Spring is officially here, with Summer soon to follow, and while I want to say it’s that time of year when social scenes begin to stir more and people come out of their winter hovels, I cannot deny that there really is no single good time of year for gathering together for board games. Any time of the year is perfect for playing board games! My husband and I have been building a steady collection of board games, tabletop games, and card games over the years, and currently we have a decent dragon hoard of various games. We’re always excited to add to the stash, and in light of having a blast last weekend playing Catan with company (with plans to repeat this weekend), I want to share my Top 12 favorite games to play with friends. Why 12, you ask? It’s just too hard to narrow them down–there’s a lot of good ones! Because there’s so many, I intend to break this post down into three parts, spread across three days. I’ll start with Catan since it was our most recent game played, and it has quickly become a favorite of mine.
3-4 Players (5-6 with expansion)
I’ve known about Catan for ages and bought it for my husband for Christmas two years ago, but the poor game sat unopened, collecting dust atop our game shelf for the longest time. Last weekend we finally cracked that baby open and played. A game of settling the land and expanding your territories, I’ll say that I tried my best to build an epic empire of resources, but my wheat…my precious wheat…did not produce for me. And I was robbed of my sheep numerous times…Part strategy, part RNG, and part player cooperation, you depend on dice rolls, the location in which you build settlements, and whether or not the other players are willing to trade to obtain resources such as lumber, wheat, livestock, ore, and brick. Plus, there’s the presence of the dastardly Robber that can freeze your resources and steal from your plentiful cache. Settlements can be upgraded to cities, and either represent so many Victory Points. There are other factors that get you VP’s as well, but the ultimate goal to win is by obtaining 10 VP’s. My empire floundered and was left destitute last session, but this weekend my empire will rise! (We also plan in the near future to purchase the Explorers & Pirates expansion, because any excuse to talk like a pirate is a good excuse, aye? AYE?!)
Player # varies (We’ve played with groups ranging from 4-6 players.)
I’ll preface a brief rundown of this epic tabletop miniature game’s history by first stating that it is no longer produced (and I’m still crying over that fact). Produced by Milton Bradley company, a couple Master Sets and several expansions were released from 2004 to 2008, including a Marvel Comics expansion. In 2008, Wizards of the Coast took over production, releasing a master set and three expansions based on D&D lore. In late 2010 WotC announced that they would discontinue production of Heroscape, choosing to focus more on their production of D&D products and Magic: The Gathering. While we don’t have every master set and expansion, we do have a good chunk of them, and trying to obtain more pieces, whether figures or terrain tiles, is difficult, not to mention pricey. For example, a quick glance at Amazon tells me the going price for the Marvel expansion is $249.00. Thank God we own that set already! WotC attempted a revival in 2015 by melding together aspects of Heroscape and MTG, creating Magic: The Gathering–Arena of the Planeswalkers. We have both subsequent expansions of this unique combination, but in the end, they’re just not the same as Heroscape.
Heroscape is my first encounter with tabletop miniatures, and I love it for its versatility. I can construct the battlefield to my liking, whether it’s snow-capped mountains dotted with fir trees, great open plains with ruins and fortresses, or putrid swamp teeming with Marrow threat. Each player is allotted so many points, for example 600 points, and we assemble our army by picking characters and adding up their point values. Each character has a card stating their Move, Range, Attack, and Defense, and if you flip the card over to play a higher difficulty game, there are also special attacks that your character can use. I like being able to follow a smaller scale theme for battle, but I also like the fact that I can have a 2000 point army with dragons, samurai, valkyries and even G.I. Joes. Okay, okay, they’re not really G.I. Joes, but Sgt. Drake Alexander and his Airborne Elite can do some damage via surprise attack in any situation. Needless to say, despite not being in production any longer, Heroscape has a lot of potential and is a game that practically demands a good several hours for setup and play.
3.) Throw Throw Burrito
What’s not to like about pegging your friend or loved one with a soft foam burrito? That’s what happens in this game, and I’ll admit that I have been thoroughly winded from both laughing at burrito face-offs as well as running for dear life to avoid being pelted in the head. Throw Throw Burrito keeps you on your toes as players move in constant fluidity drawing cards in hopes of making Animal matches, passing useless cards to the player beside you, and being ever watchful for someone to slam down a Brawl, War, or Duel trio. If someone throws down a Brawl trio, the players on that player’s left and right have to duke it out right then and there. If someone throws down a War trio, everyone present minus the one who played the War succumb to a free-for-all. If someone throws down a Duel trio, that person can choose two people to face off, spaghetti western style.
The game is played in two rounds, and a Fear Me Badge is awarded to the highest point player in round 1. If that same player retains the Badge by the end of round 2, that person wins. If a different player obtains the Badge at the end of round 2, then the two must have one final duel to determine the winner of the game. This is board game dodgeball at its finest!
What can I say about this game other than that it’s Clue with a supernatural twist? This is a murder mystery in which one player portrays a specter of the murder victim and all other players portray psychics who receive ghostly intuitions to try to determine who the suspects are, where the crime happened, and what murder weapon was used. The kicker? The ghost can’t speak and can only use vision cards to give the psychics clues to determine the vital details, all within the tolling of a figurative clock as it counts down to the end of the game. Having played the ghost before, I can honestly say that giving the psychics visions to interpret is no simple task. Oftentimes it results in them asking “What have you been smoking?” or “Are you insane, ghost, how does this even make sense?” It does not help that many of the vision cards I have to choose from are often a strange, crazy collaboration of Tim Burton-esque art mixed with flavors of Salvador Dali. Any number of details could be derived from these visions, whether a certain object or icon points to a clue, or a specific color portrayed in the vision, or even a pattern. Analyzing the visions is left to the psychics, and this aspect is one of the more fun parts of the game (in my opinion). When the game ends and I’m the ghost, I get to finally explain the reasoning behind the vision cards I showed the psychics, which tends to lead to fun squabbling about how that does or doesn’t make sense. Sometimes I feel like Mysterium should be renamed The Game of Interpretations.
Gameplay may seem a bit complex until you become accustomed to the rules and playstyle, and the game occurs in two phases. In phase 1, the ghost gives visions to the psychics and then indicates to them whether they’ve guessed the details correctly or not. Phase 2 is reached if all psychics have correctly identified their suspect, location, and murder weapon, and they must experience a shared vision before making the final vote to determine the sole circumstances of the ghost’s death. Even though I always struggle a bit with Mysterium’s gameplay if it’s been a while since playing, it’s a super fun and unique game to play with a larger group of people.
This concludes the first four games that I am so thrilled to highlight. I get super hyped when I think about playing them, and it makes me even more excited for gaming plans this weekend! What are some board games/tabletop games that you guys like? Feel free to share!