Board game fanatics recommend their favorites while we’re stuck inside.
Welcome to the new reality of social distancing and self-quarantine. With most everything closed, we’re stuck at home, wondering what we do with ourselves and with each other.
How about board games? Plenty of people find the right board game a good way to entertain themselves and the family. If you have not played since way back when, it can feel daunting to decide which game to choose. So we decided to help with that problem: We found people who love board games and asked them how to make wise choices.
Daniel Adler loves board games so much that he has made his living selling board games since 2004, and in his spare time, he plays them.
“My business, Game Gnight, is a non-brick-and-mortar, non-internet business,” he said. He sells games at events, shows, conventions and smaller Renaissance fairs and host nearby friends and select customers at his home once a month for “Gaming Gnights.”
Adler can recommend a game to match your mood. Just looking to laugh and don’t care about strategy too much? Adler suggests Munchkin for a younger crowd, maybe Apples to Apples or its “adult” cousin, Cards Against Humanity.
If you’re looking for horror and adventure, Adler suggests Arkham Horror if you have lots of time, Betrayal at House on the Hill if you don’t.
If you have 10 minutes, Adler says Fluxx fits the bill. If you have 20 minutes or more, a couple games of backgammon.
Adler prefers keeping everyone in the game until the end: “For a group, I don’t like board games like Monopoly or Risk, where the object of the game is to eliminate players until only one is left; I much prefer the Euro-style game where all players are in the game until the end, with chances to turn around the game for someone who started badly or chances to lose for an early leader.”
Vera Wexler of Oak Park, who enjoys board games with her husband, Rabbi Michael Langer, appreciates board games in part because “you never have the same exact experience twice. Whether you’ve played the game twice or 200 times, every time is unique.”
In search of a new game, Wexler thinks it wise to get advice at a brick-and-mortar games store. The people who work there usually know about the best games. Arik Muller, who works at GOB Games, an independent game store in Clawson, can help you pick a winner.
Muller’s advice? Choose a board game similar to one you already like. “If you do not like competition,” he says, “pick cooperative games.”
For example, in Pandemic, everyone works as a team to protect the human population of the Earth from the next deadly disease (sound familiar?). Each time you play, everyone wins or no one wins.
Another way to get a non-competitive game, according to Adler, is to modify the rules to fit your mood or preferences.
For example, one family played TimeLine, in which players usually compete to insert events in correct chronological order, but, instead, the whole family cooperated in choosing slots for each event.
“Or try deck building,” Muller says. In deck-building games, players draw cards and discard others until the winner has completed a specific collection. He recommends Dominion.
Muller also recommends civilization-building games. In these games, the players start off with empty land and go about building villages. The winner builds a complex of villages fastest. Fun ones to try include Settlers of Catan, Puerto Rico, Saint Petersburg, Tzolkins (the Mayan Calendar), Terraforming Mars and Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
Game fan Gabriella Spitzer of Boston, Massachusetts, also likes Carcassonne and Suburbia. For something different, she recommends Azul, in which players compete to beautify the walls of a Portuguese palace with glazed tiles.
Another suggestion: Ticket to Ride, in which players compete by drawing cards to enable them to complete train trips. This game, like many others, has expansion packs.
In another highly touted game, Wingspan, creator Elizabeth Hargrave has designed a platform that combines accurate scientific information about birds of the world with classical game strategies.
New games have fans, but so do classics. Lesley Horvitz Herschfus of West Bloomfield recommends games popular for decades: Sorry, Clue and Monopoly. Jo-Ann MacElhiney of Massachusetts recommends medieval games: Nine-Man Morris or Fox and Geese. Robert Buxbaum of Oak Park recommends even older ones: Go and chess. To that list, Adler adds Shogi and Xiang-qi (Japanese and Chinese variants of chess).
During this quarantine, let’s re-institute family game night, where we all get together and interact face-to-face — no screens involved.