As it is approaching Christmas I thought it would be a good idea to jump on the listicle bandwagon and put together a “definitive” list of recommended tabletop games that you can buy for loved ones, ask for as presents or you know just buy for yourself as a “you deserve this” purchase.
I’m going to break things up into several posts covering different categories of games. In the hope of making life easy for all types of gamers wether you are new to the hobby or not. Each category has five games and I have tried my best to make the selections varied. You can also use these lists as a good starting point to build out the core of your own games collection.
The criteria for this list is: If I own it, I can include it. So while I have played many other great games that are not included in this list I feel I cannot fully recommend them, mainly because I have only played them a couple of times at most. However I have played the games I own many times so I have a level of authority when it comes to recommending them.
Lets get the ball rolling with Casual & Family Games!
These are short pick up and play games that you can enjoy with people of all ages. All of which are easy to learn and teach. Perfect to play as ice-breakers or great games to play at the start of an evening of cardboard filled delights.
Love Letter is the perfect quick game. Beautifully designed and thought out, Love Letter is a must for any tabletop fan’s collection. It has a brilliant mix of bluffing, deduction and luck. You can start off with the worst card possible in your hand but still end up winning. It is also an easy game to teach people. Just have a dummy round with everyone’s cards face up on the table and explain what each card does. Then you are good to go!
I also really enjoy the somewhat silly theme and way the game plays out. Everyone is trying to woo the Princess and the best way to do this is to get your love letter into the hands of the person closest to the her. You want to end the round with the highest value card you can get in your hand. However each card has a unique ability, most of them involving knocking other players out of the round. The highest value card is the Princess herself which is a double edged sword because if you discard her you are out of the round!
If the theme of suitors trying to woo the Princess isn’t to your taste you can also pick up one of the growing list of variants that have been regularly released. There’s The Hobbit, Batman, Samurai and more (including the Christmas themed version featured at the top of this post!) in both official and unofficial capacities. All with their own unique cards and twists.
I really like The Metagame because it is designed to be flexible. What you actually get is a 6-in-1 game from this box of cards. The idea is that no matter the number of players you have The Metagame will have something for you to play and enjoy. I also like it because it surprisingly works as a fairly good replacement to Cards Against Humanity once you have exhausted all of your options with that game. Also it is a lot cleaner language wise so it has a broader appeal. The games for the Metagame range from a simple placing things in a timeline to mass group debates that you can have at parties and the like.
On the surface it has a hipster air to it but look past that and you have a solid set of games to be getting on with. Games that are designed to promote discussion and laughter through naturally occurring comedy rather than matching the dirtiest sounding card with a phrase. With the majority of the cards being tied to real world objects and historical events you will also end up learning a few things in the process too. See games can teach you things too!
Skull, Skull, Skull. What can I say about Skull that hasn’t already been said? It’s a beautifully simple game that will get everyone laughing and shouting at each other. It is part push your luck and part poker as you try to convince everyone that you have put down certain a certain number of Rose cards without a Skull being hidden amongst them. Hedge your bets and say you will turn over X number of cards without finding a Skull to win a round. Guess wrong and lose a round by turning over a Skull and you lose a card. Win two rounds and you win the game. Beautifully simple and amazing fun to play. Nothing beats the collective rush of someone ridiculously betting that they can turn over all of the placed cards without finding a skull then proceeding to do so.
However you will encounter a point and players who place one tile down and then bet one in the hopes of quickly winning the round. It can be annoying mainly because the people who do this tend to think they are being really clever and have somehow found a loophole in the game. Thankfully a few rounds of everyone throwing down skull cards to block these players tends to sort things out.
I would recommend getting Tsuro just for the presentation alone. It is a wonderfully crafted game that really plays up to it’s Eastern Philosophy theme. You can imagine a wise old monk playing Tsuro with a headstrong hero to teach him a lesson about life, the universe and everything. The game itself is about staying on the board for the longest. Each turn you lay a tile to move your piece along on the path of life. With the oldest player going first because they have been on the path the longest. If your piece is lead off the board you are out of the game. You are also out of the game if your path collides with another player’s. When you lay a tile any players that are immediately connected to that tile are moved along its path. Playing well is about spotting the patterns and routes to safety while leading your opponents astray.
It is a great “one more go” game that can support up to 8 players. Games usually last at most fifteen minutes and the more you play the more you will begin to recognise the patterns on the board and better navigate them to win the game. I will also reiterate that it is a beautiful game to look at.
If you are a fan of The Oatmeal you are probably aware of Exploding Kitten’s the hugely successful Kickstarter backed game from Matt Inman and friends. The game does have an element of player elimination that is somewhat disappointing but it fits in with how the game works. Basically everything in the game is used to help you avoid drawing an Exploding Kitten card from the central deck of cards. Some cards allow you to see upcoming cards. Others allow you to skip your turn, cancel another player’s action and more.
The game is surprisingly tactical and can become quite heated as the chances of players drawing Exploding Kittens increases. All of the cards are well designed and laid out, adorned with characters and concepts from The Oatmeal webcomics. So if you are a fan of that this is a must buy. It also comes in both all ages and adults only NSFW variants which can be combined to support larger groups of players.
So there it is! My picks for quick and easy Casual & Family Games. You have some tactical play, games, some party style games and a whole lot of laughter ahead of you if you buy one or two of these games.
Next time I will cover Introductory Games.