Board Game Night is a pretty common at-home date night suggestion, but then you look at your game selection and don’t really feel like fighting with your spouse over Boardwalk and Park Place yet again. Maybe you really stink at Scrabble or your spouse refuses to play another round of Uno after the great “Draw Four Wild” incident of ‘09. In the time of COVID-19, finding ways to stay entertained at home is paramount. Board games really can be an awesome date night or family activity and there are so many more out there than the classics from your childhood.
Here are some tips on how to pick a solid game, where to find them (including small businesses near each submarine duty station), and some of my favorite games to start with.
Where do you start?
Search board games on the internet and you will go cross-eyed looking at all the different options. So how do you narrow it down? Ask yourself a few questions before you start adding things to your cart. Who is going to play? Are you looking for a two player date night game, one for a group of roommates, or something family-friendly that the kiddos can join in on? Next, are you going for competitive or cooperative? In competitive games each person has their own role and fights to be the winner. Cooperative games involve everyone working together for a common goal to win as a group.
These games work well for two players or with more people.
- Pandemic (2-4 players): This is what my spouse and I call our go-to “gateway game” to get people into board gaming. The theme is definitely on point for 2020: work together to place CDC research centers and cure the four diseases overrunning the world. The game sets up differently every time which means you’ll never get the same game twice.
- Burgle Bros (1-4 players): Just like Pandemic, this game always has a different set up which makes it fun to replay over and over. You’re a group of burglars working together to explore a building, find the safe, crack it open, and make it out before security catches you! Burgle Bros. is also available as a video game on Steam that you can play with friends during a virtual game night.
- Mythos Tales/Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective: These are similar games with different themes. As a group of detectives, you are working a case with Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Henry Armitage. Using maps and directories, you choose places to visit and are given clues to unravel the mystery. You have a rough idea of the case you’re solving but the twist is you don’t actually know the questions you’re trying to answer until the end! Only one person needs a copy of the clue book for these games which makes them a great option to play with a group over video chat.
Two Player (these games are made for only two players)
- 7 Wonders Duel: Go head-to-head to gather resources, build armies, and create the wonders of the world. As you move through different ages of history, decide if you’re going to build up your military, wealth, or science. Any of these can win you the game but your opponent is doing the same and can overtake you any time!
- Fox in the Forest: This game is Spades for two people and with prettier cards. As you play this trick-taking game, follow the twists on the cards to help yourself or mess up your opponent. This game is quick to set up and doesn’t need a lot of space to play.
- Memoir ‘44/Undaunted Normandy: Don’t write these off immediately just because they’re “war games.” Both have different set ups and play styles, but in each you’re facing off in stylized versions of major WWII engagements. Play cards to move your soldiers around the board, earning points for each position you take. Both games are very easy to learn and perfect entries into board gaming.
Multi Player (these games are for two or more players)
- Disney Villainous: This one is fun for so many reasons! Play as your favorite Disney villain to defeat the hero and win the game. This one is unique because you’re really playing your own individual game and trying to win first, while throwing down fate cards to mess up and slow down your opponent. It’s a family-friendly theme that is fun for older kids, too. We love to put on Disney soundtracks while we play this one!
- Small World: This is one of my favorite competitive games! Play as a fantasy race with special abilities to take over the game board. As your race runs out of warriors, switch to a new one and keep up the domination! This game looks complicated but is one of the easiest ‘harder’ games to get the hang of. This game is for ages 8+ so another awesome family option for game night.
- Ticket to Ride: Like Pandemic, this is a great entry into the world of board games. Each player competes to build their railroads across the map and collects tickets for each route successfully completed. Easy setup, quick to learn rules, and an ages 8+ recommendation adds this game to the family-friendly list. There’s also a My First Journey version for younger kids!
Want a challenge?
These games are the next step up if you’re looking for something more challenging from your board game adventures. Each of these is a little more expensive, a longer time commitment to play, and come with bigger rule books but the time is worth it for the hours of fun you’ll have learning and playing!
- Fog of Love: Suspend all knowledge of your real relationship and dive into a new character as you and your spouse play through the stages of a new relationship, making decisions that will determine if you stay together or break up (in the game!) in the end. This game plays like a romantic comedy and is such a fun chance to stretch your acting chops. Spouse is deployed making a relationship game sound like a bummer? Not so! It’s just as fun to play with a friend and oddly enough super fun to watch if you have a group because everyone starts to get invested in the characters you create.
- Mansions of Madness Second Edition: Of all the listed games this is probably the biggest investment in time and money. As investigators in a Lovecraft style world, you work together to explore and solve the mystery you’re presented with through the game’s companion app. This game is HARD and we’ve had to adapt some house rules to make it more manageable but with a fun theme and a cooperative atmosphere, you won’t mind replaying scenarios to eventually beat the monsters!
- A Game of Thrones The Board Game: When we first started dating, my spouse and I played hours of this game with his roommate. We would have it set up on the kitchen table and play it randomly when we had coinciding hours off. And going back to the origins of the story takes away some of the sting left by the HBO show. You need at least three players which doesn’t make this great for a date night but perfect if you have roommates or older teens in the house. Play as a house from the story to fight over Westeros and find yourself atop the Iron Throne by game’s end.
Where can I buy these awesome games?
Please support your local game store listed below! Contact your store to double check but many allow you to order over the phone/online and pickup curbside. Most times if they don’t have a game in stock, they’ll happily order it for you! For online orders, Cool Stuff Games and Fun Again Games are both small, online game retailers who ship worldwide. Cool Stuff’s Jacksonville, FL store offers curbside pickup for free if you’re near Kings Bay.
Groton: Citadel Game Cellar
Norfolk: Atlantis Games & Comics
Bangor: The Dragon’s Hoard Games
San Diego: Pair A Dice Games
Pearl Harbor: Other Realms Ltd.
Guam (yes, even Guam has a board game store): New Box Seats
What board games do you like to play? Comment below!