More Essential Board Games Everyone Should Own

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More Essential Board Games Everyone Should Own

A wise man once said that you can never have enough board games. I don’t remember which wise man, but the point still stands. There are some many good games currently available that, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the variety of choice. How do you choose which board game to play when there are so many games to choose from?

To help you out, we’ve put together another list of boards games that deserve a spot on anyone’s shelf. You were pretty vocal about certain titles not making it onto our previous list, so hopefully this will appease you. Or maybe frustrate you more?

From co-operative investigations into Lovecraftian madness, to strategically conquering an entire galaxy, to just building a simple train route — these board games are all essential ingredients for a fun-filled game night.


Cosmic Encounter

Image: Fantasy Flight Games

In Cosmic Encounter, you play as the leader of an alien race, and intergalactic conquest is the name of the game. Your aim is to spread your influence throughout the galaxy, establishing colonies in the planetary systems of the other players.

This board game has been around since 1977, and it’s easy to understand why it has been beloved for so long. The strategy is both fun and fulfilling, with the different gameplay cards available allowing for an enjoyable variation of tactics.

I think the big draw of Cosmic Encounter are the table politics. The gameplay requires you to form alliances and negotiate deals with other players to help screw over the other players — while also potentially setting up your “ally” for a masterful double-cross.

Buy Cosmic Encounter here.


Lords of Waterdeep

Image: Wizards of the Coast

If you dig the world of Dungeons & Dragons, but want something that’s less of a commitment than a long RPG campaign, try Lord of Waterdeep. It’s a game where you play as one of the titular Lords of Waterdeep and attempt to gain the most influence over the City of Splendours.

The game works by placing your faction’s agents at various locations that will help you gain resources, like gold or various types of adventurers, and then sending those resources to complete quests. The goal is to collect the most victory points from the various quests you complete over the game’s eight rounds. Throw in some intrigue cards that can give you a much needed hand (usually at the expense of your opponents), and you’ve got a great strategy game.

If you’ve never played D&D before, don’t worry. Lord of Waterdeep requires no pre-existing knowledge of the franchise. And if you’re a long time fan, you’ll appreciate the familiar faces.

Buy Lords of Waterdeep here.


King of Tokyo

Image: Iello

Kings of Tokyo is a very easy to pick up board game that is a lot of fun to play. You pick one of six giant monsters to play as, and your aim is to become the King of Tokyo by battling it out with your opponents. That’s it, that’s the game.

It’s a king of the hill game that uses a combination of dice rolls and strategising with the power up cards in your hands to stake your claim on the Japanese capital. The goal is to be the first to 20 victory points or be the last monster standing.

If you really enjoy this game, there’s a heap of different King of Tokyo expansion packs currently available. They’ll give you new monsters and power cards to battle with, so there’s an option to add even more content to this game to keep it fresh.

Buy King Of Tokyo here.


Fallout: The Board Game

Image: Amazon

Based on the video game series, Fallout: The Board Game is a pretty faithful adaption. Start by choosing a scenario and then set off to explore the wasteland, complete quests and fight the various monsters, mutants and marauders that come across their path.

If you’re a fan of Bethesda’s Fallout games, this thing is great. It keeps the RPG elements of the source material, by allowing you to spend points to increase your character’s ability skills and customise your equipment loadout. It even manages to keep the VAT system, with dice that let you target specific body parts of your enemies. It does a good job of ticking the boxes of what I like about Fallout. There’s also an expansion set, New Californiawhich adds two scenarios, along with a bunch of new quests, companions and items.

If I have one big criticism of Fallout, it’s that the game moves much slower when playing with four people. There’s a delicate balancing act, because more players help increase the fun but the threat of gaming fatigue is real.

Buy Fallout: The Board Game here.

Buy Fallout: New California here.


Terraforming Mars

Image: Board Game Geek/Din0derek

This resource management game does it exactly what it says on the box. In Teraforming Mars, each player takes on the role of a different corporation and are tasked with making the red planet habitable for humankind. While you work together on the terraforming process as a whole, the aim is to see which player has the most contributions.

You build various projects, gaining income and resources that you can spend on further productions. Once Mars has the appropriate temperature, oxygen levels and quantity of oceans, the game is over.

The game is very card heavy, and you really need to keep track of what you’re holding during any given round. It’s also one of the more aggressive resource management games that I’ve played, as there’s a lot of cards you can play that directly target your opponent.

Buy Terraforming Mars here.


Mansions Of Madness (Second Edition)

Image: Board Game Geek/Pleechu

Mansions Of Madness is a co-operative board game inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In it, you play as investigators who are tasked with exploring a cursed mansion to solve the mystery of a chosen scenario. This edition of the game uses a companion app that tracks your progress, and also takes care of randomly spawning monsters, triggering events and randomising the layout of the mansion.

It’s very easy to immerse yourself into Mansions Of Madness’ spooky atmosphere, and I’ve had a lot of fun investigating and trying to solve the puzzles of the scenarios I’ve played. If you’re some who loves a good game piece, Mansions Of Madness‘ monster figures are fantastic. Being able to throw down a giant Cthulhu figure onto the board really helps to sell the enormity of the threat.

A single game will eat up a couple of hours, so make sure you’ve set enough time to adequately lose your mind to an eldritch horror. The app lets you save your progress, so you can easily jump back into a game you couldn’t finish.

Buy Mansions Of Madness here.


Image: Amazon

If you enjoy the euro-style gameplay of something like Settlers of Catan and what to pick up something similar, then you might get some miles out of Ticket To Ride. The aim of the game is to be the player who can build the longest continuous train, claiming routes and connecting cities.

Ticket To Ride is an incredibly easy game to pick (especially compared to some of the other titles on this list) and isn’t too intensive when it comes to strategising. Each player is randomly assigned Destination Tickets at the start of each match, giving you set goal cities that you need to reach.

There’s an economy of knowing which cards you need to play or stockpile, as you need these specific cards to claim certain routes. The last thing you want to do is lose out on the route that will connect your assigned destinations.


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Comments

  • It’s a pretty good list, but Fallout feels a bit to “gamer” and complex.

    I’d be keen to see a casual list and a cardgame list. There are some AMAZING cardgames out these days – check out Tichu, The Crew, Hanabi … there are a lot out there.

  • The Lords of Waterdeep write-up feels a bit shallow here, so here’s a recommendation from someone who really likes it:

    It’s a solid worker placement game that’s set in a well-known D&D city, but it’s nothing like D&D. You essentially play as a questgiver in a fantasy city, and each turn you send your minions out to influence the city, but only so many minions can be in one part of the city at a time. Your goal is to raise cash and recruit adventurers, who you can then pay to send on quests. You can splash cash around to sponsor new buildings, which let you use turns more efficiently (and if you’re the owner, you get a bit of extra cream on top), but that means less time spent raising funds or meeting with adventurers. The turn count is very tight, but you get a lot of bang for those turns.

    To top it all off, each game you play as a different Lord, who each have their own secret bonus, so the winning strategy will change from game to game. It’s a very tidy little package.

  • I feel ‘everyone should own’ might be a bit of stretch there..

    Not ‘everyone’ is into these particular types of boardgames.. just saying..

    • To be fair, this list is a lot better than a similar list featured a week or two ago, which was filled with heavyweight games that really weren’t “must haves”. Most of the suggestions on this list appeared as alternatives by commenters, with the exception of Fallout. I get that Kotaku might want a computer game bent to it… but seriously, I don’t know a single person that owns that game, and a BGG rating of 6.48 doesn’t suggest it’s particularly “essential”.

  • King of Tokyo and Ticket To Ride are definitely good “Everyone” games, the rest are way too complex for the average person.

    • Cosmic Encounter and Lords of Waterdeep aren’t complex. I’ve introduced them to people with very little gaming experience and they had zero problems picked them up.
      Cosmic Encounter is basically negotiation with occasionally some relatively simple maths, and Lords of Waterdeep is a very straightfoward introduction to worker placement.
      If you think they’re too complex for the average person, then whomever was teaching the game was doing a bad job, or the people being taught simply weren’t very bright.

      • “Simple” is just about the last word I’d use to describe Cosmic Encounter. It’s a game packed full of complex interactions between pieces that require CCG levels of comprehension to fully get your head around.

        If your group found it fine then that’s great, but I’ve *never* seen it described as simple, and to think that anyone who can’t pick it up is stupid is all kinds of ridiculous.

        • You’re joking, right? You must be joking. There is NOTHING difficult about Cosmic Encounter.
          Round of cosmic encounter.
          Turn over card.
          I’m attacking X. Who wants in? / Want to negotiate.
          People say yay or nay.
          Ships get put on gate.
          Players play cards and numbers get added up.
          Ships get sent to warp and/or placed on planets.
          Play goes to next turn.

          Yes, there are some weird powers that can raise questions about how they would interact, but the rules and flow of the game are ridiculously straightforward. Every single card tells you when it can be played. If you *really* need it to be easy to understand, specifically pick out the easiest aliens (which are conveniently highlighted with GREEN on their cards) and use those rather than a random draw. The bulk of complexity comes from the powers that are complex.

          • The base rules of the game are super simple, you’re right. But when you add flares, alien powers and whatever else you’re playing with the complexity tends to skyrocket a bit.

            The timings are very particular, but your average non-gamer isn’t really used to the idea of a game with execution rules quite that precise. You can flub it a bit if you want, but if you’re going to make sure every power is happening at the right time relative to everything else that’s happening you’ll likely be spending a lot of the game resolving what happens when and asking people to hold off on things they want to do because they didn’t quite get the timing right.

            (And don’t me started on some of the aliens from later expansions. It’s obvious they were made by uber fans of the game because some of them are SILLY complex. Stuff like handing someone a special card and then somehow remembering what triggers that card so you can tell them when to look at it later.)

            YMMV obviously, that’s just been my experience with the game. It’s fantastic but it’s also tended to stump a lot of people who are pretty bright otherwise. If you’ve had no issues teaching then that’s awesome, I’m genuinely envious.

  • I usually prefer games on the more complex side,such as Scythe,Gloomhaven and my favourite,Anachrony.But I also enjoy a couple delightful,simpler games.These are Everdell and Stuffed fables.On this list I have Fallout and Terraforming Mars which are both decent games without being truly great Imo.I’d like to play Mansions but already have enough FF games and their innumerable expansions to fill a truck.

  • Solid list except for Fallout.

    Seriously, this game was universally panned. DON’T BUY THE FALLOUT BOARD GAME. It’s a mess.

    • That’s just not true about Fallout. Even my partner who has no interest in gaming enjoys it.

      It’s definitely one of those boardgames that looks complex, but the rules are actually surprisingly simple and the rulebook is one of the more helpful ones around. It’s got looting, fighting, exploring and it’s much more effective than other games at building a sense of continuity in the story without being a full-on RPG-lite.

      The victory conditions probably need some work, but the gameplay is enough fun that losing the game doesn’t feel like a waste, which is a big bonus when you have casual gamer friends around.

  • If anyone is looking for a wealth of easily accessible info on boardgames in video format, Shut Up and Sit Down is a really good Youtube channel.

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