Cards, strategy, trivia and more… Bale’s top five board games!

the picture I sent Astro as soon as I got home from my LGS. YEAH DOMINION!

The picture I sent Astro as soon as I got home from my LGS. YEAH DOMINION!

I’m a very competitive person; it runs in my family. Growing up we didn’t play many board games because they would all end in fights. Once, my sister got so mad she lost at Sequence she accidentally broke the board in half. She was folding it wrong, but was doing it so violently (because she lost) it just snapped. I think that convinced my parents that they shouldn’t get us any more board games. Well, except the board games based on “Lord of the Rings”, “The Hobbit” and, of course, Lord of the Rings Trivia. Because Tolkien. And before you all get the idea I never play games with my family, I’ll have you know that we’re all much more mature now; when my sister loses, she doesn’t break a board in half, she just sulks a little bit. ( And I’m definitely guilty of that, too.) Now that we’re older, my brother, sister and I can play games with our parents and it’s usually a good time. Especially if we’re playing Lord of the Rings Trivia or Risk. And drinking Vihno Verde or Belgian beer (aka the best beer). But as a family we still don’t play board games all that often, even when we’re all together.

So how did I become such a board game geek? Well, I had one really good friend in high school that would invite me over for board game nights with her family. (They were more civil when they lost.) They introduced me to all sorts of games beyond the classics. They’re who I first played Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, Betrayal at the House on the HIll and many more games with. They are entirely to blame for my obsession board games. And as such, they’re the reason this list is even being written — so thanks! (You know who you are.) So without further ado, here are my favorite games, in no particular order. I couldn’t an absolute favorite pick among these.

BALE’S TOP FIVE BOARD GAMES

Dominion — Astro and her friends from college introduced me to Dominion when her friends visited last fall. It’s a deck-building game where you “buy” action cards and money cards to help you eventually buy victory cards, which are how you win. Astro’s friends brought along a million expansions, and after a quick explanation we started playing. It took me the first couple rounds to get the hang of it, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Once we got going (aka I was up to speed), it was fast-paced and very entertaining. Unfortunately, Astro’s friends took Dominion home with them, so it was a long time before I got to play it again. After a friend from my LGS brought it to a game night at the beginning of the summer, I knew I needed to get my own copy eventually. Cue the parents visiting in July and offering to buy a game for me. We headed to my LGS and they ended up buying me the Intrigue expansion. It’s one of the only expansions that stands on its own, and I was lucky it was there — my LGS happened to be out of the original. I’ve played my copy a LOT since then. I really enjoy finding different combinations of cards and building a deck that is fun, and efficient, to play. And hopefully win! 😉

Risk — A game that is a healthy combination of luck and strategy, Risk is actually somewhat of a family tradition. My dad, his siblings and cousins play it at every family reunion, and the winner even gets a trophy.  When Astro and I moved in together we both bought a board game (we’re allowed to buy ourselves housewarming gifts, right?), and I chose Risk. We’ve broken it out a couple times, and it’s been really fun. I even got my parents to play while they were here! My dad was happy I’d managed to find a set that has the original board, cards and wooden pieces. At my childhood home we have a version with plastic pieces that my dad really doesn’t like. I think we have a REALLY old version somewhere, too, but like I said above, we didn’t play many games for a long time. (BTW, in case you don’t know, the point of Risk is to take over the world. You win battles by rolling dice, which can be very frustrating.)

Settlers of Catan — I LOVE Settlers of Catan. Like Risk, it depends on both strategy and luck. Unlike Risk, the board changes every game, and so do the odds. The goal of Settlers is to be the first player to 10 victory points. You get victory points by building settlements and cities, and you build those by getting resources. You get resources based on where you’re built on the board, what resources you’re next to and whether the dice decide to roll your numbers. It’s fun, strategic and there is a lot of table talk. At least there is when I play! It’s great because there is a ton of player interaction. Like Dominion, there are a lot of different expansions, but I prefer the original (so far).

Betrayal at the House on the Hill — Admittedly, I’ve only played this game a few times. It’s one of the ones my friend from high school introduced me to, and I love it because it showed me how creative board games can be. Betrayal has two parts; in the first you’re all working together to explore the house, and in the second (the “haunt”) one player becomes the traitor. Each game is very, very different because not only are you creating a whole new board as you go, the haunt changes depending on the circumstances in which its triggered. There are two booklets, one for the traitor and one for everyone else, that give the details of the various scenarios. What I particularly enjoy about Betrayal is how much you get to use your imagination. You also have to work together with the other players to survive, which is fun. Betrayal got a place on this list because of how extremely different it is than Monopoly, Sequence and other games that most people first think of when you say “board games”. And it’s just awesome.

Lord of the Rings Trivia — At one time this was the only game my family and I could play together. This is hands down the most-played game in my family. And I still don’t think we’ve gone through all the questions. It’s almost impossible to beat my dad, but it can be done if you get lucky with your questions. My dad is the original Tolkien-lover of my family, and he’s read the books more times than any of us. The LotR Trivia game is NOT based on the movies, but on the books. So if you’ve only seen the movies and you try to play, you’re gonna have a bad time. I mean, you can get the obvious questions like (and I’m not kidding here) “What is taters, precious?”, but the more obscure ones are ridiculously hard… even if you’ve read the books. My family and I think the people who wrote the questions must have had an absolute blast thinking up the most obscure, random facts to use, while at the same time sprinkling in the most obvious questions ever. It’s been known to cause a fair bit of anger if one person gets lucky with the potato question, and then the next gets something my dad doesn’t even know the answer to. Good times, good times.

And now I’ve just successfully made myself want to play every single one of these board games. Guess I’ll be planning a game night soon!

All for now,
Bale

What are some of your favorite board games?

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4 responses to “Cards, strategy, trivia and more… Bale’s top five board games!

  1. I agree with your first three choices wholeheartedly. I’ve always wanted to play Betrayal, but never had the group for it. I’d suck at LOTR trivia.

    That said, have you tried the newest version of basic Risk or the alternatives (Godstorm and 2210)? They are all fun changes on the tried and true (and still amazing) classic. I actually prefer new base Risk slightly since it focuses the game on capturing objectives to win rather than conquering the entire world. Mostly because that inevitable final one on one where one player gradually pushes the other deeper and deeper into Australia is a real snooze and a slog.

    I’d add Ticket to Ride to your list and maybe Ascension. Original Ascension was a bit boring (especially compared to Dominion), but I hear the expansions have all made it a much deeper game. I believe it has ties to some of the people behind Magic too but don’t quote me.

    Also, I am jealous your family played any board games. The best I could ever get was backgammon with my dad.

    • I haven’t tried the new version of Risk… I might have to check that out! And yeah, Ticket to Ride was very close to making the list. I actually almost made it six games just to fit it, but decided to stick with my original plan. I love it, though! And Ascension is OK, but it’s not really close to Dominion in my book.

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