They’ve been around for thousands of years, entertaining people from all ages and walks of life. Whilst Video Games are still relatively adolescent, board games are like the great, great, great grandfathers of gaming. They have taught us plenty of strategies, help to keep the mind active and are generally brilliant in social environments as well. They are great in parties as well as between a small group of friends, or even games between lovers.
Yet, one question has remained throughout all of this… Just what are the best board games out there today? Joel and Timlah decide to tackle an extremely tough topic as they dig out their board games, look through what they’ve played, take serious notes (by which I mean we just shouted at one another until we’re blue in the face) and judged each game for the merits they bring to the table. This is the GeekOut South-West list of our Top 10 board games!
10) King of Tokyo
Giant monsters have a real thing for Tokyo. I suppose once you’ve become unnaturally massive your diet will naturally take a shift for the similarly huge, so skyscrapers eventually end up on the menu.
Take up the role of one such giant monster and slug it out in your own B-Movie battle for Tokyo. Gather power to buy cheesy upgrades like laser beams, fire breath or an extra head. Go straight for the kill, or just chase the points while everyone else is preoccupied.
If your more a Michael Bay fan than Harry Hausen, try King of New-York too. More building smashing, more calling in the military and more strategy!
The game of the path is an excellent mixture of chance and strategy, and it’s also elegantly simple. Place your marker at a starting point around the edge of the board, use tiles covered in paths to start your journey, last man standing wins. Oh but everyone else is building their own path, and every tile has four paths on it that could take you somewhere you don’t want to be.
Tsuro is brilliantly quick, really easy to play, harder to master, and massively replayable with so many possible variations. The board and all pieces are beautifully made and designed, as is the sequel Tsuro of the Seas, but I’d rate the original game higher.
Spawning one of the most memorable catchphrases in all of gaming history, this is a game of placement, strategy, logic and luck. I mean the initial shots are basically just luck, but once you land your first hit, you know a ship is vulnerable. These ships are simply sitting ducks that are perfect targets for you to sink. All of these ships are vulnerable, except the most evil ship of them all.
The patrol boat! It’s just 2 pieces long for crying out loud! Where are you, you nasty little patrol boat! Stop looking for me, I’m looking for you now. I’ve sunk all the rest of your fleet, you have no chance… Oh wait, what are you doing? Oh no…
“You sunk my battle ship!!!”
7) Mouse Trap
First made back in the 1970’s, Mouse Trap is a brilliantly unique game. Whilst it certainly has its faults (such as Joels revelation that his trap rarely worked, whereas my traps nearly always worked), the game is something of a childhood classic. Nostalgic is a great way to describe this game now, but it is still available in shops with more modern editions.
You play as mice who are trying to get their cheese but most importantly: Not to be caught by the mouse trap. As you go through the game, you build up one of the wackiest, zaniest traps in gaming history. These traps puts Acme to shame, as it involves cranks, boots, marbles, divers, bath tubs, rolling tracks and a cage. I loved this game as a kid and I think many others did too, although it wasn’t very well received by critics.
Never the less, this game is simply fun. It’s childish, it’s silly – It’s just a fun game to play, with lots of set up and lots of things to see and do. Its USP however… That trap is ridiculously unique and Loony Tunes-esque.
Collectable chibi figures that beat each other to death with wacky powers in an adorable cartoon arena may sound like a child-friendly concept, but here’s a game for people with a flair for strategy and a cruel streak. It’s not all that simple to play, but once you’ve gotten to grips with it, Krosmaster can be a fast-paced bloodbath of slung dice.
If you want to practice there’s a free version online, and investing in the figure boosters allows you to unlock those characters in the online game. But the board game comes with so much! It’s not cheap, but there’s a huge collection of set pieces, tiles, tokens, and a full playset of figures! It’s quite possibly the best investment you can make in a board game.
So the board is little more than a scoreboard in Dixit, but it’s a lovely game nonetheless. We’ve talked about Dixit before, a game of narrative and descriptive power for the creative types. Players take it in turn to take an art card from their hands, offer a clue to what’s on it, and then other players place their own art cards into the pile that they think match the clue. Not too obvious, or you get no points and everyone else does. Not too obscure, or everyone else gets points and you don’t.
You may find this game requires expansions to keep it fresh, but there are plenty of those to be had, and with new players it can offer a wealth of new perspectives on the cards you thought had become familiar. We love Dixit here at GeekOut South-West, and we’ll offer anyone a game at a convention.
4) Ticket to Ride
Have you ever gone to a train station and decided “Boy, I’d sure like to go from station A to B in the most convoluted way possible!” No? Well that’s a shame, because players of Ticket to Ride surely have.
Surprisingly educational and an easy game to pick up and play, Ticket to Ride is a game that balances simple game play with a lot of strategy and a pinch of luck to go with it. Do you want to be risky and take the longer routes with fear that your competitors might try to take it over. This is the ultimate game of balancing greed and being strategic with your monopolisation of the railway. Be warned though, this game takes minutes to learn with its simple rules of: Each turn you either draw a card, claim a route or get more destination tickets. With such an easy rule set, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’ll keep you and your friends or family entertained for hours.
Also for all of you mobile fans out there, you can buy this board game for a hefty discount from the typical asking price of £25 and above. Seriously, it’s well worth playing this game, even though board games can be expensive, man! Controversial
3) The Settlers of Catan
The ultimate resource management board game, the Settlers of Catan sees you in charge of a group of settlers as they build settlements, cities and roads that connect them all together. A simple game to pick up and play that has been praised for how well balanced it is. It’s the modern day board game.
German designed, Catan has had many spin-offs and variants, including many expansions. I’d argue that Settlers of Catan is the board game that helped bring board games back to the centre of social gaming. Having sold more than 15 million units world wide, this board game is easy to pick up and play, which can be played in an hour. The question is, which version do you get? I’d recommend still getting the original.
Although I get a feeling they kind of went wrong when they introduced this to the world…
==1) Chess & Hero Quest
Chess – Joel
The king of games. Little needs to be said, it’s the pinnacle of strategy gaming, there are no elements of chaos like dice or decks of cards, only skill.
When we debated chess and Hero Quest to a standstill, I likened chess to sharks. It’s a design that has barely changed since its’ creation many centuries ago, a few tweaks here and there to made as play intensified, visual aesthetics that reflect trends of the time. Chess is history itself, it’s art, and music, and literature, and narrative.
Nothing can be said about the King of Games that has not already been said a thousand times before by a thousand more eloquent people. It’s also one hell of a way to start arguments.
Hero Quest – Timlah
This was a board game that was basically a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Amongst some of the special points about Hero Quest are that it’s now quite a rare game to get your hands on. It’s so worth having a go if you can manage to get your hands on it, though.
It’s incredibly expansive with people creating resources for the game, almost to the same degree that people make resources for Dungeons & Dragons. This game was so popular, they took to Kickstarter for a 25th anniversary edition which was highly successful, even though they were met with copyright disputes. This shows that the community for this particular game is so strong still – It’s worth a nod at the very least.
Couple this with encouraging children to learn to tell stories and to teach them basic dungeon master skills, this game is the very foundation for children to progress into tabletop RPGs. It was very well balanced, with lots of great pieces which you could put on the board. With character sheets and rulebooks, this was the ultimate in tabletop RPG… And it was a board game, not pen & paper!
You’ve heard mine and Joels arguments for our respective game choices and now we’re handing it over to you. Do we hand the number one slot to Chess, or do we hand the number one slot to Hero Quest? Two entirely different games, both highly educational in their own rights and incredibly strategic. One promotes healthy competition, whereas the other promotes working together as a team. Now their fate for the ultimate battle of the number one slot is in your hands.
Don’t you just hate it when you’re sat there with all of these incredible board games and some people decide to mention these damned games instead? We’re not saying they’re bad or anything, but we’re saying god damn it, why do you even bring this up right now? Still, they deserve the love, even if one is the root of all evil and the other lets you find out who is going to play the root of all evil.
Dungeons and Dragons
Do you have any idea how many times during an explanation of what D&D is, I’ve been asked “So is it a board game?” and my response always starts the same way, “No, well, ehh… kind of.”
And that’s the point, tabletop RPs are board games that don’t need a board necessarily, but there’s no denying that they can be helpful under certain circumstances. Boards are readily available in huge varieties, pre-made, draw your own, build your own, everything from line drawings to sculptures. Tokens, and figures and dice are all available, even box-sets that’ll give you the whole lot in one go.
But they’re not board games! They’re not!
I’m not sure if this game is evil at its core by this point, but the game was first made as a way to demonstrate the evils of property trading. No seriously, that is why Monopoly exists… And it’s very good at getting this point across. This is a game where you have to watch your friends and family turn from your loved ones into vicious, penny pinching, money grabbing monsters before your very eyes.
They want your blood, your thimbles, your wheelbarrows, your dogs and evil your top hats. They do this, not out of love… But this is war. This is a property war and this is Monopoly, damn it!
Whew, I may be getting ahead of myself here, but Monopoly is pure evil and it always brings up heated discussion. Whether you love it or hate it… Monopoly is a game that will tug at peoples heart strings, either from pure love of the game to “hnngh, I’m going to have a heart attack as you mentioned that vile abomination of a game.”
That was our list of our Top 10 Board Games and our honourable mentions for this week. Yes, we know, we cheesed it with our honourables, but Monopoly is a necessary evil that needed to be exposed for the evil (but fun evil) that it is. We also have a controversial decision in our contentious first place position, between Chess and Hero Quest. What do you think about that? Let us know what our next Top 10 should be!
As always, if you disagree with our list: Why not shout at us and tell us that we’re stupid in the comments below? Or you can be nice and give us your suggestions and let us know if you think we’ve forgotten a really important board game from this list. Perhaps you like our list but don’t agree with the order? What are your thoughts on us doing a joint first place with Chess and Hero Quest? We had a long, tough debate over this but we couldn’t put a point past either of them. As always, comments below, over on Facebook or Twitter and let us know what you think of our Top 10 for this week!
My local games shop host regular events where people can come and play board games, take part in events, meet new gamers and try something different. They’re a lot of fun, and I’m not just saying that because I’m on the committee who runs them. Helping to manage events is one hell of an opportunity for me, and I’ve learned a great deal in the process, and though it’s been a long fight for us to make games days a success, they get better every time, and everyone who comes enjoys themselves, and ultimately that’s what is important.
We are Shrewsbury’s biggest games event, and we are still rising. In fact e-Collectica itself is currently looking likely to move from it’s current stall in the local Market Hall and into a high street premises, and next years’ events are going to be bigger and better than ever.
If you’re local to the area, keep an eye on Facebook and GeekOut South-West for updates on when the next games day should be. For now though, take a look at what you’d be missing out on:
A huge thank you to everyone who attended and an even bigger thanks to those yet to attend! We look forward to seeing you.
And once again, a huge thank you to e-Collectica for every opportunity they’ve given me.