Five games in the list were new to me, and I learned them for the first time this past season. They are:
Bang! The Dice Game – There are three teams in this game: the good guys, consisting of the Sheriff and the Deputy, the bad guys, consisting of the Outlaws, and the Renegades, who play every-man-for-himself. The hitch is that all the roles are hidden except the Sheriff. Who should you shoot at? Kill the wrong person and you might sink your team’s chances of winning. Very fun with enough people. I’d be willing to play this again any time.
Blue Moon – This is a unique card game by designer extraordinaire, Reiner Knizia. I only played it a couple of times, and I’m not sure that I completely get it, but it is intriguing. One neat feature is that it’s an asymmetric game, meaning that the two players have completely different cards from each other. This forces the competitors to adopt distinct strategies.
Machi Koro – I really like this game. It plays fast, and feels like a very light version of Settlers of Catan. Unfortunately, every time I play it with someone they don’t seem to be as enamored with the game as I am. I’ve tried it with several groups, and my impression is that everyone thinks it’s just “okay”. Oh well. I’m going to keep trying because I like it.
Village – Winner of the Essen Kennerspiel Des Jahres award in 2012, Village is a beautiful, intricate, deep game that is surprisingly easy to learn. It can feel a bit morbid because your people are constantly dying throughout the game. In fact the game doesn’t end until a certain number of people have expired. It actually works really well, though, once you wrap your head around it. I look forward to many more plays of this one.
Xia: Legends of a Drift System – This game is getting a lot of buzz in the industry right now. Hot off a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s quite popular, and for good reason. The components are top notch, and while the mechanics are a bit clunky, the breadth of options available to you makes for quite an immersive experience. Games can run a bit long, but that’s a minor flaw in an otherwise stellar (literally) game.
The other seven games in this list are old favorites that I was happy to get back to the table again this past fall:
Alien Frontiers – This is a very difficult game to summarize. You roll dice, and the numbers you roll will determine what actions you can take on your turn. Unlike most die-rolling games, though, there’s not much luck involved. Any roll can be useful. It’s just a matter of figuring out how best to utilize what you get. A very tactical game with loads of options.
City of Iron – Beautiful artwork and deep, rewarding gameplay are what come to mind when I think of this game. I haven’t gotten it to the table as often as I’d like. It takes a bit longer than most games I play, pushing 3 hours, but the experience is so engrossing that the time flies by quickly.
Dominion – I’ve probably played more games of Dominion than any other game ever made. There was a time when I would play this a dozen or more times in a given week. When I first bought the game, I pulled an almost-all-nighter playing it over and over again. I’ve cooled off on it a bit now, after several years of near-constant play, but I still am always happy to pull it out for a quick game.
King of Tokyo – It’s like Yahtzee, except with monsters fighting each other in Tokyo. Roll the dice, trying to get sets of various symbols to earn points, attack your opponents, heal your monster, an purchase power-ups. The last monster standing wins.
Lost Cities – Another Knizia gem, this game is one of my favorites for a quick, tense two-player match. It’s super easy to learn, but the play is so deep, it’s surprising – literally! No one has ever fully grasped the strategy on the first play. That’s okay, though. With games done in 10-15 minutes, you can always try again.
Robo Rally – Robo Rally is pure insanity. Each player programs his or her robot’s movements five turns in advance, then the players reveal and execute their programs simultaneously. You thought you were headed for that repair point? Too bad. My robot bumped into you and pushed you onto the express conveyor belt. Now you’re headed right into a pit. Loads of fun.
Ticket to Ride – Only 10 years old and already a classic, Ticket to Ride is the one game in this entire list that I’d say, without reservation, everyone should play at least once in their lifetime. It’s a beautiful game, both in appearance and design. It’s easy to pick up, but challenging to master. Most importantly, it’s very enjoyable to play.
I enjoy board games. Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an understatement. I love board games. When I’m not playing, I listen to talk shows about board games. I watch video reviews on YouTube. I think about playing games, and I even ponder designing my own board games. Here is a quick rundown of games that I have played in the past few months.
7 Wonders – This is somewhat of a staple in our house. It offers a lot of decisions but does a good job of streamlining the game play so that you can play, what feels like a pretty complicated game, in about 45 minutes.
Airlines Europe – In this game you invest in different airlines by expanding their business and by buying stock. The winner is the player who has the most stock in the most successful airlines.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers – You’re a dwarf family living in a cave. Grow crops, raise livestock, have babies, go on adventures, and expand your cave. So many ways to win. What will you focus on?
Elfenland – You’re an elf wandering the land, riding on dragons, unicorns, and even a giant boar. Whoever visits the most cities in four rounds wins.
For Sale – Super easy to learn, and takes just 15 minutes to play. You purchase homes ranging in opulence from a cardboard box to a space station. You then resell the homes you have purchased. Whoever has the most money at the end wins.
Get Bit! – Another quick and easy-to-learn game. You’re a robot swimming away from a shark. If you get caught, you lose a limb. Lose too many limbs, and you’re lunch.
Hanabi – You’re all working together to build an impressive fireworks display. The catch: you hold your cards backwards. You can see everyone else’s cards, but not your own. Pay attention to the hints your cohorts give you so that you can play the correct cards at the proper time.
Lord of the Rings: The Board Game – This is also a cooperative game. Work together to get your hobbits to mount doom so that you can destroy the ring. Accomplish quests that follow the story line from the books, but don’t let the eye of Sauron discover you.
Lords of Waterdeep – Send out your agents to the businesses of Waterdeep, recruiting wizards, clerics, warriors, and thieves to go on quests for you. The player who best utilizes his resources will win.
Love Letter – 16 cards. That’s the whole game. Each person has a single card in their hand. On your turn you draw a card and play a card. Try to figure out what card your opponents are holding to win the game.
No Thanks! – As simple as they come. Each turn you’re presented with a card. Do you want to keep it or pass it on to your neighbor? Take too many cards and you’ll lose the game. Plays in just 10 minutes, but it’s a blast every time.
Puerto Rico – Build your city, start plantations, hire colonists, trade and export goods. You are in charge of the budding economy of the island of Puerto Rico. This game leaves almost nothing to chance. Try to anticipate what your opponents will do while making choices that benefit you.
Puzzle Strike – Build your arsenal of fighting techniques (pog-like chips) to crash gems into your opponents’ gem piles. The first player to 10 gems loses. Yeah, it makes no sense at all, but it sure is fun.
Rampage – You are a monster running amok in the city, throwing vehicles, knocking down buildings, and eating the citizens. Just like the classic arcade game of the same name. So much so, in fact, that the publisher recently had to change the game’s name to Terror in Meeple City, presumably because of a cease and desist.
Seasons – Big, chunky dice, beautiful (and bizarre) artwork, and deep strategy. This game has a lot going for it. Use air, water, fire, and earth to create and cast spells. Call in familiars to help out. Convert your resources to crystals to score points. Whoever has the most points at the end wins.
Settlers of Catan – Collect the resources wood, clay, stone, sheep, and wheat so that you can build roads, settlements, and cities, so that you can collect more resources so that… the first to 10 points wins. Catan is a classic, and for good reason. Easy to learn, but with plenty of strategy.
Small World – What race will you be today? Will you be pillaging elves? Or alchemist amazons? Or diplomatic giants? How about heroic halflings? Make your pick, and then start conquering regions. There’s just one problem: this world is too small for all of us…
Splendor – This game is practically the ideal combination of simple concepts, deep strategies, and quick game play. Collect gems to buy cards to get more cards to get points. First to 15 wins. A game takes only about 30 minutes, but I bet you’ll want to play again.
Star Realms – Only $15, fits in your pocket, plays in 20 minutes, quick to setup, easy to learn, quick to put away… shall I go on? I love this game. Perfect deck building game for two players.
The Three Little Pigs – It’s a kids’ game and I play it… wait for it… with my kids! Seriously, this is great fun for the under 10 crowd, and still entertaining for the adults who play it with them.
Trains – Is it a board game or a card game? Yes! Collect cards so that you can lay out tracks and build stations on the board. Or should you focus on just the point cards? Or should you try to block your opponents’ tracks? So many ways to play. Not the most beautiful game, but lots of fun anyway.
Tzolk’in: The Mayan Calendar – Place your workers on the gears, and then give them a spin. Make sure that you pick them up at the right time to get the most points and resources. Don’t forget to feed them! This is probably the most complex game that I own. I don’t get it, but I want to play just one more time. Maybe I’ll figure it out next game!