I’ve been thinking a lot about board games lately. I’ve always thought that they are the best form of entertainment because they combine our innate social nature and a prepackaged medium in which we get to express ourselves. The only barrier is that people are reticent to try them out, unlike other mediums they require investment from the players. And in a society where being entertained is the golden rule, asking people to be invested is quite a high toll.
Tip: Looking for something for your kid too? Be sure to read this article afterwards.
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How Do You Determine the Best Board Game?
This is where the theme of the game comes into play. The theme is like a bait on the psyche; it increases the willingness of people to try new things, to invest something initially because they are fascinated by a concept and want to learn more. That’s what I’ll be looking for today, board games for adults, with a depth that will satisfy someone for a while, keep him or her engaged, and come with a heavy theme that hooks even from the onset and tempts even the most skeptical non-gamer. Note the problem with reviewing board games is that the experiences and game mechanics vary quite a lot so finding a fixed way to benchmark them will be a difficult venture. So the reviews will come in two parts: a gameplay description and a description of the experience. Now, let’s get started with my rankings and list…
Best Board Games for Adults 2018
This is a turn based cooperative strategy game with a zombie theme, as you can see by the title. The players move around a map made of interchangeable tiles to collect objectives. Success increases a heat meter for each character and that heat meter regulates the numbers and difficulties of the zombies spawned. The weapon and enemy mechanics are simple to get but work stochastically based on dice rolls to keep things exciting. This system truly shines when it comes to character progression and the increased difficulty that comes with it, in the later stages of the game. This is where co-op really comes into play and builds up massively the game experience.
This is the best board game if you’re enthralled by some of the more tense scenes in the Walking Dead or the World War Z book; this game will engage you and you will become the character you are playing, tropes and all. If you love role playing, zombie-killing action, and strategy games, this game marvelously hits all your weak spots.
Dead Of Winter
If you like the human-nature element of zombie stories, Zombicide will be too action packed and less dramatic. Here’s where Dead of Winter steps in and gives you tons of drama. The basic mechanic is that of Cooperative players vs. environment resource gathering game with elements of player vs. players due to the traitor mechanics. Each player has personal objectives that may help or hinder the collective’s objectives. Add to that the fact that this game is very replayable because of the crisis and the cross-roads mechanic. That shakes up both the turn-by-turn objectives that push the story forward and the player even cards, the so-called “Crossroads” that create wildly different main story paths depending on the player who draws them.
The playing experience is amazing for any role players. The event cards and the covert elements give you a lot of material to play with. But one player’s opportunity to bring their acting chops to the table will be a massive deterrent for players that can’t really get into the role play aspect. The more action packed Zombicide will definitely be more to their liking. But if they give it a chance, and just get hooked on the main survival/resource gathering mechanic, the co-op and player emergent story will give them more excitement than a whole season of the walking dead.
Risk: Global Domination
Risk is a player vs. player strategy board game with a lot of history behind it and it comes in a lot of variations on the same central mechanics. Essentially it is a war game based around territory control. The mechanics are simple; the rules are even simpler. You periodically generate manpower from a base, and you invade neighboring territories and you fight defender/attackers based on dice rolls. It doesn’t get easier than this. It comes in a variety of themes and you can go as deep as you want the game gives you the option to be as serious about it as you want.
This does come with a downside. The depth of the immersion is limited by the least serious player at the table and the simple game mechanics do not encourage you to go deeper. If you don’t already have Risk, I encourage you to get one, however, because it’s a great basic strategy game for people that have no interest and experience with table top games. And any table top game that you actually get to play is better than the ones you just let gather dust on your bookshelf.
When it comes to bringing people together and facing unbeatable odds nothing does it better than Pandemic. The escalation of threat is fast paced and the stochastic element to the threat always makes people stand up and dread the turn of the cards. While the character specific abilities make cooperating an essential part of the gameplay and you will soon find that your results are severely limited if one coordinator alpha type of player gets to dominate the team’s strategy. This game is like gun-to-the -head brainstorming. It punishes even good teams, and whether you barely manage to stop an outbreak or beat the game, the extasy your whole party will feel is second to none. At least none that can be achieved in such a short time, table top gamers that enjoy deeper more complex game playing experiences will understand the benefits of playing games and campaigns that take tens of hours to complete.
The experience is unique however for Pandemic because it requires so little of the player and gives so much in such a short time. The immersion sneaks up on you; I had some work colleagues that were flippant at the concept of tabletop games clench their fist within 20 minutes of playing pandemic. It’s quite a unique offering and is best for those that are somewhat jaded and don’t initially understand the lure of table top games. This will give them a concentrated dose of what role playing can give you.
Monopoly Board Game
Monopoly is a turn-based strategy game based on financial and territorial domination with a stochastic element added into the progress of the players. There are also many different version of it. It’s famous for being long and causing quite a few friendships to turn sour. The financial domination aspect means that the game encourages gripes and brings the worst out of people. Something that can be quite enjoyable, it’s emergent role play for those that don’t really role play. There’s a reason that a game with this simple of a mechanic is so popular and has stood the test of time. If you like to play hard and don’t pull punches, Monopoly’s the best because the experience is visceral and real. And that’s good game design.
Sure you can play nice and just try getting ahead just based on the die rolls, but that’s missing out on most of the metagame. And that metagame is the best part of Monopoly. The game is basically snakes and ladders without that many snakes otherwise. The human element integrating into the mechanics is what makes it a challenge and makes it really punishing. And that punishing nature of the game is what makes it satisfying when you make it and you get to be the one in power that uses the mechanics against your opponents.
But enough of the philosophical treatise — just try it!
Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity is another such game that is just a platform for the worst in people to get out, but this time with a funny twist. The game is a word association game, with terrible and morally reprehensible results, that players get to judge and give points to. The emergent idioms that you can get out of an average deck will make people gasp and cry laughing. This is however not best board game for people that prefer to stay politically correct while having fun. But most people with a sense of humor will find Cards against humanity to be the most fun they can have with their clothes on with a group of open-minded close friends.
It’s basically crass humor (despite being for mature audiences) in a box or a card deck. And it works in the same way as humor. It lowers barriers and unwinds. Combine this with some cocktails and you have a guaranteed fun time. It’s simple to set up and understand and because so much of the grading is player generated, it’s all subjective, so there aren’t any bad players. This makes it an optimal choice for non-role play players because you will find that everybody has a dirty mind, even those that you don’t expect to be all that imaginative.
One Night Ultimate WereWolf
Keeping with the player-generated game theme. One Night is a catch, the liar type of game, and the werewolf in this case. Each player is given a specific role and objectives and the game is very structured in the setup part as each player needs to sequentially do certain actions that reveal some of the identities of the players or mix those identities up. But after that, it’s just a lot of fun.
What happens after that is pure mayhem. The suspicion, the accusations, and the elaborate mental simulations quickly spiral out of control as players grasp at straws to figure out who the wolf is. This player generated gameplay makes this one of the best board games for group engagement.
There is no collective good for some players and that makes for some. In some co-op games usually you have a self-elected chief strategist that starts giving orders and some more passive players can end up being subordinates that just follow the orders of the most confident players. With a find, the liar type of mechanic, those silent types of players usually excel at this type of game, because they make for amazing villains or are the last remaining clear mind not devoured by paranoia.
This is Monopoly with a spin; it replaces finance and power with alcohol and the struggle for being able to walk straight and not slur your words. Which in my view an amazing design choice. I really mean it, Monopoly ends up being too serious, to down to earth, the stakes are higher, and there’s only one difficulty setting: the evil nature of mankind. But in Drink-a-Palooza, you get to experiment with different difficulty levels by replacing the beer sip with shots or the drink of your choice. Just not absinthe shots or high proof rum – this is probably the only board game that can kill you at very high difficulty levels.
Now, I won’t talk mechanics or theme, because this game is not about that. This is just an excuse to drink in game board form. And that’s perfectly fine. We all need plausible excuses to drink, especially when dealing with family around the holidays. So in a way, this may be best board game for adults only that just want to have a couple of drinks with friends at the end of a long week.
Ticket To Ride
This game is so simple, and it takes more time to set up than to actually explain. The theme is the railroad barons in Eastern Expansion America. So there’s some space for role play. The routes you do not complete a count as a penalty at the end of the game and you can block other players for completing their routes. So despite the simple game mechanics of drawing cards and claiming routes, there’s some depth in there.
The game is a classic modern classic that is high strategy and high luck but with very simple rules. This means that there is effectively no advantage for skill or experience. Making it a great equalizer for most groups. As an over-thinker myself, I constantly lose at this because I just want to go for more ambitious routes while less experienced players just complete their routes and score their points. This is the best for those that have no experience with any sort of game whatsoever.
Elysium Board Game
Elysium is a card collection game with collecting the most points as the winning condition. Simple premise, but it’s harder than it sounds. You use cards for points or effects; the challenge is converting them at the right time from effect cards to point cards. You get plenty of variety with 8 different card decks. You only play with 5 of them in any one game, which is a brilliant game mechanic.
The game asks a lot from the players. The timing is crucial and you can’t really go on auto mode. But this is seriously addictive and you always end up being able to do less than you want to do. And when you hit a certain combo, it’s so rewarding, but the game doesn’t keep it as a coup de gras. Everyone can hit multiple great plays during one playing session, making this a game with immense replayability that never gets stale. You just feel like you’re getting better and better each time you play. And that sense of progression really builds upon itself over time making victories immensely satisfying even after hundreds of games.