Top Pick: Tokaido | $50 | Amazon
It’s been a while since board game nights were safe to have inside your home. But we’re finally reaching a point where it might soon be okay for you and a few of your most-vaccinated friends to have a small gathering indoors. If your friend group is one of the lucky ones to already have a vaccine—or you’re just eagerly preparing for the day you are—these are some of the best games for a small group of people to play together.
Most games are competitive, pitting players against each other. Tokaido is different. Instead, each player is a traveler on a vacation on Japan’s East Sea Road (which gives the game its name). The goal is to experience things like seeing gorgeous vistas, spending time in hot springs, and visiting temples. While players can lightly sabotage each other, it’s largely a chill experience that invokes the feeling of travel, at a time when it might not otherwise be possible.
For fans of old-school, 8-bit style dungeon crawlers, Boss Monster and its expansions bring the experience of side scrollers to the tabletop, but there’s a twist. In this game, YOU are the boss of the dungeon, defeating misguided heroes as they venture into your domain.
Starring one of the most badass breakout characters of the early 2000s’ Flash cartoon Homestar Runner, Trogdor is a board game starring the burninator himself, Trogdor. In this game, players all work together, taking turns playing as Trogdor, to burn down tiles, cottages, and peasants, while avoiding knights and archers. Players win when they have burninated the countryside, the peasants, and the thatched roof cottages.
If Clue is a little too straightforward for you, maybe you’d prefer a murder mystery that’s a little more abstract. In Mysterium, one player is the ghost of a murdered character, and must use surreal, dream-like artwork cards to convey who killed them, where it happened, and what weapon they used. The game can get very open to interpretation at times, which makes it all the more interesting to see how your friends’ minds work.
Another travel-themed game, Ticket to Ride pits up to five players against each other in a bid to claim railways on a map in order to connect cities to each other. Longer routes can score higher, but if a route ends up incomplete, players lose points. The game requires strategy and long-term thinking to succeed, making it a great mental exercise for your more tactical-minded friends.
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After over a year of living through a real-life pandemic, a fictional one might be the last thing you’re interested in. And while that’s fair, Pandemic Legacy still might be worth checking out. The original Pandemic is a short game where players work together to stop the spread of a deadly virus. Pandemic Legacy builds on this by telling a lengthy story over many chapters. The experiences of each game affect your characters and those changes last through into subsequent sessions.
It’s this dynamic of a continuous story that makes Pandemic Legacy worth checking out. Not only because your group will have a unique experience with the game, but because it will give you and your friends a reason to get back into a new habit of spending time with each other week after week, once you’re finally able to do so. It’s only fitting that after a pandemic kept everyone apart, a Pandemic would bring you back together.