Boardgames are literally saving lives, so here are some of our favourites.
Monday 08 June 2020
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Summer of love
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Remember how we all used to say ‘if we only had time…’? Well, now we have nothing but time, and we’re looking for ways to fill it that don’t involve infanticidal fantasies or silently cry-laughing in a wardrobe. Boardgames are literally saving lives, so here are some of our favourites.
One of the best-loved ‘modern’ board games, Klaus Teuber’s Catan (previously Settlers of Catan) has players take on the role of medieval settlers, gathering and trading resources to develop and expand their empire. While this may sound a little dry, the scope for cunning trades and multitude of ways to stab your neighbour in the back make for a truly engrossing hour of play. Suitable for adults and older children who enjoy a bit of strategy, Catan will replace Monopoly as your Christmas-ruiner of choice. (£35 for the base game, with expansion packs available)
We detest Monopoly, naturally, with its agonisingly drawn-out games of blind luck, in which the only attribute that’s rewarded is naked sociopathy. Check out its fascinating history as an anti-capitalist teaching tool if you fancy, but otherwise pick up the excellent Monopoly Deal. It’s cheap-ish, portable and – best of all – bears absolutely no relation to the mechanics of its board game namesake. It balances luck and strategy, and the potential to improve your skill means it’s endlessly replayable between two or more players. If you end up screaming at your children, it will be because they outfoxed you, not because you landed on sodding Oxford Street again. (£20). Suggested by Katie Connor.
A stone-cold party classic; great fun played as a family, but really comes into its own in a Zoom party, where successive beers make each round more hilariously frustrating than the last. Same goes for Pictionary, if that’s more your thing. (£30). Suggested by Jonny Garrett.
In a pretty similar vein, Scattergories was practically made for socially distanced gaming. For anyone who didn’t have a childhood, Scattergories involves listing words in a particular category (fruit, countries, cartoon characters etc) which start with the same letter, within a time limit. Fun arguments can ensue over whether a particular word strictly falls within the chosen category. Games nerds will of course know that Scattergories is based on the traditional game Jeu du Baccalauréat, which means you don’t even really need the official box to play it: just pick a category and a letter. (£24, or free). Suggested by Freddie Hodkin.
A weird and wonderful game, which rewards players of all ages for their creativity and lateral thinking. Players take turns to describe cards from a deck of abstract, dream-like images, in a way that is specific enough to be clear to some of their opponents, but obscure enough to mislead others. Beautiful and atmospheric, Dixit will really get you thinking. (£27). Suggested by Anthony Gladman.
If you fancy a co-operative experience, but the ever-popular Pandemic feels a little on-the-nose, we recommend taking Mysterium for a spin. It’s a relatively new game, first published in Ukraine in 2015 and almost instantly became a worldwide sensation. Despite bearing some striking similarities to Cluedo – the aim of the game is to solve the location, weapon and perpetrator of a murder – the method of detection is rather novel. One player takes on the role of a mute, amnesiac ghost, while the other players are mediums, who must work with each other and the spirit to uncover the grisly truth. It’s rated for 10+, though to be honest most eight year-olds would comfortably navigate it. (£30)
Cards Against Humanity
I’ve gone off this game since it was first published, on the grounds that it’s more than a little cruel and doesn’t have the kind of replayability you’d expect. But if the novelty hasn’t worn off for you, it can be a lot of fun to play with your adult friends over a couple of beers. Best of all, there’s even a free-to-play (and seemingly very unofficial) version called Remote Insensitivity (www.playingcards.io/game/remote-insensitivity). Of course, you can still play the real deal over video, if every household has its own deck. (Base pack is £27.99, and expansion packs and copy cats are available)
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