So we’ve kind of done this before with Table Top Picks, our top 7 board games, but since then, I’ve certainly played more games, so my list might have changed. I also tried to avoid looking back at my list so I wasn’t basing it off of what I had previously done. So without further ado, here are my top 5 board games.
5. Dead of Winter
This game isn’t without flaws/weird bits to it; the traitor, if there is one, generally can always tank the game during the last round if they don’t think they are going to win, in order to prevent everyone else from winning. And then everyone has secret objectives, so it kind of makes everyone look a bit like a traitor. I once wrote about how I’d like this to be turned into a legacy game, and I still think this would be one way to improve it. I think another way would be to rework it so that someone who completes their secret objective is the super-winner, even if the group wins the overall game; otherwise, as a non-traitor player in that last round, you might as well try to tank the game, or you’ll look 100% like the traitor.
That said, there are a ton of things I love about this game. The first being the crossroad system — on your turn, another player draws a crossroad card and reads it, and if you do a certain action or move someone to a certain spot that’s specified on the card, this acts as a sort of trigger. The other player then reads out a bit of a story, and you have to make a choice between two options the card gives you (at least most of the time; sometimes there is only one option). In the rules, it says to draw a card per each player’s turn; we draw two, and then if one of them is triggered by a player’s action, that is the one that the player has to deal with. This means that you get these cool story interjection moments. I also really like how gritty this game feels. Yes, it’s about surviving against a horde of zombies, but it’s in many ways more about the survivors themselves, like in The Walking Dead. That puts a different level of stress on you as a player, because you aren’t just worried about mowing down zombies all the time — there’s all kinds of other stuff to worry about. For example, can you feed your people? What do you do if you find more survivors? Is the base getting too messy? Dead of Winter is a fun game and a challenging one, and if you don’t like the hidden traitor aspect, you can certainly play it as a solely cooperative game.
Smallworld is a fun take on the area control concept — in this game, you have a fantasy race and trait that are randomly combined, and you control an army of soldiers bearing that race and trait to take over areas on a board. But whatever number of players you play with, the board is small enough that you’re going to have to take over other players’ areas. This game is meant for that, though, and it’s really hard to have hurt feelings over it (unlike with other area control games), because when you don’t have enough of your current race, you can put them into decline and get a new one and exact your revenge during the next turn. It’s also a ton of fun because you never know what sort of combinations you’re going to get. Maybe you have flying giants or underworld sorcerers or commando pixies. These combinations change every game, too, so it feels different every time you play it (and they have awesome expansions for even more variability). Players’ turns go quickly, and the game has a round limit on it, so it never takes that long to play. The rules are simple, and the fantasy is fun and crazy. This is an area control game that I would pull out to the table anytime, and even people who hate Risk will probably like to play this game.
3. Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
My first pure cooperative game on the list, Dresden Files is a fun game that is very hard at times. You play through the different books of the Dresden Files series in game form. It is an interesting game mechanically, in that you have action points that you need to use and you have a hand of cards that all cost action points. You have to balance playing cards and discarding cards to get more action points, but sometimes you have to discard a really good card.
This game, while being cooperative, does have some hidden information between players; in most cooperative games, you share openly what information you have on your cards, and often, your hand of cards is right in front of you, but not so in Dresden. You can give general descriptions of your cards, but the details can’t be said. Now, you do develop a sort of a shorthand for that as time goes on, but you never know for sure what other players have. Finally, this game really does feel a lot like playing through the books, which some other games based on books or movies don’t do quite as well. In the books, Harry is always almost losing or getting beat up, and in this game, you feel like that; it basically always comes down to the last little bit and the luck of a die roll to determine if you win or not.
2. Betrayal at House on the Hill
I love love love this game. It has that campy style of a haunted house or a horror movie where you know someone is going to accidentally piss off the zombie rednecks or turn into a ghost or call death to your location, and you’re going to have to deal with it. This is a surprise traitor game where you start out exploring this old haunted house and encountering weird things and finding omens. It’s a bit like Cabin in the Woods, in which the characters are stuck in a horror movie and somehow something horrible is going to happen to them. Depending on what they mess around with, though, they may trigger the omen that sets events in motion.
That is 100% what happens in this game, except one person is the traitor. This game does have one glaring flaw that becomes less of one the more you play the game — when you get to the haunt, the stage during which the traitor is revealed, sometimes the traitor rules or the survivor rules don’t make a ton of sense. The more you play, the more sense they make, but some of them are just weird and take a while to figure out. Like I said, this has the classic horror feel to it, and I love it; I’ll play it every chance I get, and I’m excited for Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate, the D&D version of Betrayal at House on the Hill.
1. Pandemic/Pandemic Legacy
If you follow us on Facebook, you’d probably guess that this was going to be my number one. I am super jazzed for season 2 of Pandemic Legacy. Pandemic is a game where you work together to find cures for diseases while they are spreading all the time; it’s just a blast. It’s a fairly tough cooperative game that the legacy version then turns on its head and makes into something amazing. In that version, there are story elements that come up each “month” you play; you also find out new things as you go, and the rules change slightly as the game progresses. This game is a ton of fun, and I love bringing it to the table. It’s also an accessible cooperative game in that, although there is a fair amount of strategy, it’s easy enough to learn the base game. If you haven’t tried playing this game, definitely give it a whirl, and if it’s too easy, there are things that you can do to make it harder. And if you are looking for a way to change up your basic Pandemic gaming experience, the legacy version of the game is an awesome way to do that. There are a bunch of great expansions for the game as well, but I haven’t played all of those, so I can’t speak to them.
I always have to do some honorable mentions as well, since there are so many games that I’ve played and love, but can’t put on the list. Plus, it’s rare for me to run into a board game that I don’t like. First on my honorable mention list is Star Wars Rebellion; this game feels like the epic space opera that Star Wars is, in a box. I’ve played it a single time, and I want to play it again. Sushi Go! Party is a game that I can play over and over again, and it’s simple, fast, and has fun strategy to it. Arkham Horror/Elder Signs are how I like to get my HP Lovecraft fix, though Mansions of Madness is a game that I want to play even more and which might pass the other two up. Cosmic Encounters is a fun space game that plays pretty quickly and has fun alien race powers. Finally, Hogwarts Battle is a game that I just got to the table a second time last night, and it was a blast; you get to play as the main characters of Harry Potter and defeat villains as you play through the plot of the books.
What are some board games that you like to get to the table?
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