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Hey folks, as a life long player and someone who works in the gaming industry, I get to play a ton of board games. I thought I’d put together some recommendations for folks who aren’t necessarily hobby gamers and don’t really have the vocabulary or history to make a good choice for something to play with your partner or family while we’re all cooped up. Games are a great way to step away from your screens and interact with your family in a structured format that’s relaxing, challenging, enjoyable and a great distraction from our current predicament.

I’m going to make my recommendations based on a few criteria:

  • Ease of play – I’ll be pointing out games with short learning curves. These games will have you playing in no time!
  • Availability – I’ll be choosing games that you can get at hobby stores, big box outlets and online sellers. This may be a fluctuating scenario though so I’m not going to link to anywhere specific. Support your local hobby store if you can. Otherwise, Target, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and other online game outlets can help.
  • Style/Audience – This is a bit subjective, but I’ll be discussing games that I think match the type of games that would fit well with families, roommates, couples, etc, from a variety of themes and game mechanics
  • Price – I’m not going to list specific prices here, but all of these games range from $25-45, roughly. Compared to a movie or a video game, you’ll get a ton of value for your money.

So, here we go! Maybe you’re new to board games. Maybe Monopoly or Clue is your jam. Maybe you think you’re on the cutting edge because you saw Kristen Bell playing Catan and you knew what it was. But now you’re stuck in the house and another four hours of collecting $200 after passing Go isn’t seeming so fun any longer. Have no fear, I’m here to help!

Pandemic

Work together to save the world! For some folks, the subject matter might be off-putting. It’s certainly not my cup of tea to pretend to contain a world-wide outbreak of diseases. That said, this cooperative game is a great way to challenge you and your household if you want to get into the spirit of things. If you aren’t familiar with cooperative games, they’re a type of game where all the players are working together to accomplish objectives. Everyone wins or loses as a team. In this case, you’ll all be working to contain a global pandemic before time – and your luck! – runs out. 2-4 Players, Ages 8+, 45 minutes-1 hour.

Pandemic

Azul

This beautiful tile laying game will be a treat for folks that like puzzles, Sudoku or brain teasers. 2-4 players will take turns choosing tiles and strategically placing them on their own player mats in a way that gets them the best score. Plays in less than an hour. One of my favorite things about the game is the wonderful bakelite pieces that give the game a great look and feel. Ages 8+.

Azul

Sagrada

Another game that is a gorgeous puzzler. In this game, players compete to get the right dice to place in their player boards and help complete their own stained glass windows. There’s a real joy that comes from finding the right die for the right spot and realizing you’ve just finished off your board. 1-4 players, 10 and up, less than an hour.

Sagrada

SHOBU

For fans of Chess and Go, SHOBU is simple, elegant, and beautiful with surprisingly straight forward rules. But don’t be fooled, this 2 player game of moving river rocks around four small wooden boards is a total brain burner. Great for lazy Sundays over a cup of tea with your partner. Your game won’t last more than a half hour, but you’ll likely want to reset SHOBU and immediately play again. Ages 8+.

SHOBU – image from http://www.thefamilygamers.com/snap-shobu/

Dungeons and Dragons Essentials Kit

If you’ve never played a role playing game or you only have faded memories of playing in junior high, this is the specific item you want to buy. This inexpensive box (around $25) is available lots of places (hobby stores, Target, Barnes and Noble and more) and contains everything you and your family need to have dozens of hours of exciting adventures. I learned to play D&D when I was nine and that was in the 70s. The game has come a long way since then. The rules are more approachable and streamlined. This box is chock full of stuff that will delight everyone in your house who dreams of picking up a sword or casting a magic spell. Play for an hour or play all day. While it’s best with 4-5 people, you can play with just 2 people now with the modifications that come in this box. This ‘Essentials Kit’ alone can generate weeks worth of unique, exciting stories that you’ll remember for a long time.

I hope these suggestions help you during this tough time. Games have always been a source of positivity in my life and now more than ever, we need some of that. Don’t be afraid to try something from this list or another modern game. They’ve come a long way from Sorry! and Scrabble. And remember, if you can, buy from your local hobby shop. They could really use the help right now.

Until next time. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Be kind.

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