If I Could Only Own 10 Games…

The perfect board game collection doesn’t exist, but we are here to help you decide what kinds of games would be good to own if you are just starting out.

Whether you only own one, have few sitting on your shelf, or are looking to start, we think you will find this useful!

The Players? Or the Games?

In general, when deciding what games to add, keep, or get rid of – the biggest consideration is NOT the games, but rather, the people you play them with. What are your tastes and the tastes of those you play with most often?

Solitaire games aside, the games you own will not be played unless you can find people to enjoy them with. For some people, this means owning a collection of just party games that you can teach easily, play quickly, and laugh loudly. For others this will have you loading up your shelves with games that are long, challenging, and complex.

…But for people like me, you will find that those you play with have tastes that vary significantly. Family reunions, game nights, and dinner parties with a significant variety of people attending means that no one type of game can satisfy everyone.

That’s the bad news…but the good news is – there is a game for everyone. Most people have simply not been exposed to the type of game that would fit their tastes. A maybe….one of them is listed below.

10 Games to Own

Without further ado, if I could only own 10 games and ensure that I always have one that fits the situation, these are what I would own:


Ticket to Ride | The Gateway Game

Table-Score: 93

Simple, accessible, and colorful – this game is as straightforward as it is fun. I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t liked this game to some degree. Every collection needs a good gateway game to introduce non-gamers to and this one is one of the best. Mix it up with other versions like ‘Ticket to Ride: Europe’ which really cranks up the fun.


Azul | Abstract but beautiful

Table-Score: 78

Sometimes people just want play with pretty pieces. Azul lets you do that and so much more. Filled with pretty tiles, delicious choices, and a simple drafting mechanism – this game offers a meaty game in a humble package. It’s easy to learn and play but offers a challenging puzzle to solve every time. Other games that could fill this niche are Hive, Chess, or Santorini.


Monikers | The Party Game

Table-Score: N/A

A collection isn’t complete without a solid party game or two and Monikers is one of the best. This team-based guessing game can be played with anywhere from 4 to 20 people and can easily be tweaked if you want your game to be short to long. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will love every second of this excellent game that also includes an unexpected bit of strategy.


Carcassonne | Take this. Take that.

Table-Score: 75

Claim territory and steal it from your opponents. It’s about as simple as it gets but doesn’t hold back. This game offers a lot of ways to earn points and even more ways to mess up your opponents. Plus, it’s always fun to build a new map each time you play. A solid interactive game that has quick turns and interesting decisions throughout.


Magic Maze | We don’t want to fight!

Table-Score: 86

Cooperative games can be hit and miss. Get the wrong one, and you have an alpha player controlling every one else’s turns – but, get the right one – and you have a friendly experience where everyone wins or loses together and no-one feels left out! Simple, frantic, and hilarious, Magic Maze offers a fun experience where all the players MUST contribute to win. This makes for an enjoyable game that that gets better every time you play.


Catan* | The Family Game

Table-Score: 67

Some people will tell you that Catan has some flaws that are starting to show it’s age (as indicated by its Table-Score)…but I disagree. With exhilarating player interaction and addicting resource collection, Catan is a blast to play that simply needs a bit of augmentation to really shine. More expensive than it should be, the *Cities and Knights expansion turns this game into a powerhouse of an experience that will have you and your opponents using knights to defend your cities from waves of barbarian attacks while working to establish a thriving civilization.

These additional elements add a cooperative feel with more ways to win, and a lovely leveling-up system all without losing the parts of the original that make it so great. I highly recommend it.


King of Tokyo | The Dice Chucker

Table-Score: 76

Some people just love rolling dice and very few dice games offer the level of fun the ‘King of Tokyo’ does. With an over-the-top theme, and splashy artwork, this push-your-luck monster game will have you thinking, laughing, and in-suspense all at that same time.


Power Grid | Strategy

Table-Score: 86

With a deceptively boring theme, Power Grid can be easy to pass up – but you will be missing out if you do. Build up your network, bid for power plants, and collect the resources needed to power your cities. Relatively simple to teach, this strategy game offers a lot to chew on as you attempt to make the most optimal moves to best your opponents. Fans of strategy games will not be disappointed.


The”>The Resistance | Lie to your friends!

Table-Score: 81

A lot of games in this category offer interesting experiences with uniques themes (One Night Ultimate Werewolf, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Secret Hitler, etc) but ‘The Resistance’ keeps it simple. It’s easy to teach, a blast to play, and offers a good balance of strategy and deception. ‘The Resistance: Avalon’ is another variation of this one to check out that has a slightly different theme.


Bohnanza | The Jack of All Trades

Table-Score: 62

Hilarious, interactive, and strategic all in one package, this game is great in any collection. While the premise is simple, the result is complex. While it’s great for newbies, strategy gamers will find no shortage of interesting decisions throughout. You will be thinking, planning, trading, adapting, negotiating, and laughing all during the 45 minutes it takes to play this crazy, bean-farming, card game. Check it out – you won’t regret it.


Disagree with our picks? Let us know your thoughts on social media!

And – as always – let us know if you have any questions about this or any of our other content.

Game Review: ‘PARKS’

Parks is a beautiful game of hiking through, enjoying, and taking photos of the great outdoors – specifically within the National Parks of the United States.

I have now played the game 5 times at varying player counts and feel like I have full picture of what the game is and my opinion of it.

What does ‘PARKS’ have to offer?

APPEAL (audience, length)

Parks has a lot of moving parts but they all are thematically connected which makes it very easy to catch on once you begin. When teaching new players, this is one you will want to give a brief overview of and then teach as you go for the first round. The length will typically run you about 60 minutes and doesn’t overstay its welcome, especially when playing with people who have played before. With lightning fast turns, and a very fast setup (due to a top-notch box insert), this game will appeal to most people.

VARIABILITY  (re-playability, different setup/gameplay)

Most of the game’s components are cards, all of which are shuffled into different decks at the beginning of each game. In addition, the main ‘hiking trail’ portion of the game area is made up of tiles that are also shuffled. In short, this game has high variability and therefore, high re-playability.

AGENCY (Player choice, strategy/luck) 

There is no shortage of ‘input randomness’ (shuffled decks of cards) in the game but there will never be a random event that will decide your overall fate. The strategic choices available to players in the game are concise and interesting and can basically be boiled down into 2 decisions on each turn: 1) Which hiker do I move? 2) What space do I move it to? each of which determine the resources you gain, resources you spend, and actions you can take to earn points.

In my opinion, these are the best types of games – ones that give you a handful (and only a handful) of very interesting decisions to make without an overwhelming number of options to choose from. Players should be able to chew on their decisions without feeling overwhelmed and Parks offers this in spades.

ESCAPISM (theme, artwork, immersive game play)

The artwork in this game is top notch and some of the best I’ve ever seen. It is abundantly clear that the game creators went out of there way to make this great and it shines through brilliantly. This is just one of the many ways this game immerses you in its world along with the hiking element, the changing weather patterns, and the gear cards.

One minor thing to mention is that there is a bit of abstraction in how everything is tied together. While your group is hiking on the same central trail, you are also traveling to different national parks all over the country, which doesn’t make much sense…but it’s so engaging and beautiful that its easy to look past.

SPECTACLE (highs/lows, victory/defeat, laughter)

While not completely absent, if this game has any downsides, lack of ‘spectacle’ might be it. Everything moves along at a fast clip but there aren’t a whole lot of ‘big’ moments that cause tension or laughter other than the occasional space or park card being claimed that someone else wants. The end game is also a bit lackluster which occurs when the fourth season ends, at which time, a winner is determined by counting up each player’s points. It’s not necessarily boring, but it could be better.

My Thoughts

Parks is a delightful game with amazing artwork. Cara and I have loved every minute of the games we’ve played and it has shown no signs of slowing down. It will appeal to people of varying tastes and if the gameplay ever eventually gets stale, it will always be a joy to look at.

Each turn feels weighty but never lasts too long. It is easy to plan out a strategy and just as easy to adapt on the fly. The components are of high quality but not overproduced and the box insert is one of the best I’ve encountered. Although the gameplay can feel dry at times, it doesn’t last long before a new park card is revealed or you get to take a space that one of your opponents wanted.

I can’t imagine too many people not liking it save the ‘Free Spirits’ that won’t be able to invest in a game that may last longer than an hour. The theme is a great one to pull people in that are outdoorsy, even if they aren’t a fan of board games (or simply aren’t as familiar with the hobby).

With quick turns, pretty pictures, and emerging complexity, this game will stay on our shelves for a long time.

My Recommendation

My recommendation varies depending on what type of gamer is playing. Descriptions for each type – including a quiz to figure out yours – can be found here.

WARRIORS should enjoy it

PIONEERS should enjoy it

FREE SPIRITS should be wary but may enjoy it

ESCAPISTS should enjoy it and may love it

‘PARKS’ can be found here for purchase.

Board Game Snacks

How often do you get hungry while playing a board game? How often do you get your cards greasy because you couldn’t wait to eat??

Unfortunately, my answer to both of these is a resounding ‘very often’. So if you’re anything like me, this list could be very useful – for your stomach AND your game.

The general gist is that you want to avoid greasy finger foods or foods that can be easily spilled.

Let’s begin.

Pretzels

If you absolutely love your finger foods (or don’t feel like washing any dishes), this is a great non-greasy snack to have around, especially for gaming. And it’s healthier than most alternatives!

Cocktail Shrimp

Cold, crisp, hearty – you can’t go wrong with this. If you’re a seafood lover and have some sitting around, whip ‘em out. Cocktail sauce is a risky addition, but it may be worth the risk.

Raw Veggies

Stay healthy AND keep the game clean. Carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc…Pair these with some ranch dip and you got yourself a hearty and delicious snack.

Liquids

In a cup with a lid! While they may be susceptible to spilling, if you can use cup holder, put a lid on it, or set it on a surface away from the table then you got yourself a good solution to tide yourself over. However, if you can’t mitigate your spill risk, then you should probably a avoid this one – I’ve had some serious game-ruining ‘accidents’ involving large drink spills… :/

“Toothpick Foods”

Basically, any appetizer-style food that you can eat with a toothpick is a good option. Minimize the spill risk by avoiding saucy foods like BBQ meatballs. Bacon wrapped smokies or small pigs in a blanket are examples of what I’m getting at.

Popcorn

Disclaimer: only if you go light on the butter. Classic snack that’s light on calories.

Meat and/or Cheese Plate (Charcuterie)

Some meats can be a little greasier but this is generally a safe option. Minimize the risk of greasy fingers by pairing with some crackers…just be aware of your increased ‘crumb risk’.

Ice Cream

If you have a sweet craving, this is a great option. Cookies are greasy and pie can be messy, but ice cream can be eaten with a spoon and with little concern for spilling. A great option when playing a board game.

Anything with a Fork

If you are craving something that could potentially be messy or greasy (and you will not accept any substitutes), just throw it on a plate and eat it with a utensil!


What do you eat while gaming? Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments or social media!

The Analog Critic: Top 10 Games

…according to top board game reviewers!

For over a year, we have been working on bringing this project to life – and it has finally arrived!

The Table-Score

One comprehensive score for each game that represents – as a whole – the opinions of established board game reviewers. The Table-Score for a game is calculated using a simple and effective weighted average system.

Each reviewer included in this system is required to meet certain criteria including audience size, current activity, objectivity, among others. Furthermore, they are each given a Level between 1 and 3 based on these criteria.

Once a score is calculated it must have a high enough review strength in order to be included in our list which is determined by the number and Level of each reviewer. It is then given a status as shown below:

STANDING TALL

Table-Score: 85-100 | Rating Strength >= 6

STANDING

Table-Score: 70-100 | Rating Strength > 3

FLIPPED

Table-Score: 0-69 | Rating Strength > 3

To kick off the launch of ‘The Analog Critic’ we have listed the top 10 games of all time below.

Top 10

I am so used to seeing the top 10 based on user scores from Board Game Geek so it is interesting to see how this list differs based on reviewers opinions instead. I’m really happy to see some of these on here (and really shocked about others)!

To view the whole list and to stay up to date on scores for future games, view the page linked below:

We are hoping this will be a useful tool for this community for years to come. Hit us up on social media to tell us your thoughts!

Top 10: 2-Player Games

2/1/2021

February is upon us…and Valentine’s Day along with it. Perfect time to recommend some games to play with a significant other!

Starting with number 10, here are my Top 10 favorite 2-Player games:


10. Suburbia

STANDING | 86

Build the best suburb to attract the most people! That’s all there is to it in this beautiful and simple tile-laying game. When playing tiles there are so many strategic choices to make and so many possibilities to build combos (which feel SO GOOD when you pull them off). A fun game to play with up to four players, Suburbia is most enjoyable (and quicker to play) when playing with 2.


9. Jaipur

STANDING | 76

Trade goods and valuables score points in this lovely little card game. And there are camels! This is about as simple as it gets for a card game but it is no less fun. Unfortunately, this one only plays with 2, but – as a result – it’s REALLY GOOD at that number ;).


8. Kingdomino

STANDING | 83

Brilliant in it’s simplicity and interesting in it’s gameplay, Kingdomino offers a fun experience for 2-4 players. Draft dominos and create plots of land that match type to score the most points in your kingdom! Simple to explain and quick to play (seriously, this game will last no longer than 15 minutes in my experience) you can’t go wrong here.


7. Race for the Galaxy

STANDING TALL | 92

RftG has been a go-to game of mine since I started collecting games. However, this is the first one on this list that I would caution people to research before buying. It plays very quickly, especially with 2 – but the the learning curve and strategic depth can be a bit intimidating for casual gamers. If you’re willing to learn and you love space-themed games, I would highly recommend Race for the Galaxy.


6. Terraforming Mars

STANDING TALL | 81

Some of you have likely heard of this one – and for good reason. It made it’s way onto the top 10 board games of all time list on Board Game Geek soon after it was released and it isn’t only because of the Mars theme. With quick turns and interesting gameplay, Terraforming Mars offers a fun experience for everyone. You can play it with up to 5 people but I honestly wouldn’t recommend it. With 2-players, there is much less downtime and plays faster.


5. Carcassonne

STANDING | 77

An oldie and a goodie. In board game time, this could be considered one of the grandfathers of modern gaming but it still holds its own. Although it has spawned so many expansions and spinoffs, you can’t get much better than the original. With quick turns, strategic choices, and fun map-building, this quirky tile-laying game is still one of the best on the shelves and even better with 2-players.


4. Patchwork

STANDING | 88

Do you love quilting? How about collecting buttons?? Me neither…but this game will have you doing both. Claim tiles and create a beautiful quilt to out-earn your opponent and collect the most buttons! Sometimes the simplest games are the best, and this is no exception. I’ll never turn down a game of this Tetris-esque strategy game.


3. Undaunted

STANDING | 88

There are currently two games in this campaign-style ‘series’ – Undaunted: Normandy and Undaunted: North Africa which follow the events of their respective campaigns from World War II. Recruit your soldiers, give them orders, and capture control points to best your opponent in this simple deck-building game! If you love history but don’t want to spend hours playing a complex war game, this is a perfect option. Not to mention, the cards and tiles are brilliantly illustrated. Even for those who may not be as interested in this theme, I highly recommend it.


2. Hive

STANDING | 86

Have you heard of a little game called Chess? Well, lets just say that I will be playing Chess a bit less now that Hive is a thing. Simple, abstract, and strategic, this ‘black and white’ game of fighting insects packs a big punch. Containing only 22 small tiles (up to 6 more with expansions) and playing in less than 20 minutes, I think Hive is better than Chess in almost every way. The game will start and play out differently every time which adds to my enjoyment of it.


1. Unmatched

STANDING | 86

This came out very recently but quickly skyrocketed to number one for me. Just a simple skirmish game that pits various characters against each other for a fight to ‘exhaustion’ 🙂 – but it’s much more than that. Each set of Unmatched includes different characters and maps, but are fully interchangeable. Characters include the likes of King Arthur, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and even Bigfoot and each have their own customized and BEAUTIFULLY illustrated deck of cards. One set of this game might be enough, the fact that there are several and many more announced in the coming years makes this game irresistible. With some of the best artwork I have seen in any game, I cannot recommend this game ‘system’ highly enough.


Hopefully this list was interesting and/or useful to you! All of these games are great options for most people to play in my opinion so it’s hard to go wrong but if you have any follow up questions about your specific tastes or where you can purchase a game, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on social media or a comment on this page.

Gamer Types

2/27/2020

For this first post, I wanted to lay out a few of the ideas and plans I have for the future of this blog. That being said, I am fully expecting that it will evolve over time. 

Over the past several years I have played many games and I have many thoughts about my experiences with them. I am hoping to mine from these experiences and share the stories, thoughts, and opinions created from them as well as share from my experiences as they happen going forward. 

Game reviews will be my primary contribution to this blog early on. I am still formulating ideas as to the format but I know that I want to make them as universally appealing and useful as possible. To achieve this I am planning to use “gamer type” categories to make recommendations as effectively as I can. After some research I have come up with 4 categories which are summarized below.

WARRIORS play to win and like competition. They thrive on confrontation and combat and are not afraid to make the first move. They respect aggression and will not back down from a fight.

PIONEERS like to explore, build, and create. They are interested mainly in their own success and will not go out of their way to interfere with others. They are strategic thinkers and averse to conflict.

ESCAPISTS like intricate themes and good looking games. They want to enter into the world of the game and feel like what they are doing impacts their character’s story.

FREE SPIRITS play games mainly as a social activity. They avoid complexity and welcome randomness. Win or lose – they just want to enjoy themselves as much as possible.

I plan to use these categories to make very general recommendations to each ‘gamer type’ for every game I review. i.e. Free Spirits should stay away, Pioneers should be wary, Warriors may like it, etc.

When I read a review, I rarely find them to be directly useful to me. This is partially unavoidable as a review is one person’s expressed opinion about something. But with background information, experiential thoughts, and – hopefully – this rating system, I am planning to create reviews that not only express my opinion but also be expressly helpful to those reading (otherwise why write a review). 

Thank you for taking the time to read this first post. Stay tuned for more content!

Why do you play games?

2/28/2020

Seems like a stupid question…but an interesting one that can help us decide when it’s worth our time (or money) to play. One tool that we often use to answer the question ‘why’ when we are looking to purchase a game, is a board game review. My reason for writing this is to analyze game reviews, why they exist, and what makes them useful to readers?

Most reviews discuss games in terms of ‘building blocks’ that make up the game. This would normally include – theme, components, mechanisms, ‘fun’, strategy, luck, etc. These CAN be useful measurements but in my experience are not useful in determining, as a reader, if a game will be one that I – and others I play with – will enjoy. 

All of these building blocks are not-so-much ‘pieces of a puzzle’, but rather ‘ingredients in a recipe’. That is, they all influence each other and not one of them can be taken out without impacting the rest of it. Flour tastes horrible on it’s own but does that mean we should dismiss it as an ingredient? That horrible tasting flour is one of the main ingredients in a delicious chocolate chip cookie…

In a game, if the components are objectively great on their own, that may have no bearing (or a lot of bearing) on whether it impacts my experience. For this reason, it seems almost unnecessary to talk about the components on their own but rather as a part of how the game uses them. Objectively ‘bad’ components may sometimes be a better option in a game because they communicate more clearly what you need to know. Or it could simply be that it keeps the price of the game down to something you can afford to even purchase and/or play (or if it had much nicer components the game may not be ‘worth’ buying). 

A better way to analyze a game is boiling it down to the core reason that keeps you coming back to it. Why do I like to play a particular game? What makes it interesting or fun? Who else also enjoys it? Considering this question, I have developed 5 categories that I think cover most of reasons why someone might play a particular game:

The 5 Categories of Why

APPEAL – can you get people to play with you? Is the game too long? Is the game too short? You may want to play it all the time but you can’t find people to play it with you. This category is less important if you have a consistent gaming group or you mainly play solo. 

VARIABILITY – How different does it feel every time you play it? Does it offer something new each time? This can include the initial setup of a game or the game play itself.

AGENCY – Does the game offer interesting decisions to the players that can impact the game to a significant degree? Luck can be present (and is sometimes a great addition) but should not be a determining factor in who wins or loses. You will likely lose interest in a game that doesn’t offer interesting decisions. If you feel like the ‘game is playing you’ then why should you play? If every action in the game is determined by the roll of a die or the draw of a card, then there is no reason for you to waste your time. 

ESCAPISM – how much can you immerse yourself in the game. This includes theme, mechanisms, and some level of complexity. There has to be enough ‘meat on the bones’ of the game to hold your attention and not get distracted. The artwork can also impact this. 

SPECTACLE – How often does something happen that makes everybody experience a collective emotion (joy, awe, horror, etc)? This could be simply laughing or it could be opportunities for the players to do something amazing that other players react to. These moments could also be more subtle where you don’t notice them as much. We are all human, and [most of us] like to experience emotions (not negative ones – but unfortunately you can’t have the good without the bad :/).

Bringing it all together

I think these categories do a good job of breaking down why we like the games we do. Most importantly, we can apply this to newer games – that we may have only played once or twice – to see whether it may be something that we’ll be playing well into the future. 

It should also be noted that the game is only half of the equation. The other half of the equation is not just you, but all of the people who happen to be playing with you. Gaming comes down to the ‘experience’ of each session when you sit down to play or even after the game ends which is influenced by the people you play with just as much as the game itself. Ultimately, a review can only do so much in helping you decide if it’s right for you – you won’t know for sure until you play it yourself. 

In short, for the overall format of my reviews, I am planning to use the following structure:

  1. Introduction – introduce the game and the basic information about it including designer, publisher, player count, and setting/theme, etc
  2. What does the game have to offer? – evaluate the game in each of the 5 categories above based on my own experience with it.
  3. My thoughts? – based on the previous section, what do I think of the game as a whole? Is it worth the price to pay for it?
  4. Recommendation – Which of the 6 ‘gamer types’ will like or dislike the game? Considering yourself and those you may be playing with, who will want to play? Will you be able to get it to the table? 

With these categories and structure, I am hoping that my reviews can maximize how much information readers can gain on the front end before purchasing a game to determine if it is right for them and those they play with.

Game Review: ‘Scythe’

3/7/2020

SCYTHE is a thematic engine building game set a fictional alternate-history 1920’s time period. Through unique player abilities, resource collection, and area control, players are tasked with gaining the most power and influence among their opponents. It was designed by Jamey Stegmaier and originally published in 2016. 

I have played the game twice and – while I did see the allure of the game – it just isn’t my cup of tea and I will likely not play it again. That being said, this game is loved by a lot of people and you may enjoy it! Read on for my thoughts. 

What does this game have to offer?

APPEAL (audience, length)

This is a heavier game that takes a bit of effort to learn and play which will rule out some people but if you primarily play with people who enjoy heavier games (mainly WARRIORS) then you will have no problem getting it to the table and enjoying it. In regards to length, I feel like it was perfect. It took about two hours each time I played which didn’t feel too short or too long. 

VARIABILITY  (re-playability, different setup/gameplay)

The game has decks of cards which are shuffled every time. There are multiple, unique ‘mix and match’ player boards which will change experiences and strategies every time. In the base game, the map remains the same each time but if you have the ‘Scythe Modular Board‘ expansion, you can significantly increase the map variability. With all of these aspects, the game can change significantly.

AGENCY (Player choice, strategy/luck)

This game is highly strategic in most aspects and randomness is in only present to keep things variable and interesting (see the ‘VARIABILITY’ section). There really isn’t much to elaborate on other than to say that you will not lose a game due to the bad draw of a card or a random event occurring. The game rewards strategic planning and utilization of the abilities you have at your disposal. 

ESCAPISM (theme, artwork, immersive game play)

This section is a bit tough to review for Scythe. On one hand, it has great artwork and an intriguing setting but this ‘theme’ itself doesn’t extend too far past the surface. The game does try to deepen its ‘lore’ with the  encounter cards and – depending on the person – that may be enough. However, while they each have interesting thematic effects, they are completely isolated from the rest of the game. 

Now, if you are not as particular about theme, this may do it for you and really give you a sense of escapism but for the ESCAPISTS out there, this will likely fall on deaf ears.

Despite the ‘pasted on’ theme of the game, Scythe does a decent job of immersing you in the game through gameplay. It is very easy to lose yourself in the interesting mechanisms the game employs through the balancing act required to maintain popularity among your people while also trying to survive and thrive in order to win the game. 

It should also be noted that – for those looking to add immersion into the game, ‘The Rise of Fenris‘ expansion may be something to consider buying. This adds a campaign mode as well as several modules that can be added and combined to change up the game play and immersion factor as desired. It should be noted that I have not tried this expansion so I cannot say from personal experience.  

SPECTACLE (highs/lows, victory/defeat, laughter)

There are many opportunities throughout the game to experience highs and lows in various forms. The interesting combat mechanics, thematic encounter cards, and achieving a goal on the triumph track can all bring out highs and lows. The joys of victory and unfortunate consequences of defeat are abundant throughout which all contribute to a game that has great potential for excitement.

My Thoughts

The strategy and combat is interesting, the encounter cards are fun, and the unique player abilities really help this game shine, however – as stated at the beginning – I am not seeking this game out to play again anytime soon due to several factors. 

I don’t typically mind when a game doesn’t have too much theme – but I do mind when a game lures you in with great artwork and an awesome setting just to be let down by a game mostly devoid of a theme which had so much potential. Despite this, it isn’t a deal breaker for me. The artwork is still exceptional and enjoyable to look at. 

The real reason I dislike the game springs from its innate desire to be so many things at once. It is very clear that it wants you to focus on as many things as you can in order to do better than your opponents. Yes, you can omit things but this can lead to grave consequences in some cases.

This ‘need’ to focus on so many things throughout the game creates many opportunities to overthink your turns which also adds to its lack of immersion as you are spending so much time thinking about which thing you should focus on at any given time.

Another result of having too many things to worry about is that combat can ruin you. In each game I played, I lost horribly due to this factor. Now before I go any further, I need to be upfront about the fact that my main ‘gamer type’ is ‘The PIONEER‘. While I actually generally enjoy combat in games, I dislike it in Scythe. I like building something up and watching it thrive so when a game allows me to do this and then also allows someone else to completely wipe it out – that isn’t something I want to voluntarily experience for 2 hours. 

I am fully aware that this is the whole point of the game – needing to build up your resources and then protect what you have at all costs – but it just feels like work to me. However, I know that my dislike of the game is very specific to me and my tastes. 

My Recommendation

Because everyone is different, my recommendation varies depending on what type of gamer is playing. Descriptions for each type – including a quiz to figure out yours – can be found here.

WARRIORS should like it and may love it

PIONEERS should like it

FREE SPIRITS should be wary

ESCAPISTS should be wary, but may like it (possibly more-so with ‘The Rise of Fenris‘ added) 

If you are able to, check your local game store for availability – otherwise, it can be found here for purchase online. 

Game Review: ‘Bohnanza’

3/2/2020

BOHNANZA is a card game of trading, planting, and harvesting beans (yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds). It was designed by Uwe Rosenberg and originally published in 1997. 

I have played it over 50 times over the past 5-10 years with varying player counts and player demographics.

What does this game have to offer?

APPEAL (audience, length)

While the game does include some unique rules (forced playing of cards, can’t change the order of cards in your hand), the structure is relatively straightforward and easy to teach. The game length is not terribly long but it can feel like it overstays its welcome with less experienced players and with higher player counts.

VARIABILITY  (re-playability, different setup/gameplay)

A game can’t get much more variable than this one – it is one large deck of cards that gets shuffled every time. You will always have a different starting hand with different cards coming out in a different order. Also, depending on the player count, you may have different beans available for planting in the game. It is safe to say that this game has a very high level of variability.

AGENCY (Player choice, strategy/luck) 

Bohnanza is far from a pure strategy game but there is a significant amount of player agency throughout the game. Trading must be used strategically in order to maximize your points. How and when you trade is a very important decision that must be made throughout depending on the beans fields you currently have planted. Choosing when to harvest your fields is also a very important decision to be made. This can make or break your point earning ability. There are a lot of opportunity cost considerations to be made – do I harvest now to make way for a more valuable bean field? Or do I wait to harvest so I can get 2 extra coins next turn but forgoing the option to plant the more valuable bean? 

ESCAPISM (theme, artwork, immersive game play)

There’s not really an immersive theme here but the negotiating, trading, and interesting decision making can really allow for a high level escapism. With the right group and the right pace, it is fairly easy to get lost in the rhythm and excitement that the game offers. 

SPECTACLE (highs/lows, victory/defeat, laughter)

This is where this game shines. Harvesting a large field, obtaining that last card you needed to reach a harvest threshold, and yelling out a trade you need that involves saying ‘stink bean’ is always hilarious. The idea of trading and planting beans is simply outlandish and always causes people to laugh throughout. When a trade comes up or a card gets flipped that you desperately need always causes reactions around the table – positive and negative. There are so many ways in Bohnanza to collectively experience highs and lows over the course of a game. 

My Thoughts

One thing to note upfront is that most people have to warm up to this game. Due to its unique rules, new players may struggle to grasp it which will not only affect their enjoyment, but also may cause the game to overstay it’s welcome. Don’t let this discourage you.

That being said, this game is really great. While it may not be my favorite game of all time, if I could only have a collection of 10 games to keep, Bohnanza would be in it. It has some of the most crossover appeal of any game I have ever played. There are interesting decisions, strategic planning, tactical adaptation, laughing, and excitement throughout each game. With all of these elements packed into a serviceable play time, relatively simple rules, and a variable player count, it’s hard to pass up.

Due to the trading element, interpersonal relationships get brought into the game play as well – do I back stab them to help my cause right now, which may result in them doing the same later? Or do I help them while they’re down in hopes that they may help me out later? The strategy informs the trading, the trading informs your relationships during the game, and those relationships inform your strategy. This dynamic feedback loop is interesting and addictive every time I play the game and keeps me coming back for more no matter the group I’m with. 

My Recommendation

Everyone is different. Who we are and who we play with has a huge effect on how much we will enjoy a game regardless of how ‘good’ it might be to any one person. For this reason, my recommendation varies depending on what type of gamer is playing. Descriptions for each type – including a quiz to figure out yours – can be found here.

WARRIORS should like it

PIONEERS should like it

FREE SPIRITS should like it

ESCAPISTS should be wary, but may like it

If you are able to, check your local game store for availability – otherwise, it can be found here for purchase online.

Bored at home?

Already going stir crazy? Kids out of school keeping you at home? Can’t go out because everything is closed? 

This Coronavirus is taking its toll…with all of the craziness going on across the globe, it can be easy to get discouraged. How can we avoid boredom? Oh, whatever will we do…?

Whether you’re alone, with a few friends, or with your large family, there are a plethora of options within the world of board gaming that can satisfy your needs.

Read on for my recommendations based on player count. For each game I have included the: *difficulty* (Light/Medium/Heavy), *average length*, and *minimum recommended age*.

2 Players

Jaipur – [L, 30 mins, ages 8+] a great little game of trading and set collection. This game is made for two players and it is loads of fun packed into a small package.

Carcassonne – [L, 30-45 mins, ages 7+] A oldie and a goodie. This game has been around for 20+ years and still holds it’s own. It can play with more players but I think it is best played with two. Setup is a cinch and it is different every time you play. One of my favorites. Add in this expansion (which is currently out of stock as of the writing of this post) or this one to really spice things up.

Suburbia – [M, 90 mins, ages 8+] Have you ever wanted to build your own city? There a lot of games that offer this premise but – in my opinion – none do it better than Suburbia. While it can be a little long, it offers nearly unlimited possibility for creating your very own suburb in hopes to attract more people than your opponent(s).

Terraforming Mars – [M, 120 mins, ages 12+] This has quickly become Cara and I’s favorite game to play together. With a plethora of cards and options for terraforming, this game is always an enjoyable experience. As a bonus, everything in this game is based on real science (I’m not a scientist so I cannot confirm). Add in this expansion or this one for added enjoyment and longevity.

3-4 Players

Pandemic – [M, 45 mins, ages 8+] To be honest, this is only here because I feel obligated to recommend it 🙂 but it really is a good game. This OG cooperative game is great with 3 or 4 and is always fun. Work together with your group to eradicate the diseases that are ravaging the globe. For a quicker version of the game that’s better with 2, check out this game. For a more involved version of the game that requires several sit-down sessions, check out the Legacy version (seriously, this is amazing if you have the time to spare).

Azul – [M, 30-45 mins, ages 8+] A solid 3-4 player game that is beautiful to look at. Easy to teach and play, Azul is different every time and is always an interesting puzzle to solve.

Splendor – [L, 30 mins, ages 8+] Another one that is easy to teach and play. It’s an engine building game that plays in a relatively short time-frame and is a pleasure to look at with it’s beautiful artwork. I’ll never turn down a game and you shouldn’t either. 

Catan: Cities and Knights – [M, 90 mins, ages 12+] A twist on a classic. I bet most of you have heard of [and probably played] Catan, but I want to recommend an expansion for it. Cities and Knights adds barbarian attacks, movable knights, and an all new ‘leveling up’ system. The resources are more balanced, there are more paths to victory, and more ways to change up your strategy if the dice aren’t going your way. If you don’t have Catan, grab the base game – but if you already have it, pick up C+K. You won’t regret it.

5-6 Players

For Sale – [L, 30 mins, ages 8+] Short and sweet, this little bidding game is loads of fun. In the first round, bid for the most valuable properties. In the second round, attempt to sell them for the most money. This game plays quick and is always enjoyable for everyone I’ve play with. Highly recommended.

King of Tokyo – [L, 30 mins, ages 6+] Crazy fun that never disappoints. This dice game can last anywhere from 15-45 minutes, and you never quite know what’s going to happen. Determine you strategy, claim special abilities, and always be ready to adapt if you want to win.

Bohnanza – [M, 45 mins, ages 8+] A unique combination of random fun and interesting strategy, Bohnanza is hilarious and raucous. Collect beans, trade for ones you need, and harvest your fields when the time is right. 

Power Grid – [H, 120 mins, ages 12+] A much longer experience, Power Grid is a great game about building a network, collecting resources, and providing power to your cities to earn the most money. With great bidding, and lots of interesting strategic choices, this game is one of my all time favorites. Considering how much is going on in this game, it actually isn’t too difficult to learn.

7-8 Players

Sushi Go: Party – [L, 20 mins, ages 8+] A card drafting game with a fun theme and simple game play. It’s super easy to teach and relatively quick to play – even at higher player counts. M, 120 mins, ages 12+

Decrypto – [L, 15-45 mins, ages 10+] For fans of Codenames, Decrypto is just a bit more interesting with much less down time. Get your team to guess the code – but be careful, you can’t let the opposing team in on the secret or you’ll lose the game! 

Cash n’ Guns – [L, 30 mins, ages 8+] What if I said there was a game where you aim fake guns at each other in an attempt to steal the most loot? It’s your lucky day, because Cash n’ Guns is that game. This is  hilarious to play and always draws the attention of onlookers due its ridiculous premise. Easy to teach and always a good time.

Captain Sonar – [M, 45-60 mins, ages 12+] Boy are you in for a treat. Best with EXACTLY 8 players (but can be played with less), Captain Sonar is a game where two teams of 4 get in submarines and attempt to blast each other out of the water. The catch? It’s played in real-time, meaning that there are no turns – once it starts, you better keep up. Your captain will be yelling orders and everyone else needs to be listening or be doomed to fail. You will not be disappointed with the unique experience this game offers.

9+ Players 

(You’re supposed to be isolated so you shouldn’t be looking at this category but alas – for those large families – here it is)

Dixit – [L, 30 mins, ages 8+] a classic guessing game of intrigue and artwork. Easy to learn but difficult to master. Nothing much more to say other than to recommend trying it yourself. Great game. 

Monikers – [L, 30-60 mins, ages 16+] You’ve played Charades. You’ve played Catch Phrase. You’ve played Password. Have you ever wanted to combine them all? This game has actually taken many different forms but I haven’t found one quite as good as this one. Not only are the cards absolutely hilarious, but they also award different point values based on difficulty which keeps the game interesting and adds a level of strategy not normally present in these types of games. Highly recommended.

The Resistance: Avalon – [L, 30 mins, ages 12+] Hidden identities, secret missions, backstabbing opponents – this game has it all. Several games have come before that do similar things but this one has perfected the formula.

Two Rooms and a Boom – [L, 7-20 mins, ages 8+] This is really not the best recommendation for such a list as it can play up to 30 people…but it’s just too good not to mention. If for some reason you find yourself in a group this large that happens to not contain any infected subjects, pull this sucker out. Two rooms, two teams, one president, one bomber. The blue team wants the president to survive. The red team wants the president dead. If the game ends with the bomber in the same room as the president then BOOM, the red team wins – otherwise, the blue team has thwarted their plan. HIGHLY recommended. Unfortunately, at the time of me writing this post, it is unavailable for purchase on Amazon, but you may be able to find it elsewhere!

Solo

For those of you who find themselves completely alone during this time, no need to worry! There are a plethora of solo options you can look into. From this list, Terraforming Mars, Suburbia, and Pandemic are all playable solo. Other notable games that fall into this category are: Friday, Robinson Crusoe, Arkham Horror: The Card Game, Scythe, among many others. 

Hope this list can help give you an idea of a game or two that may interest you or those you spend the most time with. Hit us up on social media if you are looking for something customized to your tastes!

Stay healthy and play more games!

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