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Ask HN: What are your favorite board games?
56 points by andrewstuart 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 43 comments
Can you recommend some great board games, along with a little about why it's great?



Go. Not modern except as an application of ML. I like to play on the KGS Go Server which also has a bot library/interface. I might use that as an opportunity to try out Rust or some other low-ish level language. I started one in Go (the language) but since I already know it probably isn't worth the laugh.

What impresses me about learning to play Go is that even if I take break of a year and come back to it, I've improved because my ability to organize and think at a higher level has been developing elsewhere. Similarly, when I first started playing the game as I progressed through levels I could see changes in how I approach situations outside the game.

It's been really interesting following the advancements in game research where I could beat any of them to where the Monte Carlo ones got better, then of course AlphaGo and AlphaZero happened. I haven't plateau'ed so long that I lost interest but not near the dan levels yet so don't know if/when that will happen.


Forbidden Desert is one of my favorites for groups of mixed skills. It's a teamwork exercise hidden in a game; you don't necessarily have to know anything esoteric to win the game, but you do have to work together. It does a lot better job of preventing one player from dominating the game than its predecessor, Forbidden Island.

The randomness of the tiles/parts and also the player jobs keeps things fresh.

I personally like Dominion a lot, though it's a card game, not a board game. Deck-building games like that push all the right buttons in me: memorization, statistics, strategy-building, and sheer competitiveness.

For two players, I also really like Jaipur because it pushes a lot of the same buttons and is incredibly simple and a quick play. It's so much simpler and general than Dominion that I feel ok introducing it to people who haven't played card games before (that is, I feel much less like a fox in a chicken coop).


+1 for Forbidden Sky as well, which I think is the sequel to Forbidden Desert. I don't play many board games but had a fantastic time with it recently. It does a good job of making everybody feel included and engaged until the end, whereas most competitive games I feel like it can become clear within the first couple minutes who's going to run away with it.


I just don't like the Forbidden series, I'd try it at a friend's house before you buy.


I have Forbidden Island but haven't tried Desert yet. What is it about Desert that keeps one player from dominating it?


> What is it about Desert that keeps one player from dominating it?

In my experience with Forbidden Island, having the treasures linked to explicit tiles leads to a lot of quarterbacking with some players backing up arguments with "facts" like "you're X tiles away, so you can get there, but we can't, so you need to go there first."

In Forbidden Desert, the airship parts are all hidden in random locations indicated by an intersection of two tiles, which are also hidden. So while a potential quarterback can still say "hey, turn over that tile and move there and do that too," there's much less incentive to give or follow orders because it's randomized. This changes as game and player states (through hands) become more visible to everyone, but it's enough of a difference that I've noticed a definite decreasing in the "mood" of the game and quarterbacking behaviors.

For example, in Forbidden Island, I sometimes suggest a house rule where you could ONLY initiate a conversation with someone if it was your own turn -- that is, nobody could actually jump in and tell you what to do in your turn. I've never found that necessary in Forbidden Desert.


I agree with you so much. Forbidden Desert is one of my go-to first games to the table and I don’t even ask experience. We just begin.


Hanabi is absolutely fantastic, with surprisingly deep gameplay given how simple the rules are.

Basic gist of it: each player has a hand of cards that they hold facing outward so that everyone else can see them. The goal is to work together to play as many cards as you can in each color, in order from 1 to 5. Each player takes turns either giving a limited quantity of hints (indicating all the cards in another player's hand of the same color or number), discarding a card to regain a hint, or attempting to play a card in their hand.


As much as I’m a fan of meaty strategy games like Diplomacy and Game of Thrones, the best games are the ones you actually take out of the closet to play!

Usually I find myself playing in groups where some people are unfamiliar with a given game, so I also prefer games that are fun for new players. For me, those games are:

Pandemic Original or Legacy: one of the best cooperative games I’ve played. Fun for groups or just two players. My wife and I had the best time playing Legacy Season 1 over many months. There’s something so magical about a game that changes AND self destructs as you play it.

Acquire: easy to learn and set up, with the right blend of luck and strategy so that players of mixed skill levels can enjoy together.

Carcassonne: same positives as above with slightly higher learning curve.

Puerto Rico: quite a bit more complex than the above, but relatively accessible and quite fun once you learn the strategy. Takes a game or two to really enjoy.

Blokus: a fantastic informal game for a lunch break. Easy to learn with deep strategy. Quick game best for 4 players.

Eight minute empires: fast paced and easy to learn civilization building game.


+1 for Carcassonne. Easy to learn and good balance between luck and skill. Good to bring while traveling.


+1 for Carcassonne, a great board game, they have an iOS app too that is well done, has been slow to match up with other players lately.


I love playing The Resistance with friends. It’s great because you’re talking the entire time. It provides a good balance between logical problem solving and persuading people around to your (potentially nefarious) way of thinking.

New to my collection is Azul which has been growing on me because of how well made it is and how oddly competitive it gets despite the player interaction being actually quite limited.


The Resistance is awesome, but it's too easy to go postal after some games with some people.


I feel like that's true with all social deduction games. One reason I don't tend to play a lot of them, even though some members of my gaming group love them.


This is a bit of a niche recommendation, but Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 is a fantastic game. For those not familiar, Pandemic is a cooperative game where you work with other players to travel around the globe and stop a global pandemic.

The legacy variant adds new elements of the game which unlock and change the board, characters, and rules as you play. On my opinion, it's best best played with the same group of four people over the course of several months. (Each session takes a couple hours and there will be 12-24 depending on how the game progresses.) I can't speak to the quality of Season 2 as I haven't found a crew to play with yet.


Star Realms is a 15-20 minute deck building game where you build from a shared pool of cards, the standard library. It has a lot of the appeal of games like Magic the Gathering but is much simpler to teach and is a 1-time purchase (though I hear that there are new expansions, which I haven't played.)

Monopoly is an old favorite, I've played it for years. The game is very engaging especially once you've memorized the board, the best properties, the costs, etc. because either you get to play with a massive information advantage or if the other players are equally familiar then you have a really interesting game.


As much as I loved it as a kid, monolopy has been a terrible game as an adult. 9 times out of 10 the "decision" to make when landing somewhere is "buy". There is almost zero strategy, heavily weighted on luck. And due to the nature of its mechanics the game quickly spirals out of control in favor of one player.

And to add insult to injury the game is decided long before it ends, and it's just a bunch of players watching the winner accumulate more while they inevitably go bankrupt.

Yes it has nostalgia, but it's not a good actual game.


The Star Realms expansions can be really fun. We don't use them all of the time, but the hero and event cards add some neat new gameplay mechanics.


I'm an avid, avid player. Multiple times a week, helping run a local meetup, with a multiple-hundreds-games collection that has rapidly expanded to take over my whole living room. That said, there's seven games I've ranked a 10/10:

* Cosmic Encounter -- a zany, crazy game of negociation and dynamic alliances where you can work with your best friend on one turn and find yourself forced to attack him the next. Some of the most hilarious moments of my gaming career have been induced by this game.

* Sidereal Confluence -- a zany, crazy game of trading and engine building where the game is "just" building cubes according to equations on cards ("2 blue cubes and 1 green cube gives you 5 orange cubes") that can then be traded for other cubes with other players. Sounds dry and boring... but manages to turn even deep introverts into a mix of slick used car saleswoman and deep south auction runner.

* Deception: Murder in Honk Kong -- a simple game of social deduction, with 5-12 people trying to find who amongst them is guilty of a horrible murder. Simple mechanics, simple game, another one that turns even introverts into, in this case, strongly opinionated detectives.

* Yokohama -- a Japanese, thinky, planning game involving moving a president meeple on a randomly built map about trading resources in the city of Yokohama. Love the puzzle, the theme and the mechanics.

* Teotihuacan -- a recent release, also thinky planning game involving moving dice instead of meeples, on a less randomly built map about using resources to build the great pyramids of Teotihuacan. Not entirely dissimilar to Yokohama, that one also hits on theme, mechanics and puzzle to solve.

* Clash of Cultures -- the civ board game of connoisseurs. Sadly, requires a deeply out of print expansion to truly shine -- one of the rare civ games with a map, a tech tree, player conflict that can still be played in 2-3 hours and explained in 20 minutes.

* The Colonists -- a city building game that can last 10-12 hours even at just 2. If you've played that way back, its theme is akin Colonization (the game by the Civ team based on colonization of the Americas).

I'd also give honourable mentions to Hanabi, Power Grid, Android: Netrunner, Istanbul, Innovation, Chinatown, QE, Dune, The Mind and Trade on the Tigris.


Cutthroat Caverns: looks like a cooperation game, at the beginning. But since there can be only a single winner, the goal is to start betraying at the right moment. And if it's too soon, everybody can loose

Explosive Kitten: fast-paced card playing games. A lot of randomness, but great fun

Evolution, the origin of species: just played it once, but I liked it a lot. Everything is about card combination

Unstable unicorns: another card game, the goal is to reach a stable of seven unicorns. Each round, one can add a new unicorn to one's stable, if one has a unicorn card. Of course, interventions by other players will make it hard to win the game


A while ago I was on a quest on the perfect board game for me. One which involves very little luck and a lot of strategy. For that reason did I scrape all of them from a page which did rate them and made it possible to sort and filter by that properties.

It is publicly accessible here: https://app.link.fish/#/collection/6B/list/entries/extended


Ah btw. will not work properly on a mobile device.


One Night: Ultimate Werewolf is always popular with bigger crowds. It's streamlined version of Mafia game, with convenient phone app that acts as moderator.

One match lasts no more than 10 minutes, but no one ever wanted to stop after just one game. The game never gets old. There are different roles and variants to mix things up, but even with same setup the player strategies will evolve and develop.


Hanabi - co op solitaire where you can't see your own cards. ~45 minutes, up to 5 players. It is a thinking game - how to give good hints to other players and how to interpret hints from others - did they give me this hint to play this card or do I need more info

Azul - relatively recent game. Tiling game where you take tiles from the center and place them on your own board.

Others that are good and can be played in under an hour: Splendor and if you like Splendor, try Century Spice Road.

7 Wonders

Fleet - bidding on fishing licenses, fishing for fish.

Magic Maze - up to 8 people - 4 meeples exploring a mall to find the items to steal and then escape the mall. The catch is that each player can move any meeple in only one direction, and you can't talk. It's a race against the clock and there are no turns - everyone can move any meeple at any time.

6nimmt - good filler game that can fit up to 10 player with a round taking about 15 minutes. Can be good while waiting for more people to show up.

No Thanks - 30 minutes up to 5 people.

More complex:

Settlers of Catan Russian Railroads - worker placement where you are building out a railroad and/or advancing on a science track

Power Grid - building powerplants and powering them - 3 hour game

Thurn and Taxis - map of Germany and you are building routes thru cities

Suburbia - taking tiles and building out a city

Yellow & Yangtze - only played once recently but liked it. Placing different leaders on the board and tiles and fighting other leaders.

See https://boardgamegeek.com/browse/boardgame for a list of boardgames. See their ranking but also see their complexity rating.

If you're looking to try new games, there may be some boardgame meetup groups(on Meetup.com etc) where people will bring different games and split up and play (and teach) those games.


Not really a board game, but Once Upon a Time is really fun. You tell a fairy-tale-esque story with your friends using a deck of places, things, events, etc. If your friends are creative, it's a whole ball of laughs and you might even make some nice in-jokes to tell each other.


Chess


Speaking of Chess, does anyone know what happened to Chess Academy?¹ I wanted to point someone towards it over Xmas and discovered that it was down (still is).

It looked very promising at the time (I only skimmed through it quickly, possibly about a year ago).

1. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6235450


Seconded. Extremely addictive. Very easy to find a game online anytime. Part of "why it's great" is the neverending amount you can learn about it, the way you can relive and learn from the games of great players back to the 1850s[0] and much earlier, and the chess community/chess world. But what I enjoy most these days is watching grandmaster-commented videos of games and tournaments. And banter blitz, where a GM plays the public while telling you what they're thinking. Just watching them makes you a better player, learning to think like a grandmaster.

My favourites:

Many GMs on chess24 (favs: Gustafsson, Svidler) https://www.youtube.com/user/chess24media/videos#top

Many GMs on St Louis chess (favs: Finegold, Seirawan) club https://www.youtube.com/user/STLChessClub/videos#top

Daniel King analyzes games https://www.youtube.com/user/PowerPlayChess/videos#top

Simon Williams (GingerGM) isn't a top GM, but his enthusiasm/joy in playing is wonderful. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClV9nqHHcsrm2krkFDPPr-g/vid...

Chess24 en español features El Divis, maybe my favourite commentator/player of all. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTzRQxC3i7GOT4jtiTq4e0w/vid...

Chess + internet is a wonderful combination. At the moment is the Wijk an Zee (Tata Steel) tournament, with an incredible lineup. Being able to watch 5-6 hour commentary videos every day from Gustafsson/Svidler (plus their analysis of the best games) is amazing. Chess24's commentary team for the last world championship was even better: Svidler/Giri/Grischuk - all are/were top 10 players and unique characters. What got me into following tournaments years ago was how the commentary is often very funny, not the serious affair you might expect. (Finegold takes that to an extreme, and is often as packed with gags as chess.)

[0] Paul Morphy, the world's best player in the late 1850s, is the earliest player whose games are considered an essential part of chess education.


A bit off topic, but here's a chess variant: piece demotion.

The rules are the same, except when any piece moves to one of that player's original pawn squares, and they have less than all of their pawns on the board, they have the option to "demote" that piece to a pawn.


I can't imagine when demoting a piece would be a good thing to do. Hmm except now king + 2 knights wins against king etc.


And in case it's not obvious, you can only demote your own pieces!


Secret Hitler! It's fun to play with a group consistently and watch the meta evolve over time. Also, yelling at people and telling everyone they are a fascist gives a special feeling.


A very close group of programming friends had years-long fun meta gaming and what not via a similar game, Avalon. It’s a King Arthur re-skin of resistance.

Every year, at every Ruby on Ales, the same group of us organizers, speakers and friends would gather at a house and play Avalon for hours and hours after the conference. So many good memories and wonderful friends were made through that game.


Play online for free/no ads thanks to creative commons: https://secrethitler.io/


I played this twice the other night and enjoyed it, which shocked me because I the Resistance. I'm not sure if there's actually something different about it, or if I just enjoy the novelty of it.


First one that came to mind for me as well! I’ve played Secret Hitler a couple times now with friends, and it’s a bizarre yet fun premise for a game. Especially enjoyable if you and your group are interested in the history it’s based around.


good intro game - Smallworld - It's easy to pick up, the combat is so common you don't feel ganged up on and you go through boom and bust cycles consistently enough everyone feels like they're doing well at some point.

Intense game - Game of thrones board game, For those enthusiasts of the show/ and board games. Be prepared for a steep learning curve and be sure to 5 committed friends or family that are totally okay stabbing each other in the back for 4 hours.


If you have a dedicated group of players, like a group at work, one fun way to play Game of Thrones is to only do one round per day (usually about 30-60 minutes, perfect for a lunch break). It actually breaks the game up well, and builds the intensity. Up to you if negotiations are allowed away from the table!


Powergrid is my favorite free for all game at the moment. If you have enough people together then Scotland Yard is a great 1 vs many game to play as well.


Race for the Galaxy. Wonderfully deep and strategic card game. Learning curve is quite steep but once your in you’ll never get bored.


Citadels: A game of repeatedly drafting different secret roles while trying to puzzle out what your opponents have taken. I don't know how to describe it in a way that makes it sound exciting, except to say that it can be very tense and interactive. The box says 2-7 players, but I don't recommend it with more than three.

Codenames: A fun word association party game. The play area is a grid of 25 words, and two teams compete to identify their team's words based on clues from their "spymaster". It's a good game for large groups, and has lead to many amusing stories we still talk about months later.

Bohnanza is a classic trading game. You're trying to plant beans, and to do that best, you want to play multiple copies of the same bean card in a row. The hitch is that you must play cards in order, and you can't rearrange your hand. You need to trade with other players to wind up with a workable hand.

Sol: Last Days of a Star: This game has some really cool mechanics. Honestly I think it's probably the most exciting euro of the decade. You launch "sundivers" to build infrastructure and exploit the resources of the sun. But your infrastructure can be used by all the other players, who share with you some of its benefits. Your mothership from which your sundivers are launched is constantly moving. You need to carefully time your actions so your sundivers don't waste time flying across the map, or sit idle in the hold. And the game's clock is controlled by players. The deeper you move into the sun, the faster you bring about its destruction, and the end of the game.

Brass (Lancashire) is another mid-heavyweight euro with a cool shared infrastructure mechanic. You're all industrialists in the English midlands circa 1800. Your build factories and mines. What's cool is that these industries do nothing until you can find a market for them, and that market is often generated by the other players. You can build a coal mine, for example, knowing that everybody is soon going to need lots of coal for their railroads, or corner the market in ports and profit when other players go to ship their cotton. But it's also possible to misjudge demand, or be to late to market, and find that your developments are completely worthless.

High Frontier is my favorite simulation-type game. It's about industrializing the solar system. You can build all kinds of rockets (chemical, electric, nuclear, solar heated steam, solar sails, mass drivers...) to fly factory components out to asteroids, moons, or planets, possibly stopping to refuel along the way, if your rocket is equipped for that. The rocket equation is modeled, along with different efficiencies for different kinds of thrusters. The map is innovative in how it presents the trade-offs between delta-v and time for various missions. It's also gorgeous:

https://boardgamegeek.com/image/2585121/high-frontier-third-...


I have many, so in no particular order:

* KingDomino, simple, relaxing, can be played with 4 year old, as well as two tired parents in around 30 minutes. It is a simple game, resulting map of your kingdom can look nice and it has cute art on the tiles :) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/204583/kingdomino

* RailRoad Ink, everybody has a little whiteboard map and every turn somebody rolls some dice to see what kinds of railroad tracks will you need to scribble into the grid of your map. It is a nice puzzle, you score points for connecting pre-printed railroad exits on the edges on your map, but you only know four pieces of the railroad grid at the time. It is quick (after seven rolls of four dice, you are done), and if you are lucky, your map can look really nice in the end. Only drawback is, that everybody solves the puzzle on his own, and I do like boardgames where you interact a bit more :) Second drawback is, that the puzzle itself is too complicated for my 4 year-old :D https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/245654/railroad-ink-deep...

* Carcasonne, a classic. Another tile-laying game, where you slowly build up a map dotted with many walled cities (hence the name :) You can claim an unfinished city or road or a field with your meeple to claim points, but if it happens i.e. two unfinished cities belonging to two players are connected to form a single whole, the player that has more meeples in the city scores points. This creates a fun dynamic of complicated city take-overs (because you can't just invade, right, you build next-door and hope for a city- connecting tile) My wife managed to get the big box, with several expansions, and even though it is longer than other games we use to play, we play this fairly regularly. And the map at the end of the game can look really nice (I am starting to see a trend :P) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/822/carcassonne

* PatchWork - a slightly abstract puzzle, reminds me of tetris a bit, playable in 20 minutes for two players, but it still retains the "Don't you take that tile, I need it for my board!" that can be fun :)

* Hero Realms - a reasonably quick deck-building card-game. I use it to scratch my magic-the-gathering itch :) And when you get a good card-combo going it can be really satisfying :) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/198994/hero-realms

* Colt Express - a wild-west-train heist game. Weirdly we found it fun only when playing as two players or more than four :D With several players, the game devolves into comedy of errors, you everybody trying to get the best of their foiled plans. With two players, the experience is much more tactical, as you play as a team of two thieves on the train, giving you bigger chance to plan and anticipate the oponent. Feeling of actually executing your plan in this game is amazing :) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/158899/colt-express

* Hive, probably the last game we actually get to the table at home, a interesting, chess-like game for two players. Unfortunately, the first player seems to have a big advantage? We still like it :-) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2655/hive

* Ticket To Ride, that we no longer have at home, but if I ever make space for the big box, I might get it again :-) Connecting USA with rails is fun, hoping your oponents don't snatch the one route you need is exciting, and scoring points for your networked cities you were tasked to connect is rewarding. Only thing I don't like that much is the way you build the tracks by collecting cards of the same color, that can take too long. At least it is simple enough to play with casual board-gamers. https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/9209/ticket-ride

* SmallWorld, the game I enjoyed the most while still at high-school (even though we played Bang much more) It is really well balanced for all the numbers of players and the gimmic of trying to choose the most overpowered race available is fun :) https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/40692/small-world

* PowerGrid, probably the heaviest economic game I have played. Trying to power half of germany with you electric company can be a mind bending puzzle, then you add a layer of trying to out-bid your opponents to get the good power-plant, and moment later you realize you bid too high, you won't have resources to run the power-plant and your opponent could get his plant really cheap :D https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2651/power-grid

* SecretHitler, the game we played the most at the office at my previous team? Reasonably quick, rules are simple and hidden-role games are nice for large groups of players https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/188834/secret-hitler (runner-up would probably be Coup https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/131357/coup)

* GalaxyTrucker, the epitome of "Loosing is fun". You cobble together a space-ship and then you fly through various hazards and in the end your ship is barely standing, but hey, you survived :D If you liked FTL and don't mind randomness, it is a great game. Only drawback is, that if build too good of a ship, the game stops being fun. We tried to solve this with my cousin by limitting the time you have to build the ship even more and then we even hacked togegether a PVP phase where we destroy each other's ship with all those weapons you'd usually use to defend against pirates and asteroids :D And it does scratch my itch of "look at all these tiles laying besides each other, my monstrosity of a sip is beautiful" :D

Man, almost a 1000 words just listing some of my favourite boardgames. And I might keep going. I should probably start a blog :D


I use to be taught this game with different kinds/colors of rice/porridge beans, by my mother's youngest sister, that year's later I came to find was actually my older sister.

It was similar to what later I came to discover was sold as Hasbro Mastermind[1]. Some border smuggling at the top of the cold war gave me access back then to this other game aswell, that I enjoyed playing with my sisters and we still sometimes remember it to this day: Supremacy[2]

1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastermind_(board_game)

2-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supremacy_(board_game)

:How could I forget this one,that's is not exactly a board game, but is perfect in a spree of fun to get everyone's drunk with a shot of takju everytime someone looses, and you play with regular playing cards, as I always did, not necessarily buy the expensive branded one that I found years later(again?) to exist, But try to keep your clothes on.

3-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uno_(card_game)




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