by Julie S
It used to be about Chutes and Ladders, The Game of Life and Monopoly, however, a new breed of board games has swept through the country thanks to a German game called Settlers of Catan. These games, termed Eurogrames, used to be available only in hobby stores such as Fanfare, however, they are now seeing the light of day on the shelves of stores such as Target, Toys R Us and Costco.
These Eurogames may have a steeper price tag and an instruction booklet instead of a single page but don’t let that stop you. The pieces are made of wood, they have significant replay value, and appeal to multiple ages and abilities. Many of them have expansions, additional purchases that will change or add to your game experience.
These games are not only great for family nights but they are also a fantastic idea for a mom’s night in or a get together with friends.
Settlers introduces most of the core mechanisms of modern board gaming. The rules are easy to learn and the game lasts about 60-90 minutes. Unlike traditional board games, this game changes every time you set it up with tiles that make up the island of Catan. Players vie for victory points, something that you will find in many Eurogames, by trading resources, building roads, settlements and cities. Dice are rolled to see which tiles generate resources and those who have settlements or cities on the same numbered tiles benefit from them. It’s a great gateway game to learning what Eurogames are all about. Regular play is for 3-4 players and expansions let you play with up to six. The Kids of Catan is for kids four and up and introduce young ones to one of their first Eurogames by using a simplistic version of the rules and board.
Carcassonne introduces tile placement. Each turn you draw a tile and place the tile on the growing game board and you can choose whether or not to place one of your pieces on a road, the city, or a farm. Points are earned by completing a road or a city, and points are earned at the end of the game by owning a farm. The rules are easy to learn, the board is always changing, and it offers little player interaction for those who prefer less interaction with their opponents, unlike Settlers of Catan. Several expansions exist to add new twists to the game and there are multiple other versions that offer different rules and stand alone. Average gameplay is 30-90 minutes and the suggested age is 8 and up. A version of this game exists for younger kids too and is for 4 and up, called Kids of Carcassonne or My First Carcassonne.
Ticket to Ride has both a Europe and United States version and is a great entry game to play as well and great for those kids with an interest in geography. Players collect different color train cards and play their train cars between cities to eventually connect cities in a continuous route and complete the route on their Destination Tickets. Points are gained for completing their tickets and lost for having an incomplete ticket. The total game play averages 45 minutes and is recommended for 8 and up.
Tsuro is one of the easier games on this list to learn and can be played by younger players for fun as well as older players who want a great deal of strategy. The goal is to be the last player on the board. Players take a tile from their hand and play it on the board and then move their pieces down the new path that they created and hope that the path doesn’t lead off the game board. This game is for 2-8 players and recommended age is 8 and up. It’s one of the shorter games where games average 20 minutes.
In this game, players work together against the game and win by collecting all of the scattered treasures on the tiles and then escaping before the island sinks. The island slowly floods and sinks via cards drawn at the end of a player’s turn and occasionally a card is drawn that makes the waters rise making the tiles flood and sink faster. The game has a very relaxed feeling at the beginning, but captures that panicked feel of the island actual sinking as you work together with your fellow players to escape as the game progresses. Each player also has a special role, allowing him or her to perform a special task that helps out his or her teammates. Gameplay is for 2-4 players and an average game is 30 minutes. The suggested age is 10 and up. Forbidden Desert is the sequel and has similar gameplay but with a new objective, new roles, and a few new rules.
If you enjoy Forbidden Island, then you might want to check out Pandemic. This is another game where players work together against the game, this time against four viruses that are taking over the world. Players each have a different role and move from city to city trying to slow down the spread of each virus until a cure can be discovered. Cures are discovered by collecting certain cards and then heading to a research station. This game is heavy on player interaction. Expansions exist that can cause the viruses to mutate, add an additional virus and add new roles. This game is also great at teaching world geography. This game is for 2-4 players and is for players 10 and up.
The Great Dalmuti is a card game that is best played with at least four players, and can be played with up to eight. The person at the top is the Great Dalmuti, followed by the Lesser Dalmuti. The players in the middle (if more than four players) are the merchants, and the last two are the Lesser and Greater Peons. The person in the Great Dalmuti chair is allowed to give orders to shuffle or fetch drinks to the Greater Peon and exacts taxes by taking the Greater Peon’s two best cards for that round of gameplay. Players play cards that follow the quantity of the set previously played and a lower number (four twelve’s would have to be followed by four eleven’s, ten’s, etc.). There are also jester cards that if both are dealt to one of the Peons, can result in no taxes or a revolution! The results of each round change the chair that the players sit in so you can move both up, and down. Players can decide how many points to play up to so total gameplay can be ten minutes or several hours. You can also add and remove players if you don’t want to keep track of the score. The suggested age is 8 and up.
Fluxx’s rules are constantly changing, or in flux. Players draw and play cards depending on the game’s current rules to try to collect and play the Keeper cards that are currently specified in the Goal. This is trickier than it sounds, however, because players can play cards to alter the number of cards drawn and played as well as a bunch of other effects to game play, including new Goals. There are multiple versions of this game on the market – zombies, ecofriendly, and even pirates! The suggested age is 8 and up. There are hardly any instructions other than to follow the rules currently on the table so it’s a quick game to pick up and play. This game is like Uno in that it can end quickly or it can go on for a very long time. It’s for 2-6 players.
Dominion is what is known as a deck building game. On their turn, players use their actions to buy cards from a bunch of card stacks on the table. The winner is the player with the most victory points at the end of the game. Players must buy the victory points with the cards that they are collecting and the game’s currency. It is easy to learn, and it has almost infinite set-up possibilities because you choose the stacks of cards to use for the game and can do them from the suggested list or at random. Many expansions exist to add new cards to the mix and give the game a new twist. It’s suggested as 10 and up. This is a game that is best tried if you have previous experience with Eurogames.
Ingenious has a scrabble-like feel to the game. You have a tile rack and the tiles are made up of two halves, and in some combination of six different colors and shapes. Players take turns placing one of their tiles on the board to connect it to another tile and score points on each side of the tile counting outward in an unbroken line. If players obtain 18 points in a color they say “Ingenious!” and take another turn. The interesting strategy and victory condition of this game is the winner is whoever has the highest point value in their weakest color. The suggested age is 10 and up, however, no reading is required in this game so a younger player could easily play it with mom or dad as a team. Regular gameplay is about 45 minutes and the game is normally for 2-4 players, but a solitaire version exists in the rules.