Tired of endless Monopoly games that make the pandemic seem short in comparison? Check out these five less traditional board games to pass time with the family.
Set in medieval times, Carcassonne allows you to lay out and claim map tiles that build a medieval countryside consisting of roads, towns and monasteries. Part luck and part strategy, the game lets you earn points for how many features you complete by the game’s end. The game, made for 2-5 players of ages 7 and up, moves quickly once mastered, allowing you to have an hour’s worth of fun. Expansion packs offer more strategizing once you’ve got the basics down. $32
Created for folks who loved Dungeons and Dragons, Gloomhaven is a legacy game that allows you to explore and conquer a world filled strange creatures and monsters over dozens of scenarios. Players select characters that grow and develop more powers as they progress through the games’ boards, acting like a strategizing team rather than as competitors. For 1-4 players, Gloomhaven is the biggest, most complex and most expensive game you’ll ever own. Weighing 21 pounds and consisting of hundreds of pieces, it works best for players aged 14 and up. While it represents a commitment, Gloomhaven’s individual scenarios, lasting two to three hours each, make it worthwhile fun. If you buy it, a number of independent apps, created by dedicated players, will make your map-building and tracking multiple monsters much easier and quicker. $230
Yes, we went there. Played by two to four players through 12-24 sessions (depending on your group’s success in the game), Pandemic Legacy (a descendent of the board game Pandemic) is a cooperative campaign recommended for folks 13 and up. It has players traveling the world, squashing outbreaks and researching cures for four different diseases before its too late, forcing players to hide in their homes and play Monopoly. As you progress, players will encounter new rules and components. And, yes, players can die. (Note: A shorter, more portable version called Pandemic: Hot Zone – North America is scheduled for release in June). $72
Now a 25-year-old classic, Catan used to be called Settlers of Catan or Settlers. Players build colonies on the island of Catan by earning and trading resources (sheep, wheat, wood, brick and ore) allowing them to build settlements, cities and roads connecting them. It’s a perfect game for kids and adults who like to bargain. Meanwhile, a roving theif threatens to steal their hard work. Players compete to earn points with each settlement, city or useful development card they purchase, with the winner reaching 10 points first. Expansion packs allow the board and player opportunities (including the player numbers) to grow. It’s best for 3-4 players and the game lasts 1-2 hours. $44
Its full name, Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot, gives away the objective. Players strive to acquire carrot cards, with the winning Magic Carrot card revealed at the end of the game. They acquire carrots through the use of their bunnies (also cards) and by acquiring and eliminating opponents’ bunnies through occasionally violent (although there is no blood or gore) or comical ways, stoking players’ laughter and desire for revenge. It’s a funny, family-friendly card game. (Who doesn’t want to fight off an opponent with a magic spatula?) Two to eight can play in an hour to an hour and a half. While it works best for players middle school or older, there is a kids version that removes the cartoon violence. $22
By Chris Barrett, Publisher