The announcement that Wizards is working on the next iteration of D&D has created a lot of churn in the gaming community, the online forums and the blogosphere. In light of this flourish of activity we’ve decided to take a step back and look at something a completely different toady – board games.
In addition to being a huge D&D nerd I’m also an avid board game enthusiast. Where my RPG circle tends to include “just the guys,” board games have a much broader appeal. I’ve never been able to get my wife or brother into RPGs, but they love board games. Likewise, I’d never dream of asking my parents to play D&D, but they’ll make a trip to my house for board game night. Board games are generally very easy to learn and don’t have the nerd stigma that a lot of people associate with D&D. It makes them appealing to everyone.
A lot of FLGS in my neighbourhood actually have a slew of board games that you can play in the store. This is a great way to try some new games before you buy them. Purchasing board games from your FLGS (as opposed to a toy store) is yet another way you can support them after you’ve purchased the PHB and DMG.
The next time your gaming group doesn’t have enough people to play D&D, or a critical member of the group is absent (the DM, perhaps), resist the urge to cancel. Get together with your friends and have a good time playing board games. There are a lot of great games on the market today so don’t limit yourself to just Monopoly or Risk. For something different, check out five of my favourite board games below. They’re all easy to learn, fun to play, and well worth the investment.
Ticket To Ride
“Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America.”
This is my absolute favourite game right now. I play the board game version and the online version. It took only minutes to learn, but I’m still trying to master it. Last year I participated in the Ticket to Ride tournament at GenCon, but was eliminated in the semi-finals. I prefer Ticket to Ride U.S.A. because the cities and routes are familiar, but there are many new version that include Germany, Scandinavia, Europe, Asia and India.
Official Days of Wonder / Ticket to Ride website.
“Blackmail the printer. Threaten the innkeeper. Bribe the priest. Welcome to Revolution! Secretly bid against your opponents to gain the support of the people, win territory… and collect more Gold, Blackmail, and Force for the next round of bidding!”
I first played this game when I was at the D&D Conference in Seattle last month and after playing it one night I had to own it. It’s a wildly different experience depending on who else is playing since you’re constantly bidding against the other players. New opponents will play using different strategies, so you have to constantly change how you prepare for the Revolution each time you play. The game is designed for up to 4 players but you change get an expansion pack for 5-6 players.
“Four diseases have broken out in the world and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out.”
This was one of my first experiences playing a cooperative board game. You’re not playing against the other players; you’re playing with them to save the world. It’s up to all players to come up with a strategy that will stop the pandemic. Each player takes on a role, but with more roles than players, one is always missing. This brings new challenges and forces you to adapt every time you play. The end of the world has never been so much fun.
Official Z-Man Games / Pandemic website.
“Dare to discover Forbidden Island! Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to capture four sacred treasures from the ruins of this perilous paradise.”
Another cooperative game, this time you’re trying to recover treasure rather than save the world. Like Pandemic, there are more roles than players. However in this game the configuration of the island (made up by tiles) constantly changes. Although it seems like such a simple game it is incredibly challenging and a lot of fun.
Official Gamewright / Forbidden Island website.
The Settlers of Catan
“Players are recent immigrants to the newly populated island of Catan. Expand your colony through the building of settlements, roads, and villages by harvesting commodities from the land around you.”
I doubt that this game needs much explanation as it’s been a round longer than any of the others on this list and has spawned so many variation and iterations. The random distribution or resources, location of your settlements, luck of the dice and ability to wheel and deal with your adversaries will all factor into your chance of success. It’s the perfect blend of luck and skill. The original game is designed for up to 4 players but you can get an expansion pack for 5-6 players.
Official Mayfair Games / Settles of Catan website.
Have you played any or all of these games? Which one is your favourite? What other games would you recommend?