Tired of playing conventional tabletop games like Uno and Monopoly when spending time with your family relatives? Can’t figure out what game to bring people together at social gatherings instead of having small talk that goes nowhere? Look no further!
With the holiday season coming up in a few months, ideas for gifts and organising gatherings between friends, family and coworkers is important. To give an idea of what tabletop games are good for these events we have the tabletop starter pack; game recommendations beyond the board games found in global retail stores. Suitable for age groups both young and old, these games are simple to pick up and easy to learn. The picks seen today are not the be-all and end-all because I’m sure there are games I haven’t covered or known about. Instead, they include diverse recommendations from having spent time learning, viewing and experiencing these tabletop games myself.
Number of Players: 2-8
For the immense crowd pleaser we have Tsuro which offers simple gameplay and exceptional involvement with large groups of people. Designed by Tom McMurchie and published by Calliope Games, the aim of the game is to be the last dragon standing; by placing tiles on the board each turn to avoid other players and travelling off the edge of the board.
Each player is given a dragon token and 3 tiles showing various paths. During a player’s turn, they place one of those three tiles on the game board and draw a new tile from a deck. Subsequently, when tiles connect two separate paths together, players must follow straight through accordingly. This means when a tile connects two dragons on opposite sides, they would have to move along the path at the same time.
This results in dragons crashing into each other, cutting each other off to form new paths and players falling short by veering off the sides of the game board. All this leads to exclamations of “I can’t believe you did that!” and “why did you have to start right next to me…” bringing out a lighthearted exchange of friendly banter.
While Tsuro is relatively easy to understand and play, it is difficult to master. When players successfully avoid crashing into one another, they inevitably run out of tiles to draw from the pile. Once someone is out from the game at this stage, their tiles go to the next player instead of refilling the deck. This asserts the need to think ahead; to prioritise certain tiles over others and gauging whether you can obtain other people’s tiles once they’re out of the game. A simple starter game for everyone to get to know each other without having to learn complicated rules.
Number of Players: 3-5
From the same publisher as Tsuro and designed by both James Ernest and Mike Selinker, comes the card game that turns the folklore ’12 Days of Christmas’ into a card game that gives back- in both spirit and gameplay. Personally, I have not played this game, but I have seen it played multiple times on an episode of ‘Tabletop’ and it was a joy to watch. To win at 12 Days, players need to accumulate the most amount of points. These points are gathered by collecting sets of Gift cards, high numbered Gift cards, and winning each of the 12 rounds.
The points range from 1 through to 12 with a manner of playing each round similar to the folklore of bearing gifts from the twelve drummers and one card for Mr and Mrs Claus. Each round starts with players gifting a card to the player on their left, and playing a card from their hand to try and win the round with their lowest card, followed by drawing a new card to refill their hand. It’s interesting to see a mix of different strategies unfold from people trying to win every round possible to hoarding cards to obtain points at the end.
Having keen observation skills is what gets a player ahead in 12 Days; being able to guess what card each person is saving based from cards played. This is suitable for both young and old but will require a bit of focus since it’s not as simple as its counterpart Tsuro. It is otherwise an enjoyable game to get stuck into during the holiday season and it’s quite easy to understand after a few rounds of playing.
Number of Players: 2-6
Fluxx has the chaos found in a standard game of Uno except magnified ten fold. From Looney Labs and designers Andrew Looney and Kristen Looney comes a card game with one rule of many. The objective of Fluxx is to match two goals together from ‘keeper’ cards you draw from the top of your deck. Simple enough right? Except that you can only draw and play one goal a turn and that there are other cards added to the mix.
These include the cards that set the current goals and cards that manipulate the amount of cards drawn, discarded and swapped at the end of each players turn. A player can suddenly have a rule that lets them draw up till 6 but forces them to discard their hand size by 1 at the end of their turn. Other rules can limit the amount of keepers a player has or even redistribute and discard cards from a player’s hand. This means wasting resources that you would like to keep in your hand for the future instead of using them for their non intended purpose. The best way to delve into Fluxx is to experience the game first hand. Winning in Fluxx isn’t a game breaking deal and instead it’s about how chaotic a round gets before it reaches its conclusion.
Depending on the version of Fluxx bought, each edition has different types of cards but it’s really up to player discretion. Personally, I enjoy the edition 4.0 Fluxx because of the introduction of ‘creepers’ with the likes of the ‘radioactive potato’. Creepers are cards that inhibit the player from winning so long as it’s in their field of play. These cards can be discarded through their own effect text with potato being able to be passed around once a new goal comes into play. This can get out of hand very quickly with the edition of Creepers, creating an atmosphere of bemusement with playing hot potato. A perfect addition to put in the luggage when visiting relatives or having a small gathering with friends.
Walk the Plank!
Number of Players: 3-5
Walk the Plank! published by Mayday Games and designed by Shane Steely and Jared Tinney was a gem I discovered a few weeks ago while browsing my local shop at FastBreak. The cover artwork is self explanatory; be the last one standing by pushing individuals from a ship’s plank to the murky depths below.
Walk the Plank! starts by supplying each player with 3 tokens and cards of one colour. The starting player is determined and flips their choice of movement cards from left to right with other players taking consecutive turns going clockwise. Three movement cards are chosen in a specific order which dictates how the plank and tokens move on the field; making the plank disappear and reappear, shoving other tokens left or right, charging forward or pulling back to ship to name a few. Once all three cards from each player are flipped, the cards revealed with a skull marker are placed aside; adding these cards back a turn after the next. If tokens are moved to any space without wooden flooring, they disappear and sink to the bottom of the ocean. The winner of Walk the Plank! is the last player or the player with two tokens left on the field.
An alternate way of playing Walk the Plank! involves shuffling the coloured cards you have at the start and choosing your three cards randomly. This game mode is about having fun and seeing what happens rather than putting thought into card choices for the turn. Now, I’ve only played with the alternate mode and I found it to be entertaining to leave your survival chances to luck of the draw. Other than the normal way of playing the game, this mode prompts the formation of intimate yet temporary alliances which makes for some drama with favouritism.
Choosing one game mode over another is entirely up to your discretion. The original way to play has some planning strategies by trying to predict the order of other players’ cards. Meanwhile, not knowing your cards has the element of a surprise twist which is always fun to see coming into play. Overall, this game is perfect playing with both friends and family as it involves shoving each other around and creating mini alliances with families or your ‘best’ friends.
Number of Players: 2-4
To round up this list we have Loopin’ Louie, a dexterity board game published by Hasbro Gaming and designed by Masaru Aoki and Carol Wiseley, which I’ve seen demoed at the Brisbane ComicCon Event. Loopin’ Louie is a perfect way to introduce a board game that isn’t too complex with its rules. The aim is to be the last player with chicken tokens remaining by protecting them from getting knocked over by Louie’s plane by tapping a designated platform. This board game relies more on hand dexterity and technical coordination rather than strategy. The tabletop games I mentioned previously all offer some form of strategising with Loopin’ Louie being the exception.
When it comes down to it, Loopin’ Louie is pretty funny and while some can view it as unexciting or mundane, I find this forces other games to take a backseat and to simply focus on muscle memory. The skills involved with this game boil down to dexterity and judgement of Louie’s trajectory and adapting accordingly. A board game that covers both young and old and rewards skilled players that spend their nights tapping on their phone notifications, by letting them tap down someone’s tokens. This is a great choice for individuals that don’t want to invest in game rules and want to head straight into playing.
Hopefully this list has provided you readers with ideas of what to bring to the next social gathering, whether it be to visit relatives or to spend quality time with friends. Enjoying a board game should be a group experience and not something you keep to yourself. These board games are for a wide variety of people and would cover most of what people look for in a quick, fun and easy to learn tabletop game.