covered there too.

With “Be a Pro” mode you can take your journey all the way from the Canadian junior ranks to its hall-of-fame finish.

Since you can’t go outside right now, you might as well experience all that sports have to offer from the comfort of your couch, with friends or solo.



Zachary Sigurdson, arts reporter

Missing going out and about our dear old ’Peg?

Winnipeg-Opoly is just the game you need.

Outset Media and Walmart Canada have come together to create a series of community-specific editions of Monopoly.

The project was in place before the quarantine but has had a huge resurgence with many people in isolation needing something to do at home with their friends and family.

There are nearly 50 community-specific Monopoly editions across Canada, with the intent to expand to over 100.

Commence a microcosm of commercial capitalism that will end with one person taking a major share of our city’s resources — for the cynic gamer, this is just a microcosm of our lived experience as Winnipeggers, so you’ll be sure to feel the brutal “realness” of this game.

Winnipeg-Opoly includes landmarks and attractions such as the Royal Canadian Mint, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Winnipeg Railway Museum and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Even though you can’t play as a Slurpee and Garbage Hill is sadly missing from the landmarks to purchase — the game may even feel a bit like a Google search of Winnipeg landmarks — this doesn’t take away from the experience and there will certainly be entertaining fights over who wants to buy Portage Avenue.


Be sure to add these games to the list for the next volunteer grocery tribute to pick up.