Friday, June 19, 2009

Better Board Games

In case you haven't noticed from our blog, I love board games.

It hasn't always been like this though.For 20+ years, I was a serious computer gamer. I have a great affinity for the old-school games (that I’ll probably blog about some day), but my all-time favorites involve large-scale economies like the Civilization series and the SimCity series - lots of time required and no social interaction.

If you’ve ever known a serious computer gamer, you’ve already realized that computer games and raising families just don’t mix. I was introduced to three European board games (Settlers, Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne) through friends and family a few years ago and I found the cure to my computer game withdrawals – it’s gaming, it allows me to game in a social setting instead of solitaire, and it’s wife approved!

It’s really hard explaining the board game hobby to the uninitiated. Due to many unfortunate circumstances (which I won’t expound here), most people in the USA think of Monopoly and Life when I mention board games…and those ‘games’ just aren’t fun…at all.

So what makes a better board game? Here are the most important characteristics:

  1. Most important, it has to be FUN.
  2. It should be EYE-CATCHING. Just like great cuisine, the gaming experience is increased if it's pleasing to look at.
  3. It should require players to make CHOICES. This is what draws people into games.
  4. It should be EASY TO TEACH in less than 5 minutes. Any longer, and most people will shut off their ears. True story.
  5. It must be SOCIAL. In board games, you're meant to have fun with other people. The best games promote conversation among those playing.
There are many good games with exceptions to these rules and I own quite a few; and that's ok. After all, there’s no such thing as ‘The One Perfect Board Game’TM. Here then are five examples that we own of better board games.


Thanks to Erik Gibbons for use of the image

In this press-your-luck game, players risk horrible obstacles to grab more treasure. It's a bit of gambling, a bit of bluffing, and very addictive. And just look at those cute li'l jewels!


It's hard to imagine a more natural game than this; the only things working against you are gravity and magnetism. It's an edge-of-your-seat 2-player strategy game where you balance leaning magnets on existing magnetic fields.

Galaxy Trucker

Thanks to Gary James for use of the image

In this game, you play a galaxy trucker shipping radioactive goods across space in ships made out of prefabricated sewer parts. Yes, you read that correctly! It's a mad dash to grab ship parts as quickly as possible, fit them into the puzzle of your ship and then race your opponents through dangerous cosmos. There's no other game quite like it.


Thanks to Daniel666 for use of the image

Hive is a two-player strategy game in which each player tries to capture their opponent's queen bee. Each of the five types of insects has a different movement pattern. For these reasons, Hive is often referred to as "Bug Chess". Don't let that turn you off - even though it's a deep strategy game, it's very simple to learn.

There isn't a board and the pieces are made of near-indestructable bakelite, so you can play it ANYWHERE. I took this to the Father and Son's campout and played 3 different opponents for about three hours total.


Thanks to Dustin Miller for use of the 3D rendering
I love this game. No board, 2-6+ people can play, it can be cutthroat or relaxing, and the "board" is absolutely beautiful by the time you finish the game. Players build up the French city of Carcassonne and use the cute li'l wooden guys (known as Meeples) to score points. The essence of this game is hard to describe - you've just got to experience it.

So there you have it. These aren't the most played games in our house and may not be our best, but they are GREAT games. If you (yes, YOU!) come over on a weekend or for dinner sometime, I'd be happy to introduce you to some others. But be warned: Cynthia does NOT like losing. :)


  1. I've always been interested in magnets and Polarity sounds interesting...well, they all do and I've never heard of ANY of them before!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I knew that you two were into I feel a bit more educated. We'll have to get some suggestions for games for our family and for feeble minded adults (that would be us)!

  3. Cynthia's wrath upon losing is mild compared to others' I've heard in your home. And you know who I mean.