Evan loves board games, so when we were dating, he naturally asked me if I liked games. Who doesn’t like games? But I found out that my idea of Risk or Monopoly wasn’t exactly what Evan had in mind. He was into European board games, the kind created by German Math professors. Think Settlers of Catan.
It turns out, though, I was not the greatest at learning new games. Evan would get 3 minutes into describing the rules of a new game, and I would be so confused that either we had to stop, or I had to be left alone with the instructions for 25 minutes to figure it out on my own. And I wasn’t very pleasant about it, considering that it was supposed to be a fun game.
For a few years, the only way that I could learn a new game was if we went over to another couple’s place. I would be supplied with a glass of wine, and someone other than Evan would explain some horribly complicated game. But since I was trying to be polite, and since I had that glass of wine, I would just stay quiet and mentally decide that I would just have to lose the game.
Ironically, once that excruciating period of explaining the game ended, I often did quite well, and those games weren’t really too bad. And once I knew the game, I enjoyed playing those fancy board games quite a bit. Now I’m just as into those German board games as Evan.
Evan and I started to play some good two player games on our own, and Evan even tried to teach my family some of the ones that would work with a larger group. I remember vividly my family trying to learn Bohnanza and seeing that same expression of irritation and frustration mid-instructions on my families’ faces trying to understand how the game works. Oh that’s where I get it. But they too jumped on the wagon. And now our family get-togethers usually are just a long string of making food, morning prayer, going on walks with dogs, playing board games, and making drinks.
Because it turns out, the more you learn new games, the easier it is. I don’t even have to be plied with a cocktail and face social pressure to learn a new game without too much fuss now. Our closest friends are those that we can play board games with after dinner, sometimes slowly since we’re often talking in between turns.
The board game world has exploded recently. If you are like me a few years ago and need a primer on these types of board games, here are my top 10 choices of games for various occasions.
10 of my Favorite Games: board games, party games, card games & made up ones
1. Quick: 7 Wonders. Can play with up to 7 players and if everyone knows what to do can be finished in less than a half hour.
2. Long: Agricola. This is a much more serious game with a lot of set up and clean up, more along the lines of Puerto Rico or Carcassonne, heavy on the strategy. It can easily take a few hours to play one game.
3. Kids: Ticket to Ride (Europe). This is one of our favorite games to play with friends because you can talk while you play. It is a pretty straight forward game, and I have seen it at friends’ houses with kids 10 and under. A great way to play a game that you’d enjoy as an adult with kids.
4. Party: Times Up: Total Recall. Hands down the best party game (only caveat is that it’s hard to jump in half way, if someone shows up half way through the party). It’s a bit like a combination of Taboo and charades or the game “celebrities.” It lends itself to a lot of inside jokes and funny moments.
5. Couples: Dominion. A deck building game great for 2, 3, or 4 people. This is by far my favorite game. It works really well to play with just Evan or with another couple. I have even taught some of my friends to play it! With the original and 8 different (perhaps more now) expansion sets, there are nearly countless combinations of 10 different card sets. I tend to not play with a lot of the attack cards, but if you want more interaction they are there.
6. Cooperative: Pandemic. Great for 3 or 4 players, although it can go up to 5, everyone is working together to beat the game, which is surprisingly difficult to do. A similar game that has come out is Treasure Island. I like Pandemic, but I find that I have to be in a good, non-tired space to do all the good group-problem solving it calls for.
7. Creative: Dixit. It’s a bit like Apples to Apples with trippy surrealist pictures that you come up with a title for, and everyone puts in a different picture from their hand that might also work with the title you created. People tend to have strong reactions to this game, and it changes a lot depending on the group of people.
8. Funniest: Telephone Pictionary. This is not strictly a board game, although there is a version you can buy called Telestrations, although it works just as well with paper and pencil. You start with a sentence and pass the paper to the next person who attempts to draw that sentence. Then they cover up the sentence and pass just the drawing to the next person who writes a sentence based on the picture. It gets really silly really fast. One of the best parts of this is that it is just as funny when you find the papers six months later. Great party game!
9. Family: ShangHai. My family didn’t play a ton of board games growing up, but we did play card games. Mainly Bridge, which I tolerate, but sometimes ShangHai which can accommodate a wider range of people than Bridge‘s four. ShangHai is a rummy game with 7 rounds that have progressively harder goals. I’ve also played a version called Mother May I.
10. Conversation Starter: Pass & Fold. This is more of a sharing game that my surrogate grandpa Jimma made up. You ask an open ended question and everyone answers it on their own paper. Then you fold your paper so your answer is hidden, and pass your paper to someone else. The next person asks a question and everyone answers it on their new paper. After everyone asks one or two questions, you go back and read the answers to each question and guess who said what. There is a commercial game called Loaded Questions that is similar, with points for guessing and suggestions for the kinds of questions to ask.
What are your favorite games?
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