Games to play during Quarantine

As the world is being swept up by COVID-19 and people are being asked to quarantine themselves to avoid spreading the virus, I realized that this is a time where human contact is going to be kept to a minimum no matter where you are or how directly Coronavirus is currently affecting you. This is something that is particularly scary about this type of virus- it’s ability to spread quickly means that we have to isolate ourselves in order to keep things from escalating further.

As I start to plan my next few weeks where I will avoid public interaction, I realized that my belief that board games bring people together is only partly true. In reality, there will be board game groups and conventions that inevitably get shut down to increase safety, but those people already shut off from the outside world can use games as a way to entertain themselves during a difficult time. So in that line of thinking, I have decided to put out a list of board games that work well either solo or in small groups and would be good options for anybody who needs a way to entertain themselves during a time with less options than normal. I have divided the list up into single player game options as well as multiplayer for families who will be staying inside together (note, some of the single player games have multiplayer options as well). So, without further ado and in no particular order:

SINGLE PLAYER GAMES

pyramid

Solitaire (1 player)- There are a lot of different types of solitaire, so as long as you have a deck of cards you have plenty of possibilities! A personal favorite of mine is Pyramid solitaire, where you set up the cards in a pyramid and try and match 2 cards together to equal 13.

scythe logo Scythe (1-5 players)- Scythe was included as part of the review in my last post, but I wanted to bring it up here as well because there is a one player option for the game. While I have not played the game as a 1 player game yet, but I have heard the solo experience is challenging but fun!

Bananagrams 1Bananagrams (1-8 Players)- Bananagrams is a fast paced spelling game where you create a Scrabble-like board as you go. It’s a fun game for multiplayer but also can be entertaining solo, where you can test your speed in creating words with the tiles you draw.

 

IMG_2861

Zombicide (1-6 players)- Zombicide was one of my favorite Board Game of the Week games, and it is one I play regularly to this day. Similar to Scythe, I have yet to try out the solo version of this game, but with its flexibility and ability to play as multiple characters, this is a good in-depth game that will be fun and take up a long stretch of your day.

 

Dungeon Roll Chest Dungeon Roll (1-4 players)- Dice rolling games are always a lot of fun for me, and Dungeon Roll is high on my list in that category. This fast-paced game is perfect for multiple playthroughs and would be a good addition to anybody’s game collection.

 

MULTIPLAYER GAMES

 

spot itSpot it! (2-8 players)- Spot it! is a great game for children and adults alike, and fits well into the family game mold. The game itself is very straightforward- the goal is to find a symbol on one card that matches with another card. The fun of the game is that each card is different, and there are multiple different types of gameplay options that keep it interesting through multiple playthroughs.

7 wonders duel7 Wonders (2-7 players)/7 Wonders Duel (2 players)- I have reviewed 7 Wonders in the past, but I have not put up a review of 7 Wonders Duel. Nevertheless, both games are great options for playing with small groups- 7 Wonders fits well into the 3-4 player mold, whereas Duel is specifically created for 2 player games.

DixitDixit (3-6 players)- Dixit is another game that works well with families, and is suited to a 3-4 player game. It’s artwork is beautiful and the gameplay is simple and easy to pick up, meaning that it can be played by all ages. There is technically a way to score and win, but a lot of times people will just play for fun or until they get bored.

 

unnamedStratego (2 players)- Another game dedicated to 2 players facing each other, Stratego is a strategy-heavy game that is great to play in any circumstance. I recommend it for people who like chess and want to try something similar, but with a different overall strategy.

 

pic1534148Pandemic (2-4 players)- Part of me hesitated when choosing this game, based on the subject matter and how it directly correlates to why people aren’t able to be as social as they normally are. Nevertheless, this is the perfect game for groups of 2-4 and is a fun way to distract from the actual virus spreading. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea in this particular situation, but as I mentioned in my review of it a few years’ back, it is a great cooperative game that promotes working together in an industry that normally focuses on direct competition.

 

Obviously this list of games is nowhere near a full list- in reality, all of you can just as easily take out your own personal favorite and play that as often as you’d like. But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of the different types of games out there and how they can be a distraction during tough times. I hope that all of you are staying healthy and safe, and are able to enjoy this time of “social distancing” as best you can.

Board Game of the Week- Bang!

Bang! Full Set

  • Game Title: Bang!
  • Release Date: 2002
  • Number of Players: 4-7
  • Average Game Time: 20-40 mins
  • Game Publisher: dv Giochi
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/3955/bang/
  • Game Designer: Emiliano Sciarra
  • Expansions/Alternates: Yes
  • Available in Stores: Yes

Bang! is a game that was recommended by one of my coworkers, who got it for me in an office Secret Santa. It’s taken me some time to play it, but I finally was able to bust out the western-style card game this Cinco de Mayo. After playing two rounds of the game, it was easy to see why it is a regular for my coworker: the game is easy enough to learn, involves enough strategy to keep you engaged but not too much to over-complicate things, and overall was a great way to spend an hour with my friends.

Bang! splits up each player into a number of different roles based on the main players of a classic Wild West showdown. Each role has a different objective as they play the game, and roles are distributed randomly so that nobody knows who is who (minus the Sheriff). The roles and their objectives are listed below:

Role

Objective

Sheriff

Must eliminate all the Outlaws and the Renegade, to protect law and order
Outlaw They would like to kill the Sheriff, but they have no scruples about eliminating each other to gain rewards!
Deputy They help and protect the Sheriff, and share his same goal, at all costs!
Renegade

He wants to be the new Sheriff; his goal is to be the last character in play.

Because nothing says Wild Wild West like a good chart…

The number of roles differs based on the number of players, so the game scales in intensity based on how many people are playing. There are also character cards that give each player specific traits and skills that help them reach their objective.

Once both roles and characters are dealt out, the game starts with the Sheriff and goes clockwise. Each turn consists of three actions: drawing 2 cards, playing cards from your hand, and discarding cards until your number of cards match your current hit points. Bang! LogoPlaying cards is the majority of the turn, and there are a number of different cards with varying immediate and long term effects. The most crucial cards are Bang! cards, which allow you to shoot anybody within range. Once you declare who you shoot, that player has the opportunity to play a Missed card, which lets them avoid taking damage. If a Missed card isn’t played, that player loses one hit point. Lose all of your hit points, and you are out of the game. The game ends when either the Sheriff is killed, or all Outlaws and Renegades are killed.

Bang! CardsThe strategy involved with this game took some getting used to, but once you get the hang of things it becomes fun and engaging. Knowing who the Sheriff is gives him/her a disadvantage, but the Sheriff also gets an additional hit point, gets to go first, and in certain instances has deputies to help. In addition, the Renegade only wins if the outlaws are killed before the Sheriff, so the player who is the Renegade has to work to harm the Sheriff without them dying and take out the rest of the characters first. The outlaws seem to have the easiest job, but with a number of other characters having different  motivations sometimes tipping your hat too early and going straight for the Sheriff can make things difficult for you. Overall it feels like you are able to win as any of the characters (in our first round the Sheriff won and then in round two the Outlaws won), so there’s a good sense of balance that some competitive games lack. Another fun aspect of the game is the shooting distance- shooting distance is based on who you are sitting next to, meaning it is easier to shoot someone next to you than someone with multiple people in between. There are weapons and abilities to enhance your ability to shoot, but there are certainly times when you are restricted in your ability to use Bang! cards on people.

The only real negative I saw in this game is that it seems to be tailored more towards larger groups. The first time I played with 4 people, the minimum number for a game, and because of that we had fewer roles to choose from in the game. We only had one Sheriff, two Outlaws, and one Renegade, meaning no Deputies were included. This made the game less strategic and I found myself wanting to see how the Deputies affected the outcome. In addition, the distance restriction is very low for 4 players because you can always hit two players and then you only need a slight boost to get to the fourth player. I found myself enjoying the game a lot more the next time I played it, when we had 6 people. The game included a Deputy which added strategy to who the Sheriff shot, and the ability to shoot everybody in the game was much more limited.

Bang-Box

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this game: it’s engaging, the style is cool, the cards are all useful to the game and the character abilities add a nice bit of extra flair as well. I recommend the game for anybody who likes mid-level strategy games and the ability to shoot your friends in the face… metaphorically, of course.

Jack’s rating: 4.5/5 stars

Who Plays Catan Anymore?

settlers-full

For what felt like my entire childhood, Settlers of Catan was a staple of my game nights. My High School friends wanted to play any time we hung out, and it felt like I would be trying to conquer the resource island weekly. The first article I ever read about board games online was about how Settlers of Catan started the board game revolution and brought about a “golden age” in board gaming. I was under the impression that the game settlers-boxwould never get old… but I have started to realize that the Mayfair Games classic may not be as bullet proof as I previously thought. The reason that this idea popped in to my head was simple: over the past few weeks I played a few rounds of Settlers with two different groups of friends. After the last time I played, I randomly started thinking about how long it was since I had played and I couldn’t even remember how long ago it was. I’ve had so many other games to play, and it seems like Catan always finds its way onto the bottom of the pile. If I ever recommend it to my friends they usually say that they like the game, but would rather play something different. So I started to think about why I’ve been seeing this trend over the past few years. What makes Settlers the less popular choice nowadays? I think this is due to three big factors.

The first reason why Settlers isn’t as popular nowadays is the amount of games that are available to people now. Back ten years ago it felt like the only new game people had on their shelves was Settlers of Catan. I know from personal experience that if I wanted to board-game-shelfplay a board game, I would either be playing an old school game my parents bought me or I would be playing Catan. Games like Pandemic and Ticket to Ride started to catch on in the early 2000’s, and slowly but surely game shelves started to grow and grow with new, exciting games. Fast forward to the present, and it feels like there’s no end to the amount of game options available to the average gamer, making Settlers a secondary option.

The second reason for the decline in the play of Settlers is tied directly to the first reason- a lot of people don’t play Catan anymore because of overplay in the past. As good as any board game is, there is a limit to the amount of times you can play it before you need a settlers-boardbreak. Collectively as a community, board gamers almost all played Settlers religiously for years after it came out, to the point where it feels like a drop-off was inevitable. I know from personal experience that I played the game so much in High School and College that I was practically begging for a change, not because I disliked the game but because overuse breeds disinterest. That, coupled with the bevy of new games that arrived on the scene, meant that everyone’s favorite game became just another one of many great options.

The third and final reason for Catan seeing a drop in play is because of the continuing emergence of technology. While video games have been around for a while, the accessibility of smart phones and the mobile app explosion has certainly created a dip in a number of areas, including board game play. While board games are continuing to increase in popularity, a lot of that success is attributed to the game industry adjusting and adding technology into their games. Settlers is a more traditional game, and although it has embraced technology by creating an online game (you can find it here if you’re interested) ultimately when you think Settlers of Catan, you don’t think high tech.

catan-online-page

I firmly believe that Settlers of Catan is a game that will be around for years to come. It’s still one of the most sold games in existence and is considered a top 10 game by multiple different sources. Still, it’s important to realize that no matter how successful a game is, eventually its popularity will wane. And even though Settlers isn’t as popular as it was before, the positives that come with this change are apparent. So when I look at my game shelf and realize that Settlers hasn’t been played in some time, I like to think that it just means there are more and more great options out there to enjoy.

 

New Games for 2017

As always, my friends and family were extremely generous over the holidays this year. I was lucky enough to receive a number of new games for Christmas that I am looking forward to playing, some of which are particularly interesting to me. Here is a list of the games I received and how I got them:

Game I Got: BANG!

Where I Got It: Secret Santa (work)

Have I Played it Yet?: No

Any time you get a Wild West style game with English and Italian directions, you know that you have an interesting gem of a game. BANG! is a competitive game with 4-7 players that involves a number of characters (7 unique ones) and roles for each players such as Sheriff, Deputy, Outlaw, Renegade. Each player plays cards to shoot at other players, boost your stats and skills, and heal yourself after wounds. My coworker Maddy got me the game as a gift for our Secret Santa. She gave it very good reviews, and even though I haven’t gotten to play it yet I’m looking forward to trying it out on the next game night!

Game I Got: Clue, Firefly Edition

Where I Got It: Roommate Gift Exchange

Have I Played it Yet?: No

Similar to the multiple different versions of Monopoly I’ve collected, I am never against getting different versions of a classic game. My roommate Ian found a game that is a perfect fit for me- Clue with Firefly characters. The premise is the same as traditional Clue: you travel from room to room of the Serenity and accuse characters of the show by using items to aid the Alliance in kidnapping River. The items are all rather odd (Wash’s dinosaurs are an item, for example) but as someone who loved Firefly I think it’s a great addition to my collection.

Game I Got: The Oregon Trail Card Game

Where I Got It: Gift from Parents

Have I Played it Yet?: Yes

Continuing on the nostalgia train, The Oregon Trail was a staple of my childhood. Almost everyone has either played the original game or a newer version, and the Card Game equivalent definitely plays on the experiences of the computer game beloved by many. The object of the game is to travel as a group from Independence, MO to Willamette Valley, OR as a group. You move along the path by playing road cards with varying effects, and do your best to avoid the disasters that crop up on the Trail. The game is cooperative and only one player needs to reach the finish line, so I would expect to see at least a few people dying of dysentery or any other number of diseases and calamities along the way. I gave the game a shot and it is a simple concept that walked me down memory lane for a while… until I died from cholera.

My board game New Year’s Resolution, 2017

I have a number of New Year’s Resolutions that I’m working on this year: get in shape, eat better, save some money, all the usual ideas are on my list much like plenty of people going into 2017. Sometimes resolutions get thrown away by the end of the month, but I’m feeling confident that I can follow up with a number of the ones on my list if I work hard and stay focused. Ultimately I feel like 2017 is a great year for me to grow, and I’m hoping this growth will come in a number of different areas.

Looking back on 2016, one of the things I am most proud of is the expansion of theboardwalkgames.com. I realized how different my blog has become since the beginning of last year, and have seen the ebbs and flows of my ability to post along with more and more people beginning to read what I write. I then began to think about 2017 and what it had in store for me and my board gaming adventures. I decided that the best way to move forward into the New Year was to create a separate New Year’s Resolution dedicated to my blog and my goals surrounding board games. I came up with what I believe to be 4 great resolutions that I am hoping to follow through on in 2017:

  • Play a new board game at least once a month- I’ve found that recently I have gotten myself into a pattern with playing board games. I find myself focusing on games that I’ve already played before more often than not, because it is easy to play a game that is familiar rather than try something new. I will usually try out new games in bursts, where I try out 3 or 4 new games over the course of a month and then add the ones I like into my routine. While having a group of games that I can bring out for game night is never a bad thing, I’ve realized that trying out new games consistently will help me learn more about the games my friends and I like and also help me make sure I have new material for blogging. Because of this, I plan on trying out at least one new board game each month this year, and hopefully try even more than that.
  • Buy 5 new board games I’ve had my eye on- I realized recently that for whatever reason (time commitment, cost, convenience) I have had a few board games on my “need to play” list for quite some time without ever trying the games out. I have either heard about these games through a friend, a Kickstarter Campaign, or my own research, but however I found out about the games I am going to make it my goal to play them in 2017:
    1. Pandemic Legacy– I have heard nothing but amazing things about Pandemic pandemic-legacyLegacy since the game first came out. While at first the idea of a game board permanently changing based on your play made me nervous I would screw it up, more and more I have thought of it as an exciting and bold style of game. After playing a Pandemic marathon over Christmas I have decided that Legacy is a game I have to try soon.
    2. Arkham Horror– I received a copy of Arkham Horror a long time ago. Known to be one of the most lengthy and brutal board games out there, I haven’t been able to find the right group of people or a good time to play the game yet. I’m hoping that 2017 will finally be the year that I am able to try it out and understand why it is, as the title suggests, a “Horror”. P.S. Everyone should fear Cthulhu.arkham-horror
    3. Firefly the Game– This game goes on my list mostly because I loved the showfirefly-the-game Firefly and the movie Serenity, and I also heard that the gameplay is quite good. I recently gave this board game as a gift to my fiancée for Christmas, so I am looking forward to trying it out with her sometime soon!
    4. Carcassonne– Known as one of the best board games in carcassonne-gameexistence, Carcassonne is up there with Settlers of Catan as one of the board games that drove the recent board game resurgence. I am sad to say that I have never had the opportunity to play Carcassonne, and I am hoping that in 2017 I am able to remedy that. The game is easy enough to find, so hopefully in the near future I will be writing a review of it.
    5. Zephyr: Winds of Change- This game is probably the most obscure one on my list, mostly because the game is still in development. I donated money to the Zephyr: Winds of Change Kickstarter a while back, and I am a huge fan of the look of the game and the demos of gameplay I have seen online. I am extremely hopeful that the game will finish development this year, and if it does I am looking forward to being one of the first people to try it out.zephyr-winds-of-change
  • Write a blog post once every 2 weeks- I wrote recently about one year of blogging, and I noted that my posting frequency started to go down over the last few months. While I do believe that you shouldn’t force yourself to blog to the point of overexertion, I also feel like I have a lot more content to write about and I want to motivate myself to follow up on that. Because of this, my plan is to try and publish a post at least once every two weeks. I feel like this is a good middle ground between posting too frequently and not posting enough. I won’t be too upset if I miss a week here or there, but if I can keep up a consistent schedule of posts I think it will take The Boardwalk Games to the next level!
  • Create a test copy of my new board game- For those of you who weren’t aware, last year I came up with an idea for a board game and have been diligently working on the game mechanics and playtesting for a while now. I have refined the rules multiple times and gotten feedback from my friends who have tried the game out. I believe that I am ready to make a legitimate copy of the game and start having people outside of my inner circle try it out. Hopefully within the next few months you will be hearing a lot more about it. In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for good board game designers or if you want to try the game out yourself, feel free to contact me!

Christmas Gift Shopping Tips

holidays

Hey everyone, happy holidays! I hope your days are filled with Holiday cheer, laughter, fun with family, and all around merriment. That being said, I’m sure there is also plenty of stress planning for relatives, figuring out vacation plans, and of course the worst thing of all: gift shopping. I’m obviously not saying that giving gifts is a bad thing, but if you’re like me then you definitely have had plenty of years when everything was done last minute.

live-dangerously

Last year I wrote an article about ten great board games to buy as last minute Christmas Gifts. This year I wanted to throw out a couple ideas for good ways to get quality gifts for your friends and family with time to spare. Hopefully you’re all finished with your shopping this year, but if not I hope these tips will help you look in the right place this week. So without further ado, here is Christmas Shopping Tips Round 2, Electric Boogaloo!

Amazon Prime is your Friend

I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single gift I bought for Christmas this year was off of Amazon. It’s mind boggling to me how they are able to provide so many products atamazon a competitive price, and guarantee that almost all of them can get to you within two days. Am I fishing for a sponsorship right now? Perhaps. But I’m also serious when I say that Amazon can be a lifesaver for busy people who can’t find time to go out to a store and need gifts delivered in a hurry. In addition, if you have an Amazon Prime subscription you can get a number of games (and anything else you can think of buying) with two days free shipping! Just for reference, I did a search for board games on Amazon and was able to find the following games right away:

Check Websites for Holiday Sales

It’s hard to deny that board games can get expensive, especially newer ones. Luckily enough, around the holidays most businesses take advantage of the holiday rush and provide big sales to incentivize people to buy their products. You see this as early as Black Friday, but a lot of deals stay valid until all the way through to Christmas Day. If you want to see what type of discounts are available before going shopping, most stores now have an online catalog on their website with information about the sales that are going on. This is more common with large stores rather than small businesses, but it still is helpful to know how much you’ll spend before you walk into the store. I recommend checking out Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us to see what sales they offer.

Local Stores have a Larger Stock

If you’re lucky enough to have a local game store near you, I highly recommend going to see their selection if you get a chance. They might not have exactly what you’re looking for when you first walk in, but they probably have a lot of good alternatives and their game selection will be much larger than any other chain store in the area. On top of that, supporting small businesses is always a worthwhile venture, so if you have the opportunity don’t skip out on checking them out!

Board Game of the Week- Codenames

codenames-all-cards

  • Game Title: Codenames
  • Release Date: 2015
  • Number of Players: 2-8
  • Average Game Time: 15-30 minutes
  • Game Publisher: Czech Games Edition
  • Website: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/178900/codenames
  • Game Designer: Vlaada Chvatil
  • Expansions/Alternates: No
  • Available in Stores: Yes

 

I have seen plenty of reviews of the game Codenames online, and it looked like everybody enjoyed the game as a whole. I put the game on my list to try a long time ago and never got a chance until this past weekend, when I went to a Birthday party with a group of board game enthusiasts. We divided up into two teams and ended up playing two rounds before moving on to other activities, and I thoroughly enjoyed both rounds and the game strategy as a whole. At first I thought that you needed an even number of people to play, but after playing I do believe you could have an odd number of players if you really wanted to.

codenames-agent-cards

Codenames is a two-team competitive card based game focused on one team member providing clues to the other team members that relate to specific code names. The game is set up by placing 25 “agent” cards down in a 5×5 row- these cards have a word on them, which is the code name of the agent. Then the team members chosen as Spymasters choose a Map card that shows which agent is on which team. Only the spymasters are allowed to see the map card. The map is set up to show which of the cards on the 5×5 grid are red agents, blue agents, civilians and the assassin. The object of the game is for the spymaster to provide a one-word clue to their team that relates to as many of the codenames as possible that are assigned to their team color. The other team members then guess which code name (or code names) the spymaster is trying to get you to choose. If the team is able to find all of their teams’ agents, they win. However, if they choose the opposing team’s agent, that agent is revealed and the other team has one less word to guess correctly. Guessing a civilian doesn’t hurt, but it does end your turn and leaves you unable to guess again if you wanted to. Guessing the assassin means that your team automatically loses, so the assassin should be avoided at all costs.

The biggest part about this game is the strategy of choosing words both as the spymaster and a team member. For the spymaster, the goal is to choose a word clue that can be linked to multiple agents on your team without misleading your team and causing them to choose the other team’s card or the assassin. There is also strategy in choosing a word that only could apply to one card, making sure that there isn’t any misunderstanding and effectively “playing it safe”. On the other side, the team members choosing the agents must strategically choose how many cards, and which cards, they want to choose. They can choose one card they are sure of, or they can choose multiple cards and take more of a risk. This is usually dependent on which team is winning and how confident you are that your spymaster is indicating a certain card.

codenames-cards-close-up

The most impressive thing about this game is the sheer number of variations: the game consists of numerous code name cards and map cards, so the possibilities of the cards on the grid and the options for agent card layouts are effectively limitless. The game encourages teamwork and strategy and is great for groups of close friends and strangers alike. Finally, the game is easy to set up and quick to play, so it is a perfect party game. The one downside I could think of with the game is the fact that while you can play with an odd number of players, ultimately it is easier/better to play with an even number so that no team gets an advantage. There are also a number of “player’s choice” rules revolving the hints that can be made, such as using Pronouns, that need to be addressed before the game starts. If your group forgets to go over these rules, it can cause confusion.

Overall I recommend Codenames as a great party game with a lot of fun strategy in a simple package. While the game says up to 8 players, you could certainly find a way to include more people if you choose, making it ideal for larger groups. In addition, the game can be played in small groups with the same effect, so don’t skip on it with 3-4 players either.

codenames-box

Jack’s Rating: 4/5 stars