Board games for which I am thankful

On Thanksgiving, I’ll take this opportunity to highlight some board games I enjoy and some I wish to explore further. On a sociological note, these games are great ways to both enjoy time with friends and family as well as have structured competition. To the lists:

Games I enjoy the most (in rough order starting with my current favorites):

  1. Agricola. My favorite game set in Germany several centuries ago in an agricultural setting. This game has its complications but if you play with the card decks (which provide occupations and minor occupations), there is a lot of variety even as you try to acquire the same elements each game. In other words, it has some predictability alongside intriguing variation. And with the Farmers on the Moor expansion we recently acquired…
  2. Diplomacy. Awesome game, difficult to actually finish since you need seven players and lots of time. It is like Risk but there are no dice: your armies can only advance at the beginning by either cooperating with other players (who support your moves or don’t block them) or fighting them. There is a lot of negotiation. I’ve played a few complete games via email – a round per week – and this involved hundreds of emails.
  3. Race for the Galaxy. It took us forever to read the instructions and understand all the different symbols but the payoff has been really good.
  4. Innovation. This card game is like pursuing the technology tree in the game Civilization but with each player seeing different cards and paths from the Stone Age to now each time. There is a nice mix in the cards allowing actions you can take against other players, things you and other players can both do, and things you can do with your own tableau.
  5. Puerto Rico. Even though the rough idea is similar – build your own social group – to Settlers of Catan, I prefer this one much more. Perhaps it is because you can be a different role each turn? Perhaps because they are no numbers on your hexes deciding your fate?
  6. Trivial Pursuit. Yes, it is often seemingly random knowledge. Yes, the games can take forever – in recent years I have been part of several family games that took over three hours. Still, where else can people who know all sorts of “trivial” information come together?
  7. Stratego. In my mind, the key to this game is that you don’t know what pieces your opponent has across from you until you risk an attack. Few games have this much secrecy.
  8. Suburbia. I’m a sociologist who studies suburbs. The board game does a nice job simulating suburban growth (and the recent expansion pack we purchased adds some new elements). See my earlier quick review.
  9. Carcassonne. The building aspect plus seeing random tiles adds up to fun.

Games that were close to the favorites list: Guild Hall, 7 Wonders, Bohnanza, Chess (a game I am not very good at but is still alluring).

Games I would like to explore further/play for the first time:

  1. Memoir ’44. I haven’t played many war strategy games but this one consistently receives high marks.
  2. Splendor. This is on my Wish List for this year.
  3. Patchwork. It is hard to find good two player games and even though I have only played this once, I think this one could have a lot of replay value.
  4. For Sale. I’ve played this a few times and it is a rare filler game I would want to play a lot.

Games I used to like more but would still be happy to play:

  1. Monopoly. Still fun at times. However, too many family games of this ended in predictable ways.
  2. Scrabble. I like the game. However, different people want to play with different variations (i.e., not using a dictionary at all, using the latest official dictionary, looking up words in said dictionary).
  3. Careers. Lots of fond memories of playing this as a kid. But, if I only played once every years now, that would be enough.
  4. Settlers of Catan. The game that may have introduce Euro games to the United States. I generally like it but it is not a favorite and would almost always prefer a game from the favorite list above.
  5. Pandemic. Cooperative games can be interesting and this one, particularly with some of the expansions, offers some fun opportunities. But, it is almost too hard: even on the easiest levels, those epidemics break out too often.
  6. Ticket to Ride. This game always plays out the same way for me: I reject the long routes early on because I’m not sure I can complete them, I build a lot of short routes, and few points result. Still, the concept is fun.
  7. Risk. Somewhere between my notes above on Diplomacy and Monopoly.

Perhaps I tend to like longer building games with structured variety. These can take up a lot of time but they do require both more attention (with the player often thinking they alone hold their fate in their hands) as well as prolonged interaction with other players. I’m not entirely convinced that Euro games are more enjoyable for everyone just because they get to build something but most of the favorite games I listed above do allow for multiple strategies for winning.

To close, a quick peek at our main game storage area (though other games, both classic and new, are scattered elsewhere):



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