Lockdown has proven to be a challenging time for all of us. As everyone is staying safe and staying home, we need something to keep us entertained right? We're discussing our best sellers since the beginning of lockdown and why they're great to buy right now.
By Carl Yaxley
It doesn't surprise me to see Ticket to Ride Europe (TTRE) on the list of best sellers. I've enjoyed playing it for a decade, if not longer. It's a great family game, and an excellent gateway into the wider world of tabletop gaming. When I consider games for a session with the family, TTRE remains a go-to. It also remains my favourite iteration of Ticket to Ride.
TTRE is a lightweight, network building game, with elements of hand management, set collection, and card drafting. The aim is to score points by successfully claiming rail routes between the cities of Europe and fulfilling destination 'tickets'. A destination ticket depicts two cities. If the player can complete a route between them, they will score end-game points. Players claim routes by playing sets of cards that match the particular route they wish to build upon.
Gameplay is simple. Players each take a supply of trains, three train stations, and four destination tickets, which includes one 'long route'. Destination tickets are kept secret. Players are also randomly dealt four train cards. There are nine different coloured types of train card. Eight matching the colour routes on the board, and one rainbow coloured locomotive, which is considered wild.
On a turn, you take one action: pick up another train card, claim a route (by playing train cards), play a station, or draw another destination ticket. Playing stations allows you to use another player’s route into, or out of, a city to complete a destination ticket. Taking more destination tickets will help you score more points at the end of the game. Game end is triggered when one player has two or fewer trains left in their supply. Then, the player with the most points win. It’s a simple game which is enjoyable to play.
By Northern Dice
We love Pandemic. It's something we're not shy about, as it's a game that sits quite neatly on our shelf. As a game, it ticks all the boxes for us: it’s cooperative and easy access. The main mechanics are cooperation and set collection, however it covers many more without feeling messy or overbearing. Everything is structured and happens sequentially. The aim for players is to cure the diseases causing havoc across the globe. It's for 1-4 players and runs in 45-60 minutes.
In Pandemic, players traverse the world to treat disease cubes and collect sets of cards to cure the respective diseases. As they do so, more infections occur and epidemics break out! If you run out of cards, or have eight outbreaks before the diseases are cured... You lose! It is tough. There's no dressing it up, it comes at you hard and fast, hitting you with outbreaks and new infections constantly, but it's still fun! Initially, battling the diseases took us aback. It felt like a mammoth task! But it only took one game for us to recognise the beauty here. You play, you learn, and you adapt. It’s all about showing how adept you are at tackling the oncoming storm.
The objective for players is simple, find a cure to all four diseases. To do so, you need sets of cards. Whether you focus on that or managing the disease spread is up to you, but it's undeniably going to be situational. You'll need to assess the situations and act accordingly, weighing up the needs of the game at the time! It then goes further than that with variable player powers and scalable difficulties. You'll always have four diseases to contend with, but how frequently new epidemics occur can be adjusted.
Pandemic stands at the pinnacle of easy access cooperative games. You work together to save the world. And if you fail, you try again! Even as we stumble through our board gaming adventure towards claiming to be veterans, Pandemic is still a game we go back to. It's not one you can master, but it's one you'll love take on as a group.
By Tom Harrod
Klaus Teuber’s Catan released back in 1995. Catan is an island, and the players are the settlers. They compete to build networks of settlements, roads and cities. The more you build, the more points you earn, and Catan is all about points. First to 10 VP wins!
Harvesting the land that sits adjacent to your settlements gains you corresponding resources. These trigger when their sum gets rolled from two dice, so in theory, some are more frequent than others. On your turn you can trade resources with your opponents. You’ll need to do this for set collection purposes. Building things costs specific resources. But in doing so, you gift your rivals the cards they need! Catan is all about the trading, the banter, the back and forth. And it’s part of why the game retains its pulling power.
Catan was the first ‘modern strategy game’ that I played. It was love at first sight, because it gave me proper decisions to make. Where should I build my roads? Where is the best spot to build my next settlement? Where should I place the robber? Should I accept this trade?
Catan features a golden ratio of luck and strategy. You can estimate a two-dice bell curve. But you can’t rely upon it to roll what you need, when you need it! That’s a magic ingredient that appeals to a wide scope of gamers, old and new.
Even now, 25 years on, people are discovering Catan for the first time. They’re thinking, ‘Should we try board games?’ as a way to make lockdown easier. They’re feeling the same jaw-drop as I did. In some ways, I get a pang of jealousy. That was a wonderful moment, when the penny dropped for me. When I realised, “Wow. Modern board games are brilliant!”
By Rob Wright
7 Wonders is a great game – the combination of hand passing and tableau building makes it risky but balanced, the choice of ways to score points makes it very replayable and the three round limit makes it nice and quick. The only thing wrong with it is that you can’t play it with two people. Which is why we have 7 Wonders Duel.
If it was just a case of replicating the gameplay style of 7 Wonders but with two people, this would still be a good game, but what makes it a great game is that it doesn’t go for the easy win – it has a completely different play style. Instead of passing and playing, you get a ziggurat of semi-revealed cards, which you take it in turns to draw, either to add to your tableau, burn for cash or use to build one of your wonders (because you now have four, not one to build). The longer you play, more of the cards get revealed and the more cards you can draw. When all the cards are gone, a new round begins and a new taruggiz or ratigzug is made. There’s still three rounds, which keeps it nice and quick too.
Resources work the same, but with this two-player version, science and military are revamped – military becomes a tug of war where, if the opposing player moves the marker into your city, they win and vice versa; science pairs give you special abilities that can give you a very unfair advantage or, if you get 7 different sciences, you win automatically. If neither of these happen, then most points wins.
So why is this great for now and beyond? A lot of couples out there will have exhausted the joys of Prime and Netflix and all that, and will potentially be looking for something to do, and I can think of nothing more wholesome or zesty than sitting down to a two player game, and for me, Duels is one of the best if not the best there is for the cost. I mean, what else is there for couples to do?
By Kirsty Hewitt
During the game players take turns drafting tiles from the central factories to place on their board. Players can either take all tiles of the same colour from one factory or all tiles of the same colour from the middle of the factory. Players place their drafted tiles into pattern lines which feed into one line of the design Each line requires a different number of tiles to complete. Pattern lines can only contain tiles of the same colour. Tiles of the same colour cannot appear more than once in the same row or column.
If you take more tiles than will fit in your pattern line, or you cannot place the tiles you take, these fall onto the floor line and are worth negative points at the end of the round.
Once all of the tiles have been drafted players can move tiles from any complete pattern lines onto the pattern itself. Points are scored for tiles in the same rows and columns as the tile just placed. Rounds are played in this way until one player completes a row of their pattern.
The colours of the tiles really pop on the board. It is a very pleasing experience to build up your pattern over the course of the game. Azul has enough strategy to make you think without being too much. The balance of strategy and aesthetics make Azul a great game to play at any time; but the easy set up of the game, and the feeling of accomplishment as you build your pattern is perfect at the moment.
By Nick T
Carcassonne is two decades old. Yet here it is on a list of best-selling games during lockdown, outselling plenty of modern classics and more recent award-winning games. Further to that, it hasn’t changed much over the years!
Players take it in turn to draw a tile from a selection of draw decks and lay it next to a tile already laid on the table. That player can then decide whether to claim it with one of their wooden meeples. This gains control of a city, road, monastery or field. When these respective constructions are completed, you get a number of points depending how big it is.
The principals of the game are easy to pick up and this makes Carcassonne one of the best entry-level games on the market. The rules are simple and scoring is a breeze. Everyone is competitive until the end as there is no player elimination.
You can play passively, concentrating on your own city and roadbuilding. Others will try and muscle-in on your empire. I quite often play with just one other person. Adding in a few more competitors changes the strategy. One of its greatest selling points is this ability to scale up and down and work effectively at all player counts.
The 2015 version offers a refreshed new look. I only recently discovered this spruced up artwork caused quite a lot of controversy among core Carcassonne fans. I didn’t know the old version so I can certainly live with the extra detail, cute gardens and blue roofs on this version that upset so many!
This newer version also comes complete with a couple of mini-expansions that I cannot imagine being without. Firstly the River Expansion, this spreads the map far and wide at the start. The other is the Abbot mini-expansion which introduces a new meeple to the game who can only claim monasteries and gardens. Obviously if you haven’t played it, that will mean nothing to you. Trust me it’s a good addition! Once you have mastered the base game there are further expansions available to buy that mix up the gameplay. My personal favourite is the Inns and Cathedrals.
Put simply Carcassonne is a game everyone should play. I would recommend it as a brilliant entry level game and so I am unsurprised it is on this list. To quote Art Laboe: it’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie!
By Jim Cohen
This game has made a huge splash on TikTok thanks to the app that lets you put the game on your head using AR! As such, this is a much sort after lock down party game right now! But what is it, and do you need this in your life right now?
This is a very simple party game. In the box are loads of cards with a common phrase on the back. On the front is that same phrase but written phonetically in a very strange way. For example, “Stir Range Earth Inks.” Read that out loud. Go on, out loud! No one will think you’re weird. You’re probably at home anyway? Sounds a bit like “Stranger Things” right? Well that’s the game!
What Do You Meme, the publishers have “gamed it up” a bit by offering topics to choose from like “Pop Culture”, “Party” or “Kinky”. There is a timer to see how many you can get in a round too to add some tension! You can play in teams, alone, as a group. However you want really. The answer side of the card does have a hint on it that you can give to people who are struggling a little. Which believe me, you will need more than you think in the first few games. But as your head comes around to the way of this game, you will surprise yourself how easy it is to get. But, this is all irrelevant. It’s not about how easy it is. Or how the game plays. This is just about fun. If you want a silly, quick, accessible party game, this may be a good choice for you. And right now, I think we all need a bit of that. It works brilliantly on video calls too. You only need one copy per group.
You can make it work for younger groups by removing a few cards, and I am sure children would love this too. But this is marketed as an adult game as some of the phrases are a little racy. But, let’s be honest, this game is way better after a few drinks! Anyone fancy a readbow fog caw?