Reflection on this BLOG

When this site was created my intention was to provide an outlet to collect my board game reviews and share them in an interesting and pleasant format.  My enthusiasm for the board game hobby remains high.  I continue to share and evangelize about the amazing games available for individuals, friends and families to experience.  We are truly fortunate to be living in a time when it feels as though a board gaming renaissance is all around us.

This hobby became part of my life somewhere around 2004.  For people in the modern designer board game community, I’m a newcomer to the hobby.  While the demands for my time and game playing availability has dropped off considerably, enthusiasm remains strong.  In my early board gaming days I wrote a number of extensive reviews and contributed them freely to the finest board game enthusiasts community and web site www.boardgamegeek.com.  With this site I began to collect my reviews, permitting a bit more freedom in how they are presented.

The lack of any meaningful in-depth recent reviews is a reflection only of the demands for my time.  Personal enthusiasm for this hobby remains high.  My board game collection continues to grow as I add games that I find to be truly innovative and enjoyable to experience.  There is such a backlog of exciting games I want to review and share with friends and strangers curious about the hobby.  With limited availability because of family and career I find that selecting which games I will study and review next is a bit of a challenge.  Truly, having broad choices in board games to review is a great problem to have.

You may also have noticed that reviews or comments I post here about board games are hardly ever negative.  A little reflection explains that.  I’m only going to take the time to write about games I enjoy.  If a game does not interest me much I’m not going to take time to write about it.  My little board gaming hobby site is entirely self-selecting to be games I enjoy.  I’ve never intended for this web site to be a repository or reference of game reviews in general.  These are games I like.  A lot.  I use this vehicle to share about the games I think deserve special attention.

I’ve been experiencing a trend recently where I will get solicited by board game publishers, designers, and hopefuls, to review or mention their games.  It seems that every week someone contacts me asking if I would review or mention their new game.  The simple truth is that I don’t have time to do that much work.  Sure, I may end up reviewing new games either just published or seeking funding for publication.  But this is not why this site exists.  I just want to share about the games I love playing.  Every game I review I purchase with my own money, play with family and close friends and very much enjoy.  If I review a board game here it is because I really dig the game and want to share about it with like-minded hobbyists.

Probably every blogger out there faces the same challenge of keeping their content current and interesting for readers.  Even if you love the hobby, this takes time.  It seems that between career and family I’ve had less available free time to review or even play many newer games.  I have a “backlog” of game purchases that I really want to share about and review.  Thank you for visiting my little board game reviews site and thanks especially to those readers leaving comments.  Well, except for those who only leave comments hoping I will review their game.  I don’t want to disappoint new game designers.  You make this hobby better.  But I’m going to continue to be very selective about any games I choose to review and play.

Mid-2015 New Game Recommendations for Starting Out in the Hobby

Here it is mid-year and I have not posted an update in “for ages”.  Recently I was thinking about some of the people I have met who have expressed a genuine interest in understanding what this modern board gaming hobby is about.  Often my game reviews tend to be about game of pretty good mental depth and challenge because those are the games I like.  Seems reasonable.

However if someone is really new to this hobby, diving in where the water is more than just a few feet deep is generally not recommended.  So how about I create a short list of board games that are both currently available (in print in 2015) and easy to learn, enjoy and that will provide many hours of fun with friends and family?  Here goes.

pic38668_md

Ticket to Ride

It goes without saying.  This is the best board game I know that introduces people to modern board games.  It’s very easy to learn and quick to play.  About an hour or less to play, the first few games might take the full hour, and it plays quite well with as few as 2 players and it scales up to 5 players.

There are expansions for it and variants of the game, but this basic one with the map of the USA is the one I recommend.  You can find this on the shelves at department stores like Target and book stores like Barnes & Noble.  And of course you can find it at a friendly local board game store.

“Ticket to Ride” is an outstanding example of these modern designer board games.  Key features of these games:

  • It has no player elimination.  Everyone stays active in the game until the very last turn.
  • Plays quick.  Games take about an hour or less.
  • No complicated rules to learn.
  • Player turns are quick.  Often after you complete your turn, in a surprisingly short time it is your turn again.
  • It has the classic German-style score track that goes around the edges of the board.

If you have not played this game, stop now and go get it.  You will  have fun.

 

dixit

Dixit

This game is easy to learn and plays well when you have 4 or more players.  It scales from 3 players to 6.  The game takes about 30 minutes to play.  You’ll probably play it several times in a row.

The most interesting thing about Dixit is how imagination feeds the game.  The game is a collection of 80+ over sized cards, each having beautiful and unique artwork.  Every card is different. The game is played in rounds until there is a winner.  Each round one player chooses a card secretly from their hand and tells a little story that the card describes.  Here’s the thing.  Not a single card conveys a simple theme.  The other players then look at their own hand of cards and selects one that they think is close enough to the story teller’s description that it will fool everyone else.  You see, you want get people to vote for your card instead of the correct card.  Of course you don’t know what the original card looks like yet.  Then, all the chosen cards, one from each player including the selected card by the round’s storyteller are shuffled together.  Afterwards all the cards are revealed and the players vote for which one they think is the one belonging to the storyteller.  The storyteller does not vote of course because she reveals which card is the correct one.

Again, this game is fun and works quite well as a quick after dinner game where everyone gathers around the table.  Like “Ticket to Ride” I’ve seen this game in department stores, book stores and game shops.  One thing to watch out for is that there are two different box covers for the same game.  The international version is shown above.  There’s another version that some of the department stores have that looks pretty different, showing little pictures of many of the cards on the box front.  The game inside the box plays the same.

 

pandemic

Pandemic

This game may be a new experience for you because it is a cooperative game.  All the players of the game are on the same team trying to defeat the board game itself.  In this case Pandemic is about the outbreak of highly contagious diseases around the globe and how the team, as members of The Center for Disease Control (CDC), work furiously to contain and exterminate the outbreaks.  “Pandemic” is for 2 to 4 players and takes about an hour or less.  Once everyone gets the hang of what’s happening and how to play, the game moves quickly.  What’s particularly fun is how everyone can be lulled into a false sense of security where disease management is working and everything appears to be under control.  And then epidemics break out in the weakest areas of the game.  I’ve seen it happen where the game can rapidly come to close and defeat the players just when everything looked like it was under control.

This game is also readily available at the same locations as the others mentioned.  For an interesting twist where the team plays together, I recommend “Pandemic”.

 

box-carc

Carcassonne

This is my wife’s favorite game.  It’s surprisingly competitive, or can be with the right players.  This is a classic in the style of euro-designer games.  What’s interesting about Carcassonne is that the board is constructed by the players each round as play continues.  Each player places one square tile down on the table connected to the existing tiles on the table (certain placement rules are followed).  This continues until the draw stack of face-down tiles are exhausted.  Scoring is accomplished the the game progresses.  It’s a bit difficult to describe without showing off graphics of each tile and discussing placement of the little wooden “meeple” (mini-people).  But it easy to learn and fun.  It plays quite well with only 2 players and scales up to 5.  Again the game time is about 45 minutes.

I’ve not seen this one at many shops other than game stores, although I have seen it at a Toys R Us.  Like I said, it’s my wife’s favorite game.  We have a portable version we take with us when we go to restaurants and play at the table while awaiting the food to arrive.

 

That’s just a few games to try.  Give the hobby a shot.  I’ve had the experience of introducing people to what are sometimes called these Euro Games and the reaction has been universal.  Folks are pleasantly surprised by how clever and fun these games are.  They are nothing like the games you played growing up like “Monopoly”, “Sorry”, or maybe “Risk”.  There’s a huge world of these designer games out there, literally thousands of titles, and they are often a complete surprise to Americans.  Hope this little list provides you some fun.

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.

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.