If youâre already someone playing the latest designer games from around the world or you live on BoardGameGeek.com, move right along thereâs nothing to see here. But if youâre like so many people who think, âLetâs play a board game,â and then proceed to whip out Monopoly, Life, Candyland, Trivial Pursuit, etc. then let me bend your ear for a minute.
Board games have changed a lot in the last 15-20 years. Especially in the last decade or so as tons of cool new games have been released. Here are a few favorites of mine. Most of them are considered staples of the new generation.
Settlers Of Catan â The best known of the bunch with over 600,000 copies sold in the United States according to this recent Wired magazine article. This one pretty much defines how you can still have a competitive game yet not have it be the kind of zero-sum relationship destroyer that Monopoly is. With Monopoly I canât win unless I first make you lose. With Catan, I canât win without trading with you (especially in the early game), and we both gain points from stuff we do, but I donât win by taking points away from you, I win by just being the first one to ten points. You might have scored nine points yourself and the fact that you did can cushion losing and give you encouragement to try again.
For me the only downside to this game is that it doesnât play well with less than three people and the playtime is the longest of all the games listed here (it can easily be a couple of hours).
Animal Upon Animal â First of all, Candyland and Chutes and Ladders have a place. They are teaching games for colors and counting for little kids. However, once you know your colors and numbers to 100, you are past both of those games and you never ever need to come back to them. If youâre looking for a fun game for a little kid that can also be enjoyed by adults, look no further than Animal Upon Animal. Itâs a dexterity game where you stack oddly shaped wooden animals on top of other wooden animals in a big pyramid. First player to get rid of all seven of his/her animals wins.
Little hands are sometimes a bonus rather than a hindrance and even if you knock over the entire pile adding a piece, you only take two pieces back into your collection. The rest go into the box. That keeps it from getting too frustrating for little kids. If you need to further even the odds itâs easy to have a player start with six pieces or five instead of the normal seven so they can more easily win.
Ticket To Ride â There are multiple versions of this train game with maps for different countries and even some slightly different rules. Iâm used to the Ticket To Ride Europe version with itâs train stations (an additional piece that I donât believe was in the original Ticket to Ride). Itâs fun, it can be played in an hour or so (maybe 90 minutes at the longest) and itâs a simple game to teach to new players because you only have four things you can do in a turn and most of the time youâre going to only be choosing between two things to do.
Gather up the colored cards you need to claim routes between major cities (using super nifty plastic trains to mark your route) and try to keep the secret the longer routes you are trying to complete to score extra points.
Dominion â An awesomely great card game in a big box. Seemingly endless variety thanks to the fact that in any given game youâre picking a set of ten cards to use out of 25 available cards and different choices can completely change the feel of the game. Easy to teach, reasonably short playtime (often less than an hour), and expansions like Dominion Seaside can give you more variation than you can even imagine.
Carcassonne â Youâll notice a theme to the entries in this list. Theyâre very easy to explain to new players and they tend to have pretty short playtimes. This one is no exception. The mechanic is a simple one. Draw a tile from a set of tiles and see how you can place it by matching its edges to tiles already played. That part of it only takes a second. Then you decide whether or not you want to put one of your small stock of pieces (seven little wooden people) on the board in order to try to score some points.
There are probably a dozen expansions for this game if you find you like it (as I do) so you can really expand the array of tiles, pieces for scoring, and methods for scoring points to increase the strategy or complexity of the game.
I was lucky enough to get to play all of these except Carcassonne with family over the holidays and everybody had a great time. I finally went to bed at 3am but people kept playing for hours more after that!