Board Games, revisited

in the Bricker household, we enjoy an occasional game night – we play Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, and just recently got a game called “Five Second Rule,” which has the advantage of being a very quick set-up and tear-down…it’s basically a five second timer and a huge deck of subject cards that say things like, “Name 3 spices,” or “Name 3 pro football players.” None of the subjects are difficult, but the pressure to get three in five seconds makes an entertaining panic.

We also enjoy a card game called Love Letter, which is deceptively simple and yet ends up with lots of analysis.

What else might we like?

I’m on my phone, so no link, but look up a game called Dixit. You might also enjoy Dominion.

King of Tokyo is ridiculously easy to set up and play. Everyone gets a monster with 10 health. You roll 6 dice with yahtzee rules. For every claw you attack and do 1 damage, every heart heals you from 1 damage, each lightning bolt gives you an energy cube and there are 1s, 2s, and 3s that give you victory points. The cubes can be used to buy abilities and tools to up your damage or protect you or give you victory points. The last monster alive or the first monster to 20 victory points wins.

7 Wonders is a great drafting game. Everyone gets one of the 7 Wonders and you have 3 ages to build it. Each age has its own deck of cards. Divide the cards among the players. Each player chooses a card and plays it at the same time. The decks are passed one to the left or right depending on the age and each player selects a new card from their new hand and so on until the cards are gone. Cards can give you materials or trading opportunities or points at the end of the game.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is an amazing tile flip game, in my opinion. The first part is co-op where everyone takes turns exploring a creepy old house revealing tiles as they move so the house’s layout is different every time. Once enough omens have been revealed, one of the players is revealed to be a traitor and one of 50 different Haunts is played to end the game. The novelty and replayability is fantastic. One game I made voodoo dolls of the other players and hid them in different rooms in the house and the players had to find their dolls and destroy them before the dolls burned up or fell off a balcony and shattered. Another time my friend separated our spirits from our bodies and we had to attempt an exorcism of an astral spirit before it could possess one of us. Just plain fun.

My friends love Carcassonne but I hate it. Another tile game, you take turns laying tiles to build roads, fields, cities and so on and you get points for completing the roads and cities and other things. I just hate it because people always try to steal my farm. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot of fun; I just hate it.
I find Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop to be a great resource for board games and the majority of my purchases in the last few years has been because I saw it there and it looked fun. The youtube channel Watch It Played is also great for seeing how some of the more complicated games work.

Yatch Race is kind of cool, its kind of simple but requires a subtle strategy; a little bit off the beaten path.

Ticket To Ride: Europe introduces a new board and a couple of neat new mechanics that keep it fresh. Tunnels are like tracks, except if there is a cave-in, it may take more cards of that color to complete than you thought! There are also train stations that you can build at the hubs to increase your control over the routes.

Dominion is honestly one of the greatest games ever designed, with near infinite replayability. The setup is several stacks of cards with costs in coins ranging from 2 to 7, and you start with a deck of 7 coppers (worth one coin each) and 3 Estates (worth one Victory Point at the end of the game). Each turn, you draw 5 cards and buy cards from the board, which are then shuffled into your deck. Basically, you are crafting what your deck is as you play. The winner at the end is the one with the most VP, but the brilliant thing is that VP cards don’t help you during the course of the game. All they do is clutter up your hand and reduce the amount of coins you have available each turn to buy stuff. This is a great tension-inducing mechanic. The replayability comes from the fact there there are dozens of different stacks of cards in the set to play with, but you only choose 10 for each game, and the way they interact in your deck is wildly different.

Takenoko is a fun little tile-laying game that involves growing bamboo of varying colors, and moving a cute little panda around to eat said bamboo. Points are awarded for various combinations of colored tiles in patterns, patterns of growing bamboo, and quantity of eaten bamboo.

Tokkaido is a gorgeously designed game where you play Japanese nobles taking a stroll along a winding road with shops and sights to visit. You choose where to go to gain resources and points, and you can go as far down the board as you wish. The catch is that you don’t take turns in order! Whoever is in last place on the road takes the next turn, even if that means one player takes several turns in a row. And each site can only hold one or two players at a time, so if you aren’t the first to that site, you might miss it entirely. You have to balance speed with efficiency to have a chance at this elegant game. Both it and Takenoko are from the designer of 7 Wonders.

Pandemic is a good option for families and a change of pace from some of the other games mentioned. Players cooperate to cure diseases spreading in interesting ways around the globe. Just make sure that (A) you read the rules accurately and (B) the more experienced players let the less experienced players participate in making decisions.

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are from the same designer as Pandemic and they use similar mechanics while being easier to set up and play as well as different than each other. I’ve never beaten any of the three on any level but novice, though.

San Juan is a lot of fun.

Since the OP also mentions card games, we like Duck Duck Bruce. A good blend of luck and strategy.

I’m also big on Martian Coasters.

My kids are fairly young, so we can’t play very complicated games. But we recently got 7 Wonders and they really enjoy it (and are good at it). They also like Carcassonne. And, as a throwback, they really like Clue too.

Another one we like is Dream Factory (I have the German edition, TraumFabrik). Each player is a Hollywood producer for a major studio and you start with a set of scripts that you have to produce. To get the pictures made, you need to hire actors, camera operators, musicians, effects teams, a director, etc. for each script (each movie has it’s own lineup). As you go through the spaces of the board you bid contracts on the elements that become available and the contracts you pay go to the other players. As you complete scripts, you get new ones to work on. You get points depending on the number and quality of the scripts you produce. The fun part for me (as a movie buff) is that the game uses real movies and real actors, so you can produce The Ten Commandments starring Frank Sinatra or King Kong starring Jimmy Stewart, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

I’m going to throw my support behind Dominion, which is really brilliant after you finish wrapping your mind around it. It plays relatively quickly most times, and the ability to select which cards are played in any given game gives it impossible amounts of replayability where both the game and the STRATEGY are radically different.

I’m going to fight AGAINST Betrayal At The House On The Hill, because I think it’s basically a waste of time; The first -half- of the game is basically a randomly generated start condition for the randomly chosen objective that only gets announced once certain criteria are met, and odds are that one side or the other will then lose rapidly because one team or the other will be in accidentally the exactly right place to win, or in accidentally in the exactly wrong place to even try to win. Nothing you do in the first half of the game matters because you have no idea what will be important and what won’t, so you basically wander around aimlessly and hope you discover the things you need for the randomly selected win condition.

A common complaint. It’s a hard game to balance because you never know when the haunt will happen. A larger house tends to favor the heroes because they’re more separated and it’s less likely they’ll have to waste time exploring new rooms.

We’ve had a couple of routs by one team or the other, but we’ve also had several that were up in the air until the final dice roll.

The Downfall of Pompeii is cute: you get to drop the opposing players pieces into the volcano. It also has interesting bits of strategy in both phases. Setting up the deck is a little bit of a pain, though. The 2013 version is a little more random.

Betrayal at the House on the Hill is a blast, but yes, balance can be an issue. And the misprint that put the underground lake upstairs is hilarious.

Our favorite is Settlers of Cataan with the Seafarers expansion. We have our own house rules (no robber, rolling a 7 only takes resources cards above 7, cards are always face up so everyone can see what everyone else has) and play almost cooperatively.

We also love Seven Wonders. It’s very fast to play and difficult to have an optimum strategy.

Carcasonne is good too. More of a puzzle than a game.

We play Dominion, but I don’t like it. It seems to have an optimal tactic: whoever maximizes their buying power (gold cards, actions to increase amount available to spend) first wins the game. Because there’s only a limited number of high-value score cards, whoever gets ahead in the race to buy them can’t be caught.

If the Gardens (1 point per 10 cards in your deck) are in play, you can try for a huge deck with action cards that gives you multiple buys of copper, but it’s generally slower than going straight for the big buying power.

I understand that you feel the latter somehow mitigates the former, but why would you play a game that routinely generates washouts not based even on skill or someone doing something right, but just because of dumb luck? This is like playing Risk, only instead of each player starting with a predetermined number of armies, each player gets d6x10 armies. Does this sometimes produce a good contest? Sure. Is it still terrible? Yes.

If you care anything about the actual act of making decisions in a game and not just the act of being around a table talking with your friends, it’s not really a good choice.

Admittedly, I am somewhat harsh critic of boardgames, and I think a lot of them are fundamentally not very good and don’t stand up to repeated play, but BATHOTH seems particularly egregious to me in this regard, so I have to ask - those of you who enjoy it, what actually makes it good/entertaining? The ‘surprise’ element? Even then, I question the need for the players to essentially waste 30-45 minutes before gasp! something happens that has nothing to do with anything you did or found!

A misprint that has unfortunately been fixed in the second edition.

Regarding this complaint, this seems… I don’t know. A little odd. It’s like saying “The first person to conquer most of the map always wins in Risk.” Yesssss? And? The game is about getting ‘buying power’. How that happens is fundamentally different every game in a way that is not the case in practically any other game.

Try playing a game with the Thief in play sometime. You may go the entire game without anyone getting enough money to BUY a province.


I don’t know what to tell you other than that every time I make arrangements for a game night, my friends ask, “You’re bringing Betrayal, right?” Maybe once we’ve gone through all the Haunts we’ll get bored but that’s like 35ish games away.

Actually, it’s more like 15 or 20, since you’ll be hitting repeats long before you’ve seen them all.

But thanks your efforts to grant me some insight into the appeal of this game.

It’s more of the problem that the player who gets ahead can’t be caught. I’d say whoever gets their third province first wins the game 90% of the time. And more often than not, that player gets their third province before anyone else gets one.

It’s not that one of us is a better player; each of us regularly win. It’s the game. Settlers of Cataan has the same problem–once one player is ahead, it’s hard to catch them. We’ve fixed our problem there with our house rules.

We’ll probably start tweaking the rules of Dominion to suit us better, too, now that we’ve gotten a good feel for it. Probably adjusting the values of the score cards (make them all worth the same score per cost) and changing the end-game conditions (maybe end the game after any of the score cards are sold-out, rather than just the provinces). With those changes, provinces won’t be clearly the most efficient way to score, and won’t shut out other strategies by being the easiest way to end the game.

I’ll take a look at the Thief. I don’t remember off the top of my head what it does. My experience is the various cards make accumulating buying power easier or harder, but doesn’t change that goal.

Seven Wonders is a game that avoids the “early leader wins” problem. With the multiple routes to accumulate points, it’s hard to dominate the game.