Board Games – The Savior of the Holiday Season

POSTED BY Agus December 15, 2015 in Articles
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The festive season is almost upon us. If you’re getting together with family or friends, it’s always a great time to enjoy some board games. In recent years, board games (or tabletop games) have become a popular past-time that everyone can love. It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran at board games or completely new to them, there’s the perfect game for you. The group that you’re with will influence the type of game you will enjoy the most. The key things to consider are the size of the group and how easily they can learn the rules. Here are some of my favourite games that I recommend you try out with your family and friends.

Beginner Friendly

Many board games these days come with countless little pieces and a rule book that trails on forever. As exciting as this may be for some, it’s incredible intimating if you’re not familiar with board games. These beginner friendly games are the perfect way to introduce yourself or someone else to the world of board games.

Exploding Kittens

# of Players: 2-5 Players (Best with 4 Players)
Playing time: 15 minutes
Recommended Age: 7+

Exploding Kittens is a Russian-roulette style game that revolves around players drawing cards from a deck until an Exploding Kitten card is draw, knocking that player out of the game. You can also play cards from your hard to attack other players, peek at the deck or skip drawing a card. Whether you choose to help or hinder someone, is completely in your control.

There aren’t many rules to learn, making the game easy for people to pick up. It is best played in a small group, but you can combine multiple copies of the game to expand the maximum number of players. It is possible to be knocked out early, but each round ends quickly, so people won’t be sitting out for long. The longer each game goes on for, the greater the tension becomes, making it both entertaining for the spectators and remaining players.

Exploding Kittens has a lot of replay value over time, but will become stale after a number of rounds in the same sitting. If you’re not rotating in new people, it remains really enjoyable for about 5-10 rounds.

Note: There is a Not Safe For Work edition available, which has alternate NSFW artwork. Both decks can be combined together if you wish.

Cards Against Humanity

# of Players: 4-12 Players (Best with 6-8 Players)
Playing time: 30 minutes
Recommended Age: 17+

Cards Against Humanity is known as “a game for horrible people” and that’s no joke. It is definitely a game that is better played with a group of friends, than at a family gathering. Each round, there is one player acting as a judge; they draw one black card that is either a question or a fill-in-the-blank prompt. The other players must use the cards in their hand come up with the best response. The judge reads out the responses and selects their favourite, rewarding that player with a point and passing the role of judge to the next person.

The content of the cards range from fun and witty to dark humor. It is the most deliberately filthy game out there. You are encouraged to create the most messed up responses that you can come up with, so playing with people you are comfortable with helps bring out the most enjoyment. You can add on house rules to tailor the game to your liking, so see what works for you.

There are many expansion decks that add both prompt and response cards to the game. If you’re in Australia, there is an Australian version that removes some of the American references that don’t fully translate over to our culture.

Tsuro

# of Players: 2-8 Players (Best with 4 or 6 Players)
Playing time: 15 minutes
Recommended Age: 8+

Tsuro is a path-finding tile-laying game that is easy to play and is suitable for the whole family. The game is simple. Each player starts out on the edge of the board and on their turn, they play a tile on the board. Each tile has lines marked on it, which connects to surrounding tiles to form a path. Whenever a tile is placed and a new path is formed, any players connected to that path must follow it to completion. If you fly off the board or crash into another player, you are eliminated. The aim of the game is to stay on the board the longest.

It’s a game that takes less than a minute to explain and can be enjoyed by anyone. Tsuro is great when you don’t have time for a long game or as a filler between other games. Despite its simplicity, there is plenty of replay value to be found.

Takenoko

# of Players: 2-4 Players (Best with 3 Players)
Playing time: 45 minutes
Recommended Age: 8+

Takenoko has a beautiful Japanese theme with growing and eating bamboo at its core. The aim is to complete objective cards that you collect during the game. These include growing your bamboo crops as the Gardener, eating your fill of bamboo as the Panda or expanding your garden to please the Emperor. Completing an objective will earn you a certain number of points and after a player completes seven objectives, the person with the most points wins.

The game includes small figurines for the Panda and the Gardener. It also includes a number of bamboo stalks that are added or removed from the tiles as you grow or eat your bamboo. It’s a great board game to play in a small group with a little friendly competition. If you’re looking for a game to play with kids or if you love cute things, Takenoko is perfect.

Castle Panic

# of Players: 1-6 Players (Best with 4 Players)
Playing time: 60 minutes
Recommended Age: 10+

Castle Panic is a recommended beginners’ pick for a co-operative game. It takes Tower Defense mechanics from video games and translates them into a board game. All players must work together to defend the castle and defeat the onslaught of enemies that the game will throw at you. Each turn, players will use the cards in their hand to attack enemies or bolster their defenses. Once a player has had their turn, all enemies will advance close to your castle, while more enemies join the rear. If even a single tower is less standing once all the enemies are defeated, everyone wins!

In its default set up, Castle Panic is a great game to learn as a group if you’re all new to the game. If there is a mix, the experienced players will often order the inexperienced players around, which isn’t enjoyable for them. However, the Overlord mechanic, allows someone to play as the monsters. Experienced players can assume the role of the Overlord and play against (and coach) the inexperienced players. Regardless of which mode you play, there’s a lot of replay value in Castle Panic and each victory is well earned.

Average Difficulty

You have some experience playing a few simple board games, but you’re ready to take the next step. These following games require you to learn the rules before you jump in and will take a few tries before you fully understand how the games work.

Small World

# of Players: 2-5 Players (Best with 4 Players)
Playing time: 40-80 minutes
Recommended Age: 8+

Small World takes the military strategy mechanics of Risk and wraps them in a nice fantasy setting. The board is made up of a number of small regions, such as plains, mountains, forests, etc. You start by selecting a race that comes with a random trait or ability. Using the stack of tokens you receive for your race, you claim territories by placing a number of pieces in a region. You can claim unoccupied land or invade other players to conquer their region. When you eventually run out of tokens, you can retire your race and select a new one. Points are scored after each turn and person with the most points after 9 rounds wins.

It is a relatively slower paced game that requires you to be strategical. There are a lot of pieces to the game, so you’ll also want a decent amount of space to play it comfortably. Personally, I prefer Small World over Risk as the random traits and abilities makes things more interesting and adds a lot of replay value. There’s a lot of rules to remember, but each player is given a reference card, so everything is in front of you.

Coup

# of Players: 2-6 Players (Best with 5 Players)
Playing time: 15 minutes
Recommended Age: 9+

Coup is a deception game set in the distant future, where wealthy corporations control the world. There are five different characters, each with their own unique ability; the deck of 15 cards is made up of three copies of each character card. Each player starts off with two character cards and some currency. Once a player loses both character cards, they are eliminated from the game. You can deceive your opponents by pretending to be and using the abilities of a character that you do not possess. Abilities range from generating income, stealing income from another player, assassination, defending against assassination and trading a character card for a new one. Once a player has enough income, they can force a coup to kill off a player’s character card, which cannot be blocked.

Coup is easier to learn and play than it’s counterpart, Resistance. It’s a great game for people who love deception mechanics and generates a lot of exciting moments. If you’re not comfortable with lying, that’s okay too; it is possible to win by being completely truthful. This is a game where you need to pay attention, using any information you can deduce to uncover the identity of your opponents. There is the risk of everyone ganging up on one person by choice, but otherwise the game is perfectly balanced.

Taboo

# of Players: 2-10 Players (Best with 6 or 8 Players)
Playing time: 20 minutes
Recommended Age: 12+

Taboo is probably the more common type of board game that people are familiar with. If you prefer a game like charades over a fantasy themed board game, this one is for you. Players split into teams and compete against each other. Each turn starts with a player drawing a card that has four key words on it; they must describe the word to their team without saying any of the taboo words listed on the card. If their team is able to guess the word, they gain a point. If a taboo word is spoken, the point is forfeit. You keep drawing new cards until the timer runs out, passing the turn to the next team.

Synergy is key in Taboo. Playing with a close group of people is always more enjoyable than a rag-tag group of acquaintances. Being able to reference inside jokes or past experiences makes for a more entertaining session. If you’re not big into word or guessing games, you should give this a pass.

Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game

# of Players: 1-5 Players (Best with 3 Players)
Playing time: 45 minutes
Recommended Age: 14+

Marvel fans, pay attention! Legendary is a game where you team up with S.H.I.E.L.D and recruit your favourite heroes to defeat the villains of the Marvel universe. Popularised by Dominion, deck builders are games where you start with a pre-determined set of cards. You use these initial cards as resources to purchase stronger cards, that get recycled back in, growing your deck over time. In Legendary, you start with a set of S.H.I.E.L.D agents that you can use to purchase heroes such as Deadpool, Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, etc. Using the cards that you draw from your deck, you goal is to attack and defeat the villains before they complete their evil scheme.

Legendary removes some of the complexities from Dominion and adds an awesome Marvel theme to it. You can build the team of your choice, so if you want to collect all the different Deadpool characters and no one else, go nuts. You have control over which Marvel villain you face, so if you’re playing with inexperienced people, you can select a villain that is on the easier side, or challenge yourself by picking a more difficult one. It’s a great game that has a board appeal because of the Marvel theme – who doesn’t want to beat up the Marvel baddies?

Intermediate Difficulty

If you’re not afraid of lengthy rule books or turns that will completely confuse your average player, welcome to the table. These games are best enjoyed with people who know the game as well as you do. However, don’t let that stop you from introducing someone to them.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

# of Players: 3-6 Players (Best with 5-6 Players)
Playing time: 60 minutes
Recommended Age: 12+

Betrayal at House on the Hill is by far my favourite board game. If you’ve wanted to take part in an RPG campaign such as Dungeons and Dragons, but don’t want to commit an insane number of hours to it, Betrayal is perfect for you. Every game of Betrayal starts off the same way. You select one of ten characters, each with their own starting values for their physical and mental traits. You enter a haunted house made up of three levels, the Upper Floor, Ground Floor and Basement. You work together to  explore the house, discover new rooms and the dangers that lure inside. Revealing room tiles can make you draw an item card that will help you, an event card that you must resolve or an omen card. Whenever an omen card is drawn, there is a chance that the Haunt will triggered.

This is what makes Betrayal at House on the Hill awesome. When the Haunt is triggered, there will be a corresponding scenario that will selected, depending on what omen card was drawn and the room that it was discovered in. You’ve all worked together until this point, but with the scenario selected, one player will be revealed to be the traitor of the group. The traitor receives their own book that details their objective and any special minions or mechanics they possess (which they read in another room, by themselves), while the remaining survivors real their own book on how to beat the traitor and escape. There are a total of fifty scenarios in the game, which makes for a crazy amount of replay value. Zombies, Vampires, Cthulhu, Ghosts, Zombies, Dragons; there are so many different stories that can be played out, each feeling unique in its own way.

There are a lot of rules to remember and you’ll find yourself flicking through the different booklets to figure out the right answer, but it’s worth it. If you have some experience with board games, I recommend picking this up as your next game.

The Resistance

# of Players: 5-10 Players (Best with 7 Players)
Playing time: 30 minutes
Recommended Age: 13+

The Resistance is infamous for destroying friendships (temporarily anyway). It is the king of deception games that will have you second guessing not only your friends, but yourself as well. Think Mafia, but a lot more cutthroat. You play as resistance unit fighting for the people, but some spies have infiltrated your operations. At the start of the game, each player is given a character card face down, designating them as a Resistance member or a Spy. Everyone closes their eyes and the spies reveal themselves to each other. Each turn, a player acts as the Captain and selects a specified number of players to be on the mission. Everyone has the opportunity to approve or reject the selected team. If it is approved, the selected players submit a mission card, face down. Resistance members are the good guys, so they can only play a “Success” mission card, while spies are trying to sabotage the mission and can play a “Fail” card if they wish. They are shuffled together and revealed, if there is a Fail card, the mission is failed. In order to win, your team must win 3 of the 5 missions.

As a Resistance member, you will spend the entire game trying to deduce the identity of the spies, while trying to convince the other players you are on the good side. If you’re a Spy, your job is to throw suspicion onto someone else while trying to get yourself onto the mission team. Playing The Resistance usually builds a lot of tension and friction between players, making for a very vocal play session. It’s difficult to keep track of all the small decisions players make, but that’s where the skill of the game lies.

If you and your friends have no problems with yelling and throwing out profanity in frustration, The Resistance is a great pick up.

Dead of Winter

# of Players: 2-5 Players (Best with 4 Players)
Playing time: 45-210 minutes
Recommended Age: 14+

There is definitely no shortage of zombie-survival board games, but Dead of Winter is a bite above the rest. You play as a group of survivors, trying to keep your camp running. You work together with the other players to collect resources and food, kill zombies, reinforce the camp and survive until the end. Each round, a new crisis is revealed that players must attempt to resolve, otherwise they will suffer a major set back. At the start of the game, each player is given a mission card, that details their own individual objectives for the game, that differs from what you as a group. Players can also be marked as a traitor and their job is to sabotage the camp and bring everything crashing down.

Dead of Winter captures the atmosphere of a post-apocalyptic world incredibly well. It strikes the perfect balance between cooperative and deceptive play. The risk-reward element of the game also makes for completely blunders or really clutch saves. The various starting scenarios allows you to tailor the difficult of the game to suit the group of players and adds a lot of replay value as well.


Board games are a great past time at any point in the year. Beyond your typical Monopoly, Uno and Hungry Hungry Hippos, there’s a vast selection of board games to suit your tastes. Depending on the game, you can expect to pay between $15 – $100 AUD, so it’s best to shop around. If any of these games peaked your interest, pick up a copy and give it a try at your next gathering.

TableTop series videos credited to Geek & Sundry.

 

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