Date Posted: 2017-11-01
Gateway games are easy to learn, fun to play for the first time and does not take too long to complete. But you cannot randomly pick any of the community-chosen gateway games on Boardgamegeek and expect it to roll smoothly. There are various types:
1) Bluffing Games
Bluffing games typically have an over-arching objective for the whole table. However, a few of the players will be secretly chosen to do the opposite, and they have to do so without revealing themselves. I won't recommend playing this with strangers though!
- The Resistance (30 mins/session)
Players are secretly divided into two teams - Resistance operatives (Good) and the Spies (Bad). The Resistance is working to overthrow a malignant government by carrying out multiple missions while the Spies try to sabotage them.
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf (10 mins/session)
Players are secretly given roles with different objectives and everyone enters a 'night' phase. During the night and depending on the roles, players can reveal other players' roles and even switch them up. Everyone will 'wake up' and spend the next few minutes accusing each other of being the werewolf and whatnot.
2) Strategic Games
This might be a loose definition of 'strategic', but many non-gamers see 'strategy' as having to control particular resources such as fuel and land and having to observe what other players are doing. If you have friends that love to exercise their minds, try these.
- Carcassonne (30-45 mins/session)
Players fight to complete land features such as roads, cities, and rivers. They score by placing 'Meeples' and 'completing' the feature, for example, by closing off both sides of a road. Players must balance the risk of getting their limited Meeples stuck in unfinished features versus the reward of victory points while making sure that their friends are always getting less.
- Settlers of Catan (60-120 mins/session)
Players build settlements along resource tiles and they will get resources based on the roll of dices. Since there will always be a mismatch of what they have and what they want to build, players will be forced to trade resources between them.
- Ticket to Ride (30-60 mins/session)
Players race to complete routes between cities, however, they can only build routes based on the cards they have. Players have to balance between drawing more train cards, placing trains on routes or getting Destination Tickets - cards that will reward players for connecting distance cities.
3) Cooperative Games
If your friends are not looking at lying or competing with one another, perhaps cooperative games will work best.
Players go around the world helping to eradicate 4 different infections while also trying to find their cures. There will be intense discussions on what best to do next while hoping that the next card will not cause an Epidemic.
'Spymasters' attempt to give 1-word clues to their friends to guess a few selected words out of 25. The challenge is for the Spymasters to give words that link the most number of words together and for their teammates to guess the correct ones. To up the challenge a notch, they have to avoid guessing a few forbidden words!
4) Games for Two
Maybe you just want to play it with your SO or maybe you only have 1 friend. Either way, these few games are great for these more personal occasions.
- Codenames Duet
Similar to Codenames but instead of pitting two teams together, the 2 players cooperatively give clues to one another. Have fun asking one another 'Why didn't you think of that!' or 'How are these two linked?!'
The same game as above and with a slight difference in the starting hand size, this game is as fun and intense.
Date Posted: 2017-11-30
Going for a board games night and unsure of proper etiquette? Here are some universal etiquette that will ensure you do not get kicked out of the gaming group.
Keep Food and Beverages Separate from the Gaming Table
Yes, even when the plate is huge and the cups are on coasters. We want to keep the game owner as calm as possible, instead of having to look out for close-calls. Bonus points for wiping your hands clean before handling any game components. Remember, games can cost almost $100 and the components are usually irreplaceable.
Handle the Components According to the Owner
Riffle shuffling decks may be cool but they often lead to bent cards. Slamming the card on the table is satisfying but could lead to card damage or marking the card. Throwing the die up high could make it more dramatic but might chip the die. When in doubt, observe how careful the owner is with the game and be even more careful.
Know the Rules
When someone is explaining the rules, listen. They might have practiced beforehand, reformatting the rulebook so that players can understand them faster. It might be annoying when they are repeatedly interrupted or when question is raised about a rule that was explained very clearly to everyone else. (However, if you were the one explaining, be nice if someone asked politely as they could be overwhelmed by the rules.)
Do not be 'too Alpha'
Some games tend to encourage 'quarterbacking', the practice of a player instructing others to simply follow their advice. Games should both be about fun and fulfillment and players feel most fulfilled when their actions are due to their analysis. If a player is too shy and repeatedly ask others what to do, encourage them to voice out their thoughts and just do what they think is right - board games are about people, not winning.
You may ask someone to take slightly less time on their turn but repeatedly asking "whose turn is it?!" and tapping the table is simply rude. If someone takes a very long time on their turn and there is no sign of it improving, that particular game might not be suitable for them or even, they might not be suitable being there at all.
Be at the Table both Physically and in Spirit
Board games are most fun when players are focused and interactions are due to the game. Private conversations should be done during mealtime or before/after the game. Why would a player think so much when other players are in their own world since they might win just because other players are going through the motion? On top of that, keep the phones away just like at the dinner table.
Do Not Bring External Affairs to the Table
Play towards the game objectives, not simply to disrupt a particular player. Disrupting the last ranking player in the game instead of the 2 players in front of you is not in the spirit of most games. It throws other players as they should be thinking of strategies based on the objectives and not a personal vendetta against him.
Be Offensive, Properly
Let me explain what "properly" is. When you are so far back in terms of points and in no position of being first place, do you:
1) aim at disrupting the player in front
2) aim at disrupting the player next in rank from you
3) aim at simply improving your own score
Many suggest that all 3 are suitable but in my opinion, point 3 is the most sportsmanship-like and point 2 is next in line.
and lastly...Pack Up Together
The owner might have been the one setting up everything since he knows the correct setup, but packing the game is common sense. Of course, if they insist not to do it as they have their own way of packing, let it be. It's the thought that really counts and the game owner will really appreciate it!
Date Posted: 2017-10-31
Board games are gaining popularity and hopeful event hosts are hurrying to buy the very best of the latest board games. But not all board games are made equal so here are some of the things to note before splurging on that next big game.
How many players?
Player count is important as it affects the strategy, the length of a session of play and replayability of a game. If your group of friends is small or if you are only playing it with 1 other person, then choose games that are suitable for that size. Some games may claim to be suitable for a small number of players but the game experience may be suboptimal. For example, Codenames can be played by 2 to 8 players and the game requires players to split into two teams. Each team will then have a 'Spymaster' that will give clues to the rest of their team members. If you have 4 players, it means that only 1 player is really engaged at any time and the turns take almost 2 minutes or more. Furthermore, the modified rules for 2-3 players face a lot of criticism.
Player count affects game length so if you have a small player size and prefer longer games, choose 'heavy' games that take 1 to even 3 hours per game with just 2-4 players. However, if you have a large group of friends, choose 'light' games as it might take almost an hour per game due to the size.
What type of gamers?
Different people like different types of games. The following are the popular classifications:
(Do note that this is not an exhaustive list and the classifications may overlap)
These games require players to think out-of-the-box and are usually considered 'light' board games. For example, in Dixit, players are given 6 cards with all sorts of weird and interesting imagery in their hand and they have to place 1 of them face-down. They then give a short phrase or a word clue and other players can put 1 of their cards face-down. All the face-down cards are shuffled and revealed and players have to choose the one that was originally placed. However, fewer points are given if all players choose correctly. Therefore, the trick is to give a clue that is not too detailed but also not too vague.
These kind of games are suitable for most people and occasions, although less suitable for hardcore gamers that prefer longer and deeper games.
Bluffing games often give all the players a common goal, such as completing 5 missions, collecting a specific number of resource and finishing 10 quests. It then introduces a twist where some players are given secret objectives that often impede the common goal. The way to win is usually for the normal players to trust and cooperate with one another while the 'betrayers' bluff their way to break their teamwork. The Resistance, Spyfall 2 and Secret Hitler are good examples.
Bluffing games are more suitable for players that know each other pretty well as its accusatory gameplay nature may cause newcomers to feel uncomfortable.
Cooperative games are usually similar to bluffing games but without the betrayal element. Players will ideally discuss on the best way forward as games are usually won by all players or by none. These games normally have an 'Artificial Intelligence'. For example, in Pandemic, there is an infection deck where players shuffle and flip to infect different cities. The 'intelligence' part comes from mechanics and in Pandemic, the flipped infection cards are regularly placed back to the top of the infection deck, causing infected cities to be infected again. This plays with the theme where cities that are already infected are increasingly dangerous and vulnerable.
Cooperative games are suitable for most players. However, 'quarterbacking' is common where an alpha player will dominate the game and commands all other players to simply follow his instructions. To mitigate this, always ensure that players are allowed to give their opinions first if it is their turn before anyone can chip in.
War games are directly competitive and usually supports only between 2 to 4 players. Players often have to think medium to long-term on what resources to collect, what weapons and forces to amass, and when or how to attack the opposing player or players. Typically, a game takes over 2 to 3 hours, requiring players to plan out a multiple-turn strategy.
Expectedly, war games are more suitable for experienced players who are willing to invest a great deal of time in board gaming sessions.
If you feel like playing war games but prefer to 'start small', try Euro-style games. These games generally have indirect player interactions and focus more on conflict based on resource management rather than head-on collisions. They allow for long-term strategic planning as they downplay the element of luck, usually adding luck merely to keep different games fresh for repeat players. Furthermore, in general, these games last for 1 to 2 hours, longer than casual games but shorter than heavy ones.
Therefore, these games are very popular and they include Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.
Making your Purchase
When you have decided on your next board games, where should you buy them from?
New Sets from Online Stores:
It is pretty difficult to buy board games from a mainstream gaming stores as they usually stock mass-marketed games such as Uno, Monopoly, and Risk. Instead, try to purchase new games online. A Reddit post gave a few suggestions to those who live in the United States:
However, if you are buying less than $100 worth of games, buying simply from Amazon is good enough; especially if you are on Amazon Prime.
New Sets from Kickstarter:
Kickstarter has rocked the industry, allowing smaller publishers to reduce the risk of manufacturing games. This has allowed for more interesting games to launch. However, backing a Kickstarter project carries a higher risk, ranging from getting the product late to seeing your hard-earned money disappear.
Follow these few steps before handing your money over:
1) Research on the developers
Check out the developer's other games on Kickstarter and the reviews of their published games. Observe how responsive they are on their previous backers' comments and whether the products they delivered have met the backers' expectations. Make sure that the biography they wrote is professional-looking.
2) Gauge the feasibility of the product
Do you think that they are asking for too little and promising too much? Are they promising a hundred custom-made components and free delivery to everywhere in the World? Are they adding on to their stretch goals too frequently?
If it is a 'yes' to any of them, they might be over-promising. In such cases, read their project updates carefully to see how they are adapting to their ever-increasing demand as many backers will often ask. Else, it is better to give the project a pass.
Kickstarter projects that are looking into launching into the retail space often promise exclusive add-ons to justify the risk that backers take. However, since they are planned to go to retail, a lot of their prices are more likely to drop in a month or 2 after launch. Plus, waiting for the retail copy allows you to read more reviews before purchase and if they somehow fail to get it to retail, you might have just saved money from buying a terrible game.
Some players will measure the utility of their board games by the total cost divided by the number of plays or length of play. For example, if I bought a game for $50 and played it for 10 times, it is $5 per play. I might say that the game is more worth it than another one that cost less but played much less, maybe $10 per play.
Replayability with different group of friends is different from replayability with the same group of friends. Some games have ever-changing goals and components such that playing with the same group of people will yield different gameplay. Some examples:
1) Sushi Go!
3) Dead of Winter
However, some games have static goals and they differ between plays merely by random deck draws.
Setup Time and Space
Not all of us have a large board game-friendly table. Some of us have to resort to small Starbucks tables while others just have to play them on the ground. Some games can be fun but their large number of components, personal player boards, main game boards, deck 1, deck 2, deck 3 and so on take so much space that you really can only play it rarely.
Power Grid takes me almost 10 minutes setting up and that is considered to be short for a Euro-style game. On the other hand, Carcassonne takes almost none as it is a tile-building game and different-sized tables just add to the variety of gameplay. And... Arkham Horror might take 15 to 20 minutes, so beware.
That sums up the things I consider when buying a board game. Have fun at your next gaming session!
Date Posted: 2017-11-17
When traveling, some of us read books, some play games on their phones, some just listen to their music but others like me, prefer to play board games on the go. These games have to be portable - do not take up much space, easy to set up and perfect for small player counts. Here are our recommendations:
1) No Thanks!
- 3 to 7 players, best with 4 or 5
- Cards and chips
- 20 to 30 minutes per game
Score the lowest point at the end of the game. Every turn you may avoid picking up the current face-up card by placing a chip or pick up that card and turn over the next card. At the end of the game, add up all the numbers on the cards you hold and minus 1 point for each chip you have. If you have consecutive numbers, only the lowest number is counted. It's that simple!
- 2 to 5 players, best with 4
- Cards and chips
- About 25 minutes per game
It is like cooperative Solitaire; all players work together to place cards numbered 1 to 5 in ascending order of 5 different colors in 5 different columns. However, players can only view other players' hands and not their own. Every turn, you may give another player a clue based on numbers ("These 2 cards are numbered 3.") or based on colors ("There 3 cards are Yellow.") or play your own card. The team can collectively make a limited number of errors. That's mostly it!
3) Love Letter
- 2-4 players, best with 4
- Cards and cubes
- About 20 minutes per game
Win the most number of rounds to 'send the most number of romantic letters to a princess locked in a palace'. Every turn, the player will hold 1 card hidden from the rest plus 1 more that he draws from the deck. He must choose 1 card to discard face-up, triggering the card's ability. Abilities will have all sorts of powers but will lead to eliminating players. Last player standing wins the round. Hooray!
4) Sushi Go!
- 2 to 5 players, best with 4
- About 15 minutes per game
Score the most number of points by choosing sushi dish cards; the trick is to play combos that will earn even more points. However, after playing a card, all players will pass their hand clockwise. This adds an element of risk and strategy - do you play safe, low-scoring cards that score instantly or dangerous, high-scoring cards that need more cards? Simple and deep.
- 2 to 6 players, best with 5
- Cards and tokens
- About 15 minutes per game
Be the last man standing as players try to eliminate one another by means of a Coup, Assassination or wrongly accusing another player. There are multiple character cards in the game and you start with 2 hidden cards face-down. You may claim to be a particular character and use their ability but that could be a total lie. Just make sure that your company is fine with lying through their teeth!
- 4 players only
- About 60 minutes
Players are divided into two teams and team with the highest score wins. Teams score by playing sets from their hands with certain sets scoring more than others. Certain rules allow teams to get bonuses and this is the key to winning the game. A game that gets deeper and deeper the more players play. A must bring!
- 2 players only
- Hexagonal pieces
- About 20 minutes
Totally surround your opponent's Queen while protecting your own. Every turn, a player places a piece, each with their unique ability. This game can be played on any flat surface and has no setup time. A highly strategic, portable game.
- 2 players only
- Cards and tokens
- About 30 minutes
Win the best of 3 rounds. The winner of each round is decided by the player having tokens with the highest total score. Obtain tokens by 'selling' resources such as Gold and Rubies and selling a set of 3, 4 or 5 of the same resources gets you more tokens plus bonus points. Players have to strategically balance tactics, risk, and luck. Pass time like never before!
- 2 to 5 players, best with 2
- Square tiles, score board and 'meeples'
- 30 to 45 minutes per game
The player with the most points when all the tiles are placed wins. Score points by completing features such as roads and cities with your meeple placed inside. There are a limited number of meeples for each player and players only get back their meeples when they complete features. A simple game with a strategic flavor, a classic!
Date Posted: 2017-11-02
Carcassonne is a board game classic that's easy to learn and difficult to master. After playing hundreds of games with my friends, I tried several strategies that I found online to start mastering the game. Here are those tried-and-proven high-level strategies:
Small Cities Strategy
Build small cities, preferably 2-3 tiles to score almost immediately and before other players hijack those points. The key is to build them in the same farming area so that you can place your farmer(s) to score later on. Also, build roads that are as far away as possible, turning them away from the cities to ensure that the farm area is as big as possible.
Big Cities Strategy
Abandon farming and attempt to hijack other players' large cities, completing the city with them to score huge points. Players that are not on the city are severely disadvantaged. However, they might try to hijack those points so try not to push your luck too far.
With the base game, players have these number of turns each:
35.5 turns per player
Player 1 has 1 more turn than others
23.67 turns per player
Player 1,2 has 1 more turn than others
17.75 turns per player
Player 1,2,3 has 1 more turn than others
14.2 turns per player
Player 1 has 1 more turn than others
Defensive: Build a monastery and try to complete features around it to score both feature points plus the monastery's.
Offensive: Build a monastery at the region where other players' have invested in so you get points when they inevitably build features around it.
Roads are most effective as a defensive tool. Roads give low scores and they might get your meeple stuck. Instead, use them to place near features that your opponents are building or build roads to reduce their farm sizes.
For larger player counts such as 4 or 5, place farms early as other features are less likely to be completed and smaller cities are common.
If players are tending to large cities, try to hijack the points by joining your city with them. If players are building small ones, place farmers so you can score with them.