For most people, winter means a lot more quality time spent indoors. But after enough time spent in the confines of your home, even the internet can grow tiresome — and that’s the perfect time to invite some pals over and bust out a good old-fashioned board game. To help you chase away winter boredom and flex your strategizing skills, we’ve gathered up 10 cool board and card games.
Risk is a longtime classic and it still holds its own in the modern board gaming landscape. As “the game of strategic conquest,” Risk pits brother against brother and friend against friend as you and up to four other players basically battle for world domination. The game is pure strategy, with your empire reigning or crumbling by the way you choose to place your troops, upgrade your soldiers, and storm your opponents’ territories at just the right moment. At the same time, the basic gameplay is easy to learn, even for players who have never played similar games. The pressure of global warfare has the potential to build into truly epic and memorable play sessions in which players form and/or betray alliances to gain the upper hand. The game is available in several skins (including themes like Star Wars and Game of Thrones), so you can wage war in your favorite fictional universe in addition to the classic Risk world map.
Monopoly is another undeniable classic, so much so that it’s essentially its own brand at this point. Most people have played Monopoly at least once, whether at an ill-fated family game night or at gatherings with friends, so it’s rather accessible even in largely non-gamer groups. The property-trading game has a unique ability to bring out the competitive streak in even the most nonchalant of players, which makes for play sessions where everyone feels equally invested. Monopoly is available with too many themes to count, but if you really want to feel like a wealthy mogul, there’s a luxury edition that features gold foil, faux leather, a wooden game cabinet, and die-cast metal tokens.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
Pandemic came onto to the board game scene in 2008 and quickly solidified itself as a smash hit. Since then, there have been three expansions, five spinoff games, an updated 2013 edition, and a whole host of downloadable scenarios that change the base game for endless replay-ability. The most unique (and impressive) undertaking in the Pandemic universe, however, is 2015’s Pandemic Legacy: Season 1. Unlike other board games, where a streak of bad luck can be quickly wiped out with a reset, Pandemic Legacy is one long-form journey where players’ actions permanently transform the game as play proceeds. Each chapter of the game represents one month, and players work as a team to stop four diseases from evolving into unstoppable global pandemics. New game elements — which can include anything from new pieces to revised rules to the literal destruction of certain cards — are introduced as players progress through all twelve months of the year, slowly transforming the story in a tense but addictive race to save the globe. There are two editions of the game (a blue edition and a red edition), each with different twists so you can experience the game twice without repetition. Pandemic Legacy: Season 2 was released in late 2017, so once you’ve played through Season 1 you can continue the story.
Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game
For our money, deck-builders are some of the best bang-for-your-buck games available. The format lends itself easily to a vast array of themes, and since players create new decks in each playthrough, deck-builders feel almost endlessly replayable. Legendary is one of the most popular deck-building games on the market, and once you get your hands on it, it’s easy to understand why. The concept is simple: players recruit cards from a pool of familiar Marvel universe heroes, working to create hero decks powerful enough to defeat one of several mastermind villains. Defeat the villain and the good guys live to fight another day; fail, and the villain’s evil plans succeed. The game pulls from everywhere across the Marvel universe, giving players the freedom to finally assemble their superhero dream team. If you’ve ever wanted to see The Avengers team up with the X-Men, this is your chance. There are also several expansions to the game, each one with its own unique set of characters that can be seamlessly integrated into the base game.
Settlers of Catan
No board game list could call itself complete without the inclusion of Settlers of Catan, the Eurogame that has become so wildly popular that it has won 10 different awards and been dubbed “the board game of our time.” Players take on the titular role of the settlers, working to gather resources, build settlements, and bargain with one another in order to be the first person to reach a certain point total. The game is deeply strategic without being overwhelming, and it contains a healthy dose of risk-taking that at times can make or break entire settlements. Even so, it’s relatively simple for newbies to learn, which makes it a great way to introduce non-gamer friends to something besides the old standard family game night classics. Its massive worldwide popularity means that Catan also has a huge variety of expansions and re-skins.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a beautifully simple game with a solid balance of luck and strategy that makes it a perfect fit for any game night, whether you’re playing with your buddies or your extended family. Players collect cards and place train cars on the board, working to claim railway routes that connect specific cities across North America. While it doesn’t take more than one round to get the hang of the way the game works, there is still enough strategy to keep players intently invested as they take calculated risks to complete their routes before other players block their path and work towards bonus achievements. There is also a gorgeous iOS app version of Ticket to Ride, but there’s something genuinely lovely and satisfying about playing with the physical board and brightly colored miniature train cars. The physical game also has several more expansions than the app, allowing you to branch out into maps like Europe, Asia, Africa, New York, and even to travel backward or forward in time.
Coup is a delightful, quick-playing card game in which players deal in deception in order to grift their way to power. Each player begins the game with two coins and two characters which are kept hidden from the other players. The game features five characters total, each with their own unique ability that can be used to earn more money or destroy other characters. On their turn, a player can choose to use their character’s ability truthfully or lie about which card they’re holding and use a different character’s ability, at which point they run the risk of being called out by a fellow player and having their character summarily assassinated. With the right group of players — where everyone is fully invested in the game’s mischievous nature — honesty can become just as powerful a weapon as deception, as players try to lure each other into risky traps in a battle to be the last card standing.
Concept is one of the most unique games we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing and it still manages to stay accessible by playing on familiar classics like Charades and Pictionary. The basic premise of Concept is that one player chooses a topic (a “concept” that can be anything from a book or movie title to a person or a profession) and must then give clues to the other players in hopes of getting them to guess the topic before time runs out. The twist that sets Concept apart from other similar party games is that the player giving the clues cannot speak. At all. Instead, the clue-giving player is equipped with a board filled with icons representing concepts like colors, textures, environments, characteristics, and more. Clue-givers use color-coded game pieces to help the guessing players connect certain icons and ideas that will lead them to the chosen concept. There can be a slight learning curve for brand new players, but everything begins to click after a couple of rounds and it becomes nearly impossible not to be completely engrossed in this uniquely challenging guessing game.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is incredibly unique, with a mixture of mechanics that feels part-novel, part-murder-mystery-dinner, and part-board-game. Each volume of the game includes 10 cases, each with its own story and casebook. Players must combine their powers of deduction to solve each mystery by interviewing suspects, scouring daily newspapers for clues, finding and following leads, and sleuthing their way through the streets of London. The game’s different volumes, which include themes like The Thames Murders and Jack the Ripper, can be played in any order and can also be played with only one player, so they’re a versatile addition to any game collection.
Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity hardly needs an introduction, but in case you’re unfamiliar, here’s a quick breakdown of the game: players are dealt a hand of cards with words or phrases printed on them and must use those cards to complete fill-in-the-blank statements. The player whose completed statement is deemed best by the judge (a different player each round) gains a point. What makes Cards Against Humanity a stand-out experience, however, are the raunchy, risqué, offensive, and even disgusting words and phrases that are printed on the cards. Instead of creating the cutest pun or the most logical sentence structure, players are battling to create the most cringe-worthy, nervous-laughter-inducing statements they possibly can in order to gain points. The result is a quick, simple card game that encourages players to give in to the politically incorrect in a battle of social bravery that is guaranteed to have players gasping in horror just as much as they’re doubling over in laughter.
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