Game me.
November 6, 2014 7:32 AM   Subscribe

I feel like quasi-impulse buying a new board game this weekend. Which should it be?

My computer bit the dust last Friday so I spent all weekend playing games instead of watching TV (oh 5 year old episodes of project runway canada, I will return to you someday) and it reminded me that oh yeah, I like games, I should play games more often.

I have and enjoy the standard new era games like Settlers, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassonne. I'm going to be up north by Dice Dojo this weekend and intend to stop in. Since I can't buy Bad Detectives yet, I need guidance.

Basically what I'm looking for are recommendations of:

-fun games
-that fit in with this new generation of board games
-that can be played by 2 players (or more, but like Settlers doesn't really sing unless you have 3-4 for instance)
-takes about 45 mins to 1.5 hours to play

Things I am not terribly into: fantasy world building, war, reading 40 pages of instructions.

Things I do like: the opportunity to play the game creatively, options for cooperative play or competitive play, meeple.

posted by phunniemee to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (33 answers total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Pandemic is a really fun coop game that fits your criteria. There are also a couple of expansion packs, one of which i think maybe has an option for competitive play. I don't have the expansions and still think the game is really fun though.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:40 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Forbidden Island! Co-op play, beautiful game design, fairly easy rules.
posted by jbickers at 7:41 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, Tokaido. You need Tokaido. Everyone needs Tokaido. It's the most chill competitive game, it's beautiful, and it works pretty well with two. I got it for my husband's birthday and we've been playing it a lot.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Wits and Wagers is more of a party game, definitely competitive but it involves lots of lovely statistics and game theory!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:50 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you have Dominion yet? If so, do you have any of the expansion sets?

I also like Fluxx, and I second Pandemic. I think you might really like Saboteur but it requires at least three players.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:50 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Pandemic and Forbidden Island are basically the same game, incidentally, with different chrome. I like them both and second these recommendations.

Lords of Waterdeep is another one I would recommend - the level of complexity is about on par with Settlers and the first game will be a bit long, but once everyone understands the mechanics it goes pretty quickly. There's an excellent iOS version, also.
posted by miskatonic at 7:53 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think Power Grid should fit your criteria, and is really enjoyable. First run through might push 1.5 hours as people learn the turn sequence, but after that a game in an hour is definitely doable.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:54 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Smash Up! It's good for up to 4 players, pretty easy once you get the hang of it, and quite a bit of fun!
posted by Kitteh at 8:03 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hanabi is something my wife and I have enjoyed playing, just the two of us, and it supports five players.
posted by jangie at 8:05 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm a big fan of Kingdom Builder, though I think the Tokaido, Hanabi and Power Grid suggestions are also very good.
posted by shesbookish at 8:08 AM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you visited "Tabletop"? It's a series of Youtube videos done by Wil Wheaton in which he and a group of guests play various games. It's a good way to find out what the gameplay of each game is like.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:09 AM on November 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

Seconding Smash Up. It also has a number of optional expansions (including an Obligatory Cthulhu Set) which add new character types and interactions, but the core game itself has a ton of variety right out of the box.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:13 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Kingdom Builder is a good lightweight but varied game. It's a few years old at this point so I don't know if that fits your new hotness interest. Five Tribes does and has gotten good reviews but I've not played it yet.

Pandemic, in my experience, can be a bit dull as it can turn into whoever is bossiest playing solitaire and telling other people what to do. There are some fun cooperative but still competitive games that get around that but I can't think of any that fit your requirements.
posted by Candleman at 8:17 AM on November 6, 2014

Came in to vote for Pandemic... although it's a little too timely these days, I've had loads of fun playing it in the past.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:25 AM on November 6, 2014

Splendour is great -- you learn it quick, it plays 2 as nicely as it does 4, it feels pretty, and you can play a quick round in half an hour once you've figured it out.

Along those lines is Jaipur. It ONLY plays 2 people, but it's easy to learn, super tiny and packable, and plays in 10 - 15 minutes so you can do best-of-three.

Alhambra is older than the other two, and somewhat more challenging to learn (although I'd still classify it as "easy") and super fun. There are several ways to win, so you can be playing a totally different game from your opponent and still beat them.

I adore Power Grid, as suggested above, but it take a long time to really learn. If you're looking for something light and simple it might frustrate you.
posted by AmandaA at 8:29 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Caverna is awesome, but has almost caused some marital strife since we are both pretty competitive. There are not 40 pages of instructions but there might be 39.
posted by lydhre at 8:40 AM on November 6, 2014

Best answer: If you like Ticket To Ride, you'll like Power Grid and you might also like Thurn and Taxis.
posted by maryr at 8:46 AM on November 6, 2014

I find Taluva a surprisingly fun game for 2-3. I'll second the recommendation for Pandemic; another coop game I like is Fire Rescue though I haven't figured out how to balance difficulty, which seems to be either 'piece of cake' or 'everyone died'.
posted by jeather at 8:49 AM on November 6, 2014

Takenoko is beautiful and delightful. I also enjoy Morels, which is a more basic card game.
posted by Mothlight at 9:11 AM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Not sure if it fits in with new generation of board games but Khet ( aka laser chess, is an awful lot of fun.
posted by platypus of the universe at 9:33 AM on November 6, 2014

It's not the new hotness any more, but I stand by Agricola as an awesome game that skirts the edges of your time limit. I'd third or fourth Kingdom Builder, too. While it's technically "war" in a sense, King of Tokyo is loaded with fun, but its successor King of New York is due out any day now, so you might want to wait on that.

Bohnanza! is awesome and fun and it's about competitive bean farming. Bonus: pretty cheap.

If just two-player games are okay, Morels is lovely, and there's even a simpler Agricola two-player spinoff called All Creatures Big and Small that people who find Agricola too "fiddly" seem to enjoy.
posted by Shepherd at 10:25 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Seconding Dominion and its expansions. Lost Cities is a nice 2-person game. Small World is also pretty great, Risk but it plays in 30 minutes and you have super powers, and it scales well from 2-5 players.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:06 AM on November 6, 2014

Shut Up & Sit Down does some great reviews of board games. Zombie 15' looks real interesting.
posted by rtimmel at 11:51 AM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tsuro is a very simple, strategic, and beautiful game that has quickly become one of my favorites. It's like playing art. There's also Tsuro of the Seas, which takes the original game and adds in some more complicated elements (daikaiju!).
posted by MsVader at 12:13 PM on November 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Same list of "likes" as you.

I really DON'T like Dominion (too many combinations to learn), and I've never enjoyed Pandemic for some reason - maybe it just feels like I'm not making any decisions, I'm just along for the ride. I also really don't like Agricola, it goes forever, but it seems like minor decisions early on have a huge huge impact later in the game, and if you don't get it right at the start there is no way to catch up.

After that negativity, I like
- Power Grid because there is a lot of options to choose between and opportunities to catch up;
- Across the Desert which has some awesome game pieces and an easy to play mechanic, but you can definitely get tricky as everyone's skill increases
posted by trialex at 2:33 PM on November 6, 2014

Castles of Burgandy. Bonus you can play it online here after you learn the rules with the physical board game:

Seconding Forbidden Island

machi koro is a great 2 player game

Love Letter

posted by TestamentToGrace at 4:39 PM on November 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Power Grid is not necessarily light, but it's a very good game.

I'd recommend Stone Age. People love it, highly rated, will play with two but shines with more.
posted by mecran01 at 7:47 PM on November 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know why people are recommending Forbidden Island, when they could be recommending Forbidden Desert. They play fairly similarly, but the desert's shifting sands combat 'alpha gamer syndrome' where one player tells everyone else how to win.

Race for the Galaxy plays well for two players, but scales up as well. Its a space exploration themed card game; there are military uses, but they're not used to attack one another, rather to build a conquest of planets. Take over a moon base, and use that additional military might next turn to take over a planet, then the system, and so on. It's fairly low on direct interaction, although people claim there's a good bit of deduction about what actions your opponent will select, so you don't need to. Star realms has gotten good reviews, and is far more combat oriented, if you so desire (many RftG players did).

And I guess, if you haven't tried out the Cities and Knights expansion to Catan, it's nearly an entirely different game.
posted by pwnguin at 8:33 PM on November 6, 2014

Response by poster: This is awesome, guys, thank you so much! I went through this (and got a few recs from people in real life) and compiled a spreadsheet based on how the game "feels" after reading descriptions. If anyone is interested it is here, though it's kind of particular to what I'm looking for so idk if it would be at all useful to anyone else.

Aaaanyway, I'll see how I feel tomorrow once I can hold the games in my hands and make a decision (or four).
posted by phunniemee at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

FYI Taluva is absolutely nothing like Carcassonne. Morels is also 2p and is a rummy-type game. Lost Cities has very, very easy scoring and is a rummy-type game. Through the Desert has the best pieces, but it's a question of whether you enjoy or do not enjoy Knizia's game style. (Many of his games are available on iOS and Android so you can find out there.)
posted by jeather at 2:26 PM on November 7, 2014

About Knizia: his games are all different, but there's an essential similarity to them -- you can do 3 of 5 things in a turn, so it's a matter of prioritizing moves, and you almost always get scores based on doing well in all categories, so you need to be a sort of generalist in his games. The theming is always good, and you can enjoy them all in different ways, but there's just this shared feeling to all his games.

I'm a big fan, though I never do well in them.
posted by jeather at 2:29 PM on November 7, 2014

Best answer: Dixit. Best with 4+ people, teams can also be formed. Superduper creative.
posted by mcbeth at 2:05 PM on November 8, 2014

Response by poster: Ugh so I have gone totally overboard here. Went to the game store last night intending to buy Power Grid and maybe another game. Decided Power Grid was too much money for right now, resolved to put it on my parentally-demanded Christmas list. Browsed Dice Dojo's lending wall, decided I wanted Forbidden Island, browsed some more, was totally taken by the steampunky flying ship in Forbidden Desert, decided I couldn't get the sequel without getting the first one, left with both. Just now went on amazon and saw that Power Grid is literally half as much online as it was in the store, decided to go ahead and just do it (sorry, Dice Dojo, I'll pay a markup for local but 2x?) aaaaand then decided to get Dixit, too, for the next time I have a board game day with people over.

Played both the Forbiddens, they are both great, and I'm feeling pretty satisfied with myself right now. Gonna go eat ramen for a week to make up for it, thanks.
posted by phunniemee at 1:53 PM on November 9, 2014

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