Help me choose the right board game for my family
November 30, 2020 2:46 PM   Subscribe

My family is two adults and a precocious nine year old. My son is an avid sci-fi/fantasy fan, and I'm considering Eldritch Horror, Mysterium, or Folklore: The Affliction. Hopeful that a Mefite who has played any of these games may be able to provide a brief review and speak to whether they might be appropriate for my family. Snowflakes below the cut.

In the past we've enjoyed Catan, Risk:Legacy, and Pandemic. My son is kind of obsessed with the video game Skyrim, so something that pulls in similar themes would likely be a hit. Over the Christmas holidays we like to play games that last several hours or have a long story arc. We have very different interests, but all of us enjoy a good story.
posted by unstrungharp to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I own Mysterium, and have played it a handful of times. It's a bit confusing, but isn't too bad once you get it all set up, and get the different stages sorted out. There's somewhat of a story to it. I strongly recommend watching some play-throughs on YouTube to get a better feel for the gameplay. It's not a long-playing game, but can be played multiple times in an evening. I think it's a cooperative game when played with 3 people (I've usually played with just 2 people).
posted by hydra77 at 2:58 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I also own Mysterium and my experience is like hydra77's. It's very well designed, but my group doesn't play it that often, because lately we've been into more relaxing games, and Mysterium is a more intense rack-your-brain experience, to figure out the clues. A fantasy game that is appropriate for younger players and is consistently very popular is Lords of Waterdeep. We play it very often; it holds up to replaying, and has a decent story element, based on D&D. Before pandemic, our group really loved Abomination: The Heir of Frankenstein. It has a really good story (based on the classic novel, of course), lasts for several hours, and has exactly the sort of dark horror/fantasy theme (monster building, mad science) that I would have loved as a precocious nine year old. Sorry it's not exactly what you were asking for but I wanted to plug it for the story element!
posted by demonic winged headgear at 3:24 PM on November 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Talisman has been a go-to for our older boardgame kids for some time now. I think we have one of the expansion packs as well but I can't recall which one.
posted by jquinby at 3:27 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

On review, it looks like there's only the one upgrade pack.
posted by jquinby at 3:28 PM on November 30, 2020

(Somewhat orthogonal to the posted question, but since you mentioned Pandemic and Risk:Legacy...) Have you all played Pandemic Legacy: Season 1? It has a long story arc, though the basic mechanics are essentially the same as the base game.
posted by Janta at 4:05 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you're looking at Eldritch Horror, you should check out Elder Sign first. It plays faster, and was designed by the Arkham Horror team. I have yet to play a game of Arkham/Eldritch Horror that wasn't incredibly punishing and difficult.

You might also check out Betrayal Legacy.
posted by ApathyGirl at 4:28 PM on November 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: my 9-year-old is really into Betrayal: House on the Hill, so can recommend.
He's also reasonably good at Dominion, if y'all want to pick up a deck-building game...Dominion is a classic and if your family likes it, it'll keep you all entertained for years. Not especially sci-fi though.
posted by daisystomper at 5:20 PM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I can only speak to Eldritch Horror and Mysterium, which have almost nothing in common except using cards. EH is cooperative, works with 3 people but has a ton of rules and setup. It might be ok though depending on how into rules and difficult board games you are. Similar in theme to EH is Mansions of Madness, with the bonus that the app guides you through at up and play. Still difficult to win tho.
Mysterium is like other image cards games like Dixit, so if someone in the party has aphantasia it could be hard to play. I love it but I've played with people that did not enjoy it for that reason. It would probably get boring with the same people over and over since you learn to tell what the other players are trying to do. It's also not much fun with 3, though I've tried.
If you liked Pandemic and also like legacy games, Pandemic Season 1 or 0 are almost a slam dunk. Which is better is better left to people who have played both all the way through.
There's also a new Elder Scrolls miniatures game out. It looks pretty cool, very Skyrim.
posted by fiercekitten at 5:39 PM on November 30, 2020

My family does a lot of tabletop games. We played Mysterium once and gave up and sold it. It was confusing and didn't seem worth the time we would have to put into it to learn the rules -- and this is coming from a family that plays Scythe.

Do you think he'd like Terraforming Mars? It's our current favorite. It doesn't have as much of a story as Betrayal at House on the Hill, but the flavortext on the cards is funny and you can come up with a story of your own.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:14 PM on November 30, 2020

Best answer: Eldritch Horror is very good, but also very long and complicated. I'd recommend against it unless you know your family is ready for it. In addition to the aforementioned Elder Sign, take a look at Horrified, a co-op game featuring more traditional monsters, like Dracula, The Wolf Man, and The Mummy.

In the fantasy vein, Clank! is an excellent not-too long or weighty deck-building game about sneaking into a dragon's lair and pilfering his loot.

Mysterium is definitely better with more than just three players. I don't know what to recommend in its place, though.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 8:55 PM on November 30, 2020

Nthing Mysterium. We played it with some friends in a mixed group of people and, most importantly to this question, 9 year old boy. The hosts are avid gamers so they were able to get us through the set up fairly quickly. There were some hiccups but with people who've played it you can smooth over the tricky bits.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:01 AM on December 1, 2020

RuneBound is a big fantasy adventure boardgame that is mildly competitive - players are each a different adventurer, questing out to fight monsters and find treasures as they grow in power before hunting down the big baddie at the end. Can be added to with a number of interesting expansions that give different themes - fantasy pirate ship adventuring, or 1001 Nights style legend-building, etc. Great fun, pretty straightforward rules, plays for about three-ish hours a go give or take.

Imperial Assault is a Star Wars adventure set using an improved version of the Descent rules, also with players each taking on a different character but playing a campaign of distinct tactical scenarios with figures moving around and trying to achieve objectives on a map that is built differently for each session. The core game has a 'Game Master' player that runs the Empire forces, but there's also a great app that allows that to be automated (and handles some of the bookkeeping) so that all players can be on the same fully co-op team.

Betrayal at House on the Hill mentioned above is great fun, very light rules but with highly variable end play based on what 'traitor' scenario is unveiled as each session proceeds. Mostly co-op, barring the one player who gets 'turned' halfway through the game and becomes the adversary... but you never know who that's going to be! There's also a Dungeons and Dragons themed set to get more fantasy flavored.

I personally recommend against Talisman because it's so grindy in the beginning and there's a large number of cards in the game that just arbitrarily ruin a play - it's a very 'swingy' game where things happen completely outside of player control and just wipe out an hour or two of work building up a character. But that might just be my grudge against so many instant-kills in earlier editions of the game, not sure how the current edition handles that.

If you/they dig Firefly, the boardgame by Gale Force 9 is fantastic. Each player crews a ship, takes on missions of various levels of danger and dubiousness, and tries to win a different goal each playthrough! Can take 3-4 hours to complete, based on the goal selected.

The Quest for El Dorado is a great, quick to learn and play deckbuilding adventure / race game with a lot of variety in setup and strategies.

I highly recommend the Youtube channel "Shut Up and Sit Down" for a lot of very fun and funny board game reviews of all sorts of different things - it's a great way to see new games and classics, and just a delight to watch on their own!
posted by FatherDagon at 10:20 AM on December 1, 2020

Seconding Imperial Assault, which plays a lot like a miniature rpg.

If you are interested in Terraforming Mars, the base game is available as an app, and I'd probably try it there first? It can be lengthy, especially at the beginning when all the cards are new. If you decide to get it, I'd highly recommend picking up the Prelude expansion with it.

A few others:
Above & Below is a neat storytelling/town building game.
Dice Forge is a fantasy-themed VP-based game with a dice-building mechanic.
Lords of Waterdeep is explicitly a D&D themed board game with lots of replay variability.
Lords of Xidit is a fantasy-themed area control/pickup&deliver resources game with an action queue mechanic.
posted by ApathyGirl at 10:54 AM on December 1, 2020

I've brought Forbidden Island to a couple households with kids 7-10 and it was a big hit (It's fun for adults too). It is quick to learn, only takes about 30 min to play and it's co-operative which is a nice change. The story is you are adventurers on an island that is sinking and you have to find the treasure before it sinks. Kids get caught up in the idea that the island is sinking around them and get really into it. Like "Ahh! The tile I was just on is under water now, that was so close!"
posted by Jungo at 9:59 PM on December 1, 2020

Betrayal Legacy is really fun. If you're thinking about Betrayal at House on the Hill, definitely go for the legacy version instead -- as I understand it, it's all the good of the regular version with some improvements.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:12 AM on December 2, 2020

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