When someone mentions board games, most will have flashbacks to desperately not rolling that seven and trying to dodge Uncle Bob’s hotel on Mayfair, or racking your brains on that Arts and Literature question for that all important brown pie piece.
Games like Battleships, Risk and Monopoly have been a family staple for generations, with hundreds of variations available for fans of everything from Star Wars to Pokémon. But board games have been evolving beyond the ‘Snakes and Ladders’ formula of roll the dice and hope everything turns out for the best.
Germany has been at the forefront of the ‘Euro-gamer’ phenomenon where the love of board games stretches beyond those known around the world, and now games based on medieval fantasy, space exploration, shoot-em ups, even survival horror and super heroes can be found in a variety of complexity and strategy.
Whetted your appetite? Well, here are three great titles to get you started on your gaming exploration! These three games have been at the forefront of the American boom in the board gaming market, each different in style but related in their innovation and elegant design.
Winner of the Spiel de Jahres, this game first hit Germany in 1995 and was one of the breakout games that brought ‘Euro gaming’ outside Europe. Play is set on an island, as players trade and win resources to create the best settlement on the island. Players can use soldiers, cities, even a thief to build their score and claim first place. A set of modular hexagons mean the board is different every time, and numerous strategies for winning mean players can switch up to different play styles if one plan isn’t working. The rules walk the line of complexity and style, making the game accessible to all ages. An absolute must for anyone, for further information visit the Settlers of Catan website.
Winner of the ‘Game of the Faire’ award in Spiel in 2008, Dominion is one of the first of a new archetype, the ‘deck-builder’ game. Each player is a Monarch building a kingdom, represented by a deck of cards. Players use this deck to buy minions, construct buildings and fill their coffers with gold, which then go into your deck as well. As the game progresses, players are able to do more and go further with every new hand of cards. The player with the best kingdom (the best deck) at the end is the winner.
Based on the rich history of the town with the same name, Carcassonne is a clever tile-laying game that asks players to shape the landscape, building roads and cities and introducing their followers to the fields, the highways, the cloisters and the towns. Players score points based on their placement of tiles and followers. The rules are simple, but the tactical depth is incredible as players not only look for great placements for their own followers, but think ahead to stop opponents slipping in and taking over their carefully laid plans.
A perfect opportunity for finding out more is coming on 30th March, when International Table Top day kicks off across the world. Hobby stores and games clubs across the world will be holding events to show off the cream of the crop of board and card games. I’m sure you’ll find something to grab you, be your interest futuristic warzones, ancient Mayan culture or superhero showdowns!
Got any games you love? Want to discuss anything in the article? Feel free to comment!
Bevan Clatworthy is director of Blue Cat Games, and designer of the card game Bubbles. When not skulking around his local hobby shop, he lives in Swindon with his two cats (neither of which are blue) and his forgiving wife.