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Top 5 Games for Your Staycation

praga board
praga board

With restrictions lifting in England this last month we’re all desperately hoping that Covid is finally on its way out. After more waves than the North Sea and more unwanted comebacks than your average octogenarian rock band, the virus has officially outstayed its welcome. We really want to get back to normal, don’t we? If you’re anything like me one of the things you’ve really missed is travelling to beautiful places on holiday.

Unfortunately for millions of us, that may still be a way off yet. Between test requirements, amber lists, vaccine passports and a general wariness born of, ya know, living through an unprecedented global pandemic! A lot of people have decided to put that dream vacay off till next year. But that’s ok, know why? Because we have two special resources at our disposal. Ready access to board games and a fierce imagination. Okay, it’s not quite the same as snorkelling in the Maldives or dining in Paris, but there are worse ways to spend your time than playing gorgeous board games set in interesting places.

Below I’ve prepared a shortlist of games that with a teeny weeny (massive dollop) of imagination might just tide us over. Not to mention give us some ideas where to go when we do have the freedom!

City Break - Praga Caput Regni

Prague. The majestic Bohemian capital nestled in a bend of the Vltava river. This beautiful city warmly invites visitors to explore her rich cultural heritage, gothic architecture and fascinating past. Don’t just learn Prague’s history, live it! Tread the kings road, mix eggs into the mortar of the Charles Bridge and maybe even witness a defenestration or two.

Praga Caput Regni is a big, beautiful and bold game. Designed by Vladimir Suchy of Underwater Cities fame. Praga is set during the golden age of King Charles IV. Players will use the action rondel to carry out various building works. The glorious oversized main board houses the new town for you to build in and the Charles Bridge who’s planks you can lay with your own hands. It also contains the Hunger Wall and Saint Vitus Cathedral. These cardboard monoliths multi-tiered tracks will provide points and bonuses galore. After all, bonuses and efficiency are the watchwords for Praga.

Players personal dual layer boards artfully display their engines and resource caches and a second action board can be upgraded and built up for even more bonuses and combos.

Yes, Praga abounds with paths to take and strategies to explore. A plethora of cardboard components are intricately illustrated to bring the gothic capital to life and give the game an undeniable table presence. Praga Caput Regni is a fantastic game that evokes a wonderful city and two hours well spent in my opinion.

5 Star Luxury - Grand Austria Hotel

Ladies and gentlemen, miene Damen und Herren. Welcome, Willkommen, Bienvenue to the Grand Austria Hotel! There is no finer establishment in all of Vienna. Whether it’s coffee, cake, strudel or wine, it’s only the best for you! Sample our menu and relax in our luxurious suites. Mingle with our guests from all over the globe, you can even enjoy a waltz in our new ballroom. We look forward to seeing you at the Grand Austria Hotel very soon!

GAH is not for the faint of heart. There are so many factors at play in this firecracker of a game from Italian design team Virginio Gigli and Simone Luciani. With a constant stream of customers to feed and water, you’ll need to prepare hotel rooms at lightning speed. All the while preparing for regular nerve wracking visits from the emperor himself. You’ll need to hire plenty of staff to supplement the limited action drafting. You see GAH employs action drafting using a pool of dice. Each action matches a value on a D6. The results of the dice roll determine not only what actions are available that round but also how powerful that action is.

This may sound a bit random and luck dependant, but the game demands you to mitigate these limitations. You do this through your personal staff cards, careful choice of guests and efficiency of actions. If you don’t let yourself be backed into a corner where you need one particular action then this masterpiece flows in the most satisfying way. Like any 5 star luxury hotel stay, Grand Austria Hotel is best as a twosome.

Nature retreat - Everdell

Beyond the Spirecrest mountains, beside the meandering Pearlbrook river lies your home away from home. Under the shade of the majestic Evertree the picturesque city of Everdell welcomes you with open arms. Home to the friendliest critters you’ll ever meet, Everdell has all the mod cons too. Tarry Hare’s general store will keep you stocked up and the postal pigeon makes sure all your postcards will get delivered. Be sure to time your visit well, if you’re lucky you may even catch the Bellfaire!

Everdell needs no introduction. If ever there was a board game universe you wish you could visit this is it! With its uniquely attractive art and show stopping table presence Everdell is often called the most beautiful game ever made. With its adorable animeeples and engaging tableau building you can’t help but be drawn into this sylvan paradise.

Stunning aesthetic aside, Everdell also happens to be an excellent game mechanically. It starts off with all the tightness of your average engine building worker placement game. Each season unlocks extra workers to utilise. When you add that to the addictive combo building of cards played to your personal tableau, the result is a perfect arc in ability through the 4 rounds. The seemingly impossible prospect of filling your city’s 15 spaces soon turns to agonising choices over which cards to play and which to leave out. With 3 excellent expansions already and 2 more on the way, Everdell is a pleasure to visit time and time again!

Hiking holiday - Parks

From the Gates of the Arctic National preserve in Alaska, to the Dry Tortugas National park in the Florida Keys, there’s something for everyone in the US National Parks. With hundreds of locations covering the most diverse climates and ecosystems, a nature lover could spend a lifetime visiting these Parks. So pull on your boots, strap on your backpack and don’t forget your camera because this… is what memories are made of!

Based around the Fifty-Nine Parks print series, Parks is a visual spectacle of a board game. The ooh’s and aah’s that accompany each card reveal speak for themselves. I really can’t think of another game that matches this pure celebration of travelling and natural beauty. The whole game is beautifully put together with tactile wooden resources a relaxing pastel colour scheme and practical as well as good looking component trays included.

Players in Parks take on the role of walkers hiking along a trail of action locations. The trail is made of randomly layed tiles with a new action tile being added in each consecutive season. You’ll leap frog your hiker meeples up this trail collecting gear and resources and filling canteens with special abilities. All with the aim of visiting Park cards from the available row by paying the appropriate resources. Along the way, there's plenty of opportunities to take photos for extra points. After all, that’s what Parks is all about, making memories in some of the worlds most beautiful places!

Galactic getaway - Space Park

Greetings intrepid explorers! We are so glad you’ve come. The Galaxy needs more explorers like you. With your trusty rocket ship and loyal explore-o-bot the wonders of the universe are yours to discover. From the bustling Starlight Station to the mysterious Outpost 13. Through ethereal Lunar Woods and awe inspiring Cosmic Canyon. Earn your explorer badges and collect beautiful space crystals but most importantly, enjoy the Galaxy!

You know the absolute best part about vacationing in your imagination? You can go anywhere, you don’t even have to stay on Earth! Space Park is a retrofuturistic homage to the golden age of science fiction. With mesmerising artwork that weaves achingly beautiful colours through impossibly alien landscapes. Space Park is a feast for the eyes. I could stare at the 7 location tiles that make up the board all day. With its iconic 1950’s style rocket ship miniatures and pleasantly tactile crystal resources, this Keymaster game really is a stunning production.