If your hobbies involved being outside or near other people in some capacity, I’m sure they’ve been somewhat curtailed this past year. Socialising has been tough; it’s been 374 days since I was last in the pub… Granted, I didn’t want to go anyway, but I still wanted it to be my choice.Advertisement
However, as people learn to have fun in or very near their house, board games have been flourishing.
David Kenton, games hobbyist and owner of The Cartridge Guys in Ashton-on-Ribble said: “With a year of lockdowns, families have been spending more time together and they have loved playing board games.
“They’ve really pushed beyond the traditional games of Monopoly and Scrabble. Games like Wingspan and 7 Wonders have opened up families to new game mechanics and themes with easier game-end rules that mean the game is done and dusted in 60 to 90 minutes.”
So, if your collection is made up of shot-glass chess, three editions of Monopoly and a raspberry Sambuca stained Cards Against Humanity, here’s my shortlist of games that are both easy to pick up and engaging for the family.
Yes, I’m sure a lot of parents have heard an awful lot about the Minecraft videogame. If you’re not familiar, you mine to get better equipment, which allows you to mine quicker. That’s Minecraft.
However, coaxing children away from their screens can sometimes require baby steps at first and, happily, the Minecraft Boardgame is a perfectly serviceable way to do this. It’s colourful with familiar concepts children who’ve played the video game can grasp along some small degree of strategy.
I just wish I was still pretending to let my seven year old beat me. It’s not even a competition these days, he just batters me…
Tokyo Highway is a fantastic dexterity game that anyone over the age of six can enjoy.
Players take on the role of mid-level city planners (I know, pure, simple escapism), placing elongated lollypop sticks representing roads, which overlap the other player’s roads until the map looks like a modernist, spaghetti vomited nightmare.
The simple yet striking minimalist visual style makes every game a potential Tate gallery exhibit and some of the absurdly intricate late game moves could make up the final practical examination of student cardiovascular surgeons.
A lot of people don’t have an extended family they live with, so it’s good that there’s several games suitable for playing over Skype. Personally, I’ve wiled away quite a few evenings with my parents playing Codenames.
Players take the role of spymaster and spies. The spymaster gives one word clues to the spy who then tries to guess the correct Codewords from a shared grid of 15 words. All this must be done without the spy accidentally guessing a word from the opposing teams list of codewords.
The trick is to offer a clue that relates to as many words as possible per turn, which can result in some staggeringly cryptic exchanges (in one instance my father’s clue ‘legs’ represented the words ‘octopus’ and ‘nurse’ but not ‘cat’ and ‘rabbit’… Octopuses have arms, Dad, ARMS!). It’s incredibly simple, but you will immediately give yourself a blazing stress headache trying to second guess your partner’s intentions.
Ticket to Ride
Living in England, it’s sometimes nice to imagine a functional rail infrastructure. To that end, in Ticket to Ride your aim is to build as many train routes between cities as possible while trying to anticipate and block your rivals’ tracks. It’s not strictly necessary to block other players and as I frequently told my wife, the game is only as nasty as we choose to make it (sidenote, she won’t play with me anymore).
It’s another game that’s easy to pick up with a nice colour palette and artwork – the only issue being the Beatles song going round my head for at least 70 per cent of the game making it hard to focus.
I personally prefer the Nordic counties edition simply because when you’re three beers in, pronouncing any of the Scandinavian cities is a game in itself. Also, there’s a much smaller playing board so you’re more likely to be at “crossed purposes” with other players… Honestly, it’s a real knife fight.
Okay, so I couldn’t realistically not mention the newly-released Preston Monopoly. Try as I might it’s just the elephant in the room, dancing the jitterbug waltz whilst using its trunk to awkwardly grunt the word ‘Monopoly’.
So, whilst in my opinion the omission of The Moorbrook pub is nothing short of an outrage, there are still 30 locations from all around Preston and I’ll concede that it makes a pretty cool novelty gift.
Unfortunately, the rules remain unchanged so while everyone basically knows how to play it, you can still expect the same spiteful war of attrition that will objectively make everyone feel worse from around the 30 minute mark onwards.
Read more: Preston Monopoly proving a big hit as Prestonians sell it out twice over
Pandemic: A little on the nose for the current situation, but still an incredibly slick game mechanism and great cooperative game that really piles on the pressure the longer the game goes on.
Carcassonne: A lovely pastoral game of placing tiles to create a medieval French town. Claiming tiles and scoring may be simple, but maintaining friendships after blocking other player’s developments is a significant challenge.
Lifeform: It’s big, heavy, complicated and expensive. It’s also the closest thing you’ll get to recreating the movie Alien in a boardgame; one player takes on the role of an implacable otherworldly killing machine while the other players desperately collect resources to power the escape shuttle. Great.
There we have my shortlist, but why take my word for it? I’m a guy that can’t come close to beating a seven year old at board games.
For a more comprehensive and in-depth discussion on all things board games, I defer once again to David Kenton of The Cartridge Guys, who can be contacted via the Games Ink Facebook page for advice.
Alternatively, the Preston Gamers Guild Facebook group on Facebook runs weekly online sessions on Tuesdays at 7pm. Beginners are welcome but to join you will need Boardgame Arena, be aged 16+ and have a willingness to learn.
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines
What games have you been playing to pass the time in lockdown? Let us know in the comments below.