New Series of articles, I’ll explain how it works as I go along: Is this big Kickstarter a Back or a Brick for you?(What does this mean, basically, would you back this or is it a pass?) First, I’m going to break down the pros…
Sometimes going to visit family can be a lot around the holidays. If you want to find something you can do together, board games are often a fun option, though not for every family. If you think your family would like board games, here are some options that you can give as a gift to hopefully add even more good times to your holidays.
Most of these games are going to be pretty simple and easy to play with a range of ages and are often called introductory games. While, if you are a seasoned gamer, these might be a little bit lighter than you’d want to play all the time, but it’s a good compromise with family who might only want to play very light games or “classic” games like Uno and Monopoly.
Carcassonne – This game can actually be a bit more challenging for new players when it comes to placing out their meeples. When do they do it, where should they do it, how do farmers even work? But the tile playing piece is something that is very easy for people to pick up on and fun for people to do. It’s a fun game for that tile laying aspect, and once they have down the basics of the scoring, and scoring at least towns and monasteries are easy to understand, Carcassonne is a good game for the whole family.
Castle Panic – This game skews a little bit younger, but maybe you have a younger sibling or niece of nephew who you want to get into gaming or a grand child. Whatever the relationship might be, Castle Panic is a fun game. It’s simple as to how it works, it’s cooperative, so you can all plan out things together and that makes it easier to teach as well. Definitely, once they start to get the idea of the game hang back and let them take the lead, but this tower defense card game is a lot of fun, and easy for younger kids to pick up. There is also My First Castle Panic for even younger kids.
Century: Golem Edition – I picked this one over the normal version, Century: Spice Road, because the gems in this game are cooler than cubes in Spice Road. It’s a pretty simple game of collecting gems, getting cards, using those cards to get other types of gems, and turning in gems for golems. This game has a bit more going on to it, but the turns are very fast, and since you can only do one action per turn, it makes it easier for people to figure it out as they go along. The table appeal is great for this game as well.
Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger – Now, this one is completely different and might be too silly for some people in your family. But in Choose Your Own Adventure: House of Danger, you are going through chapters of this story, making choices and rolling dice once in a while to see if you can complete a challenge. This is really a story telling game, and it would be an easy one to play just sitting around a living room without needing a table. This game is light, easy and cooperative.
Dice Throne Season 1 – This game is just silly in a very different way than Choose Your Own Adventure. This one is also about the opposite of a cooperative game as you’re having different contestants fight against each other in a dice chucking game. But it is also familiar because it’s yahtzee style rolling, just with more added onto it. It would be a fun one to face off different characters against each other and see who can do the best. The games also play fast, so you could do a small tournament if you wanted and had the right group. The art in the game is also fun, and the dice are great. I’d recommend the first season of the game though, as the second season has more complicated characters.
Draftosaurous – Draftosaurous is a game that I’ve only played once, but it was a ton of fun when I did. In it, you are drafting dinosaur and scoring them in different ways. The ways are simple and you can easily explain them as often as you want in your game without slowing down the game. Plus, the dinosaurs are meeples, which look amazing. So it has a cute factor going for it as well. The game also plays very quickly, so you might end up playing a few in a row. But the game isn’t so simple that people will get board with it fast.
Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – People will be drawn to games with an intellectual property (IP) that they recognize. And Harry Potter is a very popular IP that most people are at least familiar with, even if they haven’t seen all the movies or read all the books. This is a deck building game, so it has a little bit to teach with deck building if people aren’t familiar with it, but the first few games, which have bad guys from the first few books, keep the game simple so that people can understand it. Eventually you get more complex things, but by then, people should be familiar with deck building enough that more won’t complicate it for them. It’s a good fun game, and has a little bit more than some other games.
ICECOOL – This one, if you’ve followed my top 100 and my thoughts on the game, shouldn’t be a surprise to you. Icecool is a great family game that anyone can play. Even younger kids can play with only possibly needing to make the rules simpler just for scoring, and go with more of a tournament rule style. This game is just about flicking penguins around and having a silly good time. If you want to play it on a table, you can, if you want to play it on the floor you can. Adults might find it a bit too simple, but it is meant to be silly fun more than a strategic match.
Just One – Yes, it showed up on the stocking stuffer list, but it works well here also. It’s a cooperative party game, and instead of just pulling out the old ones at your parents or grandparents place, Just One offers something new. The game play is easy and the components are nice. The concept of the game is also easy to teach. This game should work well in most settings and with a wide age range, from Grandma and Grandpa to your 10 year old cousin.
Lost Expedition – Another cooperative game, but I really think that for family weight games, cooperative games are great. They are good introductory level and for people who might not like conflict in games, they work well. Lost Expedition is all about going and trying to find the lost city of Z. However, there are plenty of challenges you have to get through each morning and evening as you hike. If you don’t ration out your resources, you might die before they get there, but with some clever path construction, you can rush to the end before you run out of resources. The game is quite easy to explain and the artwork is nice. This game also helps keep alpha players from running the table.
Machi Koro – I’m not going to suggest any Machi Koro in particular, but if you think people will like the game, I recommend the legacy version. For me, that game seemed to play faster than the base game and being able to make the game unique to the person who is getting it, that’s something that is cool and most games don’t do. This is a tableau building game, but you can more easily explain it that you are trying to build up the best town by getting buildings and building monuments. Turns are pretty fast in Machi Koro, especially when people start to become familiar with the cards. And the cards are pretty simple, so it shouldn’t take too long. While not my favorite game, it’s a good one that is easy to teach to a lot of different levels of players.
Pandemic – I’m sure you expected this one to be on the list, but it’s a good and straightforward cooperative game. It’s also one that even if people aren’t gamers, they might have seen before. It’s also challenging enough that the person you give it to won’t get bored with it or beat it too often right away. And when they start to, there are expansions that can be added to change up the game to make it more challenging. This game of player powers and curing diseases also has a theme that people will be able to understand quickly, even if the game is fairly abstract.
Potion Explosion – The toy factor to this game is high with all the marbles in it, but the game itself is pretty simple. You are collecting marbles to complete potions to help you get more marbles. The game play is simple just pulling out a marble, if like colored marbles hit, you get those marbles, and it can cascade onward. These marbles you then use to complete potions, and the potions give you more things that you can do to get more marbles. But the game is really about pulling out those marbles and letting them hit and getting a whole bunch of marbles when they keep on doing that. Turns are pretty fast, and the concept is easy to grasp, especially with so many app games doing something similar.
Sagrada – A game about making stained glass windows, this looks great on the table with translucent dice that actually help make it look like stained glass. Another drafting game, this one you are taking dice that match specific colors or numbers to try and fill in your stained glass windows. The scoring for the game is pretty simple, and while there are some powers that are a bit tricky, there are plenty of simple ones you can start with, and I often choose those for the first game. The concepts are simple, like numbers and colors can’t go next to each other orthogonally (in rows and columns), and you have to place the die you drafted next to another one, diagonally or orthogonally. Definitely one that most people will pick up on fast.
Second Chance – Another one from the stocking stuffer list, but this is my roll and write (or flip and write as the case might be) for the list. Second Chance just works well because of the Tetris like shapes and people understand trying to fill in an area as much as possible. It is pretty solitaire as what other people are doing won’t affect you, but the game is pretty when it’s completed and a fast game to play. Generally I don’t see people only playing a single game of it, you at least play two, one for each side of your sheet before being done.
Small World – Another classic modern game, Small World is an area control game where you get points for all the areas that you have and other scoring, such as what type of area you are in. It’s a silly game that can be a bit mean, but the nice thing about how this game can be mean is that if you are almost kicked off the board, you can go into decline, get a new race next turn and go onto the board. That’s the only tricky part about the game, in my opinion, knowing when to go into decline and understanding that it is your whole turn. The combinations of races and powers are what then make the game stand out, because who doesn’t want flying halflings or maybe seafaring dwarves. You never know what combination you might get or want.
Sushi Go Party! – Now, this is a bit more complex than just normal Sushi Go, but because of that complexity, if offers variability which will keep it coming to the table longer. In the game you are drafting different types of foods to create the best meal and scoring points over three rounds. Depending on what type of food it is, it’ll score you points in various ways. Maybe you want three sashimi to get 10 points, but will get three of them, whereas tofu scores you points for two of them, but if you get a third, you don’t get any points, because you don’t want to fill up on tofu. The game can take a little bit to get into, but if you play a pretty basic set-up to start, people will catch on fast.
Ticket to Ride – The Train Game, as a lot of people call it, is a classic family weight game where you’re trying to complete various routes. This game has a little bit of strategy in it, mainly in picking your routes to help create the longest route, but beyond that, it’s collecting sets of cards and building your train routes. What works well in this game is that the rules are simple and you only do one thing on your turn. This helps people not be bogged down by all the options available. While this game doesn’t have a ton of variety in the base box, there are other maps you can get for it that’ll change up how the game works once you’ve played through the base game enough. But this one is a good one to add to parents or grand parents collection and play once or twice a year around the holidays.
Wits & Wagers – Final game on the list, and other party game. This one is my favorite trivia style party game, because you don’t need to be great at trivia. You just have to know, who in the group, might know the answer or be closest to the answer, without going over. All the questions have answers that are numbers, so you put down your answer and then bet on what answer you think is right. If you are correct, you get your money back plus some, depending on how close to the middle it was, so you can bet on your answer, if you think you are right, or you can go with the person who you think might know more about it than you do. It’s a fun and sometimes funny game that is good for a whole family and because of how it works, can play with younger kids.
Now, there are so many more family games out there. I left some off the list that I like, simply because I had something similar on the list. Dice Throne could have easily been left off the list for King of Tokyo that has a similar mechanic, but I also wanted to provide some different options as well. Hopefully you can play some of these with family or friends over the holidays, and maybe give them to them as a gift so that they can introduce them to their friends and grow the board gaming hobby.
What are some of your favorites from my list? Is there a game that you’ve found works well as a gift?
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It’s that time of year, with Black Friday and Holiday Shopping nearly upon us. That means that people are starting to think about the gifts that they’ll be getting for others or what they might want to ask for themselves. This list is basically the…
“There’s so much on the planet, all this money to be made.” “What about the giant bugs?” “Hire some good security for the mines.” “And the scary looking brain scorpions?” “More security.” “And the hydras?” “Alright, mechanical armored security.” That’s how I imagine it went…
What has turned into one of my favorite types of games is the cooperative game. A good cooperative game adds a lot of challenge in coming up with the best strategy out there, trying to think several turns ahead, and using the unique abilities of each player to win the game.
Both Pandemic and The Lord of the Rings Board Game are great examples of good cooperative games. They have different roles for the different people that you can play throughout a game. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Sam, and the rest of the characters each have unique abilities, which means that you have to play to their strengths. Frodo is very good at playing cards where you need them, and Sam is very good about being slow and steady and not getting too close to the Eye of Sauron. Pandemic builds on the same strategies, where you play different members of the CDC all with different abilities, which can help you remove disease cubes, travel around the world, or build new CDC outposts. Because of these differences, even though the game is the same each time, it plays differently.
Does One Person Take Over in a Cooperative Game?
The simple answer would be sometimes.
But many of the cooperative games out there have a simpler set of rules and actions. That means that everyone in the group is going to be apt to pick up on the strategy faster. In Lord of the Rings, you are generally drawing a tile and then either playing or drawing cards. And in Pandemic, you can do four actions on your turn. So this action economy helps everyone understand all that is available to do. There are some games, such as Arkham Horror, that while being cooperative, have enough strategy and probability to them that it takes a while to learn and the people who pick up on that strategy faster are going to lead the turns for other people.
What If I Don’t Want to Play a Game that is Completely Cooperative?
Fortunately — and these are some of my favorites — we are starting to see games that are cooperative for some of the time and then have a surprise traitor. The two that I really enjoy are Dead of Winter, where there is a possibility that someone is a traitor, and Betrayal at the House on the Hill, in which someone will definitely be the traitor, but who it will be is determined randomly partway through the game. This can lead to some people having hurt feelings, because it turns out that someone has been a traitor the whole time, but in all of the semi-cooperative games out there, the traitor is determined randomly, because otherwise you’d know who the traitor is from the start of the game. And as the traitor in Dead of Winter, you are trying not to tip your hand and show that something is up, while also trying to complete your mission.
What Sort of Group Can Enjoy These Games?
I think that all but the most cutthroat group are going to enjoy a cooperative game. There is a lot of strategy that can go along with these games, and that will keep the more serious players involved in the game. If there is a more serious player in the group, it is important to find a game where they can have their fill of strategy, but a game that is simple enough so that players who pick up on the strategy slower won’t get overshadowed by other players. If you are leading the game and notice that someone isn’t getting as much input as other people, ask them if they have any suggestions or ideas and help get them involved.
What Do You Recommend?
Dead of Winter is probably my top recommendation. I like the semi-cooperative nature of the game. And as compared to some other hidden traitor games, you don’t know for sure that there is a traitor. If there isn’t, have you been suspicious of the people at the table the whole time, because you don’t think the move is the most ideal? And can you survive to see another day, or will the zombies eat you?
Pandemic comes in at a close second. There are a lot of different random parts to the game, and that can make it challenging and different every time. The concept of the game is well done, and even though you have six different ways to die (or something around that), you rarely ever feel like you are completely run over. Pandemic Legacy is another fun version of the Pandemic game series, and there are expansions for the original game that can change it up if it ever starts to feel stale.
A simpler cooperative game is Castle Panic. You and the group are trying to defend your castle from goblins, orcs, and other monsters. As they continue to attack, they are going to start knocking down your city walls, and what happens if they get all the way to the castle? This game plays quite quickly, and is easy to show someone how to play and can be picked up in a couple of turns.
There are many more cooperative and semi-cooperative games. I’d highly recommend The Lord of the Rings board game that I’ve mentioned in this post as a very challenging game, where you will die more often than not. Betrayal at the House on the Hill is another great game that changes up every time that you play it. There are other simpler cooperative games as well. Even though I wouldn’t highly recommend it, Forbidden Island would be a good game to play with kids, and Forbidden Desert appears to offer more challenges, but would again be pretty appropriate for play with kids.
What are some cooperative games that you like?
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