Boardgames! On a Houseboat!

A colleague introduced me to roleplaying games (Dungeons and Dragons) when I was going to Uni and working as a trainee. She played regularly with another colleague and three friends near where we lived. Roleplaying turned out to be a lifelong love of mine – and it was where I met Mr. ETT!

My History of Gaming

Back in those halcyon days when we were all still living at home, we paid a token couple of dollars each to a local business that one of our parents worked for, located in a re-purposed house. Here we played into the wee hours of the morning, before rolling into sleeping bags, ex-communicating the snorer to another room, and catching a few hours of sleep. Then it would be up early on Sunday morning to start again and play the day away.

Although life changes, responsibilities come along, and free time disappears, I’ve probably averaged one game a week for the last 25 years. Our original gaming group ended up folding, although we are all still friends. I’ve been with my current group for 15 or so years. Every Friday night we turn up to our friend’s place with paper, pencils, dice and our devices for 4-6 hours of using our imaginations to create a story together.

To this mix, we have also added board-gaming. Between story arcs, or when we change games, or when there isn’t enough of us to run an RPG, we’ll play board or card games. Somehow, someone came up with the suggestion that it would be good to hire a houseboat and play all weekend long, just like we used to. The idea floating around (pun intended) until we decided to make it a reality over the Queen’s Birthday Long Weekend in June.

Unloading the car at the marina.
We had WAY more food than clothes…

The Houseboat

We headed up to Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury River, and hired the “Rafferty” from Holidays Afloat.

The Rafferty houseboat on the Hawkesbury River
Look at our houseboat!

Only one of us had been on a houseboat before, but he planned on drinking, so piloting duties fell to the friend that doesn’t drink. He took this duty on gleefully. Apparently all you need is a car driver licence, to watch a 10 minute instructional video, listen to the onboard orientation and you are good to go! Staff piloted us out of the marina and through a channel, then they caught a tinny back and we were on our own.

The weather was very wet, which would have precluded the use of our mostly open top deck. However, one of us had bought along a 9m x 9m tarpaulin, along with some cable ties. A few engineering feats later, we had a protected upper deck that even kept in some warmth.

Tarpaulin held up with oars.
How very MacGyver – we have some pretty clever friends.

Amenities

Electricity is scarce on a houseboat – the only available electrical appliance was a fridge, and this came with a warning not to open it too frequently. Drinks were better off being kept in the icebox outside. Staff warned us to only keep lights on when needed, and only use power to charge electronic devices. Anything heavier would blow the system. They had even removed the starters from the gas stove/oven. We got to play with matches!

The main cabin of the boat with kitchen and loungeroom.
The main cabin of the boat, including kitchen and loungeroom.

There was a shower and a toilet on the boat. Due to the scarcity of water, they recommended that showers were kept to a limit of 2 minutes. We used this as an excuse not to bother. Lucky it was winter, huh? If you do run out of water, all you need to do is head back in. The marina will come and pick you up, then top up the water for you.

Food

Dinner the first night was tacos – easy to cook on the stove, and delicious. There was also a gas BBQ on board – probably for those who like fishing (sorry LadyFIRE, no-one picked up a rod this trip!) We also ended up having a breakfast of bacon, hash browns, sausages, mushrooms and baby spinach. I wasn’t game to bring eggs with me, but there were plenty of requests. I’d like to point out that none of the others had put any thought into it at all – we all bought food so I don’t know why they were asking me. Anyway, so sad, too bad.

As is usual for gamers, we took lots of snacks. There was a built-in pantry with enough room for all of our food. Unfortunately we occasionally got lazy and left jars of coffee on top of the fridge. After a particularly strong wake, they went flying. Lucky we didn’t lose any bottles of wine!

View from the porthole on a houseboat.
View from our “bedroom”.

Space

Holidays Afloat supply mattress protectors, quilts and pillows, but you have to bring your own towels and linen (or you can hire them, but BYO is an easy way to save money.) The sleeping quarters were pretty tight, and this means when people snore… there is nowhere to go. Boy, did we have a couple of rip-roaring snorers! The first night I was up reading on my iPad until 3am, listening to the alternating cadence of three very different snores. It must have become rhythmic (and I became so tired) that I eventually fell asleep. The next night, one of our snorers didn’t drink, so that helped a lot. Along with our eyes hanging out of our head, we had a better (although not good) night’s sleep. Luckily we didn’t have anywhere to be!

Aside from sleeping, the 10 berth boat had plenty of room for the introverts among the eight of us to escape when needed. The boat had three levels, with seating or beds on each, so you could be comfortable no matter where you were. I have to note that even though there was enough room to escape from each other, spaces on a houseboat are really small. As in, hit your back and head small. Hitting your head isn’t pleasant at the best of times, but as an adult the indignity seems to make it hurt so much more. I’m pretty sure none of us escaped entirely unscathed.

Travelling

We tootled along for a couple of hours on Saturday, then moored to a mooring point before letting the games begin!

A floating mooring point.
A mooring point. You have to capture it with a boat hook, then slip it over a metal tethering point.

Unfortunately, we were alongside a major section of the river, so one of us became ill due to the constant wash. We then decided we would look for a free mooring in one of the little branches off the river. This was so much better – you could barely tell we were on water.

Hawkesbury River Map
We moored in the little pointy fingers down towards the bottom of the map.

Over the rest of the weekend we alternately travelled along the river, then moored and played games. Despite the weather, it was calming to sit and watch the landscape slowly recede behind us. Brown bush, amazingly patterned sandstone rocks and weathered signs for national parks line the banks of the river. The fresh air held a faint fragrance.

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I forgot to take my bird book, but later identified that we saw white-bellied sea eagles, shags, and a darter (as well as ducks and the ever-present seagulls.) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a darter before. Its muted plumage was beautiful, with its sinewy head darting under the river. We saw it catch some fish.

Gaming

Finally, to the games we played. We’d taken many more than this, but between driving and cooking and settling in, we didn’t make time to play them all.

Cards Against Humanity

We started with Cards Against Humanity, Red Expansion. This is the most people we’ve ever played with, and the game is a lot more fun the more people you have. It’s called the party game for horrible people, but its success lies in the fact that we are all big kids who like to laugh at poo jokes (OK, it gets a lot more risqué than that… be warned!)

Star Trek Five-Year Mission

Star Trek Five-Year Mission is a collaborative game, where players work together to solve issues as they arise on the Enterprise. You can choose to play as the Star Trek classic crew, or TNG. There are 6 levels of difficulty, so I see a lot of replayability in this. I also suspect that new crews may become available as expansions. Bring on DS9!

Star Trek Board Game
Save the Enterprise!

Mansions of Madness

It seemed pretty cool, as there was an iPad app component to the game… but I was tired and fell asleep. I can’t tell you anything about it! If you have played, feel free to leave a review in the comments.

Mansions of Madness game setup.

Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens, a fast card game where your mission is not to explode! They explain it best in their short video, check it out.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

In this game, you find your party locked in a mansion. The game begins in the foyer, then players randomly draw tiles to expand the house layout as you explore. There are three levels to the house. Eventually, a player will discover a haunt, in which case they (mostly) become the eponymous “betrayer”. Various monsters appear and knock down players’ sanity, or strength, etc. Eventually, most of us were turned to vampires and attacked our fellow party members!

Betrayal at House on the Hill boardgame.

Tsuro

Tsuro is another quick game with lots of replayability. I am “directionally-challenged” in that I struggle to manipulate shapes in my mind, either 2D or 3D. I’m definitely one of those people who needs to turn a map to follow it. Despite this, I really enjoy Tsuro. The object is to be the last piece standing on the board. Each round, every player adds a card with tracks to where their piece is standing. Any pieces that appear on the track then have to follow the path to the end. If this is off the game board, or into the path of another player, then you are out.

Takenoko

We finished with Takenoko, a game about a farmer, a panda, and bamboo. I don’t know if it’s the fact the game has a panda, or the pastel colours, but it’s really fun. You need to complete objectives while irrigating plots of land to grow bamboo to feed the panda. Completing your objectives may stymie another player; alternatively, you may think you are just about to win… and another player completes an action that ruins your carefully laid horticultural plans!

Takenoko Board Game.

Next Year?

Before we left the marina, I brought up the idea that this is something we might like to organise on a yearly basis. One of our friends wisely suggested that we might want to leave that decision until the end of the trip! Now we know how things work, we can fit in more games, and organise the food more equitably.  Also, if we had better weather, we would have liked to have gone out in the dinghy.

Orange plastic dinghy tied to the houseboat.
The faithful orange dinghy that followed us wherever we went…

Despite the sleeplessness, we have all agreed that we will do it again next year. We checked out the largest boat in the marina, which has better defined rooms for sleeping. If we each save $5 a week, we will have enough to pay for the boat, petrol, ice and some food. And until they invent the cone of silence, lots of earplugs!

Oh, and the aftermath? The first night home, I swayed while I was in bed. It lasted right through to the next day at work, where I was sitting in front of my computer, gently rocking…

Have you ever been on a houseboat?

8 thoughts on “Boardgames! On a Houseboat!

  1. I loved this post! Sounds like you all had a great time. I have never heard of any of those board games. I have heard of Dungeons and Dragons but never played. I think my little brother has played before.

    Glad you had a great weekend!

  2. Ahoy fellow gamer! We are huge boardgamers ourselves (tho if I was being truthful, we are huge gamers all round no matter the platform), in fact that is where a lot of our money goes into. Our boardgame collection sits at 110+ boardgames right now and when we calculated its worth for contents insurance I nearly fell off the chair as it was well into the 5 digits. I love Takenoko because PANDAS! And betrayal is also a great game that we do try to bring onto our table more. We actually bring boardgames when we travel anywhere as well because we never pass up the chance to play with new people. My current fave is Scythe and Dale of Merchants. (Based on what you’ve said about the games you played, I think you will really enjoy Dale of Merchants!)

    • Oh my goodness, Pia – it’s not only the money, where do you keep them all? Some of these games are both huge and heavy. That’s an amazing collection. We tend to share the buying out amongst the group, but I admit there is one person in particular who likes to buy new games at twice the rate of the rest of us 😉

      I like the idea of taking boardgames wherever you go – we could have taken some small card games with us for when we stayed at B&Bs in New Zealand. That’s a great idea, and something we should try in the future.

      Thanks for the tip on Dale of Merchants, I’ll definitely check it out. (I just looked at the design. It’s got animals AND colours – I’m sold!)

  3. Oh my god – I have so many levels of excitement about this post, where do I start…

    Firstly – thanks for the shout out 😀

    Secondly, let’s talk games! Oh my god I love games…although I’ve played CaH to death, two midgets and a bucket are only funny so many times…

    Exploding Kittens how could you bring up the game and not mention that the box meows when you open it giggles it’s my favourite touch!

    Also, how do you feel about Betrayal? Mr. FIRE and I have a games blacklist that we aren’t allowed to pay on pain of relationship breakdown. Betrayal and Munchkin are on that list because the rules are just a little bit too flexible… which means we fight. Really, really, REALLY badly :p

    Have you seen Will Wheaton’s Tabletop? It’s a youtube series where he plays games with his friends, pretty much everything on your list is on his show. It’s into season 4 (I think) so plenty of new ideas!

    And finally – did you get any DnD in over the weekend?

    • Honestly, most of the time I don’t get as much enjoyment out of CaH as others, but this game, with eight of us, was fantastic. I think it helped having the red expansion as well, because I know what you mean about the same answers coming up.

      I was going to write about the Exploding Kittens box, but it was such a surprise to me when I first opened it, I thought I’d let others find it out for themselves. I still love it every time, and one of the guys who hadn’t experienced it before took the box off me and kept opening it, giggling like a little kid!

      Honestly, I’m not really that competitive. The discovery of cooperative games was a real joy for me! Mr. ETT and I aren’t too bad at playing competitive games, but I can’t play Munchkin with a particular friend (he’s also a right pain in the bum in Firefly – we all just want to kill him halfway through.) It takes the enjoyment out of it for me, because it just becomes about attacking all of the time.

      Yes! We love Tabletop, but I don’t make the time to watch it any more. In fact, I think I’m 3.5 seasons behind. Dreams of the day when I can make the time to do all the things

      As to D&D – no, we didn’t play. The guys actually played on the Friday night before, but because we had to get up so super early to make it to Brooklyn on Saturday morning, there was no way I could have done that and stayed compos mentis for the rest of the weekend. I may or may not occasionally have issues with falling asleep…

      Well, between you, me and Pia, I think that we now have some activities for when we eventually have the first Aussie FIRE getaway.

      • raises hand I am that giant kid that opens and closes the box while giggling :p

        We watch Tabletop (and Doctor Who) over dinner – otherwise we never have time for TV

        And yes! The Aussie FIRE getaway will just be board games and money chats till dawn 😀

  4. J @ Hey, It's Just Money! says:

    I’m not a gamer but this post still made me all sorts of happy! Seems like you had a blast and I’m jealous! I haven’t been on a houseboat but I can just imagine how it would feel the first night back on land. I’m not a fan of smaller boats, especially when it’s anchored. We hired a small boat last year for a fishing trip, but we all ended up sick (there were 5 of us). To be fair, it was on the ocean and the waves were really strong, but I think that experience was enough for us to not want to try it again.

    I really enjoyed reading this! I hope your bed is no longer swaying! 🙂

  5. Apart from the boat aspect (I don’t have great sea or river legs!), sounds like an awesome time! I’d love to get into card/board games but none of my friends are into it. I even bought one of them the Exploding Kittens game for Christmas – no mention of her playing it, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if she just sold it on ebay as an unwanted gift! Ah well, I did try!

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