We always say that we would love to do more with our families, do something that doesn’t involve screens and electronics. We say we should sit and chat, or maybe even play board games. Oh yeah! It’s been AGES since any of us played a board game, let’s set that up for this weekend. Great. But what game?
And right at that point the age old argument ensues, usually ending the ill-fated evening before it even begun. Common suggestions will include “Game of Life”, “Scrabble” and “Monopoly”. Some ambitious soul might even recommend “Risk” or some never before heard of German game with 20,000 pieces and a handbook thicker than the last Harry Potter!!!
However, while being drastically different (yet classic) games (with the exception of that obscure German title), the one thing all those games seem to have in common is that while everyone knows “of” them, no one seems to have really mastered any of them (except your geezer of a brother, who wins at Monopoly every single god damned time and would have been better named Ebenezer…), and thus one of two things happens: either, no one can agree on a game to play in the first place or the choice leaves experienced board game players bored and newbies lost, which is never a good way to spend a family evening.
My husband and I had exactly such a lofty thought about a year ago. Wouldn’t it be nice, to play some more board games? As avid gamers (usually of the electronic variety) we both wanted to spend some real quality time together, being present with one another as well as family and friends without screens and plug ins, so we started our very own quest in search of the most awesome board games to share.
On our adventure, we came across some real duds (as was to be expected), but also some genuine gems and we now have a collection that caters to all levels; from weathered-by-adventure board game experts to green-eared-never-rolled-a-dice-newbies.
The trick, is to find games to start everyone off with; games that will allow new players to pick up on the rules easily and play confidently, while being challenging and/or entertaining enough so that gaming veterans don’t get bored.
We think we’ve found at least 5 of these and I would like to introduce you to them now. They are pretty straight forward, and mostly “pick up and play”. If you’re looking for something that your geezer of a brother won’t instantly beat you at, but is also easy enough to introduce to that reclusive, eclectic family member, I hope this will be the list for you.
Just to be clear, I am not recommending blindly; I have played each and every one of these multiple times myself, with a variety of friends and family members. Very importantly there are no endorsements at play here, this is my personal list of recommended “beginner friendly” titles. Clear? Good. 🙂
Let’s get tucked in!
An easy to set up and even easier to follow game, first released in 1986. The simple objective is to be the first player to find all their treasures in a treasure hunt; each player gets a deck of cards, where each card depicts a treasure which has a corresponding tile in the maze. To obtain the treasure, players have to manoeuvre their character pieces through the moving labyrinth.
Players locate their treasure on the board (without letting the others know what they’re looking for) and then plot the path their character piece must take to get to it. There are no dice and no maximum spaces one is allowed to move, however, players will most certainly find their path blocked by walls!
Why? Because the board moves! At the beginning of each player’s turn, they must “move the labyrinth”. In doing this, they will start freeing up the path to their own treasure while inadvertently (or maybe deliberately) blocking the paths of other players. 😉 To claim the treasure, players must simply reveal their treasure card once their token stands upon the corresponding tile.
The first to reach all their treasures wins!
2-4 players Ages: 7+ Average Time: 20-40 minutes
2) Greedy Greedy Goblins
Another “pick up and play” game, the 2016 title Greedy Greedy Goblins pitches players against each other as members of their own Goblin mining guilds. Each guild has a preferred gem for bonuses, but what’s most important (and exciting) about this game is that there are no turns!
Cards depicting the Mines (and the guild hall) are laid out in a circle on the table, and in the middle are all the face down “mining tiles”. On the count of three, each player rushes to pick up and inspect one tile at a time. As soon as they have seen what the tile contains (a gem, a minion, a torch, a monster or a stick of dynamite) they must place the tile (face down) on any one of the mines. At any point players may then place their own coloured tokens on a mine to “claim it as their own” and once that has happened, no one else may place any more tiles on that mine.
Once all the mines have been claimed, players take informal turns revealing what their mines include. This is the risky part, since while players will know what they placed in the mine themselves, they have no idea what other players may have placed there!!! Gems give points, minions are helpers who get even more points (or mitigate damage), monsters rob you of your points and while single/double sticks of dynamite double your yield, too many (more than three) collapse the whole thing and that player pays a penalty.
It’s fast paced, laugh out loud adventure, where players have to choose whether to risk it all with an over-tiled mine or play it safe, with a mine that only contains 2 gems that they placed there themselves.
2-4 players, Ages: 14+ (that’s what the box says but I don’t see any reason why anyone 10+ couldn’t play this on their own, and I would even go as far as saying that 4+ could have an amazing time playing this with their family, as long as everyone plays with the understanding that the little kids are in teams with adults and the game is slowed down to allow them to make choices too!) Average time: 25-35 minutes
3) Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan, which was first released in 1995, is more in the vein of “classic board games” than the previous two, but it’s beautifully designed, easy to pick up and a lovely challenge!
As the name suggests, players play settlers in the fictional country of Catan. Each player starts with a pre-determined number of natural and refined resources, and as the game progresses they need to acquire and trade for even more resources, as these are needed to literally settle their areas. They need to grow wheat in fields, get lumber from forests and hay from grasslands, for example, to build cities and roads and eventually even connect to water based trade routes. Each settlement, road and structure is worth a certain number of points, and the first player to reach (typically) 10 points, wins.
This game is about strategic placements, trades and moves, while also making moral choices. You could send the robber to plunder other player’s settlements to get you ahead temporarily, but is it worth the possible retribution?
3-4 players (standard) (2,5 or 6 players with expansion packs), ages 8+ Average time: 1 – 4 hours. (Personally, we have averaged out at 1.5 hours per session).
There are also some fun variations and expansions on the classic game, such as Catan Junior, Catan: Cities & Knights, Catan: Traders & Barbarians.
4) Scotland Yard or NY Chase
The 1983 title Scotland Yard, pitches a team of up to 5 players (the detectives) against a single common enemy: Mr. X, played by a single player. The detectives of the London Metropolitan Police work together to track down Mr. X as he escapes across London.
The catch? Mr. X only appears on the board every couple of rounds and the player playing him has to write down his progress on a secret board for verification later. Mr. X and the police must use tickets for the Taxi, Bus and Underground routes to get around London and the detectives work cooperatively to do this with as much strategy as they can. Their only clue? What tickets Mr. X has been using. Taxis only move from one point to the next, bus stops might be several “spaces” apart, whereas the Underground can take him the furthest, along the predetermined routes.
Mr. X gets to also use a limited number of “secret tickets” which allows him to use any mode of transport he wants, or even take a boat along the river Thames. If the detectives manage to catch Mr. X before the turns run out, they win the game, but if he makes it through all of his turns without getting caught, he “gets away” and he wins.
NY Chase, is a variation on this game, which I am personally very fond of. It moved the chase to New York City, where the FBI are trying to catch Mr. X. The difference other than the location? The police get (limited but helpful) use of a helicopter and they have road blocks as well! I love this version, because I love playing Mr. X, and it makes it more challenging to escape!
3-6 players (but I’ve also played it with 2 players, where one person was playing all the detectives at once!), Ages: 10+ , Average Time: 1 hour
Last, but definitely not least, is the brain teaser Cranium. Designed to “challenge your whole brain” and including a variety of activities, this family fun favourite pitches teams of at least 2 against one another in a combination of challenges revolving around “creative activities”, “knowledge of data and facts”, “performing arts” and “spelling/word recognition”.
It’s an all around crowd pleaser, combining aspects of classic party games such as Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Charades, Name that Tune and more. It’s the perfect activity for a group of people who can’t decide what to play, since there’s a little something for everyone!
4+ players, Age: 8+, Average time: >35 minutes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little list, and really hope you’ve found something that caught your eye. Maybe one of these will liven up your next dinner evening. 😉
Have you played any of these? Or are you planning to? I would love to know what you think! Please let me know, in the comments below.
Bye bye for now! x