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Board Games For When You’re Social Distancing

Look, the idea of being confined to your home for 14 or more days might not be the most exciting thing in the world. Even if you are healthy, the risk of going out probably isn’t worth it in the long run. So… if you’re stuck in the house with your family, why not have a little fun. Board games are always a great option, but will another game of Monopoly start World War 3? Here are just a few of the games that you can definitely play with the family during this time of social distancing.


Modern Classics

Pandemic

Image: Board Game Geek – Matthais Cole

(2-4 Players | 45 minutes | 8+, Solo? Sure)

This one is a little too on the nose (DON’T TOUCH YOUR NOSE). In this cooperative game, players work together to cure and/or eradicate four different diseases spreading across the earth. Move across the board removing disease cubes from infected cities, but watch out for the Pandemics, which will take your current infected cites and put them at the TOP of the infection deck. This means you’ll see more disease pop up in cities already infected. If you ever have to place a 4th disease cube on a city, there’s an outbreak and every connected city gets a disease cube instead. Cure all four diseases before too many outbreaks, or before one disease has completely taken over!


Ticket To Ride

Image: Board Game Geek – Randatollah

(2-5 Players | 30-60 minutes | 8+ |  Solo? No, but you can play against Alexa | Find on Amazon)

In 2004’s Game of the Year, players will try to place trains to claim different routes across the United States. On your turn, you have three options: Draw two cards from the face up array, place trains on the board by playing cards matching the number and color of the route you want, or draw new destination tickets. Your destination tickets give you points at the end of the game if you have connected the two cities shown. However, if you can’t complete the ticket, you lose that many points at the end of the game. If you’re already familiar with Ticket to Ride, check out their expansion maps, of which there are 7 map packs, with 2 maps each.


Catan

(Photo: Board Game Geek – Khin T. Khine)

(3-5 Players | 45-90 minutes | 10+ | Solo? No | Find on Amazon)

Now 25 years old, Catan (formerly Settlers of Catan) is absolutely a modern classic. Be the first player to 10 points by building cities, settlements and roads on the island of Catan. At the beginning of the game, you’ll place two settlements on the board, and every turn dice are rolled and resources are collected based on which numbers are rolled. You’ll need to trade resources around (wood for sheep?) to be able to build roads and cities, further dominating the board. You’ll also be able to score for building the longest road, as well as points from development cards you can purchase with your resources. There’s a reason this game has been around for as long as it has, but be prepared, as it may cause a few fights if someone gets a little sour in not getting trades.


Great for Kids

Dragon’s Breath

 

Photo: BoardGameGeek – HABA

(2-4 Players | 15-20 minutes | 5+ | Find on Amazon)

HABA is the king of kid’s games. In 2018’s Kids Game of the Year, kids are trying to correctly predict gems that will fall out of the ice tower. In turn order, they will look at the tower and pick one of the 5 gem colors (no color will get picked twice). After colors are chosen, the top ring of the tower will be lifted, and players will get to keep any gem of their color on top of the board. They might be unlucky however, if one of their gems falls in the holes on the board, lost forever. The game teaches decision making and critical thinking as they choose the color of the gems.


Outfoxed

Image: Board Game Geek – Heath Washburn

(2-4 Players | 15 minutes | 5+ | Find on Amazon)

In Outfoxed, players work together in to gather clues to figure out who stole Mrs. Plumpert’s pie. Roll dice to try and search for clues or reveal suspects, gathering as much information as possible before the wily fox gets away. Searching for clues allows you to see what the suspect may or may not have been wearing, so you need to remember as new possible suspects become available. While I haven’t played this myself, I’ve heard a lot of gamer parents who really recommend this one.


Ice Cool

Image: Board Game Geek – Fiona Dickenson

(2-4 Players | 30 Minutes | 6+ | Find on Amazon)

Ice Cool (and Ice Cool 2) is a dexterity game for kids. The game box contains a bunch of smaller boxes that you can configure in different ways to make a bunch of different courses. In this one on many game, one player will play the chaser, trying to bump in to all the other players. The other players will try and flick their penguins through doorways and collect fish of their color. The neat thing about the penguins are their bases, which if you flick them different ways, you can get them to curve, or even bounce OVER door ways. You can get Ice Cool and Ice Cool 2 to combine them to make a huge game.


Escape Room & Mystery Games

Unlock

(1-6 Players | 60+ minutes | 10+ | Find on Amazon)

The UNLOCK! series is a catalogue of escape room style adventures. In each adventure, you will receive a deck of 60 cards that you are not allowed to look through before the game begins. At the start, you will draw the top card off the deck, read the start of the story, then take the card it tells you to start with. From that point, you can grab any card which may be referenced (by number) on the starting card. Some cards can be joined together (like a lock and a key), to progress you further through the game. UNLOCK! is accompanied by an app, which not only keeps track of time, but where you will have to also enter codes, and potentially use the phone as part of the puzzle. Once you’re finished, you can put the deck back together and give it to a friend for them to try.


EXIT: The Game

(1-4 Players | 60+ minutes | 12+ | Find on Amazon)

Much like Unlock, EXIT also provides an Escape Room style mystery in a box. Each games comes with a booklet, some tools, help cards and answer cards. However, unlike UNLOCK!, you will also need something to mark with and scissors, as you will be potentially cutting or tearing items in the game. While that does definitely make this a single-use product, it does provide a challenge for around $12-15. At this point there are about 15 or so different EXIT games, which will provide plenty of mysteries while you’re stuck in the house.


Recent Releases

Watergate

(2 Players | 30-60 Minutes | 12+ | Find on Amazon)

In this outstanding two-player game from Capstone Games, one player will play as President Nixon, while the other will serve the Newspaper Editor (Washington Post). Each round, players will use the cards in their hand to play a tug of war over evidence, momentum, and initiative. Cards can be used two ways. You can use it for the movement value at the top of the card, or you can use it for the very powerful action on the bottom. However, most actions force you to remove the card from the game after its use. At the end of each round, you gain any momentum, evidence or initiative that is on your side of the track. To win, Nixon needs 5 momentum tokens by the end of the game, while the press needs to connect evidence from Nixon to two informants on the board. If the Editor wins evidence, they may place it face up on the board on any spot that matches that evidence’s color. If Nixon ever wins evidence tokens, he may place them face down on the board, blocking the press from making important connections.  Again, this is a great two-player game, and the rule book also provides a lengthy section of the actual history of Watergate.


Parks

(1-5 Players | 30-60 minutes | 10+ | Find at Barnes & Noble )

Just because you’re quarantined, it doesn’t mean you can’t visit all of the beautiful National Parks. In parks, players control two hikers traveling down a trail. Each spot on the trail provides different resources (Sun, Trees, Mountains), which you will later spend to visit National Parks. The challenge comes in to parts: 1) you can never be on the same trail spot as someone else (or yourself), 2) You may never go backwards. So you have to plan out how far you really want to move ahead on the trail, knowing you can’t go back to get missed resources. You can also spend sun tokens to buy gear, which helps make parks cheaper to visit, or gain extra resources. It’s an absolutely beautiful game, and is about as peaceful to play as it is to look at. Also: there are facts about each park on the bottom of the cards, so you can consider it a learning experience as well!

If you can’t find it reasonably online, check your local game store or Barnes and Noble, who have a B&N exclusive version.


Cities Skylines – The Board Game

(1-4 Players | 70 minutes | 10+ | Find on Amazon)

Named after the popular computer city building game, Cities Skylines, consider this game as a version of SimCity in a box. Players work together to build the happiest city. Starting with one section of the city, you will play cards that represent some sort of residential, commercial, or industrial district. Each card will have you place a tile of that type on the board (tetris-style), but will also provide a positive and/or negative benefit. Maybe a residential zone will provide you with more people, but crime also might go up at the same time. Then you might have to build a police station, which will make crime go down, but you might have to spend money to get it. The game is a giant balancing act of resources, but really does make you think of all those hours you played in SimCity years ago.


The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Image: Board Game Geek – Elsbeth

(2-4 Players | 45 minutes | 10+ | Find on Amazon)

In 2018’s Game of the Year, The Quacks of Quedlinburg, you play as Quack Doctors making potions in your pot one ingredient at a time. You start the game with a bag of ingredients, and you will blindly draw them from your bag to make your potion. Each token has a different value, allowing to move that many spaces further on your track. You will press your luck to get as many ingredients in your pot as you can without drawing more than a value of 7 white tokens, otherwise your pot will explode. The further you get in the pot by the end of the round, the more money you get to spend on new ingredients for your bag, each with a different special power. This game provides a lot of great moments of trying to remember what might be left in your bag, and the probability that you pull out that one token that makes your pot explode.


What games have you been playing so far while social distancing? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Article written by Richmond Bramblet