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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.