Recommend me an awesome boardgame
December 7, 2014 4:58 PM   Subscribe

So I'm thinking of dropping a few bucks on a REALLY GOOD, REALLY REPLAYABLE boardgame this week. Provisos inside.

It's for a group of people who are a) boardgame-savvy and b) Warhammer (miniatures) players.

Right now I'm tossing up between TALISMAN, ELDRITCH HORROR, or RELIC (because I like WH40K). I'm looking for something that's:

- Meaty (say 3+ hours), but not quite as meaty as something like MEMOIR '44 or ARKHAM ASYLUM

- Not TOO fiddly or rulesy, so not quite MAGE KNIGHT

- Engaging, which means it is going to have a good storytelling component

- Roleplayingy without being an actual tabletop RPG

- Flexible, because it's going to be for between 2-6 players

- Well-constructed and unique and generally cool and gritty and I guess "edgy", so that's why it's not CATAN or CARCASSONE or TICKET TO RIDE (which I know are good games but which feel really sterile to me)

- Has expansions that don't suck but that also aren't necessary

- Not too crazy obscure, so I don't have to special order it from Germany or something (I'm in Brisbane, Australia, and while our selection of stores that stock fancy boardgames isn't exactly extensive, we do have a few, and they are fairly well stocked and curated)

Recommendations out of my selections, or different recommendations of similar-ish games, would be greatly appreciated. I am familiar with BoardGameGeek and have been doing a lot of trawling around there.
posted by turbid dahlia to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Two games I played at Origins this year that might be what you're looking for: Zombicide and Damage Report. They're both frenetic, cooperative, and awesome.
posted by Etrigan at 5:06 PM on December 7, 2014

Out of your selections, Talisman and Relic don't fulfill your criteria so much. Eldritch Horror is pretty much exactly what you want. Very replayable, flexible, RPG-ish, gritty with humor if you want, etc.

Eclipse is probably too fiddly but has a lot of what you want. If you can find a group that's already fully familiar with the gameplay see if you can watch it because it's got a big fat pile of rules to learn so the first few games will be very different.

You might want to rethink a game that is as long-lasting as you request. In my experience even if the game is the sort that is different every time, your group is going to start having issues with timing and coordination. A couple shorter games (an hour each, maybe) will ultimately provide more flexibility for group dynamics and social situations. I mean, get Eldritch Horror for sure, but think about shorter games while you're talking to your local store people.
posted by Mizu at 5:14 PM on December 7, 2014

Response by poster: Mizu, yours is good advice. While the group has previously demonstrated a happy willingness to engage in a single game for a long time, I should also be considering future implications post-Christmas holidays.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:20 PM on December 7, 2014

I suggest posting on the recommendations section of the boardgames geeks forums. They will have good ideas.

Meaty, 3 plus hours... 2-6 players is tough.

Of the three you mentioned I've only played Talisman and found it to be boring. I agree with its fairly low rating on BGG. Luck driven, roll and move. Not much tactics or strategy involved. Much better games out there these days.

My ideas:

Shadows Over Camelot - have had a lot of fun with this. Best with 4 or more though. Possible Betrayer is a great feature.

Fury of Dracula - Great theme, gritty, love this one. Works well with 2-5.

Dead of Winter. I have this on preorder and it everyone seems to be raving about it right now. Lots of roleplaying and seems very flexible.

A couple others I haven't played, but want to and are relevant: Chaos in the Old World, Game of Thrones 2nd edition.
posted by meta87 at 5:26 PM on December 7, 2014

Do you know about "Tabletop"? It's a Youtube channel where Will Wheaton and a group of guests play various games and you get to watch them.

One game in the recent past that sounds like something you're asking for is "Betrayal at House on the Hill". Part 1, part 2.

The concept is that a group of characters start exploring a haunted house. At a certain point, based on the event cards that get drawn, one of the characters becomes an enemy and after that point that character plays against all the others.

There's a lot of replayability here, because there are two scenario manuals, and when one character changes sides one of something like 30 scenarios kicks into play. One of the manuals tells the turncoat what his goal is, and the other tells everyone else what their goal is. Presumably no one is supposed to look at those manuals before playing the game because that would spoil it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:33 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I haven't played any of your tossups, but I'll throw out Betrayal at House on the Hill, which seems to tick a few of your boxes.

If you want to go less "board game" and more "roleplaying" you could also try Fiasco.
posted by brentajones at 5:36 PM on December 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Another possibility is "Pandemic". This is a cooperative game where all the players are on the same side. Each player gets a role as a health-care practitioner of some kind, and all of them are attempting to prevent a world-wide catastrophe. Since everyone is together, there's a lot of discussion among the players on how each one should help fight the diseases.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:36 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like Scottish actor Robert Florence's column at Rock, Paper Shotgun: Cardboard Children. I like it even better than the Tabletop videos by Wil Wheaton, which are also very good. There is a ton of boardgame reviews there. A recent one that fits most of your criteria (except for length) is Dungeon Raiders.
posted by seasparrow at 5:40 PM on December 7, 2014

I didn't suggest Betrayal at House on the Hill because in my group it plays way faster most of the time than what you're asking for, but if your group does heed my advice and pool money for a few shorter running games, and Eldritch Horror is to their aesthetic tastes, Betrayal is the excellent ever-changing 1.5 hour game you might be looking for (with additional time for snacks.)
posted by Mizu at 5:45 PM on December 7, 2014

If it was for only two people I would strongly suggest Twilight Struggle. That is a bloody fantastic game.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 6:05 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you plan for up to 5 you open up many more possibilities as 6 or more players is very rare and generally puts you into the more social / party / deduction games. 3-5 is a more common range. Gamers deal with this by having oversized collections to handle a variety of player counts and weights. Be wary!

Your definition of meaty is confusing as Memoir 44 is about as gateway as they come.

Chaos in the Old Word is an officially licensed Warhammer game where you play the gods corrupting the land. It is asymmetric, gritty, and takes a few hours. It is very lightly role playing as you take on the role of god directing your followers. The Horned Rat expansion is also excellent and brings you up to 5 players.

Battlestar Galactica plays up to 6 and is heavier on the role playing as there are hidden roles with traitors (Cylons) among the humans. The expansions are not necessary as the base game gives you everything you need and they just add complexity without making the game play any better.

Crossroads: Dead of Winter, Game of Thrones, Clash of Cultures, Kemet and Cyclades are other good choices to look into.

The upcoming Star Wars Imperial Assault looks to be a cool dungeon crawl themed as Star Wars.
posted by ridogi at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I like Scottish actor Robert Florence's column at Rock, Paper Shotgun

Aye, as do I. His recommendation, coming in at #3 I think it was, for Talisman as one of his Top 50 boardgames of forever, is what was steering me in that direction. But I think it's not quite appropriate for this setting.

I can't believe I had forgotten Betrayal At etc. as one of those on my shortlist.

If people here (who have played both) were forced to choose between Betrayal and Eldritch, which would they go with?

Lots of other great recommends here. Etrigan, to my surprise, the store I looked in did in fact have Zombicide, and while I'm willing to drop a fair amount of cash, this thing was $114, which kind of breaks my psychological barrier for things I know nothing about. I will look into it further though.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2014

I'd choose Betrayal in a heartbeat. That is because I love tiles and game pieces and dollhouses though. I'd pretty happily play an adjusted exploration-only version of Betrayal. Eldritch, being much slower, allows for much more drinking and side-socializing, and it has better writing, I think. But it doesn't have tiles that build a spooky house so it will forever lose.
posted by Mizu at 6:32 PM on December 7, 2014

Response by poster: I am all for spooky houses. I really like the sounds of the mechanics of Betrayal too, and in fact I remember putting it on a list for myself years ago, as pretty much the next game I should buy in my life. So I think that might have to be it.

But also...Dead of Winter sounds incredibly awesome.

Maybe I should get them both? I feel like I need permission to do something like that. Especially if I also want to get Twilight Struggle.
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:37 PM on December 7, 2014

Betrayal is awesome, but I'd consider it to be pretty rulesy. It is a game that breaks in the middle so that players can read additional rules. In one game I played, the betrayer was extremely uncomfortable having to learn new rules by himself, and as a result was utterly crushed by the other players.

Maybe it's not such a big concern with a group of Warhammer players, but "surprise, go read these rules" doesn't work with every group.
posted by a dangerous ruin at 7:02 PM on December 7, 2014

Best answer: The two games that spring to mind are Lords of the Waterdeep and Heroscape. Heroscape particularly will really scratch the tabletop wargame and army building itches, though it is now discontinued, so you'll probably have to turn to somewhere like ebay to get a copy still in the packaging.
posted by 256 at 7:48 PM on December 7, 2014

How about:
- Robinson Crusoe: A touch on the fiddly side, but very thematic and gorgeous components; comes with several scenarios of survival; expansion on the way
- Cosmic Encounter: Very scalable across # of people; tons of expansions; very engaging in that you can play one of several different types of alien races; probably comes in at 1-1.5 hours however
- Level 7 Omega Protocol or Descent: if you want something closer to a dungeon crawler, Omega 7 is sci-fi; Descent is fantasy; both have lots of minis!!!!!! and Descent has a billion expansions already (thanks Fantasy Flight!)
posted by ellerhodes at 8:49 PM on December 7, 2014

Best answer: Dead of Winter is fantastic, but the first edition was seriously underprinted and is tough to get a hold of right now. I've seen it at Games Paradise here in Sydney, but they want $95 for it. To my mind it does several of the same things as Shadows Over Camelot but in a much more engaging way, so I wouldn't recommend SOC unless you're really into the setting.

(And what says Arthurian legends more than defeating a black knight by making poker hands? Nothing!)

Zombicide has fantastic minis but I found the gameplay mediocre, so you might've dodged a bullet there. (Which is more than you can do in the game itself because if another player fires a gun at a zombie in the same square as you, they hit you automatically.) The pop culture riffs and backer exclusives make this one sell like gangbusters on Kickstarter, but don't know anybody who's played it more than a couple of times once they got it, so I'd definitely try before you buy if you can.

If you really want a Let's Team Up And Kill Zombies! co-op, there's also Last Night on Earth, but I'd recommend just waiting for Dead of Winter.

I really like ridogi's suggestion Chaos in the Old World. It abstracts wargames in a way that makes them appealing even to non-wargamers like me, and it sounds as though you'd enjoy the dark theming. And because each team has different special abilities, there's lots of replayability. You'll need the expansion to get it to five players, though.

There's also A Study in Emerald. Sherlock Holmes! Cthulhu! Vampries! Zombies! Worker placement! Area control! Secret teams! I found it all too much (and the rulebook is woefully inadequate) but it's definitely got its admirers, and the games are long and thinky.

I've never played Betrayal or Eldritch Horror, so no thoughts there.

As a side note, it's going to be hard to find a game that plays all numbers between two and six well unless it's a co-op -- and even then, you can end up doing a lot of sitting around. If you definitely need to cover that spread, I'd consider buying two games: something that's good for two (Summoner Wars or Rivet Wars might appeal to you) and then something that's good for three-five. Six is always going to be tricky; even the non-co-op games that theoretically support six (like Power Grid) become total slogfests when you have to wait ten minutes for your turn. There's really only a couple of games I would unreservedly recommend for six: 7 Wonders and Libertalia (both of which have all players choosing cards at the same time, so there's little downtime) and The Resistance (clever deduction game). Otherwise, you move into more party games like Say Anything or Wits & Wagers.
posted by Georgina at 9:24 PM on December 7, 2014

Dead of Winter rules system will be used for other games in their Crossroads system, so watch the Plaid Hat webpage to get in on the next one. I wouldn't be surprised to see Dead of Winter reprinted as well.

7 Wonders is a great suggestion, although not as gritty, thematic or confrontational as you may like. It is a staple and scales to lots of player counts, but avoid the 2 player option.

Resistance and Avalon are also great.

Shadows of Camelot is very light / gateway so I would avoid that. Battlestar and Dead of Winter are so much better.

Betrayal does not have good rules or interesting decisions, but it is a fun beer and pretzels game. I recommend it, but not at the start of a collection.

A lot of the suggestions cover 3-5. You have gotten some suggestions for 6 player games but you'll want to find some good 2 player specific games as well so I've been thinking on that as well. I suggest the Pocket Battle series. There are four games - each with 2 armies - Confederacy/ Union, Orcs / Elves, Celts / Romans. etc. They would likely appeal to Warhammer fans. In them you build a squad with points and then fight a little tactical battle abstracted so there is no board or map. They are super compact, quick, and about $10 each. The rules are unusual so there is a steep learning curve to grok how to play. They can be mix and matched so you can fight Elves vs Romans or any other weird combo.

Another that handles 2 (as well as more) players is 1775 and 1812. I like 1775 a bit more because of the dynamic recruitment rules but 1812 handles 5 players instead of 4.
posted by ridogi at 10:09 PM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Seconding the suggestion of "Pandemic", as well as the "Pandemic: On The Brink" expansion which adds three new scenarios (plus Petri dishes to store the game pieces in!). The players vs. the board format and ticking time bomb aspect mean teamwork and communication are essential, and no one plays in a vacuum.

Each game usually lasts 45 minutes to 1 hour, and my group of friends usually plays 2-3 times in an evening.
posted by muchomas at 10:37 PM on December 7, 2014

Best answer: Robert Florence is great, but his recommendations are all over the shop. I'd check out Shut Up and Sit Down for a bit more balance. In particular, Relic and Talisman (they're essentially the same game) are over long and tedious.

Chaos in the Old World is absolutely terrific and very replayable, it's my favourite board game. If you want something a bit more recent with a different theme, Dominant Species is pretty fun (although I've only played it once). If you can get a hold of it, El Grande inspired both of these, and is pretty perfect.

6 players is actually a hard target to get to for games: Battlestar Galactica has been mentioned but it's better with 5. Power Grid plays 6, but that's an economic style game and it sounds like you'd prefer something a bit more direct conflicty. I have heard good things about Cosmic Encounters. It rubbed me the wrong way, but Rex is pretty much designed for 6 players (although can be played with three).

Race for the Galaxy is 2-5 and is brilliant, although is an economic card game and plays in much less time than your spec.

If you want a 2 player 40k game, Horus Heresy is a lot of fun, although I'm not sure how easy it is to obtain (and it's definitely not cheap!)
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:06 AM on December 8, 2014

Response by poster: I've been looking at Chaos in the Old World and while it is exactly up my alley, a lot of folk are saying that with anything less than the full complement of 4 (or 5) players, it becomes seriously unbalanced. What do you think?

I guess I should revise my spec somewhat. While 3+ hours is what we are willing to commit, of course we could handle much less.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:43 AM on December 8, 2014

I've played Chaos with three players a lot. There are certain combinations of gods which don't really work, but I think it's fun. Note that Chaos is somewhat balanced in the round: i.e. over 100 games you'll see roughly even wins for each god type, but in an individual game you may find one god has an edge thanks to the board set up. I actually like that about the game, but if you want a game where every player has exactly the same chance of winning each game, Chaos is not that game.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:56 AM on December 8, 2014

Response by poster: Ok, thanks to all the excellent advice here, and with clicks leading to other clicks like some kind of boardgame wikipedia, my short list has become a long list:

King Of New York
Pandemic + On The Brink
Betrayal At House On The Hill
Eldritch Horror
Twilight Struggle
Chaos In The Old World
Dead Of Winter
Race For The Galaxy
Fury Of Dracula
Level 7: Omega Something
Horus Heresy

Horus Heresy is on sale at Games Empire for sixty bucks, so I'm ordering that + Betrayal from there. I'll likely pick up Pandemic and maybe King Of New York and Chaos In The Old World from a brick and mortar store tomorrow.

I hope you don't mind if I don't go and mark any best answers just yet. All of your recommendations have been first class and have pretty much hit the spot exactly.

I was super pumped for Warhammer: Conquest until I saw i was basically Magic, which would be an endless money sink. And I'm down on the pre-order list for the reprint of Dead Of Winter. My buddy says he already has Battlestar Galactica so I'll have a tool around with that and at least find out about the mechanics.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:03 AM on December 8, 2014

If people here (who have played both) were forced to choose between Betrayal and Eldritch, which would they go with?

Eldritch, since some Betrayal scenarios are extremely confusing/poorly play-tested once you get to the mid-point. Quality varies.

re: Fury of Dracula (2005), depending on how you like your grit, you may also/instead be interested in Letters from Whitechapel. Same core mechanic, but FoD has combat and special abilities and LfW has pure mindgames. I suspect you'd lean more towards FoD but no harm in looking at LfW.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:33 AM on December 8, 2014

My gaming group has been playing Sentinels of the Multiverse whenever we take a break from our weekly RPG. It is for 2-5 players, and has an amazing amount of replay as you can choose different villains, environments, and heroes each time, which completely changes the action. You can do as much role playing as you'd like with it, and the artwork on the cards is gorgeous (and hysterical).
posted by blurker at 10:53 AM on December 8, 2014

So, I just want to say that I found Eldritch Horror extremely underwhelming. It may be because I had already played and enjoyed Arkham Horror a bunch of times but, after about three plays, it went back in the box and never came back out.

Race for the Galaxy is a fantastic game, but I would never have recommended it based on your criteria. If you do go that route, I definitely recommend getting just the base game and then adding expansions one at a time until you reach your threshold. I think that Race for the Galaxy +1 expansion is about perfect and that if you try to play with all the expansions together, you get a senseless jumble of a game.
posted by 256 at 2:50 PM on December 8, 2014

Response by poster: 256, I don't even know what my criteria are any more. Up? Down? It's all the same now.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:23 PM on December 8, 2014

Response by poster: So today I went ahead and bought:

King of New York (it was on special)
Robinson Crusoe

I went with Crusoe over Chaos in the Old World because of its weighting towards solo and couples play, and because the price was the same. Figured I could download some intel from BBG and work through a solo game on my own, then introduce my girlfriend to it, and then go from there. Tonight I've just been watching videos on Pandemic and KoNY, tomorrow we'll give one of them a whirl. Crusoe is going to take a bit longer I think, it's about as complicated as D&D (the 5th edition of which I'm also getting to grips with at the moment so I can DM the Starter Set this weekend!)

Crusoe feels about as overwhelming as Arkham Asylum did and I am kind of regretting the purchase, but I'm hearing so much good stuff about it that I have faith.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:56 AM on December 9, 2014

Response by poster: Err Horror is what I meant of course.
posted by turbid dahlia at 11:54 AM on December 9, 2014

A Game Of Thrones: The Board Game might have been a nice pick. But I don't think it scales down to 2 players neatly, as unfortunately, part of the intrigue is how and when your allies betray you, and that simply doesn't work in the 2 player case.

If you ever tire in the need for a longish game that plays 6, AGoT:tBG meets basically all of your other criteria. But I can totally understand prioritizing games for couples.
posted by pwnguin at 9:14 PM on December 9, 2014

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