Growing up, I don’t remember playing a lot of board games. My parents and my siblings would play the occasional game of Monopoly or Risk. I think my sister and I played the Game of Life on our Playstation but we never played Candy Land, Operation or Sorry like my boyfriend’s family did.
Now board games are a staple to our weekly game nights and we’ve discovered some great ones that can become very addictive and enjoyable to play. All our favorite go-to games are German-style or Euro board games. The great thing about these games is that every time you play them, it’s a different experience. Your strategy would have to change depending on the layout of the board, the cards drawn and the luck of the roll. Plus there are multiple expansions of each game to try out.
We’re constantly discovering new games but here are our top three for now:
Ticket to Ride
This was the first German-style game we ever bought and played. Friends of ours recommended it and we finally caved after getting tired of Cards Against Humanity. Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop also played a huge role in getting us to try this game. The premise is pretty simple: to get the most points by the end of the game, which is when one player gets down to his or her last two trains. You get points by building trains from one city to another, by completing destination tickets (cards that tell you the two cities you need to connect) or by getting the longest train card (for, you guessed it, longest continuous number of trains).
There are different strategies that one can employ: I am a fan of getting as many destination tickets as I can, choosing routes that go through the same cities so I can double up on points. My boyfriend on the other hand prefers to build as many six-car trains as he can as the more cars your train has, the more points you get. We’ve had games where the recipient of the longest train card won the game and others when it didn’t make any difference at all. One particular memorable game that comes to mind was when one of our friends accidentally bumped and lifted the board and all our trains were derailed just as we were about to tally points. Needless to say, he felt really bad about it even though it was an accident but we still like to tease him about it, right Chris?
Settlers of Catan
Many consider this game the gateway game to Euro board games but I had been reluctant to try it because I found the premise a bit silly. You have to populate the island of Catan and build settlements and trade wood, wheat, brick, sheep and ore (whatever that is)? Um…ok…pass. But I received it for my birthday this year and I haven’t looked back ever since. It has by far been our most played board game. Whenever we’re unsure of what to do, we immediately turn to Catan. Every game is different since the pieces of the board are shuffled before being placed to make up the layout of the island. Numbers are then placed on each hexagon to determine what resource the roll of the dice will generate. The sixes and the eights are the most probable to come up with 12 and 2 being the least. But there are games when only sixes and no eights would come up or vice-versa. Last game we played, four came up repeatedly and up to 4 times in a row.
Resources are needed to build roads so you can use more resources to build settlements which are worth a point each. You can also use them to upgrade an existing settlement into a city which is worth two points or to buy development cards which can either give you a freebie victory point, give you two resources of your choice from the bank, let you build two roads, the chance to name one type of resource that every other player has to give you or get a knight card.Three knight cards get you the largest army card worth two points. The longest road card also gets you two points. However if another player surpasses your number of knights or number of roads, then that player is the new owner of those two points from those respective cards. The player to reach 10 points first on his/her turn wins.
Did I forget anything? Oh yes, the robber. We hate the robber. He gets activated whenever the number 7 comes up. He settles on a hexagon and stops the player who owns a settlement next to it from getting that resource until he is moved again. Plus, if you have more than 7 cards in your hand, you have to discard half. This can get very frustrating, as you can imagine. When the knight card is played, the robber is chased away and has to be moved, but no cards need to be thrown away.
This game is amazing and a must-try for everyone. I do my part in spreading Catan love by forcing almost every friend that comes over to play it. I don’t think anyone has ever told me they didn’t like it afterwards. Give it a try and soon enough you too will be yelling, “Oh no, not more sheep!”
This game was also a gift, but from last Christmas. It took us a long time before we finally cracked it open and played. Actually if it weren’t for Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop tutorial, we probably would’ve waited even longer before learning the rules. Now that I’ve played it three times, I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. Although, I haven’t won just yet. Basically, you draw cards that represent currency. You use the currency to buy tiles, but you have to use the right kind of currency as they have four kinds. If you pay with exact change, you get a bonus move during your turn. Once you’ve bought your tiles, you place them around your fountain to build your “Alhambra”, which is just a fancy Spanish word for walled palace. There are different kinds of tiles, some worth more points than others. There are also certain rules to be followed when placing tiles and I haven’t memorized all of them yet, so I just leave that page open in the instruction booklet. Longest continuous wall gets points. Points are scored three times during the game. The first and second times occur when the first and second scoring cards are drawn from the currency pile. The third happens when all the tiles are bought and the last tiles are auctioned off. It’s more fun than it sounds, I mean you’re building your own palace for crying out loud!
Our collection continues to grow but for now, we have the expansion pack for Settlers of Catan that allow for up to 6 players. We also have Ticket to Ride Asia, which we finally played recently, when a friend gave us the Ticket to Ride USA 1910 expansion. This expansion is crucial to every Ticket to Ride owner because it replaces all your small cards from the original game with full-sized ones in addition to having new destination routes. Trust me, if you’ve ever tried to shuffle the teeny-tiny Ticket to Ride cards, you’ll know just how important it is to have the normal-sized deck.
Hopefully this inspires someone to pick up one of these great board games and give it a try. They may seem pricey at first but they’re well worth it considering how many times you’ll play them. Happy Gaming!