Hey there! This thread is about board games. Let me tell you about them!A different kind of board game is on the rise. Invading pop culture. Invading Target, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us. Invading Penny Arcade itself.
There are brand-new games about dying in the desert:
or 20-year old card games getting new life:
or even family-friendly train games that stir something black in the soul:
This thread exists to convey one simple message: board games have come a long way since Monopoly and Risk
Perhaps you’re looking for something for your lunch hour.
Perhaps you’re looking for something to play when you’re just hanging out with friends.
Perhaps you’re looking for something like chess but more fun for newcomers.
Perhaps you’re looking for an all-day simulation of the asymmetrical struggles of Europe during the Protestant Reformation.
No problem, gotcha covered. So without further ado, let me attempt to give you a barely-sketched outline of what is possible in cardboard, wood and plastic.
Oh, and watch out for that pig-flooping
.GREAT GAMES FOR JUST ABOUT ANYONE (especially those new to games):Ticket to Ride
Quite possibly one of the best entry-level games. Draw cards into your hands, claim a route between two cities with your train cars by laying down same-color cards that match a route on the board. Simple, intuitive. Kids can grasp it, adults can play it more cut-throat and get into deeper strategies. Many versions have been made; they are pretty much all great, but check to see how many people can play. There’s also plenty of expansion maps, including a highly-rated Asia map for team play up to 6.Dominion
This genre-defining game is played entirely with cards. Hey, I thought we were talking about board games! We are, shut up, it’s a problem of semantics, whatever. Anyway, in this game you build up your own personal deck by accumulating money cards (to buy things), action cards (to make cool stuff happen), and victory point cards (which give you points but clog up your deck). Each game has different action cards to buy so every game is different. There are a TON of expansions; good ones are Seaside (adds effects which carry over into later turns), Intrigue (a lot more interaction between players), and Prosperity (adds higher-value money and victory point cards). It plays fast, but some of the expansions slow it down a bit. Don’t buy Village.Carcassonne
Another older game, which has aged well because of its short length and wide appeal. Pick up a tile, add it to the tiles already placed so that you match the road, castle, or field. You may optionally “claim” a road, castle, or field with one of your followers or “meeples”, which gives you points. A great, quick game for pretty much all ages, but it is especially good for a younger crowd.Lords of Waterdeep
Newer game, but it has really made a splash. It’s a fairly light worker-placement euro that non-gamers (or minimal-gamers) really seem to enjoy. The “worker-placement” part is themed up as sending knights and wizards off to accomplish quests, and there’s even a bit of back-stabbery against the other players.Forbidden Desert
An amazing little cooperative game that starts with formula that made Forbidden Island and Pandemic so popular, and then develops and improves that formula into something magical. You must explore and excavate tiles to find pieces of an airship, while a sandstorm moves the tiles around and dumps sand everywhere. Everybody has their own special ability, and they work together in amazing ways. Get all the parts, find the launch pad, GET TO DA CHOPPA, and escape to safety. But you'll probably die of thirst first. Great components, too.King of TokyoCoupHanabiRECENT COOL GAMES THAT MAYBE YOU SHOULD LOOK AT:FiefLove LetterStar RealmsBattlestar GalacticaX-comDoomtown ReloadedKemetSuburbiaTrainsCavernaEldritch HorrorRampageKeyflowerHOW ABOUT THESE REALLY GOOD TWO-PLAYER GAMES:Twilight Struggle
Probably the best epic 2-player game. Epic because of its length and scope. Intensely confrontational without being a wargame. Imagine a game about the Cold War where the mechanics take, at face value, the rhetoric of both sides. In other words, it’s the USA versus the USSR, and all the other nations in the world are just pawns to be influenced one way or the other. Influence is what you “spend” every round, to control a nation or even cause an uprising in a less-stable nation. Influence tends to spread through a region like a virus. You can use an event card for the event (which is some historical event or concept), or use it for influence, or even put it towards the space race. The only possible downside is that it’s long for a 2-player game, so it may be hard to introduce to a casual gaming group.Memoir '44
This is simply the easiest introduction into a whole family of light wargames: Commands & Colors: Ancients, Commands & Colors: Napoleonics, BattleLore, BattleCry. Most can be played within an hour, but can feel suitable epic. The basic idea is that the battlefield is divided into a left, center, and right flank. You play a card that “orders” units in a flank (or flanks), which allows it to move and attack. You attack by rolling dice, which can cause hits or retreats. You win by wiping out a set number of units (and maybe occupying critical points). A brilliant system that each game has a special “spin” on. Memoir is a bit simpler and has a very appealing theme. Ancients is also highly regarded here (and is my favorite); it has a priority on melee attacks and gives additional benefits if your units are lined up.Summoner Wars
Think of this as some strange asymmetric chess variant where the pieces are cards. Each player chooses a faction, and your goal is to kill the enemy summoner. Your units are ranged or melee, and have different attack strengths, and different hit points. You attack with dice. You bring new units out of your hand onto the board if you can pay the cost in magic. You gain magic by killing units or by dumping cards from your hand. Each faction plays VERY differently, and in fact every single card has some special ability (like moving extra spaces or attacking in a different way). There are a TON of factions for this game -- I think 16 right now -- and expansions for limited deck construction, and even some alternate summoners, so there’s a lot of stuff to try out.BattleCON (War of Indines)
Round 1! Fight! Yes, it’s a "fighting game simulation", where you have a position track and you play attacks simultaneously and try to out-think/out-maneuver your opponent. Your "hand" is made up of a few "styles" (unique to your character) and "bases" (mostly the same for everyone), and one “attack” is the combination of one style and one base. Any attack you do is on "cooldown" and can’t be used for 2 beats (rounds). The game comes with 18 characters, and they are all QUITE different to play. The print-and-play comes with 4 characters and is pretty easy to put together, if you want to try it out.Android: Netrunner
Newer asymmetric game that is very geeky and very good. The "corporation" player must defend and score their agendas. The "hacker" player must steal agendas from the "corporation". The agendas are worth points, and first to 7 points wins. What really sets this one apart is that almost everything the corporation does is hidden information (i.e. face-down cards), so there's ample room for bluffing and traps. This is a "Living Card Game", which means that there are numerous expansions, each of which is a fixed number of cards so you know what you're buying. Still allows for spending a lot on the game, but the base game comes with a LOT of stuff to try out (i.e. multiple hacker and corporation "identities").LotR LCGX-wing MinisSekigahara: the Unification of JapanWHAT IF YOU'RE EXPECTING LOTS OF COMPANY (6+ players):Bohnanza
Great little game of planting, trading, and harvesting beans. The trick is that you can’t rearrange your hand; you must trade in order to plant the beans you want. Once you get enough of a particular type of bean (or when you’re forced to plant another type of bean), harvest it for points. It get special kudos from me because it’s great with kids and adults. Plays up to 7.Dixit (Odyssey)
A party game! Well, sort of. In this game everybody is given a hand of imaginative, surreal, and evocative cards. The active player puts a card face down, and give a phrase, word, or noise that goes with it. Everyone else ALSO puts in a card that best goes with that “clue”. They are mixed up, shown, and people get points for picking the active player’s card, or for getting people to choose their card. But if the clue is too obvious or too hard, the active player gets NO points. So there are serious demands made on the imagination of the players -- dull clues or simply half-hearted ones diminish the game experience. But knowing that caveat, it’s a GREAT game. There are a couple of versions of this one, but Odyssey plays up to 12.Time’s Up! (Title Recall)
Another party game, but you might call this one a “proper” party game. You play in pairs, and you have 30 seconds at a time to make your partner guess what’s on the cards. In the first round, you can use just about any clues, gestures, and noises. In the second round, you are limited to ONE WORD for a clue and one guess. In the third round, NO talking but gestures and noises still allowed. Absolute hilarity ensues. The "Title Recall" version is the best, because even if you don't know the movie/book/song, you can give hints one word at a time (i.e. "Devil With the Blue Dress On" is easier than "Rutherford B. Hayes" if you are unfamiliar with both).Citadels
Straight-forward, almost bare-bones game that is also great and plays up to 8. Pass around the role cards, pick one secretly, the king calls out the roles in order. You collect gold and use it to pay for building cards out of your hand. Use your role's special ability to get more gold or cards or to mess with others. Very much a social game. Plays a bit long; I recommend playing to only 7 buildings (instead of 8).7 Wonders
30-minute game that is VERY popular game these-a-days for a group of up to 7. You build up a civilization, which really just means you play cards that produce some product, or provide military strength, or give you points directly, or improves your science. So multiple win paths, which is always cool. Each player has a hand, but you only play ONE card before passing your hand to the adjacent player. You can also trade with your neighbors, so overall you are VERY interested in what other players are doing, and you often have to change your strategy to thwart theirs. Highly recommended by this thread.The Resistance (Avalon)
You ever play mafia or werewolf? Some smart guy boiled it down into a 5-10 player game that can be played in 30 minutes. Every round someone becomes the leader, who then chooses a team for a mission. Each person on the team secretly contribute a “pass” or “fail” card for that mission. Since there are spies, some missions are going to fail. Incriminations will fall like the rain on the moor. Best 3 out of 5 missions. An elegant and tense social game, but like all social games it is somewhat dependent on the group. Quick enough for multiple games (which will often be stridently demanded). There's also a newer, better version of this game called "Resistance: Avalon", where one character (Merlin) knows who the bad guys are, but the bad guys will win if they identify Merlin.One Night Ultimate WerewolfCa$h & GunsESTABLISHED CLASSICS THAT GUFFAW AT THESE PUNK UPSTARTS:Settlers of Catan
Ah, the grandfather of what’s called the “euro-game”. Little direct confrontation, trading, grabbing valuable resources or positions before your opponent, a bit abstract, and you win by accumulating the most points. You accumulate and trade to get certain combinations of resources to get cities and roads. Your cities help you gather more resources. It’s a bit grey around the temples these days, and there are probably better expressions of these mechanics, but it has stood the test of time and one huge reason to include it here is that you may have already played it. If you want an expansion, get “Seafarers”.Puerto Rico
The premier euro game. Shoot, the premier board
game. Rich, deep, and meaty. Grow crops, sell them, buy buildings which give you abilities and benefits, and you need laborers for all this stuff as well. You choose a role which helps you in some way every round. High player interaction, though it's not direct. For such a deep game, it’s not actually that difficult to teach to new players, but there can be a big gulf in player skill. Some people who have played this forever can be a bit hostile to newbies, but that is NOT true of the people in this thread, that I've seen. Playable online -- many people here will help you get started if you ask.El Grande
An older euro game, but the daddy of all area control games, and still very highly regarded. You play "caballeros" into regions adjacent to the movable “king” figure, and then you score points in a region by having more of them than the others. There are semi-randomized event cards which drive the action every round, so every game and every round is different. A bit abstract but still pretty approachable.Agricola
Farming-themed game of resource management. Sound exciting? It is! You struggle just to get your family fed, and yet you also need to scrabble for resources to improve your farm. One of the most satisfying things is upgrading your wood hut to stone. Fairly easy to teach to others, simply because the theme is so immediately understandable, and the turns are quick, and because at the end of the game, even if you lose, you can admire and show off the farm you made. So I would call it a good introduction to the longer euro games.Small World
Choose from the randomized races, spread out, hold key areas, gain points every round. Once you have extended as much as you can, put the race into decline (i.e. you can’t do anything with it but it still gives you points), and choose a new race. You get the good feeling from wiping someone out without as much of the hurt feelings, because they can just get a new race and ethnic-cleanse you in return. Popular, has a bunch of expansions.WEEKEND-CONSUMING ENDEAVORS (aka games lasting 3+ hours):Twilight Imperium (3rd edition)
Ah, the game that defines epic space expansion and warfare. In a nutshell, the hex-based “board” is made up of planetary systems, which can be conquered. You “spend” command tokens to activate a system and move stuff there or build stuff. Then there’s technology research, trading, dice-based warfare, secret objectives, phase selection, a hand of action cards,... and on and on. Pretty intense. Pretty long. But there’s something about the theme that makes it almost irresistible.Arkham Horror
In many ways this is on the other end of the spectrum from the sterile spaceships and abstracted planet-conquering of Twilight Imperium or Eclipse. This game is all about the atmosphere, and trying to hold it together while you avoid being devoured by nameless horrors. Those horrors are of the Lovecraftian kind, and the rulebook kind. Seriously, the FAQ has its own FAQ. But if you can pierce through the “rule crust” into the pulsing black heart of the game, you’ll probably... uh... go insane. But madmen are often happy, right? UPDATE: The recently-released Eldritch Horror is apparently Arkham without the rulebook insanity. Highly-recommended alternative by this thread.Risk: Legacy
This has consistently been one of the most-talked-about games since it came out. It’s a streamlined version of Risk with a huge twist -- after each game you will permanently alter the board (naming a continent, adding a city), the cards (ripping up(!) one of them), and/or the rule book itself. It comes with packets that you will open after meeting certain criteria. It’s meant to be played over 15 games with the same group of people, producing a totally unique map which is also a testament to each previous battle. Not all groups can make this kind of commitment, but we can dream, can’t we?Dominant Species
A grand worker-placement and area-control game, that still very successfully conveys the theme of struggling for survival on a map that’s far too small and environmentally hostile.War of the Ring
The definitive LOTR experience in board game form. It’s everybody against the Sauron player, and you have to keep the One Ring out of his hands while also keeping his armies from turning Middle-Earth into a suburb of Mordor. [/quote]