I need to apologize to all those who make a point read my game reviews (both of you) for my prolonged absence. I’ve been wanting to do a poll but am having technical difficulties and got lazy because of those difficulties. So to make it up, I’m providing a 12 Days of Christmas (all in one day! How’s that for thrifty?) Board Game Recommendations for all your holiday shopping needs!
By the way, although these descriptions are short and sweet, if you want to know more, I’d be more than happy to answer further questions. I may review some of these in full next year too.
Wits and Wagers
Winner of numerous awards and for good reason. It’s the trivia game for everyone regardless of your knowledge. The key comes in who’s answer you’ll bet on, how much and at what odds. Up to 8 individuals or (just as fun) 8 teams.
This is the so very much better version of Apples to Apples. The choices and some of the scoring is still up to the current player but instead of random words on cards you try to fit to the question, you get to write your own word or phrase. Not only does this make it more personal and give you more persuasive power, but it makes the game ten times funnier! You also score for betting on the answer you think will be picked. This is at the top of my wishlist for party games. (edit: Both this & Wits and Wagers are available at a number of big retail stores like Borders and Target)
Made (somewhat) famous on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest this can often be found at your local thrift store (as were my two copies). However, this can also be built from scratch rather easily. All you need are a bunch of 6 sided dice (D6s) and cups and, if you want, download the instructions and print off the board, but you don’t even really need that. Any number of people can play if you have the cups and dice. Basically a push-your-luck game of rolling the dice and raising or challenging the last raiser’s prediction of how many of what number is rolled (“I think there are six 4s”) with 1s being wild. When you’re wrong you lose the number of dice you were off by. Last man standing wins. Exciting, tense, yet easy-to-learn fun!
Games for/with children (but fun for adults too!)
(2-4 players) Roll the colored snakes die and place one of your rattlesnake eggs (each a powerful magnet) on the corresponding snake on the board and hope it doesn’t clash with another egg or knock one off the board or else you have to pick those ones up. First to run out of eggs wins! Learning and playing takes at most, 10 minutes. Do NOT underestimate the power of those magnets! Great fun.
(3-5 players) Collect matching colored chameleons in sets of suits and do all you can to not let your opponents do the same. Scoring and card drawing is a little tricky to pick up at first but no problem after your first game or two. Highest score after all the rounds wins.
(1-4 players) The only mass market game (i.e. found in a regular retail store like Wal-Mart) really popular with board game geeks, this is kind of a finger shuffle board. Score accurately to get all your Sorry! pieces home before any of your opponents to win. The board can be rearranged into a number of different formats to give variety and challenge. I stink at this game but still have fun with it, especially with kids.
(3-6 players) Another push-your-luck game. Determine whether you should stay in the balloon by matching colored cards in your hand with the color rolled on the die. If the current player has what’s needed, the balloon rises and everyone who stayed in has the chance to score more points but if it falls you score nothing. If you get out anywhere, you score the points marked on the board where you got off.Â Got this for my sister’s family and they love it all the way from the parents to the 4 year old. One funny side note is their oldest (9 year old) refuses to play anymore because of he doesn’t want to ruin his perceived undefeated stretch since I left!:)
For adults and older kids
(3-5 players) Take a card numbered 3 to 35 or pass it to the next player using one of your plastic tokens. Whoever takes the card gets the points on the card (you want the lowest score) and all the pass tokens on it as well. Consecutive cards taken only score the lowest in the run. This may sound dry but I find this game absolutely hilarious. The guesswork and probability, as well as the snide looks and remarks from opponents builds the tension for each card. Play as many rounds as desired as they only take maybe 15 minutes and the box is so small, you can take this game anywhere. Play it in the airport with perfect strangers to bring some civility and fun to the tense holiday delays and cold!
(2-4 players) An elegant game with cool playing pieces! The goal is making sushi rolls by placing ingredients on a grid (thus, your ingredients will complement and/or conflict with your opponents’) Scoring ranges depending on order and complexity of the recipes you complete. Great date game. Girls love sushi!
(3-5 players) Interesting mechanism in this one. Each round you choose 5 of 7 cards to play with. Collect ingredients to make spells ranging in cost and victory points. The tricky part comes in knowing when to play a card and how to play it since only the last and penultimate player to play score (revealing in clockwise order) with the former gaining the most in the transaction and the latter only getting part. Still trying to figure this one out but I like it a lot and is also on my wishlist.
Lost Cities (The Card Game)
Possibly my favorite 2 player game and easily my most played. This is my gateway game for new players (you might enjoy my latest BGG entry about it). 5 suits of cards numbered 2-10 (as well as 3 multipliers for each suit)Â are laid down in suit in ascending order a card at a time. Scoring is a little tricky at first as you score only the suits you started and only get positive points if your total for each is over 20, otherwise you get them negative! Whosoever overall score is highest wins. Each round is at the very most 20 minutes. A lot of subtleties play into each round as you try to deprive your opponent of cards they need by not discarding them where they can get it along with playing your own side.Â Great lunch break game.
Ticket to Ride: MÃ¤rklin Edition
(2-5 players) I’ve played the original Ticket to Ride which is great but have been told by many people that this is the best edition (there are many) as it has the best/most interesting variations. Collect colored train cards to lay down tracks between cities and score points for each connection as well as additional points for completing any tickets (cards drawn at the beginning and throughout the game) you have. Another good gateway game and you may learn some geography to boot!
I couldn’t resist. Here are 12 more games that are a good deal more advanced in complexity and length that I highly recommend for the geekier and those who want a greater challenge:
Puerto Rico: #1 on BGG for 5 years (and still a close #2) economy game of building and shipping goods
Power Grid: Auction for power plants, buy resources to power them and connect your grid across the map
Pandemic: Best and most popular cooperative game. Work to eliminate 5 diseases before they overrun the world!
Nexus Ops: Control an army of bugs and men to conquer your rivals. Pieces glow in black light!
Caylus: Place your workers to gather goods to construct buildings and collect money to help the king build his castle
Stone Age: Place your workers to collect goods to build hutsÂ and bonus cards worth VP. Very pretty game!
Blue Moon City: Move your piece and use cards to place offerings to re-build the city of Blue Moon. High Fantasy.
Tikal: Move your workers through the jungle to excavate temples. Collect treasure and earn VP. Bit of a brain burner!
Battlestar Galactica: “You’re a cylon!” “No I’m not!” Try to find who’s who and save or destroy humanity on the way.
Hollywood Blockbuster: Auction for the best directors, actors, effects, etc. and try to build award winning films.
(last 2 I don’t care for but most other geeks love these. The #1 game on BGG and the Game of the Year)
Agricola: Build your family, cottage and your farm to make the most balanced and highest scoring farm.
Dominion: Build a deck of cards to claim the most power in your realm and earn the most land tracts.
Keep that postman busy, have a wonderful Christmas and a joyous New Year!!