This list is meant to showcase five games that are not only great for newcomers of the hobby, but seasoned veterans as well. I chose to do only five instead of the per-the-norm 10 as a way to give an idea of some games that I like. I did this in order to fill the gap as I work out a review schedule for this section. The list is in no particular ranked order; it’s just some really fun games. This is just my opinion, so if I left a game out that you think should be on here, mention it for others in the comments below.
#1 Ticket to Ride
Now I know for those of you that play games, this is going to see like an obvious choice, but there are a lot of people who have never heard of this game. It’s easily one of the best games to introduce to someone who has only played more traditional games like Monopoly, Life, etc… Ticket to Ride was designed by Alan R. Moon and published by Days of Wonder. It plays 2-5 players, recommended for those 8+, and plays in about 30-60 minutes. Let’s take a quick look at what the game is and how it plays.
How to Play:
The game plays slightly differently depending on the map you use. In this overview, the rules of play will be for just the base game, the US map. The rules stay more or less the same but add a few things here and there for each different map.
Players begin by setting up the board, which is a beautiful representation of whatever country that board features. In this case, the US. Players select one of the sets of colored train pieces (45 for each player) of their choice. They are then dealt a hand of 4 colored train cars. Following this, players receive a hand of 3 destination tickets that reward players at the end of the game for connecting two cities with their train pieces. Players are required to keep at least 2 but may keep all of them if they wish; these are secret from the other players. However, be warned, any incomplete tickets at the end of the game are subtracted from your point total and could cost you the game.
On a player’s turn they have three choices:
- Draw 2 cards either from, the face down draw pile of colored train cards, or from the 5 face-up train cards. Players may choose to do this in any order so long as they do not take a wild “locomotive” card as their first pick from the face-up row. If they do, they draw only that card. Subsequently, if a locomotive card shows up in the face-up row after the first pick they aren’t allowed to pick it up as their second card.
- Take three destination tickets from the draw pile and keep at least one. This is the main way to make points in the game and is something players tend to do quite often, though it is not without risk, as mentioned.
- Build a route by turning in your colored train cards. Players do this by taking the corresponding number, and color, of train cards matching the desired route they wish to claim. For example, if a route was 3 long and was red in color on the board, then you would need 3 red cards in order to claim the route. Wild locomotives may be used in place of any or all of these cards as well. Once the route is claimed the cards used to claim it are discarded and points are awarded based on the length of the route.
Play continues in this fashion until somebody has 2 or less train pieces in their reserves. Once this is done, players reveal which tickets they completed or failed. Adding or subtracting to their point total accordingly. At the end, bonus points may be awarded to players based on things such as, longest continues route or most tickets completed.
Where to Get It
Ticket to Ride is currently available at most Target and Walmart locations. (Way to go!) This is a feat for most modern board games, so it’s nice to see something like this become a little more main stream. It can also be found online at places like amazon.com, though I personally recommend purchasing board and card games here at coolstuffinc.com. At coolstuffinc the game sells for $32.99. On their site there is an additional video review if you want another opinion.
Ticket to Ride is also available digitally on IOS, Android, and Steam for PC with most of the expansions available for purchase.
#2 The Resistance (3rd ed.)
The Resistance is a social deduction game where players are split into either, the resistance group, or the spy group that is trying to take them down. The catch? Only the spies know who everybody is and the resistance members are left in the dark about each person’s identity. This game designed by Don Eskridge and published by Indie Boards and Cards, plays a group of 5-10 people in about 30-45 minutes (though some games can be much shorter). It is recommended for 13+ on the box, but you could get away with going a bit below that.
How to play:
Depending on the number of players, a deck of cards comprised of resistance (blue) cards, and spy (red) cards, are shuffled and then dealt to each person. For example, an 8 player game would be made up of 5 blue cards and 3 red cards. After each person has received his or her card, they secretly view it. After which, players put their heads down and the spies are given an opportunity to quickly identify each other. This is done so they know who they are working with. Once a few moments have passed, play begins in the following order:
- The current start player, or leader, for the round decides who he would like to nominate for a mission. Missions are comprised of a certain number of people (based on a sheet that is included in the game and used to keep track of if a mission has passed or failed) chosen by the leader. These people will determine whether or not a mission fails or succeeds. Discussion may occur during the nomination process. Once the team has been nominated, players secretly vote yes or no to determine if this team will go on a mission or not. If a majority says no, play passes to the next player and nominations occur again. If this happens 5 times in a row, it’s game over. If a majority say yes, the mission occurs.
- Players on the mission from the nomination round then decide secretly whether to pass or fail the mission. If a player is a resistance member (blue) they must vote to pass. If they are a spy (red), however, they may choose to either pass or fail the mission. Votes are placed in a pile face-down (using provided cards) and then shuffled to conceal who played what. They are then revealed. If the mission passes, the round is won by the resistance. On the other hand, if it fails, then the spy team wins the round. Play continues like this until a majority of rounds, out of a set number (based on player count), are won by either side or a nomination fails 5 times in a row.
That’s it; this game is lightning fast to teach to new players and plays fairly quickly as a result. Your first game might be a bit slow since some people may not fully grasp everything right at the start, but once you get playing, people figure this one out pretty quickly and start having a blast.
Where to Get It
The Resistance can be found in most brick and mortar game stores or online. It’s sold for $13.49 at coolstuff.inc but can be found at other sites like amazon as well. The game comes with some extra things to make the game more challenging for seasoned players, as well as, having a differently themed version titled The Resistance: Avalon which can be found here.
#3 No Thanks!
No Thanks! is a quick card game for 3-5 players, designed by Thorsten Gimmler, and published by Z-man Games. It plays in approximately 18-30 minutes, making for a great game to play between something else, or played few times back-to-back. In this game you have a deck of cards numbered 3-35. The objective is to take the least number of points, each card being worth its respective value.
Before you beat me up over this one, I know it’s a card game, but it really is a fantastic game. This is a game that you can play with both young and old alike. It doesn’t require a lot of a time investment or laser focus. For that reason, it gets a spot on my list.
How to Play:
Players first take 11 chips (provided with the game) apiece. Then, the deck of 33 cards is shuffled well. After the deck is shuffled, 9 cards are discarded before placing the deck is face-down. Pick a player to start and then flip the first card of the deck face-up on to the table. This begins a round, which work as follows:
- Starting with the first player, the card in question is either taken, or a chip is played onto the card to pass. Play continues in this fashion until the card is taken. The player who takes the card gains all chips on the card.
- Once the card is collected, it is placed in front of the player who decided to take it. They then add it to any consecutive sets they may have (i.e. 10,11,12,…). If the player has no set of cards it is placed on its own.
- The next card is then turned up and play continues until are cards are take
What makes this game interesting, is that players only have 11 chips. Once they are gone, you HAVE to take the card, even if you don’t want to. What’s more, is cards in a set score for the lowest card ONLY. So, for example, let’s say a player ended with cards 3-10, 11, 13, and 14. Their total score would be 27, as only the 3, 11, and 13 would be counted for the player. After this score is calculated, you subtract from it the number of chips you have left at the end of the game. Going from the previous example, this player ended with 5 chips, bringing their total to 22 since 27 – 5 is 22.
No Thanks! is pretty straight-forward. It is able to find success with almost any group of people. It never feels slow or out stays its welcome like its initial appearance may have you believe.
Where to Buy
No Thanks! can be found online at coolstuff.inc for $9.99. As always, you can pick it up someplace else, but you are more likely going to have a hard time finding this one outside of the internet.
#4 Forbidden Desert (sort of)
Designed by Matt Leacock and published by Gamewright, this fully cooperative game will have 2-5 players working together to find missing pieces of a ship, doing their best to survive the harsh heat of the desert in 45-60 minutes.
As you may have noticed, I said “sort of” in the title. That’s because I’m actually going to recommend Leacok’s other games, Forbidden Island and Pandemic as well. So what’s the difference between the three?
Forbidden Island is his lightest game. Meaning, it’s the simplest to explain, teach, and subsequently play. This game still offers quite a challenge, but is meant more for kids than adults. That isn’t to say that adults can’t enjoy this title, they can, (though I recommend bumping the difficulty to max) but this is best suited for people who wish to play more with kids or as a way to introduce Leacok’s other games, as they all work similarly. Players must work together to recover 4 artifacts and escape a sinking island in order to win in this game. It plays in about 30 minutes but is only 2-4 players. It can be found here for $11.99.
His most difficult (both in actual difficulty and in gameplay) game is Pandemic. This game is fantastic! Published by Z-Man Games, 2-4 players must race against the clock to save the world from a viral outbreak. This game isn’t about zombies, just curing disease before time runs out, and it is tense all the way through it’s 45-60 minute play time. The game is also tough as nails, even on some of the easier levels of difficulty. For this reason, if you haven’t played a Leacok game before this is going to be a ruff place to start out, especially if you are new to board games. Now that isn’t to say you won’t have a good time, but I recommend this game to those with at least some play time of other coops or more complex games under their belts. It can be found here for $27.49.
This brings us back to Forbidden Desert. It lies in the sweet spot right in the middle of the two. It’s not too hard, nor too easy, and can be played with both kids and adults just as well. This is why it’s the main recommendation, but realistically these are all great games that I own and enjoy playing with friends and family. Forbidden Desert can be found here for $16.99.
No “how to play” or anything extra here. You’ll have decide what looks interesting since they all play differently, only sharing mechanisms. It’d take me ages to explain all three in detail; plus it’d be a lot to read for one entry.
Lastly, we have Tsuro, which is a fast tile laying game for 2-8 players designed by Tom McMurchie and published by Calliope Games. Your goal is to guide your dragon around the board by placing tiles without allowing your dragon to fall off or run into other dragons. It plays in about 18-24 minutes and is easy enough for even younger kids to enjoy.
How to Play:
Players begin by placing their dragon on one of the marked positions on the board. They are then dealt three tiles and play begins with the start player. On a player’s turn, they place a tile so that one of the lines printed on it connects to where their dragon is positioned. They then move the dragon to the new spot. After this is done a new tile is drawn and play passes to the next player. Things continue in this way until one player is left on the board.
Where to Buy
Between these 5 (actually 7) games hopefully you can find something to enjoy. Let me know what games on here you’ve had the chance to play and let others know what you think of the games on the list as well.