10 classic boardgames that should be replaced (p1)
Does this conversation sound familiar to you?
You know what, though? I understand. If all you've ever played were games like Scrabble and Jenga and - god forbid - Monopoly, would you ever want to play a boardgame ever again? I've got friends who would rather eat their own shoes than play another game of Risk, and frankly, I don't blame them.
Thankfully, boardgame design has since moved out of those dark times and into a new renaissance, where there's quite possibly a game for everyone; and I really do mean everyone. You want to play a game about competitive quilt-making? We got a game about competitive quilt-making. You want a game about farming in an alternate history 1920 Europa with mechs? We got a game about farming in an alternate history 1920 Europa with mechs.
The point is, modern boardgaming is no longer just an endless series of Monopoly and Snap clones. We've got good games now! Games that are flavourful and exciting and tantalising! Games with novel design paradigms that will touch you in places that you never knew you had before! Games that are both objectively and subjectively better than older games!
Games like, well, these.
Possibly the most ubiquitous boardgame in the world, Monopoly has been ruining evenings and friendships for as long as anyone can remember. If you've ever had a sneaking suspicion that it isn't a very fun game, you're right: Monopoly wasn't designed to be fun but, instead, a scathing criticism of capitalism. Ironic, really, that it's since become the poster child for boardgames.
If you like roll-and-move mechanics, try Formula D, a game about going the need for speed. By choosing the gear that you put your car in, you also decide what type of dice you roll and, thus, how fast you potentially move; roll too low and you'll get left behind, but roll too high when taking a corner and you'll go right off the track.
If you like trading mechanics, try Bohnanza, a game whose name you'll inevitably forget and end up calling "the bean game". Each player gets a hand of cards which they cannot rearrange but must instead plant in order or trade away to other players. Don't let the hilarious art fool you, this is a cutthroat game where deals get made and broken all the time.
If you like auctions, try For Sale. This is a game of two halves: the first sees players bidding for property cards, and the second sees them using said property cards to get cheques from would-be real-estate investors. It's a quick little game that's simple to teach, and most people end up playing three or four rounds of the game simply because it manages to pack so much game into so little rules and time.
Game of Life
Another classic roll-and-move, the Game of Life isn't really a game because you don't make any decisions whatsoever. Each turn, you just roll your dice, move your little car a number of spaces, and then resolve whatever happens in said space. Oh, you got married. Yaaaay. Oh, now you've got two kids. Yaaaaaaaaay. Ugh.
If you like the theme, try CV, a Yahtzee-style dice-rolling game where you try to lead a good fulfilling life from childhood to old age. Unlike Game of Life, you actually get to make important and interesting decisions in CV. Do you push your luck and try to go for a PhD, or do you simply keep what you've already rolled and settle for early retirement? Cash in your good luck for a lottery ticket, or use it to inherit an apartment instead? The mechanics make narrative sense, and the entire game serves as a fantastic storytelling vehicle.
If you like roll-and-move mechanics, maybe give Hurry Cup a whirl. Similar in theme to Formula D mentioned above, Hurry Cup's main differences are its modular board - meaning that every game will be slightly different - and its dice rolling mechanic. Each player doesn't get her own die to roll: instead, all the dice are all rolled at the same time, and players must grab the die they want, in real time, whilst still ensuring that they don't go over the speed limit.
OK, to be fair, Jenga is still a really good game. The simple action of pulling out a wooden block from a teetering tower and stacking it back on top builds a remarkable amount of tension, and Hasbro does an excellent job of producing these simple wooden blocks so that they each have a unique personality of their own. Still, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing, so here are some variants.
If you like dexterity-based mechanics, try Toc Toc Woodman. Players are each given two swings of an axe and must chop down as much bark as possible while avoiding knocking down the wooden cores. Alternatively, there's also Bamboleo, a game where you pull oddly-shaped blocks from a flat surface that's just about balanced on a ball. Both games have all the clattering excitement of Jenga and, unfortunately, gives you just as big of a mess to clean up after each game.
Honourable mention goes to A La Carte, a game about shaking ingredients into a stove and flipping pancakes. This is a little more involved than the others, but it can be a fun little diversion for children, especially with the cooking theme. The little ingredient shakers, 3D stove-top, and plastic pan really adds to the fun as well.
I used to think that Scrabble was a game about words, and that the player with the largest vocabulary would inevitably win. I was wrong: Scrabble is really a game about knowing how to spell esoteric words made up of letters that rarely see the light of day, followed by five-minute arguments with the other players about what that word really means.
If you like spelling games, Word on the Street is excellent. Players split into teams and try to claim letter tiles from the centre of the board by spelling words that use said letters. Of course, it's not quite that simple: each turn, the active team must draw a category card that tells them what sort of words they're allowed to spell (eg. "types of fruits", "capital cities"). The more a certain letter appears in the word, the more the letter tile moves, and the first team to claim eight tiles win.
If you like word association games, Codenames is the best one out there so far. Again, players split into teams, but this time they're trying to guess their own secret codewords while avoiding the other team's codewords. There's lots of room for cleverness and creativity in this game, but do not play this game as a spymaster if you suffer from analysis-paralysis: it's no fun for everyone if you take five minutes to come up with a clue.
There used to be a time when Risk was the only serious strategy boardgame around. This is thankfully no longer the case, as strategy gamers now have a whole plethora of games to choose from, ranging from War of the Ring to Twilight Imperium (both of which, while good, I strongly recommend you NOT introduce to people new to boardgaming).
If you still really like Risk, give Risk Legacy a shake. The first few rounds of the game plays out very similarly to traditional Risk, but things quickly start becoming weird. When certain conditions are met - when a faction is first eliminated, for instance - players are instructed to open sealed envelopes containing new instructions that will change the game board permanently. That's right, permanently. This means that you can only play the game a certain number of times, and only with the same group of people. It's a unique experience, and one that's well worth looking into if you enjoy the original mechanics of Risk.
If you like tactical games, try Memoir '44, a war-game set in World War II. The basic mechanics are fairly simple: play a card from your hand to determine both your action and the flank you're commanding this turn, then execute said action in said flank. You get to push little army men around and roll dice for them, and you get to do so in a variety of different scenarios ranging from the Omaha beach landing to the battle for Pegasus Bridge.
If you like strategy games, try Star Wars: Rebellion. This asymmetrical war-game has one player as the scrappy Rebels, with their hidden base and diplomatic treaties spanning the entire star system, and the other player as the evil Empire, replete with Darth Vader and TIE fighters and pewpew space lasers. The Rebel player wins if they survive long enough, while the Empire player wins by blowing up the rebel base with their Death Star before the timer runs out.
This article is part one of two, and will be continued.