A New Year can bring around a period of reflection and change, which for some may mean a rationalisation of their board game collection. After receiving several new additions over Christmas my board game collection is bulging – it’s definitely modest compared to some but I still feel a growing compulsion to sell or trade some of my less-played games because as more come in I'm likely to play those older games even less than before. However, there are some games in my collection that have a permanent place, and here they are:
Splendor is my most-played board game of all time – I certainly didn’t think I’d clock up an average of 23 plays per year when I first caught sight of it, but it has become a firm family favourite, and just when my wife commented that she was starting to tire of it I ordered the Cities of Splendor expansion which has added four new game variants to keep us going for years to come.
Pandemic: The Cure
This game of saving the world by rolling dice to stop the spread of nasty diseases, which are also dice(!) would get the nod ahead of regular Pandemic because of its compressed footprint and playing time, while also giving me that epic Pandemic feeling. Pandemic: The Cure is my second most played board game of all time, behind Splendor, and I would definitely feel bereft if this wasn’t on my games shelf.
Why is it that I always have to have a glass of water handy when I play this board game?! The artwork is evocative, and the gameplay is thematic and tense as you and your friends search a desert for the parts you need to repair your airship. But the sun is a real killer and a storm shifts the very sand beneath your feet leaving you disoriented and makes the search all that more problematic. Forbidden Desert effectively killed-off its predecessor, Forbidden Island, in my view, and I have already made many wonderful memories playing this board game with my middle child.
This board game stays in my collection as it represents numerous Christmases spent at my parent's house with my family as we would play in teams with the children to try and get our rabbit meeples to the end of the track by guessing the meanings of clues given to us in relation to the dreamlike cards on the coffee table in front of us. This Christmas tradition is set to continue each year and so Dixit will stay because of the seasonal joy it brings.
King of Tokyo
Cardboard standee monsters and large chunky dice – not something I thought I’d like when I rediscovered board gaming in late 2015, but King of Tokyo completely took me by surprise and it has stormed to third place on my most played games of all time – my family and most people I introduce it to love it.
There’s something intrinsically satisfying about rolling those oversized dice again and again, and this game produces some awesome highs and lows as well as some Lazarus-inspired comebacks. The best feeling of all is surviving a round in Tokyo then rolling a collection of claws and unleashing the fury onto all of your opponents at the same time!
Set in Barcelona's Sagrada Família, Sagrada is a wonderful puzzle of “dice drafting and window crafting”and certainly has a niche thematically as you’re trying to draft dice of different shades (numbers) and colours into your window (grid) in such a way as to complete public and private objectives to become the best glass artisan. This game, which some people compare to Sudoku, provides a somewhat relaxing experience, but I find I need to concentrate at all times as things get rather tight towards the end of the game and I’m often having to seek favours from the church!
There’s not much I haven’t already said about this board game, and I’m quite happy in going on record as saying it’s my favourite game of all time. It provides such an immersive and deep experience in getting the big “Dusty Boy” (Mars) prepared for human habitation. You take on the role of a CEO of a futuristic corporation and fund projects to help progress the oxygen, heat and water levels to life-sustaining levels. Terraforming Mars’ basis in real (and theoretical) science helps this game feel so satisfying as you crash an asteroid onto the surface of the planet in the name of making it less chilly down there!
The best party game, bar none! I have had so many great times playing this game, which is a real favourite of my games group. As long as you have a minimum of two players per team the total player count doesn’t matter – I’ve played Codenames with teams in excess of 10 and it was a blast! The spymasters’ task of trying to link a number of words with a single word often produces hilarious results – I mean really, who doesn’t know about Glasnost?!...
This rare out-of-print tile-laying castle builder from the Oniverse series of solo games, which also includes the popular Onirim, is immovable in my collection because of the sheer enjoyment I get from the tension of the puzzle and the feeling of dread as to which tile will be revealed next – “could it be a dreaded traitor?”It comes with three game modes in the box and an expansion and variants which keeps things fresh. Plus, the almost child-like dreamy artwork gives this game a wonderful uniqueness.
Game of Thrones: Hand of the King
This simple yet absorbing game is based on the hugely popular television series, Game of Thrones, and focuses on taking turns using Varys’ powers of persuasion in gathering collections of as many people from the different Houses in Westeros, represented in a six by six grid of cards. The premise and mechanics of Game of Thrones: Hand of the King are incredibly simple, but it's the theme, the child-friendly cartoon artwork and the way the companions interact with play that make this filler game a joyful experience for the whole family.
Board Game Collection Summary
I’m sure as time goes on there will be other board games that will earn a permanent place in my collection but a common theme these days is that there are so many good board games out there with an almost endless choice in theme, style and type – all the signs indicate this is set to continue, which will bring some exciting and tough choices on which games to keep hold of.