We’re living in a golden age for board games. They are experiencing an explosion in popularity as sales have soared during covid-19 lockdowns. And as crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter have helped lower the barrier to entry for new designers and publishers, there is an increasing variety of games to choose from.
Despite being made mainly of cardboard, many new games are complex, memorable and educational experiences – on a par with the most technologically advanced computer-based simulations. With historical, political, scientific, linguistic and socio-technological themes, there is something for everyone.
For lovers of nature, ecology and biology, Wingspan by Elizabeth Hargrave is a beautifully presented, non-confrontational game celebrating bird diversity. Players score points for attracting unique species to their reserve. It contains hundreds of beautifully illustrated bird cards with special abilities that synergise as they inhabit a range of environments.
For a more competitive experience, Dominant Species by Chad Jensen simulates survival of the fittest. A long and strategic game for six players, it sees major animal classes engage in a fierce, adaptive battle for a range of environmental niches to become the most dominant group before the next ice age.
Putting climate change centre stage, CO2 Second Chance by Vital Lacerda is a semi-cooperative experience in which players act as the CEOs of energy companies. You compete for market share by trading carbon credits and building greener power plants. Can you solve the world’s climate woes?
If you (unlike me) haven’t had enough of the coronavirus crisis, then you might like to try Matt Leacock’s Pandemic, in which you play as a team battling the spread of diseases across the globe. It is a collaborative game in which players win or lose together. If you want more of this tense, rewarding experience, Pandemic Legacy is well worth a look. As in real-life, choices have permanent effects. The game board and rules irreversibly “evolve” over the course of 12 months, providing an experience unique to each group of players.
Consumption (not the TB kind) is a game for lockdown pantry planners designed by dietician Karen Knoblaugh. Players shop for food groups, prepare recipes and burn calories. You win by achieving a balanced diet and active lifestyle while minimising food waste.
For space enthusiasts, fledgling astronomers and sci-fi fans, or if you have just had enough of Earth and its infectious diseases, The Search for Planet-X by Matthew O’Malley and Ben Rosset offers a deductive puzzle in which you are astronomers searching for a mysterious planet at the edge of our solar system. Players survey the sky, make observations, publish theories and take notes on each other’s moves.
For flight engineers, Phil Eklund’s High Frontier offers a detailed simulation of mission planning and execution for space enterprise. Boasting the “most complete representation of the solar system in any game”, this is for those unafraid of calculations and complex plans. Then you have Jacob Fryxelius’ Terraforming Mars, a strategic game that has gathered a cult following. You take on the role of space entrepreneurs, racing to make the Red Planet inhabitable, deploying space elevators, aerobraking ammonia asteroids and introducing rock-eating bacteria.
And if you can’t meet other people because of coronavirus regulations, but still want to play board games, check out the huge range of titles available on Tabletop Simulator on Steam.
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