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On The Surface: 4 Board Games to Get You Started

Games are the most funded thing on Kickstarter. You’d be wrong to assume that’s all video games. Nearly 50% of the top funded games ever are board or card games. Now I imagine a lot of people are baffled by the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on these ventures, well I’m here to show you that there’s much more to Tabletop Gaming than the Powerpuff Girls version of Monopoly. In fact, stop playing Monopoly. It’s terrible and no one has fun.

I’ve been struggling to name the different categories of Board Games. Using words like “Strategy” is far too broad. Turning to Boardgamegeek was no help as they have 84 categories. Nobody got time for that. So this is what I’ve come up with for my favourite types of games…


1. Competitive Strategy

This is probably the most common type of board game you will find. Players compete with each other to try to get the best score. Achieve victory by pulling off the strategy that generates the most victory points for the player while preventing others from scoring high. My favourite example of this is 7 Wonders.

7 Wonders is a city building card game. Players receive a hand of cards and draft a card from each hand to ‘build’ before passing the cards to next player. There are many types of cards such as: resources, military, science, commercial and civilian. Pick the card that will benefit your city the most, but don’t forget to consider the plans of your opponents. Sometimes it’s worth choosing a card you don’t want someone else to have rather than picking the one you really want.

The wild and infuriating fun of this game is the dynamic of players passing the decks of cards. You can’t count on a strategy working if your friends are deliberately using cards they know you want, while laughing maniacally of course.

Each player receives a different city board which comes with a different starting resource and a different set of wonders for you to build. This can often shape which cards you choose throughout the game as your board might give you an advantage with a certain strategy. For a group of savvy players it’s often hard to tell who is going to win which making the scoring phase at the end of the game super fun (please note that I enjoy a good spreadsheet so my idea of fun might not match up with yours).


2. Co-op Strategy

Because I’m so amazingly skilled at board games I often feel guilty about whooping all my buddies, so we often play cooperative games. Such as Pandemic!

Pandemic is a turn based objective driven strategy game. The goal is to fight a plague that is spreading across the world before it takes over and humanity perishes. The team of 2-4 players has to cure 4 different diseases. You do this be using the special abilities of each character to collect sets of cards. If you get a set of 5 of the same colour you can go to a research station and cure that disease. While you are doing that you need to treat the disease by travelling to the affected cities and spending actions to remove disease cubes.

Once you have used up your actions you collect 2 cards and move onto the ‘infection’ phase. This is when more disease cubes appear on the board. You draw a certain number of city cards from the infection deck (depending how far through the game you are, of course the situation escalates as time passes). Each city card you draw causes a disease cube to be placed on that city on the board. If more than 3 cubes are placed on any city an outbreak is triggered causing that city to infect it’s neighbours spreading the disease further. Too many outbreaks and you lose the game.

“That doesn’t sound so bad” I hear you thinking, because I can do that. Board games give you super powers, didn’t you know? Well the crack is sometimes when you draw cards you are hoping will help you cure the dang diseases you draw an epidemic instead. This means you have to draw a city from the bottom of the infection deck and immediately place 3 cubes on it. Then you shuffle all the infected city cards and place them back on the top of the deck. All those places you treated are back and more infected than ever.

Players can rarely keep on top of the spreading diseases so it a matter of organising your team in the most efficient way in order to cure all diseases as quickly as possible to win the game.

Now you may have heard of this game before, because it’s hugely popular and cracking fun. Because of it’s popularity there are several versions and expansions you can get. The best of which is Pandemic Legacy. This version has consequences when you play (don’t worry not real world consequences, you’re not going to have the CDC bashing down your door). Each time you play Pandemic Legacy you change the board. Rules change, cities fall and characters can die. Welcome to the Dangerzone.


3. Storytelling/Word Games

Moving away from the traditional ‘board’ part of board games, we come to word games. You don’t need a lot of rules and pieces to make a great game like Dixit.

Dixit comes with a deck of cards adorned with beautifully kooky artwork. The inside of the box becomes a points tracker with little rabbits figures to keep track of your score. The aim of the game is to essentially describe the artwork on the card you have chosen. Each player takes a turn to play as the storyteller. They pick a card and then say a word or phrase to describe their card. They then place the card face down in the middle. The other players choose a card from their own hand that they think best matches the phrase given by the storyteller. They place their cards face down in the middle which are shuffled up and revealed to the group.

After pondering for a moment, you secretly pick which of the cards on the table belonged to the storyteller. If you guess correctly you win a point and move up the points tracker. If you choose a card which did not belong to the first player you don’t get any points. However, the player whose card you did choose will get a point.

The twist is this – if you are the storyteller and your phrase it’s fits so well that everyone guesses it correctly then you don’t get any points at all. But, everyone else does get a point because they guessed correctly, so your poor bunny gets left behind on the points tracker. Alternately, if no one guesses your card correctly you don’t get any points either. Therefore, what you want to do is make your phrase sufficiently vague that only 1 or 2 players guess it correctly.

Other than the seriously weird pictures you get on these cards, my favourite part of the game is trying to fit one of your cards to the phrase given by someone else. It’s hard to contain your excitement when you know you’ve added a really good one to the pile. You can’t wait to see if it fools your friends into voting for it.


4. Social Bluffing

The last type of board game I’d like to mention is the key to the resurgence of board games. The party game. As with all of these vague categories, party games have many different forms. My favourite kind are ones which involve social bluffing. This usually ends up with shouting, swearing and general violence. But that’s how you are supposed to interact with friends, right?

The social bluffing game that I am seriously into right now is the One Night Ultimate series. The first one I played was ‘One Night Ultimate Werewolf’. I shared this game with a few folks and it ended up becoming the most bought Christmas present of my friends and family in 2016.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is all about secret roles and lying to people. Everyone picks a tile and looks at it. The tile will depict a character which can be either a member of the villager team, or it can be a werewolf. If you are on the villager team you want to try to identify who the werewolves are and shoot them. Who ever receives the most votes to be shot at the end of the game dies and if they are revealed to be a werewolf the villagers win. However, if the group votes to shoot a villager then the sneaky werewolf team wins. There are always 3 more tiles than there are players so there’s a chance that no players are werewolves.

You cannot show your tile to anyone else. Once you have looked at it you place it face down in front of you. The whole group closes their eyes and listen to a set of instructions. This is where you get to use the One Night App. If you enter which characters roles are in play the app will read out the instructions for those roles in the correct order. The voice acting on the app is simply delightful (I won’t say more here, it’s much more hilarious if you discover it alongside a group of giggling friends with their eyes closed).

The instructions will tell each character role to open their eyes and perform an action before closing their eyes again. Each role has a different action to perform. The Werewolves look at each other, the Seer can look at another players tile and the Troublemaker can swap 2 players tiles potentially changing their allegiance (except they don’t know it). After every role has performed it’s action the whole group opens their eyes and has 4 minutes to figure out who is a werewolf.

Once you start to learn the tricks of bluffing and what all the roles can do, the game evolves into a maze of possibilities which you have to unravel to get to the truth. There is no better feeling than being in sync with your secret werewolf buddy and pulling off the most convincing bluff of the night.

The expansions add all sorts of new roles. This adds more layers to the games including a whole set of Vampires in the One Night Ultimate Vampire edition. The great thing about this series of games is you can mix and match roles from any iteration of the game. The app will provide instructions that will make the game work no matter the combination. The fun is endless. Seriously though, I took loads of great games with me to play with the family at Christmas. All we did was play this for 6 hours.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect the betrayal of my own mother while she cackled in glee at the fooling of her own children.

Why not try out a new board game this bank holiday? Let me know what you’ve been playing in the comments, I always want to discover more amazing games.

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