Board Game Buying Guide
This Post Contains Affiliate Links.
(Please note that I will provide affiliate links if you desire to purchase these games. All the games listed are ones we purchased ourselves, rented from the Library, or played with other people)
I have a passion and pretty much an obsession with board games. My husband knows that the way to my heart is through a board game. I was recently asked from a few people what game I recommend buying for Christmas. This is a hard one to answer because everyone has different likes and dislikes. There are also different board games for large groups, 1-2 people, no brainer games, intense strategy games, games for children, for families, party games, ect. I will try to group them the best way possible. These ratings are our opinions and are out of 5 stars. 5= Amazing. 4= Very Good. 3= Good. 2= I’d rather not play. 1= Don’t waste your time or money. We have a lot of games rated 3. That doesn’t mean they got a C. They are still great games. The game has to be really good to get a 4 or 5 star rating. We are mostly rating them on our enjoyment and desire to play them. When I note that my kids love a particular game, Their ages range from 3-12.
Categories: Small Group Game Night, Cooperative, Large Group Game Night, Family Games, Strategy Games.
Small Group Game Night Suggestions
We played Camel Up with our friends and liked it so much we added it to our collection. Camel Up is like a horse racing game, but with camels. You can place bets on who you think will win the race. The catch is, the camels can jump on the backs of other camels, changing the order of who is in the lead. First time players bet too quickly and then soon realize the game can change drastically in just a few turns. This is a fun lighthearted game, that is also exciting, because anything can happen. As a disclaimer, if you are morally against betting, this is more of guessing who you think will win and lose. I’ve played with people against betting, but no one has had a problem with this game. My rating: 4.25. Kevin’s rating: “A Solid 4, that is a good game.”
Guillotine is another game our friends introduced to us, and then we purchased later. This is a card game to see who can get the most points. Nobles are lined up on the chopping block, each with varying amounts of points they are worth. You also get cards in your hand to change the order of the Nobles so you don’t have to take the lower point ones, or so you can get better cards. There is a small amount of cut throat in the game. Sometimes cards will give just one player negative points, which can make them feel attacked, depending on who you are playing with. There is not a lot of it in the game. I have enjoyed playing this card game with multiple people. My rating: 3.75. Kevin’s rating: 3.5.
When I saw the box for King of Tokyo, I thought it would be kind of dumb. Since I love board games, and it got good reviews, I got it anyway, and I am glad I did. Each person has a “King” that is trying to take over Tokyo. You have to be the first to get 20 points or be the last monster standing. You roll 6 dice to either get points, revive the hearts you lost, attack the other monsters, or get energy cubes (that help you get cards that change the game). This is a quick moving game and easy to understand. The kids really enjoy playing this as well. At swim camp, all the 10 year old boys loved this. This is one of those games that you will actually enjoy playing with them! My rating: 4.25. Kevin’s rating: 4.5. I think an expansion would make it even better.
I heard a great review about Jamaica so I spent quite a bit on it a couple of years ago. Then when I first got it and played it, I didn’t think it was worth the money I spent. That was because I played it with just 2 players. This game is much better with 4-6 players. You are captains trying to make it to the end. You have to pay your dues when you land on a space, and if you land on the same space as someone else, you battle with cannons (and rolling the dice). The player who wins the battle can take your treasure, food or money from your cargo hold, or give you their cursed treasure. I’ve enjoyed this game much more and my kids love it! I’ve had friends say it was exciting. The pieces to the game are well made. My rating (with at least 3 players): 4, Kevin’s rating: 4.
I’ve never played Nerts, but I have heard Wackee Six is a lot like it. Because if that, some people either love it, or hate it. This is a fast moving card game. You have 12 cards you are trying to get rid of, that will cost points against you if you don’t. Then you have a stack of cards you have to flip by 3’s. Everyone has to lay cards down on the right color, and in the right order, but sometimes you are both going for the same thing so whoever is quicker, gets it. The more cards out you get, the more points you get. Helps for this if you are slow and don’t like this type of game. Team up and one person worries about the 12 cards, the other person worries about the deck in their hand. We also score up to, let’s say 250. Once one person reaches that, then we start counting back down to 0. So if I only got 100 points, and Kevin got the 250, then he has more points to lose, yet I only have 100 to lose. This is a good buffer for people that do great, and people that do terrible, so they are still enjoying it. My rating: 3.75. Kevin’s rating: 3.75.
I almost feel like I shouldn’t include this game. We haven’t played it in over 5 years. Who wants to pick this one when you have all the above exciting options? This is a good game, if you actually grab it, and your friends choose to play it. In Balderdash, you have true and random facts about people, words you’ve never heard, Acronyms, and movies. Everyone gives their best fake guess at what the person was famous for, what the word means, ect. This is really enjoyable when people are creative and come up with awesome answers to get them to guess their answer instead of the real one. I do struggle coming up with good guesses. To make this worth our time, I will give you a new game that is like Balderdash, if you enjoy that game. Sniglets is a game of words that should be in the dictionary, but aren’t. You get a weird word, and you get to make up a meaning for it. Get creative and funny, then your made up definition might be chosen. Sniglets is out of print, so you might need to find it on ebay instead.
I am not sure if I should include this, just because it is out of print, and some people think it is worth an insane amount of money. No this is not worth $200 that some want to charge on ebay. If you come across this for a good amount or at a thrift store, pick it up. If you are thinking the original clue, and that it is boring, this has different elements to it. Each person has house points and can lose them if a dark mark shows up. If you lose all your house points, you can’t win the game. Also the game has 4 spinning wheels that change which means the doorways close or open and the secret passageways change. You can get spell cards to help go faster or go through locked doors. When you figure it out, you have to make it to Dumbledore’s Office to guess, sometimes it is a race to see who can get there first.
This is another game that is out of print, but worth getting used on ebay. I actually got this for Kevin’s grandma because she loved it so much. Everyone has a handful of cards with different items on them. They could be things like, “Parties”, “Chicken Noodle Soup”, “Poodle Dogs”, Shopping”, “Sweat Pants”, ect. When it is my turn, everyone picks one thing from their hand that they think I will like. Then I rate them from what I like the most, to what I like the least. We played this for our family reunion this summer. We had over 10 people so only the first 6 best cards got points and the rest got nothing, but it still worked. This was awesome to get to know each other. We also changed it up and had a round of what people hated, or liked the least. The person who had things like “spiders” and “doing laundry” got the most points. This is great for all ages, children to elderly, and everyone has fun with it. My rating: 4.25. Kevin’s rating: 3.
My sister in law has this game, so we haven’t played it a lot since we don’t own it. This is pretty similar to Loaded Questions. Everyone writes down their answer from a topic, and then the guesser has to pick who said what. This is good game to get to know each other and break the ice.
Pit has been around for a while, but I hadn’t heard of it until about 5 years ago. It’s not the funnest or most exciting game, but it is still enjoyable to pull out once in a while. Everyone tries to trade cards, face down, to complete their set. People are a lot more nervous to trade when the Bear is out! He will leave you with a -20 if you get stuck with him when the game ends. My rating: 3. Kevin’s rating:3.25.
Are you tired of Ticket to Ride yet? We really like the 1910 expansion the most. I am sure most people are familiar with Ticket to Ride, where you have to connect your tickets from city to city with trains and get the most points to win. We play this a lot more on the iPads and really only bring it out for the kids or for an occasional game night. Kevin’s rating: 4. My rating: 3.75.
This has been on my wish list for a while now since we played this with our friends. You work together to gather the treasures before they sink and someone on your team drowns. It is only 2-4 players which is a let down. Sometimes, depending on who you play with, you might clash on what you think is best to do. We really liked the game when we played. Kevin’s rating: 3.75, maybe a 4. My rating: 3.5.
Forbidden Desert is similar to Forbidden Island. In this one you are trying to recover a flying machine in the desert sand. This time you are trying to survive the heat and the sandstorm. You work together to beat the game. This game adds one extra player so you can have 2-5. Sometimes it is a challenge to beat the game. Kevin’s rating: 3.75, maybe a 4. My rating: 3.75.
In Flash Point, Everyone is a firefighter trying to save the victims before the house catches on fire and collapses. Watch out for explosions, you don’t want to get knocked down and lose the victims. We have only played the beginner version and we like it. I play this with a friend a fair amount of time. My kids love it. One of these days we will have to play the advanced version. With these cooperative games, you can play alone, and you can always be more than one fire fighter. Kevin’s rating: 3.25. My rating: 3.5.
Pandemic is getting a little more popular since it has come to retail stores. There are 4 different infections across the world. Your team of scientists has to find a cure before the disease outbreaks to the point of no return. You all work together in this game, and each person has a special ability. It is harder with fewer people. When we play with 2, we have to hand pick which scientist to be so we have a better chance. This is challenging, but we do like it. Kevin’s rating: 3.75. My rating: 3.75.
Shadows over Camelot was our first cooperative game we owned and played. Everyone is a knight at the round table. There are different quests on the game board that you have to complete. Successes gain you white swords, and failures gain you black swords. What makes it tricky is, one of the knights might be a traitor. If the traitor is not found out, 2 white swords are flipped over to black on the round table, which might make you lose the game. I really like this game. It is challenging, but there is so much to it. My husband is a rule follower, but if you change one rule, it will make a big difference in winning the game. Instead of moving to a quest for a turn, you can move to the quest and perform an action. Kevin’s rating: 4. My rating: 4.
In Castle Panic, everyone is trying to protect the castle from monsters who will damage and destroy it. You can trade cards and strategize to kill the monsters before they knock down the castle walls and you lose the game. We played this with friends and really enjoyed it. They mentioned that it is normally hard to beat. It was challenging but fun. Kevin’s rating: 4.25. My rating: 4.
Scotland Yard is 1 person against everyone else. The criminal is trying to escape from the detectives. His moves are secret and the group has to work together to guess where he is going and catch him. We’ve only played this once or twice, but I want to add it to our collection. It is a good cooperation game, but adds an element of the one person trying to outwit the group.
If you’ve played Scotland Yard and you are looking for something more, this is it! I played this with a group at the Library and I really liked it. You have 5 different characters that each have different abilities. One person is the one hidden, who is trying to complete missions and get off the board without being caught, and killed. The rest of the players work as a group to find the 1 who is hidden. But watch out, one of them might be a spy. If they are caught, then they go hidden and try to make it off the board as well. This is a more indepth game with a lot of elements added to it. For instance, one character can control the van, one can sniff out 5 spaces away, ect. The game is super pricey, but eventually I want to add this to our collection. I think some of my family members would like it.
Large Party Games or Group Games
In Snake Oil, everyone randomly gets a certain amount of cards. On the cards are everyday items. When it is your turn, you choose a customer card. They can be anything from a babysitter, ninja, caveman, prom queen, ect. Everyone then picks 2 cards in their hand to create a new item to sell to you as your specific customer. If someone was a babysitter, and I had the cards: towel, cane, ball, pocket, odor, and puppet. I could try and sell them a pocket towel to wipe up drool, or an odor cane when you are changing diapers, or a puppet ball to entertain them. I choose one of those items and then pitch them my idea. Everyone else in the group does the same and then the Babysitter chooses their favorite product. The products are so ridiculous that everyone is laughing. I really enjoy this game. There are times when you don’t have great cards and you just go blank, but typically everyone has fun with it. I rate it 4.5. Kevin rates it a 3.75.
Rollick is a reverse charades game. Wait! Don’t scroll past yet. Typically people do NOT want to get up and act in front of other people. When we first explain the game, half the people express a desire to choose a different game. We tell them to give it a chance for 1 big reason. You don’t have to act alone! You have 2 teams, let’s say Boys vs. Girls. When it is the girls turn, one girl sits out to guess, and the rest of the group gets up to act out the cards. You have a certain amount of time and then you are either all acting out the same thing, or you work together to get an idea across. (For instance the limbo. 2 would use their arms to be a stick and one would go under their arms). Once people get comfortable, everyone participates and has fun. The only thing I would change is you have 2 people guessing instead of 1. There is a lot of pressure if only one person is trying to guess right. Kevin and I both rate it a 4.25.
In Encore, you work together as a group to come up with songs that have a specific word in them, such as love. You or your group has to sing at least 10 words to any song with that word in it. Then it is the other team’s turn to come up with a different song that has the same word. The last team to sing a song with the chosen word, gets to move forward. We have had a good time playing this with our friends with a good amount of laughter. The great thing about this game is that you don’t have to participate if you don’t want to. Sometimes you have to alter the rules. We added time limits to how long you can think of a song and took out some of the extra rules we didn’t like. My mom was very nervous to play this game, and it wouldn’t be her first choice, but she had fun and laughed too. My rating: 3.25. Kevin’s rating: 3.75.
Rock the Beat is a fun, lively game where you try to keep the rhythm with your hands pounding to the beat of “We Will Rock You” while passing signs to each other in the group. If it was my turn, I would start the group with a “Boom, Boom, Clap” until everyone had the rhythm. (“Boom” is hitting the table or your lap) If my sign was a “Duck” then I would hit my hands on the table twice for “Boom, Boom” and then make my “Duck” sign when everyone else in the group clapped. Then I would hit “Boom, Boom” again, and this time make someone else’s sign in the group to pass it to them. The new person would hit “Boom, Boom” with the group and do their sign to accept when everyone else clapped. Then it would continue on. Many people get nervous and say they have no rhythm before starting the game, but a few tries into it, everyone warms up and gets the hang of it. Everyone that has played this, really enjoyed it. If you struggle physically or have other people in your group that might have a hard time being active with your hands for a period of time, this wouldn’t be a great idea. The game gets more challenging when you mess up. We don’t like to start that until everyone is having a fun time and has gotten the hang of passing and accepting their sign. My rating: 4.25. Kevin’s rating: 4.
Telestrations is a bit more limited in the amount of players you can have. They have a 12 player version here but typically it is for 6-8 people. The concept of this is like playing the Telephone Game, only with pictures and words instead of whispering. For instance, if I was supposed to draw “football game”, I have 60 seconds to draw, I believe. Everyone else is drawing their own picture that is on their card as well. Once the time is up, you close the book and pass it to the left. Everyone opens to the last thing drawn and then they have to write their best guess. Maybe someone thought my football looked more like lips so they thought it was a music concert instead. (Hey I don’t draw great with a dry erase marker in 60 seconds). Then the books get passed on again. The new person seeing it can only see the guessed words (not the pictures that were drawn earlier) and they have to draw what was written. We have quite a few laughs at how changed things get and seeing people’s interpretations. The best part is showing the book at the end. This might not be very fun playing with people that are mean when critiquing. Just throwing that out there. My rating: 4. Kevin’s rating: 4.25.
Loaded Questions is an older game. You might be familiar with it. Everyone has a piece of paper they can write their answers on. One person asks a question, such as, “What is your favorite dessert?” Everyone writes their answer on the paper and then passes their paper to the left of the person asking the questions. The papers get shuffled and then the asker has to figure out who said what response. This is a great getting to know you game. I enjoy playing with my family and spouse, even though I know them very well. I am always surprised by answers that come out. I would not play this with more than 10 people and not less than 4-5. We have the older version that is out of print. I heard good things about the travel version that leaves the board game out. This can bring some laughter, but it isn’t really a lively game as some of the others are. We don’t bring it out as much as we used to in the past. Our friends are more interested in newer games we’ve gotten. My rating: 3.5-3.75. Kevin’s rating: 3.5.
Picwits is very similar to “Apples to Apples”. I don’t like saying that because a lot of people don’t like that game. This game is a lot more enjoyable and leaves everyone laughing. My kids absolutely love this game. One person has a caption, such as “prince charming”. Everyone gives their best card that fits. Most of the pictures are funny or weird. A few are cute. This has been a good game for the people that don’t like to join in group games and always want to sit out. I could imagine that this game would lose it’s enjoyment if you played with the same group several times. This is best sitting around a table. We tried playing with 15+ and no one could see the cards, so it lost it’s point. Even my 3 year old can somewhat play this game. My rating with friends: 3, with my kids: 3.5. Kevin’s rating: 2.5.
In Dixit, you are given a small amount of picture cards at random. All the cards have different images on them. When it is your turn, you choose one card and then give a short phrase to give clues to your card, but to also not make if overly obvious. Everyone else in the group chooses a card of their own that best fits with the phrase you gave describing your card. They are shuffled, and then everyone votes on which card they thought was yours.
The game is suggested to play with 3-6 players. We played it with 3 players and it was slow and not as fun. We had one large group of 15 or so, once. We just had to constantly reshuffle cards and keep using them, but it worked. I’ve had this game for quite a few years and it is not played with very often. My Rating would be a 3.25. Kevin’s rating is a 3. We’ve had a lot of people express their liking for the game. It is a good game. The cards have beautiful pictures that make you think. If you prefer strategy games or livelier party games, this is not for you. If you like to think creatively and are more methodical, you might love this.
Quelf is one of those crazy games. You can do anything from make a mask and wear it, hold hands with a player, play a game of leap frog, roll till you get the dice just right. You might have to sit under the table, say something when you make eye contact with anyone, or pretend to be a puppet.
Typically there are some people that do NOT want to make a fool out of themselves. If that is you, keep scrolling. When you are playing with family and they already know how crazy you are, then this game can be quite hilarious. We have had some awesome, tears rolling down your face, games with Quelf. On the flip side, we don’t play this all the time. You have to have a group of people willing to be crazy, and that doesn’t always happen. My rating: 3.5. Kevin’s rating is 3.5 as well.
The Resistance (5-10 Players)
The Resistance is a bluffing game. It is very similar to Mafia or Werewolf. You have some people that are good, and some that are spy’s. The good guys, the Resistance, are trying to win before the Spy’s do. You take turns selecting a group to go on a mission. Once on a mission, you will put down a card to either succeed the mission or fail (if a spy) it. 3 out of 5 wins. Once the game gets going and some fails are put down, you can start guessing who might be a spy and who to not send on the next mission. The thing I love about this game, is that even if you are found out and you bomb your deception when you are the spy, you are still in the game. You can even drop hints to steer the crowd into thinking one of the resistance members is actually a spy.
This game doesn’t work for everyone. Some people just don’t like deception games or they get super mad when they are accused of lying. That makes it awkward for everyone. My rating is a 4 (with the right group). Kevin’s rating is a 4 as well. They also have a game just like it, but they throw in a few characters that can change the game. It is called Avalon. We give that a 4.25 rating. It just takes it up a little bit more and throws a wrench in everyone’s plans.
Catch Phrase is a classic game we have played for over 15 years. This is a staple we bring on vacations and pull out at game nights. The person holding the game has a word they can’t say but has to describe and get their group to guess. People always get flustered playing the game and some of the guesses are funny that there is always laughing going on. There are some people that don’t like the pressure of having to convey a word and have people guess while the timer beeps at you that time is running out. It also gets more complicated when you have an odd number. They are kind of inbetween and don’t feel a part of it quite so much. My rating is a 4.5 for the original and a 4 for the Electronic Version. (their categories aren’t as fun and varied and you have to skip them a lot more) Kevin rates both versions a 4.
This is like Scattergories. Instead of it being a quiet race to think of words that start with the same letter that also fit in a category, now you are voicing all your ideas out loud. The timer doesn’t go off at the same time so you don’t want to hold your best answer for the end or you might miss out. It says this is for up to 8 players but you can play with a room full of people. My dad doesn’t like games so he usually sits out. What I love about this game is that he can call answers from the couch. You don’t have to say anything to play the game. My kids played with their great grandparents and all of them had a good time. We got this used at Goodwill and it didn’t come with a timer. We will need to invest in one so it is more random.
Family Games (for kids of all ages)
I think I’ve started seeing Tsuro in stores lately. We picked up the game a few years ago for our anniversary. The game has a lot of tiles with straight or curled lines. Everyone has a game piece on the edge of the board. You choose from 3 tiles in front of you, and you place it in front of your game piece. Then your game piece follows the path. The game progresses till the board fills with tiles and you follow the path while trying to stay on the game board, while trying to get the other players off. The last person on the game board wins. All of my kids can play this game. Kevin and I can also play just the 2 of us when we are looking for a lighthearted game. Kevin’s rating: 3.5. My rating: 3.5.
This game is on my wish list after renting it from the Library. My kids loved it. There are 8 cardboard levels to the game. You drop colored blocks in. Then everyone has to listen to which floor they think they landed on. The first part of the game is finding out where the crime happened. Once that is figured out, then you have to either cover your tracks or suspect the other players on certain levels. Makaila played this game when she was 2, and did better than me. My rating: 3.75. Kevin’s rating: 3.
Suspend has 6 different colored wire rods. Each color has a different design to them. Everyone starts out with one of each color. On your turn, you roll the die and have to put the color up that you rolled. You have to carefully add your rod to the swaying tower. If any rods drop, you have to add it to your pile. The first person to successfully get rid if all their rods, wins. This could possibly be frustrating to certain children. My kids really enjoy crashing things so they love it. Kevin’s rating: 3. My rating: 3.75.
Emma mentioned several times that she liked this game before we got it and played it. Labyrinth has a random set up so paths are blocked and don’t all connect. There are small pictures throughout the Labyrinth and the cards are dealt to everyone. You pick up the first card in your pile and then your wizard has to make it to that picture by moving the Labyrinth. This is one of those games you can play with your 10 year old and not get bored with it. We play it with our adult friends as well and enjoy it. I believe we played with our 3 year old, but we had to help her with the tiles. My rating: 3.75. Kevin’s rating: 3.5.
Uno is a classic game that can be enjoyable for a random game day. My kids absolutely love the version, Uno Attack, where the cards spit out at you. Granted, they are bummed if they didn’t get any cards shot out at them, so they don’t really grasp the concept of getting rid of cards. They are also battery hoards so this doesn’t always work since the game requires batteries to work. Still, I love games I can play with my kids that I enjoy and everyone is laughing. My rating: 3.25. Kevin’s rating: 3.
1313 Dead End Drive is out of print, but we still enjoy it. You will have to pick it up on eBay or find it in a thrift store. Everyone is dealt out players. The game starts at the dinner table. You roll the dice and then you can either move your characters or your opponents characters. You take the characters to the 5 hazard places on the game board and either try killing them off, or pretending that your character was not yours and keeping the cards for later. If your characters picture shows up in the main picture frame, you can try and make a break for it and leave the house. If you do, you win the game. (You can win 2 other ways as well). We actually haven’t played this with the kids yet, but I played this when I was a kid. We’ll have to pull it out soon. My rating: 3.75. Kevin’s rating: 3.25.
Life is just a classic game. Every now and then, you just need a good game of Life. It’s lighthearted and it takes you back to your childhood. The younger kids need some help with it. Kevin’s rating: 3.5. My rating: 3.25.
We’ve had this game for about 6 years and it still gets played with on occasion. The younger kids enjoy it more and bring it out when it is their special night. This is a game of memory, but it constantly changes. You pick a card first that has a picture of something that is in your beach game, such as the shark. Then you spin the spinner and get an option of 2 places to look. Sometimes you spin and get the wave, and have to shake the whole game, which changes where you last saw something. My rating: 3.25. Kevin’s rating: 3.5.
We own both versions, but the kids play Sequence States and Capitals. They also enjoy Geography, so it is a win win. Everyone has cards in their hands and you have to put them down one at a time to get 5 in a row. You also get wild cards to remove someone else’s card or to add one to your row. You can play with teams as well but the kids prefer to play on their own instead of being paired up. Depending on how many players you have, the first person to get a certain amount of rows, wins. Kevin’s rating: 3.25. My rating: 3.25.
We were given the Disney version for Christmas several years ago. The game has 9 tiles, with random pictures all over both sides of each tile. The tiles are laid out and then everyone takes turns rolling the colored die. That determines what you are trying to find. The first person to find what you need, calls out “Pictureka” and points to the picture. Then they get the card. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game, wins. The great thing about this, is all the kids can play and find things. Kevin’s rating: 3. My rating: 3.
Everyone loves a classic game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. I love playing this with the kids because they get so into this. There is nothing they have to follow or read. All they have to do is hit the lever on the hippo and get as many marbles as possible. It sure beats Candy Land any day!
Kevin’s rating: 2.25 (you can’t please everyone), My rating (with kids) 3.
In Say Anything, One person asks an opinion question and then everyone gets to write their answer. The question might be, “What would be your super power?” Someone might say they want to hear people’s thoughts, another person might say they want to run really fast, and someone else might say they want to be invisible. Then everyone has 2 chips and they can either vote both on the same answer (even their own) or split them and vote for 2 different answers. The person asking their question gets to vote on their favorite before everyone casts their vote. Then points are awarded to the people that voted correctly, the person who chose the favorite answer, and if your answer was voted for. My kids’ rating: 5. My rating: 3.5. Kevin’s rating: 3.25.
Think Tic Tac Toe that can change at any time. In this game there are 3 different sizes of playing pieces. So if you put down small Gobblers first, then your opponent can gobble yours and possibly win the game when you thought you were you were about to win with your 3 in a row. There is a lot more strategy with this one instead of just the classic tic tac toe. You can also move your pieces if they are on top, which means the pieces below will come back into play, so you have to remember what was underneath.
In Bohnanza, you can’t change the order of the cards that are shuffled to you. You are planting Beans depending on what card is next in line in your hand or what you pick up. You can trade with players if you don’t need certain cards or want others. The way the game was explained to me is that this game is great for sharing and promoting working together. Then when we played it, someone else in that family would deliberately only trade with their sibling instead of their cousin. So that concept doesn’t always work. This would be for ages 8 and up I would think. The younger kids might have a hard time keeping their cards in a certain order and not messing that up.
We haven’t played this, but I am thinking of getting this for Christmas.
Libertalia has a large pirate ship on the board. Every person is given the same character cards with different abilities that you will place on the ship, but you get to choose what order to put them on. At the end of each day, you get rewards or curses based on how the day plays out. There is chance to how people play their cards but there is definite strategy so you can get the biggest reward or give curses to opponents. My rating: 3.75
Small World has the concept of Risk, but is waaay cooler. Every game is a little different. The races and special abilities are set out at random to make unique combinations. Then you are given a certain amount of character tiles to conquer on the world. Each person tries to get the most money they can out of each turn. When your race is killed off, you can start a new race. The great thing is. you only have about 10 rounds, and then the game is over. We aren’t necessarily Risk fans, we probably haven’t played in 10 years, but we both really like Small World. There is a definite strategy of picking the best race/special ability, and knowing when to go into decline to get a new race. Kevin’s rating: 3.75. My rating: 3.75.
I believe this is my favorite game, which is a hard thing to pick. I bought this 2 years ago, and took months to actually learn it. This game has so much to it and is not a lighthearted or a quick game. There is a lot of strategy to it, with some chance. Everyone has a game board and 2 dice. Every turn, the dice are rolled, and then you get to do 1 of 4 things. Pick a tile, place a tile, get worker tiles, or sell goods. As you complete colored sections on your game board, you get points. The person who has the most points at the end, wins. It might not sound fun, but everyone we have introduced this to, has enjoyed it. (Except for maybe 1 that has a hard time making decisions). We like it enough we play it online. My rating: 5. Kevin’s rating: 5.
In Village, you are in control of your family. You get to add more members of your family to the game board, and then you can go and do several things. You can travel, buy at the market, collect grain, build things. become a monk, or get training in the church. In order to do those things, you have to make or collect certain things first. It also costs your family members time, which means some of them will die and need to be buried. Everytime I play this game, it feels like something is missing. At the end of the game we are always asking, “Is that it?” Perhaps an expansion fills that missing link. I think the score board goes up to 150 and we haven’t gone over 40. My rating: 3.75
I think this game is part Agriculture, and part Aggravating. Everyone is over their own farm. You have to expand your house and family, plow fields and plant food, build fences and breed livestock. The problem with all that, is you can only pick 2 of those things and then someone goes exactly where you needed to go. You also have to feed your family members after each harvest, so you have to gather ways to collect food. This game is super intense and involved. There are 3 decks of cards, beginner, interactive, and advanced. The plus to this is you can play alone, and still really enjoy it. My mom played this for a year straight, alone. Kevin and I find it more aggravating than other members of our family. They like it a lot more than us, with it being one of their favorite games. This was sure hard figuring out how to play. My rating: 3.5. Kevin’s rating: 2.75.
We love Dominion. We got the base game years ago and added 4 more expansions since then. Dominion is a card game. Everyone starts out with money and victory points. There are piles of different cards laid out on the table. Everyone uses their money to build up their deck of cards. The more money you have the more you can buy, and the more special cards you have, the more actions you can perform when it is your turn. Whoever has the most victory cards at the end of the game is the winner. We have the base game, Intrigue, Prosperity(Base game needed to play), Seaside (Base game needed to play), and Guilds (Base Game needed to play). Our favorite expansions are Prosperity and Seaside. Kevin’s rating: 5. My rating: 4.5.
We got 7 Wonders a couple of years ago. This is one of Kevin’s favorite games. In this game, You are building up your wonder by adding cards to help afford things you will need later and to add more points to win the game. Everyone has a handful of cards. They get to chose one, if they can afford it. Once everyone has chosen a card, they all get passed to the next person, and then you get to pick a new card from a new set of cards. The play progresses in a circle, for 3 rounds. Everyone we have played with really enjoys this game, with just a few exceptions. People that really struggle making decisions ask every time new cards come, what they should do. This isn’t a lighthearted, no brainer game. Take that into consideration if you play with people that aren’t really board game people. My rating: 3.75. Kevin’s rating: 5! (I still haven’t been able to pinpoint why I don’t LOVE the game like everyone else does. I stand alone in that feeling.)
We don’t play power grid very often, but I really enjoy it when we do play it. This is a good 2 player game. There is a power grid on the board game. Players bid against each other to buy power plants. You have to get materials to run your power plants, then you supply your cities with power. The goal is to power the most cities. Kevin’s rating: 3.75. My rating: 4. (I play it more than Kevin)
I got this board game when a store was going out of business, so I was happy to see that we enjoyed it. You have a hexagonal game board and colored pieces that you are trying to match up to score the most amount of points possible. Everyone has their own score board to keep track of each of the colors. This only takes a few minutes to understand and makes you think. It is similar to Qwirkle. I think I prefer Ingenious more. Kevin’s rating: 3.25. My rating: 3.5.
In Carcassonne you are trying to start and complete different aspects of your village. You start out randomly picking one tile at a time, and then adding it to your village. You can be a farmer, work on a city, pave a road, and surround a cloister(chapel). Typically only one person can create an aspect to the village. What I love about this game, is you can sneak in and try to take points from your opponents, or at least match their points they were working so hard to get. There is a lot of strategy to the game. This is fun to play on the iPad as well. Kevin’s rating: 4.5. My rating: 4.25
All of the Catan series surrounds the concept of building up your network of cities and resources you can receive as the dice are rolled. You can do additional things with resource cards, like build up your army, build temple stones (Zarahemla), or get speciality cards that let you take resources from your opponents. This game is part strategy and part luck on what will get rolled. The thing I like about this game is you can trade resources with each other. Some games won’t let you do that. I despise playing with the robber. Kevin’s rating: 4.25. My rating: 4.
We rented this from our Library and we have been hooked since. We introduced it to some of our family and now we play it online because we couldn’t get enough of it. Alhambra has colored buildings or aspects to a town, such as gardens. You want to build up your Alhambra by getting the most of the high point tiles. You get points for your longest wall, but you don’t want to build it in a way that you are boxed in with no room to grow. I love the mechanics of picking up the cards to buy buildings and if you pay exact change, you get another move. I wish they did the colors for the buildings separate from the cards. It is confusing when you are paying blue cards for a green building, and not getting confused into picking up the blue building that is out. My rating: 4.5. Kevin’s rating: 4.
I am glad we played this with someone else who read the rule book. This is very involved and has a lot of different parts to it. For gamers, it is like a mix between Agricola and Istanbul. Whoever has the most points, wins, and to get those points you need to build buildings and get resources in order to do certain things in the game. The game follows a path and progresses so the further into it, the more you can do. There is a small portion of cut throat, if you play with certain people. This game is great for board gamers who love involved strategy games and are looking for something more. We only played once so I don’t feel like a number rating is quite fair, but Kevin and I would give it a 4 so far. The thing I don’t love, is that only one person can occupy a space, so if you are last or want to do several things, you miss out on the best options.
I wanted Istanbul to come after Caylus, because it is similar to it, but I like it more. We rented this from our awesome Library, and I kept it for weeks, teaching several friends and our family when we visited them. I definitely want this in my collection. We’ve only played the basic set up, so I would be interested in trying a different set up. You have 12 large tiles that make up the board game. To win you have to collect a certain amount of jewels. In order to get those jewels you have to collect sections to your wagon, pay money or supplies, or buy tiles. There are different factors to the game, where your family member can be sent to jail, which means you get out on your turn and get a free move. You can call a number and roll for it and then collect money. What I love about this game is, on certain places, like finishing your wagon, you can only get 1 jewel and you can’t take other people’s jewels, so all of your efforts aren’t wasted because you weren’t the first person to get it. You can also go to the same place as someone else, you just have to pay them a little money first. My rating: 4.5. Kevin’s rating: 4.5.
Another game I rented from the Library and love enough that I want this. I am very impressed with the pieces to the game. The tokens (precious stones) are well made and not cheap and flimsy. You are trying to get the most points, and to get those you have to buy cards. In order to buy the cards, you have to collect resources and save up until you can afford the good cards. If you get enough resources you can have the nobles visit, which gets you a lot of points. My rating: 4.5. Kevin’s rating: 4
We’ve had this for a while but we haven’t invested a lot of time in the game. It is very involved. Once you understand the symbols on the cards and the order things go, it is easier. This is a deck building game where you are building your space civilizations. If you like Dominion are are looking for something more, this would be a great idea.
We rented this from our Library as well. I’ve played this well over 20 times, and in that time I have only won about 4 times. Out of those 4 times, 3 of them were when I was teaching someone the game for the first time. I can’t figure out how to win! This is a 2 player game. I don’t think there is any way around that. The game ends very quick so you can play 2 games in 30 minutes. You have colored cards and you are trying to put them down with the lowest cards first to reach at least 20 points per colored pile. Anything over 20 points is how you rack in the points. The hard part is you don’t know if you will get the cards you need once you start putting cards down on their colored pile. Despite losing all the time, I still enjoy the game. My rating: 3.5. Kevin’s rating: 3.5.
Cover Your Assets
Castles of Mad King Ludwig
The games on my list to try and buy