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…
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…
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and with Thanksgiving being so late this year, it’ll almost be Christmas then. That means lots of time with family, so before I talk about what you might want to pick up for that new gamer or that person you want to get into gaming on your shopping list, let’s talk about the games that you can play with your family.
There are a few requirements that I put on these games. They have to be a theme that people will generally enjoy, that probably means not that much theme really. Because there will be some people who don’t like fantasy or sci-fi or horror or romance or whatever the theme might be. The games also have to look nice or have some interesting pieces to them. That attracts people to the games. The games also have to be family weight games and easy to teach. If it’s too complex, you probably won’t play it.
So let’s hop into some games that I think will work well in most groups:
Ticket to Ride: It’s a classic, but there’s enough game to it that it’ll be palatable for someone who considers themselves a serious gamer. But it’s also simple enough that when you play it, you can probably teach a grandparent or a younger cousin how to play it. The little train pieces are fun to play around with as well, so it looks good. This is probably the game that people will be most apt to have played as well.
Century: Golem Edition: Yes, you can do spice road, but that is just more bland. This version has more toy factor with the gems and the art work is very cute and looks good on the table. This is a bit more complex, but what you’re going to be doing on your turn is still simple and limited to one thing. That means that people, while they will have to strategize, won’t be swamped by too many things to do.
Pandemic: If you need a cooperative game, I’d recommend the classic. Pandemic has nice playability and it’s a bit more complex than some other cooperative games that I could recommend. The cubes and the player powers are going to be things that people enjoy. And because it’s cooperative, if you have someone in your family who gets too competitive, you’re all working on the same team.
Sagrada: This game is just beautiful as you are drafting dice to create stained glass windows. If you are worried about some of the tools being too complex, you can pick and choose to get the right level of difficulty. This game looks amazing on the table and it’ll draw people over so that they can join in and play.
Sushi Go Party: I actually considered putting down just plain vanilla Sushi Go, because that game is simpler, but Sushi Go Party offers more variety and people will probably want to play it again, so you can change stuff up. It’s a good fast and simple card drafting and set collection game.
Second Change: This is the game that you can pull out instead of Yahtzee, which I still recommend, but if you want to introduce something different in that drawing on paper. This one you’re putting together tetris types of shapes to see who can fill in most of the area. It’s a concept that people will understand easily and one that you’ll play again and again and again. Plus, you get to doodle.
Just One: Another cooperative game, and this one in the party style. I am personally sick of games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity that get pulled out around the holidays, and Just One is different than that. The cooperative nature is great, and the little bit of a Scattergories feel is a lot of fun, plus, trying to come up with a clue that will help, but that no one else will put down is a fun challenge.
Letter Jam: Even more cooperative game play, this time with a word game. Instead of pulling out Scrabble, teach people Letter Jam where you are all trying to figure out your own word and give clues. What this helps with is a runaway winner problem that games like Scrabble can have if someone understands game play better than other people do.
Splendor: I debated between Machi Koro and Splendor but either are good here. It’s all about building your engine in a simple way to get more things. These games look nice and are easy to play. Splendor gets the nod because that’s the one that has the poker ships that everyone loves.
Ice Cool: Sometimes you have young kids in the group. While they might be able to get games like Ticket to Ride, if they aren’t familiar with games at all, you can still play Ice Cool, and I’d recommend getting Ice Cool 2 for the holidays so you can play a massive 8 player game. This is just a simple and silly 8 player game that you can play with young kids or likely have fun with aunts and uncles who are up for a silly good time.
Now, that’s only 10 games, there are so many games out there. But I wanted to give a variety. What I like is that Ice Cool with Ice Cool 2 and games like Letter Jam, Just One, Second Chance, and Sushi Go Party!, they are all able to handle a larger player count. That means if you want to get everyone involved you can.
What are some games that have been pulled out at family holidays? Are there some that you never want to see again? Are there some family favorites that get played every year? What would you introduce your family to this year.
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There are so many board games in the world, and while I would like to say that I have a massive room dedicated only to board games where I can fit in lots of Kallax shelves from Ikea, I don’t. I was able to fit…
We’ve made it to the half way point and things will be looking up from there. Now we get to the actually good games. See, that’s a call back to a joke I made previously. I’ll have my disclaimer soon, but let me just say first, this really makes me want to play all of these games again. Some of them it’s been too long and some of them it hasn’t been long at all, but I still want to play all of them.
These rankings are the opinion of yours truly, and if you don’t like them, that’s okay. We all have different tastes in games and that is great. There are some games that I’ve only played as a demo, and I felt like I got enough of a feel to put them on the list, thanks GenCon for all the demos. These are living rankings so next year I’m sure that things will change, so I’ll probably be doing another one next year. Thanks to Board Game Geek for letting me enter/rate my collection and games I’ve played. Thanks to Pub Meeple for creating a tool that pulls in those games that I’ve rated and creating a ranking tool. Again, the numbers and names will be linked to Cool Stuff Inc and Amazon if you’re interested in the games.
50 – Pandemic
This game is just a good game, and one that’s been around for a little while, but still is a lot of fun. The cooperative nature of the game and the unique roles for each player in what they can do best works really well. In this game you are trying to cure four diseases from the board before you run out of cards, have too many outbreaks, or run out of one of the four diseases cubes. You do this by curing the diseases and trying to collect sets of cards of various colors that match up with the diseases. All the while the diseases are spreading and if you aren’t on top of it, they can get out of control in one part of the world. There’s just something nice about the standard version of Pandemic that makes it easy to get out to the table with people. Really enjoyable game, and you can play on hard mode where you try and eradicate all the diseases, which is what several people I’ve met thing the actual rules are.
49 – Cosmic Encounter
This game is a weird one on the list. You are one of various alien races, but what race you are can change, you are trying to get onto enough different planets before other people do, but you can share a victory. I think the best way to put it is that Cosmic Encounter is a silly negotiating game where you are vying to spread across planets, with the weirdest aliens out there. What is cool about this game is that everyone can be engaged in what is going on every turn. When someone else is going for a planet, they can ask for help, and you can piggy back along with them, and the same for defense. So it’s easily possible to be involved in every turn. In the end, the strongest force wins, but you can play cards to modify that, and some of those cards allow you to negotiate. But if both sides don’t negotiate, the one side will lose, but they get something from the other person. There’s give and take as you try and guess what the other person is going to play and talk through what sort of deals you can work out. Cosmic Encounter is a space game that doesn’t feel huge and doesn’t take itself seriously, but is a lot of fun. I can see this as a game that would fall flat for some groups, though, if they aren’t into the negotiating.
48 – Titan Race
In a land where there are fantastical monsters, known as titans, what do you do, you race them. Each player is a team of a lava and a rider who are trying to race across the same board three times faster than everyone else, dropping traps, pushing the other titans into lava, going over jumps, sliding on ice or whatever else the board might have on it. Last game was silly, this one is silly and light and just fun to play. You can get special powers that you can use, in fact your titan and rider will have their own special power to start the game, and you are drafting dice to determine how far and in what direction you go. This is meant as a light game, this is actually a pretty little game, I wish it was larger, because it would make a good kids game if it weren’t for all the small pieces. The fun thing is that while you can just do laps on the one board, you can also do the “grand prix” where you put three of the boards together and race through all of them. That makes the game even a bit more variable. Simple game but a ton of fun.
47 – Five Tribes
This game is a point salad game where everyone gets a point for everything that they do. But with that, there is some strategy as well. You can’t just take any move, because while it might give you points, which are coins in the game, there might be better scoring options out there. In Five Tribes, you bid for turn order, and then, using a mancala like mechanism of moving pieces around the board, you pick up meeples off of a square, and placing one at a time, drop them off on other squares and whatever one you are left with, you take it and all matching, which there have to be, meeples from the square and do that action. But then, each square has other actions you can take as well on it, and are they worth it to get more points, maybe shopping in the market, or will that cost be higher than the return. And then there are Djinn which can change up how you score and give you more points, if you buy them. Plus, there are other meeples that just give you points at the end of the game, some give you money during the game, and some can be used to kill other meeples. So picking the right move becomes important, and if there is one great move out there, do you bid higher when picking your potential starting spot, or do you hope other players haven’t seen the move. For a bunch of randomness in the set-up, once you get into the game, there is a ton of strategy as you try and find those best scoring moves.
46 – Ascension: Deckbuilding Game
Ascension is my generic deck builder on the list. A lot of people would pick Dominion, but I like Ascension a ton better. In this game, you are still just building your deck, but the mechanics of how many cards you can buy and how many cards you can play are much simpler, because you can spend all your money to buy as much as you want and you can play all of your cards if you want. Plus, there are monsters to attack as this is a fantasy theme, versus a “trading in the Mediterranean” theme. But the theme doesn’t really matter. There are four factions in the game that you can buy from, plus generic other cards like a mystic that gives you more buying power, or heavy infantry that gives you more attack power. You also have cards that you can get which are constructs that stay in play and give you a bonus each turn, but a monster might destroy them. Overall, this feels like it plays as fast as Dominion, there isn’t just a single puzzle to solve, because you don’t know how cards will come up, Ascension is just more enjoyable for me, and the expansions seem to add more interesting things into the game. Some people will like the static market of Dominion, but Ascension, I think, offers more interesting choices than Dominion.
45 – Homebrewers
This is one of the games that I demoed at GenCon, but don’t worry, I own it as well. Homebrewers is a game about a homebrewing club and brewing beer. In the game, you are working on brewing the best beer possible in four different styles of beer. You can get ingredients to improve your beer, but you can’t just brew all the time, like in real homebrewing, you have to clean stuff up, you have to get the grains before you can add in the weird stuff. The big reason you’re doing this is to have the best beers in the different types to win the summer beer dabbler and Oktoberfest. At it’s heart, Homebrewers is an engine building game where you are trying to get beers to brew that will help you be able to brew more beer, get more money, and get more points throughout the game. Each character is quite hipster, but they also have their hipster powers which give them something unique that they can do on their turn. I played a character that could get an extra die, which meant an extra thing I could do, each turn if I paid in $1. This is a fun game, and it’s a very fast engine building game. And you can make some extremely weird beers.
44 – Hanabi
I feel like Hanabi is a polarizing game, because it’s not an easy game to master, in my opinion. In Hanabi, you are making fireworks, but there is a twist, you have a hand of cards, or tiles in the deluxe version of the game, but they are facing away from you. You, and your fellow players are trying to create stacks from 1 to 5 of each color of firework before a fuse runs low because of mistakes that you’ve made. But how do you know what to play if you can’t see your cards, just guess? Nope, there are tokens that people can use on their turn to give clues about what you have in your hand. The trick is, they can only point at the cards, not tell you what they are completely. So you can give a clue like, these two cards are red, because one of them is a red 1 and you need to play that, but you can’t just point to that red card, you need to point to both. The same with numbers, something might be the 4 that you need to play, but if there are two 4’s in the person’s hand, you have to point at both of them. So giving good clues can be tricky, but you also don’t want to guess at what card to play. The game has a good puzzle feel to it, and there are some clues that are better than others that you can give. A really fun game and very challenging, but not for people who want to know completely what they need to do.
43 – Say Bye to the Villains
This is the hardest game to win on the list. By that, I mean I’ve never won this game. It’s a cooperative game, so that’s fine, because that means that everyone who has played with me has never won as well (at least in games I’ve played with them). In this game you are Samurai who are going to defeat villains, and you have 10 days to prepare, which means 10 points that you can spend. Each character needs to prepare in a different way, but the villains are also prepared with things that can hurt you and henchmen that can beef them up, but you don’t know what those cards are. So, do you spend time making yourself stronger, do you spend time looking to see how strong the villains are? There are more things to do in this game than you’ll ever be able to do. And that’s fine, that’s the fun of the challenge, hoping that you’ve looked at all the right things in order to defeat the villains as each Samurai matches up against one villain. As I said, I have yet to win this game. But that’s cool because I love the challenge and getting close and falling just short pushes me to want to try again and do better. One of these days I’ll beat the game.
42 – Stipulations
This is the party game for this section of the list. Stipulations for me kills off games like Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity where you are matching up something to what the person who is it picked. This time you are writing it yourself. The advantage of that is it can be as clean or as dirty as you want, and you can tailor it to your group. The person who is it picks from one of four categories on the card, super power, lifetime supply, dream job, and a fourth category that I’m completely blanking on right now, but 50% of the time it’ll be super power anyways. Then everyone else writes a stipulation for it. Maybe you have the super power of flying, but…
You can only fly two feet off the ground.
You can only fly when farting.
You can only fly up, when you want to come down you just free fall.
You can only fly when naked.
This game is just goofy fun and while there is a weird scoring set-up for the game, we generally play with Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity rules where the person who wrote the best answer gets it and then at the end of two or maybe three times around the table, the person with the most wins. This game is more creative and just works so much better than those other two.
41 – Not Alone
Not Alone is an interesting big group game of one versus all. The all are the crew of a spaceship that has crashed onto an alien planet and are now exploring and trying to find their way off of the planet. There is one problem, the player who is by themselves, they are a monster on the planet who doesn’t like the fact that there are people around. And they are trying to track down and eat the crew members or have the planet do that for them. It’s a game of cat and mouse as the crew tries to go to places where the monster won’t go and to do this they play cards. They can even discuss strategy, but they have to do it so that the monster can here them, because, just maybe, the monster is part of the planet itself. This game, the monster races to take out the crew enough times to eat them all and stop them from being able to escape before the rescue ship gets there. There’s a real puzzle to playing the crew, and the monster has some interesting choices to make guessing where the crew will go next and hoping to get as many of them as possible as they split up. It’s a challenging game, but a lot of fun to play both sides of it.
That’s the next ten done. I think this is the longest and most detailed post I’ve done on my top 100 games thus far. I expect that trend to continue as I get into games that I really know and love and I want to play all the time.
Is there a game on the list that stands out to you as one that you really want to play? Or is there a game on the list that you really love, or really hate?
Share questions, ideas for articles, or comments with us!
So, recently, as I’ve been posting out, I’ve finished a playthrough of Pandemic Legacy Season 1 solo on Youtube. You can find that on Youtube at Malts and Meeples or on the Nerdologists. But, I wanted to go back to this game and write an…
Too often one of the biggest blockers of getting a board game to the table is the ability or inability to teach the rules of the game. Or, probably more fairly put, one of the biggest blockers of getting a game back to the table is the inability to teach the rules well.
Most people who are interested in board games are going to be up for learning a new game from time to time. Though, there will be some people who aren’t interested as well, but that was a different article. So, you get the game to the table, now how do you teach people the game? I might have actually written about this before, but I think it’s worth going back over and giving some more suggestions, because this is one of the bigger barriers to entry for a lot of board games.
The rules to games are often challenging, and unless everyone loves board games, reading from the rule book won’t likely teach people. Even if the people do love board games, and someone starts to read from the rule book, I’m going to zone out, because I can just read the rule book myself if that’s how we’re going to learn. There needs to be a more engaging way to keep people involved in the rules.
Teaching Rules Steps:
- Start out by knowing the rules yourself. That doesn’t mean that you’ve had to have played the game before, though playing a sample hand wouldn’t be bad or sample turn, just to make sure that you get it. Or you can watch videos from places like Watch It Played that go over the rules to certain games. What you’re looking to come out of is the win or loss conditions, end of game, and what people can do on their turn. You are going to want to know those things well.
- Start with the theme of the game (if there is one). By starting with the theme, you can get people’s interest since you aren’t starting off with something dry. This is actually a time where you can read from the rule book, because some games, like T.I.M.E. Stories actually have a bit of a story at the start of the rule book. You can use whatever the game gives you to tell the story. Now, for some games there won’t be a theme you can do this with, I’m looking at abstract games or Dominion as examples, so you can skip that step.
- Then talk about how you win or lose the game. This is going to be the most important information for people in the game. Generally it’s going to be about how you win the game, especially in a competitive game. You want to have the most victory points, you want to control so many territories, you want to empty your hand of cards first, whatever that might be. But if there’s a condition, say, if you run out of cards, that can eliminate someone from the game, tell them that too. Or for something like Pandemic, there are a lot of ways to lose the game, so talk about those while you talk about how you win. Pandemic is also a good example as to how you can combine this with step two, because you can talk in the theme about how you’re all members of the CDC who are trying to cure four diseases. In that case, you can get the information out in one fell swoop, though I would be tempted to repeat it again, just to make sure everyone knows.
- Spend some time go over turn/round structure. This isn’t what people can do on their turn. But if you start by drawing cards, then playing two cards, then moving the villain ahead two spaces, then optionally getting an event card, explain that. This is meant to teach people who this works at a high level and what the structure is going to be through most of the game. It is also going to give you a chance to show off random decks of cards or things that the players might not immediately interact with in the game.
- Go over what people can do on their turns. Now, this doesn’t have to be everything. Especially if there is a player aid that is good and clear. But talk about the important things that people can do on their turns. In Pandemic, explain how the moving works and how to treat diseases and how to cure diseases. Then, most of the characters have a special action that they can take. You don’t need to teach something like this which is specific to a single player, but have the players read, at this time, their special powers, if they exist, and in fact hand them out at this time, and then you can answer questions.
- Show people the important parts of the game. But more than just showing off the important decks, let your players be involved in it. In Pandemic, as an example again, you can talk about the player deck and have someone shuffle it and hand out people’s hands of cards while you continue to teach more. It seems like it might distract from your teaching by having someone do something like that. I personally don’t think it will, in fact it might keep people more engaged. Because people are going to be paying attention so that if you ask them to help with something it won’t be obvious that they weren’t paying attention.
- Finally, teach in the game as need be. This can be a few different things. Sometimes there are several things that only happen once or twice in the game, you can teach them in the moment when they happen. However, this only works if it isn’t something that is extremely important to the game or to the scoring. If there’s something that can give you an automatic win, teach that earlier even if it’s really rare. Or if it’s something that helps you as the person who is teaching the game and hurts someone else, teach it earlier or refrain from doing it, and give it as an example as something that you could do. Another thing that teaching in the game can be is letting players roll back a turn if need be. If someone has an extremely good move and makes a very bad move, point out the option to them, they might have forgotten or just missed it. But don’t do this all the time, because you’ll basically be taking that person’s turn and make this about teaching the game, so once you’ve taught something once during the game, you don’t teach the same thing again.
Now, there are probably more things that you can do. But being patient and teaching a game from theme first, and from a position where you know the rules is going to make it more likely that people will enjoy the game. And when people don’t enjoy the game, don’t assume that it was how you taught it, if you were trying to be considerate and engaging about it, not every game is for everyone.
Have you found any ways that make teaching a game easier? Or are there things that you’ve found help keep people engaged in learning the rules?
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After an exciting run of games, I am wrapping up Pandemic Legacy Season 1. See how it all ends and find out how well I did in the game. Pandemic Legacy is a Cooperative board game that I’m playing as a solo game where you…