The Hitchhikers Guide to the Board Game Galaxy
DON'T PANIC - I'm here to help you.
(The Answer is 42)
The Board Game hobby can be daunting. BoardGameGeek.com lists over 93,000 titles, and even seasoned veterans can find it difficult to sift through the vast amount of genres, categories and games. Of course, over time, hobbyists gain a better understanding of what to look for and they develop their own personal tastes in games. However, for our newest members of the community, you may not have the experience and knowledge most hobby gamers do. This leads me to the most important question in starting a new collection...
4th Wall Break: Resident Evil 4 is in my top 5 video games of all time.
In the following article, I will outline popular categories with game recommendations for you. All of these games' complexity are less than 2.50, which is a fancy numeral system that basically tells you they fall into the light complexity category and are easily accessible to players of most ages and backgrounds. They incorporate fun and innovative designs that will keep you returning for more.
Talk Nerdy to Me.
If you’re new to gaming, let’s start on common ground. In this article, all of the games minus Chapter 5: Level Up! are considered “gateway games.” So, you're probably asking yourself, what is a gateway game? Great question! A gateway game, thanks to the BoardGameGeek glossary is “a game with simple rules that are easy to teach non-gamers in order to attract new players into board-gaming as a hobby.” Typically, a gateway game will provide simple, fun and short experiences to draw in new players. They incorporate various mechanics and design elements at the easiest to teach levels.
Each of the following categories suggest various genres and mechanics for you, the new gamer. These are games that I personally believe have or will stand the test of time and are likely to see a lot of table time.
Without further ado, I present to you “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Board Game Galaxy!”
Chapter 1: If you buy it, they will come.
The following category of competitive games caters to 2+ players and incorporates popular mechanics that will help round out your fledgling collection.
Deck / Pool Building
In Dominion, each player starts with an identical, very small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards the players can "buy" as they can afford them. Through their selection of cards to buy, and how they play their hands as they draw them, the players construct their deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.
In Stone Age, players use up to ten tribe members each in three phases. In the first phase, players place their men in regions of the board that they think will benefit them, including the hunt, the trading center, or the quarry. In the second phase, the starting player activates each of his staffed areas in whatever sequence he chooses, followed in turn by the other players. In the third phase, players must have enough food available to feed their populations, or they face losing resources or points.
Splendor is a game of chip-collecting and card development. Players are merchants of the Renaissance trying to buy gem mines, means of transportation, shops—all in order to acquire the most prestige points. If you're wealthy enough, you might even receive a visit from a noble at some point, which of course will further increase your prestige.
7 Wonders is a card development game. Some cards have immediate effects, while others provide bonuses or upgrades later in the game. Some cards provide discounts on future purchases. Some provide military strength to overpower your neighbors and others give nothing but victory points. Each card is played immediately after being drafted, so you'll know which cards your neighbor is receiving and how his choices might affect what you've already built up. Cards are passed left-right-left over the three ages, so you need to keep an eye on the neighbors in both directions.
In Lords of Waterdeep, you take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder – or help – the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.
As the head of a mining corporation in Mission: Red Planet, these minerals and ice found on Mars could make you unfathomably wealthy – if you can reach them before your competitors. You have ten rounds to send your astronauts into space, occupy the planet's most resource-rich zones, and harvest as much celerium, sylvanite, and ice as possible. At your command is a team of nine professionals. Each has a unique skill set, from helping your astronauts traverse the Red Planet to blowing up spaceships before they launch.
Above and Below is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground. In the game, you send your villagers to perform jobs like exploring the cave, harvesting resources, and constructing houses. Each villager has unique skills and abilities, and you must decide how to best use them. You have your own personal village board, and you slide the villagers on this board to various areas to indicate that they've been given jobs to do. Will you send Hanna along on the expedition to the cave? Or should she instead spend her time teaching important skills to one of the young villagers?
Nexus Ops is a light-medium science fiction war game. The game boasts a hexagonal board that is set up differently every time, as well as (in the Avalon Hill edition) cool "glow" miniatures and lots of combat. Players control competing futuristic corporations that battle each other for control of the moon's Rubium Ore. By winning battles and fulfilling Secret Missions, you can obtain victory points.
Chapter 2: An (un)Expected Party
Perhaps you're a party person! Do you enjoy rambunctious, laugh out loud times and being sneaky among your friends and family? These games are for you!
Each player begins by sketching a TELESTRATIONS word dictated by the roll of a die. The old fashioned sand timer may limit the amount of time they get to execute their sketch, but it certainly doesn't limit creativity! Time's up! All players, all at the same time, pass their sketch to the next player, who must guess what's been drawn. Players then simultaneously pass their guess -- which hopefully matches the original word (or does it??) -- to the next player who must try to draw the word they see -- and so on."
The Resistance is a party game of social deduction and has no player elimination. It's inspired by Mafia/Werewolf, yet it is unique in its core mechanics, which increase the resources for informed decisions, intensify player interaction, and eliminate player elimination.
In Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, players take on the roles of investigators attempting to solve a murder case – but there's a twist. The killer is one of the investigators! Each player's role and team are randomly assigned at the start of play and include the unique roles of Forensic Scientist, Witness, Investigator, Murderer, and Accomplice. While the Investigators attempt to deduce the truth, the murderer's team must deceive and mislead. This is a battle of wits!
In Captain Sonar, you and your teammates control a state-of-the-art submarine and are trying to locate an enemy submarine in order to blow it out of the water before they can do the same to you. Every role is important, and the confrontation is merciless. Be organized and communicate because a captain is nothing without his crew: the Chief Mate, the Radio Operator, and the Engineer.
In Sheriff of Nottingham, players will not only be able to experience Nottingham as a merchant of the city, but each turn one player will step into the shoes of the Sheriff himself. Players declare goods they wish to bring into the city, goods that are secretly stored in their burlap sack. The Sheriff must then determine who gets into the city with their goods, who gets inspected, and who may have their goods confiscated!
In Codenames, two teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first. Spymasters give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right color while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin.
Chapter 3: Think of the Children!
Do you have kids? Are you looking to spend quality family time without breaking the bank? Look no further than this list!
4th Wall Break: Additionally, going outside to a park, taking a walk or reading books aloud are also cheap ways to spend quality time too. Balance is key!
In Takenoko, the players will cultivate land plots, irrigate them, and grow one of the three species of bamboo (Green, Yellow, and Pink) with the help of the Imperial gardener to maintain this bamboo garden. They will have to bear with the immoderate hunger of this sacred animal for the juicy and tender bamboo. The player who manages his land plots best, growing the most bamboo while feeding the delicate appetite of the panda, will win the game.
With elegantly simple gameplay, Ticket to Ride can be learned in under 15 minutes, while providing players with intense strategic and tactical decisions every turn. Players collect cards of various types of train cars they then use to claim railway routes in North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn. Additional points come to those who fulfill Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route.
Carcassonne is a tile-placement game in which the players draw and place a tile with a piece of southern French landscape on it. The tile might feature a city, a road, a cloister, grassland or some combination thereof, and it must be placed adjacent to tiles that have already been played, in such a way that cities are connected to cities, roads to roads, etcetera. Having placed a tile, the player can then decide to place one of his meeples on one of the areas on it: on the city as a knight, on the road as a robber, on a cloister as a monk, or on the grass as a farmer. When that area is complete, that meeple scores points for its owner.
In King of Tokyo, you play mutant monsters, gigantic robots, and strange aliens—all of whom are destroying Tokyo and whacking each other in order to become the one and only King of Tokyo.
At the start of each turn, you roll six dice. Over three successive throws, choose whether to keep or discard each die in order to win victory points, gain energy, restore health, or attack other players into understanding that Tokyo is YOUR territory.
Kingdomino is dominoes with a kingdom building twist. Each turn, connect a new domino to your existing kingdom, making sure at least one of its sides connects to a matching terrain type already in play. The game mechanics for obtaining the tiles is clever: the order of who picks first depends on which tile was previously chosen. Make sure to secure tiles with crowns- these royal treasures help to multiply the worth of your kingdom at the end of the game! The game ends when each player has completed a 5x5 grid, and then points are counted based on number of connecting tiles and crowns.
chapter 4: Cooperation is Key!
There’s no “i” in team! Perhaps competitive games aren’t your style. You enjoy working with your friends and family to save the world, instead of trying to crush them into oblivion. You might also enjoy pitting one player vs many other players. Either way, these games are sure to be a hit for your group!
In Pandemic, several virulent diseases have broken out simultaneously all over the world! The players are disease-fighting specialists whose mission is to treat disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.
Taking a unique role within the team, players must plan their strategy to mesh with their specialists' strengths in order to conquer the diseases. For example, the Operations Expert can build research stations which are needed to find cures for the diseases and which allow for greater mobility between cities; the Scientist needs only four cards of a particular disease to cure it instead of the normal five—but the diseases are spreading quickly and time is running out. If one or more diseases spreads beyond recovery or if too much time elapses, the players all lose. If they cure the four diseases, they all win!
Space Alert is a cooperative team survival game. Players become crew members of a small spaceship scanning dangerous sectors of the galaxy. The missions last just 10 real-time minutes (hyperspace jump, sector scan, hyperspace jump back) and the only task the players have is to protect their ship.
Castle Panic is a cooperative, light strategy game for 1 to 6 players ages 10 and up. Players must work together to defend their castle, in the center of the board, from monsters that attack out of the forest at the edges of the board. Players trade cards, hit and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep their castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer. Players must balance the survival of the group with their own desire to win.
Mechs vs. Minions is a cooperative tabletop campaign for 2-4 players. Set in the world of Runeterra, players take on the roles of four intrepid Yordles: Corki, Tristana, Heimerdinger, and Ziggs, who must join forces and pilot their newly-crafted mechs against an army of marauding minions. With modular boards, programmatic command lines, and a story-driven campaign.
In the 1920s, Mr. MacDowell, a gifted astrologist, immediately detected a supernatural being upon entering his new house in Scotland. He gathered eminent mediums of his time for an extraordinary séance, and they have seven hours to contact the ghost and investigate any clues that it can provide to unlock an old mystery.
Unable to talk, the amnesic ghost communicates with the mediums through visions, which are represented in the game by illustrated cards. The mediums must decipher the images to help the ghost remember how he was murdered: Who did the crime? Where did it take place? Which weapon caused the death? The more the mediums cooperate and guess well, the easier it is to catch the right culprit.
chapter 5: Level Up!
So, you think you can game? The above lists weren’t good enough for you? Hmph. Well, if you think the games I’ve mentioned so far are a little too easy for you, you should try the following games! So, if you want to skip the gateways or you’re just looking to spice up your growing collection, take a look at the games below!
In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.
In the city of Orléans and the area of the Loire, you can take trade trips to other cities to acquire coveted goods and build trading posts. You need followers and their abilities to expand your dominance by putting them to work as traders, builders, and scientists. Knights expand your scope of action and secure your mercantile expeditions. Craftsmen build trading stations and tools to facilitate work. Scholars make progress in science, and last but not least it cannot hurt to get active in monasteries since with monks on your side you are much less likely to fall prey to fate.
Concordia is a peaceful strategy game of economic development in Roman times for 2-5 players aged 13 and up. Instead of looking to the luck of dice or cards, players must rely on their strategic abilities. Be sure to watch your rivals to determine which goals they are pursuing and where you can outpace them! In the game, colonists are sent out from Rome to settle down in cities that produce bricks, food, tools, wine, and cloth. Each player starts with an identical set of playing cards and acquires more cards during the game.
Scythe is an engine-building game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europe who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction's stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.
Castles of Burgundy is about players taking settlement tiles from the game board and placing them into their princedom which is represented by the player board. Every tile has a function that starts when the tile is placed in the princedom. The princedom itself consists of several regions, each of which demands its own type of settlement tile.
In Blood Rage, each player controls their own Viking clan’s warriors, leader, and ship. Ragnarök has come, and it’s the end of the world! It’s the Vikings’ last chance to go down in a blaze of glory and secure their place in Valhalla at Odin’s side! For a Viking there are many pathways to glory. You can invade and pillage the land for its rewards, crush your opponents in epic battles,
fulfill quests, increase your clan's stats, or even die gloriously either in battle or from Ragnarök, the ultimate inescapable doom.
Conclusion: Adventure Awaits
I hope this guide has been helpful to you, our newest adventurer. You’re armed with enough information to set out on your own path and make the best informed decisions you can. You’ll meet many fellow adventurers along the way who will revel and share your bond around the table. You’ll encounter Dragons and other foul beasts who will frown upon the games you choose to play but you’ll slay them with fun and kindness; after all, this is YOUR adventure and YOU choose how it ends.
Go forth and be merry! Gather around the table and enjoy your friends and family but remember, the most important rule in our hobby: HAVE FUN.
4th Wall Break: I have to take this opportunity to thank my amazing friends and family who provided feedback and suggestions on this article. Lizzy Funkhouser, Justin Gibbons, Nathan Biangel, Tim Gay, Daniel West, and Saben & Jillian Schmett; you guys ROCK! Now, go play ALL THE GAMES!