Excellent reference for playing Dixit

I’ve blogged about the fantastic game called Dixit before.  Recently I was describing the game to someone and realize there must be easy-to-view reference material on the internet.

Then I remembered that Wil Wheaton did an episode of Table Top where they taught and played the game with friends of his (often they are also celebrities).  Here’s the link to a You Tube video of that episode.

Carcassonne at the Hospital

Melissa has had some pretty severe gastrointestinal problems in the past and last Thursday evening we had to pay a visit to the Emergency Room.  She was admitted to the hospital later that same evening and I’ve been staying with her everyday until things gets resolved.

We took a break last evening and went for a stroll from her hospital room and walked down to the lounge area for visitors on the same floor.  It’s a nice area, with a large fish tank and some shelves with books.  We spotted a really nice round wooden table with chairs.  Both of us thought the same thing: “Hey, we could play a board game there.”

So today we had our teenager, Nicholas, before he came to the hospital to visit, bring our copy of Carcassonne with him from home.  And we played a game this evening in the lounge.  Melissa took a panorama photograph during the game.

carcassonne_hospital_2014

 

You can see the fish tank back behind my left shoulder.  That’s her “IV pole” on the right.  It was a pleasant break and we enjoyed playing a competitive but relaxing game before going back to her room.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that of course she won.  She always does.  It’s her favorite game.  Or one of them.  Final score was 143 to 67.  It was still fun for me even though I lost by more than half the points.

Board Games Played in 2013

I thought it might be fun to list some of the different games that we played this past year. The most played games are listed first. Sometimes what makes the play count of a game higher than for others has more to do with the fact that it’s a shorter playing time. This is certainly obvious for the first entry on the list.

flash-point
Flash Point: Fire Rescue
This is a co-operative game for 1 to 6 players. We each play the part of a fire rescue team working to put out a house fire while simultaneously searching for people, and sometimes their pets, and getting them out of the burning building before it collapses. It’s a great theme and easy to play. The game does a pretty good job of helping the players feel as if they are under real pressure to rescue the trapped people and get that fire out.

airlines
Airlines Europe
Airlines Europe is designed by Alan R. Moon, the same guy that designed the amazing game Ticket To Ride. The game is for 2 to 5 players and is just a little more difficult to learn than “Ticket To Ride”. In this game the players compete by investing in different fictional airlines operating in Europe. The players do not actually “own” any single airline. Rather, each player purchases stock in the companies and attempts to make the ones they are invested in the most valuable by connecting valuable routes and cleverly timed investments. It’s an economic game that is a lot of fun and we got this one to the table a few times in 2013.

escalationEscalation!
This remains a family favorite and is a frequent “filler” game we play either between more challenging games or just to start everyone off when we all sit down to play some games. I’ve written a review for it in the past so not a lot of additional description is needed.

pandemicPandemic
Pandemic is another co-operative game that continues to be popular. I own the original edition, and last year Z-Man Games, the publisher, did a major update to the artwork, game board, and components for the game. This game has also received a review from me in the past. We actually like this game so much that Melissa and I recently purchased a copy as a gift for a friend.

netrunnerAndroid: Netrunner
Android: Netrunner is a 2-player only game that I really like. It was re-introduced and re-themed by Fantasy Flight Games. The original game design dates back to 1996 when it was just called “Netrunner”. “Android: Netrunner” is an asymmetrical card game. This is really neat, because that means the 2 players, which are most definitely playing directly against each other, each have a different role in the game with unique rules specific to only that role. This game is themed to take place in the future where a very dystopian world, a lot like from the film “Blade Runner”, is the context. One player takes on the role of a large powerful corporation and the other player takes on the role of a hacker trying to break into the servers of that corporation and steal key data assets. It plays pretty quick and is fun from either side of the table. The game is different from a Collectible Card Game (CCG) in that there are no unique cards that you can find in individual add-on “packs” of cards. Instead, Fantasy Flight Games has developed something they call a Living Card Game (LCG). In this case you can purchase inexpensive expansion packs of cards but they are well defined, known and specific. No surprises. Everyone that purchases an expansion pack gets the same new cards. I like this game enough that I’ve purchased the entire first generation of expansion packs which came out slowly over the course of the year 2012 – 2013. I’ve played it a few times with Melissa last year and she’s pretty good at it too.

dixitjourneyDixit
I’ve also shown the box cover to the game “Dixit: Journey” which is essentially the original game re-released and sold in some of the larger department stores here in the United States. I’ve seen “Dixit: Journey” on the shelves at Target, for example.  Okay, this is a really fun game that is easy to teach and play and works for 3 to 6 players. The game plays really well with 5 or 6 players. It is a card game that has amazing beautiful artwork – a unique drawing on each card.  The cards are pretty large size but still easy to manage. “Dixit” is a creative card game where each card suggests multiple meanings to anyone that sees them. The easiest way to explain this is to show an example card:
dixitcard
So here is how the game works. Each player has a handful of 8 cards that none of the other players can see. Each card is equally as interesting and non-specific as the one shown. The game is played in rounds and one player takes the role of “Story Teller”. That person can say a phrase, or name a song, or they can make a gesture, or hum a part of a tune, almost anything that they think describes one selected card from their hand. They do this without showing anyone the card. For example with the card above, the story teller may say the phrase “safe passage”. That card is then placed face-down on the table. Each other player looks at the cards in their hands and selects one that they think may fool the other players into thinking their own card fits the description too. Then all the cards are placed face down and shuffled. The story teller then turns over each card one-by-one, usually repeating the phrase (in this case: “safe passage”). Perhaps another player put this card down for their own choice:

soldiersThis card could be “safe passage” too. Each player other than the story tellers votes with a token for which card they think is the one belonging to the story teller. They know which one is their own card of course. The scoring then happens. The trick is that the story teller wants to provide a phrase or clue that is “close enough”. If no one gets it or if everyone guesses it, that’s not good for the story teller. And if someone votes for someone else’s card, they get a point for each person they fooled. After the round, everyone draws a replacement card and adds it to their hand and then the role of story teller rotates to the next player. Eventually someone wins when their score marker is the first to cross the finish line on a score track. I recommend this game highly if you want something lightweight and really creative fun. Our family loves this game so much we have purchased every expansion we could find to keep adding more interesting cards to the mix.  I have recommended this game as a good “party game” too — a game to play with folks who don’t normally like to play board games.

lettersLetters From Whitechapel
Letters From Whitechapel is a deduction board game for 2 to 6 players. It’s a “period” game that takes the players back to the time of “Jack The Ripper” in the Whitechapel district in London 1888. One player takes the role of “Jack” and secretly selects a hideout location on the game board (the board is quite attractive and a detailed map of Whitechapel) and the other players take the parts of the detectives working the streets. Then as the game progresses “Jack” murders a “wretched” — and the cops start their frantic search while Jack secretly dashes around Whitechapel and gets back to his hide out. This game is tense and requires good logic skills from all the players. The neatest part of the game is that Jack has to sit there at the table while listening to the detectives discuss their strategy and possible guesses where he might be on the board. In some cases Jack might be right next to a detective hoping the detective doesn’t move in his direction searching for a clue. This game is well designed and quite popular in our home.

venusMerchant of Venus (2nd Edition)
Merchant of Venus is a recently reprinted and updated design of what was once thought of as a “grail game” — it was hard to find and sought after and last published in 1988. It’s a space-themed game with discovery and pick-up-and-deliver as a primary game mechanism. The re-released version from Fantasy Flight Games is outstanding. It is beautiful and well produced and proves to be quite fun to play. It is for 1 to 4 players. Playing time is a bit long for this one; plan on the game taking 3 to 4 hours. But don’t let that distract you. If you want to try something a little heavier than many of the games listed above, this is a great choice.

 

There were quite a few other games played last year.  Of course old “stand-bys” like “Ticket To Ride” and “Carcassonne” made it to our game table too.  We even managed to get in a play of “Twilight Imperium III” – a deep and heavy space-themed game quite favored in our home.  I’ve written reviews for each of these three here on this web site.  Also, for the games mentioned above, each has a link to the full game web page at Board Game Geek.  You can go there to read more about the mentioned games and also see a huge collection of pictures for each too.

Where to buy these games?

I get asked, often after introducing people to some of these more modern “Euro-Game” board game designs, where one goes to purchase? I have a couple of thoughts about this question.

Supporting your Friendly Local Game Store (FLGS) is always the better choice. Sure you generally pay full retail price, but you are supporting the hobby and your local merchants. I look first for board game shops, and if that doesn’t work, often hobby comic book shops carry these games too.

But here’s the really amazing news. The “classic” Euro Games are showing up in places like Target. I’ve seen “Ticket To Ride”, “Settlers of Catan”, “Pandemic”, “Zooloretto” and many others in the games section. Target even has a special variant of “Settlers of Catan” which was themed for Star Trek called “Star Trek Catan”. I think that version was unique to Target stores for the first year but may now be appearing in other hobby game shops. Another great place to look is your local Barnes & Noble book store. They now have a section for these modern games. I have noticed that the selection seems to vary by store. The interesting thing I remember reading was how successful this new product line has turned out to be for B&N. They dropped the DVD and CD section of the store and replaced it with board games. If you think about it, I think that’s even a more natural fit for a book shop.

Lastly the Internet is the place to look if you seek a game not carried in your local stores. My favorite online shop Thought Hammer unfortunately closed down this past year. But there are many reputable online shops, and several that I have done business with. And of course there’s always Amazon and Ebay.

Here is a list of my favorite online board game shops (no preference to order entry here):

http://www.timewellspentgames.com

http://www.fairplaygames.com/index.asp

http://www.boardsandbits.com

https://www.funagain.com/control/main

I’m sure I’ll remember a few other popular ones after this post goes up…

Board games should be played with family and friends

Aside

It may sound obvious, but playing board games for me at least is almost always just with family and friends. I’ve gone to gaming conferences where I have sat down at a game table and played board games with people that up to that point were complete strangers to me, but generally that is the exception. Someone commented to me the other day when I listed all the games played in the past year that they wondered how I was taking time out for my family.

And they miss the point entirely. Board games are almost always about including family. For me, when I play games it most always includes family. Sometimes games are played with neighbors or friends, but I always prefer to have at least one family member included. For me board gaming is not some isolating activity where I pursue a hobby interest on my own. Board gaming is inclusive.

Board games played in the first half of 2012

I gathered some board game play statistics.  This is a summary of every board game I have played so far this year.  All games counted here are face-to-face in-person board games at a table.  I play games on my iPad and iPhone too, but those are not counted here. Also, the games included here are only ones that I own.

The results are ranked with the most often played games first. Here they are:









Nuns on the Run Core Worlds Eclipse Escalation!
Played: 12 Played: 9 Played: 9 Played: 7








7 Wonders Carcassonne Elder Sign Letters from Whitechapel
Played: 5 Played: 4 Played: 4 Played: 4








Lords of Waterdeep Oceania Race for the Galaxy Rune Age
Played: 3 Played: 3 Played: 3 Played: 3








Deadwood Panic Station Ticket to Ride Black Friday
Played: 2 Played: 2 Played: 2 Played: 1








Caylus Forbidden Island Mow Mr. Jack
Played: 1 Played: 1 Played: 1 Played: 1








Mr. Jack Pocket Mystery of the Abbey Perry Rhodan: The Cosmic League StarCraft: The Board Game
Played: 1 Played: 1 Played: 1 Played: 1






Starfarers of Catan Twilight Imperium Played: third edition Warrior Knights
Played: 1 Played: 1 Played: 1

There are a few games that jump out of the table.

Nuns on the Run is very popular with our family right now.  Its a deduction game, or maybe better classified as a “Hide N Go Seek” game.  It scales really well up to 8 players.  This is another one of those games where after finishing a game people often ask if they can play it again.  The rules are easy to explain and the game play can get really tense.  This is definitely on my short list of games needing a review.

Core Worlds is a deck-building game like the very popular game Dominion.  It’s a science fiction themed game and it’s quite interesting.  It has a lot of plays so far this year because of how new it is and folks being interested in another “take” on the deck-building game design.  I like it quite a bit.

Eclipse is another one of the gems that came out at the end of 2011.  It’s easily one of the best games released last year.  The first printing sold out rapidly.  The second printing which came out just this June is already sold out at most of the on-line game stores.  I’ve seen 1 copy recently on the shelf at a local game shop.  The game is a great science fiction themed game with a heavy economic feel to it.  I think the design and presentation are an outstanding example.  It’s not a lightweight game but it is a lot of fun.  This game is going to remain popular for a while.  Again, I need to write a real review about the game.

I just read that Eclipse is the winner of the Dice Tower “Best Game of 2011” award.  A well deserved award.

7 Wonders is a great game that has also seen a lot of table play in our home.  It’s very easy to learn and plays very quickly.  The game also scales nicely up to 7 players.  This game won the award for best German strategy game in 2011.

There are 2 other games that have been well received in our home that are in the list.  Letters from Whitechapel is a deduction game that is quite fascinating, and as I’ve already mentioned here, I need to write a review about this one too.  My wife says I’m too good at these kinds of deduction games and told me recently she wants to play it once where I only watch.  What?!!

The other very cool new game is Panic Station.  Panic Station can best described as a board game version of John Carpenter’s The Thing.  This is a sami-cooperative game where all the humans are trying to eliminate the alien nest from the base.  The trick is, that somewhere by the end of the 2nd turn, one of the human players secretly becomes infected by the alien horde and begins to work to infect everyone else in the game.  It’s a deduction game too, although classifying it as a paranoia game would probably be even better.  Very early in the game the players begin to realize they don’t know who they can trust.  And if a player makes a mistake and manages to get infected by the “host”, they then also secretly join forces against the remaining humans.  Always a blast to play and often requested.

Lastly I want to mention Lords of Waterdeep.  It’s a “worker placement” game that is easy to learn and player turns are incredibly light and quick.  We have just started playing this game in our family and it’s been very well received.

When we play board games, the cats like to watch

Recently we were playing the board game Letters From Whitechapel and I played the role of Jack.  The game is an excellent deduction game where one player takes on the role of the infamous Jack The Ripper and the other players are the detectives trying to catch him before he gets back to his hideout.  The game drips theme and the board is historically accurate for the Whitechapel District of London in the days of Jack The Ripper.  It’s a tense and challenging game and it’s beautifully produced.

I included the above picture because one of the fun things that happen in our kitchen when the family plays board games is that the cats often like to watch and see what’s going on.  In this picture our youngest cat, “Tupac”, (yes named after the deceased Hip Hop artist because he’s a rescue-cat and has “street cred”), is sitting patiently in the corner of the table.  In this picture I like to imagine that he was giving “Jack The Ripper” tips on how to stay hidden.  In the foreground you can see that another cat was sitting in Melissa’s lap, also watching intently.  It’s an interesting photograph for board game lovers that also love cats.

This board game is on the “short list” of ones for which I intend to do a full game review.

Games Blog now a WordPress Site

Okay.  I think I have the re-direct working and all of the content moved.  Twitter integration should also be working now.  New posts should trigger something to my Twitter account @stevewessels

Just tried my first post that should have posted something to Twitter didn’t work right.  Re-testing now…

Sorry.  Changed the configuration.  Here’s another test post.

A New Look

A World Without String is now a WordPress based site.  I’m moving content over carefully from my old site.  When everything is ready I’ll redirect the domain to send visitors here instead.

Here’s hoping you enjoy visiting this site and that it remains a useful resource and entertaining place to read about the board games I review and write about.

Unfortunately, any comments included on the old site were lost when everything was converted.  This Blog used to be hosted on Apple’s MobileMe services, and when they shut that down and asked all their customers to move to iCloud, I had to find a new host because Apple was no longer going to host web sites.  Since I already have several web sites hosted with Lunar Pages, and they provide plenty of space included in the basic package, it was a simple choice to re-host using my existing service provider.  I’ve had success using WordPress for another Blog and wanted to try it out for a heavier-weight Blog like this one, and well, here we are.

The game reviews are all listed in alphabetic order off to the side for easy direct accessing. As I create new board game reviews I will add an entry here in this general section and a link to the new review page as it comes available.

That picture above is from the really awesome game Letters From Whitehapel.  It’s one of the excellent new games that have arrived in our home in the past 12 months.  I hope to get started on several game reviews soon.

In the mean time, please leave a comment if you find a broken link.

Board Games You Keep

Eclipse

Today, I was thinking about the games collection that I own and love.  I began to wonder how difficult it would be to reduce the number of games in the collection if for some reason I really had to drop some titles.  There is no specific trigger for that concern.  I just wondered how I would decide which games would have to stay;  Which games are essential.

It occurred to me that though some of the games are rated a “10” when I think in terms of ranking them, that several low ranking games would have to stay too.  The high rated games in my collection are ones I think of as great strategy games.  But there are essential games also because of their accessibility or just plan fun with a larger group.

So which games are the essentials?

Some games are obvious easy candidates for the must-have list.  The others require some reflection and consideration.  Here’s the list.  I’ve included links with each game where you can learn more about them and even an on-line board game store where you can order your own copy.  I’ve been purchasing board games on-line from Thought Hammer for years now and always recommend them, although I have no affiliation with the company.  I just recommend them.  Of course, some of these games can be purchased at your local hobby game stores and some can be found in “big box” department store like “Target”.  I recommend you check local suppliers first because they help to keep this gaming hobby thriving.

Ticket To Ride

Ticket to Ride

This one has to be included no matter what.  It’s not a highly rated game when compared to the deeper strategy games.  But this is “the gateway game”.  It’s the game you pull out with the family when you want to introduce someone to modern board game design.  It plays quickly, is easy to learn, and everybody loves playing it when introduced.  I’ve introduced this game to several adults and families that have gone out and immediately purchased their own copy.

When we play the game we always include the USA 1910 expansion.  It adds more destination card choices and the original game cards are replaced with much larger and easier to manage cards.  Our family loves this game.  We also “tricked it out” a bit by purchasing wooden train pieces — including ones in purple and pink — to replace the original game’s plastic train pieces.  The original pieces are fine, but these wooden ones look cool and feel nice to touch.  I purchased the wooden pieces at Mayday Games on-line but I’m not sure they still carry them.

One last note about this game.  It has been a success story for the board game industry and stands out as one of the board games you can actually find at stores like Target now.

Escalation!

Escalation!

We often use this card game for quick fun.  Again, easy to learn, and plays really fast.  Everyone has a great time.

This is another of those games that doesn’t earn a high strategy game rating but wins for shear fun.  Escalation! is another of those games we own that, when introduced to new players, they want to go purchase their own copy.

We played this game so many times that we have worn the cards down and have purchase several replacement decks over time.

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

No doubt about it, this is a heavy strategy game.  It’s deep and takes a long time to play.  It’s another family favorite.  We have played this game over 40 times.  The game is a rich immersive experience.  You set aside a Saturday to play it, but it’s always worth it.

By no means is this an introductory game and it’s not everyone’s “cup of tea”.  But we love it.  There have been 2 expansions that have come out for this game over the past few years.  Each expansion adds more interesting player alien races to choose and more options and ships.  I find both expansions to be valuable and worth owning.  It all fits in the same box if you remove the original box insert.  We have “tricked” this game out a bit too by adding custom colored dice for each player to use.

Power Grid

Power Grid

This is a great “euro”-style game.  Another family favorite.  Power Grid is an economic game where players purchase power plants and resources (coal, oil, nuclear, etc.) to operate those power plants.  Players must also make connections between cities to form their “power grid”.  You spend money to buy plants, resources and city connections.  You earn money by providing power to your cities.  This is a strategy game and can get pretty involved for the players.

An amazing characteristic of this game which we have encountered many times while playing, is that the game almost always ends with a very close final score.  The other feature I observe is that the game plays along casual until about the last two turns.  By that point everyone is quiet and thinking through the options for their next turn.  It’s cool to experience and part of what makes playing the game memorable for players.  Like many “Euro-style” board games, you feel like you are engaged in the game until the very end.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne

This is a classic tile-laying game.  Players build up cities and roads from randomly drawn tiles.  It behave likes a puzzle game and, depending on the players, either feels casual and light or highly competitive.  You score points for completing roads, cities, and other game features.  It’s one of my wife’s favorite games.

Carcassonne is another good game for introducing people to the hobby.  There are seemingly infinite expansions for this game and we’ve purchased probably every one.  We purchased extra player pieces for this game in new colors — again including purple and pink.

I have seen the game Carcassonne for sale at Toys R Us and Barnes & Noble book stores.

Runebound (2nd Edition)

Runebound (2nd edition)

This is not a game we play as often as we did when we first purchased it.  However, it still gets pulled out sometimes even when we have new players visiting.

Runebound is a board game with a strong role-playing fantasy element.  Players move their figure around the game board and encounter challenges to defeat.  As they build up their skills and inventory of weapons, spells, and other tools, they become better prepared for the highest level of challenges in the game and win.

Our family also loves this game and we have “tricked it out” as well by adding custom colored dice for each player and we substituted the cardboard bits representing challenges with glass beads.  The game looks very appealing while playing.  Runebound is not a lightweight game, but also not difficult to learn and play.  The one down side to consider is that a game can take a long time to play if there are many players.

Bohnanza

Bohnanza

A game about bean farming seems an unlikely theme for family fun.  But this card game proves to be both unique and fun.

One of the interesting game design mechanisms used by Bohnanza is that you are not permitted to arrange the cards in your hand.  You play them in the order they were dealt.  I know, that sounds really odd.  But you have to try it.  It’s fun, the artwork is silly and it’s another easy game to learn and play.

Eclipse

Eclipse

Eclipse has become my “new hotness” game.  This game is a great blend of “euro-style” and “thematic-style” board game design.  It’s an epic space game like Twilight Imperium but lighter and quicker to play.

I consider it to be an essential part of my gaming collection and a compliment to and not a replacement for TI-3.  What makes this game stand out is the elegance of the design mechanisms.  There are many clever elements to the game play design.

The ratings for this game in the larger hobby board game community is amazing.  The game was introduced a few months ago and has already skyrocketed to a top 5 ranking.  If you get a chance to play the game you’ll understand why too.

The only real problem with this game right now, in my mind, is that it’s impossible to find.  The initial production run has sold out everywhere.  You can find copies available for $50 to $100 over the standard retail price.  The game publisher announced the next production run will be ready in May or June of 2012.  That’s a long time to wait for as much fun as this game has been.  If you can find a copy at the $85 – $100 price, get it.  More than that, you’d have to decide for yourself.  I was quite fortunate to get a copy as a Christmas gift from my wife.

I cannot say enough good things about this game.  It may be the best new board game that came out in 2011.  I’ll certainly play it whenever I can find a chance.

Shadows Over Camelot

Shadows Over Camelot

We have introduced this game to families and it has always been well received.  It’s easy to learn, and with the available expansion, handles up to 8 players.

This is a cooperative game.  That is, all the players are working together to accomplish goals and not lose against the game itself.  The game is hard to beat.

The interesting feature of this game is that one of the players secretly plays the role of a traitor and tries to remain undetected throughout the game.  The traitor is working against the other players.  The tension and potential for mis-trust and deception make this a fun game to experience.

Shadows Over Camelot is another one of those games that when played have resulted in the other families playing to purchase their own copy.

Thebes

Thebes

Also known as “Jenseits von Theben”, Thebes is a great introductory game.  The game is published by Queen Games and they always do an excellent job with the production values.  The board is attractive and the components are first class.

In this game each player is kind of like an “Indiana Jones” character, exploring ancient sites around the globe, seeking valuable artifacts.  A very cool game design mechanism with this game is that each “site” has a dedicated cloth bag full of cardboard tiles.  Most of the tiles represent sand, nothing of value.  But also within each bag are the few precious artifacts.  The players travel to these ancients sites and commit to digging for a certain amount of time.  The longer you dig at a site the higher the odds of pulling good stuff out of the bag.  The trade off is that you may also be wasting time needed elsewhere on the game board.  And here’s the really cool trick.  After a player “searches” through the cloth bag (blindly, without seeing the tiles they have extracted until they are done, and the useless sand tiles are the same shape as the artifact tiltes), they put back all the useless “sand” tiles.  This makes it even harder for the next player to find anything valuable at the site.  It is such a simple thematic element that just enhances the enjoyment of playing this game.  Some folks feel this inclusion of a certain level of luck in the game diminishes it’s appeal.  I disagree.  A little bit of luck in a game is what makes it feel like fun to newer players.  Our family loves this game and we introduce it to new players frequently.

Starfarers of Catan

Starfarers of Catan

The now-classic German board game Settlers of Catan has an official space-themed version with this entry.  We actually prefer this game to the standard Settlers of Catan.  The game has a very cool looking board and some amazing “mother ships” that each player uses to both produce the random event selections as well as identify the enhancements made to their space fleet (speed, freight capacity, and cannons to ward off space pirates).

The game plays very much like Settlers of course, where each player rolls dice to determine the resources they collect each turn.  There is no direct conflict between players.  This is not a war game.  Each player tries to earn victory points by exploring, building and creating alliances with alien races.  This was one of the early Euro-style games for our family and remains a favorite.  It’s easy to learn but can take a while to play.

Dominion

Dominion

In 2008 the game Dominion was introduced to hobby board gamers.  It introduced a very simple and clever “deck building” game design mechanism that instantly became a huge hit.  It’s really a card game but comes in a standard sized board game box.  Many new deck building game designs have followed in the following years, but I still enjoy playing Dominion.

Like Carcassonne, there are several expansions you can add.  Dominion is actually quite easy to learn, fast and (here’s the amazing part) addictive to play.  It always happens.  Whenever I introduce Dominion to new players and we finish a game they always want to play it again right away.  It’s a good game.  The only complaint I have about it is each player ends up frequently having to shuffle your card deck as the game progresses.  In fact, you shuffle almost every other turn.  Still, it’s fun and plays fast.

Race for the Galaxy

Race for the Galaxy

This is a card game.  It’s got a little bit of a learning curve to it.  Mostly that’s because each card has little icons festooned around the edges of the artwork and it take a little while to “get it”.  But once it clicks for the players, which generally only takes one or two practice rounds, the game starts humming along.

It is a little bit like Dominion in that you are evaluating your card choices each turn, but this is a nice rich strategy game experience.  This is another one of those games that has that addictive feel to it and you want to play several games in a row to try out other winning strategy ideas.  There are 3 expansions available for this game and I recommend them all if you have played the base game and enjoyed it.  The second expansion, and they have to be added to the game in order, even includes a provision for an automated “robot” player that yields a pretty good solitaire experience.

Pandemic

Pandemic

This is another cooperative game.  Each player is part of a team working together to contain the outbreak of several diseases around the globe.

The board game and it’s components are top notch quality.  And the game design is quite elegant, with several clever design ideas combined to make a thematic and approachable fun game to play.

There is an expansion for this game that provides for several options that you can choose to include in the game.  I think the neatest component from the expansion is that it comes with little plastic petri dishes you can use to store the game’s virus cubes in.  Very cool.  The expansion also provides an optional bio-terrorist option where a player can be secretly working against the others.  I think the game s challenging enough without one of the players as an adversary.

Wits & Wagers

Wits & Wagers

I like this game quite a bit when I need a game that can be played with a larger group and has a “party game” feel to it.  The interesting design feature of this game is that it’s a trivia game where you don’t have to know the right answer.  Instead everyone places bets on a game board of what they think the correct trivia question answer is.  You just bet on which answer from everyone’s guesses is the correct answer.  You don’t have to know the answer, you just have to be willing to bet which other player does know the answer.

This game actually scales up quite well to very large groups if needed.  You treat the game as if everyone is participating in a game show and working together on teams.  Wits & Wagers is a very successful board game and has won many awards for it’s design.  It’s a trivia game done right.  I have seen this game for sale at Target.

Killer Bunnies

Killer Bunnies

Let’s be plain and up-front about this.  Killer Bunnies is not a strategy game.  Not really.  It’s a fun, easy to learn, silly little game about trying to keep your own bunnies alive while doing horrible things to the bunnies of your opponents.

The game is a card game and the artwork on each card is quite fun.  We always have a good time playing when everyone is in the mood for a lighter “take-that” kind of card game.  There are numerous expansions available for this game too and we purchased them all.  Fortunately, we’re able to fit everything in one box.

We hadn’t played this game in quite a while and recently had some company over where I thought it might be fun to pull out and play again.  It was as fun as we expected.


I’d better stop there.  Of the games in my collection there are many more that I truly love to play and would want to include in any gaming library.  But the above list is pretty good and accomplishes creating a must-have list for me.  There are 16 games here.  I’m sure I could add another 48 “must haves” if I keep thinking about it.