Growing up, we really didn’t play a lot of board games. Occasionally there was a round of Monopoly or Trouble, but it wasn’t a regular thing that my family invested in.
Years later, in 2014, as I had my own family, I stumbled upon the YouTube channel Geek & Sundry and the series Tabletop. Tabletop was hosted by Wil Wheaton, who, at the time, I had no idea who in the world he was outside of the show. Since then, I’ve learned that he was in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s Stand By Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation as Wesley Crusher. (To this day, I’ve only watched Stand By Me and don’t really have the desire to watch TNG. Sorry.)
On Tabletop, Wil would sit down with celebrities of different calibers – most of which were friends of his – and play a different board game in each episode. While the concept is incredibly simple, it sucked me in and was amazing. They were playing games I had never heard of. There were zero episodes of them playing Monopoly or Sorry or Clue or any of the games I grew up knowing. This internet-based TV show of sorts was opening my eyes to what was out there and it made me want to explore the hobby.
As I typically do when I find a new hobby, I looked for a podcast and I wasn’t disappointed. I found The Dice Tower, hosted by Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer. Listening to these two guys reviewing and discussing games further embedded the need to start looking for games in my head. Not long after, I made my first board game purchase with Takenoko at my local comic book shop of all places. We took it home, learned the rules and couldn’t imagine anything better than moving a panda around, eating bamboo. We were wrong.
Since that time, my family’s board game collection has grown to – as of the time of this writing – 53 games. All of varying degrees of “good” and replayability, but it’s a diverse collection that we plan to keep growing for as long as we possibly can. If you would like to look through my entire library, you can do so digitally over at Board Game Geek. That said, here are my 5 favorite games in my collection… for now.
I’ve written about Burger Battle before. I’m a little biased in my love for the game because (a) I was able to review it before it was backed on Kickstarter and (b) the podcast gets a shout-out in the rulebook.
Burger Battle is a great warm-up game in my opinion. I’ve started many game nights by thrusting family and friends into a duel for the best and fastest-built burger. Instead of just being a set-collection and drafting card game, you’re trying to build your burger as quickly as possible while avoiding Battle Cards. Those suckers can do everything from removing an ingredient you’ve already played to totally destroying your – and everyone else’s – burger. There are plenty of laughs and groans every single time this gets played.
Dungeons & Dragons is on my gaming to-do list. I’ve realized that I’m not a good dungeon master, but thanks to David Hunt, who bought this for me last Christmas, I don’t have to tell a story, but I can still go on an adventure and fight baddies!
Dungeon! is a dungeon crawl adventure board game that pits you and/or your friends against monsters of all kinds as you try to gain a ton of gold. The amount you have to win is based on the character type that you choose. You win that gold by fighting monsters and looting them. And just like D&D, it’s possible – and maybe even more likely – that your character will die in the process. We like this, despite the fact that none of us are incredibly skilled dice rollers. There’s a tension that builds when you walk into a room of any level, encounter a monster, and pray that you’ll roll high enough to kill it and that if you don’t, it won’t kill you.
This game varies in length and I truly believe that has to do with how well you roll and what character you choose. (Hint: Rogues only have to snag 10,000 gold.)
I won’t get into how the game is played due to my own inability to explain it in simple terms. Don’t let that scare you off, though. It’s incredibly simply once you’re shown how the player turns work. The goal of the game is to feed your tribe, gather resources, and in the end, have the most points. When you begin playing, you don’t really think about the strategy. You’re just focused on making sure you have enough food for your tribe and have resources. Once you get a handle on that and start bringing strategy into what you collect and how you spend everything, the fun really begins. You start seeing what other players are going after and figure out ways to push things in your favor.
Resource management and worker placement are my wife’s favorite kinds of games. Stone Age is both and she kicks butt at it.
Taking your corporation and making Mars inhabitable for human kind is the name of the game. You’ll be paying to fund different projects that will raise the planet’s temperature, increase the oxygen level, or unearth oceans. And of course, you want your own corporation to make the biggest impact on Mars. It took me a little while to actually play this after I bought it because it looks a little intimidating. There are 250 project cards of three different types, established corporations, and beginner corporations. It was overwhelming at first, but I learned it, and it’s a great game! While it isn’t my favorite game, it is played multiple times per week in our home. We’re even investing in some of the expansions that are available because we like it so much.
If you want a heavier game with multiple things to manage, Terraforming Mars is a good game to have in your library. There’s even a solo variant so you can play by yourself if the components scare off your family or friends. The only downside right out of the box for TM is the player boards. They aren’t great and the resource cubes you use tend to slide around. Even worse, if someone bumps the table, they go all over the place. I highly recommend you find some better ones on Etsy or even 3D print your own if you have that available to you.
Zombies and the apocalypse might be the most cliche themes in movies and TV, but there’s just something about this game that makes me not care about cliche. It could be that it’s a step closer to me actually playing an RPG as I manage the characters throughout the game. It could also be the storyline that gets created round after round. Oh, and the feeling of dread that keeps creeping in. Is it strange that it’s compelling to me?
You manage a group of survivors during a zombie apocalypse along with up to 4 other players. The goal is to keep your colony from being overrun while you keep your own little group alive as they venture out to gather supplies that will keep crises from happening each round. Oh… there’s also a good chance you or one of your fellow gamers is a traitor, but you may not find out until it’s too late.
This is not a happy game. It’s stressful and frustrating from the moment you start playing. The characters in your party can die from zombie bites, frostbite, or wounds. The colony could get overrun by zombies or even starve to death because you and your friends couldn’t get enough food due to a crisis you were trying to hold off. If someone dies, morale drops, and if morale drops to zero, the game is over and you’ve lost.
We’ve played this a handful of times with two, three, and five players. Only once have we won. Regardless, it’s been a lot of fun each and every time. Like Terraforming Mars, there’s a lot going on in Dead of Winter, but the stakes are so much higher and that’s why I think I like it more.
What are some of your favorite board games? I’m always looking for new ones to add to my collection!