The Board Game Post

A long time ago, I said I'd do a post on board games. Unfortunately (for you, I guess) I could talk about board games for weeks without even trying. I LOVE board games. There's so much I could cover, I hardly know where to start. Consider this a broad overview for the uninitiated (with hopefully-helpful recommendations for fellow board game geeks). If you think Monopoly or Milton Bradley are representative of board games, this post is for you.

We'll start with the basics. Two board games you need to know: Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.

Ticket to Ride is our gateway game. We teach it to our friends before introducing the harder stuff. You play as competing railroad tycoons claiming railway routes between large cities (American cities, but there's versions for Europe, Germany, and Scandinavia), earning more points for longer routes and connecting distant cities. Gameplay is a constant tension between purchasing routes (before someone else does) or grabbing more cards (so you can purchase said routes). You can learn this game in 5 minutes and still be playing 5 years later (we are).

Settlers is a bit more complicated, but even more addictive. Players compete to settle an unexplored land. They must collect and trade their resources in order to build roads, settlements, and cities before someone else does. With a board that changes every game and multiple expansions, this one hasn't gotten old since we learned it 12 years ago.

But oh my gosh, guys. That's just a cubic meter of ice on the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

Carcassonne. Claim cities, roads, and fields. Bigger cities (etc.) means bigger points. The gameplay is simple (draw a tile, place a tile). The real trick is figuring out how to encourage other players to complete your cities with their tiles.

Agricola. Plow fields, raise animals, renovate your home, all while making sure your family stays fed. Way more fun and complicated than it sounds. A simpler game ("simple" here is a relative term) with similar gameplay is Puerto Rico, wherein you build a colony and plantations in the New World.

Wait, what about pirates? Plunder the islands and blow each other to smithereens in Pirate's Cove (what the heck is a smithereen?). Or bust out of prison in the simple-but-fun Cartagena, which somehow took Candy Land's game mechanics and made them interesting.

Like the party game Mafia? Try Bang! Kill the sheriff (if you're an outlaw) or the outlaws (if you're the sheriff) or everybody (if you're a renegade). But make sure you know who you're shooting at before you pull the trigger; they might be on your side.

Yahtzee fans might enjoy To Court the King. Roll the right dice combinations to attract members of the royal court. Each court member gives you new dice and abilities to help you attract more important nobles, until one of you manages to court the king himself.

Think that's it? We're still WAY above the waterline here. There's like ten games in our cabinet I haven't even mentioned, a bunch more I've played or heard about, and that's not even counting cooperative games!

I should stop before I lose more readers than I have already... But wait! I haven't told you about new versions of Risk yet. Or Lost Cities! Or Citadels! Or Formula De!! Or --


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Joshua McCune said...

I've got Settlers (+Seafarers) and Carcassone -- both awesome. Pirate's Cove looks like a blast.

Natalie Whipple said...

We never played board games in our family because it always turned into a fight about 5 mins in. But now I wish we weren't rabidly competitive.

Asea said...

Games were such a major part of the fabric of my childhood that I was surprised and grieved to find out that most families just don't play them. We, on the other hand, played a new game of Risk every single day for an entire summer, chalked a life-size board for Clue on the driveway so we could be the pieces, and made up new ways to play Uno.

We spent most of our time on Risk, Axis and Allies (a much more complicated WWII version of a conquer the world game), Puerto Rico, Carcassone, Acquire (buy and trade stock while trying to expand chains of hotels and increase profits on your major holdings), Careers (choose a career and use it to amass fame, fortune, and love - but watch out for the pitfalls of recession and accidents!), Mastermind (a two person code-breaking game), Boggle (how many unique words can you find on a set of lettered dice?), SET (a pattern finding card game), Quiddler (Scrabble had a baby with Rummy and this card game is the result), and Five Crowns (a five suite deck of cards and some funky rules). When my siblings and I get together, we still spend most of our time playing games. :-)

I want to find Pirate's Cove - even though I am sure my overly strategic brothers will slaughter me in it. Still, it is even fun to be slaughtered, as long as I can be a pirate, right?

Myrna Foster said...

I love Settlers and Risk. I haven't played most of the games you mentioned though. It's hard to play board games with toddlers (unless we're playing their board games).

Adam Heine said...

Bane: It is, often literally.

Natalie: My family has that problem too. My mom and sister chose not to play because of it. My brothers and I chose to play and fight. There are certain games I won't play anymore, though, because they make me so mad.

Asea: I think I've played every game you mentioned except SET. I'm totally geeking out about your life-size Clue board.

Myrna: Agreed. I hate babysitting with the TV, but we do it sometimes so we can play games. Or we invite friends who also have toddlers so they can distract each other. But Isaac's getting better; he knows how to throw the dice, count the pips, and move the piece (but he doesn't know where to move the piece or why yet).

Belle said...

Ticket to Ride sounds like it might be a hit here, although the train loving one isn't quite seven yet so it might be still a little old for him. I've seen Settler so many times and have been so tempted to try it out - my oldest would love it, I think.

When my older two were younger, we played quite a few of the cooperative board games. Definitely cut down on the fighting!

Adam Heine said...

Hey, Belle. Yeah, I wish we had cooperative games when I was a kid. But knowing my brothers and I, even that wouldn't have worked; we could fight about anything!

Elle Carter Neal said...

My favourites are Pictionary and Cluedo. Unfortunately I get the death-glare if I dare suggest playing a "bored" game in this house. Sigh.


Rhys Milner said...

Ahh board games.

Yes, something of a fan, grew up playing a lot myself, usually monopoly or trivial pursuit.

Until I discovered heroquest and space crusade. Oh baby! Of course this lead me into warhammer and from then on I've been poverty stricken :P

I've been playing a few of the fantasy flight games recently, Adam I reccomend you have a look at Arkham Horror, I also play a game called Descent, which is rather cool and rather like heroquest.

I suddenly don't have time for board games though as my beta readers have suddenly started getting back to me, several at once. So it's edit time, and as I rabbit on about on my own blog, I have some serious editing to do :|

It's now been well illustrated to me that a good in depth beta reader that will take to your MS with a fire poker is invaluable.

Adam Heine said...

Ah, Warhammer. That would be a serious temptation if I still lived in the States. Not so much here though...

I've heard of Descent. I'll take a look at Arkham Horror.

MattyDub said...

For the more cooperative, I recommend Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings - the players cooperate to complete the Ringquest. 2-5 players (the 5th guy is Fatty - I'm not joking).
For intrigue, you can't beat Saboteur and Shadows Over Camelot. In the former, you know there are some bad guys - can you still mine a path to the gold despite their treachery? In the latter, there might not even be a bad guy at all - but you still need to find the Grail, defeat a dragon, get Lancelot's Armor, get Excalibur, all while holding off Picts, Saxons, the Black Knight, and the ever-encroaching siege engines around Camelot. Man I miss that game now.
For the slightly more hardcore, I have Ra and Power Grid, which are both good, but very slightly brain-melting.
Adam, you are remiss in not linking the Geek:
Adam mentioned Lost Cities - other thoroughly wonderful 2-player games include: Blue Moon, Caesar and Cleopatra, Schotten Totten/Battle Line (Battle Line is the title of the reprint)...I also really like the 2-player Blokus. And Twixt is a 2-player abstract from the 1950's that I've recently found and really enjoy.
Ia! So many games, so little time!

Adam Heine said...

Re: not linking the Geek. I didn't want to overwhelm anybody.

The comment section is free from such considerations though. Anyone reading all these clearly wants more information than they can handle.

Matthew MacNish said...

These look friggin awesome! I'm going to have to figure out where to buy these.

Michelle Merrill said...

Hey there Adam. I know I'm super late to this post but Matthew MacNish and I just had a conversation about games and he sent me this way. I LOVE all these games. I've never heard of To court the king but I'm going to google it to see what it's all about...and then maybe I'll buy. My newest favorites are Dominion and Bohnanza. Oh, and I play Magic the Gathering all the time with the hubs. It's not my favorite but I like it enough to have two decks :)

I'm also a writer. I'm excited to see more of your blog. It's nice to meet you. I'll see ya around :)

Sarah Ahiers said...

all right, i've played most of these but a few are new to me. I've always contemplated Ticket to Ride, but tend to put it aside for more advanced games. I'm sure we'll get to it at some point.
Bang! sounds awesome. I'll have to keep my eyes open for that.
Too bad we don't live near each other. We could have some badass game nights