3 Best Board Games for a Party

  • Posted on: 23 July 2017
  • By: lyanabu
Peter and Soyeon Gallo playing Survive

Do you like to play board games? Or are you one of those people who can't stand board games?

I love board games, but I can understand if you hate them. If you grew up in the 60s and 70s, when you think of board games, you probably think of CandylandMonopoly, Life, or Risk. And then you remember it being boring and awful, which is why you haven't looked at board games since then.

But just as computers have evolved in the last thirty years, board games have improved dramatically.

What I like about board games is the chance to really get to know the person you are playing with in a way you usually can't. A good game allows you to connect in a deep way, very quickly.

Here's an example: John had a friend, Juan Lucero, who was a professional musician. Anytime we saw him out in public, he was the epitome of suave, calm, and professional. As the father of seven children, he always had an air of control and maturity.

Then one time he happened to come over for a house party by himself. We ended up playing Pictionary. At first he was reluctant to join in, but after awhile his competitive side came out, and we were astonished to see him break out of his persona. He got involved in the game, he got progressively more and more excited, and the next thing you know, he was jumping up and screaming encouragement to his teammates, and we were like, "Whoa, where did THIS guy come from?"

I want to tell you about the new game renaissance and then I will talk about three games that are fun to play at parties.

From the well-argued article We are living in a board game renaissance,

Not so long ago there were two kinds of board games: “Eurogames,” which boasted dynamic and inventive game mechanics, but had largely uninteresting themes; and so-called “Ameritrash” games, which had wonderful themes and beautiful components, but game play itself remained quite basic.

Unlike many American games, which boasted concepts such as “roll-the-dice-and-move,” long player turns and player elimination, Eurogames found ways to keep all players invested from start to finish, actively engaged even when it was another player’s turn.

The renewed interest in games began when designers combined German gameplay engineering with American game piece detail and the colorful graphics. This resulted in games such as Settlers of Catan, Carcasonne, and Dominion. These new wave games are:

  • Easy to learn
  • Fast moving
  • Different each time

A good way to choose games is to check out Spiel des Jahres for games which won the best game of the year award.

Rummikub

Let’s look at some board games. First, Rummikub. It's a set of tiles with different colored numbers on them. You start with 14 tiles. The goal is to get rid of all your tiles by creating runs of the same color tiles, or sets of the same number but different colors. You can play with 2-4 players, ages 8 on up. You can extend the game to play endless rounds.

This game actually predates the Game Renaissance, as it's been around since the 1940s. It won the Game of the Year in 1980.

I love the tactile quality to the tiles. They are thin but have an appealing depression for your fingers, and the way they clack is very satisfying. Another advantage is that unlike Scrabble, Taboo, Pictionary, or Code Names, you do not have to be good at English to play this game.

Settlers of Catan

Next up is Settlers of Catan. This is the game that blew the minds of gamers when it came over from Germany in the 90s. It got to be popular amongst tech workers in Silicon Valley, who would code all day and then turn to face-to-face interaction at night. It won Game of the Year in 1995, and sold more than 22 million copies. The goal is to build settlements, roads, and cities by trading with your game partners, between 3-6 players, ages 10 on up. It takes about an hour.

What I love about this game it is a good balance between luck and strategy. Once I played it with 11 year old twins and their father, and even though it was their first time, they won because they got lucky. It's also fun to think in terms of basic building blocks of civilization, like sheep, wood, and ore.

Ticket to Ride

The third game is Ticket to Ride. It won the Game of the Year award in 2004. You are a railroad owner, and your goal is to collect rail cars (in the form of colorful cards), and use them to claim train routes between cities. It's easy to learn and you can learn some geography at the same time, especially if you play one of the many variants, including Africa, Asia, India, and Europe.

  • 2-5 players
  • 30-60 minutes

My friend Christine is a youth counselor, and she plays this game with her clients. The board is a map of the United States, and while they play she can initiate discussions about travel and possibilities. It opens up the mind to talk about destinations and going places.

Where you can play

Here in Albuquerque, you can check out these games at Empire Board Game Library. There is also a board game night every third Thursday at Tortuga Gallery that I always attend. There are many other fun options, including Mexican Train Dominoes, SpotIt, Dominion, Lords of Waterdeep, and Survive (the one where the island is sinking and you have to get to land -- it is so easy to get people to team up against each other and that opens up all these fun dynamics). I hope I’ve convinced you to want to try these games!