By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
In the wide world of tabletop gaming, there are some undeniable classics out there that have made their mark and deserve to be played for ages to come. Whether you’re just discovering the deep well of tabletop gaming or you’re a grizzled veteran, there are some games that have made their mark in the industry and are worthy of a spot on your shelf.
As I’ve said and done before in previous posts, this is not a comprehensive list, nor have I myself been able to play every classic out there. These games, however, are some that I have personally played that have stood the test of time, have made innovative leaps, and/or inspired many following entries in its genre. Let’s get started.
Settlers of Catan
Let’s be honest; you probably haven’t “missed” this common classic. This is what I call the “gateway nerd game.” One reason for this is that you can usually find it both at Walmart or your local game shop (I recommend supporting the latter). It’s been around for over two decades and has been many a player’s first step past the world of Scrabble and Monopoly and into the vast, wondrous tabletop realm. Hell, even my in-laws have played, and that’s saying something. Its gameplay is somewhat simple compared to some, but don’t let that fool you - there is a depth of strategic opportunity waiting in there for you. There’s something different about Catan from the average board game that ups the ante a little bit, and it seems to often raise the question in the budding gamer’s mind, “what else is out there?” It’s a game for 3-4 players and will last you an hour or two.
Ticket to Ride
Another “gateway” game, Ticket to Ride, is an easy-to-learn entry but with exceptional replayability. It’s well structured and lighter on the setup side but will still give you a rich experience. There’s some good opportunity to stretch your strategic muscles and secure your advancement while blocking your friends’ progression in the process. I would say this one is about on par with Catan in terms of notoriety and availability. 2-5 players, 30-60 minutes playtime.
Oh boy, here we go. We’re starting to dive a little deeper on this one. Talisman drops you in a classic medieval fantasy setting where the goal is to gain power and be the first to acquire an artifact called the Crown of Command, which is essentially the “ring of power” from Lord of the Rings. You can choose from 14 classic characters such as a wizard, sorcerer, monk, thief, and the like. It’s easy to learn - just roll the die, move that many spaces, and do what that space says. Of course, there’s a little more to it, and though mechanically simplistic, you’re in for an epic adventure that will likely last you a few hours with enough seats for 2-6 players.
Village is a bit weightier in terms of strategy and mechanics but still a rewarding experience for those that take the plunge. Take charge of your family, give them careers, direct their life cycle, and try to immortalize your family name in a village where life is unforgiving. It’s a game full of tough choices and where death is a common inevitability. Being a game for 2-4 players and clocking in at their estimate of 60-90 minutes, I wouldn’t add it to the list for your big family game night, but it is a solid staple for your group that likes to get more in-depth with their games.
This entry is one that does have its place at game night with a larger group. It offers play for 2-7 players, is simple to learn, and once you all get the hang of it, 7 Wonders should take less than an hour to play. Your goal is basically to build your ancient city’s economy and fame to make a lasting name for yourself for many ages to come. It’s an innovative game where players collect cards to help build wealth, resources, facilitate trade, and build military might by selecting one, all playing them simultaneously, and passing the rest to the next player. In the biz, this is what we call “drafting.” It’s a quicker game, but definitely a rich experience you’ll keep coming back to.
More of a recent entry having been released in 2015, Codenames better fills the role of a party game. For 2-8 players, it plays quickly and with ample player interaction, where a team leader gives one-word clues for players to “spot their agents in the field.” Games like these are good to have on hand when you have a lot of players at your game night and don’t want to spend all evening on one entry.
Red Dragon Inn
Being a huge D&D nerd, this game is certainly one of my favorites. If you’re familiar at all with fantasy role-playing games, you understand the trope of “you meet at a tavern.” This game fills the gaps of what happens when your party is unwinding in the tavern after a long adventure. It pokes fun at the humorous cliches of fantasy RPGs while still having well-rounded player interaction and engaging gameplay. A creative dungeon master could even easily incorporate the game into their campaign to spice up their players' time spent between adventures. There are something like 7 different boxes available, all with unique characters for 2-8 players and will probably last you somewhere around an hour.
We here started with Welcome To Your Perfect Home - a “roll-and-write” game for really an unlimited amount of players. It’s essentially played in a “bingo” style, where each player has their own sheet, cards are flipped each round, and player write down their choices on their own sheets to attempt to build the most appealing 1950s subdivision. There are city plans, parks, swimming pools, and more that give players the opportunity to score extra points. A quick recommendation on these - we took a handful of the sheets and laminated them so we could use dry-erase markers and not have to worry about buying replacements down the road. Definitely check this one out; it’s affordable, has several different versions to keep things fresh, and though it takes a second to catch onto the rules, it quickly became a staple in our regular game nights.
So there’s a brief list of games I have played that I would personally put in the tabletop hall of fame. Have you played any of these? Which ones might I have missed that you believe deserve to be on the list? If you haven’t already, you can continue the conversation in our Discord server at discord.gg/stackupdotorg. Happy gaming!