It’s likely you know what a board game is, obviously, but you may not be familiar with modern hobby game and only think of titles like Monopoly when you think of board games. But the breadth and depth of board gaming is so much more than just Monopoly…which is why we’ve turned over this column to Travis, That Friend Who Condescendingly Explains Every Simple Thing As If He’s Imparting Some Profound Truth. Travis is a mansplainer, in other words, or a nerdsplainer, as we call them here at Nerds on Earth.
Take it away, Trav!
Thanks, Nerds on Earth.
Now, what you need to understand about board games is that they are a game that commonly has a board, but not necessarily.
Do you follow so far? Good.
You’re probably wondering: how do I get into these “board games?” That’s where things get complicated.
There’s a place called a game shop that is popular with many. What a lot of people don’t realize, though, is that game shops can be a little initiating for folks who aren’t as versed in board gaming as I clearly am.
So before you get confused, let me give you another option: use a site like Nerds on Earth get get some good starter recommendations, then look those games up on Amazon, an online shopping website. Zombicide could be one such recommendation, as it’s just good ‘ole fun, as folks say.
Now, if you’re concerned about letting a zombie into your house, I have some good news. It’s not a real zombie. See, what you have to understand about branding is that ofttimes board game producers will use familiar genres and popular tropes in order to connect with–
Okay, I think we get it, Travis. Thanks for that illuminating explanation, but we’ll take it from here!
Azul is an abstract tile game that is newer on the scene. It’s fun, it’s thoughtful, and it’s beautiful to look at. It also comes highly recommended by Natalie, a friend of Nerds on Earth, who can also hook you up in Starfinder Organized Play if you are also considering giving science fiction RPGs a go.
The great thing about going first into an abstract game is it doesn’t require any sort of genre familiarity to enjoy the game. Plus, abstract games are good brain builders that can be enjoyed by pretty much anybody, young and old alike.
Honorable Mentions: Ingenious and Patchwork.
Terraforming Mars is for you potato-loving Matt Damon fans. Basically, the pitch is “The Martian” movie played on a board.
This isn’t an beginner level game (it has lots of fiddly bits) but it is rock solid. All the little bits and moving parts have a great design logic to it, so once entry-level folks have a basic familiarity with the rules, learning to play ramps up quickly. It’s also considered one of the best board games of all time, as determined by Board Game Geek, a website which, incidentally, folks new to board gaming will enjoy familiarizing themselves with.
Our full Terraforming Mars review is here.
Honorable Mention: Viticulture.
Sometimes you want to lean into popular genre trappings and just have some big, dumb fun. Zombicide fits that bill. Basically, it’s a big box full of fun little zombie miniatures plus some extra miniatures that represent survivors.
Zombicide is also a perfect example of a really popular type of gameplay in modern games, which is the idea of “scenarios.” In addition to all the miniatures there are also a big stack of cardboard tiles in the box that can be laid out in a variety of ways. Depending upon the scenario chosen, tiles are placed differently and this gives that game a new look, while also providing scenario-specific objectives.
There are a gazillion expansions for Zombicide and that can get confusing. Plus, it’s expensive, so I recommend sliding into the original and, if you like it, you can add on later.
Our full Zombicide review is here.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars Imperial Assault
If you are just getting into board games, you’ll want an entry into one of the most popular types of gameplay, which is co-operative games. Pandemic is first on the list of co-op games.
The great thing about co-ops games is that players are working together, not trying to take down one another. For Pandemic, in particular, players are working together to try and stop viruses from sweeping worldwide.
Pandemic is also considered a modern classic; meaning it is available alongside Catan and Ticket to Ride in big box retailers like Target.
Honorable Mention: Catan
Betrayal at the House on the Hill
This was a game that had a bit of a cult explosion around it a couple years ago. It’s a light game with a fun premise: players are exploring a haunted house room-by-room when one player is suddenly overcome and attacks the other players.
This is another game that utilizes tiles and “scenarios” but does so in a neat way. Players are working together at the beginning of the game but midway through, a condition is triggered that turns one player against the others. That player then consults a table to see how they’ll haunt the other players. The horror aspect is also implemented well.
It’s light, fun, and offers nice replayability.
Honorable Mention: Zombicide
“Deck building” games are a staple in modern board gaming and Dominion started the trend. With a deck building, players start with a really basic hand of cards, then as the turns progress they “purchase” more cards that allow them to do more and more special abilities.
The great thing about Dominion is that it’s a game that can be taught in five minutes and is enjoyed by pretty much everyone, so it provides a fun evening just about every time.
Honorable Mention: Ticket to Ride
Century Spice Road
This is the “go to” game for my wife and I, and we’ve taught it to several other couples, all of which have enjoyed it. It works sort of like Dominion, except not only are you adding to your hand of cards, but you are adding little cubes that represent spices to your collection.
What sounds like the most humdrum thing ever is actually really engaging. It can be taught in five minuets, is enjoyed by older kid as well as grandparents, has quick turns, and offers a nice depth of strategy without getting too competitive. I can’t recommend it enough.
Honorable Mentions: Sagrada and Splendor
We’d love to offer more suggestions based upon your specific circumstances, so if you are looking for a “coach” to help you get into board games, please do reach out to us on Facebook. Don’t let folks like Travis intimidate you, we’d LOVE to help!