Four board games that don't suck
People who say they don't like board games are probably playing shitty games. What's not to like? You get to hang out with friends and scratch a competitive itch while pretending to be a business tycoon or ruler of the world. That's a good time! Well, it is as long as the game you're playing doesn't suck. Anyone whose experience of board games begins and ends with old chestnuts like Sorry!, Risk and Monopoly has good reason to dislike board games; those games are fucking terrible. But plenty of other great games are out there, waiting to fill your stay-at-home evenings with good times, stirring victories and the occasional crushing defeat. This guide to a few of my favorites -- most of which are considered classics in the board-game community -- should soon have you hooked, to the point that you, too, will stay home Friday nights in order to move tiny plastic men around a board in pursuit of abstract goals. Or maybe you'll be inspired to head to this weekend's conclave of gamers...
Ticket to Ride If your favorite properties in Monopoly were the railroads, you'll love Ticket to Ride. Actually, you'll love it regardless of your approach to Monopoly, because it is fast to learn and super-fun. You start with a map of the U.S. (or other places, depending on the version you're playing) and a shitload of plastic trains. Collect color-coded cards that allow you to develop railway lines between the cities you're assigned as goals until someone runs out of trains, then score it up and play again. Unlike a lot of these games, Ticket to Ride is just about equally fun with any number of players, up to five -- and it's simple enough to teach anyone (even kids) while still retaining some strategic depth. Plus, toy trains!
Lost Cities Go all Indiana Jones on sunken temples and desert ruins with Lost Cities, which calls on you to use your resources -- in the form of numbered cards -- as efficiently as possible while maximizing your progress. It's another simple-to-learn game with some strategic depth (not a lot, but some), and it's super-fast to play. This one is especially good as a two-player game, which is nice for those nights at home with your better half when there's nothing good recorded on the DVR.
Carcassonne In Carcassonne , players use tiles to sculpt a medieval landscape, placing portions of cities, roads and farms on the table, matching up the edges until the world takes shape. It's an interesting way to compete, since every action you take builds on the plays of your foes. The basic gameplay is quite simple, but there's a huge amount of depth there for dedicated players. Plus, there are about a million expansions to buy if you fall in love with it, so there are always new twists and pieces to add once the basic landscape shaping gets old. Two players are plenty, but you can rock up to five, even six with some of the expansions.
Settlers of Catan This is it -- the grand poobah of strategic board games. In contrast to the other games listed here, the gameplay is somewhat complex in Settlers of Catan, and it can take a while to get the hang of it. Four players (five or six with some of the expansions, or three if you're desperate) settle an island, building and improving settlements, collecting resources based on the die rolls and trading with the other players. The game may last an hour or two -- sometimes longer -- but it offers unparalleled depth to dedicated players, and the opportunity to beg your best friend to trade his wood for your sheep, which sounds kind of dirty even if it isn't.
You can try these games -- and a hundred or so more -- this weekend at Conclave of Gamers at the Crowne Plaze DIA, or find them at your favorite games retailer (Settlers and Ticket to Ride are even available at most Target stores).
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.
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