A New Generation of Board Games - the next Social Gaming
Turn off that computer!
The new watchword in the computing world is social gaming. Think facebook games such as Farmville, Café World and Mafia Wars. Players sit behind a computer and the only socialising they do is helping their ‘friends’ by watering each other’s crops occasionally. The real social gaming is much more low-tech than Facebook or its kin. The real social gaming, is sat around the table with family or friends playing a good board game. However, that doesn't necessarily mean those perennial but dull games like Monopoly either.
Ticket to Ride at the World Championships
What, Monopoly? Trivial Pursuit?
Most people’s experience of board games are interminable sessions on Monopoly with the family at Christmas, continuing long after everyone is drunk and long past ready for the beds, ending finally in an argument about who owes who what. But Monopoly is just one among thousands of games, and is far from an ideal ambassador for board games. In recent years there has been a resurgence in board gaming, with many excellent games to entertain family and friends for countless wet Sunday afternoons, or Christmas evenings. Strangely however you won’t find many of them on a typical high street, or even in the large out of town stores like Toys ‘R’ Us, maybe because there’s far more money to be made in selling millions of copies of the latest version of Monopoly.
Dicetower's Top 100 2014 - numbers 20-1
When you think of strategy games, the first one you’ll likely think of is Chess, but unless you are really into Chess already, it is not something you are likely to pick up and play. There are other strategy games like ‘Go’ or ‘Hive’ that are worth considering for people who like that sort of game, but there is a new breed of strategy game available. They are often called Euro Games, because they originate in European countries such as Germany, but are increasingly popular in the UK, USA and throughout the world. There are three in particular I’m going to mention. A good place to look for reviews of these is www.dicetower.com
Settlers of Catan – This is one of the original ‘Euro games’. It is for 3 – 4 players and lasts about an hour. There is some element of luck, but quite a bit of skill and it is relatively quick and easy to lean. Players have to gather resources to build roads, towns and cities to progress towards victory, while trying to thwart opponents at the same time. There are lots of variants and expansions to the basic game which you can play to add variety and prolong the enjoyment. With or without the expansions, replay value is great, you won’t get bored anytime soon.
Carcassonne – This is a tile laying game for 2 to 4 players. It is one of those great games that is as good with two as it is with more players, great to play with your partner. With two people it lasts about half an hour, slightly longer if there is more players. There is a bag full of square tiles with either a bit of road, city or field on. Each turn a player gets to lay down one tile. You get points for completing a road or city. There’s a few other elements , but this is the basic idea. It is a really easy game to learn, and there is only a small element of luck. As with Settlers of Catan, there are lots of expansions available. Infinitely replayable.
Ticket to Ride Europe – The board is a map of Europe with lots of train routes linking different cities. Each player has to complete certain routes by laying down train carriages along sections of track, but other players will also be trying to lay their own routes which might block you off. Very little luck, mostly strategy. It is quite easy to learn, but potentially a long time to master. The game is for 2-5 players and lasts about an hour.
All three of these games are mostly about skill, judgement and strategy rather than luck, but all are relatively easy to get to grips with. They are all visually a delight too, with colourful boards and pieces.
There are many more excellent strategy games, some more complex and involved than others.
There are a great range of party type games available, ideal for when there are lots of people playing, and you are after something fun and not too competitive. I’ve picked three games that are definitely worth considering.
Absolute Balderdash – This is a classic game, and can be played with between 3 and 20 people, although 5-10 people is probably ideal. There are five categories of question: word, initials, person, film and law. Using the word category as an example, one person reads out the word, and everyone has to secretly write down a definition on paper. All the answers are collected by one person and read out. Everyone votes for what they think is the right answer, and you get points if you either get the correct answer or if people vote for your answer. It is a great fun filled game, limited only by the imagination of the participants. The game can either be serious or comical depending on people’s answers. There is a large bank of question cards, so by the time you get round to the beginning again (it took us years) you’ve forgotten the answers!
Cranium – This is an excellent game for all the family as it has something for everyone: general knowledge questions, pictionary style questions, sculpting challenges (with plastacine), word puzzles, charades and more. It is a team game so good for all ages. 4+ players.
Taboo – This is a game of words and explanations. You have a word, person or something else that you have to describe, but you are given a list of taboo words you cannot say in your description, for instance describing ‘football’ without using the words ball, game, stadium or player. It is quite a quick game, and easy for all the family to play.
There are many other games too, such as Guesstures, Scattegories and Outburst, which are worth trying too.
Quiz Games to Buy
I’m always on the lookout for Trivial Pursuit alternatives, but there are so many quite dire quiz games on the market at the moment that it easy to buy an unsatisfactory game. Questions have to be pitched just right – too easy and it is boring, too difficult and it can be offputting. The number of questions is also critical. There’s nothing worse than spending lots of money on a quiz game only to exhaust the supply of questions within the first couple of weeks. Good quiz games should not be too fiddly either, simplicity is often the key. Here’s three I’d recommend.
The Logo Game – This is a UK based quiz game, but will be enjoyable to non-UK players too. All the questions are based on logos, brands and other commercial products, such as different flavours of chocolate in a selection box, or brands of household cleaning products. There’s lots of picture questions, and a good balance of easy and fiendishly difficult questions. There’s quite a decent stack of question cards too.
Scene It – The DVD quiz game where you get to watch film or tv clips and get to answer questions about them. There is a good mix of questions requiring knowledge of the film, and other observation style questions where you just have to pay attention to the clip (how many people spoke in the scene?). Scene It has spawned many special editions, including Doctor Who, Star Trek, Football, Friends, Twilight and loads more.
Bezzerwizzer – This is a quiz game with a twist that is popular trend these days – as well as guessing answers, you get to steal points, challenge your opponents and use other tricks, all with the aim to even out different players knowledge and ability, so less knowledgeable players still have the chance to win, and tactics are just as important as what you know. The rules are quite easy to follow and it is quite a lighthearted quiz game.
So give board gaming a try. You might find it a lot more interesting and fun than you imagine!
Board Game Links
- Gateway Board Games How to Play Gateway Games
A good hub featuring Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride, with photos and details of how to play them.
- The Five Best Strategy Board Games
Another good hub with some great games, including one based on my native county of Lancashire!
- 5 Best Board Games in 2010
A good hub of top games in 2010. I do agree with this hubber's views of a good game.
- BoardGameGeek | Gaming Unplugged Since 2000
A fantastic site for board game enthusiasts, with a list of top games, forums, classifieds and loads more.