Getting Back Into Board Games

YellowKing
edited December 2010 in Tabletop Gaming
A little history:

I've always been interested in board games/pencil-paper RPGs, however, I didn't really get into more "adult" board games until around 5 years ago. I ended up with a collection including Carcassonne, Settles of Cataan, Arkham Horror, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Lord of the Rings, and a few Risk variants. With friends moving away, the baby, etc. I dropped out of playing them and most have been sitting in my garage collecting dust.

Recently a new game shop opened up in town that has really rekindled my love of board games. They have competitive pricing (typically about what you would pay for them online w/ shipping), a really good selection, and lots of board game gatherings and events and such.

I've asked for Last Night on Earth for Christmas. What other games would you consider "must-haves?" Bonus points for two-player games - while I have a couple of friends who could be persuaded to play every now and then, it will be mainly me and the missus. I'm not big on historical warfare type games, but love horror/fantasy and really good sci-fi. Thanks in advance!
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Comments

  • 67 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Graham
    GT Member
    You might want to look at "They Came from Outer Space," which was made by the same people who did Last Night on Earth.

    If you don't have any of the Ticket to Ride games, I would recommend at least one of them. It's always a fun game even for people who don't play board games. If you get the USA version, get the USA 1910 expansion. Bigger cards and more tickets is worth it instantly.

    Castle Ravenloft is great if you want that D&D fix without a DM and in about an hour. Can be played solo or up to five.

    Take a look at Ascension if you like deck-building games. It's faster to set up than Dominion and I feel like it plays faster too. For 2 - 4 players. Warning, the artwork kind of sucks.

    Thunderstone is cool if you want to keep a fantasy theme. It has a much better theme and artwork than Dominion, and can also be played solo.

    If you have friends that enjoy co-op games and enjoy a fantasy setting, then check out Defenders of the Realm. While it has some similarities to Pandemic, it does feel like a totally different game.

    If you like Risk but want to mix it up a bit, then check out Small World. While the game isn't the best with just two players, it's not bad. Better with 3 - 4.

    Kingsburg is a fun worker placement game. It does have a two-player variant, but it handles up to five. I've heard good things about Stone Age, but have never played it.

    I know some people like Race for the Galaxy. I find it to be too random and while there is some strategy, I feel that there is a lot more luck involved. You'll also need a couple of expansions to have any kind of player interaction.
    Keith Schleicher
    Lead Tabletop Editor
    Gaming Trend
  • jament
    GT Member
    We play 2- or 3-player Pandemic a lot and it's great. It's a unique game because you're both working together against the virus that's threatening the population. The pure co-op is great and when strategies diverge makes things interesting.

  • kronovan
    GT Member
    +1 for Pandemic. If you want the females in your life to boardgame with you it's about your best option. However, I don't really recommend buying it alone, as the 'On the Brink' expansion is low cost, makes the gameplay much more interesting, and makes a game that's a bit too easy a decent challenge.

    If you're looking for something competitive vs co-op, my more casual gaming friends seem to really enjoy Small World. It's a pure fantasy setting with wizards, dwarves, giants, orcs, humans, etc.

    [edit] Both of these games play very well with just 2 players.
  • Bullwinkle
    GT Member
    I cannot recommend Dominion enough. It's a fantastic game. The mechanic centers on deck building (something I've never enjoyed in CCGs) and uses it in an addictive way.

    Easily my favorite game of the last few years.
  • Turtle
    GT Member
    Forbidden Island is a game made by the same guys as Pandemic, also co-op, it's pretty much the precursor to Pandemic. It's also cheap to buy so check it out.

    Android is currently on sale for $25. It's a big box game that has a theme similar to blade runner.
  • Bullwinkle
    GT Member
    I don't care for Ascension nearly as much as Dominion. It doesn't feel nearly as fine-tuned. It's not a bad game, certainly, but it feels a bit rushed.

    I haven't tried Thunderstone, as the age range isn't right for my daughter yet, but I have heard that it's longer and more complicated and is easier to grasp if you've played Dominion.
  • Graham
    GT Member
    on 1291814576:

    I don't care for Ascension nearly as much as Dominion. It doesn't feel nearly as fine-tuned. It's not a bad game, certainly, but it feels a bit rushed.


    If you've ever played with someone who has Analysis Paralysis, you appreciate Ascension a bit more. I also like the setup and tear down time is much faster. I do like Dominion, and I haven't played with all of the sets, but I like how you don't have to worry about how many buys you have or actions you have. You can lay down your cards and play them out pretty quickly. Sometimes Dominion can be bogged down. I've never had a game of Dominion last a half hour. Usually it's been 45 minutes minimum.
    Keith Schleicher
    Lead Tabletop Editor
    Gaming Trend
  • El-Producto
    +1 to Pandemic, it's one of the only games I can get my non-geeky tolerant wife to play.

    Reminds me, I really do need to get that expansion.
  • Mithridates
    on 1291674500:

    I cannot recommend Dominion enough. It's a fantastic game. The mechanic centers on deck building (something I've never enjoyed in CCGs) and uses it in an addictive way.

    Easily my favorite game of the last few years.


    x46,000,000,000,000
  • YellowKing
    GT Member
    Thanks for the suggestions; I've put some of those on my wish list.

    I bought Castle Ravenloft for a friend of mine. We started playing D&D 4e when it first came out and had a pretty regular group going but we both ended up with more responsibility than time. He constantly laments the fact that he misses D&D but can't justify the time investment. Figured it would be absolutely *perfect* for him (and the bonus being I get to play too!)

  • CeeKay
    GT Member
    on 1291790993:

    If you have friends that enjoy co-op games and enjoy a fantasy setting, then check out Defenders of the Realm. While it has some similarities to Pandemic, it does feel like a totally different game.


    a friend and I saw this at Origins game fair over the summer. it looked interesting plus the guy at the booth sold it well and he bought it (couldn't believe it was 75 bucks though), but unfortunately by the time I got to play with the group a couple of months later everyone was already bored with it and they had gone back to Cataan, General consensus was that they liked it at first but it got too easy to beat every time they played it. It's just my luck, same thing happened with Arkham Horror. One caveat though: 3 of the group members are power gamers who go out of their way to find a way to break a game pretty quickly.

    God forbid they'd ever get bored of Cataan though :crybaby:
  • Mithridates
    on 1292028007:

    Thanks for the suggestions; I've put some of those on my wish list.

    I bought Castle Ravenloft for a friend of mine. We started playing D&D 4e when it first came out and had a pretty regular group going but we both ended up with more responsibility than time. He constantly laments the fact that he misses D&D but can't justify the time investment. Figured it would be absolutely *perfect* for him (and the bonus being I get to play too!)




    I picked up Castle Ravenloft in October and we love it. It's a hit with our friends, with my wife and with my kids(girls 11 and 8). They've taken the thrill of a dungeon crawl and made it a great 1-1.5 hour experience. The mechanics are plain out outstanding and I love the cooperative strategies we've been forced to develop. What's awesome is that game is fun with any number 2-5 and people can drop in/drop out as needed. A really great game! I'm looking forward to more in this series.
  • Boudreaux
    GT Member
    Board games are so subjective, it's hard to offer foolproof suggestions. Still, a few of my "must-haves" that somewhat fit in your guidelines:

    Middle Earth Quest - 2-4 player adventure game where one player is Sauron, the other players are Heroes opposing him. Both sides have unique gameplay and objectives, and the different tactics and strategies are fantastic. One of my all-time favorites, and works just fine with 2 players.

    Innovation - 2-4 player card game that is actually rather hard to describe. Involves building set collections and using card powers to gain points and ruin your opponents. Another one I'm having a hard time getting tired of.

    Fury of Dracula - another semi-cooperative game where a team of hunters is chasing the Dracula player. Brilliant game, quickly becomes a cat-and-mouse chase between the two sides. 2-5 players.

    A Game of Thrones Living Card Game - it's a CCG with pre-constructed decks, and a role-selection aspect that makes things really unique. Fantastic job of integrating the theme of the novels, if you're a Song of Ice and Fire fan. Really needs 3-4 players though.

    Mr. Jack - fantastic 2-player deduction game. One player is Jack the Ripper, another is the inspector trying to find him. Really clever back-and-forth game, simple to learn, but really addictive.

  • CeeKay
    GT Member
    speaking of Defenders of the Realm, let me toot someone else's horn.
  • Bullwinkle
    GT Member
    I caved and bought Thunderstone, since I found it cheap (though I can't say for sure I'll actually get to play it). Defenders of the Realm has been on my list. Just waiting for a good price.
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    Amazon has a Dominion deal up right now for $60 for the base game, Alchemy, Prosperity, Black Market and Envoy promo card sets and a full color play mat.
  • Bullwinkle
    GT Member
    on 1292429487:

    Amazon has a Dominion deal up right now for $60 for the base game, Alchemy, Prosperity, Black Market and Envoy promo card sets and a full color play mat.


    That's a great deal (though the mat seems useless). It also seems to solve the big issue of the expansions, which is storage. Right now, you have to bring out all of the boxes to play.

    I would love to find a nice box designed for everything that I didn't have to make myself.
  • Larraque
    On Ascension vs. Dominion (coming from someone who has played magic: the gathering competitively for ~ 10 years)

    Ascension is a good game, don't get me wrong, but there's a definite power imbalance and luck factor to it. I've played about 30 games and found that it's very easy to teach, but there's not a lot of variety. Most games play out the same basic way and the strategy is very rigid. 95% of the time it makes more sense to buy a card in the center row than a mystic/militia, and there are certain cards (Arbiter of the Precipice: Draw 2 cards then banish any card from your hand) that if you get it at the start of the game and understand what that means and what to do with it, you've pretty much already won the damn game. I had one game where i had Arbiter and the guy that lets you copy any hero you've already played this turn, proceeded to whittle my deck down to a very lean 13 cards while my opponents all had like 40-50 cards, and I cycled through the entire deck every single turn, won by 30 or so points.

    My other big beef with the game is that it doesn't feel as interactive as a game should be. When it's not your turn, there's only a few cards in the entire set that do anything to you, and you can't interrupt anything your opponent is doing.

    Dominion OTOH seems to have a lot more variety -- even though I've only played 10-15 games of it. It does take a lot longer to set up. I only have the main game and Intrigue right now and finding the cards in my well sorted boxes where I've sleeved all the cards to keep them in pristine condition. I've got plans right after christmas to buy the three expansions I don't already have. There was one card that the owner of my LGS told me about that was extremely unbalanced - I believe it was Saboteur (one where you make all your opponents lose the next card in their deck costing 3 or more and then acquire something costing 3 or less) - we simply chose never to play with it; problem solved.

    Both games are great choices, and ultimately I recommend getting both.

    Thunderstone... in the one trial game I had at my LGS I didn't care for it so much. It was much more involved than Dominion with a lot of things that I didn't want to think about (equip axes to heroes, no they don't have enough light so they're fighting in the dark and will lose... what is going on???) I'm sure it's better once you get a basic understanding of the game - but it's definitely harder to teach than Dominion/Ascension.
  • Graham
    GT Member
    on 1292509816:

    On Ascension vs. Dominion (coming from someone who has played magic: the gathering competitively for ~ 10 years)

    Ascension is a good game, don't get me wrong, but there's a definite power imbalance and luck factor to it. I've played about 30 games and found that it's very easy to teach, but there's not a lot of variety. Most games play out the same basic way and the strategy is very rigid. 95% of the time it makes more sense to buy a card in the center row than a mystic/militia, and there are certain cards (Arbiter of the Precipice: Draw 2 cards then banish any card from your hand) that if you get it at the start of the game and understand what that means and what to do with it, you've pretty much already won the damn game. I had one game where i had Arbiter and the guy that lets you copy any hero you've already played this turn, proceeded to whittle my deck down to a very lean 13 cards while my opponents all had like 40-50 cards, and I cycled through the entire deck every single turn, won by 30 or so points.

    My other big beef with the game is that it doesn't feel as interactive as a game should be. When it's not your turn, there's only a few cards in the entire set that do anything to you, and you can't interrupt anything your opponent is doing.

    Dominion OTOH seems to have a lot more variety -- even though I've only played 10-15 games of it. It does take a lot longer to set up. I only have the main game and Intrigue right now and finding the cards in my well sorted boxes where I've sleeved all the cards to keep them in pristine condition. I've got plans right after christmas to buy the three expansions I don't already have. There was one card that the owner of my LGS told me about that was extremely unbalanced - I believe it was Saboteur (one where you make all your opponents lose the next card in their deck costing 3 or more and then acquire something costing 3 or less) - we simply chose never to play with it; problem solved.

    Both games are great choices, and ultimately I recommend getting both.

    Thunderstone... in the one trial game I had at my LGS I didn't care for it so much. It was much more involved than Dominion with a lot of things that I didn't want to think about (equip axes to heroes, no they don't have enough light so they're fighting in the dark and will lose... what is going on???) I'm sure it's better once you get a basic understanding of the game - but it's definitely harder to teach than Dominion/Ascension.


    There is still a luck factor with Dominion, as far as which cards you draw for your hand. Also, if you don't have any attack cards in your tableau, Dominion has very little interaction with other players. I also don't like how there isn't any way to defend against attack cards if you don't have any kind of defense cards in the tableau. I think that some of the issues that you have can be resolved easily with an expansion, something that Dominion has had four of. Playing the original Dominion by itself has the same issues you have. Also, just because a card shows up early in the tableau in one game doesn't mean that it will come up shortly thereafter. I'm also surprised you were able to win Ascension with that few of cards in your deck unless you killed a lot of monsters. I played with a friend and he had so many jewels he thought that he won, but once we included the cards in our deck, I had won by a few points. Also, Ascension seems designed so that it does make sense to buy a card in the middle row if you have enough to do so, and the mystic/militia are there for the times when you can't. If you couldn't do anything then your turn wouldn't be very much fun. Dominion to me feels rather slow in comparison to Ascension.

    Thunderstone does take more time, but it doesn't feel like the theme is pasted on like Dominion. Every card has a useful purpose, instead of Dominon where you have the point cards that are just dead weight. You might want to look at Heroes of Graxia, which seems like a nice mix between Thundrstone and Ascension.
    Keith Schleicher
    Lead Tabletop Editor
    Gaming Trend
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    on 1292435823:

    on 1292429487:

    Amazon has a Dominion deal up right now for $60 for the base game, Alchemy, Prosperity, Black Market and Envoy promo card sets and a full color play mat.


    That's a great deal (though the mat seems useless). It also seems to solve the big issue of the expansions, which is storage. Right now, you have to bring out all of the boxes to play.

    I would love to find a nice box designed for everything that I didn't have to make myself.


    I just ordered that and the 5-6 player expansion for Settlers so we can have something other than staring at the walls while I'm in the house with my parents, sister and BIL for a week.
  • Larraque
    on 1292534108:

    I'm also surprised you were able to win Ascension with that few of cards in your deck unless you killed a lot of monsters.


    I killed a lot of monsters, had 3 or 4 constructs in play, and removed everything from my deck that wasn't awesome as the game progressed (After removing all apprentices, I took out most mystics). When you're drawing cards like Osirah the Peerless and Landtalker every turn alongside Clone-guy, it's really hard for opponents to keep up. It was a pretty unique game and I don't remember all the specifics but it was disgusting.
  • YellowKing
    GT Member
    I ended up getting the following for Christmas:

    Pandemic
    Forbidden Island
    Small World
    Ghost Stories
    Last Night on Earth

    I also got to play a game of Castle Ravenloft, as I bought that for a friend of mine.

    So far I've only had a chance to play Forbidden Island, which my wife and I really enjoyed. I think it's going to be a hit since the rules are easy and games are quick.
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    Dominion was a hit, as I even Got Mom and Dad to play a couple games. My sister enjoyed it, especially schooling me several times.
  • Bullwinkle
    GT Member
    My daughter and I enjoyed Thunderstone. I have to say the rules, even the cleaned up ones, are not the best. The game isn't hard to understand, necessarily, but I kept having the feeling that I'd forgotten something or was missing something. Also, the icons on the cards are just awful. However, as I said, we did enjoy it quite a bit. More than Ascension, for sure. I think I liked Dominion more, but my daughter was enjoying getting to kill monsters.
  • PeteRock
    This is a rare visit into the General Gaming forums, but my wife and I are starting to get a little more serious about boardgames and are looking for some input for noobs. We've played games like Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit, etc (the usual mass market games), but recently Xbox Live Arcade has gotten my wife interested in more intricate games like Carcassone and Settlers of Catan. She got into playing them online and for Christmas she received the actual boardgame of Settlers of Catan.

    I've never been much of a boardgame person (spelling it boredgame usually), but while visiting with her family in Pittsburgh we played a full game with her parents and brother and had a blast. While the game isn't horribly complex, the importance of strategy, planning, and foresight combine to make for a surprisingly complex yet easily understood game (if my wife's mother can play, anyone can). Easy to learn, difficult to master.

    We're planning to have a New Year's Eve party focused around boardgames, and right now the primary activity will be Settlers of Catan.

    Does anyone have suggestions for other games we might enjoy that aren't too complex but good for noobs getting more into boardgaming? For example I noticed Yellowking's mentioning of Betrayal at House on the Hill and looked at some write-ups on Amazon. It looks to be a fun and intriguing horror-themed game and could prove to be perfect for our group (hoping to find games that work with 2 players but can accommodate up to at least 6 - don't worry, we got the Settlers expansion pack to allow for up to 6 players).

    I was surprised at how much fun Settlers was and would like to broaden our boardgame library, but I am completely overwhelmed as to where to even begin. I never realized just how massing the boardgame market really is outside of stuff like Sorry and Monopoly. :icon_redface:
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    Stop what you're doing and order the Dominion deal above. It's cards rather than board, but still. I got my sister and parents to play over the holidays. The game is eminently modular in that you select ten groups of cards to play with every game, making every game different. There are no "killer" strategies that will allow one player to lock down the game, as each game is different. That set has something on the order of 64 different card sets to change things up every match, and you can tailor the conflict level from none at all, to "OMG, stop screwing with us!"

    Let me put it to you this way: I guarantee this game. If you don't like it, I will buy it off of you to have a second copy in reserve.
  • PeteRock
    on 1293642404:

    Stop what you're doing and order the Dominion deal above. It's cards rather than board, but still.


    I just worry about card-based games as we're still in the limited mindset of needing an actual board and pieces to play a game. We're far from getting into D&D type games (actually, I'm not sure we ever will get into them), and we aren't necessarily into the fantasy setting (if we hope to get some of our friends into it, odds are a few will be resistant to things involving wizards, orcs, elves, etc - while a limited worldview, I can't force them to change their perspectives), we're hoping for more modern themes, and we normally have at least four of us to play, sometimes 5, 6, and even 7 to 8 friends around at any one time, so I worry about limiting ourselves to games only able to accommodate up to 4 players. Four is usually our smaller gathering size, with up to at least 5 to 7 commonly around the house.

    I'll at least show my wife the set and see what she thinks as she's going to become the purveyor of boardgames, but I think she's looking for actual boardgames rather than just card games. Something about setting up the board, divvying up supplies, choosing colors or game pieces, etc. The suggestion and accompanying guarantee are still appreciated. I'll see what she thinks.
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    One of the instruction sets included in the game mentions modifications to the rules to play with 5-6, iirc. It just involves exhausting more than the normal amount of card decks.

    But I can understand the reservations. I'll be interested to know what the wife thinks.

    *Also, according to BGG, the Intrigue expansion is a standalone and has support for 6 players at one table or 8 across two tables.

    **And Catan will need the 5-6 player expansion to support more than four.
  • Ænima
    GT Member
    Dominion's fantasy theme is very light with the exception of the Alchemy expansion. The theme pretty much fades away once you start playing and are just trying to figure out what the cards do and how they can work together. I'd say get the original game and then if that catches on, you can start to dig into the expansions.

    Also, Intrigue does not support 6 out of the box. You need either the original, or another set of Intrigue in order to play 6 or two tables of 4.
  • Isgrimnur
    GT Member
    Thanks for the clarification. That's what I was getting at, but didn't state clearly.
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