In 2022 we finally had the chance again to bring together larger groups of friends for some board games. Therefore the board game highlights this year come in two flavours. First up are party games that are great for 4 people or more. They have fewer rules and were a hit with everyone regardless of their board gaming experience. The second part consists of expert games for board game aficionados that are not put off by a thick manual or big box. I hope you find some inspiration for new additions to your games cabinet!
Party Games – Few Rules, Lots of Fun!
Two teams play against each other to decipher secret codes using hints vaguely related to a keyword. While your team needs to know which keyword is meant, the other team cannot guess what your keywords are. While the rules might sound a little confusing at first (who knows what, who wants to guess what), a single trial round usually clears everything up. This is great fun at dinner parties, ideally played in an even number, we found 6 or 8 players worked best! One round is rather quick, hence requires little commitment from the group, but usually more rounds follow!
⭐Similar to: Code Names, but more interactive
⭐Recommended for: a group of mixed-level board gamers, parties
Each player tries to guess the correct culprit, location, and weapon of a murder. So far so familiar. However, all you have to base your guesses on are ‘dreams’ (beautiful, yet obscure drawings in the style of Dixit). Luckily, your fellow players are here to help. Together you interpret these dreams to solve the final murder mystery! The game requires a dream-delivering games master, which is a challenging, but rewarding position. After each round there were usually multiple people wanting to be the games master! We also found it helpful for two people to occupy this position together as there is quite a lot of admin to keep track of.
⭐Similar to: Dixit, but more exciting; Cluedo, but more vibe-y
⭐Recommended for: larger groups, those who like looking at the big picture
These are your resources, now swap. Anything goes. This is about the extent of the rules of “Chinatown”. The whole game play consists of skillful negotiations between three to five people. These empty lots for a laundrette and 20k? Sure! We swap those two lots and you give me the factory? Anything goes as long as we agree on it. There are no events, no special rules, just resources and money. The simplicity of this game puts the interaction between the players at the centre and elevates it to something special. Very easy to teach and (therefore) enjoyed by those who are not heavy board gamers.
⭐Similar to: nothing in your board games collection yet
⭐Recommended for: those who like talking, negotiating, and trading with each other
Expert Games – If You Are Not Afraid Of Commitment
To make wine, you need to plant the grapes, harvest them, mash them up, bottle the wine, age it, and then sell it for the right price to the right buyer. In a nutshell, that’s what “Viticulture” is about. It is a well-balanced resource-management game packaged in a beautiful wine theme. It excels at intertwining strategy and competition as you build up your engine. At the same time, it is forgiving enough that a single wrong action will not demolish all hard work. I particularly like that you have lots of options from the get-go, which circumvents slow startup phases and packs a lot of game play into less than an hour (for two players).
⭐Similar to: the vibe of Wingspan, but more resource-oriented
⭐Recommended for: those wanting to dip their toes into medium-difficulty games
Paladins of the West Kingdom
Faith, Strength, Influence, Money, and Food are the five (!) currencies you have to juggle alongside worker placement. If this is already stressing you out, this game might not be for you. However, if you are a little intrigued you might have quite a lot of fun with this one! This rather small box provides a different game feel each round as conditions are randomised and you need to adapt your strategy accordingly. I particularly like the game design as it supports the rules through a clear colour scheme and useful diagrams. The set up takes a little longer than ideal, but we nevertheless keep coming back to it.
⭐Similar to: Brass Birmingham, but more open with plenty of options and variability
⭐Recommended for: logic puzzle enthusiasts
Eclipse – Second Dawn for the Galaxy
What “Paladins” lacked in box size “Eclipse” definitely has. This is by far the biggest board game we own, but not a single inch was wasted in the box design, as it even comes with a manual on how to stack all the components so they fit back into it. This is a pricey investment, but you really get a bang for your buck. There are over 500 pieces in this game, including miniatures you can paint. Despite this, the set-up is incredibly easy as everything comes neatly arranged in individual trays. The game consists of elite intergalactic warfare: research technologies, build space ships, attack, and bag the reward. Up to six players battle it out in a well-balanced universe where courage is rewarded. Lost a campaign? Don’t worry, you get your ship back, and here is a token for effort! Remember to keep your opponents and their technologies at bay to be victorious in this glorious space combat!
⭐Similar to: Twilight Imperium, but better (sorry!)
⭐Recommended for: enthusiasts, even if you haven’t played these kind of war games before