Board Games- Classics to Contemporary

Board Games- Classics to Contemporary

Tabletop Writers Diversity Initiative, Challenge 2 “Tabletop Listicles And You”
Whitney Logan

One of the most stressful but thrilling parts of my job is making recommendations to first-time customers that love playing games but are only familiar with the classics. If I make a bad recommendation and they don’t have fun, they often write off the whole experiment and return to the games they already know and love on their shelves at home. But if I can recommend one that they enjoy, I see them return time and time again. I put probably more pressure on myself than I should to find them the PERFECT game, but I enjoy the challenge. I have a whole list of “gateway games” that are generally safe bets, but I prefer to tailor my suggestions to the games they tell me they like. 

If you love classic games and want to try some new games similar to what you already like, then this list is for you! 

I like … Catan!

As a board game cafe in a college town, the love of Catan is the number one game that drives people to our store. More often than not, Catan players are down to try new games with wildly different mechanics, but easing them in with similar games to Catan hasn’t backfired yet!

If you like Catan because you enjoy rolling dice and getting resources based on the numbers you rolled, try: Foodies.

Foodies is a game about managing a food court! Players buy different chefs to place on their board and whenever that number is rolled, they gain the associated resource. You can combo the same food type together but there are also benefits to diversifying so choose carefully! The game only takes a half hour to play so it is a great one to teach to people who are nervous about committing to a new game. Most players here enjoy it and immediately play it again with new chef types.

If you like Catan because you like building up your infrastructure and occasionally getting to rob other people, try: Machi Koro.

Of all the games in my store, Machi Koro has the most direct similarities to Catan. Like Catan, players are claiming locations that give resources when that number on the die is rolled. Players can diversify their numbers to gain resources more often, or go all in on a few statistically likely numbers and wait for a big payout. Also like Catan, there are built-in mechanics for robbing your opponents blind of their hard-earned resources. While that isn’t my personal favorite type of game to play, it is the precise mechanic that many of our players want from Catan-like games.

I like… Monopoly!

Monopoly is one of the hardest games to use as reference, because people who tell me they want games “like Monopoly” don’t necessarily want games with similar theming or mechanics. They want games that aren’t too long to learn and give them a chance to crush their opponents. 

If you like Monopoly because you like money-themed games where you can win big, try: For Sale!

For Sale is a lovely real estate auction game where you try to buy houses low and then score big money in the sale! It feels cutthroat because you can directly outbid your opponent but you have a limited number of resources so use them efficiently! It’s fast to learn and fast to play, about a half hour long.

If you like Monopoly because you just really like Monopoly:

Why would I recommend anything but Monopoly? Newer versions of Monopoly have different rules to make the game faster and more fun. My favorite is Monopoly Gamer. It’s Mario-themed, has unique character abilities, and is much shorter than regular Monopoly. Boss fights happen every time someone passes Go, and the game ends when the last boss is defeated, so the game is usually under an hour. Everyone adds up their score, which includes points from defeated bosses, properties, and collected coins, and whoever has the most wins! All of the fun of Monopoly without it dragging on too long.

I like… Chess & Checkers!

There are so many great options out there for Chess-like games that it is hard to choose just two. But if you want more, leave a comment and I’ll give you some more recommendations or maybe even do a post on just Chess-like games!

If you like Chess-like games that are easy to learn but hard to master, try: Santorini.

Santorini is a game about cute greek gods building a city. It is one of my favorites to teach because it literally takes thirty seconds. You move, you build. You can only move up one level at a time. The moment you step up to the third level, you win! But your opponent will try to block you or build in your way to stop you, and likewise, you have to stop him! There are also character cards that give each player a special ability that changes the dynamic of the game and makes it infinitely replayable!

If you like Chess-like games where each piece works a different way, try: Hive. Hive is great because it is super portable and doesn’t require a board to play. In Hive, each player has an army of different bugs and the goal is to surround the opponent’s queen. Each bug moves differently, so it requires similar tactical thinking as Chess to calculate all of the possible moves both you and your opponent could make and to pick the best option accordingly. 

I like…. Bridge/Hearts/Spades/Euchre!

As established in my last post, I love trick-taking games. I was raised on Euchre and trick-taking games will always be near and dear to my heart. For a great introduction to trick-taking games for people who are less familiar, I would highly recommend Fox in the Forest, but it can be a bit blasé for card game veterans.

If you like the puzzle aspect of trick-taking games and don’t mind working together, try: The Crew! I am in love with this year’s Kennerspiel winner. The game is all about getting different players to win specific tricks without discussing what is in your hand. It has a similar thrill as the Mind but with actual calculable information, not just guessing or reading body language, and is reminiscent of Hanabi but more concrete. There are 50 challenges that start out fairly easy and get progressively harder and I love that you can feel your skill at the game and as a team growing as you progress through missions together. 10/10.

If you like trick-taking games but you want to compete, not cooperate, try: Illimat

First off, Illimat is gorgeous and I wish more games would take cues from its aesthetic. Second, it has such a cool story. The game was originally designed for a photoshoot for the band The Decemberists because they loved board games. They loved it so much that they approached Keith Baker (Gloom) about making a ruleset to go with the pieces, and thus Illimat was born! Third, it’s mechanically a great game. It evokes the feel of old card games but with a modern twist, and it’s easy to learn. 

Sadly I’m exceeding my word count so I’ll end it here for today but I will continue with recommendations based on other classic favorites in the future, so stay tuned for a part 2!