Tag Archives: games

Games in the Covid Era

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.

Covid-19 Bored At Home: Try Board Games

The kids are home from school because the schools have been closed. The adults are home from work because work has been closed. You’ve done all the binge shopping you can afford, and now you are sitting at home with your stash of toilet paper and children’s medicine (oh, and shame on you for that), wondering what to do with yourself other than binging on Netflix and playing Minecraft for hours on end.

You might consider board games to fight the boredom.

We have tried out several board games recently. Some of these were suggested by Jim, Jan, Julia, and Rachel (you’all can identify yourselves in the comments if you like). They are among the top games out there. I knew they were good, but when I googled “best board games” and all of them showed up on the various lists, I figured, well, there you go. These are good games.

Some are new, some are classic. Most interestingly, some are not games in which a particular player wins, but rather, all the people playing either win or lose.

Choose carefully. To get all these games is going to put you out a couple of hundred bucks. Also, some of the games have multiple version and add in packs.

Hyped UP Tic-Tac-Toe

One of the simplest games ever invented is Tic-Tac-Toe. You can play that, oh, five or six times before getting bored out of your mind! But Otrio is to Tick-Tack-Toe what a proton is to organic chemistry.

It is played like tic-tac-toe but instead of writing into a space an X or an O, you just put the O. No Xs. But the O’s come in three sizes, and nest, and there are multiple ways to win. The total number of possible moves is very large. This game is a blast, and you will play it several times as you start to get a sense of strategy.

Ticket to Ride is a classic game that we only recently discovered. There are many versions. When we got this game a while back, we picked the Ticket to Ride – Rails & Sails version. The idea is that players build routes, including train and boat segments, between cities. When the game ends, the player with the mostest and bestest routes win (it is a bit complicated). The various versions of this game have a variety of differences, but mainly, the map you play on varies. This version has a world map on one side of the board, and a map of the Great Lakes on the other side.

This is a game that is fairly simple to play if all the players are novices, but that gets much more complicated as players gain experience and figure out that certain somewhat more complex strategies are required to win.

Stratego is one of my favorite games from my youth. Each player has a number of tiles, representing a range of soldiers, some bombs, a spy, and a flag. You set them up in a way in which you can see how your pieces are arranged, but your opponent only sees the blank side of your pieces. You then attack each other. Lower numbered pieces take higher numbered pieces, but any piece that hits a bomb is dead, except an 8 (the bomb defuser). The Spy can take a Marshal (the highest value piece) but can be taken by any other piece. So, there is room for a great deal of strategy in Stratego. Which is probably why they call it that.

While on the subject of 19th century rooted war games, consider Risk. It is a classic you certainly know about.

Codenames involves all the players against the board. The concept is simple yet diabolical. Two players face off over a set of 25 words. Each player says a word (not among the 25) and a number. The other player then chooses which of the 25 is conceptually linked to that codename. The number supplied with the codename tells the recipient of the clue how many words are expected to match. So, for example, if among the 25 words on the table we have dog, cat, bird, and stroke, I might say “pet, 4.”

That sounds pretty simple, but if the recipient of the clue guesses certain answers, the game ends instantly and you all lose. There are other complexities as well.

There are different versions of this game, mainly depending on how many players you normally would have.

There is also a Harry Potter version. This one is difficult unless all the players are fully briefed on the Harry Potter mythos. Otherwise it becomes an awkward version of a Harry Potter trivia game and, essentially, can’t be played. Our house rule when playing this version is: You can ask Google to define or describe a particular item (ie, “OK Google, what is a Norwegian Ridgeback?”).

Arboretum is a pretty new game that uses cards. The cards have trees on them. Using a rummy-esque pattern of choice and discard, you lay down the tree cards in a pattern that will form a path through a hypothetical arboretum. A set of simple rules define what makes a valid path. At the end of play, everyone declares what paths they have. There are moves one can make that invalidate the best laid path of another player. The scoring turns out to be complicated, and this is when new players realize that the strategy is deep, despite the simple surface appearance of the game.

Naturally, no panoply of board games in this day and age would be complete without Pandemic. We just got turned on to this one. It is one of those games in which all the players work together to beat the board and, sadly, usually don’t. But you do have fun all dying in a pandemic, so that’s good.

I have a suggestion for a house rule for this game, which you will appreciate once you play. Each player is randomly assigned a “role.” The role is a particular set of abilities, like a researcher who can cure a disease, or a field worker who can stop a disease, etc. My suggestion is to choose, as a group, which role to assign to each player, instead of having random chance decide which roles are even being used. Once you play the game you’ll see how this can add to the fun, but at the same time, not make it ridiculously easy to win. You still won’t win. You will still all die in the Pandemic.

Happy boardgaming!