Back before we had this forum we used to keep a semi-active boardgame thread floating in G&T were we'd recommend games to one another, give session reports and just generally chat. It was good fun, and recently I've felt a terrible burning lust to spend some of my hard earned cash on a cardboard box filled with bits of wood and plastic.
Either way, I'll try to do a proper OP and outline the "big" games.
Settlers of Catan
In Settlers of Catan, players try to be the dominant force on the island of Catan by building settlements, cities, and roads. On each turn dice are rolled to determine what resources the island produces. Players collect these resources to build up their civilizations to get to 10 victory points and win the game. Multi-award-winning and one of the most popular games in recent history due to its amazing ability to appeal to non-gamers and gamers alike.
This is pretty much a genre defining game. It treads a strange area between the common boardgames you can find in any toyshop and the weird ones you have to go to specialist for. It's excellent, but like all gateway drugs you end up hungering for more.
There are some expansions too, the big ones being Seafarers
and Knights and Cities
. The former can be seen as essential (it was originally planned to be part of Settlers but was removed due to the expense) while the latter isn't quite an expansion in the normal sense, instead it changes the game into something very different. As a word of advice, avoid the 5&6 player expansions, they really damage the carefully balanced elegance of the basic three and four player game.
A card game where the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game. By playing cards, you change numerous aspects of the game: how to draw cards, how to play cards, and even how to win. There are 84 cards in the deck with additions available.
Fun, but in a very different way to most other games I'm going to talk about. It's very random (so much so that you won't ever really develop any strategies) but it makes you laugh and a game will only last about ten minutes at the absolute maximum, so it's a nice game to crack out with a couple of beers. It does get old fast though. It comes in a few different themed flavours, such as Stoner Fluxx
, which has cards telling you to smoke.
In this fairly light tile-laying offering, players pull a tile from the pool and place it against one of the previously played tiles. If you start a new object (city, road, farm, or monastery), you can place one of your control markers on the tile to denote your control. Markers (called Followers by the publisher and called Meeples by us) cannot directly compete when placed, so to achieve some gains, you must place your marker and use later tiles to connect up to it.
As subsequent tiles are arrayed on the board, objects get bigger or even merge. When roads or cities are completed, or a monastery is surrounded, the control marker is returned to you and you score the points. However, farmers are not returned and will score points at the game end (there are several rules variations for the farmer scoring).
Therefore, it's possible to have all of your control markers locked on the board on incomplete objects, and not be able to convert them into farmers later in the game. You must balance the need to score points during the game with the need to score farmer points at game end.
The goal is to have the most points at the end, which can be tricky to control considering your choice for each turn isn't the tile itself, but rather the placement of the tile that you drew. Think of a more strategic version of Metro's tile placement, with some of the scoring methods from El Caballero or even the Very Clever Pipe Game.
I'd say this is second to Settlers in terms of how commonplace it is. Nearly everybody who plays boardgames has played this. It's a solid game, lots of strategy and depth while not causing strokes. The main downside is that scoring can take some time at the end of the game.
The players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the days when ships had sails. Growing up to five different kind of crops: Corn, Indigo, Coffee, Sugar and Tobacco, they must try to run their business more efficiently than their close competitors; growing crops and storing them efficiently, developing San Juan with useful buildings, deploying their colonists to best effect, selling crops at the right time, and most importantly, shipping their goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.
A novel game system lets players choose the order of the phases in each turn by allowing each player to choose a role from those remaining when it is their turn. No role can be selected twice in the same round. The player who selects the best roles to advance their position during the game will win.
This is widely regarded as the best boardgame there is. There's very little luck involved which most people enjoy, as it means that most of the time the winner was the best player. The only downside is that interactions between players are rather indirect. Also some people don't like the theme, claiming it to be racist, but those people have special needs and should be sent to the camps.
Munchkin is a stand-alone card game designed by Steve Jackson that "simulates" (well, sorta') a fantasy-themed RPG (oh, ok, DnD) in a simple, card-based game that's chock full o' silliness. Everyone begins the game as a 1st level Human with NO Class (heh-heh) and via cards, they acquire Races (Elf, Dwarf, etc.), Classes (Thief, Wizard, Cleric, etc.), Items, Armor, Potions and more that they use to combat hideous monsters like the 4th level Undead Horse, the 10th level Net Troll and the 14th Level Unspeakably Awful, Indescribable Horror (very nasty, indeed). The object of the game is to reach Level 10 and levels are acquired via the slaying of monsters and the selling of acquired treasure (1,000 Gold Pieces equals 1 Level).
Often mention but not very good. Really it relies on your players having an understanding of roleplaying (specifically older D&D) humour, which as we all know is generally quite poor. Still, you'll laugh the first time and maybe play it three or four times but it quickly falls apart under scrutiny and the theme isn't strong enough to hold it alone. If you want something light and fast, Fluxx is a better bet. Although you could just keep buying Munchkin expansions to extend its life.
Twilight Imperium Third Edition is an epic empire-building game of interstellar conflict, trade, and struggle for power. Players take the roles of ancient galactic civilizations, each seeking to sieze the imperial throne via warfare, diplomacy, and technological progression. With new oversize geomorphic board tiles, finely detailed plastic miniatures, hundreds of cards, and a massive plurality of options,
The TI gameplay has been refined and redone by original designer Christian T. Petersen. The new design features faster gameplay, and involves players in a far more active game experience with much less downtime. In addition, TI3 will include new Race Cards, as well as a dramatic new approach to the structure of the gameplay itself using the new "Command" system.
If you've ever played Master of Orion then you will most likely like this. It's a lovely space empire simulation. Nice pieces, elegant rules and not all that long compared to other games of this type. The key criticism comes from people who try to play it like Risk and don't understand why they lose as a result (due to victory being determined by victory points rather than domination). There's an expansion now, but sadly I no longer live near the guys I used to play this with so I've not given it a whirl (it introduced some new races, more pieces to allow for eight players rather than six and some other goodness).
I could go on and mention Axis and Allies, Risk (And its seven hundred variants), Tigris & Euprates and even crap like Monopoly. But I think I've covered the main bases here without too much slant to my personal perferences.
Right now I can only really game with people who find Settlers a bit of a stretch and that is a shame. I'd love to be able to bust out the TI3. Still, as I said back at the top of this post, I've got the lust. So I'm looking for something fun, light (not fluxx light but Settlers light) and without too much direct competition. Agricola
has caught my eye, so I'm in the process of reading reviews. Or I might just buy Descent
) and use it as an attempt to lure my friends into the dark realm of roleplaying.