Board games have come far in the past few years. Not so long ago, it seemed like the only new games at chain stores were the latest blockbuster-themed versions of Clue or Monopoly. Games that started out on the obscure shelves of your Friendly Local Gaming Store are now on sale as part of doorbusters and big coupons. This increased visibility likely has relatives asking questions about good games to give as gifts this season. Here are some modern classics that would make great first entries into budding board game collections and even better gifts.
For many gamers, Settlers of Catan was their first experience of a Eurogame. The unique mix of set collection, resource management, and limited play time sparked a revolution that changed the hobby. Catan now features computer versions, mobile apps, several expansions, and even branded retheming for people who aren’t too interested in the original pastoral European setting. Any game that appeals as wide an audience as the writers of Parks and Recreation and the Green Bay Packers must be doing something right.
Ticket to Ride
If Catan was the spark that started the fire, Ticket to Ride fanned the flames to a five-alarm sensation. Ticket to Ride appeals to hobby gamers who wants to discuss strategy, collect expansions, and play games until they becomes second nature. It also connects with casual gamers looking for something titles that entertain the whole family without losing the attention spans of the younger members of the family. Now with expansions covering different parts of the world, a kids version, and the recent release of a slightly more robust version known as Rails & Sails, this classic game has versions for all ages and skill levels.
Another reason behind the board game boom is the rise of cooperative games. When everyone wins, the table erupts in cheers. When everyone loses, commiseration and discussion of what went wrong quickly take hold. Pandemic brought cooperative board gaming to the masses with its thrilling theme, global gameplay, and puzzle precision. Expansions offer tougher bugs to treat and can even put players on rival teams. Stand alone games like Contagion offer the chance to play as the diseases, or shorten the experience through The Cure’s dice game adaption. Anyone receiving the original might even fall hard and be talking about their Pandemic: Legacy game this time next year.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
One of the earliest cooperative games is also still one of the best. Of course, Betrayal at House on the Hill is only mostly cooperative, thanks to the mid-game twist where one of the players becomes the Traitor and tries to kill the other players. The multiple combinations of Haunts and the exploration of an old spooky house also offer a few baby steps into the world of RPGs for those looking to explore that area of tabletop gaming. A new expansion was recently released and includes more stories from a wide variety of talented designers that lets old fans of the game come back for some spooky new times, too.
The Japanese microgame movement pushed the ideas behind Eurogame design even further to create rich, thematic games that play in even smaller periods of time. Machi Koro‘s adorable illustrations and theme may be that of a small Japanese town, but the gameplay grabs onto the allure of slot machines with a single die roll setting off not just the rolling player’s cards but other cards around the table. The expansions offer more beautiful chaos (and adorable buildings) every time the dice hit the table.
What is your favorite game to buy as a gift? Let us know in the comments!
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Image Credit: Mayfair Games, Days of Wonder, Z-Man Games, Avalon Hill, IDW Games