Boardgames are becoming more and more popular. And in many ways they’re the new videogames. Sadly, many people’s ideas of boardgames consist of Scrabble, Monopoly and Cluedo. While these games are fine, imagine they’re the tip of the boardgame iceberg, with a host of great games available below the surface. If you’re new to boardgames, then the following games are perfect to start you off.
Ticket To Ride
Designer: Alan R Moon
A game based around the destination routes of trains sounds incredibly boring, but the actual game is anything but. Part of Ticket To Ride is card-based with the players taking it in turns to collect train cards of the same colour. Once they have enough for a specific route (say London to Edinburgh) they place a row of plastic trains on the game board. By connecting these trains together, you create desinations and if you complete the ones given to you at the beginning of the game you’ll amass even more points. Of course, all the other players are attempting to do the same thing, so you must plan your routes as effectively as possible, while hopefully cutting off your opponents. There are boardgames based around all different parts of the world, but we typically play the Europe version.
Settlers Of Catan
Designer: Klaus Teuber
Another classic boardgame that is easy to pick up, but difficult to master.
In Settlers Of Caran you’re taming a wide island in the hopes of earning more ‘Victory Points’ than your opponents. At the beginning of the game players place buildings on strategic points of the numbered game board. They then earn resources when a rolled die matches their chosen location. Resources are used to build more and better homes, and build roads which expand your reach. What’s interesting though is that you’ll rarely have the resources you need, meaning you have to enter into uneay alliances with your opponents to hopefully get that precious wool, before your friend does. An excellent Gateway game, well supported with numerous expansions.
Designer: Matt Leacock
If you have young children and want to teach them co-operation then Forbidden Island is perfect. It’s a game where everyone wins, or everyone loses. Players take on the role of explorers all with unique skills. These skills are used to navigate a slowly sinking island and retrieve four artifacts before they are lost forever. It’s a superb, well-paced game, requiring you to really work together as a team to ensure success. As the game progresses the water starts rising and land is lost, meaning it becomes a frantic race against time to get off the sinking island before you all perish.
Developer: Jean-Louis Roubira
Dixit is a party game. Players are dealt a selection of cards with beautiful, but incredibly surreal artwork on them. Each player then takes it in turns to be the Storyteller. The Storyteller picks a card and says a word or sentence relating to it. Everyone else must then pick one of their own cards which best matches the description of the first. All the cards are then shuffled together by the Storyteller and the players must then work out what the original card was. The trick here however is in the scoring. If nobody or everybody gets it right the Storyteller scores no points and everyone else gets two points. Otherwise the Storyteller and everyone who guesses correctly get 3 points. A charming game that deservedly won the coveted Spiel Des Jahres in 2010.
Designer: Michael Schacht
Another game better suited for younger players. The idea of Zooloretto is to take a zoo and build it into an exotic wildlife haven. Trucks come along at the beginning of each round with various animals on them. Players take it in turn to take suitable collections to fill their zoo. Putting a male and female of the same species together will create a baby, but each enclosure only holds a set amount of animals. Any animals that overcrowd your paddocks are placed in a barn, and count for minus points at the end of the game, so you’ll need to do your best to shift them elsewhere, or even create a new enclosure for them. Another Spiel Des Jahres winner that’s supplemented with numerous expansions.
Designer: Richard BorgRelive some of the most devastating scenarios of World War II with this expertly crafted strategy game. Players take it in turns to play the Axis and the Allies and must attempt to achieve specific scenarios, all based on famous battles of the period. The playing area is seperate into three sections and players use cards from their hand to dominate these areas and hopefully outplay their opponents. You’ll occassionally find yourself short due to not being able to move certain soldiers or vehicles, but Memoir ’44 very rarely sets a foot wrong, and while there’s a small element of luck, strategy plays an important role. As with many other Gateway games, it’s well supported with a large number of expansions.
Designer: Klaus Jürgen Wrede
Another classic Gateway game, and one that is built around tile laying. The game itself is set in the French city of Carcossonne and players take it in turns to lay tiles, with the only rule being that tiles must attach to each other and all their sides must match. Once a tile has been placed, players can drop a meeple (a small token representing a person) on a road, building or in an adjoining field. Points are then scored (and the meeple returned to the player’s pool) upon completion. It’s a great game, especially when opponent’s start laying tiles next to your own constructions in an attempt to ensure they’re not completed. Just stay away from ‘The Catapult’ expansion. It’s absolutely rubbish.
Designer: Jean Du Poél
Pitchcar is getting harder and harder to track down at a decent price now, but it’s definitely recommended. The aim of Pitchcar is simplicity in itself: simply build one of the available tracks and get round it as quickly as possible by flicking your car. Manage three times before your opponents and you win. Of course, the thing with Pitchcar is that it’s the very definition of risk verses reward. It’s tempting to simply flick your car as far as possible, but there’s more chance of its coming off the track, and putting you behind. It becomes even harder with the introduction of jumps and tight hairpins (which thankfully, are usually found in Pitchcar’s few expansions). It’s a game of dexterity and skill, but it’s such a simple concept even your 90-year old nan can play it.
Survive: Escape From Atlantis
Designer: Julian Courtland-Smith
Another game based around an island, but this time it’s every man for itself. Atlantis is sinking and you must get your islanders to safety. You do this by leaping into nearby boats or simply swimming to shore. Of course, things are made trickier by the fact that the seas are alive with dangerous creatures, from sharks to sea monsters, and they will all do their best to wreck your boats and eat your swimmers. Survive is a superb game that really brings out the vindictiveness in players. Removing parts of the island either adds a monster immediately to the board, or gives you a tile for later play. You also get the opportunity to move monsters at the end of the turn, meaning you can be as mean or as merciful as you like. Just don’t expect to have many friends left at the end of a game.
Designer: Leslie Scott
Jenga remains one of the most well known games on our list, but it’s still great fun to play and highly recommended. It’s another dexterity-based game where you must take blocks from the bottom of the tower and slowly replace them at the top. You’ll need an incredibly steady hand, both to retrieve the blocks in the first place, and then relay them. Knock the tower down and you lose. Videogame fans will be pleased to know that Tetris and Donkey Kong-based versions of the game also exist, further cementing Jenga’s popularity. Just make sure that if you’re using the house ‘Loser clears up’ rule that it’s not you…
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