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.
Trains, while having a similar theme to Ticket to Ride, is almost entirely different! Trains is a deck builder. That's not to say it's like Magic: the Gathering, but instead you build your deck during the game! Furthermore, there's a board you'll be playing on, trying to connect routes and build stations and block your opponents from doing the same. However, beware Waste! You generate waste when you build things and it clogs up your hand, taking up the space of more useful cards.
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.
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.
Okay, so I'm done with those gateway games! What's everyone really into nowadays?
Mikey CTS's Picks!
The only deckbuider I've owned and played since Penny Arcade's foray into the genre. Where the word "deckbuilder" sends some players running, Clank
puts smiles on any player's face. It is a push your luck game, combining Ascension
with Deep Sea Adventure
. There is a double-sided board with two different dungeons that players traverse. Players build a deck to let them race to the deepest part of the dungeon to find the most valuable treasures while avoiding making too much noise to disturb the dragon who will attack players at random.
As the game goes by, players accidentally (or intentionally) give themselves or their opponents Clank! They put their colored cubes in a pile, and when the dragon attacks, those cubes go in a bag and are pulled out in increasing amounts. If a player's color is pulled, they took damage, and if their damage is maxed, they are out of the game. If they died underground they get zero points, if they die above ground, they at least get to count points at the end of the game.
Healing is scarce. Really
scarce. You can't count on it. Your options are to increase the Clank of other players, reducing the probability of your cubes getting pulled, or just grabbing a lesser treasure and ending the game early. You might come across cards that reduce your clank, or really rare ones that give you healing.
The Dungeon Row
deck changes up the flow of the game every time. I've seen games with absolutely new healing and a very aggressive dragon where only one player escaped, I've sen slow games with plenty of healing where every player scored high, and everything in between. I've also seen players boldly (or recklessly) build their decks with high Clank and high Card Draw, allowing them to rampage through the dungeon and end the game early. Either way, the finale of the game leaves players clutching their pearls, biting their nails and possibly screaming. Don't let player elimination scare you off either. If all players are playing optimally, everyone should be lasting an equal amount of time in the game.
My only complaint is that some cards in the Dungeon Row are utter garbage and nobody wants them, such as the Lucky Coin.
Athenor's Game Picks:
You have to make peace to wage war. Chinatown
is a game of negotiation and trading, as you claim board spaces, draw building tiles, and start putting those businesses on the board over the course of six years (rounds). The larger the business you can build, the more money it'll earn you every year. However, you'll never get the board placement or tiles you'll need to build those businesses up on your own. This is where negotiation and trading come in to play - you'll have to wheel and deal with your other players to complete that Dumpling Shop you desperately want. And during negotiations in Chinatown
, there is one simple rule: ANY. THING. GOES. Want to trade tiles for spaces? Be my guest. You want to make some deal or future trade agreements, go right ahead. You want to offer your buddy a soda for that spot you need on the board? Maybe they'll go for it. Just remember, any agreements made regarding future commitments are not binding. Happy negotiations!
A criminally under-appreciated gem, it's Kiki's Delivery Service the Boardgame. Well, not quite, but pretty close. In Broom Service
, using your witches and their assistance, you create potions and send your witches off to distant lands to make deliveries. During each round, players will select six of their ten cards to play during that round. Each card represents a witch-y helper, like gnomes, druids, or witches, who each have specific jobs. Whenever another player selects to play a card, every player must play the same card in clockwise order if they have it. The catch is, each card has either a coward or brave option. If you are cowardly, you may claim your reward immediately. If you select brave, your rewards will be much greater but you must wait till the end of the round to claim them. If another player after you also claims to be brave, you will receive no rewards at all. Last player to select brave picks the next card to play. It's a game of risk and reward, of gosling for position, and jockeying for the the order of actions. The player who takes the wisest risks and can best predict their opponents' plays will win.
Powerpupp's Game Picks:
What started as a Board Game Geek contest has quickly become my favorite pick up and play game. A worker placement game, you use resources on a limited set of actions to purchase plans for buildings, then build them in order to score points. The game is incredibly fast, playing in about 10-15 minutes, and it all fits into a mint tin!
Keep your eye out for this one once the designer gets his distribution issues resolved.
A serene-looking game that actually gets very cutthoat! You are guardians of a garden, cultivating flowers. Completing flowers gets you points equal to how many petals it has, and also allows the controlling player to either gain a special ability or 5 points! You control a flower by having the most of your symbol on it, augmented by your bug avatars. But only 1 of each type of flower can be out on the board at once. So do you go for the score or go for the control?
Star Wars: Destiny
THIS IS A COLLECTABLE CARD GAME. BUY IN AT YOUR OWN RISK.
That said? The game is incredibly fun. Using a very fast-paced back and forth playstyle, where you get a moment of breathing to react to any given action...
You enter the game with a set of characters that get their own dice and resources. Your deck is then used to add upgrades, support, or play events. It's a simple game on the surface, but getting to play it is where it shines. Unfortunately, its popularity is making it very hard to find at the moment. Still, grab a starter and see if it is worth playing for you.
Darric's Game Picks:
This is a heavy game with drafting, fighting, and card synergy. You play for three Ages of the end of the world. Don't worry about dying - heroes are resummoned to their clan longboats out of Valhalla at the beginning of each age. Each age begins with drafting six cards from packs of 8, which get you monsters or combat bonuses or points or quests. Quests and successful pillaging of the surviving provinces of the world let you advance your clan stats to give you more actions per age, more points per fight, or a higher max army size. It's a combat-heavy game but combat is neither an unalloyed good thing nor an unalloyed expenditure of resources. Losing fights can help with quests and points and trigger clan upgrades, so you're not constantly maneuvering to threaten without actually fighting like in TI, but it's not a straight up war game, often the best strategies involve your own heroes dying or standing off in a corner not fighting.
A Feast for Odin
I like Agricola a lot. I like how tense it is. I haven't played Caverna, but if I had to pick a game that's much nicer than Agricola, and still gives me what I want from it, it'd be A Feast for Odin. It's ... kind of incredible. You're vikings, doing everything vikings do. Everything. Building houses, growing food, hunting food, eating food, building boats, going whaling, going to market, trading goods, pillaging, discovering new lands, emigrating - these are all mechanically represented in a game with the biggest worker placement action board you've ever seen. And while that might seem like design creep in the worse possible sense, everything is in service of this brilliant simple (but brain burning) tile laying (ala Patchwork) mechanic where you're trying to cover as much space as possible with high quality goods. I love it.
Red Dragon Inn
Adventurers have downtime too, and after their latest dungeon dive, they retire to the Red Dragon Inn to brag about their travels, flex their muscles, gamble, and drink.
Each character is a little different, with some like Fiona whittling away at others' fortitude and keeping from getting drunk, or Gerki being a great gambler. The wizard Zot and his familiar Pooki add a bit of unpredictability to the mix since Pooki's mood can change. The characters have their own decks, and you use those to be the last adventurer standing, because everyone else is too drunk, too injured, or broke! There are five volumes of Red Dragon Inn available, all with different characters, plus individual packs with new characters, and each one can interact with the other. New characters have included Pooki as a separate character, the summoner Zariah, and the best character of all time: Wizgille, the Gnome Artificer.
I adore this game. Everyone should own at least two editions of it.
Sentinels of the Multiverse
Mansions of Madness: 2nd Edition
Zombie Hero's pick:
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
The old OP has a ton of recommendations too!
Fantastic new games keep coming out! For example, check out Potion Explosion
This is a short game of collecting ingredients to brew potions, which give you points as well as special abilities you can use if you drink them. That's fun by itself, but the magic comes in the way you collect those ingredients.
There's this nifty cardboard dispenser you pour a bunch of marbles into, and they fill the columns with a satisfying clacking sound. Then, when you take an ingredient, new marbles will roll down into place, and if you cause like colors to collide, you get those too. Causing these chain reactions is the heart of the game, and it's extremely clever and fun.
I love little, simple games that are easy to teach. That's why it's so notable that I love Vast
, which is the opposite of these things.
Vast is a game of asymmetry, which is handily summarized in the following simple diagram:
In Vast, each player takes on a role with its own rules, its own goals, and its own mechanisms. Turn structure for one player bears no resemblance to the turn structure for the next. The Knight is playing a typical RPG, exploring a cave, completing sidequests, gaining experience, and trying to slay the dragon. The Goblins, on the other hand, are controlling a bunch of moving parts, swarming and darting through the darkness and trying to chip away at the Knight. The Cave player is trying to misdirect and slow down other players long enough to collapse in, killing everyone. And so on! It's a marvel that it works at all.
But new games aren't everything! Classics return to the table every week. For example, I'm enamored of Edel, Stein & Reich
, an older game of bluffing and brinksmanship.
This is a simultaneous action selection game. I love games like this, because everyone is always involved! Players try to collect majorities in four different colors of gems by deciding what action to take: claim gems, claim cash, claim a special action card, and so forth. If nobody else chose what you did, then great! You get to take that action. If three or more chose it, nobody gets to do it. But if two people chose it, they have to negotiate over which one gets to do it, and how the other one gets compensated. Simple, clean, cutthroat, and fun.