I love board games. Really love them; so much so that when people ask me about it I have to suppress my enthusiasm do they don’t run a mile. Because the commonest reaction is “what… like monopoly?” and varying degrees of incredulity and suspicion.
So let me get this on the record; I hate Monopoly. It’s a perfect microcosm of capitalism, in that one player gets slightly ahead by blind luck and then slowly strangles the others. Risk is boring; trivial pursuit isn’t reallya game, it’s a quiz, and the TV tie-ins and brainless ‘roll and move’ nonsense that dominate conventional toy shops are rightly avoided by sensible childran and adults alike.
But away from the uninspiring mainstream, there’s an amazing boom in engaging, imaginative, brilliant games for, literally, anyone out there. Here are five games that are getting a lot of play in our house (kids 10, 8 and 5 by the way), and with my mates.
In no particular order…
1 King of Tokyo
This is the best game to persuade a sceptical adult that modern board games are FUN. Takes the ‘ keep the dice you want’ system from Yahtzee, and uses it to power a brilliantly entertaining rumble between colourful monsters for mastery of Tokyo.
2. Ticket to ride Europe
Best game for after a Sunday lunch with family. A bit more cerebral and extremely elegant, this game involves constructing rail networks across Edwardian Europe, collecting the right cards and keeping an eye on competitors.
Best game for people who prefer reading to gaming. Choose one of the gorgeously illustrated cards in your hand and describe it with an enigmatic phrase- everyone else has to match a card of their own to the phrase, and you need to get some, but not all, the players to vote for you.
4. Love letter
Best game while waiting in a cafe. Amazing that such an intriguing game can emerge from only one card each, but each card does something important towards the ultimate goal of getting your letter to the princess. Comes in a terrible bag, but otherwise awesome.
5. Hey, that’s my fish!
Best for introducing young children to proper games. Guide your penguins round the board picking up fish, but be wary, every ice flow you land on will disappear when you move on! Another really simple game that will quickly get you pondering.
And a bonus because it’s my wife’s favourite:
6: Sushi Go!
Best for our family. Place cards in front of you to combine into sushi combos and score points. Trouble is, the cards rotate round between the players, so you never quite know what you’re going to get next.
This list is pretty random, and misses out classics like Catan, Carcassonne, great little card games like Dobble and No Thanks, the frankly insane Rampage, or my new favourite game Cosmic Encounter.
But I hope I’ve convinced you that, given that Christmas is coming and board games are traditionally dusted off, it might be worth having something actually entertaining in the house. Because saying you don’t like board games when you’ve only seen is what’s in Tesco is like saying you don’t like music because… well, for the same reason.