1. 1. King of Tokyo
Why you should play it: Essentially Godzilla on steroids, you assume control of a monster and play “King of the Hill” against your friends to see who can hold Tokyo the longest. Add crazy power ups (poison tail, toxic cloud) and some excessively fun to roll huge dice and you have a game that can appeal to a large group of people without taxing them mentally.
Players: 2-6 (2-8 with expansion sets)
Who to play it with: Precocious nephews and nieces, your cousins who won’t leave their bedrooms.
3. 2. Libertalia
Why you should play it: Pirates! Everyone loves pirates and everyone likes collecting booty. Even more fun that loot is taking it away from your friends. Highly tactical, immensely competitive and a nice new take on the pirate genre.
Who to play it with: Your fellow buccaneers, your aunt who gave you that crappy sweater for Christmas, anyone who gave anyone socks.
5. 3. Race for the Galaxy
Why you should play it: Race for the Galaxy is a deck building game in which you a competing against other friends to amass a certain amount of points through resource and technology management. A bit competitive solitaire with a touch of Magic the Gathering, Race for the Galaxy is a nice calm game that will preempt any arguments as any mistakes you make are your own.
Who you should play it with: Your grandparent who love Canasta, your relative with all of Deep Space 9 on DVD, Neil deGrasse Tyson.
7. 4. Ladies and Gentlemen
Why you should play it: Part role-playing, part farce, all fun. You and a partner take the role of a Lady and Gentlemen and proceed to attempt to become the most fashionable couple in London. f it sounds sexist, it would be if the game wasn’t so hysterical and absurd. You spend most of your time deriding other couple’s fashion sense, bickering over what items to buy and spending much of the time talking about hats. It escapes its constraints and becomes a ridiculous fun time for all.
Who to play it with: Friends who own haberdasheries, people who like feathers on everything, a group of people who don’t take things too seriously.
9. 5. Rise of Augustus
Why you should play it: Age of Augustus is a ramped up Catan in which you are competing for resources to finish projects in different provinces of the Roman Empire. You do so by mobilizing your legions to complete certain objective tasks with the overall goal to become Consul of Rome. The game is fast paced, easy to learn and is perhaps the most easily accessible game on this list.
Who to play it with: Your entire family or people you are tired of losing to in Catan
11. 6. Love Letter
Why you should play it: Love letter is a game that consists of 16 cards. That is it. With those 16 cards you play over a period of rounds to see who can get their letter to the Princess. Why the game is simplicity personified, the game can get tense as you start to try to thwart the the advances of the leading suitor. For a game with so few pieces, there is a surprisingly large amount of tactics and psychological brinksmanship that occurs during each session.
Who to play it with: Your romantic friends, card game fiends, people who like court politics.
13. 7. A Few Acres of Snow
Why you should play it: The French and Indian War might not hold a lot of appeal for historians or board game players, but a Few Acres of Snow manages to create a gripping game that demonstrates just how different the English controlled colonies were from the French. Want to get to Quebec by boat if you’re the English? Tough, because only the French know how to use the waterways and canoes. Want to lead a massive invasion of Baltimore? Also hard because the French were paupers compared to the British. The game is well balanced, considers the role that Native Americans played in the early colonial struggle and is a ton of fun.
Difficulty: It takes a few turns but the play becomes intuitive. Medium difficulty.
Who to play it with: The history buff in your family or anyone with an interest in the geography of Maine.
15. 8. Tokaido
Why you should play it: A game can be a visual work of art as much as it is a “game.” Tokaido is a simply beautiful to look at and the game is a soothing one in which you and other players take the role of a pilgrim/tourist who is journeying through Japan and collecting souvenirs. Its like a really calm Candyland with a bit more strategy.
Difficulty: Instruction are hard to interpret at first so we shall say…..medium.
Who to play it with: Friends on a cold Sunday morning when you are all dreaming about your vacations abroad.
17. 9. Andean Abyss
Why you should play: Games should be fun, but they can also be informative. In Andean Abyss you play one of four factions (the Government, right wing AUC, left wing FARC, or the Cartels) in attempting to control a ravaged mid-90s Colombia. As a player controlling the Government do you make a deal with the Cartels to get rid of the Communist FARC? Can you stomach partnering with the right wing AUC to topple the government? Andean Abyss makes you think and is less of a game then a really interesting history lesson that asks an incredibly complex “What If?”
Who you should play it with: Play with history buffs on a day where hopefully something terrible isn’t happening in the world which reminds you of how terrible humanity can be on average.
19. 10. Mage Knight
Why you should play it: Vlaada Chvatil is considered a genius among the board game community. His game are intense, complicated and play tested to perfection. Mage Knight is a combination deck building card game / standard board game and imagination adventure in which you take the part of a Mage looking to conquer three towers. The interesting part is that success is NOT guaranteed but the story of your mage evolving trumps “winning” the game.
Difficulty: Let’s put it this way…the instructions tell you to read them, read them again and then play through BY YOURSELF before even attempting to introduce the game to your friends. So…DIFFICULT.
When to play: Christmas Eve with all your gung-ho family members so that when your grandparents come down the stairs at 7AM they find four groggy people flipping over cards and yelling about fireballs. Ruin Christmas, it will be awesome.