2 months of tabletop gaming
I have been playing modern tabletop games for the past 2 months with my partner. My partner is not particularly into video games. So, I thought of trying out modern tabletop games for a change. After browsing Board Game Geek (BGG) and watching a bunch of YouTube videos of Game Night & Whil Wheaton's Tabletop, I realized there are thousands of board games & card games with interesting themes and mechanics.
Table of contents :
- Android: Mainframe
- King of New York
- Sushi Go!
- Welcome to the Dungeon
- Final thoughts
We started with Sequence based on my teammate's suggestion. It is an easy to explain, casual game that you can play with 2 to 6 players.
In Rummy card game, we try to make sequence out of cards. Drawing cards to build a sequence sounded familiar to me. The twist which interested me was placing player tokens in a physical grid on a board based on the cards that we discard. I was used to playing a game that deals with only one item like cards or dices. Adding another dimension to track the card sequence opened my eyes to new possibilities.
After playing Sequence a couple of times, we decided to check out a local games store for more board games.
Android: Mainframe #
Android Mainframe has a similar card drafting mechanic as Sequence, where you draw cards and place player tokens to cover up nodes on a board. However, in this game, you have to build pathways between player nodes. Also, each player gets 3 special cards with unique abilities.
The game cover mentions it supports 2 to 4 players. For 2 players, you can get stuck undoing each other's action for few rounds. Also, it can get chaotic with 4 players. I will consider trading this game away since I rarely have 3 player groups.
In Evolution, we control different species and help them adapt to changing ecosystem, where predators lurk around and food is scarce. Theme is the main positive point of Evolution for me. Taking food to increase species population or body size is a challenge.
Rules of this game were overwhelming at first to digest. After a couple of rounds, resolving player actions made sense. Non-carnivore species have a slight advantage I felt and that's why I don't like this game as much for 2 players.
King of New York #
I love playing with dice and this game lets you play with 6-8 dices per turn. To reduce randomness, you are allowed two re-rolls, which is a big plus in my opinion. In this game, you control monsters in New York, where you can destroy buildings and get rewards. Or, you can attack other monsters to be the last monster standing. The theme in this game works really well with the mechanics.
For 2 players, it can get one-sided to the first player. The first player gets to go on a rampage through Manhattan, where risk/reward is high. This game plays well with 3 to 4 players. For 5 to 6 players, the game changes dynamics and the first player can get absolutely destroyed by other monsters.
However, this is a great gateway game and it is so much fun to play for me, even if I'm not winning.
Carcassonne is one of the best gateway games out there, where we place tiles and meeples (player tokens) to claim roads, cities or farms. I love the decisions that I have to make while playing this game. "Do I score quick points or play for the end game?" or "Should I attack opponent's area to share the territory?" or "Place a tile next to opponent's tile and make it harder for them to complete their area?".
I love the Euro-style artwork in the tiles. It plays great with 2 players and scales well up to 4 players. I will recommend to start with just roads and cities for the first game, and in the second game introduce farms to new players.
Pandemic is our first co-op board game, where we are trying to beat the game by discovering a cure to 4 diseases and controlling outbreaks. Player specific abilities are interesting to explore.
It is a highly ranked gateway game. Plays well with 2 to 4 players. It can suffer from alpha players telling other gamers what decision to take. Keep an eye out for that.
We have yet to win this game and it is still so much fun to play. I will check out other versions of Pandemic out there like Iberia or Fall of Rome. One small issue I have is that some player token & cube colors merge in with the board's colors.
Sushi Go! #
Sushi go is all about theme. The pick a card and pass mechanic works like a charm. Easy to explain and has a good amount of replay value.
I don't like the dummy player method for 2 players and not all cards are balanced for duos. It is a great game for 3 to 5 players. Will recommend checking out their big box version: Sushi Go Party!, which expands the player support count to 8. The party version has a player board to keep track of each score, which I miss in the base version.
Welcome to the Dungeon #
It is an easy, push your luck, dungeon themed game that has beautiful artwork. This is a good filler game for 3 to 4 players. The player actions are pretty quick.
While there are remarkable moments in this game, not a lot of replay value here. I will probably trade it away for a better dungeon themed game for 2+ players.
Bandido is trying to escape the underground jail again. You have to partner up and close off all the tunnels to catch the escapee.
A quick & easy family co-op game that fits in your hand. Beware, it takes up a surprising amount of table space while connecting tunnel cards. Although it suffers from randomness, it is a mindless filler game that is fun to play.
If you are looking for a great 2 player abstract strategy game like chess but quicker & simpler to play, Hive is for you.
The beautiful hexagon tiles are etched with drawings of insects. The goal is to capture the opponent's queen bee by surrounding it with tiles. Unlike chess, there is no board to place pieces. Once tiles are played, they are not removed from the hive. The connected tiles are called the hive and they keep changing throughout the game.
I love the satisfying feel of smooth tiles and well-rounded design of this game. The rules in the rule book cover special conditions entirely, and are easy to understand.
Final thoughts #
The sad reality of buying board games is that the marketed player count is not always correct. 4 games out of 10 that I have listed above are not great for 2 players, even though it was mentioned on the box that it was supported.
Browsing BGG's comment section and community poll for recommended player counts often helps. Here are some learning points I noted down while playing these games.
- Tabletop games should be easy to teach anyone.
- Rules are not always well-defined and sometimes use confusing words which can be interpreted in a different way than intended.
- Goal of the game should be explained at the start to the players.
- Exceptions to rules must be kept to the absolute minimum.
- Use simple words and short sentences wherever possible to avoid confusion.
- Rules should cover all situations that might come up during a game.
- Make sure colors used in the game are accessible and have sufficient contrast between each other.
I would love to design my own tabletop game after trying out games having different themes and mechanics. More importantly, I want to be able to teach games easily and have fun.