Board Games Store
Search through thousands of board games and find your next tabletop adventure. If you're looking for old-school classics, we've got 'em. Strategy board games? No problem! Fancy a night in on your own with a great mesmerising one-player game? We've got you covered. New to Board Games? take a look at our guide below, it will help introduce you into the boardgame world and we have recommended some great games to get you started.
Everything you need to know about Board Games
If you haven’t had much board game experience since childhood Cluedo, Snakes & Ladders, or getting whopped by your aunt at Monopoly then you might be forgiven for thinking that the humble board game is a bit... well, humble.
In recent years, and particularly since the turn of the millennium, board games have been gaining massive momentum. The number of new titles in the Tabletop arena increases year on year, and many successful games are added to with expansion packs to keep gameplay fresh and exciting.
Number of board games published by year between 1900 and 2014, taken from boardgamegeek.com
So, if you’re interested in playing yourself, where do you start? For many people, the first step might be to seek out willing members in your existing circle of friends, though many of today’s best games are also designed for challenging solo play. Another option is to join a board game club or café, with an alternative choice being to make use of the many virtual board game apps available for your computer or smart device.
A Brief History of Board games
Many of us know of a few board games from our youth. Cluedo, Snakes & Ladders and Monopoly, as mentioned above, probably account for most of our memories, but people have been playing board games for much of human civilisation. Chess as we know it may have come about in the 1600’s, but its Indian roots go back much further, at least as far as the 5th century AD. Go, a popular board game in China, is said to date from around 500BC, making it the oldest board game in continuous play, and Senet, a board game depicted in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, is believed to date from at least 2700bc. Some of the earliest known commercial board games are from America and date from the early 1800’s.
What types of board games are there?
You could broadly say that there are two main types of board games: cooperative and competitive. Within those two main headings are two more: games designed strictly for multiple players and games that can be played solo. If you want to play as a group then you’ll want to play close attention to the required number of players on your chosen game’s box -many games are playable by just two players and some by as many as 30, but it’s definitely worth checking first.
One of the great things about the board game explosion is that you can now find board games based around almost any theme. Love trains? Got it. Firefighting? Psssh, no problem. Music? Easy peasy. The American Civil War? Of course.
A lot of great films have been reimagined as board games too. Classic movies like Big Trouble in Little China, The Goonies and Predator have all been immortalised in laminated grey card, and there’s a host of newer series-based games from the likes of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, along with classics like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek.
What’s A ‘Mechanic’?
‘Mechanics’ is the term applied to how a game plays. Some games have very simple mechanics. Examples of games with simple mechanics could be the list of rules for family friendly card games that typically comes printed on the face of one of the cards when you buy a new deck. If you can fit the rules for several games on the face of one playing card then they’re probably using pretty simple mechanics. Most of today’s board games are at least slightly more complex and will come with a sheet or a short manual on how to play them. Some really serious games come with what looks like a pretty hefty reference text. We’re not looking for the size of the rulebook though -just because a game has a lot of rules doesn’t mean it’s going to be great (although some really great games do have a lot of rules...), what we’re more interested in is a game that plays well, is entertaining and engaging and that can be played again and again without feeling repetitive.
In the context of a game that can be played by one person we’re talking about good ‘solo mechanics’. This typically means that either the game successfully plays through in a manner that is comparable in style and fun to when playing with others, or it may mean the game plays through in a notably different, but still fun and engaging way to the multiplayer game.
You can play board games on your own?
As far as solo play goes, a lot of people are now pretty happy to play a computer game on their own. A solo board game is a lot like that, except you use your imagination a bit more. And, let’s be honest, most of us spend enough of our daylight hours staring at one screen or another, sometimes it’s nice to have some downtime.
If you want to play on your own, in addition to the info about solo mechanics above, it’s useful to know that almost any game that is cooperative will be playable as a solo game as well -you just play as at least the minimum number of characters for the game to work, as you’re not dependent on anyone else playing against you, but some games definitely work better than others.
Want to play on your own? Where do you begin?There are so many great games available now that it can be a bit overwhelming if you just want somewhere to start. We imagine you’ll be thinking about a few things: the amount of time it takes to play the game through, the initial difficulty or complexity and, of course, the price.
With the above in mind, the first game we recommend is a card-based game called Friday from Rio Grande Games. Friday sees you, Friday, helping a stranded Robinson Crusoe as he gathers the skills needed to survive on the island and, ultimately, defeat the pirate ships.
It’s a card-based game with a relatively easy to understand mechanic. Friday is a little unusual as it’s purpose-designed for solo play, rather than using a different set of rules to play through a multiplayer game. The game only takes around 25mins to play through and it’s also relatively inexpensive, so would be a great place to start.
Watch a Friday playthroughon YouTube, it really helps to get a feel for the game.Another great game for more involved solo play is Legendary Encounters - Alien from Upper Deck Entertainment. This is a deck-building game and is playable as multiplayer co-op (up to 5 players) or a solo campaign.
The basic premise sees you taking on challenges and adversaries from one of the four included films in the Alien franchise. You’ll see familiar characters like Ripley, Dallas and Hicks along with plenty of xenomorphs, facehuggers and eggs.
There’s over 600 cards included, along with a gaming mat, tokens and, of course, a rulebook. Once you’ve got the hang of it, a playthrough will last about 45mins.
If you’re not a big fan of Alien it’s worth noting that you can still get a similar experience with the original Legendary game, which is based on Marvel comic book characters or Legendary Encounters Predator, based on the Schwarzenegger classic.
The final recommendation in the solo category is Mage Knight from Wizkids/Asmodee, a deck-building, world exploring, co-op or competitive super-game with a heap of expansionability and playable by up to 4 people.
A little time spent researching online will leave you with the impression that, no matter what the list is about, Mage Knight will appear on it somewhere. It’s a great game and a true classic, but it will take a bit more work to get your head around than either of the above and playthroughs last about 2-3hrs. That being said, those who persist will be rewarded with one of the best solo gaming experiences available.
Where To Start with Multiplayer Games
For many gamers, the ultimate introduction to multiplayer board games is The Settlers of Catan from Kosmos/999 Games. Catan sees 3-4 (there is an expansion to enable 5-6 to play) players competing with each other for control of the island, Catan.
There are 5 resources available to each player: wood, grain, sheep, ore and brick. Each player must use these resources to build their own civilisation. There’s a lot of room for creative bartering in this game as well as the occasional friendly blurring of the rules.
A playthrough of Catan is typically 1-2 hours long.
Pandemic, from Z-Man Games, is more or less a household name, with a great core game and more expansions than you can shake a hypodermic needle at.
As a disease specialist it’s your (and your friends’) job to try to cure the world’s many new -curiously simultaneous- outbreaks of disease. Cure all four diseases to win, but make sure you do so before the time runs out... or one of them spreads too far to recover.
Pandemic comes loaded with in-the-box tokens, pieces and cards and represents great value for money. A playthrough of Pandemic will take around 45mins.
Because Pandemic is a co-operative game it can also be played solo if you wish. In particular, adding the In The Lab expansion pack makes for pretty brilliant solo play.
One final wildcard that could be on either list (this game could easily have been Mage Knight as well) is Robinson Crusoe -Adventures on the Cursed Island, from Portal Games.
This is a very engaging game with excellent multiplayer and solo playability and a host of different playthrough options. Find food and water, learn skills, build weapons and keep morale high as you try to fill your stores with wood to alert passing ships of your peril! Robinson Crusoe takes about 1.5-3hrs to play.
Somewhere else to play
There has been a recent rise in the new phenomenon of ‘Board Game Cafés. A board game café might be somewhere run specifically as a location to meet new people and play board games, or it might be a regular shop or café that runs a weekly board game night. Either way, they’re a fantastic way to make friends, find new players or even just try new games.
By far the current best way to see if you have any board game café’s nearby is get onto your preferred search engine and have a look at what’s going on in your local area.
The 21st century option for getting into board games
A lot of more popular games are now available as apps to be played entirely on your phone or tablet. Titles such as Catan and Pandemic have been available to play in this way for some time now, providing a great way to play on your own, against a computer AI, without actually playing ‘solo’. Of course, being on a smart device means that most games also offer online playability, making it possible to play your favourite games with new players from around the world.
Obviously, smart device board games also have another massive advantage that established gamers will appreciate as much as new ones: portability. Being able to take a whole board game (and your opponents) around with you in your pocket is a lot more convenient than setting up Carcassonne on the little tables you get on trains (and then paying the fare for everyone to play with you on your journey into work).
Bridging the gap
Some games are using current technology to enhance physical board games too. Games like XCOM The Board Game, from Fantasy Flight Games, use digital technology to add new elements to the gameplay experience. In XCOM this is achieved by coordinating the impending alien invasion and adding a real-time play element, which heightens the tension of playing through the game.
A few developers are making use of smart devices now and there are a few games that even depend on them to play but, in the main, this is still a largely unexploited area and we look forward to seeing how the tech evolves physical board games in the not-too-distant future.
A couple of extra tips
If you want to find new games but aren’t sure if they’re any good or not (not all are, sorry...) then a great place to check is boardgamegeek.com. They’re kind of like the Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB of board games. Every game has a short rundown of what’s involved, what comes in the box, roughly how long it will take to play and, most importantly, each game has a user rating out of 10. There’s also a list of their highest rated games, which can be found here: https://boardgamegeek.com/browse/boardgame
And our final tip: one of the best ways to learn how to play a new board game is to find a ‘playthrough’ on a video streaming site, such as Youtube. A playthrough video is what it sounds like, you watch someone else play and explain the game. It’s a much quicker way to learn than simply reading the rules, and some of them are pretty funny too (again, not all of them though, sorry...)
Well, that’s it for now. We hope you enjoyed our deep-dive into the exciting world of tabletop gaming. If you have any questions or comments, make sure you drop us a line below -we’d love to hear from you!
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