I love the kind of board games that present you with a wide variety of options, allowing you to try out loads of different strategies: the ones that make you go “Oh, or I could do that instead”, and not “Ah, I can’t do that either”.
The board games I listed here are all rather on the strategic side and (unless marked otherwise) are great for all adult player levels. They all work amazingly well with two players, but they all support more players, too. The goal of this post is not to give you the complete run-down of each of the games, but to provide a starting point for your games search. Hence, I suggest you check out the review videos of “Shut up & Sit Down” for ones that caught your eye! Those here were my absolute lockdown favourites and I hope they may brighten your days as well!
Less than one hour
In this beautifully tactile game you create colourful patterns with a set of tiles – but don’t bite off more than you can chew or you will “smash” some on the floor! I especially like this game for its chill, yet capturing pace. It also has a short set of rules and anyone new to the game will enjoy it from the very first time they play!
Verdict: for a weeknight when you don’t want to watch Parks and Rec again.
Quacks of Quedlinburg
Everyone fills their black bag with mystical ingredients, and then you start drawing at random. Brew a potion, make it powerful, but don’t let it explode! This is an incredibly fun and charming game with a new, innovative set up that will lead to lots of laughter and swearing around the table. Moreover, there are four sets of different scenarios, in case you want to mix things up.
Verdict: when you’re buzzing but can’t go out, goes down well with some craft beer.
Collect gems, which allow you to buy other gems faster, which then give you victory points to win. With its straightforward rules the game is easily explained to new players. Overall, it’s a calm, compelling game with lovely heavy casino-chips that add positively to the experience of this “engine building” game.
Verdict: you’ll keep coming back to this one.
Search for Planet X (Expert Game)
This is like competitive sudoku, but on steroids! You might recognise some of the mechanics from “Uluru” (2013), but they are enhanced by the clever use of a phone app, as it adds new logical rules to the base set for every game! This game is perfect for serious puzzlers who enjoy a logical challenge in an intergalactic setting.
Verdict: makes you think hard, in a very good way!
In for the long ride
Welcome to the Roman Empire! Balance harvesting resources, trading them, and building outposts all over the Mediterranean. This game challenges you to weigh up different options of gaining victory points, but spices things up with additional cards that can enhance certain areas of your scoring. Concordia is a highly engaging game that puts a new spin on ideas that we already know and love from other board game cupboards’ favourites.
Verdict: when you are bored of Settlers of Catan.
Brass Birmingham (Expert Game)
This improvement of the original Brass game has it all: compelling art work, appealing game tokens, and a streamlined set of rules. Just when you thought you had built your empire based on canals, coal mines, and steel workshops, Brass turns your world upside down! Halfway through the games your carefully crafted waterways disappear with the introduction of the steam engine and you are forced to regain your strength using railways. The plethora of possibilities at each turn make this game an absolute joy for anyone who likes to strategiese and wants to build an industrial powerhouse in 18th century Britain.
Verdict: when you are bored of Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride.
Food Chain Magnate (Expert Game)
This game is the royalty of expert games. It is pricey (€90+), needs lots of space (either you get a second table, or buy a laser cut plywood inlay for another €30), and takes two trial games with fewer rules to get to grips with it. Despite all of this, this game is a prime example of what modern board games can be. It cleverly intertwines resource management and competitive strategising to decide the staffing of your fast food chain. All of this comes in a beautiful retro design with handy player “menus” reminding you of the rules (trust me, you’ll need it). This game can be both absolutely satisfying and completely devastating with every game taking a different turn that previously played ones. Food Chain Magnate is definitely an investment (both in time and money), but a wise one if you enjoy grand, monumental games.
Verdict: you need to be a little mad to play this, once you’ve gotten into it you will be hooked.