The Best Board Games You’ve Probably Never Played Before
Have you heard of Eurogames before? It’s a subgenre of board games classified by two major features: their attention to design and theme, and focus on serious strategy. Competetive folks, take note: Put away the Scrabble set and try on one of these board games for size.
Besides the great artwork and complex mechanics, another defining feature of Eurogames is that nobody is ever knocked out of the game (looking at you, Monopoly). So everyone can play together, making these great activities for a game night with friends or after a big family gathering.
1. Ticket to Ride
This was the first Eurogame I ever played, and I was instantly hooked. The board is a map (the classic version plays across the U.S., while variations exist for Europe and other parts of the world), and the goal is to build train routes between cities, earning points as you complete each city-to-city circuit. There are limited paths available, though, and if you’re not quick to claim the paths you need, you might get blocked by another player.
2. Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan)
A fun game where your only job is to manage resources. Players collect wheat, sheep, ore, brick and wood by building settlements onto tiles that each contain a different resource, which in turn allows them to build new roads to new settlements and collect even more.
Buy it: Amazon
In this game, players draw square tiles with a piece of French landscape on it, with things like parts of cities, roads and other features bleeding off each edge, and take turns placing them into a connected landscape next to other players’ tiles. You earn points by placing your one of your tokens–called “meeples,” each player has eight of them–onto a tile as it’s played, claiming the road or city (or anything else) for yourself. There’s a good bit of strategy (and a bit of good old-fashioned stealing) involved in where you place your tiles, and some resource management involved in where and for how long you tie up your meeples.
4. Forbidden Island
I’ve never played this one, but I’ve been told it’s the lighter version of one of my favorite games, Pandemic (more on that below). From Board Game Geek:
“Forbidden Island is a visually stunning ‘cooperative’ board game. Instead of winning by competing with other players like most games, everyone must work together to win the game. Players take turns moving their pawns around the ‘island’, which is built by arranging the many beautifully screen-printed tiles before play begins. As the game progresses, more and more island tiles sink, becoming unavailable, and the pace increases. Players use strategies to keep the island from sinking, while trying to collect treasures and items. As the water level rises, it gets more difficult–sacrifices must be made.”
This was my first co-op game, which means that you’re not competing against the other players, you’re all working together towards a common goal. In this case, it’s eradicating the world of four diseases that are spreading quickly across the map. Every player has a role, which offers them unique abilities to travel, treat infected populations and cure disease, but everyone has to use their roles to work together to win this game.
Dominion always gets a huge recommendation as a gateway game to the strategy-based Eurogame genre, but it’s another one I’ve never played. (For a genre that takes pride in its artwork, the box for Dominion is hard to pick up.) From IGN:
“The quintessential deck building game that will, among other things, teach you what “deck building” even means. A deck builder is a game where every player starts with a small deck of very basic cards, with a new hand drawn every turn. You then play your cards, which often provide gold to spend in a public marketplace, where you buy better cards to add to your deck.”
I’ve never seen this one included in a “beginner games” list, and probably because learning the rules and game mechanics is pretty tough the first time around. But I’m usually able to sell people on it by calling it “the board game version of SimCity.” You own a borough, and it’s your job to manage the business, residences and utilities that move in. The goal is to make money and grow your population, but you’re competing against the owners of the other boroughs who are doing the same thing and trying to bring yours down.
Buy it: Amazon
Do you play Eurogames? Any favorites?
Related reading: How Board Games Are Making Me Better at Life
Re-edited from a post originally published 12.7.15-NT