Holiday List: Games for the Casual Gamer
When buying gifts, sometimes I do that to try and improve someone’s collection of games, and by that, I mean to move beyond the likes of the Monopoly, Clue, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, and Candyland that most househoulds have had, and take those people who like games, but give them some more options to play. I’m going to be skipping Catan, Ticket to Ride, Pandemic, and Carcassone for this list, because those are the most obvious options, and I highly recommend them all. But what are some other games that offer some interesting play?
Escape Room Games
With this, I’m mainly talking about Unlock and Exit, because I’ve played both of those series, and I really highly recommend Unlock. In fact, Unlock has a new Star Wars box that is out, so a theme that will even standout. These games are basically little escape rooms in a box. Now, that doesn’t mean that they are easier than an escape room since they are smaller, they can be really tricky with hidden clues and figuring out how to use the information that you’ve found together. But this is a great family activity sort of a game. You can only play each of them once, but they work really well for casual groups and are really engaging throughout. Unlock is nice because you could play it in your group and then pass it to another group because you don’t destroy anything. Exit you do often destroy part of the game to figure out a puzzle or two or three. I also like Unlock because while both of them are time based for how well you do, Unlock has an app with a count down timer that just makes it smoother, versus Exit where the time is counting up.
I’ve talked about a lot of roll and writes, and this actually isn’t one, but it has a bit of that feel to it. In this game, you are drafting a dinosaur meeple from a handful of them that you have, and then based on how a die is rolled placing it on the board into a pen. Some pens want all different dinosaurs, some want all of one type or pairs of dinosaurs. It’s a fast little game that works really well for drafting and is pretty easy to keep track of because everyone will end up with the same number of dinosaurs on their board. There are other drafting games out there that are solid as well. I always recommend Sushi Go Party! as well, but that one can, at times get muddled because if people don’t draft at the same speed someone can end up ahead or behind and it’s harder to count it out. Draftosaurus doesn’t offer the variety, but it is a very simple game that can be played with a wide variety of ages.
I was torn on this one between Splendor and Homebrewers, I actually prefer Homebrewers by a fair amount, but it’s just a bit more complex and the theme won’t be for everyone. In Splendor, you are renaissance jewelers who are going out and getting the best jewels. You start out by taking one time use jewels, and then you can buy a jewel card for a cost of your one time use jewels. Those jewel cards then give you a permanent jewel of that color that you can use to buy more jewels. And your goal is to get the jewel cards that score points and be the first to fifteen. The game is simple and it works well. Generally, there isn’t anything that stands out as making this game amazing, but there is also nothing to knock about it. Something on par with it would be the city building game of Machi Koro that would work as well. If the people you know already have those games (or one of them) and might be looking for a step up, Homebrewers is great, or Century: Golem Edition, of the brewing theme doesn’t work.
King of Tokyo
Sometimes you just want some dice chucking fun, and King of Tokyo is that. In this game you take on being a Kaiju who is battle other Kaiju. Think Godzilla: King of the Monsters. Here, you are trying to be the king of Tokyo by either knocking out the rest of the monsters or by winning via victory points. While I have seen people win via victory points, most of the time, it’s smashing. If you are outside of Tokyo you can only hit the monster in Tokyo, if you’re in Tokyo you can hit everyone else. But the downside to being in Tokyo is that you can’t heal, so as you are getting hit by everyone, you need to know when to drop out and let someone else go into Tokyo so you don’t die. It’s a fun push your luck dice chucking game. You can also buy upgrades that allow you to do more damage, or a one time boost to victory points or something like that, so you have a lot of different strategies depending on what cards show up. They also have some expansions that add more monsters and more things to do in the game.
This could be Silver Amulet, Bullet, Coin, or Dagger, you can take your pick. If you have a bigger group of people you can play with, Dagger would be very good, if you’d mainly just be playing with with two, I like Amulet and Bullet better for that. This game is a push your luck type and take that type of game, so it might not be for everyone. Everyone starts with a village of five cards face down in front of them. They can look at two of them, and the goal is to go down in the number of cards and have the fewest cards when a vote is called for. To do that, you will either draw a card or take a card from the discard pile on the turn. If you draw it and it has a flip ability, cards 5 through 12 have them in every game, you can either add it to your village or use that ability. Cards 0 through 4 have a flipped up ability, so if they are in your village facing up, you can use their ability. But how do you get down in cards, you can trade in two of the same number for another number. So you do try and rush that, if you can figure out you have decent cards so you can call for the vote before other people can change up their village too much. It’s a fun game, plays fast and all of them can be mixed and matched together, so get two and you have a ton of different combinations that you can play.
Now, there are a lot more games. I realized that I could have easily mentioned games like Marvel United, which I mentioned before by a list, Dominion or Ascension for a deck building game, Small World, Deception Murder in Hong Kong, a whole slew of roll and write games and more. There are plenty of really good options that can help encourage and engage new gamers to maybe look beyond the standard games that were a part of a lot of our youths, and that aren’t too intimidating.