Games in the Covid Era

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I’ve been thinking about games (mainly two person or more board games) as a great idea for gifts in this era of Covid. So, I asked my Facebook friends to suggest some, and that resulted in about 90 comments so far. I’m put many of them here. I skipped a few games because they are fairly common yet not classic, included the classics, and focused more on games I’ve only recently heard of. Pandemic, Arboretum Codenames are newish and great. I try to indicate if I’ve had personal experience with a game, or in some cases, if the recommendation comes from a recommender that I would automatically fully trust. I’ve included Amazon links* but note that in many cases there are multiple versions of a given game, and I’m only linking to one. You’ll want to look laterally at the alternative versions and see if you want a traditional Stratego or a Star Wars Stratego, for example. The deluxe versions of the “traditional games” I’m suggesting here are simply taken off 2020 lists of deluxe versions of games, so again, just a suggestion, not really a recommendation.

Traditional games that would make a great gift if you get a nice one

Chess is only fun for some people. I’ve noticed in my own personal life that people who like to play chess and who are good at it have a knack for making the people they beat feel bad. And, it takes a lot of work to learn to play it well. For this reason, chessphobia is common. Don’t get a chess set because you think you can get someone to play with you. But, if you know someone who likes chess, an upscale chess board such as this “Handmade Chess Set European Ambassador with 21 Inch Board and Hand Carved Chess Pieces WEGIEL” may be just the gift. Or, perhaps a Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set for the person who already has a nice chess set but not a Harry Potter chess set. Also consider the less stressful No Stress Chess.

Cribbage is one of the more fun and challenging card games, and it requires a Cribbage board. It is way underrated and worth the time it takes to learn it.

There was a time when everyone played Backgammon all the time. Maybe that time will come again. Get your Backgammon set now and get good at it so when the Return of Backgammon happens, you are ready.

Go is a classic game, and people who like it probably a have a set, but they might not have something fancy like the Brybelly Go Set with Reversible Bamboo Go Board.

Similarly, everybody has a Scrabble board, but the Scrabble enthusiast might need something like a Scrabble Deluxe Edition with Rotating Wooden Game Board.

Strategy board games.

I don’t know Tiny Epic Galaxies Blast Off! – A Game of Cosmic Combos but it comes recommended by a trusted friend. Same with Castles of Burgundy Strategy Game.

Stratego is one of my favorite games. It is from ancient days but modern humans seem to like it. The version I link to is absurdly priced, but it gives you a hook for your own search for a version you may like. There is a Star Wars version, and probably other versions as well. I like the traditional form just fine, and I also like games that when you put them away they fit on a bookshelf. (Most versions of Stratego do not do that.)

You’all against the game.

For these games, the players play against the house, as it were. This is an interesting break from the usual games where one person tries to win against all the other players.

One of the best games I’ve played recently, and recommended by my FB friends as well, is Pandemic. You are on a team trying to save the world from a rapidly spreading deadly disease (as if that would ever happen!). This is you against the pathogen, and in my experience, the pathogen usually wins, but it is fun anyway. Pandemic: The Cure is a version of this game that is somewhat simplified and uses a different randomization and play direction strategy. I’ve not played it but it has been recommended to me.

You must check out one or another version of this game: Codenames.

Design and Strategy games. This is a category of games I’m not too familiar with but may of my FB friends recommended.

Azul and the variant, Azul Summer Pavilion look fun. Blokus might be in this category as well.

Patchwork: Americana Edition seems to come in different forms, so look laterally in your search for variants.

The one game in this amorphous category that I do know is Arboretum. It is very hard to explain how this works, and frankly, you’ll do best by playing it a time or two, and even discussing strategy with your opponents the first time. Highly recommended, and I think it is new enough that it could make a good gift.

I’ll put the classic Mastermind Game : The Strategy Game of Codemaker vs. Codebreaker (Packaging May Vary) in this category as well. If we weren’t’ already committed to other plans for Huxley’s birthday, this is what I would get him.

Card-based strategy games.

Recommended by FB friends: Race for the Galaxy Card Game

Pegasus Spiele Fungi may be good practice before actually looking for wild mushroom.

Recommended by an actual game maker friend of mine: Lost Cities

Small, clever games that abuse animals.

Not really, but you get the picture. These are all good: Pass The Pigs, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, and Exploding Kittens.

Not easily categorized but recommended by the Game Master herself, Rachel:

The 7th Continent. Looks really good.

Have you read the breakthrough novel of the year? When you are done with that, try:

In Search of Sungudogo by Greg Laden, now in Kindle or Paperback
*Please note:
Links to books and other items on this page and elsewhere on Greg Ladens' blog may send you to Amazon, where I am a registered affiliate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases, which helps to fund this site.

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9 thoughts on “Games in the Covid Era

  1. Chess is only fun for some people. I’ve noticed in my own personal life that people who like to play chess and who are good at it have a knack for making the people they beat feel bad. And, it takes a lot of work to learn to play it well.

    Don’t forget the software. Chessmaster, in its latest version, might be a worthwhile adjunct to learning the game.

    1. I agree it is great. I tended to leave off games like Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit because they are so common and I was thinking more of gifts to give people …. so special versions of traditional games or games someone might be less likely to have.

      But Trivial Pursuits is still a good idea because there are so many versions of it.

  2. Then there is the derivative of Ludo known as Uckers

    Wiki not good with the nuances of titles, the Royal British Navy indeed! British Royal Navy it should be. It may seem trivial but it grates just as having your ship called the Royal Ark when in an American port. I even had this follow me to England. I hopped off the squadron (Phantoms) Portsmouth to Yeovilton crew bus at Wiley in Wiltshire from to hitch up to Warminster to meet up with my lady friend. I was in uniform (in Army territory) but my uniform was like a magnet to an American visitor who wandered over with the words, ‘are you off the Royal Ark’. Turned out he had visited whilst we had been in Port Everglades (Lauderdale).

    Also another service RN-FAA favourite a whist like card game using the top six cards of each suit of a pack of cards, plus one special. Now Wiki denotes that special was a Joker although in my experience it was the two of spades, known as the Benny, this the top trump no matter what suit is called into play.

    This game is known as Euchre.

    Now the Jacks are the second and third ranking behind the Benny with a black jack overawing a red jack if a black suit is declared as trumps. In the case of spades declared as trumps the descending order of cards is Two spades, Jack spades (right bower), Jack clubs (left bower), Ace spades then King spades to Nine spades in descending order. If clubs had been called then the black jacks would switch places of
    rank, similarly with the red suits.

    It is a very long time since I played either of these. Strategies can be surprisingly subtle. With Euchre uninitiated onlookers would watch with bemusement. Played this as a tournament when a group of us became snowed in in a bothy in the Cairngorms, we didn’t tend to hike with an Uckers board in our packs.

    Other favourites were Canasta which is played with a special set of two packs, this game can, like Monopoly, take a long time to play out.

    Another favourite (sailors travelling the world would buy a set whilst abroad) was Mahjong, a Chinese (not a favourite of Trump then – besides he would probably upend if loosing) tile based strategy game. Versions found for computer are not really like the real game. Like the games above Mahjong is fairly easy to learn but takes practice to master.

    I agree about Cribbage, another one that mastery of can be subtle but worthwhile.

    1. Now the Jacks are the second and third ranking behind the Benny with a black jack overawing a red jack if a black suit is declared as trumps.

      On reflection that could do with some clarification. When a red suit is trumps then the black jacks revert to their normal order of precedence within their suit. Similarly with a black suit is called as trumps then the red jacks revert to normal positions.

    2. That is a great example of Wikipedia gone nuts.

      Did you put this there:”
      This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. The specific problem is: spelling, grammar, general cleanup Please help improve this article if you can. (March 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)”

  3. If you love a co-op board game with a zillion rules, twice that many pieces, a setup time of slightly shy of an hour, and a potential running time of 2-6 hours (unless you cheat, which you invariably will at some point), then I highly recommend Arkham Horror.

    Seriously, it’s a fun game, but it is not for the faint of heart.

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