Things are are about to get dicey…

First off, it’s really hard to come up with a board game pun, but thankfully I threw this open to the Respawning team, and this is what, in part, Luke came up with… So thanks for that one!

It’s coming up to that time of year when some of us will be sat ’round a table, picking at left over food on a table, listening to a relative snore in the corner with a half eaten mince pie on a plate perched precariously, on the arm of their chair, thinking; ‘What now?’.

Well, hopefully this is where I can help. I’m a huge fan of board games, the way they can bring people together and provide real joy from just pushing pieces of plastic around a board… Or trying to guess answers from really bad clues given from someone who has yet to grasp the idea of the game. And so, I have complied a list of both classic and newer style board and card games you should definitely consider playing over this coming holiday, and beyond.

Classic Games

This list is comprised of board games that have been on the market for a while and are now considered classics.

Ticket To Ride

Designer: Alan R. Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
2–5 Players
Playing Time: 30–60 Min

Ticket to Ride has sold millions of copies worldwide and has spawned a dozen expansions. In the game players are trying to build train routes across cities on the board. 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 fulfil Destination Tickets – goal cards that connect distant cities; and to the player who builds the longest continuous route. It’s a really simple game to understand and learn but can really test your choices of greed or strategy.

Pandemic

Designer Matt Leacock
Publisher Z-Man Games, Inc. 
2–4 Players
Playing time: 45 Min

Pandemic is a co-operative game, so this one is a great choice to avoid triggering that one friend or family member that loses their s**t when they lose at monopoly. Players must work as a team of scientists trying to cure the world of four deadly diseases before they ravage the world. Each player takes a character with special skills that become very handy at times. This game is, again, easy to pick up, but can be a really fun challenge to win, providing lots of replay-ability. Due to its age I’ve included it here and not in the co-operative section coming up.

Codenames

Designer: Vlaada Chvátil
Publisher: Czech Games Edition
2–8 Players
Playing time: 15 Min

In Codenames, you play as two teams trying to correctly guess and take control of card that are your teams colour. One team member give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. Their teammates try to guess words of the right colour while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And everyone wants to avoid the assassin card, because that means an automatic games lose for that team. This is a great game for laughs. Every time I’ve played this game its always ended up in hilarity as your team mates connects two cards with the most obscure references you’ve ever heard of! Their is even an official Marvel one available too!

Co-operative games

This list is made of card and board games that eliminate the free for all, and having you working together to beat the game.

Forbidden Island

Designer: Matt Leacock
Publisher: Gamewright
2–4 Players
Playing time: 30 Min

Forbidden Island is a new addition to my collection, but soon earned a place as one of my favourites. Players take turns moving their pawns around the ‘island’, which is built by arranging the location tiles before you start playing. As the game plays out, more and more island tiles ‘sink’, becoming unavailable. Players use strategies to keep the island from sinking, while trying to collect treasures and items. As the water level rises, it gets more difficult to complete the goal of collecting all the treasures and making back to helipad tile. This game makes you work as a team to use each others character skills to beat the game. And the artwork is brilliant.

Hanabi

Designer: Antoine Bauza
Publisher: ABACUSSPIELE, Cocktail Games
2–5 Players
Playing time: 25 Min

Hanabi is an interesting flip on a card game. Usually you have to keep your hand to yourself, in Hanabi everybody knows your hand but you. Players take on the role of a firework master who’s messed up their display, and the aim is to reassemble rockets by ordering sets of numbered cards from one to five. Not knowing what you’ve got makes this a bit tricky, obviously. That’s where Knowledge tokens come in. These are used to reveal something about another player’s hand (e.g. “you have three ones”), but there are only a certain number of them available in the game. As a result, Hanabi becomes a fun balancing act of memory and educated guesswork. Players must act as a team to avoid errors and to finish the fireworks display before they run out of cards, because that results in a game over.

Magic Maze

Designer: Kasper Lapp
Publisher: Sit Down!
1–8 Players
Playing time: 15 Min

First off, Magic Maze is bonkers! Magic Maze is a real-time, cooperative game. Each player can control any hero in order to make that hero perform a very specific action, to which the other players do not have access: Move north, explore a new area, ride an escalator. What makes this bonkers is that each player can only perform one action to all heroes at the same time. Meaning that you for instance can only move everyone forward, and you are the only player that can do that, the other players can only move everyone left or right or back, you get the idea. In the brief periods you are allowed to communicate in the game, you have to plan exactly what to do, because when that time is up, that’s it. If someone moves the heroes wrong, chaos ensues. this game is amazing for a laugh. And the Maximum Security expansion ups the madness!

Dungeons, but no Dragons?

This list comprises of games that take the idea of exploring dungeons as adventurers, but with a fun twist.

Dungeon Mayhem

Designer: Jordan Comar, Roscoe Wetlaufer
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
2–4 Players
Playing time: 10 Min

I recently played Dungeon Mayhem at EGX, and instantly fell in love. This twist on the DnD genre, pits players against each other to be the last adventurer standing. Play as one of four brilliantly illustrated characters — barbarian, paladin, rogue, or wizard — battling it out in a dungeon full of treasure! With magic missiles flinging, dual daggers slinging, and spiked shields dinging, it’s up to you to prove your adventurer has the guts to bring home the glory. It’s a really simple game to learn, so you’ll be duelling in no time. There is even an expansion available; Battle for Baldur’s Gate, should you want to take it further.

Welcome to the Dungeon

 
Designer: Masato Uesugi
Publisher: IELLO, Oink Games
2–4 Players
Playing time: 30 Min

I love the concept of Welcome To The Dungeon. It starts off as a fun little game with awesome illustrations and a quirky style, and soon evolves into a push-your-luck style game where you try to play it cool, whilst attempting to screw over the other players, sometimes backfiring amazingly in your face.

The game is played in rounds. One player sets up the base character and all the equipment equipped. This represents every player as a fully equipped dungeon delver. Each round, the starting player can choose to draw a card from the monster deck or pass their turn. If they choose to draw, they can do one of two things:

1) Keep it and de-equip an equipment or…

2) Place it face down in the dungeon.

Placing it face down in the dungeon creates the dungeon deck and fills the dungeon with monsters that the challenger will have to face later. And this the genius of the game. Whilst you think you’re screwing over other players by adding monsters, it may well end up with you having to fight them, if everyone passes on entering the dungeon! So do you make it easy? Meaning it will be easy for you, but also for them. Or go in all in and keep loading it with monsters? Hoping someone attempts it and gets annihilated! The game ends when someone has won twice or one player is the last man standing. There is an expansion called Welcome Back To The Dungeon if you want more!

Lords of Waterdeep

Designer: Peter Lee, Rodney Thompson
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
2–5 Players
Playing Time: 60–120 Min

I have a lot of love for this game. This was my ‘gateway’ board game, to my addiction to board games. Lords of Waterdeep is a strategy board game, you take on the role of one of the 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. During the game, you gain points or resources through completing quests, constructing buildings, playing intrigue cards or having other players use the buildings you have bought and placed on the board. At the end of 8 rounds, the player who has the most points wins the game. This is a simple enough game to learn, but will give hours of enjoyment as you manage resources and quest cards. I can’t recommend this one enough, and the expansion; Scoundrels Of Skullport adds some very interesting additional rules and locations.

Don’t take things so seriously

This final list is of simple, fun party games that don’t need much explaining but are still fun.

Tsuro

Designer: Tom McMurchie
Publisher: Calliope Games, WizKids
2–8 Players
Playing Time: 15 Min

Tsuro is a beautiful looking game. Unboxing it for the first time was a treat! The artwork is something to behold – The game is a really simple context; keep your player piece on the board, don’t crash into other players and don’t hit the dragon tile. You do this by laying tiles onto the board. Each tile contains a number of paths on it, which your piece must follow. As the game plays out, other player-laid tiles will effect the direction your piece will take, resulting in unpredictable and sometimes short games. But that’s the fun of Tsuro. There are a few more in this series but this is the most simple.

Monikers

 
Designer: Alex Hague, Justin Vickers
Publisher: Palm Court
4–20 Players
Playing Time: 60 Min

Monikers takes the well known game charades and flips it on its head. In the first round, clue givers can say anything they want, except for the name itself. For the second round, clue givers can only say one word. And in the final round, clue givers can’t say anything at all; they can only use gestures and charades. Simple, yet brilliant!

Shifty Eyed Spies

Designer: Prospero Hall
PublisherBig G Creative + 2 more
4–8 Players
Playing Time: 20 Min

Shift Eyed Spies is a game about winking. You play as a spy that has take delivery of an important item and deliver it to a location, all the time informing another spy on your team you have the package and where to pick up. And how do you do this? By winking. This game will have you in fits of laughter as you try to subtly wink to your mystery team mate whilst not letting the other members of the game know. All the while keeping those shifty eyes on each other!

So, that’s my list folks. Just a few of a vast list of games I can recommend for this coming holiday season. I have so many more I could tell you about, and who knows, maybe I’ll be back with another list. And if there’s any games you want to recommend, leave them in the comments section!

I hope whatever you do this coming holiday season, you have fun!

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