As we’ve spoken about in the past, a lot of us on the team really love playing board games. They offer some great insight into game design, and generally are pretty fun too. As such, I’ve stuck together a list for people who might be interested in getting some board games but don’t know where to start. This is based off of personal experience, so things like Ticket To Ride aren’t included as I’ve not played it (despite being a good game to start with from all accounts).
Catan is the big cheese of the boardgame world, with it being one of the most popular games in the world and something akin to a gateway for most people. It also helped popularise the German-style “Eurogame”, which has fairly easy to understand rules and requires some degree of strategy, but tends to avoid people being “knocked out” of the game with a focus on point scoring instead. Basically, you have to gather resources from different areas which can be used to build various things, such as towns and roads, and expand your settlement out so that you have access to more resources. Or to stop others getting them.
In order to actually gain resources you roll two dice which determines which tile will give you materials. Anyone with a town or city next to one of those tiles gains that respective resource.
You gain points for things like the number of towns and cities you own, having “Longest road”, or collecting points cards from a “development deck”, which costs you resources too.
Bean helpfully described it as “Monopoly, but fun” but much like my brief description that undersells it. You can plan ahead to either do your own thing and avoid other expansions or be disruptive and break chains of roads. And then there’s the bartering system, where you can trade resources for whatever you choose, allowing for some power plays to come to the fore. The expansions are worth looking into as well, with Cities and Knights giving the townbuilding aspect a bit more of a push.
Are you and your friends horrible people? Are you unsure? Then this is an easy way to find out. The premise is simple, someone plays a card that has a question or a phrase with a missing segment, and you have to answer it with your own card. The winner is whatever the person asking the question likes best.
Simple, right? Here’s a fairly safe example of a question and answers:
And they get far, far worse. Very un-PC, poking fun at everything and anything, but easily gets a laugh out of a group of people.
And swinging it all they way back round is the fantastical story telling game of Dixit. Dixit starts with a storyteller describing a card in their hand, and other players giving them a card from their own hand that they believe matches the story best without showing anyone else. The cards are revealed and everyone tries to guess which one is the storyteller’s card (except the story teller, obviously). If everybody or nobody gets it right, everyone but the storyteller gains 2 points. Outside of that, the storyteller and players who guessed correctly gain 3 points, and players whose card gathered votes gains 1 point per vote.
Basically, it involves the storyteller giving just enough detail for some people to get their card but not giving it away. This can lead to some interesting metagame stuff with inside references depending on who you’re playing with.
It’s also really pretty:
Click here for a better look.
Fluxx has a load of variants, but it is pretty easy to pick up. The first rule is simple: Draw a card, play a card. That’s it.
Mostly. The cards you can play might also be rules, which come into effect immediately. Have a rule that says “Play 3 cards”? Then you get to play 3 cards total on your turn. They might also be goals, which you need to win. Don’t like the current victory condition? Then change it to something that fits your needs. How do you actually win? You need Keepers for that. Here’s an example from the Chthulu version:
You can also play Actions and Surprises that can mess things up, and some versions have “Creepers”, which are like anti-Keeper that you usually want to get rid of. Fluxx is a fairly quick, light game that is good to break out if you need to kill 15 minutes or so.
Gloom is another storytelling game with a rather macabre theme. In order to win you have to make your family as depressed as possible and off them, while making sure that other players’ families stay alive and happy as long as possible. Happy stuff. The fun comes from the little bits of info on each points card that you can play, allowing you (and other players) to create individual narratives for each character and family, chronicling their ups and downs in life.
The cards themselves are quite unique too as they’re all transparent. So you literally play a card on a character to affect its points.
There’s also the inevitable Chthulu offshoot if you’re into that too.
Oh boy. A game of The Resistance (and it’s very close cousin Avalon) usually takes around 20-30 minutes. A session of it can last a good few hours. The bare bones of the game is simple: guess who the bad guys are, and complete missions without them sabotaging them. A “commander” decides on who is going on a mission, and all of the players vote on if they want it to go ahead. If it does, those players on the mission decide if it succeeds, or in the case of the spies, fails.
Problem is that the spies all know who they are, but the resistance members don’t know who anyone is bar theirself. So the air of suspicion hangs on everyone, making it a really tense game for the get go. Is the commander a resistance member or a spy? Have the spies managed to successfully shift the blame onto an innocent player? This game is less about the components and more about the meta side of things like, say, Poker. What people are saying, how they’re acting, what tells do they have, how have they acted in previous games, It stretches out beyond the one playthrough.
We’ve only ever had a 9 person game though, the max head count still eludes us :(.
I’ll try keep these ones a bit shorter, but if you’re looking to move onto something a little heavier then here’s a few that we play quite a bit!
Get a group of 5 people together, have them sign a blood pact (or other legally binding contract) to commit to one of the most unique games you’re likely to play. Gameplay is similar to standard Risk, but the game changes with each successive playthrough. Factions can acquire powers, the map can be build up with cities and bunkers then torn down again, the game itself goes through massive changes depending on certain events occurring. If they ever do. When all of you sign that board you are building your own, individual version of Risk, and for better or worse you have to live with that. This is a game that is best experienced by simply buying it and playing it because even board games can have spoilers.
Imagine being a dwarf. Now imagine being on a submarine. Now imagine it falling to bits. That is Red November. If you’ve played FTL then you may see some parallels here, with players scrambling around each area of the sub and trying to fix it by using “minutes”. This gives the game a slight time travel twist, as events occur that must be dealt with by a certain point, but players can still potentially fix up other parts of the ship while skipping over them so long as someone deals with it in the end. There is also “paranoid” rule, in while players can attack each other in addition to helping.
Also don’t get too drunk.
You may know of the Flash/mobile game of a similar name. This is the inverse of that, with players taking up different roles to try and rid the world of various diseases. It is hard, and will kick your arse in more than one occasion, but makes the rare victory so much more gratifying. It also has “difficulty modes”, so if the game is proving too hard you can make it a little bit easier. Chicken. It also seems like it’s getting a Legacy version similar to Risk: Legacy, which sounds very exciting.
Quantum is a strategy game with a little bit of the Eurogame stuff mixed in. It’s clean, concise and generally very well put together. The rules are simple enough to get at first glance (get a cube on each planet, dice move equal to their number, lower numbers hit harder) with a focus on offence to keep the game moving forward. One of those “easy to learn, difficult to master” type of games. There is some extra tweakability with ability and action cards, allowing you various abilities like being able to destroy attackers if you’re defending, warp to different planets or plant down cubes easier. And custom maps. It’s a great entry point for strategy games and is deep enough to keep seasoned players interested.
This one’s a bit of a cheat as it’s the version with most of the expansions with it. Totally worth getting it though, as it adds loads to the base game, most of which is optional. Galaxy Trucker is pretty chaotic. You build a ship and charge into the great unknown in order to earn some money without being blown to bits. Which will happen, as chances are your vessel will be a bit of a hodge-podge tin can instead of an Enterprise. The scramble for parts at the beginning of each round is typically messy (in a good way!) and the different variety of ships, such as the cylinder and twin ships (and in a later expansion, sphere and flotilla) allow you to try different styles of play. Or you could leave things up to even more chance and have the dice decide where you can and can’t build.
Dominion is a deck building game, where people add cards from collective pool into their personal decks, where they can draw cards to play from. You can use these cards to do things or buy more cards. Dominion sort of kicked off this type of game, which differs from usual Collectable Card Games like Magic: The Gathering due to the “community pool” of cards that people take from, instead of individual bespoke decks. The game has a variety of difference scenarios that use different types of cards, and more expansions that you can shake a stick it. It’s not too difficult to get into either, but does look a little daunting at first.
So yeah. There’s a list for you all, but there are definitely more out there to investigate. NOW GO PLAY!
P.S. Sorry for the pun.