In honor of today being International Tabletop Day, myself and fellow Beat staffer Victor Van Scoit have decided to share some of our own personal-favorite tabletop games. As criteria, we’ve decided to stay away from oldies like “Chess,” “Monopoly,” and “Dungeons & Dragons,” because there are a TON of other games out there. We have also decided to only share games that are still available for purchase if there are any readers who wish to experience these games for themselves.
Nicholas Eskey’s Picks
It’s been a long day of adventuring. Your group has made it out of the Dungeon and has successfully completed the quest. But, what does a band of adventurers do at the end of the day? The Red Dragon Inn is the answer to this query. This fun and oftentimes hilarious card game is inspired by the likes of D&D and other fantasy-adventure games and stories. Two to four players assume the roles of different characters, ranging from the likes of a sorceress, a wizard, and even a sneaky thief. Each player comes with their own custom deck tailored for that character’s style of play. The object of the game is to be the last one standing in the inn. If you’re character is found to be intoxicated or out of coins, out you go! Complete with rounds of drinking (fictional mind you), gambling, and general backstabbing (still fictional), this game is sure to end friendships (only temporarily I hope). You can even purchase extra decks to play if you wish to experience other characters or to expand the game beyond four players.
In Machi Koro, you and other players compete to be the best mayor of the city of Machi Koro. How can one city have multiple mayors you might ask? The goal of this Monopoly inspired card game is to be the first “mayor” to develop the city to the biggest it can be. Use your money strategically to purchase various business and franchise cards. Money is generated by rolling between one to two dice per turn, and whose card or cards matches the dice roll gets the money. Will you diversify your city, or will you monopolize a particular market? The choice is yours in how you want to build the city and become top mayor!
The Settlers of Catan is one of the most expansive civilization building board games around. For two to four players, the base game revolves around Catan, a continent made of hexagonal resource pieces, such as sheep, forest, brick, metal, and wheat. Much like Machi Koro, the roll of the dice decides what resource you get, and thus what structure you can build (road, town, or city). As you build roads and expand your settlements across Catan, you must mind your resources and accumulate points. The first to ten (or sometimes more) points wins. The best thing about this game is that there are multiple ways to play in the form of “scenarios” once you get bored with the main game. You can play the scenarios that are bundled with the game or purchase expansions for even more, specialty themed ones. There are even expansions to allow five to six players to get in on the fun.
Bang! is a card game that resembles that of an old spaghetti western. After you pick your character, complete with a unique bio and ability, you are secretly assigned the position of either the sheriff, one of two outlaws, or the renegade. If more than four players are involved, the roles of deputies and more outlaws are included. If you’re an outlaw, you win if you kill the sheriff. If you’re the sheriff or a deputy, you win if you kill the outlaws and the renegade. And if you’re the renegade, you win if you’re the last one standing. Use cards to equip different guns, abilities, and other sneaky tactics to kill off the other players. A player’s role is only revealed once they are dead, so strategy and some luck are required to win this game. The whole thing even comes in a bullet-shaped case. What’s not to love?
Victor Van Scoit’s Picks
Codenames Marvel, the Marvel themed version of award winning Codenames, is perfect for groups and allows for the kind of social interactions you’ll laugh about afterwards. Here it’s S.H.I.E.L.D vs H.Y.D.R.A. as both sides have a spymaster that give one-word clues to their team that point to multiple Marvel images on a 5 x 5 grid (heroes, villains, weapons, symbols). Their team tries to guess the pictures correctly while avoiding those of the other team—all the while avoiding the assassin who causes you to lose the game immediately.
Think of it like a game of Password/Catchphrase on hyper mode. Being the spymaster restricted to single word clues is both fun and frustrating as your team will either be telepathically in your mind and guess all the right pictures or talk themselves out of right answers and end up putting the other team on top. Play it once and I’m certain you’ll want to keep playing again and again.
-Walking Dead Fans
While there are Walking Dead board games out there, the game play isn’t as satisfying as the original licensed property. Fear not, as there’s two good options—Zombicide and Dead of Winter.
Zombicide is the game you want to look out for if you’re the type that wish Rick and crew would go on zombie rampages and forgo all the drama. You work collaboratively as you level up with better weapons to dispatch the zombie hordes in front of you as you seek to survive the story scenario. It’s cinematic fun.
Dead of Winter is the game you want to look out for if your crew is looking for a deeper, psychological game of survival in a zombie world. Your friends are working together to survive, but as individuals you’re also working to complete your secret objectives—ticks, contrary objective, or even sabotage. The story will have you make the save tough calls Rick or Daryl might make when it comes to crisis, food, and morale. This game is certainly a story driven experience.
-Kids Want to Play Too
Super Rhino! is like a game of reverse Jenga as players take roof cards from their hand and take turns building walls to a literal tower of cards. Each card you play may require a player to do special actions as the tower grows higher and Super Rhino moves up the tower. The first player to use all their cards wins, but don’t be surprised if that card tower comes toppling down long before that.
-Zen and the Art of Board Games
Azul is a chill and simple strategic tile laying game about… laying tiles. You’re diving into the meta pool as you play as tile laying artists in Portugal looking to make the Royal Palace walls beautiful. You draft tiles from the suppliers and score points based on how you place them on your palace wall. Bonus points are awarded for specific pattern and sets. It’s an easy game to pick up and for fans of the most reason season of The Magicians you can imagine you’re Quentin Coldwater and Eliot Waugh contemplating the key to life.
Nicholas Eskey is an avid reader and writer. When not contributing to The Beat, he works on his personal projects, the latest being a fantasy novel called “My Personable Demon.” He lives in San Diego, California, and is frequently bossed around by his cat.