Posted on November 25, 2014, Ron Whitaker GameFront’s Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Board Games
While video games are a great pastime, sometimes you want to hang out with your friends and play something a little different. With that in mind, we’ve selected some of our favorite board games for this list. For each one, we’ve noted which genre of video game the board game is closest to.
As a bonus, if you pick up one of these, you’ll have something to do in case the power goes out this winter!
Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate. How else does one control the greatest empire in the entire galaxy? With multiple moving parts and ever changing strategy, it is difficult to find a tabletop game that masters everything 4X video games bring to the table, but Twilight Imperium nails it. Thousands of years ago the galaxy was ruled by the Lazax from their centrally-located capital of Mecatol Rex. After centuries of decline, their empire fell, and the Lazax were seemingly exterminated by their enemies. Now, it is time for a new emperor to arise and unite the galaxy under a single race’s rule once again. Will that new empire be yours?
Pixel Tactics is a head-to-head game of tactical combat for two players, expandable to four simply by purchasing a second set. Each player has an identical deck of 25 cards, from which they randomly draft a leader. The leader’s abilities alter the playability of every other card in the deck and is central to your opening strategy, as each player will then create a battle team of eight heroes to follow their leader into the heat of battle. Will your Vanguard hold the line as your team of mages in the rear attempt to decimate your opponent’s flank? The answer is only one card draw away.
The winner of multiple boardgame awards, Mage Knight combines elements of traditional miniatures wargaming, RPGs and deckbuilding games all into one. Set in an age of magic and might, players will find themselves forging alliances and creating enemies, as they vie for epic conquest of the lands. Forge your own legends and heroes as you play your way through exploration on randomized-title maps, fantasy combat simulation, deck-building and dice-rolling. For the gamer looking for everything awesome about boardgames all in one box, this is the game for them.
Get ready to be the star in your own spaghetti western in this wild west-themed shoot-em-out card game. Each player is randomly assigned the role of either Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff, Outlaw or Renegade. Depending on your role, the objective of the game changes. In stereotypical western fashion, the Outlaws must kill the Sheriff, the Sheriff and his Deputies must kill the Outlaws and Renegades, and the Renegade must be the last character to survive while ensuring the Sheriff dies last. Grab your bullets and load your guns. No one wants to be caught with their pants down when someone yells “Draw!”
Boss Monster is a card game that brings back 16-bit nostalgia while having a tower defense feel with up to four players. Each player assumes the role of a monster that is the boss of a dungeon. The goal is to kill the heroes that enter your dungeon allowing you to collect their soul. Collecting 10 souls ends the game, and the winner is declared. The rounds begin as each of the players build their dungeon one room at a time. The players may elect to build rooms on top of another room to improve it, or quickly reach the five room maximum length to activate their boss monster’s special move. Each boss has their own special move which can only be activated once per game. After the build phase there are heroes that enter each dungeon. The heroes are drawn there by specific treasures; for example, a thief is attracted by gold and a wizard by spell books. This game is fairly easy to learn and can be finished in under an hour. The simplicity of the game allows for good times and conversations around the table rather than being bogged down by intricate rules. After playing four or five games, you will likely never need to look at the rule book again.
In this fast paced miniatures game, you and your team of heroes will dungeon crawl your way to saving the realm of Terrinoth. Descent will pit one Overlord player against hero players as they cooperate to complete a vast array of scenario-specific objectives and take down the Overlord and his minions once and for all. Descent is a super accessible story-driven tabletop adventure all fans of RPGs will enjoy. Ever wanted to get into tabletop RPGs, but can’t find a DM or invest in all those books? Descent is the game that will scratch that seemingly impossible to reach itch.
If you’re a Bioshock Infinite fan, get ready for a new perspective twist. Set during the same series of events as the video game, players this time take on the role of either the Founders and Vox Populi factions, seeking to seize control of Columbia. Gain points from staking your claim to the city’s territories while fighting off your opponents and Booker. You must accomplish all this while trying to influence Elizabeth and attempt to command an army, as well as the Songbird and Airship. In this game, real-time negotiations and strategy is king, so be prepared for a roller coaster.
In the Whitechapel district of London in 1888, an unidentified serial killer was on the loose. Named Jack the Ripper by an anonymous letter written by someone claiming to be the murder, Letters from Whitechapel takes you back in time to those impoverished streets, during the height of his killing spree. One player takes the role of Jack the Ripper, while the rest of the players work together as detectives on the case, pursuing Jack through Victorian London. A game centered around deduction and bluffing, the detectives must hunt down Jack the Ripper before he can kill again or elude them forever. An exercise in cat and mouse, this is one hidden-movement game that will have you on the edge of your seats throughout a murder-filled evening.
A deckbuilding RPG adventure game, Rise of the Runelords is a cooperative game for one to four players. Choose your class and level up your character to enact feats of untold power, as you and your party play through adventures and battle monsters. Customize your deck and increase your character’s power by acquiring new feats, items, allies, and more. Dungeon Masters need not apply.
Strategy gamers everywhere will love playing as one of the many powerful lords vying for control of the City of Splendors, Waterdeep – over and over again. In Lords of Waterdeep, a strategy board game for 2-5 players, you take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city. A German-style board game, a player wins by accruing the most points at the end of 8 rounds. Not sure you can get enough players together to make it worth your while? It’s been recently ported to iOS for only $6.99.