International Tabletop Day is almost here. When March 30th arrives, there will be thousands of gamers around the world sitting down at their tables to play a game. If you haven’t checked yet, the International Tabletop Day website has a handy map to find events in your area. With promotional support from some of the major publishers, there is a lot of incentive to get out and play.
But what are you to do if there are no events close by? Stay home and watch reruns of Law & Order? While I do love me some L&O, that’s not excuse to not participate and have some fun. Why don’t you host your own private event (you can even register it on the website). This is a great time to invite people over and play some games! We have this new holiday that just demands to be celebrated. It’s also a good time to bring some new recruits into the hobby. Time to invite those friends over who think playing board games means dusting off that copy of Monopoly. The first step will be deciding what what to play? Well never fear, we’ve put together some handy suggestions for you.
For the SciFi lovers:
Chances are, if you are a SciFi fan, you enjoyed the hit TV show Battlestar Galactica. If you haven’t seen it, then I might have to question you SciFi cred. That being said, I’ve never played a licensed board game that so amazingly captures the essence of the source material than Battlestar Galactica (BSG).
When you play this game, you feel like you are in the BSG universe. As a human, you feel like you are always just on the edge of extinction and the world is stacked against you. The game puts the players in the roles of Galactica’s crew members, trying to make enough jumps to escape the Cylons and make it to Kobol. While there are a lot of Galactica specific actions that can bet taken, the best part of the game is the secret loyalty cards that are dealt out at the start of the game. One or more players might secretly be a Cylon, actively working against the other players. The humans have the tough job of deciding if there is a Cylon among them and who it is. The game play itself is incredibly simple and full of hard choices. There will be lots of wild accusations thrown out as the crew members try and weed out the “skinjob” in the midst. BSG is an easy choice to pull out for any SciFi fans. I should also note that you don’t even have to be a fan of the TV show to enjoy Battlestar Galactica. It’s fun enough for anyone to enjoy.
We all want to work together:
Ok, so you like the idea of BSG, but feel bad accusing your friend of being a traitor. Fair enough. Then take a look at Pandemic for one of the best cooperative games on the market. In Pandemic, each player takes on the role of a scientist working to cure the world of 4 deadly diseases. Each player gets a role with a unique ability and will try and use his particular strengths to win the game. Players have to work together to win because Pandemic can be quite unforgiving. Take too long in your task and the viruses will overrun the world ending the game for you.
Even though it’s a cooperative game, winning Pandemic is no easy task. I think our win rate is around 50%. But despite that, we always have a blast trying to eradicate those diseases. Give this one a try if you enjoy a good night of teamwork. Pandemic is also a great game to introduce your friends to the cooperative board game genre. The rules are easy enough to learn and the game play is quick.
We want to laugh, and are not easily offended:
Cards Against Humanity is one of the more popular, hard to find games right now. The game debuted a couple of years ago and has been flying off the shelf since. (despite the fact you can print your own copy for free from cardsagainsthumanity.com) If you are not familiar with it, each player has hand full of cards with various words or phrases on them that they have to use to match a judges cards criteria. While the game play isn’t completely unique, the fun part comes with the hilarious, offensive and sometimes awkward words on the cards. Some of the tamer examples would be: ‘Active Listening’, ‘Leaving an Awkward Voicemail’, ‘a Homoerotic Volleyball Montage’ and ‘Being a Mother Fucking Sorcerer’.
Be forewarned, Cards Against Humanity pulls no punches and can be offensive to just about anyone. But if your group enjoys a laugh and is not easily offended, you’d be hard pressed to find a game that is more fun. Cards Against Humanity is great to play while enjoying a few beers and looking for some laughter.
We love to use our right brain:
OK, so you want a party game, but that one person is coming who doesn’t quite get your sense of humor. Cards Against Humanity would have her/him scowling at you from across the table every round. Not a problem. Enter Dixit. Dixit is a game of abstract thought that will engage your right brain. The game play in Dixit is similar to that of Cards Against Humanity, but you are replacing the socially awkward phrases with some beautifully illustrated abstract art.
Easy to learn game play, beautiful art and a light mood help Dixit to be a really engaging game. There isn’t a lot of action and excitement in Dixit, but it’s a great game if you just want to relax and have some fun. The game is also quite accessible to everyone, even young children, It’s worth playing for the artwork alone, which really is quite stunning.
Crap, there is only two of us!
Not a problem. One of the best 2 player games to come out recently is Netrunner. You can read our full, glowing review here if you want the complete rundown. Netrunner is a 2 player card game set in the cyberpunk Android universe. One player takes on the role of the corporation while the other is the runner, trying to steal their secret agendas.
With stunning artwork and strategic asymmetrical game play, Netrunner has been a hit with just about everyone who has played it. You can spend hours trying out the various corporation and runner decks, figuring out their strengths and weaknesses. If you really fall in love with this game, there are already a number of expansion packs for you to begin building your own play decks. If you haven’t tried it yet, be sure to give this gem a try, you won’t regret it.
Crap, there is only two of us, any one of them is my non-gamer spouse!
While I’ll say right away, even non-gamers can like Netrunner (my wonderful wife does), some people may be turned off by the complex rules. So if you are looking for some lighter fair, give Lost Cities a try.
Lost Cities puts players in the roll of funding expeditions. Most everyone should feel right at home with the game play in Lost Cities. It involves playing with a hand of numerical cards and players must make decisions on where to play them. You have to decided if you have enough of the right cards to fund an expedition or you risk losing points. There are specific rules of how you can play cards and for scoring, but the game play is easy enough to learn in a few minutes.
With simple rules and a good amount of risk taking required, Lost Cites can be a hit with anyone at the game table. It should be an easy transition for anyone who has played a card game with a standard deck of cards.
I went a little nuts and now we have 7 people!
As any Tabletop gamer probably knows, lots of games cap out around 4 players. For some reason that seems to be the sweet spot for designers. There are a good amount of games that fit 5, a few that run with 6 and only a handful above that. When you starting getting in the 6+ range, you usually have to end up with a party game. While that’s not always a bad thing, sometimes you are looking for some meatier fare.
When I know I’m going to have a big group, I pull out one of my favorite games: 7 Wonders. 7 Wonders is a card drafting game where people build their civilizations as the game progresses. The game play is easy to learn once people understand the symbols used and can be played in about an hour or less. The game uses some unique mechanics that forces a player to keep their strategy flexible. There is also a lot of variety with 7 Wonders. The are around a dozen different wonder cards to start with, each with their own strengths making every game you play just a little bit different.
You’d be hard pressed to find a game that scales this well (from 2-7 players) that is this enjoyable. Which is probably why it’s one of the highest scoring games we’ve ever reviewed on Board Game Quest. You can check out the full review here if you are interested. 7 Wonders is a great game for those nights when you have a large group and aren’t in a party game mood.
I have some newbies, what’s a good gateway game?
My default go to gateway game is The Settlers of Catan. It was my gateway game all those years ago and I still enjoy playing it. For your friends who only are familiar with the American style of roll and move games, The Settlers of Catan should be a breath of fresh air to them. Highly interactive, easy to learn rules, and low down time game play are all the hallmarks of this award winning game. Player interaction is probably one of the best parts of Catan. During the game, players will need to trade resources with other players. While this usually starts out friendly, it only takes a few bad rolls before players will start harboring grudges and building envy against the other players. This can make for some interesting negotiations during the game. The low down time and high player interaction almost always make for a great game. It’s a rare occasion when I teach this to a new player and they don’t want to quickly play it again. It’s hard to go wrong with The Settlers of Catan for a group of experienced gamers and new players alike.
That being said, if you are looking for a couple of more options for gateway games, check out our Top Ten Gateway Games list we put together a while ago.
So there you have it. You should be able to find a game to satisfy any type of player you have coming over on Tabletop Day. The important thing is just to have fun and use this an excuse to get a game onto the table.