What’s the point of this feature? You may well ask. Imagine this: you’re forming a nascent Board Games group and you’ve got people coming along who want to play a proper sit down and think about your turn sort of game. However, because of your great charisma you’ve got 6 people turn up. That’s already too many for some of the greats like Ticket to Ride, Catan, Splendor, Carcassonne, Wingspan etc. and they want something with more bite than a riotous party game, so what do you chose?
Well let’s look at what you want to avoid. You don’t want players to sit round waiting ages for their turn with nothing to do. Also you don’t want players to be eliminated way before the end. You certainly don’t want both – I’m looking at you Monopoly! Ideally players should be involved every turn, whether they are the active player or not. So what have we got? Well rather than just 5 games I’m going to consider 5 types of games and a prime example of each.
1. Bidding Games – For Sale
In these games all the players are bidding increasingly higher in an auction so everyone’s involved to see how far it goes. In Perudo aka Liar’s Dice you’re trying to guess the numbers of hidden dice In For Sale you are bidding to buy a limited number of properties.
For Sale is a game of two halves – both good! In the first half of the game you compete to buy all the properties until they’re all gone then in the second half – you guessed it! – you compete to sell them all. There are 30 properties from 1 - a cardboard box all the way up (literally) to 30 - a space station. In each bidding round each player will end up with a property. So, with 6 players that’s 5 properties each. You try to get the best value property for the least amount of cash. Each round six properties are dealt out and you decide to bid or not. If you don’t bid or drop out you get the lowest value property and the auction continues until the top bidder gets the best property. Tactically if the properties are all similar in value you might as well keep your money in your pocket but if the difference is great it’s worth vying for the top cards.
Once all properties are bought you sell them. There are 30 cheques ranging from 15,000 to Zero! Six cheques are played face up and each of the players secretly choses a property to play. These are revealed simultaneously and the highest number gets the biggest cheque and so on down. Once all the cheques have gone, total up to find a winner.
A compelling game of trying to get a better deal than your opponents and quick enough that you can go again or use it as an introduction to more meatier fare.
2. Roll & Write – Rustling Leaves
You don’t get bored waiting for your turn if everyone plays simultaneously. So this is where roll & write comes in, with the excellent, little, Rustling Leaves as my prime example.
Rustling Leaves presents each player with a sheet of woodland symbols from a tear-off pad. There are four of these pads representing the four seasons. They show the same prime area of woodland with a river running through it from top to bottom. The symbols change as the seasons progress from Spring’s fresh leaves, birds and bees through Summere fruit and flowers, Autumns nuts and fungi to Winters ice and snow. The river, too, changes. Starting as a gentle stream then drying up completely, becoming a torrent in Fall and finally freezing over. The aim is to score points from sets of symbols selected from the areas that you enclose as the game progresses.
Each turn two dice are rolled that are numbered 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4. everyone then encloses an area of that length and width on their sheet. Once everyone’s finished they each choose just one symbol from their enclosure to go towards their set collections. They tick this off against the list of symbols at the bottom of the sheet.
The dice are then rolled again for the next turn. Your enclosures can not overlap and if you find you are unable to fit the required shape in you must tick a “missed dice” box for a -3 VP penalty. If you think you’re unlikely to be able to build a valid enclosure you can drop out before the dice are rolled. When everyone has passed the scores are totalled. You get differing points for different sets. Some are easy for small scores with the high scoring sets being much harder.
Each game should be about 20 minutes and a good session could see you play all four seasons – the Frankie Valli tour!
3. Simultaneous Play – Diplomacy
Continuing the theme of games where everyone plays at once let’s consider a few variants. First there are games where one player has a special role, usually story-teller and all the others play as guessers. This can be like Mysterium where the Psychics are playing together to unravel the mystery of the Ghost or Dixit where everyone is competing to try and guess the story-teller’s card. But Dixit almost takes us into party game territory so I’d like to offer a strategy game with board and counters where 6 players will plot their moves and reveal them simultaneously – Diplomacy.
Diplomacy has a distinctive USP in that you can not win alone. You need the help of the others to achieve your conquest of pre-WWI Europe. There are 34 areas on the board that have supply centres. Each year consists of a Spring campaign and a Fall campaign. If after the end of the Fall campaign one player controls over half of the supply centres i.e.18 they win. But as it tends to be a long game you may agree a time limit beforehand with the player or players with the most at that point the winner.
Before each season’s campaign you have a Diplomacy period where you talk in secret to the other players to build alliances and offer support to various moves and strategies. Diplomacy has no element of luck or random chance. No drafted cards or rolled dice to determine outcomes but merely the eponymous power of persuasion where you cajole your colleagues into making your nefarious schemes a reality.
The moves are all simple area movements and the orders are written down and revealed simultaneously. The moves are then completed according to set guidelines and you find out who you can really trust. The trick is to be faithful to your allies right up to the point where you finally betray them. This should be as late as possible for maximum benefit and should, ideally, be one turn before they betray you!
4. Team Games – Quartermaster General WW2 2nd edition
We’ve considered a few types where everyone plays together. Next we can look at playing individually but in teams. This is common in tabletop miniature conflict games where you give each player on a side different divisions of the forces to command but all pulling together to defeat a common enemy.
This is crystallised in boardgame terms in Quartermaster General WW2 2nd Edition. In this stylised simulation of the Second World War all six major powers must be played. That is The United Kingdom, the United States and Russia on the Allies side and Germany, Japan and Italy for the Axis powers. With less than six players some will double up and take more than one country to control but with six it’s ideal as everyone has one of their own. Each country is played as a separate hand but their VPs are aggregated. These VPs are marked on a track around the board as Supply Centres are captured and held and if at the end of any complete turn of the full 6 Nations one team is 30 points ahead of the other, victory is declared. Alternatively the game ends at the end of 20 turns in favour of the team with the most VPs.
The game is played through your hand of cards giving you various actions to perform: building armies and navies, conducting land or sea battles or economic warfare. Then there are events that can improve your forces or those of your allies. Finally Status and Response cards give great effects but have to be prepared in advance in an earlier turn. These Response cards, in particular, can be played out of your turn, either when an enemy action can trigger them, or as an aid when you or your allies are attacked. Thus all players are constantly engaged and when the end comes half of them will be declared winners as the successful team.
5. Racing Games – Camel Up!
There are a whole slew of racing games where more competitors make for a more interesting game. Also turns tend to be fairly short so there’s not too much hanging about: Formula D and Grand Prix for car racing, Flamme Rouge – Peleton for cycling and my personal favourite and top recommendation Camel Up! for camel racing. Now this may not be the greatest simulation of an actual sport but it is huge fun.
For those who don’t know it is all about racing camels in the desert with its’ USP being that Camels can be carried forward by other camels they land on. This can be stacked (literally) if they, too, land on another, for a cornucopia of camel-carrying capers. What makes it great for large numbers is that you don’t own an individual camel but are part of the on-gazing crowd betting on the outcomes of each leg and the overall race.
This means that whilst you have to wait for your turn to place bets you do watch all the camels move when someone rolls the dice so there’s always something to keep you engaged. Also, regarding the turn wait, if you get to bet early you get better odds but are taking a greater risk whereas with a later bet you can be more sure of the outcome. Your wait time can be usefully spent working out all the possible combinations of the order of dice throws. Good luck with that!
So that’s it. Not only 5 great games for 6 players but 5 whole genres (is that the correct plural?) of games to get you thinking along the right lines.