If you’re a lifelong and career geek like me, sometimes video games and other electronic forms of media lack a certain… tangibility. Of course, there are books, comics, card games and such, but one of my favorite guilty pleasures are board games. A lot of people will shrug off board games as something you play with the smallest of kids: roll a dice and move that many spaces. But, to the more advanced and older players, there are a vast and sprawling amount of board games to suit your gaming needs.
From becoming a railroad tycoon in Ticket to Ride to a General in the Allied Forces of World War 2 in Axis and Allies, board games are a great but unfortunately underutilized medium for playing with friends. If you’re like me and want to get more people into playing board games on occasion, here are some quick and easy suggestions to play with people who are among even the most inexperienced of players.
1. Betrayal at House on the Hill
A really cool and interesting board game that is a great example of how board games can be more than just a dice rolling simulator. Requiring at least three people, but only getting better the more you add into the mix up to six, this game surprisingly takes place in a house on top of a really spooky Hill.
Broken up into two phases, one that is an “Exploration” phase and builds a unique map of the house every play through. The second phase is the “Betrayal” phase, which to the namesake of the game, sorts players into teams that either directly compete with each other or a new, unknown party in a race to the win condition. With nearly 40 scenarios and many player characters to choose from with unique strengths and weaknesses, House on the Hill is a great introduction away from the atypical “reach the goal first to win the game” style of board game.
With many endings and sometimes hilarious scenarios, Betrayal at House on the Hill is a great board game for people who haven’t played board games in years to catch up with their more well-versed friends.
2. Shadow Hunters
The next game on the list here is a game called Shadow Hunters. Known to some as “Werewolf,” this game consists of a team of Shadows, a team of Hunters and then a team of “Neutrals.” At the start of any given game, there will be an equal number of Shadows and Hunters. Neutrals help to fill in the uneven numbers or when the number of players starts to get around the area of 7.
At the start of the game, everyone’s identity is hidden from each other, including your allied Shadows or Hunters should you be one of those. For Hunters and Shadows, most often their win condition involves eliminating the opposing team. The neutral players are simply out for themselves and often have very unique win conditions such as hoarding items or landing a killing blow on another player.
Another easy to teach game, Shadow Hunters can be a great game with friends. Plenty of dramatic “reveal” moments and “AHA I WON” out of the blue make this game a great twenty or thirty minute excursion into the land of board games.
Straying away even more from the typical board game, Thunderstone is a board game that relies heavily on cards in a genre called “Deck-Building”. Being dealt a starting hand, the basic object of the game is to use your available cards to build a deck strong enough to venture into the game’s “dungeon” and collect victory points through defeating monsters.
The deck building aspect of the game comes in the “village” phase, where each card has a gold value and is used to hire mercenaries or buy better equipment. After building in the “village” phase, you go into the aforementioned dungeon in the “dungeon” phase (surprise!). Most of your cards will have a combat value or a “light value” which affects combat depending on how far down into the dungeon you venture.
By examining what the other players in the game are trying to add to their decks, you can effectively block off their “build paths” by taking a card from the village phase at a crucial time. Additionally, players can also affect each other by clearing certain monsters in the dungeon at inopportune times, denying Victory points.
A little more complicated than the last two, Thunderstone takes a playthrough or two to get the basics down. Once you’re in though, you’re into it like a fish on a hook. With tons of expansion packs and randomizers to keep the gameplay fresh, Thunderstone is another great game that stays interesting for more than five or six playthroughs.
Of course, this isn’t all in the wonderful world of board games. As you venture deeper into board game enthusiasm, you’ll find old classics such as Axis and Allies or other complicated but satisfying games such as Planet Steam. While most of us grew up with board games such as Candy Land or Sorry!, there’s a huge amount of games out there for the older crowd. Next time you need something to do on a rainy day, consider a board game. They might be really geeky, but they’re also super fun!