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Best board games 2015

Lots of fun games played in 2015!

With the start of a new year, it’s time once again to look back on our last year of family board game playing.

And what a great year it’s been!

Looking back, here are a few highlights from our year in board gaming:

  • We posted 44 family-focused board game, card game, and party game reviews.
  • We also posted 41 articles related to family board games.
  • We added more games to our game shelves than any other year.
  • We recently gave away over 60 games to local families.
  • And we played 132 different games!

Well, that last one should more accurately be that Dad played that many different games. (Since dad’s the only one in the family that records his board game plays.)

Had a blast at SaltCon 2015 with my nephew.

And that number is up just slightly over 2014 when I played 127 different games.

Last March I also spent a couple days playing a ton of games at SaltCon – a local board game convention.

Contents

Most Played Games of 2015

For those who visit our site regularly, you may already be able to guess which games will appear on the “most-played games” list.

Here are the 20 board games, card games, and party games I played the most in 2015 (in order of most plays):

Kingdom Builder is one of my favorite family board games.

  • Dominion
  • Kingdom Builder
  • Memoir ’44
  • Codenames
  • Telestrations
  • 7 Wonders
  • Duplik
  • Animal Upon Animal
  • City Square Off
  • Doodle Quest
  • Ubongo
  • Descent: Journeys in the Dark
  • Longhorn
  • Risk Legacy
  • Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Timeline Challenge
  • Roll For It!
  • Secret Code 13+4
  • Code 777
  • King of New York

All of the games on this list have been played at least 5 times (with some many more – like Dominion which is way up there).

Favorite Games of 2015

Super cool components and fun game play in Scoville.

You may think the games I played the most might just be my favorite games of the year. While some are, there are plenty of games that I may not have played much during the year but are still games that I had a blast playing.

As I look back, a number of great games stand out. They aren’t all newly published board games during 2015, but they were new to me.

The games I loved playing for the first time this past year are:

  • Star Wars: Imperial Assault
  • Colt Express
  • Dead Men Tell No Tales
  • Castles of Mad King Ludwig
  • Sheriff of Nottingham
  • King of New York
  • Scoville
  • New York 1901
  • Lords of Xidit
  • Longhorn
  • Mysterium
  • GIPF
  • Pandemic: The Cure
  • 7 Wonders Duel
  • Love Letter: Batman
  • Timeline Challenge
  • 1775: Rebellion
  • The Battle of Five Armies
  • Luchador: Mexican Wrestling Dice
  • Bootleggers
  • Libertalia
  • Mr. Jack
  • Between Two Cities
  • Roll For The Galaxy

Board Gaming Goals for 2016

Still many games waiting to be reviewed.

I typically break my New Years Resolutions down into various categories. That way I can shoot to make improvements a bit each year in multiple aspects of my life. And of course, I’ve also set a board game category for resolutions.

Here are my board gaming goals for 2016:

  • Play 150 different games.
  • Finally catch up on the stack of games on our “to review” shelf.
  • Continue to host a monthly Guys Game Night.
  • Join in with a local board game store regular game night.
  • Attend SaltCon again, but this time for all 3 days of super fun game playing.
  • Attend GenCon!

My “play 150 games” goal doesn’t just include new games. It also includes many older games I haven’t played in the last few years.

Our Sheriff of Nottingham review is coming soon!

For my “review games” goal, it means all 30+ games currently on our “to review” shelf will get done before taking on any others. Since we average 1 game review a week, it will take a number of months before we get caught up on these. And this is a tough situation for me because there are a lot of great games I want to tell you about.

But in setting our review schedule, it’s clear to see that it’s just the way it has to be.

The good news about this though is that you’re in for a treat every week!

Because there are a lot of great games waiting on our review shelf.

If you don’t want to miss any reviews, be sure to subscribe to get them via email when they’re posted. Or subscribe on our YouTube channel to get our latest video reviews.

Overall Goal

Let’s hear it for family time!

As much as I enjoy thinking about doing all the fun game-related things I’d like to do this year, all these goals will be at the mercy of my overall goal to: Keep board game playing in its proper priority.

There’s no doubt I love playing games with my kids. I believe playing games creates great bonding moments and helps us all develop our mental and social skills – no matter our age.

But at their current ages, our kids have a wide variety of interests. And the most important thing I can do as a dad is spend time with them doing what they love.

And most times that will involve things other than games.

It may even be as simple as just sitting around talking instead of playing games. I’m not going to look at that as lost game night opportunities. Instead, I’m going to do better at valuing whatever we’re doing together as the best thing I can do at that moment.

We hope you enjoy setting your New Year’s Resolutions and we wish you all the best in 2016!

Every year around this time I compile my Top Ten Games of the year. To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I had so much trouble narrowing down the selections. There were just so many great games released in 2015, it’s a testament to the theory that we are in a golden age of tabletop gaming.

So I did my best and chose the games that have excited me the most throughout the year. Some, just barely missed the cut for various reasons, notables being 7 Wonders: Duel, Flick ‘em Up!, Champions of Midgard, and Neuorshima: Convoy.

As always, this list is divided into two parts: my top ten games that I’ve played and my top ten games that I want to try. Since we get so many late releases out of the annual Essen game fair, I started making two lists in fairness to these late debuting games (and my lack of free time to play every game released in a year).

So with that all in mind, let’s get on to the lists.

Top 10 Games of 2015

10. The Grizzled

Just barley edging out Flick ‘Em Up in my rankings is The Grizzled. It’s an abstract, cooperative game where players are trying to survive in the trenches of the great World War. The game play, while fairly light, is actually really engaging as players really do have to work together if they hope to win. Sadly, The Grizzled also made news earlier this year when the game’s artist was killed in a terrorist attack.

2-5 Players • Ages 10+ • 30 minutes to play • $18

9. XCOM: The Board Game

This was a game I was really excited to try when I first heard about it. It’s based off a video game franchise that I always loved and it also introduced a new, real time aspect in the form of an app integration. In XCOM: The Board Game, players are tasked with running a UFO defense organization and most work together to save the planet. The game is timed and the integrated app drives the gameplay ensuring a unique experience every time.

1-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 90 minutes to play • $45

8. Tides of Time (review)

I’ve long been a massive fan of card drafting games, but until now, no one has really been able to make a compelling two player game. Sure, some have 2 player variants with “dummy players”, but those never did much for me. So props to Portal Games for coming up with a game that’s both easy to learn and also a lot of fun to play. Tides of Time also makes an excellent gateway game into the card drafting mechanic. I am not a huge fan of micro games in general, but I love me some Tides of Time.

2 Players • Ages 8+ • 15 minutes to play • $12

7. Codenames

Chances are, you’ve heard of Codenames by now. This social game has received a ton of hype since its Gen Con release. In Codenames, two teams are competing to get their fellow players to deduce a series of words on a grid. While that in itself doesn’t sound very exciting, the Codenames game play is surprisingly addictive and works well with large groups. Players have to think outside the box if they hope to lead their team to victory. Codenames has become one of our go-to party games for big groups.

2-8 Players • Ages 10+ • 15 minutes to play • $20

6. Blood Rage

Designer Eric Lang makes another appearance on this list with Blood Rage (X-Com was his first). This tactical miniatures game combines a bit of area control, some combat, and a healthy dose of card drafting into a game that is an absolute blast to play. Blood Rage has been getting glowing reviews since its debut and after playing it, it’s not hard to understand why. With some amazing looking minis and excellent replay value, Blood Rage is worth checking out.

2-4 Players • Ages 13+ • 60 minutes to play • $63

5. Warhammer Quest: The Adventure Card Game

This was a surprising addition to the list as I only got to play Warhammer Quest recently. In this card game, players take on the role of heroes fighting off the denizens of a fantasy world. With both one shot and campaign play, Warhammer Quest sucked us right in with its fun, cooperative game play. I am looking forward to the eventual expansions for Warhammer Quest that I’m sure will be coming down the pipeline.

1-4 Players • Ages 10+ • 60 minutes to play • $36

4. Star Wars: Armada

I never thought I’d want to replace Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures as my go-to tactical minis game, but then came Star Wars: Armada. In Armada, players jump out of their X-Wing fighters and take command of the large, capital ships like the Star Destroyer or Nebulon-B Frigate. A much more strategic game than X-Wing, Star Wars: Armada does so many things right that I’m always itching to get these ships back to the tabletop. It’s clear that publisher Fantasy Flight Games learned a few things from X-wing and brought it over to Armada.

2 Players • Ages 14+ • 120 minutes to play • $60

3. T.I.M.E Stories

I love a good mystery and T.I.M.E Stories presented me with a unique game that actually can’t be won in your first game. Players have to solve a mystery over a series of games, learning more clues and the proper way to do things with each play through. Much like the plot of the movie Sourcecode, players are given limited information and must work through a series of loops to solve the mystery. I love lateral thinking and logic puzzles, so T.I.M.E Stories was in instant hit with me. I really enjoyed my play through the included scenario and immediately bought the first expansion.

2-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 60 minutes to play • $39

2. Cthulhu Wars (review)

You will be hard pressed to find a minis game that looks as stunning as Cthulhu Wars. With massive, and I mean massive, miniatures to dominate the game space, expect to quickly draw a crowd when you bring this game out. For its game play, Cthulhu Wars is an asymmetrical, area control game with each faction playing the game in their own unique manner. I absolutely love how different each of the four factions feels in the game. If you can afford its hefty price tag, it’s definitely worth getting a copy.

2-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 60 minutes to play • $159

1. Pandemic Legacy (review)

This was probably the easiest choice I had to make for this list. No game has had me as addicted or excited as Pandemic: Legacy did this year. I’ve played Pandemic: Legacy more than any other game this year and absolutely loved it. Z-Man games created an amazing gaming experience that hasn’t been replicated on my tabletop since. I even bought a second copy of the game so I could play it with another gaming group. Hands down my favorite game of the year so far and I’d expect to see Pandemic: Legacy this coming spring when we announce nominees for our game awards.

2-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 60 minutes to play • $49

Top Ten Games I Want to Play

10. Tail Feathers

Published by Plaid Hat Games, Tail Feathers is set in their Mice and Mystics universe and pits two players against each other in a light, skirmish game. If the game plays half as good as it looks, then it’s definitely something I want to check out. Mice and Mystics was a fun, family friendly dungeon crawlers so I’m curious to see what they were able to do with a skirmish game, especially one that’s promised a story driven campaign.
2p – 60 min – 8+

2 Players • Ages 8+ • 60 minutes to play • $60

9. Bomb Squad

In Bomb Squad, players must work together to try and disarm a number of bombs, all as a counter ticks down in real time. Borrowing some game play from house favorite Hanabi, players are forced to work together as their cards are held facing their fellow players. As a fan of both coop games and also real time ones, I’m excited to give Bomb Squad a try.

2-6 Players • Ages 10+ • 10-30 minutes to play • $30

8. Zombicide: Black Plague

I was as huge fan of Zombicide (review here), however even I admit the game isn’t without its flaws. So I have been looking forward to trying out Cool Minis newest game in the Zombicide universe, Black Plague. No longer set in a modern day society, Zombicide: Black Plague takes players into a fantasy world filled with knights and necromancers. They appear to have made a number of upgrades to the rules over the base Zombicide game and so I’m expecting a bit smoother game play in this title.

1-6 Players • Ages 10+ • 8 minutes to play • $79

7. Ghostbusters

I remember when the Kickstarter for Ghostbusters debuted and it definitely generated a lot of hype. However, I held off buying it as I wanted to know more about the game play as its publisher Cryptazoic doesn’t exactly have the best track record with licensed games. Some of them tend to be nothing more than a cheap tie in to the source material. However, as a huge Ghostbusters fan, this is still on my list to check out. Here’s hoping it plays as fun as I would like it to be.

1-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 30+ minutes to play • $59

6. The Undercity: An Iron Kingdoms Adventure Board Game

The Undercity puts its own spin on the classic dungeon crawl game by setting it within a vast underground labyrinth inside one of the Iron Kingdoms cities. As a fully cooperative, campaign based dungeon crawl, The Undercity checks off a lot of points in what I like in a dungeon crawler, notable not requiring a game master to run the game.

2-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 60+ minutes to play • $70

5. Spirits of the Rice Paddy

The first thing that intrigued me about Spirits of the Rice Paddy was the great looking visuals. As one of the handful of eurogames making this list, Spirits of the Rice Paddy has players competing with fellow rice farmers to construct and tend rice paddies. While that doesn’t sound like the most exciting of themes (not unusual in a eurogame), I’ve heard some good things about Spirits of the Rice Paddy and am looking forward to giving this one a try.

2-4 Players • Ages 13+ • 90 minutes to play • $30

4. Isle of Skye: From Chieftain to King

This one definitely flew in under the radar for me this year and I only recently found out about it after someone mentioned it to me on Twitter. After checking it out, it seemed like a game I would enjoy. In this tile-laying game, players are chieftains trying to build out their kingdom to score as many points as possible. With some unique mechanics, Isle of Skye appears to have a good amount of replay value as well.

2-5 Players • Ages 8+ • 60 minutes to play • $30

3. Burgle Bros.

This is actually a game I backed on Kickstarter and just haven’t had a chance to get to the table yet. In this cooperative board game, players must work together to try and pull off a successful heist. This is a theme I don’t see too often on my tabletop so that, combined with being a fan of its designer Tim Fowers (Paperback), convinced me to back it on Kickstarter. I’m hoping to try this one out soon.

1-4 Players • Ages 12+ • 90 minutes to play • $36

2. Forbidden Stars

As a big fan of Warhammer 40K, Forbidden Stars looks pretty awesome. It comes with a giant galaxy map, spaceships, space marines, so what more could you want? The game play looks epic and the production values are the typical awesomeness I’ve come to expect from Fantasy Flight Games. Forbidden Stars is said to be a reimplementation of the StarCraft Board game, which I do own and am a big fan off.

2-4 Players • Ages 14+ • 120+ minutes to play • $65

1. Stronghold (2nd edition)

Coming in at the top of the list of games I want to try is Stronghold: Second Edition. I was a fan of the 1st edition of Stronghold, even though it wasn’t the easiest game to learn or play. This second edition, a combined publishing venture between Stronghold Games and Portal Games, offers quicker game play, more streamlined mechanics and rules, and upgraded components from the first edition. All that and a theme that really excites me, makes it a game that I’ll have to get to my table in the near future.

2 Players • Ages 10+ • 60 minutes to play • $42

Well that about wraps up 2015 for us. It was an amazing year for board games and it has left me really excited about what’s to come in 2016. Did I miss your favorite game of 2015? Let me know in the comments below.

The best board games of 2015, Board Game Geek’s Golden Geek awards

The members of BoardGameGeek.com, the go-to source for board games community and information online, have announced the winners of the 2015 Golden Geek Awards. The big winner this year is Pandemic Legacy, which won four of the 13 total awards and every category for which it was nominated.

BoardGameGeek is a massively popular gaming resource and online community, made up of board and hobby games fans. Every year the community votes on the Golden Geek Awards, celebrating the best games of the year in many categories, broadly including board games, role-playing games and video games.

Other big winners include Codenames, a breakout hit by Vlaada Chvátil, and Mysterium, both of which made Polygon’s list of the five best board games from last year’s Gen Con.

Here’s all the winners, by category. For more details and links on all of the games, check out BGG’s original post here.

Board Game of the Year

Winner – Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Runner Up – Codenames

Runner Up – 7 Wonders: Duel

2-Player Board Game

Winner – 7 Wonders: Duel

Runner Up – Tides of Time

Runner Up – Baseball Highlights: 2045

Artwork & Presentation

Winner – Mysterium

Runner Up – T.I.M.E Stories

Runner Up – Above and Below

Card Game

Winner – 7 Wonders: Duel

Runner Up – The Grizzled

Runner Up – Arboretum

Board Game Expansion

Winner – Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania

Runner Up – Roll for the Galaxy: Ambition

Runner Up – Five Tribes: The Artisans of Naqala

Family Board Game

Winner – Codenames

Runner Up – Mysterium

Runner Up – Between Two Cities

Most Innovative Board Game

Winner – Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Runner Up – 504

Runner Up – T.I.M.E Stories

Party Game

Winner – Codenames

Runner Up – Mysterium

Runner Up – Flick ’em Up!

Print & Play

Winner – Dune: The Dice Game

Runner Up – Deep Space D-6

Runner Up – Beyond Baker Street

Solo Board Game

Winner – Tiny Epic Galaxies

Runner Up – Hostage Negotiator

Runner Up – Baseball Highlights: 2045

Strategy Board Game

Winner – Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Runner Up – 7 Wonders: Duel

Runner Up – The Voyages of Marco Polo

Thematic Game

Winner – Pandemic Legacy: Season 1

Runner Up – T.I.M.E Stories

Runner Up – Blood Rage

Wargame

Winner – Churchill

Runner Up – Triumph & Tragedy

Runner Up – The U.S. Civil War

Best Podcast

Winner – The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast

Runner Up – Shut Up & Sit Down: The Podcast!

Runner Up – Rahdo Talks Through

Best Board Game App

Winner – Splendor

Runner Up – Galaxy Trucker

Runner Up – Star Realms: Gambit

The Best Games of 2015 were just announced!

The best board games, card games, dice games, family games, and party games of 2015 have now been awarded!

Just a couple days ago, on July 9, The Dice Tower announced the winners of the Dice Tower Awards — the annual crowing of the best board games published.

With thousands of new games published each year, there’s always so many great games to choose from.

This year close to 100 people in the board game industry participated in the nomination and voting process. The majority of those voting are top board game reviewers, podcasters, and contributors from around the world.

And we love being a part of the selection and judging. We were also able to play a bigger majority of the nominated games than we have in years past. So it’s especially rewarding to see the results this year.

Without further ado, here are The Dice Tower Award Winners for 2015:

Best Board Games of 2015

Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 wins as Best Board Game of the Year.

  • Game Of The Year: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
  • Best Family Game: Codenames
  • Best Strategy Game: Blood Rage
  • Best Two Player Game: 7 Wonders: Duel
  • Best Cooperative Game: Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
  • Best Party Game: Codenames
  • Best Game Theming: T.I.M.E. Stories
  • Best Game Components: Blood Rage
  • Best Game Artwork: Ashes: Rise of the Phoenixborn
  • Best New Designer: T.I.M.E. Stories
  • Best Small Publisher: Stockpile
  • Best Expansion: Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 5 – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania
  • Best Game Reprint: Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
  • Most Innovative Game: T.I.M.E. Stories

We’re not surprised at all that Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 won as Best Board Game of the Year. It’s been the talk of the industry for a very long time and has lived up to the hype.

7 Wonders: Duel is a great 2-player implementation of 7 Wonders.

Once again this year a game ended up winning in 3 categories — T.I.M.E. Stories. I wrote about my experience playing the first T.I.M.E. Stories game earlier this year at SaltCon. While I agree it’s definitely innovative, I’m glad it didn’t win for Game of the Year.

Since our family loves Ticket to Ride, we’re also happy to see that the UK & Pennsylvania map won for best expansion. We haven’t yet played it, but are itching to do so.

And we’re also big fans of Codenames and 7 Wonders Duel. But we also think you can’t go wrong with any of the games on the 2015 Nominees list either.

If you’re looking for great board games to play with your family and friends, this is a great list to go from. You can also check out The Dice Tower Award winners from years past:

2014 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game
2013 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Caverna: The Cave Farmers
2012 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Star Wars: X-wing Miniatures Game
2011 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Eclipse
2010 – Best Game of the Year Winner: 7 Wonders
2009 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Smallworld
2008 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Dominion
2007 – Best Game of the Year Winner: Race for the Galaxy

We asked for your favourite board game, and you told us. Thank you. From ancient classics like Chess and Go to more modern staples like Scrabble and Monopoly, we heard all your stories and heeded all your words.

One of you has even made your own space add-on to Risk.

Risk – Home Made Space expansion

Risk was always my favourite board game. I decided to send it into orbit with a home-made space expansion.

Mirroring the recent rise in gaming’s popularity, there were also some lesser-known titles amid the tributes to the likes of Cluedo and Ludo. Accordingly, we have put together a list of twenty of excellent but slightly lesser-known games suggested by our readers that we either have played and can vouch for their awesomeness, or frankly sound amazing and you should seek out henceforth. There are loads that didn’t quite make the list, but sound brilliant all the same (Bloodbowl anyone?): check out the GuardianWitness assignment to see them all.

Some are rather obscure, others are already hugely popular, and you have our permission to roll your eyes (and then your dice) at us if we’ve mentioned a game that, to you, represents the very peak of gaming obviousness. But remember: not everyone is on the same square. Some people out there are more like the person writing this sentence, who only recently discovered all the magic (:the gathering) he was missing. Please pity the man who only got wood a few short years ago.

So here we are then. From the pretty well known to the rare as dragon’s teeth, here are a bunch of games you should consider playing with your friends, families, and future enemies. Maybe start this weekend? You’ll thank us later.

1) Carcassonne

Carcassonne is such fun, as you can see

Perfect in front of a fire on a winter’s night in a pub in the middle of nowhere

We know. Sorry. But the tile-based farming / castle building / road-based thievery simulator has enduring popularity, and is still winning new fans the globe over. It’s a game that’s a dream to play in pubs, even if you have to wear the curiosity of fellow locals with a fixed grin at times. The game has loads of add-on packs to increase the complexity. “For me, it is the ultimate,” says an anonymous French man who owns a lot of board games.

“Well designed, well crafted, never the same scenarios. Clever extension packs which keep the game fresh,” murmured one reader with approval. “A brilliant game with near infinite re-playability,” said Yarble.

2) Game of Thrones

I’ll admit: I’ve never seen Game of Thrones. But our readers reckon it’s fun even if you’ve not been watching the making-fantasy-acceptable HBO television series. “A superbly nuanced strategy game, with additional fun if you’re a fan of the source material,” says Paul Hetherington.

“So intense that I think of it as ‘high fantasy air-traffic control’,” says AlabasterC. “Just don’t ask me to explain the rules for ports again.”

3) Dominion

Not, sadly, a game based on the main bad guys in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, this card related kingdom-building and ambition-thwarting game was one of the picks of our readers. “It’s an extremely interactive and constantly dynamic game, and it’s not always easy to see who’s winning until the last card count”, said Robert Thé.

4) Dead of Winter

“Dead of Winter is my current number 1 board game. A co-op game of survival during the winter months in a post apocalyptic zombie world.” Photograph: DarkGlen/GuardianWitness

DarkGlen, who provided the picture above (excellent poster), really likes Dead of Winter, as did many of our respondents. It sounds ace. He explains:

“Players have to manage the colonies resources to ensure no one goes hungry and the camp doesn’t get too smelly, whilst trying to achieve an overall objective, that may be finding a cure, collecting enough gear to move on to another town, or just finding enough fuel to keep the generators running. Each player has a secret agenda, that may be nice and safe and just a bit selfish or may be to cause all of your friends to fail by reducing their morale to 0 before the main objective is complete.

“Then there’s the icing on the cake, the Crossroad cards, that add narrative and unexpected events to the game each turn by having the player to your right draw a card and only trigger the event if certain conditions are met.

“Also has zombies which some people think are pretty cool.”

5) Twilight Struggle

“Yes, ok, I know, it *sounds like* The Game of Life but for vampires, but it’s actually a brilliant, nuanced and absorbing cold war simulator,” says richdhw, who really, really, really likes this game.

“Twilight Struggle makes you feel like you’re constantly under attack on all fronts, that every decision you make is important or even globally consequential, and that you have to pick between the best of bad or even catastrophic options… and that’s when you’re winning. Come to think of it, it probably feels a bit like being a superpower engaged in a tense standoff with a similarly powerful but ideologically opposing hegemon.”

kitty82 is also a fan. “Even though it can sometimes take three days, is so tense it causes tears and shouting, and last time ended in deliberate nuclear annihilation in a grand, but ultimately pointless, desire to choose my own method of defeat. Still, brilliant.”

6) Netrunner

Do card games count as board games? The eternal dilemma. For the purpose of this exercise, they do. Netrunner is the cyberpunky card game our tech desk seem to play a lot of their time playing. There can be no greater endorsement.

7) Settlers of Catan

Eye-rollers, move on to the next game. Non eye-rollers: this game is awesome! Give it a go. The regulars at Basingstoke Discovery Centre can’t be wrong.

Playing Catan at Basingstoke Discovery Centre. Photograph: Vicky Kearley/GuardianWitness

8) 7 Wonders

Sweet 7 Wonders victory

These aren’t particularly impressive scores, admittedly

I know, I know. I could easy have made this number 7. In lieu of an apology, Victoria McRitchie explains her journey to this superb game.

“I’ve loved board games since childhood, but usually the Mattel, Waddingtons, Ravensburger favourites like Cluedo, Downfall and Monopoly. It was in my 20s that I decided to re-ignite this passion, so I googled “best board game”, and came across Carcassonne, the now-infamous gateway game. It wasn’t long before the expansions were tumbling through my letterbox on a weekly basis, before graduating on to Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.

“But it still wasn’t enough, I needed more. Then I found out about BoardGameGeek.com and their ranking of games. I started working my way through the top 20, and now my shelves are creaking under the weight of the European behemoths like Terra Mystica, Agricola and Through the Ages. Their artwork, mechanics and themes are quite astounding in comparison to the relatively mundane bestsellers like Cranium or The Game of Life. I now regularly host games nights at my house with friends I’ve met through Facebook groups. An Indian takeaway and a 5 player game of 7 Wonders for me is my ultimate night in, sheer bliss, especially when I win!”

9) Ticket to Ride

Wise guy, eh? Photograph: James Walsh/GuardianWitness

“Wise guy, eh? Are you trying to punch my ticket? I’ll send you all the way to Chattanooga! All aboard!”

If you’ve ever fancied pretending to be a 19th century rail magnate, then this is the game for you. For reasons I can’t fully explain, we tend to put on terrible 1920s American gangster accents while building or blocking routes across the continent (there’s also a Europe version), but this gets grating after six or seven hours. The game itself does not. “Like rummy but with added trains!” enthused Deviant.

10) Survive: Escape from Atlantis

Those foolish peoples of Atlantis, rightly punished by vengeful gods for their decadent ways. This board game has had a few mutations since it first came out back in the eighties as “survive!”, but our readers seem to like the current version.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis!

A really great game where the players try to escape the sinking island occasionally helping each other but mainly feeding each others explorers to sharks and sea monsters!

11) Pandemic: Contagion

Victory and defeat. Photograph: TheWitchfinderGenral/GuardianWitness

“This is another game that launched at Essen in 2014,” enthuses TheWitchfinderGenral. “The objective is to become the most deadly infectious disease, in a twist on the old “Pandemic” theme.

“The sad face on the right belongs to Martin who just lost. The smiler is Will, who won! Yay!”

12) Civilisation

Not to be confused with the (admittedly awesome) computer game of the same name, Civilisation won strong approval from some of our readers, jolo5309 among them.

“High levels of interaction between players sells me on this game. Every turn there is a frenetic five-minute round of open trading as players try to get matches to the goods they have and dump their calamities on other players,” he or she said. “The game play is long (usually 6+ hours), but everyone is in the game until the very end.”

13) Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia

Euphoria – Build a better dystopia

Probably my favourite game at the minute. Dice-chucking worker placement fun, but as with all my favourite games, the thing I like the most is the interaction between the people, superfun times make superfriends.

14) Firefly: The Game

Firefly: The Board Game

Ive been a gamer since my teens and play regularly. My favourite board game is coincidentally my favourite Sci Fi series Firefly. Takes some time and a lot of space but great fun!

15) Warhammer Quest

As someone who mis-spent part of his youth hanging around Nottingham’s Warhammer shop, wandering how a few plastic skeletons could be quite so expensive, it was important to get a Warhammer related title on the list. Gregg Lewis-Qualls likes it so much he even sent in a video.

Warhammer Quest Timelapse

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A Dwarf, a thief, a fighter and a priest walk into a dungeon … Warhammer Quest is the quintessential ‘Old School’ dungeon-crawler.

16) Heroes Wanted

Heroes Wanted

Assemble wacky, wannabe superheroes from two different halves and then face off against an equally absurd supervillain and their entourage to earn more fame than anyone else.

17) Merchant of Venus

Merchant of Venus

Playing the Avalon Hill game ‘Merchant of Venus’ at Midcon (November 2012 in the Hallmark Hotel). A discovery and trading game where players have to explore trade routes and customise their ships to best exploit them. Most goods are in demand somewhere except for the Humans’ main export – rock videos. The winner is the first to reach a set total of game-money, $2000, to $4000. From a few hours, to most of a day depending on the number of players.

18) Colt Express

Colt Express with my friends

We bought this at Essen 2014, and it was brilliant. Essentially a train robbery game, and pretty much made for turning into a drinking game. Lots of fun!

19) Antiquity

Antiquity

It took me a few years to come across the game that I could deem as my ‘Grail Game’ but eventually it happened. ‘Antiquity’ is quite unknown in both the hobby and casual gaming circles but I feel like it should be. The limited amount of copies in existence does a lot to hinder its reputation but for the few who own a copy, it is something that remains in their collection as a treasure. It is refined, meticulous and mentally stimulating. The rules are simple but the play is nothing short of genius. For most it’s a game that’s a easily passed over but for me it’s my white whale.

20) City of Remnants

City of Remnants

It has flaws, but I love it for its built in storytelling and blend of different mechanics. Gang warfare in a bleak future; desperation spelled out in cards you never have enough of, and fights where you can lose everything, going in blind. Really cleverly takes a number of different game elements and balances them against each other to create a unique and fascinating game.

Any games we truly should have mentioned, and are scurvy fools for not having done so? Let us know in the comments section below

I often struggle which games I should purchase and play with a certain play count. Thus, I did some research on boardgamegeek (a popular forum for board games, often just called “BGG”) and made a list of the best 30 family board games. Hopefully this helps you to find the best game for your gaming group.

Best 30 family board games sorted by BGG rank

BGG Rank Game # of players Best with Min Age Average playing time Weight
1 7 Wonders 2-7 4 10 30 2,3
2 Crokinole 2-4 4 8 30 1,3
3 Patchwork 2 2 8 23 1,7
4 Stone Age 2-4 4 10 75 2,5
5 Pandemic 2-4 4 8 45 2,4
6 Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries 2-3 3 8 75 2
7 Ticket to Ride: Europe 2-5 4 8 45 2
8 Splendor 2-4 3 10 30 1,8
9 Jaipur 2 2 12 30 1,6
10 Ticket to Ride 2-5 4 8 45 1,9
11 Sheriff of Nottingham 3-5 5 13 60 1,7
12 Carcassonne 2-5 2 8 38 1,9
13 Small World 2-5 4 8 60 2,4
14 Love Letter 2-4 4 10 20 1,2
15 King of Tokyo 2-6 4 8 30 1,5
16 Ticket to Ride: Märklin 2-5 4 8 45 2,2
17 Forbidden Desert 2-5 4 10 45 2
18 Fresco 2-4 4 10 60 2,6
19 Takenoko 2-4 3 8 45 2
20 Hanabi 2-5 4 8 25 1,7
21 Survive: Escape from Atlantis! 2-4 4 8 60 1,7
22 Small World Underground 2-5 4 8 60 2,6
23 Flash Point: Fire Rescue 1-6 4 10 45 2,2
24 Pandemic: The Cure 2-5 3 8 30 2,1
25 Airlines Europe 2-5 4 10 75 2,4
26 King of New York 2-6 4 10 40 1,8
27 Kingsburg 2-5 4 13 90 2,4
28 Catan 3-4 4 10 90 2,4
29 For Sale 3-6 5 8 20 1,3
30 Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 2-4 3 12 45 2,1

7 Wonders, popular among strategy and family gamers alike

7 Wonders tops this list. Due to its short playing time it appeals to family gamers. Nonetheless it is a relatively deep game that appeals to strategy gamers alike!

Best 30 Family Board Games sorted by best player count

BGG Rank Game # of players Best with Min Age Average Playing time Weight
3 Patchwork 2 2 8 23 1,7
9 Jaipur 2 2 12 30 1,6
12 Carcassonne 2-5 2 8 38 1,9
6 Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries 2-3 3 8 75 2
8 Splendor 2-4 3 10 30 1,8
19 Takenoko 2-4 3 8 45 2
24 Pandemic: The Cure 2-5 3 8 30 2,1
30 Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 2-4 3 12 45 2,1
1 7 Wonders 2-7 4 10 30 2,3
2 Crokinole 2-4 4 8 30 1,3
4 Stone Age 2-4 4 10 75 2,5
5 Pandemic 2-4 4 8 45 2,4
7 Ticket to Ride: Europe 2-5 4 8 45 2
10 Ticket to Ride 2-5 4 8 45 1,9
13 Small World 2-5 4 8 60 2,4
14 Love Letter 2-4 4 10 20 1,2
15 King of Tokyo 2-6 4 8 30 1,5
16 Ticket to Ride: Märklin 2-5 4 8 45 2,2
17 Forbidden Desert 2-5 4 10 45 2
18 Fresco 2-4 4 10 60 2,6
20 Hanabi 2-5 4 8 25 1,7
21 Survive: Escape from Atlantis! 2-4 4 8 60 1,7
22 Small World Underground 2-5 4 8 60 2,6
23 Flash Point: Fire Rescue 1-6 4 10 45 2,2
25 Airlines Europe 2-5 4 10 75 2,4
26 King of New York 2-6 4 10 40 1,8
27 Kingsburg 2-5 4 13 90 2,4
28 Catan 3-4 4 10 90 2,4
11 Sheriff of Nottingham 3-5 5 13 60 1,7
29 For Sale 3-6 5 8 20 1,3

Most family board games play best with four players. The best two player game is Patchwork, the best game for three players is Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, the best for four players is 7 Wonders and the best for five players is Sheriff of Nottingham.

Best 30 family board games sorted by average playing time

BGG Rank Game # of players Best with Min Age Average Playing time Weight
14 Love Letter 2-4 4 10 20 1,2
29 For Sale 3-6 5 8 20 1,3
3 Patchwork 2 2 8 23 1,7
20 Hanabi 2-5 4 8 25 1,7
1 7 Wonders 2-7 4 10 30 2,3
2 Crokinole 2-4 4 8 30 1,3
8 Splendor 2-4 3 10 30 1,8
9 Jaipur 2 2 12 30 1,6
15 King of Tokyo 2-6 4 8 30 1,5
24 Pandemic: The Cure 2-5 3 8 30 2,1
12 Carcassonne 2-5 2 8 38 1,9
26 King of New York 2-6 4 10 40 1,8
5 Pandemic 2-4 4 8 45 2,4
7 Ticket to Ride: Europe 2-5 4 8 45 2
10 Ticket to Ride 2-5 4 8 45 1,9
16 Ticket to Ride: Märklin 2-5 4 8 45 2,2
17 Forbidden Desert 2-5 4 10 45 2
19 Takenoko 2-4 3 8 45 2
23 Flash Point: Fire Rescue 1-6 4 10 45 2,2
30 Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 2-4 3 12 45 2,1
11 Sheriff of Nottingham 3-5 5 13 60 1,7
13 Small World 2-5 4 8 60 2,4
18 Fresco 2-4 4 10 60 2,6
21 Survive: Escape from Atlantis! 2-4 4 8 60 1,7
22 Small World Underground 2-5 4 8 60 2,6
4 Stone Age 2-4 4 10 75 2,5
6 Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries 2-3 3 8 75 2
25 Airlines Europe 2-5 4 10 75 2,4
27 Kingsburg 2-5 4 13 90 2,4
28 Catan 3-4 4 10 90 2,4

Love letter, fast and easy family gameCatan, one of the most popular board games in the last twenty years

Love letter is the fastest game in this list whereas a Catan session lasts about 90 minutes.

Best 30 family board games sorted by weight

BGG Rank Game # of players Best with Min Age Average Playing time Weight
14 Love Letter 2-4 4 10 20 1,2
2 Crokinole 2-4 4 8 30 1,3
29 For Sale 3-6 5 8 20 1,3
15 King of Tokyo 2-6 4 8 30 1,5
9 Jaipur 2 2 12 30 1,6
3 Patchwork 2 2 8 23 1,7
11 Sheriff of Nottingham 3-5 5 13 60 1,7
20 Hanabi 2-5 4 8 25 1,7
21 Survive: Escape from Atlantis! 2-4 4 8 60 1,7
8 Splendor 2-4 3 10 30 1,8
26 King of New York 2-6 4 10 40 1,8
10 Ticket to Ride 2-5 4 8 45 1,9
12 Carcassonne 2-5 2 8 38 1,9
6 Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries 2-3 3 8 75 2
7 Ticket to Ride: Europe 2-5 4 8 45 2
17 Forbidden Desert 2-5 4 10 45 2
19 Takenoko 2-4 3 8 45 2
24 Pandemic: The Cure 2-5 3 8 30 2,1
30 Smash Up: Awesome Level 9000 2-4 3 12 45 2,1
16 Ticket to Ride: Märklin 2-5 4 8 45 2,2
23 Flash Point: Fire Rescue 1-6 4 10 45 2,2
1 7 Wonders 2-7 4 10 30 2,3
5 Pandemic 2-4 4 8 45 2,4
13 Small World 2-5 4 8 60 2,4
25 Airlines Europe 2-5 4 10 75 2,4
27 Kingsburg 2-5 4 13 90 2,4
28 Catan 3-4 4 10 90 2,4
4 Stone Age 2-4 4 10 75 2,5
18 Fresco 2-4 4 10 60 2,6
22 Small World Underground 2-5 4 8 60 2,6

Pandemic, one of the most popular cooperative board games

Love letter is the easiest game in this list, it can be easily taught in three minutes. Other games such as Pandemic and 7 Wonders are among the heavier family games that also appeal to strategy gamers.

If you are as geeky as I am you should check out my blog post with statistics about the best 30 family board games like the correlation between playing time and BGG rank.

Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our complete board gaming coverage right here—and let us know what you think.

I knew T.I.M.E Stories would differ from standard board game fare when I sat down to my first play and saw that one of my character choices was a young girl… with a cannibal fetish. In a 1920’s French insane asylum. Where a temporal rift was in danger of being opened.

“Kids,” I told my two older children as my board gaming group arrived, “better head up to bed.”

This was the right call. The included story scenario in the T.I.M.E Stories base set features—not to give too much away—twisted medical experiments, a nude woman, monsters, mental patients, anxiety attacks, sinister nurses, beatings, and even some light cocaine use.

Sound pulpy? You bet. Derivative? Somewhat. Dark? Oh yeah. But T.I.M.E Stories was also a blast to play. Given that it’s a $50 game ($38 at Amazon) you will likely play just once, T.I.M.E Stories can only justify its existence by delivering a compelling experience. And despite the inherent limitations of its systems and a few flaws in the narrative, it gave our gaming group one of the year’s most unique experiences at the table.

Dare to be different

  • T.I.M.E Stories in its initial setup within the first room of the asylum.
  • Looks like a friendly place…
  • Erotomania and cannibalism—this is not a kids’ game.
  • State tokens used to “save state” during the game.
  • The box and its colorful bits.
  • Some of my notes from the game. If you don’t need notes, you are a better person than I.
  • Our table after winning the game. The final card artwork and map are obscured.

T.I.M.E Stories wants to be different—heck, it purposely leaves off a period after the final E in T.I.M.E despite the word being an acronym. Think of it as role-playing, video game style (with lots of visual art and a constrained palette of actions), but done with cardboard and cards.

T.I.M.E Stories is not, properly speaking, a “game” at all but a full game system that includes the first episode, called “Asylum.” (The team behind the game have produced a designer kit so fans can create their own scenarios.) Other announced modules will tell stories far apart in time and space: a magical fantasy world, ancient Egypt, even 1992 America. In each, you serve as a temporal agent sent to inhabit a local host’s body in order to stop a rift in the space-time continuum and thus Save The World ™.

Traditional role-playing systems like Dungeons & Dragons require a dungeon master to run the scenario, they tell stories that exist only in the mind, and they offer ludicrous amounts of (apparent) choice. If a dark elf in your party wants to deal with an orc attack by curling up into a ball and barking like a dog, she can do that—and the dungeon master has to decide how to handle things. Personally, I find this lack of limits a bit tiring, so T.I.M.E Stories’ emphasis on ditching the dungeon master, telling a more directed story with a huge stack of lavishly illustrated cards, and constraining choices and movement into more regulated forms had me intrigued. The system also adds a countdown timer in which actions and movement burn “time units,” forcing members of the group to split up tasks and lending urgency to the whole endeavor.

My main concern was whether a stack of cards could really deliver a narrative group experience worth working through. T.I.M.E Stories’ “decksploration” model largely succeeds thanks to some nifty mechanics that allow cards to operate as locations, items, maps, and NPCs. Cardboard “state tokens” also track progress throughout the game, allowing a team to (say) acquire a key in one room and then return to a previous room, where they can now open a locked door or chest.

Play is largely built around “locations,” which are linked sets of cards that are spread out in order on the game board. The top side of the cards shows a multi-card panoramic view of the entire room or area; each player can choose which card to investigate. Flipping over the card reveals a new image, often a quite different close-up of the view seen on the front. Card text may advance the story, provide a clue, or set a “test” (a fight or a skill check). Players are not allowed to show the back of the card to anyone not currently sharing the space with them, though they can describe what the card says in detail.

This last mechanic struck me as bizarre and fiddly—until we began to play. Say that your party is in one room of the asylum, where you witness someone painting a picture but can’t make out what it is. One of your players goes to investigate, while the others spread out to talk to various other oddballs. The flip side of the card shows the painting from a new angle, and it’s clear that something about the image on the canvas is significant. But because your party member looking at the painting can’t simply show everyone else the card, the effect is much like moving about in a real room. One can only see certain things from certain perspectives.

Exploration really feels like exploring—and it’s on you to dig up clues found in images or to describe monsters or to relay gossip to the team. Unlike in some co-op games, where everyone can strategize about every move, this system puts a bit more responsibility on individual shoulders.

Fights and skill checks happen with high-quality custom dice and cardboard shields that represent difficulty or hit points. Small cardboard chits come in different colors and can represent whatever the story needs—bullets, cocaine needles, mana, etc. Items are handled through cards, as are maps and characters and mission objectives and failures. The cards can even provide temporary NPC companions. Everything is modular, designed to work with any conceivable story.

And it’s beautiful. If T.I.M.E Stories isn’t one of the most attractive games of the year, then I have clearly missed out on some phenomenal artwork. The scenario cards are large enough to pack some visual punch, especially when you need to bring them close to your face before flipping them over (to prevent other players from seeing). Several of the dripping-with-atmosphere scenes actually gave me a start.

As a system, then, it all works well and the production values are high. But the real question is whether the story delivers—because this is a one-shot deal.

Cardboard stories

Enlarge / A complete storytelling system using cards and cardboard.
Forget the default gaming model in which each new play begins from a “fresh start” and aims for infinite replayability. T.I.M.E Stories offers you a single narrative that’s essentially a giant puzzle. Once you solve that puzzle, there’s little reason to go back.

Completing the Asylum module took our group three to four total hours over two evenings. According to the game’s final tally, we were a bit pokey. But no one regretted our approach; given that you’re going to play this story once, what’s the benefit to speed-running through? Enjoy the scenery, explore the grounds, find the clues, and have a good time.

Whether the length is worth the cost is a personal choice. As someone with kids, a job, and limited free time, I currently value shorter, high-quality experiences that leave an impression over those that might offer more “playtime per buck.” For me, T.I.M.E Stories justifies its asking price. As my friend Doug, who owns 150 board games and lives for this kind of thing, put it after pushing back from the table, “That’s definitely one of my top ten titles for the year.”

That’s not to say the story was perfect. As noted above, the Asylum module’s pastiche verges almost on parody. Character development is non-existent. The designers love crazy dead ends. (The most difficult fight in the game, by a factor of 10x, led only to a pointless location from which we had to turn around. Boo.) The ending comes absurdly fast. Huge plot questions are never even answered.

Perhaps most critical—and something that one can see only in retrospect—the story is thin. It feels thick and meaty at the beginning, with newspaper clippings and paintings and mysterious whispers and riddles and clues and strange beasts, like you’re just settling in with a good novel. But the effect is illusory, and it works only because you really don’t need how far from the end you are. And then, at page 25, the story’s over. (This seems to be a real limitation of a card-and-art heavy system; you can’t actually get much text on these cards, and scaling up the card count to cover more ground would significantly increase total project costs. The game settles instead for copious doses of atmosphere and theme and suggestion, with a few clever puzzles thrown in.)

And yet…

We had so much fun exploring, fighting, and puzzling—right up until the abrupt ending—that no one thought too much about any of this. Despite flaws, T.I.M.E Stories made us feel like temporal agents exploring a strange place in strange bodies, living out a tale that proved to be more short story than novel, and doing so with a simplified system that needs no dungeon master and lavishly illustrates its adult-oriented story.

If it doesn’t sound good to you, you’re probably better served by non-narrative board games or by narrative-heavy RPGs. But if you’re intrigued, pick this one up and prepare for one of the most unique gaming experiences of 2015.

As for me, I’ve already got the second scenario, The Marcy Case, on my Christmas list.

Carcassonne Board Game Review

Carcassonne began life waaaayyyy back in the 2,000th year of our lord, and centres around the medieval fortified town of the same name in southern France, which is famous for its city walls. A 2001 Spiel Des Jahres (Game of the Year) award winner, Carcassonne has gone from strength to strength since its launch and has sold well over 10 million copies since then. Yes…over 10 million copies! Those are sales figures that would drop it into any top 10 best selling chart of all time, if all the other games had been launched in the same year too. It’s up there with Monopoly, Risk and probably even Chess.

And it is up there for a reason, and the simple reason is that it is a damn fine game that is easily accessible to pretty much anyone and can be learned quickly. The other advantage is that it works really well as a 2-player game, which isn’t always the case. In the way that Catan and Ticket To Ride have helped to move people away from mass-produced games and into the world of more creative indie games, Carcassonne is recognised as being the first game to actually do that. To bridge the gap between mainstream and ‘cult’ and it continues to do so today and now enjoys mainstream distribution by being available to buy in stores such as WH Smith. This doesn’t make it a mainstream game though…it started life as a very creative and incredible game dreamt up by a German chap on holiday and it continues to be so today.

One quick point before we crack on…we are reviewing the 2015 version of Carcassonne which comes complete with a couple of small expansions included in the basic game, namely The River and The Abbot.

What’s in the box?

  • 72 Land Tiles
  • 40 Meeples (these are your playing pieces)
  • 1 Scoreboard
  • 1 Rule Book
  • 12 River Tiles
  • 5 Abbots

Basic Game Overview

The basis of the Carcassonne board game is to create a landscape of farms, roads, cities and cloisters by laying down the land tiles. Players place their Meeples to take the roles of knights, thieves, monks or farmers on these tiles in a bid to score the most points at the end of the game. There are no dice, no rulers or character cards, just some attractive square tiles, little wooden followers and a score board.

Carcassonne is a very simple game executed beautifully and although simple there is more than enough strategy involved to make it a fairly in-depth experience (without being too heavy).

Players take it in turns to pick a land tile from the deck and add it to the tiles already placed and then they can decide whether to try and lock in some points by placing a Meeple on a tile. Everything begins with the Starter Tile which is easily identified by having a different design on the back than all of the other ones. This is placed in the centre of your table and play begins with the first player drawing a new land tile and adding it to the starter tile. Tiles have to be placed in a meaningful manner, so roads either have to join up, fields expand or cities that don’t have walls all around them get bigger, and the options are obvious from the really lovely artwork on the cards.

When opportunity arises a player can place a Meeple on a tile to take ownership of that part of the landscape. For example, a Meeple can be placed in a city that is still being built and that takes the role of a Knight that is defending the city until the walls are finished. When the city is complete the player can have the Meeple back and they score points for ‘owning’ the city. Meeples can be placed on a road to act as a Thief and earn points when the road is complete. They can also be placed as Monks on a Cloister, or Farmers on fields (which have to lie down for some reason?).

Points are tracked throughout the game where possible by adding them to the score board but one of the fun aspects of the game is that you can rarely work out who has actually won until the game is completely finished as there will always be extra points to calculate at the end.

The game ends when all of the land tiles have been placed on the table. That is pretty much all there is to it, and the simplicity of it is one of the most compelling aspects.

What’s it like to play?

It is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a half hour or forty minutes of board gaming time. It is competitive, but in a friendly way. Everyone is constantly spoiling everyone else’s plans and strategies as the game unfolds but it is happening so much that no-one takes it personally. Everyone’s game plan gets torn up almost every turn but you adapt and keep smiling. Everyone is working together to build the landscape, but playing for themselves to amass points.

It’s debatable whether anyone actually starts a game of Carcassonne with a strategy. No two games are every the same due to the random nature of the tiles. Remember, the game kicks off with one small square tile in the middle of the table. No-one knows what the second, third, fourth or more tiles are going to be, and no-one knows what they will be able to do on their next turn. Every turn is a twist of fate. You can only really react with this game. As a player you might prefer to go with long term point investments that may or may not pay off. Placing a farmer or a monk is risky but can give you a good chunk of points if it pays off. If that is your type of game play then you have to grab the opportunity as soon as you turn over the tile that enables it as it might not come around again…and then the tiles might get laid by everyone else in a way that makes you realise you will never get that Meeple back and it will never score the points you hoped for. Again, no-one will be doing this to attack you, it’s just how the game goes and players can only lay tiles in certain ways.

In a way, the landscape is always running and the players are trying to keep up with it and all they have is a bunch of tactical opportunities every turn that they hope will look like a strategy or a game plan when it is ultimately over. I haven’t met anyone who ‘always’ wins Carcassonne. Some people win more often than not, but once you have played it a few times you are likely to be ‘as good’ as someone who has played it a hundred times.

And that is another reason why I LOVE this game. Anyone can play anyone, and anyone can win. It is a game of conversation; a genuine social experience and the time speeds by while you play.

If Carcassonne is a genuinely new experience for you then this is the point where I urge you to watch one of my favourite board game reviews of all time as hopefully this will tip you over the edge and you will have made it your mission to own it or play it before the next few days are done…so over to ‘Shut Up & Sit Down’:

Who would like it?

This is easy…ANYONE will like Carcassonne. The box suggests that it is suitable from the age of seven years old upwards and this is about right. I have played it with kids that age right though to adults in their seventies. I have played it with people who haven’t played a board game for over thirty years and I have played it with people who play them every week. I have played with friends who have played Carcassonne hundreds of times and those who were brand new to it. I haven’t found anyone that didn’t instantly enjoy it and no-one has ever refused a second, third or more game.

Summary

This game has become popular and sold millions of units since being launched in 2000 because it is one of the best board games ever made. I avoided it for a couple of years because I was bored of how many people were raving about it. All I ended up doing was wasting two years where I could have played more games of Carcassonne. I did the same with Breaking Bad on TV and that show and Carcassonne are forever intertwined in my mind as a reminder that sometimes lots of people rave about something because it is genuinely incredible and needs to be experienced*.

Our Verdict

11 out of 12…(with a +1 modifier)…this is a perfect game!

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