Put down your electronic devices and turn off your computers, geeky girls, and go crowd around a flat surface tomorrow, because Saturday, April 5th is International Tabletop Day! All manner of board and card game events are scheduled to entertain across the world, and you can even follow Wil Wheaton and Felica Day who will stream their own tabletop event. Or maybe you would rather participate yourself and play some tabletop games! Here’s a short list of recommendations in case you feel like you have outgrown Monopoly, and want to try something more complicated than what you can find at a big chain store.
I’ve ranked these five games in order of complexity and time required for a play through, so keep reading if you want a challenge!
5. Ghost Blitz
Number of players: 2-8
This game can be played with friends of all ages, as the rules are super simple, but the more agile players will definitely have an advantage! The game consists of a thick deck of cards and five miniatures made of wood that are all different shapes and colours: one is a white ghost, one is an animal, and the other three are household objects, but they all fit easily into your hand. I’m not listing the objects that are depicted in the image below, because though the image is of the original Ghost Blitz contents, there are different versions and a Ghost Blitz 2 that has different items as well.
On each card there is an illustration that contains a depiction of two of the miniatures, but they may not be the same colour as the actual model. The objects should be arranged in a circle in the centre of your table (or floor!) so it requires the same amount of effort for all players to grab. A dealer out of the players is designated, and after the deck is properly shuffled, the cards are revealed one at a time, and the players need to figure out which miniature to grab according to the card. The player who grabs the right item gets to keep the card as a point, and if a player grabs the wrong item, they have to give the player who was correct a card as a penalty. Simple, right? The faster you are, the better!
But how do you determine what’s the correct item to grab so you get the card? Whatever is not represented in the illustration in either colour or shape should be snatched up! There’s another catch, though, since some cards will have an object represented correctly in both shape and colour. When that’s the case you go for the fully matching miniature!
Depending on how easily players can adapt their thought process to determine what miniature matches “what’s not on the card” or “what matches the card,” the game could become a modified version of Slap Jack; yelping, crashing hands, and scratched fingers included. Ghost Blitz is fast paced and forces you to revise your logical thinking, so it can definitely be harder for some people, but once you pick it up, I’m sure you won’t be able to put it down! Smack talk definitely adds to the experience.
Number of players: 5-10
If you like talking lots of smack then The Resistance or The Resistance: Avalon is the game for you! They are both played the same way, with the same rules, and are only differently themed. Avalon is Arthurian themed and features Merlin and even Morgana. The Resistance is sci-fi themed and features evil Imperial Spies planted within the Resistance Operatives. Both games pit Good against Evil, and it’s up to the players to know and play their roles, trick their enemies, and deduce who’s who.
Depending on the number of players, different roles can be added or subtracted. All roles are randomly assigned to players, and should be kept secret. However, some roles are privy to special information, such as leader of the Good faction has the special ability to inherently know which out of the players is Evil, except for the leader of the opposing group. All players assigned an evil role in turn know who is also evil.
The aim of the Good is to go on hypothetical missions that are supposed to cripple the Evil that is oppressing them, knowing there are spies among them. However, they still have to pick players to go on the missions, and may very well pick someone who is evil. The game is designed to include an element of democracy where every player takes turns choosing who gets to go on missions, but everyone gets to vote whether or not the group chosen should actually go on the mission. If majority votes the party should be trusted, but there is actually a spy, they can sabotage the mission, create mistrust, and be one step closer to victory.
It’s up to the Evil doers to lie and use their guile to persuade the Good guys to trust them, while the Good must try to deduce who the spies are from votes and mission results, and subtle hints from their hidden leader. Will you be able to make your friends seem like the gullible fools that they are, or will you be the savant who knows exactly who not to trust?
3. Quarriors! The Game of Uber Strategic Hexahedron Monster Combat Mayhem
Number of players: 2-4
Quarriors is a “deck building game” much like Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh, or Pokémon, except you don’t need to buy booster packs, and your “deck” consists of only die! There are still cool monsters, wicked spells, and a special resource (quiddity) to help you buy dice to beef up your deck.
All players start off with a bag and the basic monster, spell, and quiddity die. A set number of random spells and monsters are set up in the middle of the playing field and are the spells and monsters that can be acquired into your ever growing pool of die to beat your opponents! But you better be smart and strategic about it, since there is the meager limit of five dice for every spell and monster. If you don’t prioritize, an opponent may buy all the good stuff before you can get enough of them to increase chances of you drawing the dice. So what is it that you do as a Quarrior aside from buying die?
Each turn you get to draw six die from your bag and roll it. There are a plethora of possibilities depending on what die you draw, but the basics are you either roll some monsters, spells, or quiddity. Monsters can be summoned with the quiddity that you roll, and spells either enable you to draw more dice, sacrifice something to gain something, or buff your monsters. You can also use any left over quiddity to acquire more die for your deck, and then the next player takes their turn. If the monster you summoned doesn’t get taken down by the monsters summoned by other players, then rejoice! You get glory points for your pet surviving the round!
To win you only need to reach a certain number of glory points, which scales according to the number of players. However, if everyone is doing a great job of decimating each other’s monsters, then the game ends when three different types of dice are all bought up. At that point, whoever has the most points wins.
The mechanics of this game are really well thought out, and it has a balanced mix of luck and strategy. Obviously, each set of die won’t all have the monster or spell on every face; that would defeat the purpose of rolling the dice! You can plan a specific way to build your deck, but in the end if you don’t roll the faces you want on the die, you may never be able to defeat other players’ monsters or get enough quiddity to buy the things you want.
Quarriors is so successful that four expansions have already been released! I’ve played with all the expansions and I love it not only for the game play, but the dice are just so darn pretty!
Number of players: 2-4
Boss Monster is a deck building game that was released earlier this year, and same as Quarriors, does not require you to buy any booster packs, but game play is infinitely different. Instead of playing a hero or good guy this time, you are actually a boss monster! You feed off of hero souls so your mission is to build an elaborate dungeon that has the right types of treasure to lure in heroes, but also kill them in the process so you get their soul. Whenever a boss monster collects 10 souls, they win! However, if your dungeon attracts too many heroes and they survive your dungeon, you get wounded, and five wounds means you’re defeated. Pesky heroes… Not only that but all the other boss monsters in the area want souls, too! It’s every boss for themselves!
Every player is dealt a random boss monster with a unique one-time-use ability and an experience points amount. The ability is triggered the first time you reach the maximum number of five rooms in your dungeon, and the experience points is just a fun way of indicating turn order. There are three other types of cards: rooms, spells, and heroes. Spells are harder to get a hold of, but you get to draw a new room card every round. Heroes are split into five classes and are either regular heroes (lower range of health points), or epic heroes (lots more health points).
The tricky thing about building your own dungeon with randomly acquired cards is that you have to build with what you have, and that may mean your dungeon doesn’t do a lot of damage, or you keep drawing rooms that only have treasure that appeal to thieves and mages when all the heroes in town are fighters and clerics. Heroes are revealed before you build the one room you are allowed each turn, however, so you can plan a little bit ahead, but if another player has more rooms that appeal to the fighter and cleric, that means no heroes will be attracted to your dungeon, and you don’t get any souls (sadface). It’s still a double edged sword though, because your opponents may attract more heroes, but their rooms don’t do enough damage to kill the heroes or they don’t have spells to help out, so they end up getting wounded. Or maybe you have a spell that disables one of their rooms so that they’re forced to be wounded! Now you’re acting like a real boss monster!
The art for Boss Monster is 8-bit style and the cards have plenty of allusions to nostalgic video games. The packaging is also an homage to SNES cartridge boxes and the expansion (That’s right! There’s already an expansion!) even looks like a Gameboy cartridge box! If you don’t want to stray too far from video games this Saturday, I would suggest trying out Boss Monster.
Number of players: 1-8
Zombicide is one of the most complicated board games I’ve ever played. Some of you more experienced board game geeks may scoff at me and say something like, “Whatever, you’ve never even tried Arkham Horror,” but considering all the other games in this list can be completed in an hour or less (Ghost Blitz in even less than 10 minutes!), Zombicide is in a class all its own. I like interesting and complicated tabletop games nonetheless, of course, but players beware that depending on the number of players participating, and which mission you choose, set aside at least two hours from the time of completing setup to either a) accomplish your goal, b) get wiped out, or c) want to start over.
Zombicide is unique in that all players work together to survive the zombie apocalypse that has befallen their city, and each player gets to choose a different character to play that has a particular skill tree. You gain new skills by killing zombies and upping your danger meter, which makes you even more efficient at killing zombies or finding supplies, but also affects how many zombies spawn on the board. The zombies themselves are moved according to a specific protocol, and like the show Walking Dead, there are walkers, but there are also other more dangerous types like runners, fatties, and the dreaded Abomination. Each type are either faster, harder to kill, or extra hard to kill. It’s almost like the video game Left4Dead, but for tabletop.
One of the most wonderful things about Zombicide is the quality of its pieces. The game board is made with sturdy square pieces of map that are double sided and can be rearranged into a plethora of different maps for different missions. Not only does the base game come with maps and missions in the manual, their website has more for free as well, or you can look up missions fans have designed meaning you can even design your own. Not only do you get character cards to track your kills and your skills, each character also has their own unique miniature, meaning zombies are detailed miniatures as well. When you’re an hour into a game and the board is flooded with maybe three dozen zombies, it really ramps up the tension as you and your friends strategize on a way to escape, or maybe one will elect to sacrifice themselves so the others can complete the mission.
Zombicide currently has two full expansions that could be combined or played separately, and when combined, can accommodate up to 12 players. They also add in more interesting elements like toxic zombies that can wound players if they are in the same vicinity when the zombie is killed, or players actually turn into sentient zombies after receiving the two wounds that usually takes you out of the game. There are also other extras you can buy like adding in dogs, exclusive characters, and new map tiles. You can probably expect a 12 player game on an expert or hardcore mission to take up pretty much half a day, but be assured that it will be tons of zombie-dispatching fun!
If you’re looking for more of a timeless classic to play with younger friends and family, you will want to check out this article on Settlers of Catan, a great game to initiate the Hasbro-only board gamers in your life! Other fun and family-friendly card games also include Munchkin and Love Letter.
Video games are fun, but tabletop games let you actually stare down the friend who just decided to screw you over. Whatever you choose to play tomorrow, on International Tabletop Day (be sure to check out the site if you want to see what events are happening near you and for places to buy these cool games!!), I bid you lucky rolling, lucky drawing, and happy strategizing! Let me know what you’re bringing to your tabletop in the comments below!