1. Eureka (1988)
Simple and fun, in “Eureka,” you take on the role of a prospector during the Gold Rush. Under each tile is either varying amounts of gold nuggets, bandits, or nothing at all. You also have to contend with other players (who may steal from you) and a steadily moving train, before which arrives you must get your gold back to town. Whoever possesses the most gold by the time the train comes in (or it’s all dug up), wins.
2. The Settlers of Catan (1995)
“Catan” has steadily been gaining momentum in the past few years, but it is still very important that you know about it. In the game, you seek to become the dominant power on an island (whose landscape changes every game), by building settlements, roads, and cities. Resources are produced every turn by rolling dice, which are used for these purposes as well as trade. You win when you acquire ten Victory Points via various means.
3. Dominion (2008)
In “Dominion,” players are dealt a hand of cards, each with varying properties—from gold, to buildings, to soldiers, to spells—and in the middle of the table is a huge selection of those cards, as well as many others. You play the role of a monarch, competing with nearby “kingdoms,” aka the other players. Like Settlers of Catan, you’re trying to solidify your position in the region by any means possible. You win by incorporating lands into your kingdom, and whoever has the most (via Victory Points) when the cards run out, wins.
4. Diplomacy (1959)
“Diplomacy” is a classic game, a more advanced version of “Risk.” The game is purely based on strategy and negotiation, as each move is focused on your interactions with other players as you try to take over Europe (like usual). After you decide your move, you write down the coordinates on a sheet of paper and then they happen—meaning you don’t actually know what your allies or enemies are going to do until it just happens. Beware, you may lose friends over this one.
5. Say Anything (2008)
Like an opinionated “Trivial Pursuit,” in “Say Anything,” you and your friends draw cards that pose questions like “What is the most overrated band of all time?” However, the twist is that the other players make bets on what the card drawer will say, and whoever gets it right (or closest, by debate) gets the points. You can also split your wager between two answers for half the winnings.
6. Go (2200 BC)
While “Go” is, in essence, two players just taking turns laying stones on a grid, the level of depth to the game is actually astounding. It’s been called one of the “most elegant abstract games in history,” a more intense “Chess” or “Chinese Checkers.” You’re trying to claim the most territory by walling off sections of the board and surrounding your opponent’s stones. The game ends when the board fills up or upon a mutually agreed time.
7. Agricola (2007)
“Agricola” is kinda like a board game version of Harvest Moon. You start off as a farmer with a spouse and a shack, and every turn you get to perform two tasks (yours and your spouse’s), such as collecting wood, clay, or stone, constructing things, improving what you already have, etc. You’re trying to build a more successful farm than your opponents, but having kids and a better homestead weighs into the equation as well.
8. Wits & Wagers (2005)
“Wits & Wagers” is essentially a customizable, personalized (for you and your friends) version of “Trivial Pursuit.” Players come up with whatever questions they want—as long as they are based in actual fact—and then the other players bet on whether they know the answer or not. It’s a pretty awesome party game because it’s easy to learn, usually ends in less than a half-hour, and up to twenty people can play in teams.
9. Puerto Rico (2002)
In “Puerto Rico,” you take on the role of a plantation owner in the early days of the Americas’ colonization. Puerto Rico is based around raising crops and the specific types you choose—you want to balance them out based on market price and what your competitors are growing. It’s also important to sell them at the right time and ship them back to Europe while there’s still space on the boat. Like in “Agricola,” you’re trying to build the most successful business.
10. Betrayal at House on the Hill (2004)
“BHH” is a way creepier, way more messed up, and way better version of “Clue”—and that’s a stretch for a comparison. In the beginning, only the entryway of the mansion is revealed. You pick a character, roll dice, and start exploring the house, never knowing what’s around the next corner—whether it be ghouls, ghosts, curses, murderers, or a slew of other horrifying things—especially because one of the players is secretly going to betray everyone. There’s a lot of strategy, and certainly an immense amount of suspense in this one.
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My friends and I always would start a game of Diplomacy during the summer and would never finish it. We’d have to quit because people would start to get pissed… you’re constantly making deals, double deals, backstabbing your allies, etc. It was hard for emotional 14 and 15 year olds to realize it was just a game and not take things personally.
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