With restrictions easing up in some regions, many of us are able to safely gather and break out the board games again. Here are the recent games we can’t wait to check out.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a group of friends that can get together almost weekly and engage in some tabletop games, whether they be board games, card games, role-playing games, or crazy amalgamations thereof. However, with local restrictions, we haven’t been able to do so safely since last March. Now that things are looking up in this neck of the woods—for now—we’ve discovered that we have quite a backlog of new games to try.
If you’re similarly interested in finding new board games to celebrate the return of game nights with friends and family, game companies have been hard at work throughout the pandemic, and there are a bounty of options. Here’s what my group will be digging into soon:
Marvel United from Cool Mini Or Not (CMON) absolutely annihilated its Kickstarter campaign last March, bringing in almost $3 million. Players build their own team of superheroes, pick a supervillain, and try to dash their schemes before time runs up. What sets this apart from other Marvel tabletop games is the unique card-based timeline mechanic, where your previous turns affect what actions are available to you.
The miniatures look amazing, as should be expected from CMON’s board games at this point, and the game is deceptively simple to set up. You may want to invest in a couple expansions to keep things fresh for repeated plays, however, and use the downloadable achievement list for extra ideas. Even more options are on the way, as a follow-up X-Men campaign will bring practically every notable mutant character to play.
(For more on the pros and cons of Marvel United, check out CGM’s review.)
Trial By Trolley
We can probably all use a laugh at this point, right? And let’s face it, sometimes it’s really cathartic to play a game with dark humour like Cards Against Humanity. Trial By Trolley, from Skybound Games and the irreverent web series Cyanide & Happiness, turns that particular amp to 11 by simulating “the trolley problem.” Each round one player becomes the Trolley Operator while other players place cards on the game’s symbolic tracks, presenting horrible hypothetical scenarios. After various modifiers have been placed, the operator must ultimately decide which track will live and which will die.
Would your friend—hypothetically—be willing to sacrifice “a heroic team of astronauts trying to save the world from a massive meteor” just to smite “the giant anaconda that ate their dog?” What if those astronauts would “rise as a zombie (the fast kind) and attempt to eat them” afterwards? Break out this moral dilemma and see.
The Adventure Zone: Bureau of Balance
It’s not every day that a podcast can break free into new mediums, but the McElroy Family’s D&D podcast, The Adventure Zone, has managed to transition into graphic novels and now board games as well, thanks to Twogether Studios. Bureau of Balance is a cooperative storytelling game based on the podcast’s epic first season—though no prior knowledge of show is needed.
With a modular system to generate unique missions, players suit up as members of the Bureau and track down powerful relics. It’s like playing an RPG adventure with a Team Leader instead of a Dungeon Master, who facilitates the storytelling along the way and settles rule debates. Turns consist of engaging challenges from one of three challenge decks, consciously describing how your character approaches the challenge presented, and resolving dice rolls to determine if they succeed or not. Winning and losing are explicitly not as important as the fun players have telling a story along the way.
Zombicide: 2nd Edition
The original Zombicide has long been one of the top board games for my personal group, so the massive updates in Zombicide: 2nd Edition have had us chomping at the bit to get together again. Players are the Survivors of a zombie apocalypse (surprise!) and have to band together to complete Missions, gather supplies, and of course, mow down the undead in their way.
The new edition overhauls the rules to remove some unpopular or clunky quirks. Characters have refreshed art and miniatures, but there are ways to repurpose the original minis for those who still own them. And of course, there is a wealth of new missions to play, and more expansions on the way.
Brotherwise Games is another studio I love, thanks to their hit board games Boss Monster and Call to Adventure. In the spirit of the former, Overboss brings a retro video game aesthetic to your tabletop and casts players as villains. This time, inside of building dungeons to trap and slay 8-bit do-gooders, the villains are competing to develop an entire overworld of threats.
To do so, players take turns buying tiles from the marketplace and placing them on their map—thereby crafting terrain and populating it with monsters. Once everyone has finished making a top-down world map worthy of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, bosses tally up the combined power of their creations and see who made the strongest realm. The physical product is beautiful, with one of the most well-designed storage systems I’ve seen, and I can’t wait to break into it with friends.
If you used to round up a group to play board games regularly before lockdowns, or if you’re looking to start doing so as a way to catch up after a long time apart, these five titles should be a great place to start. Do you have any other suggestions for blowing the dust off your game table?