Adventure – a game with story or hidden elements discovered through the course of play.
Traditionally, the Adventure genre has been heavy on ‘dungeon crawler’ titles. Dungeon crawlers are akin to role playing games, but they implement their character development and scenarios in board game form instead of pen and paper. Perhaps the earliest of these is the sought after Milton Bradley game from HeroQuest, published in 1989. Many Dungeon Crawler games followed in the fantasy, horror and sci-fi genres. Some of the best known are Descent, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Betrayal at House on the Hill and Mansions of Madness.
Most Dungeon Crawl games in the past were One vs. Many and they required one player to act as the Game Master and play as the Dungeon. The Game Master would control the enemies and run the scenario for the player characters. Newer dungeon crawl games devised automation mechanics that control the enemies so they are fully cooperative. Zombicide uses ‘noise’ created by PC actions to draw the enemies towards players. Another sought after adventure game, Gloomhaven, uses a randomized deck of cards for each enemy type to determine the actions of the enemy group. Descent: Journeys in the Dark 2nd Edition and Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition use a tablet app to control the enemies and scenario to make them cooperative. Many of these games include nice plastic miniatures or cardboard standees to represent characters and foes. They also rely on chucking handfuls of dice to resolve actions.
Other games in the Adventure genre combine story elements with other game types and mechanics. Above & Below is a euro game that uses worker placement. One of the actions you can assign your workers to is a ‘choose your own adventure’ style exploration. Its sequel, Near & Far, is a bit more traditional adventure game that uses action selection on the turns your character isn’t off exploring. The very popular Talisman is roll & move with story and character development along the way. Another interesting game, TIME Stories, uses scenarios that combine characters and story with puzzles. And for something completely different, Tales of the Arabian Nights is more of a choose-your-own-adventure cooperative experience than it is a game.
There are many more great Adventure games to explore!
Bluffing Game– A type of game in which players must lie and deceive due to a difference in information available to each player
Bluffing can serve a variety of purposes in games. At its most tense, it can be used to make your opponents believe that you have more power than you actually do or are in a stronger position than you actually are. At its silliest, it can be used to make your opponents believe that you actually know what you’re doing. The variety of things that Bluffing can accomplish and be used to do make it a versatile genre.
In Bluffing games, players (sometimes just one, or sometimes everybody) have information which they don’t want to share with their opponents. Making the optimal decision would be simple if the hidden information was public, but instead there is a branching tree of possibilities that each player must evaluate as they try to determine their best move. Layered on top of this is the act put on by each player as they try to trick their opponents. If a player can get her opponents to believe something false about her hidden information, she can cause her opponents to make poor decisions. In this way, there is often overlap of Bluffing games with Deduction games. As one player bluffs about her hand, the other players must try to deduce what she actually has.
Bluffing games often use standard probabilities to give players a baseline of information. Poker and Liar’s Dice (aka Perudo) are two examples of this: by using a 52-card deck and six-sided dice, respectively, these games allow the players the predict the probability of certain outcomes and use that as a standard against which to determine what to do, even without knowing everything.
Rather than using random chance to create the hidden information (dealing out cards or rolling dice), Skull makes an interesting and unique choice to allow players to choose their piece of hidden information. Everyone takes turns secretly laying down one of three Roses or a Skull; they then bet on how many Roses they can reveal without hitting a Skull. This adds another dimension to the bluffing of Liar’s Dice or Poker: in addition to bluffing about what they have, players can lie about what they chose. This seems like a simple distinction, but adds a whole new level of deduction and bluffing: players can attempt to predict what card their opponents played based on what they know about her.
Coup cranks up the complexity from the previous games and adds a new dynamic to bluffing. By having different powers available, players need to take into account the strength of a move before calling it as a bluff. I may be more likely to let slide an attack on another player or an action that isn’t aggressive because it doesn’t affect me, even if it might be a bluff.
In all of the previously mentioned games, players start on a level field. In some, though, the need to bluff is created by a power disparity. In Sheriff of Nottingham, for example, players try to sneak contraband through a checkpoint operated by another player, the Sheriff. Bribing is allowed, though, and double-bluffing becomes important. If I act shifty or offer a large bribe for my bag to be passed over, the Sheriff may decide to investigate because she thinks I’m trying to cover up contraband. But if I was telling the truth about the contents of my bag and the sheriff assumed that I was bluffing, the Sheriff owes me for the inconvenience.
Spyfall and A Fake Artist Goes to New York both use a power disparity for humor. In each, one player (the Spy or the Fake Artist) doesn’t know something that everybody else does; their job is to blend in to avoid being figured out. In these games, then, bluffing is required, not to get a leg up over the other players, but to just stay at their level.
Deduction – A style of game which requires players to form conclusions based upon the information revealed during the course of the game.
Deduction games have been with us for several years. Most of us remember being introduced to Clue when we were young. Making our moves around the mansion trying to get enough information to confidently expose who the killer was, where the murder took place and which weapon was used, made us feel like we were right out of an Agatha Christie or Ellery Queen novel. Deduction games have matured since Clue, and now there are several sub-categories of deduction games that you can choose from.
There are several popular deduction games that use a technique known as Cat and Mouse. Usually, one person has a hidden pawn, typically a criminal, that is ‘moved’ around the board according to specific movement rules. The other players start off blindly trying to intercept the criminal, gaining information as the game progresses. It is up to the criminal to make sure that its movements are not discovered easily. If it is discovered, the player controlling the criminal will need to find a clever way to mask its movement once more. Scotland Yard made this type of deduction game popular in the 1980’s. Variations on the same theme have appeared in the games Letters from Whitechapel and Fury of Dracula.
One sub-category that has become popular in recent years is Hidden Role. In some areas, these games are called ‘Social Deduction’ games. There are typically two teams, each with their own agenda. Players try to determine who is on their team so that they can effectively complete their agenda. The publisher Indie Boards and Cards has made a name for themselves with the titles that they publish in this category. Prime examples are The Resistance, Coup, and One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
Each of theses games implements Hidden Role differently. In The Resistance, there are two teams, the Resistance and the Government spies. The spies know who all the spies are but the members of the Resistance do not know who the spies are. Players take turns acting as the leader. The leader is trying to put together teams to perform missions. If the mission is successful, the Resistance wins a round. If the mission fails, the spies win the round. To win the game, one side needs to win three of the five rounds. If the spies can meddle with the missions at the right time and throw suspicion to other players, they can win. However, if the Resistance can pick up on their subterfuge, the Resistance has a good chance at winning.
Coup allows for the players to have two identities. Each identity can perform a specific action. When a player decides to do an action,whether or not their identity allows them to take the action, the other players either allow the action or call them out. If the player is caught trying to do an action that their identities do not allow, they have to discard one of their identities. If the player proves they have the right identity for the action, the challenger loses an identity card. Once a players loses both identities, they are out of the game.
One Night Ultimate Werewolf starts off with every player receiving a role that they keep secret from the other players. Some of the players will be given a werewolf role. As with the spies in The Resistance, the werewolves will know each other. The rest of the players, known as the villagers, will not know who is a werewolf and who is a villager. During the game, each role is assigned an action. These actions can change the players roles. Once all the role actions have been completed, the players have to decide who is a werewolf and who isn’t. If the a werewolf is found out, the villagers win. If not, the werewolves win. The fun of the game stems from the debates that ensue once the players start trying to determine the roles that the players have, especially when one or more of the roles may have changed during the game.
Another take on the deduction game uses a Hidden Agenda. The most popular form of hidden agenda is the traitor mechanism. Traitors usually have an agenda that is counter to the rest of the players. Typically, all players are working to a common goal. The traitor(s) need to appear as if they are working toward that goal while at the same time sabotaging the mission. The other players are trying to reach the goal and identify the traitor(s) before the traitor(s) can sabotage it completely. Some of the best uses of the traitor mechanism randomize the roles of the players. In some games, the traitor may not exist. This type of uncertainty leaves the players with a sense of paranoia – always wondering if the actions taken by the other players are actually bad luck or deliberate tampering. Battlestar Galactica and Dark Moon are two prime examples of this type of game.
Farming – A game that has an agricultural theme or component
For many years, designers have included farming in their games. And for good reason; it is easy to implement and control the actions of players. One of the earliest farming games, Ye Peculiar Game of Ye Yankee Peddler, was published by Geo. S Parker in the late 1800s. Typically you will find designers using the plant, grow, harvest and sell aspect of farming in their games. Some games, like Ye Peculiar Game of Ye Yankee Peddler, use it as part of the theme.
When considering farming games, research what mechanics you prefer playing. Agricola uses worker placement and hand management as its core mechanics. Caverna: The Cave Farmers uses tile placement and worker placement mechanics. Fields of Green relies on card drafting, tile placement and simultaneous action selection. Viticulture uses worker placement and hand management, although farming is a small portion of the game.
Games that have a farming component to them but do not use it as the core of the theme are just as plentiful as games with a heavy farming theme. Fields of Green and Viticulture are have an agriculture theme. However, both of these games draw on other sources of inspiration. For instance, Viticulture is based on wine production. Growing and harvesting grapes for the wine is just one aspect of the game. To be effective, players need to crush their grapes, age their wine, erect structures to support the vineyard, and sell their products.
In Takenoko, the players get to control a Panda and a Gardener. While the gardener is cultivating bamboo fields, all the panda wants to do is eat the bamboo. The farming aspect of the game is very light in Takenoko, but still effective. Each player must meet objective cards they hold. Gardener cards reflect the bamboo as it is grown. The panda cards rely on the panda eating the bamboo.
Legacy Game – A game where changes made in the course of an individual game are reflected in later games. Changes that occur become permanent and lasting through each game played.
Most board games are played from start to finish several times. The players make decisions that affect the game during that one session. When the game is over, the components are put away and the game resets to the same starting conditions. The next time the players open the box, they are presented with the same game they played before; as if nothing had ever happened in that game’s world.
Legacy games are different. Decisions that the players make could have a lasting effect on the game. If something is destroyed during the course of the game, it remains destroyed from that point on. The next game will be different from the game just played. It could be a new rule is added, new components are added, old components are removed, or areas of the board become inaccessible. Most of the changes are not known at the beginning of the game. Special sealed compartments hide what will be appearing as the game progresses. When researching Legacy games, be careful when watching or reading reviews, spoilers could be revealed.
The game that started the genre was Rob Daviau’s Risk Legacy. Risk Legacy became so popular that the genre was named after it. For those that collect games and try to keep them in good shape, the appearance of a game that you altered the board and destroyed components was disconcerting. That did not stop Risk Legacy from becoming a best-selling game. Players were intrigued by unlocking the mysteries of the game and seeing how their actions affected the world. Risk Legacy is designed to be played 15 times. The player who wins the most games gets to name the world. There are many things the players get to do throughout the games, but revealing the spoilers would ruin it for any players who have not played the game yet.
Other designers have started introducing Legacy games. Jamey Stegmaier designed the expansion to Viticulture as a Legacy-style game. Tuscany was introduced as a multi-expansion expansion. The recommended way to use Tuscany is to allow the winner of a game of Viticulture to choose the next expansion that will be added to Viticulture. This way, players can change the way they play each game. While not a true Legacy game that permanently alters the game, it was an interesting way to introduce an expansion.
Issac Childres introduced Gloomhaven as a Kickstarter game and it instantly became one of the most sought after games that year. As with Risk Legacy, Gloomhaven hides most of the game’s story so that the players have to discover it through the sessions that they play. Instead of fighting the other players, Gloomhaven is a co-operative game that pits the players against the game. As the game progresses, the player’s characters develop and the game gets progressively more challenging.
Rob Daviau returned to the Legacy game realm with two offerings; Pandemic Legacy and Seafall. Working with the designer of Pandemic, Matt Leacock, Pandemic Legacy became a campaign game that spans the course of twelve to twenty-four game, depending on how you play it. The game is played out through the course of one year. During that year, each game spans two weeks of time. If the players win the first game of the month, they move directly to the next month. If they fail, they have to play the second half of the month. As the game progresses, new rules are added, actions and decisions make changes to the cities, and the viruses change over time. It is a race to see if the players can defeat the outbreaks before the viruses cause lasting damage to the world.
Seafall brings Legacy to the high seas. Players get to sail out to the sea and discover islands that they can exploit, combat other players, and start trading with other provinces. During the course of the game, new islands will be discovered, new technologies developed, alliances created and enemies made. Each character that the players use will change. Every game will start with the spoils or defeats of the previous game.
If all of the game examples sound vague, it is because there are major spoilers that we won’t reveal for these games. There are several reviewers and videos that will give away all of the secrets, but your game experience will be much better if you play the game without the knowledge of what is to come.
Memory Game – Players mentally store and recall information hidden from some or all of the players
Memory Games, as the name suggests, rely on the ability of the players to remember things. They often feel likes puzzles, and must balance simple memorization with interesting gameplay. They can be both competitive and cooperative, with the puzzle-like nature showing up more in cooperative games. Memory games tend to distinguish themselves from each other in how they hide and share their information. In competitive games, the key idea tends to be how well players can keep information hidden from their opponents. In cooperative Memory games, it is the manner in which players effectively share their information with other players.
A classic game of Memory is Stratego. In this game, two players control armies facing off across the battlefield. Each player has an identical set of pieces. The pieces are arranged in any order the player wants, keeping them hidden from their opponent. When two soldiers clash, their ranks are revealed and the loser is removed from the field. This is the only way a player learns the rank of the opposing pieces. Players must remember each piece’s rank in order to advance to the other side of the field and find the hidden flag.
Another competitive game is The Magic Labyrinth. This is a game aimed at children in which each player is a wizard trying to collect magic symbols from around a maze. The trick, though, is that the labyrinth walls are invisible (i.e. hidden under the board, blocking a magnetized ball underneath each player piece). As players accidentally cross these walls, they must start back in their corner of the maze. In order to successfully navigate to the required magic symbols, each player must commit to memory the location of these walls.
There are several cooperative Memory games worth discussing. Two are Hanabi and Beyond Baker Street, both of which follow the same general set of rules. Each player holds a hand of cards facing away from them so that everybody else can see what they are holding. Each card has a number and suit. On their turns, players can either spend a clue token to give information about the cards in someone else’s hand, discard a card to regain a clue token, or play a card from their own hand. There is a specific order to playing cards. These games are a balancing act between efficient clue giving and card playing. These games rely very heavily on memory; it can be very difficult to do well if someone is unable to recall what they’ve learned about their hand.
Witness is a very unique cooperative Memory game that can only be played with exactly four players. This is a sort of detective game based on Telephone, the game of garbled information. Each player starts with one piece of information needed to solve some crime or mystery; everybody then takes turns whispering what they know to the person sitting next to them. The difficult thing is that the information could be visual, and thus not simply described. It takes several turns for all of the information to pass around to everybody. By that time, things likely have been altered or forgotten. Each player must then use what they have learned to answer questions about the mystery; this often involves some new information that players must synthesize with what they have learned.
One last Memory game worth mentioning is Monikers, a party game that is a descendant of Time’s Up! And Celebrities. Players split into two teams; everybody takes one minute turns trying to get their team to guess as many cards as possible from a 45 (or so) card deck of famous people and characters. What makes this a memory game, though, is that players go through the entire deck three times. The rules about clue giving become more strict each time around. At first, verbal clues include anything except the name itself. The second time through, clues must be just a single word (or sound). In the last round, players are only allowed to use gestures and nonverbal clues. This makes it essential to remember the cards from the first round.
Negotiation Game – A type of game in which players must make deals and alliances with each other to meet their objectives
In Negotiation games, players may work together towards a common goal one turn – only to fight against each other the next. Players must make deals and forge alliances to advance their own interests. Due to their often confrontational nature, as well as hidden information, it is common for Negotiation games to overlap with the Bluffing and Deduction genres.
Often Negotiation games consist of trading resources; players may negotiation how much wood should be traded for a number of sheep. Negotiations are also commonly about lending support during conflicts. I may agree to help an opponent in battle if they promise to return the favor at a later time; I must, however, judge whether they are trustworthy enough to hold up their end of the bargain when the time comes.
Rather than negotiating the value of resources or favors, in The Resistance players are negotiating over who to trust. Players must agree on groups of people to go on missions. They negotiate over who they trust and who they find suspicious in order to find a group that is acceptable to everybody. Since each player has an equal say in approving the members of each mission, this is a game of almost pure negotiation. While the hidden role mechanic puts this in the Deduction genre, the focus on discussion makes this a Negotiation game at heart. If the spies are playing the game well, they are able to negotiate themselves onto missions in order to sabotage them.
In the classic game Bohnanza, players are bean traders. They are trying to collect sets of like cards, which they can cash in for points. Players negotiate to get the beans they need and get rid of the ones they don’t want. What makes this game really interesting, though, is that each turn two bean cards are revealed from the deck, and it is the active player’s responsibility to trade them away; if they are unable to, they must keep them. So players never know what they might have to deal with on their turn. If they reveal beans that nobody wants, they’ll have a tough time trying to negotiate them away.
Many Negotiation games are very confrontational; A Game of Thrones is a prime example. In this game, players control warring houses trying to gain the most territory. Players negotiate alliances with each other, and often break them later to move themselves closer to victory. A Game of Thrones allows for further negotiation through the support action. A player may lend a hand to anyone involved in a battle in an adjacent territory. The negotiation of these supports forms the backbone of negotiation and alliances in the game.
Another confrontational game is Cosmic Encounter; here, each player is an alien race trying to colonize planets controlled by the other players. To do this, they must work with, and against, each other to land on each other’s planets. One interesting aspect of this game is that multiple players are allowed to win together and thus alliances don’t inevitably end in backstabbing. This means that players may play in an entirely trustworthy manner, an unusual option in most negotiation games.
One unique Negotiation game is Between Two Cities. In this game, pairs of adjacent players work together to create a city. Tiles depict things like offices, parks, and homes. Players must negotiate with their partner in each city which tile to use and where it should go. Effective placement is needed in order to maximize their points. Only one player can win,. Players must balance how well both cities are doing. They don’t want to help the other players at their own expense. Even though this game is ultimately competitive, the cooperative nature of each turn makes the negotiations relatively friendly rather than consisting of threats and intimidation.
Puzzle Game – A type of game in which players must use logic and spatial reasoning to find solutions
The genre of Puzzle games is a broad category into which a variety of games fit. This can make it difficult to identify a game as belonging to the genre. The common characteristic that all Puzzle games have is that game players are required to use spatial reasoning, logic, and problem solving to advance in the game. Though these qualities are a part of many games, Puzzle games use them as the core mechanic of their gameplay.
Tile Matching Puzzle games use the Tile Laying mechanic, but the placement of tiles is the core mechanic rather than supplementary. The placement usually must follow rules regarding connecting edges. In Carcassonne, this takes the form of cities and roads on tiles that are required to match. Karuba, on the other hand, does not require continuity between paths on adjacent tiles. The common characteristic that defines both of these as Puzzle games is that the connections between tiles matter. Players must consider their options as they choose where to place tiles.
Patchwork is a Tile Placement game in which, contrary to the previous examples, the connections between tiles do not matter; only the shapes of tiles do. Players compete to purchase tiles , then try to fit them into a square grid while leaving as few spaces as possible. Patchwork fits into the Puzzle genre because players must use spatial reasoning and foresight to fit their pieces together.
One game which takes a different approach to puzzle solving is Dimension. The goal is to arrange a pyramid of spheres according to several rules along the lines of “blue spheres cannot touch green spheres” and “you must use exactly one orange sphere”. Puzzles are randomly generated using a set of these rules, which allows for endless variability while still providing concrete puzzles for players to solve.
Escape Room games, based on their popular live action counterparts, offer a more pure puzzle-solving experience. Two of the most popular, Exit and Unlock!, each offer a series of designed puzzles that players must work together to solve. In Exit, puzzles are all predicated upon finding a three-part code; each successful solution reveals more items which can be used to solve other puzzles. This relatively new genre of games allows the designers to have more control over the experience, which creates exciting moments of revelation. The downside to having tightly-constructed puzzles like this is that these games can only be played one time: Exit even requires the destruction of game elements. Unlock! is similar to Exit, but it only uses a deck of cards and a smartphone app. This means it can be put back together for another group to play.
One thing that should be obvious from looking at all of these games is that they have little in common. At first glance Karuba and Exit have virtually nothing in common. As we have seen, though, they are both Puzzle games because they require that players use reasoning and logic to complete their objectives.
Solitaire Game – A game played by only one person, where the player tries to defeat the game
Just speaking the name Solitaire evokes images of a person playing against a deck of cards, trying to figure out a way to beat the randomness of the deck. The traditional solitaire games have existed as far back as the 18th century. The vast majority of them use a standard 52-card deck of cards. The player would shuffle the cards and start laying in patterns as specified by the type of solitaire played. Then the player would move cards from the pattern, typically starting with the aces, and moving up each suit. To win, the player had to remove all the cards from the pattern, in order, before going through the remaining cards in the deck. Solitaire card games became very popular because it was an inexpensive way to pass the time.
Other solitaire puzzle type games have appeared through the years. One of the most popular is Mahjong. Mahjong originated in China and has seen acceptance around the world. Whereas Solitaire is played with cards, Mahjong is played with tiles. An image is drawn on each tile and there are four of each image in the set. The trick to the game is to remove pairs of the same image, revealing other tiles as you go. This may sound simple, but tiles cannot be removed until one of the tiles that surround or cover them are removed.
As game design has advanced, designers have started coming up with ingenious methods of allowing solo play. Some games use a deck of cards that determine what happens on the ‘game’s turn’. Others use dice or another method of randomizing the actions. And still others use predefined rules to determine the effects that go against the player. Co-operative games are good candidates for playing solo. These games already have a built-in ‘artificial intelligence’ that the players need to defeat. Altering the game slightly so that one player can go against the game is not that difficult. Sometimes it is as easy as allowing the individual player to control more than one character during the game.
In Zombicide, the Zombies have predetermined rules as to how they will move after the player has performed all the actions on their turn. If a player wants to play a solo scenario, it is simply the case of playing more than one character and taking the turns normally. The game already has an auto-pilot mode for the zombies, so it is very easy for someone to play by themselves. And the nice thing is, the game keeps its formidable, claustrophobic feel and sense of impending doom.
Stonemaier Games uses a system that they call Automa for their games. Starting with Viticulture, and continuing through Euphoria, Between Two Cities and Scythe, Morten Monrad Pedersen has created single player variants to the games. Automa are typically card driven systems that the player goes up against. For some interesting insight into Automa and single player games, you can check out Morten’s post on the Stonemaier Games blog.
Train Games – Games that use trains and/or rail cars as the primary element or the theme of the game.
From the steam engines of the 1800s to the diesel-electric engines we see on the tracks today, trains have been an integral part of America’s history and growth. Other countries have also built much of their infrastructure around rail, whether it be to transport goods or people. Trains have proven to be a very cost-effective method of moving large amounts of products. Enthusiasts follow train movements, photograph them, build miniature replicas – complete with dioramas of the landscape – and even buy the decommissioned rail cars. Trains have become part of pop culture; used as locations in books, TV shows and movies, songs have been written about them, internet sites devoted to them, and they are used as the theme of festivals. It was inevitable that game designers would use trains in their games.
Probably the most enduring and prolific game family is known as the 18xx line. Francis Tresham designed, and Hartland Trefoil published, the game 1829 in 1974. Often considered one of the landmark games in board game history, 1829 has spawned dozens of games over the years. When it was originally published, 1829 was seen as a unique game for its time. Using Commodity Speculation, Route Building and Stock Holding as the mechanics for the game, this turn-based game does not use dice which reduces the element of luck in the game. Although the theme of the game revolves around rail lines and trains, the ultimate goal of the game is to become the richest player during the game. Ultimately the stocks that are obtained, sold and manipulated generate wealth for the player. The game 1830, published by Avalon Hill in 1986, was the first widely distributed of the 18xx family. Most players in the United States deem 1830 as the originator of the multitude of 18xx games that started appearing. As with 1829, there is no element of luck in the game and most of the information is publicly available. Each player is trying to enrich himself by managing a train company. The purchasing, selling and manipulating of the companies’ stocks will either make the player rich or bankrupt.
Two of the more widely recognized games to spawn from the 18xx line are Steam: Rails to Riches and Age of Steam. Both games were developed by Martin Wallace. In Age of Steam, dice were implemented to allow for growth of resources. Depending on the dice roll, one type of good will increase in a specific city. Steam: Rails to Riches moved away from dice once again, removing the element of luck. Both games are seen a solid implementations of the 18xx theme, but Age of Steam is considered to be slightly more complex, or ‘weighty’.
Probably the best known train game appeared in 2004, Alan Moon’s Ticket to Ride. Due to the simple rules structure but ever increasing tension as the game progresses, Ticket to Ride quickly became a favorite of many board game enthusiasts. In the year of its release and for two years after, Ticket to Ride was nominated for, and won, several awards, including the coveted 2004 Speil des Jahres (Game of the Year) award. Based on three simple mechanics – Hand Management, Route Building, and Set Collection – a player only has three actions that they can perform; and only one of those actions can be performed on a turn. Players can either collect two cards, claim routes on the board using the cards in their hand, or get additional Destination Tickets. The difficulty comes from trying to decide if you want to get additional cards to better your building options, or build before someone else can take the rail segment that you need. Due to the popularity of the game, several expansions have been published, including new stand-alone games with additional mechanics and new map packs that give players new geographic areas to play and some additional mechanics for the geographic regions.
You will find games that appear very similar to an existing game, only to discover that the designers have successfully incorporated mechanics into the game that make it completely different. Spike, from designer Stephen Glenn and publisher R&R Games, is one such game. At first, with the card drawing and hand management aspects of the game, it may seem that the game is borrowing heavily from Ticket to Ride. As you start learning how the game plays, there is more depth to the game. Spike moves closer to the 18xx games with the addition of a pick-up and deliver mechanism and resource management.
One train game that departs from many others is Russian Railroads. Instead of building rail lines on a board or using a Commodity Speculation mechanic, Russian Railroads is a Worker Placement game. During the game, players will use their workers to improve their rail lines; build engines and factories; earn money, workers or engineers; or manipulate player order. As with most Worker Placement games, the available action spaces are limited and the number of workers you have available never seems to be enough. Russian Railroads has consistently been rated in the top 100 board games since it was published in 2013, and has been the recipient of several awards.
There are games that simply use trains as part of the theme, though the same game mechanics and play could be used in a different theme without losing the feel for the game. Colt Express is one such game. The game is based on a train in the old west. Bandits are trying to loot the passengers and steal a suitcase full of money all while not being caught by the Marshall. The players program their movements at the start of each round, hoping that the actions of the other players don’t mess up their plans. For players that don’t like games with a Take That element, this game can seem a little mean, but you are working against each other and trying to get the most loot that you can by the end of the game.
Trivia Game – A type of game where a player’s knowledge of facts is tested, as well as their ability to make educated guesses
At their core, Trivia games are a measure of players’ knowledge about anything and everything. In the past, Trivia games tend to rely on the recall of factoids; players are required to simply know things, with little emphasis on gameplay. Recently, though, several games have come along which use Trivia as a basis for more social interaction. These games tend to ask the same questions of everybody, which allows for players to interact as they make their decisions.
The classic Trivia game is Trivial Pursuit, in which players must travel around the board answering multiple-choice questions that fall into one of six categories. For people who are trivia buffs, this can be an exciting test of one’s knowledge. For anybody else, it can be a tedious and long exercise in frustration. Recently, there have been several innovations to the genre that make Trivia games more accessible while remaining competitive tests of knowledge for hardcore trivia fans.
One new series of Trivia games that takes a unique approach is Timeline. There are Timeline games themed on Inventions, Music and Cinema, and History, to name a few. Each card depicts an event from history, with its year on the reverse side. Players must correctly place all of their cards into the timeline. This is made up of just one card at first, so the first player just has to decide if their card occurred before or after the beginning card. As more players correctly place cards, the gaps between cards become shorter and events become harder to place. Each player is answering questions on their own, which means there is downtime between turns. Timeline never gets boring, though, as players can be considering their next move with one of their remaining cards.
In Wits & Wagers, players answer questions following The Price is Right rules; each answer is a number, and the goal is to get as close as possible without going over. This game puts a twist on the Trivia genre in several intelligent ways. First, each player answers every question. Second, points are not awarded based on whether an answer is correct. Instead, players have chips with which they can vote on any answer; if the correct answer is chosen, points are awarded. Players can do well if they bet on another player knowing the answer, not because they do. The Publisher, NorthStar Games, describes Wits & Wagers as ‘the trivia game for people who don’t like trivia’.
Following the example of Wits & Wagers, the trio of games Fauna, Terra, and America allows players to win points by knowing what other players know. These games all follow the same formula but differ in theme: animals, planet Earth, and the United States, respectively. There are three questions on each card, all about the same topic; there are three types of answers, one for each question. In America, for example, the three types of answers are a year, state, and number. For an example, if the card topic is Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the questions are: Close Encounters released (year), Devil’s Tower (state), and Length in minutes of the original theatrical release (number). Players place cubes on the board, either on the map, timeline, or number line as they try to answer any or all of these questions. Points are awarded for answers that are exactly correct, but also for adjacent answers. So if one player is a real movie buff, everybody else can take the spaces next to hers.
A style of game that deals with the use of military or other combat units in a variety of types, real or fictional, where the interaction of those units is a primary feature of the game.
Wargames have existed since around the 6th Century A.D. Most people have at least heard of Chess and know the basics of play. People recognize it as one of the oldest games and the first wargame. It uses pieces that represent the various people and units in ancient armies. Two players maneuver their pieces around the board in an attempt to capture their opponent’s pieces. Ultimately players capture the opposing King to win. Wargames have changed significantly in the last 1,500 or so years. They now include games such as Advanced Squad Leader, Twilight Imperium, and Warhammer 40,000.
There are two broad sub-categories of wargames which differ in the way the units are represented in the game. Those categories are Miniature Wargames and Hex & Counter.
Miniature Wargames use sculpted figurines to represent the units in the game. These figurines are called miniatures. Miniatures are sculpted to look like real or fictional units. They vary in size from Fleet Scale used to produce space ships for games like Dropfleet Commander and Full Thrust down to 1/46 scale used to represent individual soldiers in games like Warhammer and Heroclix. They also come in two varieties, Gameboard Style and Tabletop Style.
Miniature wargames can be self-contained boardgames where everything needed to play is included in the game box. Players deploy units on a gameboard in specified locations and move them around to attack enemy units while trying to achieve objectives. Players measure movement and weapon range in areas or hexes. Gameboards sometimes have terrain printed on them. Alternatively, cardboard tokens or plastic tokens that represent terrain can be used to provide more variety in scenarios. The terrain provides obstacles for units to maneuver around and use to their greatest advantage. These types of miniature wargames are typically two player games, but some support player counts as high as eight players. These include games like Chess, War Cry, and Twilight Imperium.
Tabletop wargames are another type of miniature wargame. They are seldom contained in one box. Many will have a starter box set with basic rules and two balanced starter armies. These games can be a hobby unto themselves and require a large investiture of time and money in the one game. They typically consist of a book with all the rules which you purchase separately from the miniatures. Additionally, army lists and supplemental rules can have their own books. Players purchase individual miniatures or boxed sets of miniatures in an a la carte fashion.
Tabletlop wargames are typically elaborate games played on large tables full of model terrain. Players place units and terrain on the table according to a scenario. They then maneuver their troops around the table to achieve the victory conditions of the scenario. Distance is measured with a measuring device rather than in hexes and areas as used in boardgames. This type includes games such as Dropfleet Commander , Warhammer 40,000, and X-Wing.
Hex & Counter:
Word Game– A style of game in which players rely on their knowledge of spelling, language, and definitions.
Words games usually have relatively simple mechanics and are often very accessible to new players since language is already a part of our everyday lives. Scrabble and Taboo are two classics that most people are familiar with, but in the 21st-century, several clever new games have come along that twist the norms in interesting ways. Broadly speaking, there are two types of word games: Spelling and Association. Scrabble falls into the former category, while Taboo is an example of the latter.
Spelling games usually require players to spell words using letters in their personal hand, using their knowledge of words to maximize the number of points they get each round. One noteworthy exception is Boggle, in which players have no individual hand. Instead, they spell words from a common source of letters.
Where most of these games differ is in how points are awarded. In Scrabble, the gold standard of Word games, players score points based on the rarity of the letters used. In skilled competition, this becomes a game of who knows the most esoteric words, like “phpht” or “qat”. Upwords removes this niche skill by scoring points differently: letters can be placed on top of each other, and the points are awarded based on how tall the stacks are in the word. In Letter Tycoon, players simply want to use their hand of letter cards to spell the longest possible word each turn. Letter Tycoon adds a clever twist by drawing influence from Economic games: players can patent letters, which pays them royalties anytime another player uses their letter. Bananagrams changes the goal entirely from scoring the most points to using all your letters as quickly as possible. Players arrange and rearrange the letters in their own personal grid, simply trying to use them all before their opponents do the same.
One game which takes a very different approach to Spelling is Word on the Street. Players are divided into two teams and play tug-of-war over letters of the alphabet. They gain ground by spelling (correctly, of course) words based on given categories, having to use each letter three times more than their opponent to claim that letter. What makes this game unique is that teams have to adapt their choice of word to the state of the game: if the opposing team is close to winning several letters, you want to choose a word which contains as many of those as possible.
Association games are usually more accessible; if someone is not confident in their ability to spell, they will likely prefer these to Spelling games. Many Association games could also be considered Party games due to their relatively straightforward rules and strategy and ability to be played with large groups. The goal is usually for a team to guess a specific word or phrase based on clues given by another player. In Taboo, the goal is for each player to get their teammates to guess a specific word while avoiding using certain “taboo” words or phrases related to the answer. Catch Phrase is a frantic Word game which crosses over even more into the Party genre: teams play Hot Potato, with each player trying to get her team to guess the prompted word before the timer runs out with the game still in her hands.
Apples to Apples flips the traditional goal of Word Association games by making the answer subjective. Each turn, a different player plays a card with an adjective on it. Everyone else then secretly plays a noun card, and the Judge chooses whichever noun card they like best. By making the game about opinions, Apples to Apples brought a new dimension to the genre.
Another game which skews the norm is Codenames. In this game, one player on each team gives clues that point towards as many words as possible. The goal is for each team to identify all of their 8 or 9 words. To beat the other team the clue-giver must give single-word clues that are associated with two, three, or sometimes even four words in the 5×5 grid. Associations between clue and answer are thus forced to be vague and tenuous which differentiates this game from most other Word games.
Zombies – A style of game that has a primary theme of reanimated dead with a hunger for the flesh of the living.
While the idea of zombies has existed for a long time in the practice of Voodooism, the modern zombie got its start in 1968. This was thanks to the late George A. Romero and his movie, Night of the Living Dead. He instituted the popular idea of corpses rising from the dead with a hunger for the flesh of the living. Since then, a steady stream of new zombie themed movies and books has appeared. The concept has evolved over the years. Various authors have added to the genre, including Romero himself. The cause of their animation, the way in which they are dispatched, and other aspects of their nature has changed over the years. A few themes remain as the standard.
- Slow and shambling. A lone zombie isn’t significantly dangerous, but they tend to form hordes which are dangerous.
- Unending hunger for the flesh of the living, classically for brains.
- Their bite will cause you to turn into a zombie, even if it doesn’t kill you. It is generally accepted that it is some kind of virus which causes the change.
- The only way to kill a zombie is by causing damage to their brain, typically via a “head shot.”
There has been a huge influx of zombie themed games in the past five to ten years. They are primarily co-operative games where the players compete against the game itself. These types include Zombicide, Last Night On Earth, and All Things Zombie. There are some that pit the players against each other in a bid to be the only survivor. The game Zombies was one of the first. Some also incorporate the traitor mechanic, like Dead of Winter. They all focus on killing zombies.