Gift Guide: Board Game Edition

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Sometimes at the end of the day, all I want to do is entirely unplug. Video games might be a passion, but man, I miss having board game nights with my friends. And so, I’ve put together a guide to all my favorite board games and all the board games I still want to play!

Top 10 Board Games To Play With Friends & Family

Looking back through I picked a large number of co-op board games (not really surprising, seeing as I love co-op games). If super-competitive games are more your style, I sprinkled a few in there, but I can always look for more!

Another thing I tried to keep in mind while picking games for my top 10 was playtime. I tried to get a diverse group of games when it comes to dedicating time to sit down and play. Some, like Gloomhaven, are best played over multiple days for an hour or two, while others, like Codenames, take about 15 minutes.

And if you’re looking to support a POC family-owned business in Philly, reader Shannon highly suggests Queen & Rook Game Cafe! Their games are available for online purchase for curbside pick up, local delivery, or nationwide shipping (I’d suggest grabbing Root or Azul)!

Without further ado, let’s crack into these board games!

1. Deckscape: Heist in Venice

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 1-6 | Time: 30-90 minutes | Age: 12+ | Amazon

A game that I haven’t had a chance to play, but Shana and the fam loves! This is a cooperative escape room card game that uses puzzles and strange items to weave a story for players. You are a retired group of professional thieves, brought together by strange forces to steal a $1 billion Euro chip from the oldest casino in the world. Each player has specific skills but unexpected events can get thrown at the group. Stick to the plan, escape the casino, and run off with your riches.


2. Gloomhaven

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 1-4 | Time: 60-120 minutes | Age: 14+ | Amazon, Walmart

Another game on my “I really want to play it but COVID is kind of getting in the way of hanging with friends right now” list. This game looks freakin awesome and I’ve heard it’s well worth the price tag. If you’re into Dungeons and Dragons (like me), but the thought of running a game is a bit daunting, this game may be the answer to your adventuring desires! This isn’t a quick play through either. This is a game that’s best enjoyed over multiple sessions, so a dedicated game table/space might be best. Players form an adventuring party, each with their own special skills and gear, to run through dungeons and ruins in search of treasure together. The party’s choices will change the story (think of it like a massive “Choose Your Own Adventure” book) and new threats will appear along with new loot. (If you want to watch some gameplay, take a peek at LoadingReadyLive’s first session). And if you’ve already torn through this game, you can support the sequel, Frosthaven, here!


3. Catan

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 3-4 | Time: 60-120 minutes | Age: 10+ | Amazon, Target, Walmart

If you’re looking for a game that’s more player vs player, Catan might be the one for you. The name of the game is managing resources, building settlements, amassing the largest army, constructing the longest road, and eventually getting 10 victory points. Each player will try to become the dominant force on the island through trade and tricky building. Definitely a fun choice for game night!


4. Mysterium

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 2-7 | Time: 45 minutes | Age: 10+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

Ever want to play a medium trying to communicate with a ghost? How about a group of mediums trying to solve a single amnesiac ghost’s murder? In a single extraordinary seance up to seven mediums work to communicate with a ghost, interpreting visions given by the ghost to figure out the who, why, where and what. The gameplay is, admittedly, a little complex when first starting out. The player who is the ghost almost acts as a game master, the other players filling in the roles of the mediums. Watching a playthrough might help a bit in setting up and learning the rules, so I’d check out Polygon’s Overboard video where they play Mysterium.


5. Codenames

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 4-8 | Time: 15 minutes | Age: 14+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

You might be searching for something more fast-paced, in which I offer you Codenames. Players divide into two teams of spies, each electing a spymaster. The spymasters know all 25 agents’ secret identities, but their teammates only know them by their codenames. Both teams compete to contact all their own agents, avoiding the opposing team’s agents AND the assassin in play. The spymaster gives clues to hint at the right codenames on the board so their team can guess agents. The first team to contact all their own agents wins.


6. Pandemic

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 2-4 | Time: 45 minutes | Age: 8+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

Yea, I know, I know. It’s still a seriously fun game that I’ve played multiple times in one night. Players work together to treat disease outbreaks while researching cures for the four plagues breaking out all over Earth. Each player acts as a specialist, working with the rest of the team to play to their strengths and cure all four diseases before time runs out. It’s a fun game, folks…I promise!


7. Flash Point: Fire Rescue

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 2-6 | Time: 45 minutes | Age: 10+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

Another co-op game! I love them, okay! In this game players are a firefighting team working to extinguish a fire and save people from a burning building. The game has two versions, a basic and an expert game mode, which adds more levels of difficulty to the game. The game has a two-sided board for two different building layouts and has multiple expansions that include new maps.


8. Castle Panic

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 1-6 | Time: 60 minutes | Age: 10+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

If you’re hungering for some strategy but not like…too much strategy…give Castle Panic a try. This game can be played with a group or solo as players work to defend their castle in the center of the board from monsters. This can be both co-op and competitive, as players work together overall to defend the castle, but only one player can be declared the Master Slayer at the end of the game.


9. Arkham Horror: The Card Game

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 1-2+ | Time: 60-120 minutes | Age: 14+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

If there’s one thing I’ve been wanting since I played Cthulu Flux, it’s more Lovecraftian spookiness. This card game might be the answer, as it’s based in the quiet New England town of Arkham but…hauntings are afoot. Perhaps the Necronomicon has been your light evening reading one too many times, or maybe the local cult has sent you some mail, and you’ve shown up to a meeting or two. You have your strengths, but you also have your weaknesses. And so do your friends. And these things will haunt you all. You’ll work together to unveil strange mysteries in the adventures of these cards and alter the town of Arkham…forever (dun dun duuuun).


10. Superfight

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.
Players: 3-10 | Time: 30 minutes | Age: 5+ | Amazon, Walmart, Target

A super (ha!) fun party game that pits players against each other in a battle of wits. Players draw cards and build fighters, then compete head-to-head, argument-style on who would win the fight. The winner is voted on by everyone else at the table, who then continues on to compete against other rivals. This game is hilarious, delivering fighters like a soccer mom swinging a shark on a chain vs a zombie with a beard made of bees. My money is on the soccer mom.

Let me know what your favorite board games are right now! I’m always on the hunt for new ones to add to my game closet that I can bust out once visiting people is safe again.

Your Resident Dungeon Master,

Syd

Let's play. Lest we overlook the obvious, board game nights are just right for playing with friends & family. Our top 10 co-op & competitive games, inside.

5 COMMENTS

  1. These are great games to check out, thanks! Two of my current favorites are:

    1. Viticulture – where you get to make and sell wine! Very fun and sometimes tortuous way to pretend you can just jet off to Tuscany and live your best life in a vineyard.

    https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/183394/viticulture-essential-edition

    2. Wingspan – this game is all about birds. It’s gorgeous, with beautifully illustrated cards, satisfying egg pieces, and more. Especially awesome for any biology geeks out there.

    https://stonemaiergames.com/games/wingspan/

  2. The Battlestar Gallactica board game is a great one to check out, too, even for non-BSG fans. You’ll shout phrases like “I’m throwing you in the brig!” and “Your sister is a Cylon!” It quickly became a regular family event following our annual Scrabble and Catan tourneys.

    Time Warp in Cedar Grove, NJ has an awesome selection of board games for all ages.

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