Board Games: A Good Reason to Gather

Are board games the cure for what ails ya?

According to Quartz writer Annaliese Griffin, they just might be.

She suggests that board games provide a “temporary respite from the problems of 21st-century life.”

By bringing people together — something often lacking from today’s increasingly isolated lifestyles where people interact more through social media than face-to-face engagement — board games become a community builder, a catalyst for socialization.

From the article:

A good board game builds in enough chance so that any reasonably skilled player can win. Even in chess, famously associated with warfare and military strategy, the emphasis is not on who ultimately wins, but on the ingenuity that players display in the process.

In all of these ways, board games release players — however temporarily — from the maxim that life is divided into clear, consistent categories of winners and losers, and that there is a moral logic as to who falls into which category. As film and media studies professor Mary Flanagan tells The Atlantic, board games prompt us to reflect on “turn-taking and rules and fairness.”

[Image courtesy of Catan Shop.]

What’s interesting to me about the article is that she mentions Euro-style games like Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne — which are two of the industry leaders, no doubt — but still games that pit players against each other.

What’s interesting to me about an article that’s meant to be about how board games can make you “a nicer person with better relationships” is that the author focuses exclusively on competitive games. I am a huge fan of a smaller subsection of board games — cooperative games — which invite the players to team up against the game itself. You collaborate, strategize, and work together to overcome challenges, succeeding or failing as a group.

In cooperative games, the glow of your successes are heightened because you get to share them with your teammates. And the failures don’t sting as much for the same reason.

[Image courtesy of Analog Games.]

Co-op games like SpaceTeam, Castle Panic!, Forbidden Island, The Oregon Trail card game, and Pandemic — not to mention many roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons — reinforce the positive, social qualities of all board games. I highly recommend checking them out.

And with the rise of board game cafes like The Uncommons in New York and Snakes and Lattes in Toronto, plus play areas at conventions like Gen Con and events at your Friendly Local Game Shop, there are more opportunities than ever to engage in some dice rolling camaraderie.

You can even make it a regular thing. Every Wednesday, we play a game at lunch time, and it quickly became one of the highlights of the week. (This week, we celebrated winning Forbidden Desert on our Instagram account! I always intend to post something every Game Wednesday, but I often forget because I’m so focused on playing the game.)

Take the time out to enjoy puzzles and games. You won’t regret it.


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Games you can play in a snap!

What’s a puzzler to do when you’re in the mood to play a game, but you don’t have oodles of time available?

You simply don’t have an opening in your schedule wide enough to accommodate a multi-hour bout of Monopoly or a world-endangering round of Pandemic, but you still want a satisfying bit of gaming. Or perhaps you’re traveling and you don’t have room for all the bits and bobs that come with Escape: The Curse of the Temple or the set-up of Burgle Bros.

Well, reach for a quick-play game instead.

I define a quick-play game as any game you can set up and play in 20 minutes or less. Quick-play games can be large or small, travel-friendly or less-than-travel-friendly, but they’re all wrapped up in a pretty tight time limit.

And so, today, I’ll run through some terrific quick-play games. Some are favorites of mine, and others are suggestions from members of the PuzzleNation readership.

Let’s get cracking!


If you’re looking for a quick, relaxing game, Tsuro might be right up your alley. A tile-placement game where up to 8 players take control of flying dragons whose paths intersect, the goal is to stay on the board the longest.

Now, you do need a bit of space to play Tsuro, so it’s not really travel-friendly, but it’s easy to learn and a very satisfying way to pass 10 or 15 minutes.

For a more travel-amenable game that still requires a bit of space to play, you’ve got Bananagrams. The popular variation of Scrabble is perfect for airplane tray tables or intimate tables at the bar if you’re looking for a few speedy rounds of anagramming.

 

Loonacy and Just Desserts are two Looney Labs offerings that can easily slip into a backpack pocket and satisfy up to five players looking to kill 10 minutes or so.

Just Desserts is all about keeping hungry customers happy by matching symbols in your hand to treats they’d enjoy. It’s all about making the best use of the ingredients in your hand to serve treats to as many customers as possible. You’ll probably end up with a sugar craving after five or ten minutes of play.

Loonacy is a fast-reaction pattern-matching game that’s sure to get your adrenaline pumping, as you race to empty your hand of cards before your opponent can. Definitely a solid choice for spicing up a boring wait.

For five minutes of guaranteed puzzly chaos, there’s Spaceteam.

It’s up to you and your fellow players to work together to fix numerous malfunctions on your spaceship, and you have to share your tools to do so. But with everyone talking at once and all sorts of obstacles in your way, things get hectic very quickly. Of course, that only adds to the ridiculous fun of it all.

For a bit more of a thinker, give the Timeline series a shot. Combining short play times with serious replayability, Timeline is all about emptying your hand of cards by properly placing them in a timeline you and your fellow players build. Did the invention of the toothbrush come before or after the invention of the telegraph? You probably don’t know the exact dates, but having a general idea will get you pretty far.

The small metal tins make them easy to transport and stash away where needed. (I have one in my desk as I write this.)

In terms of portability, you can’t get much smaller than Love Letter or one of its many variants. A card game all about deduction and luck, you’re trying to get your love letter into the princess’s hands before one of your rivals can. And with only 16 cards in the entire deck, every action is crucial.

For sheer speed, it’s hard to top Falling.

The entire game only takes about 90 seconds to play, and the idea is simple: every player is plummeting from the sky, and the last player to hit the ground wins. So as the dealer keeps going round and round, adding cards to your pile and coming ever close to dropping those final few GROUND cards, it’s up to you to delay the inevitable as long as possible.

Morbid? A bit. But fun? Oh yes. And the deck is only slightly thicker than your average deck of cards.

Of course, for variety of gameplay, it’s hard to beat that average deck of cards. Games like Speed, Slapjack, and other fast-reaction games can be whipped up in a snap for those who don’t have the patience or the time for Hearts, War, or Go Fish.

But as you can see, there are plenty of other options out there for some quick, puzzly fun.

Are there any favorite quick-play games of yours that I missed? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you!


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You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!