Cut your screen time and give board games a go – yes, they are cool again
By: Gerwin Co
March 30, 2020
Chances are, you’re spending far too much time in front of your screen – whether bingeing on your favourite streaming series, playing video games hours on end, or scrolling endlessly on your smartphone. We urge you to give your eyes a break and your brain a good workout. And if you’re not particularly keen on picking up that paperback, can we tempt you with a good board game?
Board games have been around since, well, forever. Depending on who you believe, it’s said to have been invented by the Egyptians or Mesopotamians. Today, it’s a multi-billion dollar industry and according to the Board Games Geek website, there are over 100,000 games in existence. Yes, there’s a multitude of choices out there apart from your garden variety Monopoly, Cluedo and Scrabble.
What are you waiting for? Toss that gadget and sharpen your strategic thinking with one of these.
This is a 2- or 4-player strategy game with the objective of moving your single pawn from your side of the board to your opponent’s. Pretty simple, right? Well that’s until the other player starts building walls to block your progress and force you to go around them.
Quoridor is a deceptively simple game that’s easy to teach even to casual gamers. Each game lasts just around 10 minutes, but offers a myriad of possibilities, depending on the strategy adopted by the players. It has won numerous awards from gaming associations in the US, France and Canada, and also picked up the Mind Game Award given by the high IQ society, Mensa.
As with most games produced by Gigamic Games, Quoridor comes in a beautiful, minimalist package with its board and pieces made of wood. When not being played, you can simply leave this out and add character to your living room.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: EASY
This territory-building game sees you as a medieval lord seeking new lands to expand your kingdom. Blend this narrative with the game rules of dominoes and you have…Kingdomino!
To build your kingdom, you’ll need to use tiles with two sections, just like dominoes. Each section can be farmland, forests, mines, desert or seas which you’ll need to connect to a similar one that’s already in play. The game continues until all tiles are used and the players complete (or close to it) a kingdom that’s equal to a 5×5 grid. The winner is decided by counting the number of tiles connected to terrain featuring crown symbols.
Kingdomino is a family-oriented game that can be played with 2 to 4 players. The game play is quick enough (20 minutes), and its maker Blue Orange Games also publishes an expansion set, The Age of Giants, which when added to Kingdomino adds a slot for a 5th player and introduces the bane of giants to your kingdom.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: EASY
3. Pursuit of Happiness
Are you living the life you always wanted? What if you had the chance to live another life? If it were up to you, what would it take to to have a fulfilled and happy life? Ah, such profound reflections to make for a board game.
Those are the questions the Pursuit of Happiness tries to address as it simulates a character (i.e. you) from birth to living the life you always wanted to live – or not. The game can be played alone (sad) or with up to 3 other players, and goes through the phases of being a teen, adult and eventually, old age. Throughout the game, you try to earn as much points (or happiness) as you can traverse through different professions, from a politician, musician to a researcher and actor. But just as in reality, life skills are just as important, like relationships and hobbies. The catch: the more success you have with your professional life, the less time you’ll find yourself with to pursue…well…happiness. Again, much like real life.
The game can be lengthy (up to 90 minutes), but being able to lead different lives and simulate different relationship scenarios definitely keeps things interesting.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: INTERMEDIATE
4. Small World
No, this is not a game based on the Disney song, though its publisher, Days of Wonder, is aware of that and capitalised on it via its tagline, “It’s a world of slaughter and a world of fear!” Small World is another territory building game for 2 to 5 players, but with a fantasy element of different races vying to conquer the most land in a world that’s too small to fit them all.
The game starts off with the players choosing from among 14 “races” (including dwarves, halflings, elves, sorcerers, etc), and pairing them up with 20 unique special powers (such as merchants, diplomats, seafaring or flying). You then start building your empire by conquering empty lands or weaker opponents. At the end of each of your turn, you earn points depending on how many territories you occupy, as well as any bonus points from your special powers. The player with the most points, as you might guess, wins.
Small World has sold over 500,000 copies and won several awards since its launch. If you’re a bit uncertain about purchasing this game, then maybe you could try out a digital version from Asmodee Digital (iOS and Android).
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: INTERMEDIATE
5. Quacks of Quedlinburg
Transport yourself to the medieval city of Quedlinburg, where an annual 9-day festival is held and you’re invited. Here the best apothecaries are found, and the greatest potions known to mankind are brewed. The twist? You and your fellow apothecaries are all quacks who are hoping to brew potions without having their cauldron explode.
That in the nutshell is the concept of this drafting game from North Star Games. Suitable for 2 to 4 players, each receives a bag with a set of ingredient chips. At every round, players blindly draw simultaneously from their bag and place each chip into their own pot. They continuously try to push their luck by drawing as much chips as they can. But draw too many cherry bombs? Then pot goes boom! At the end of every round, players earn victory points and coins to purchase more ingredient chips that can be added to their bag.
While this is a family-oriented game, Quacks of Quedlinburg is geared more towards advanced gamers as there are different rules and structures that need to be followed especially when scoring each round. Still, younger players will certainly enjoy the thrill of drawing from a blind bag and the anticipation of an exploding pot is priceless.
LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY: ADVANCED