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– by Brian Jasper

 

We all love board games — Monopoly, Scrabble, Chutes & Ladders. Yep, those were the days, playing around a table, rolling dice, moving tiny plastic pieces with our friends … when we were kids. Or at least that’s the reaction I get when I invite people over for a night of board gaming at the casa de Jasper. Lo and behold, board games are still a thing many adults and teens enjoy today and they are getting more and more popular every year! And it isn’t just board games. Card games, miniatures games, and roleplaying games are all enjoying a resurgence in popularity after decades of seeing interest in them wane in favor of video games.

Now, video games aren’t going away. The global size of the video game industry is estimated to be worth a whopping $19 billion. But tabletop games, a category including all of those game types mentioned above, has ballooned from $700 million before 2010 to somewhere close to $10 billion today! That’s more than 1000% growth in just the last decade! Where is this growth coming from? Industry experts guess it’s from these four factors:

First, board game manufacturing costs have shrunk, meaning that when someone drops a couple twenties on a cool-looking game at the store, it contains better art, more miniatures, and feels like a better value; second, while people play a lot of cell phone games and video games online, the need to socialize with people in real life hasn’t gone away and tabletop games are filling that void; third, the development of Kickstarter as a bona fide platform through which to sell games means that smaller companies can reach their customers more directly and with less risk, thereby flooding the market with a supply of great games; and fourth, the increased valuation of IPs across movies, collectibles and, yes, tabletop games provides a rich market sector for fans to indulge in their love of Batman, Star Wars, Game of Thrones and more.

While over half of all Americans play video games in some form or another every week, the same can’t be said of tabletop games. That’s why I’ve compiled this list of the greatest, newest games over the past several years. If any of them seem interesting, click the link associated with it and it’ll take you over to a great site, Board Game Geek, where you can find out more!

The Best of the Best

These games represent the very best games to come out in the last few years, as voted on by the huge fan community of Board Game Geek. Try them, love them.

Gloomhaven (2017)

Cost: Hard to find, but you can track it down online for around $200. | Difficulty: Experienced gamers only!

Genre: Fantasy | Most Like: Dungeons & Dragons | Board Game Geek Rating: #1

The Official Synopsis:

Gloomhaven is a game of Euro-inspired tactical combat in a persistent world of shifting motives. Players will take on the role of a wandering adventurer with their own special set of skills and their own reasons for traveling to this dark corner of the world. Players must work together out of necessity to clear out menacing dungeons and forgotten ruins. In the process, they will enhance their abilities with experience and loot, discover new locations to explore and plunder, and expand an ever-branching story fueled by the decisions they make.

The Rundown: Gloomhaven is like the classic RPG Dungeons & Dragons in board game form. There’s no dungeon master and instead, players battle through roughly 100 missions using special abilities unique to each class. It’s a cooperative game, so your friends are less likely to end the game session pissed at you for doing well. What’s more, it’s a legacy game, so the board, characters and cards all change over the course of playing — on the bad side, that means it is difficult to restart the game all the way over without some planning ahead of time; on  the good side, the game feels more immersive as it changes with your decisions.

Pandemic Legacy (2015)

Cost: Easy to find at $50 | Difficulty: No headache here

Genre: Medical | Most Like: Contagion and other movies about disease outbreaks | Board Game Geek Rating: #2

The Official Synopsis:

Pandemic Legacy is a co-operative campaign game, with an overarching story-arc played through 12-24 sessions, depending on how well your group does at the game. At the beginning, the game starts very similar to basic Pandemic, in which your team of disease-fighting specialists races against the clock to travel around the world, treating disease hotspots while researching cures for each of four plagues before they get out of hand.

The Rundown: Regular Pandemic is a blast. You and your friends work together to keep four diseases from wiping out the world. But Pandemic Legacy adds a story mode and, like Gloomhaven above, legacy gaming aspects so that the board permanently changes as you play. There’s a definite thrill to the game when you get to open secret boxes and envelopes at certain story beats and you only then realize that your play style is going to have to change every other time you play because of this. There aren’t a ton of medical-themed games out there, whether you’re talking board or video games, so Pandemic gets some bonus points for feeling like a pioneer in this space, even if other games came before it.

Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization (2015)

Cost: Find it at your local game store for around $40 | Difficulty: Eh, this one’s super hard at first

Genre: Civilization Building | Most Like: The Civilization video game series | Board Game Geek Rating: #3

The Official Synopsis:

Through the Ages is a civilization building game. Each player attempts to build the best civilization through careful resource management, discovering new technologies, electing the right leaders, building wonders and maintaining a strong military. Weakness in any area can be exploited by your opponents. The game takes place throughout the ages beginning in the age of antiquity and ending in the modern age.

The Rundown: Unlike the other games already mentioned, Through the Ages is pretty much a card game with some boards to help track your progress. And there are *a lot* of cards. Through the Ages is a hardcore tabletop game that takes forever to play. Although it supports up to 4 players, the time involved in playing a game in excess of two hours can be tough for new game players. Still, if you’re into world building and history, this game will be right up your alley and after a few play-throughs, your knowledge of game strategy means you’ll feel like a bad ass when your civilization crushes your opponents’.

Best Licensed Games

Not interested in being dipped head-first into an all-new world *and* having to learn rules along the way? These games will comfort you with familiar characters and settings while still being amazing experiences.

Star Wars: Rebellion (2016)

Cost: Find it virtually everywhere for $80 | Difficulty: Complex

Genre: War | Most Like: Heard of Star Wars? | Board Game Geek Rating: #6

The Official Synopsis:

Experience the Galactic Civil War like never before. In Rebellion, you control the entire Galactic Empire or the fledgling Rebel Alliance. You must command starships, account for troop movements, and rally systems to your cause. Given the differences between the Empire and Rebel Alliance, each side has different win conditions, and you’ll need to adjust your play style depending on who you represent.

The Rundown: Maybe the ultimate licensed game, Star Wars: Rebellion is able to perfectly capture what the original trilogy movies were like. As a rebel, you begin the game desperate for a few wins. As the Empire, you’ll dominate early. In-game strategy changes throughout as you and your opponents will pursue a variety of goals in order to seek victory. And, of course, the game gets exciting when your favorite characters show up to tilt a battle to one side or the other. Plus, the ship miniatures alone make this game worth the entry price!

Lords of Waterdeep (2012)

Cost: Pick this baby up at your local game store for about $35 | Difficulty: Not hard

Genre: Fantasy City Building | Most Like: It’s a D&D game, but feels like Game of Thrones at times | Board Game Geek Rating: #49

The Official Synopsis:

In Lords of Waterdeep, a strategy board game for 2-5 players, you take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder — or help — the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.

The Rundown: This game is a little older than the others on this list, but I’ve included it because Dungeons & Dragons is as relevant as ever after Stranger Things boosted that game back into popularity. This isn’t D&D, though. Instead, you rival your friends as lords of this Forgotten Realms city, recruiting adventurers to go on quests which ultimately embiggen your fantasy real estate empire. The game is loads of fun and, with more than two players, the intrigue heightens as you begin to jump from temporary alliance to temporary alliance in order to further your goals.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle (2016)

Cost: If you can find it, it’ll run you about $40 | Difficulty: Very easy

Genre: Strategy | Most Like: Harry Potter, of course! | Board Game Geek Rating: #290

The Official Synopsis:

The forces of evil are threatening to overrun Hogwarts castle in Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, a cooperative deck-building game, and it’s up to four students to ensure the safety of the school by defeating villains and consolidating their defenses. In the game, players take on the role of a Hogwarts student: Harry, Ron, Hermione or Neville, each with their own personal deck of cards that’s used to acquire resources.

The Rundown: One of several co-op card games where players team up to fight villains off, Hogwarts Battle excels in its story-based “book” system, in which features of the game are added over the course of several play sessions. By the end, it’ll take your entire team strategizing together (and using a bit of luck) to win the day. Hogwarts Battle is a deck-building game and one of the better ones. That means that, turn-by-turn, you’ll make decisions which will increase the size of your play deck. Winning requires you to add just the right cards in the right amounts and the mechanic proves easy to learn but can take several games to master.

Best Genre Games

Don’t care about playing with your favorite licensed characters but still want a comfortable theme? Here are a few games for you!

Terraforming Mars (2016)

Cost: Hugely popular at $45 | Difficulty: Much easier than actually terraforming Mars

Genre: Science Fiction | Most Like: The Martian | Board Game Geek Rating: #5

The Official Synopsis:

In the 2400s, mankind begins to terraform the planet Mars. Giant corporations, sponsored by the World Government on Earth, initiate huge projects to raise the temperature, the oxygen level, and the ocean coverage until the environment is habitable. In Terraforming Mars, you play one of those corporations and work together in the terraforming process, but compete for getting victory points that are awarded not only for your contribution to the terraforming, but also for advancing human infrastructure throughout the solar system, and doing other commendable things.

The Rundown: Somehow straddling the fine line between competitive and co-operative gaming, Terraforming Mars rewards you for doing good. Sounds unique, right? Your corporation works with others to terraform the red planet and as you help humanity, your corporation will reap the rewards. This game is an “engine building”-type of game, which means that you use your resources to create an efficient means of gaining points. The more efficient you are, the better you’ll do. This game is great for anyone who is far more into “hard” science fiction than adventurous stuff like Aliens and Star Wars.

Scythe (2016)

Cost: Widely available around $50 | Difficulty: Tough but fair

Genre: Steampunk/Dieselpunk | Most Like: Rocketeer mixed with MechWarrior | Board Game Geek Rating: #7

The Official Synopsis:

Scythe is an engine-building game set in an alternate-history 1920s period. It is a time of farming and war, broken hearts and rusted gears, innovation and valor. In Scythe, each player represents a character from one of five factions of Eastern Europe who are attempting to earn their fortune and claim their faction’s stake in the land around the mysterious Factory. Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs.

The Rundown: After initially going by kind of unnoticed, Scythe picked up lots of steam with its smooth play, luscious art design, and interesting play options. While the game features big armies going at it, the battles are a side diversion from the real enjoyment of this game: building your faction’s “engine” and watching your side prosper at the expense of your opponents. With multiple paths to victory, Scythe rewards many types of gamers, meaning it’ll be fun for everyone.

Arkham Horror: The Card Game (2016)

Cost: Widely available at $40 | Difficulty: Scary early, but you’ll ease right in

Genre: Adventure | Most Like: Any other Lovecraftian game or show | Board Game Geek Rating: #18

The Official Synopsis:

Something evil stirs in Arkham, and only you can stop it. Blurring the traditional lines between roleplaying and card game experiences, Arkham Horror: The Card Game is a Living Card Game of Lovecraftian mystery, monsters, and madness!

The Rundown: I’m not a huge Lovecraft fan, but this game is super fun. It is one of several Living Card Games produced by Fantasy Flight Games (who are now owned by another company called Asmodee). Unlike Magic: The Gathering, LCGs release expansions in self-contained sets, so you buy the expansion once and once only. As for the game, you’ll play as one of several heroes investigating a supernatural mystery that plays out in a coherent and fun story. The strategy lies in how you and your partner(s) build your starting decks, so if you struggle, you can rebuild quickly and give it another try!

Do you play any tabletop games? If so, which are your favorite and, if not, do any of the above entice you to try your hand at one of them? Let me know down below!

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