I had a bug in my butt to write about some board games that my friends enjoy, so figured I would jot it down for your enjoyment! There are more, so I tried to focus on ones that you may not have heard of (DAE play Cards Against Humanity??). If there are any games you really love playing, feel free to pop them in the comments!
One of my favorites. You and up to 6 people explore a super spooky mansion. Unbeknownst to everyone, there is a traitor among you! You explore a randomly generated house while card based events give you items, boons, secret trapdoors, but mostly damage. There are 13 rooms that have an Omen card attached. When you find an omen, you get a random omen item, then have to roll to see if the game begins its second phase. Assuming a poor roll, depending on the specific omen revealed and the room it was found in, one of the game’s myriad scenarios play out. Most of the time the player who found the omen becomes the traitor and now must play against their friend using a secret rulebook. Other times, the players face an AI, or even more fun, they face each other. My favorite example was when a giant bird stole the house, and began flying away. There were four players, but only 3 parachutes stowed away inside. We had to brawl it out between us to get one of the remaining parachutes and try to survive! The variety and randomness is really what makes this game great. I first heard of this game when I was in college on spring break at Disney. My friends would bust it out as we were unwinding for the night and we would play a few rounds. Turns out, the game didn't get a reprinting for another decade, so it was going for insane prices online and I was worried I would never be able to play it again. I was esctatic when I saw there was a third edition, and I still have a sealed copy...just in case.
If you have ever played Magic: The Gathering’s draft format, you will feel right at home here. For up to 5 people, you get a hand full of adorable sushi cards, each with different scores and scoring methods. You take one card, and pass the rest of the hand to the player next to you until all cards are taken, then you score the round with 3 rounds to a game. Picks are revealed at the same time so high-level strategy players can think about what people are trying to take alongside what they remember being in the pack of cards that they passed. In the base game, you do not re-use any cards, so you can also try to remember how many of each type were passed in previous rounds to guide your decision. Or you can get blasted on grain alcohol and cut the person to your right’s entire sashimi supply. Both are equally fun! This game is super easy to play with the youngin’s, but if you wanted to play something a bit more complex, 7 Wonders would be the next logical step. There is also an expansion that provides more dishes, and another one that replaces the cards with dice, but this is definitely the go to. I first heard about this one online as being fun so I picked it up before a camping adventure with my siter in Maine. I wound up getting edibles along the way, so my second time playing this game I was cracking up at how adorable the art was, and generally just loving life.
The two previous games are fairly competitive, so what if you wanted a 5 player game with absolutely no competition, but full of contempt? The Quiet Year is a game where you and your friends come up with a non descript post apocalyptic scenario, and slowly figure out what happens to your town on a hand drawn map. Using a deck of cards to represent weeks of the year, you slowly add new locations, new discoveries, and conspiracies within your village. The game has almost no rules on this, and every card is very vague, so it is up to the player’s imagination to figure out what happens. For instance, one of my towns had a surplus of psychedelic mushrooms. Another town had learned to weaponize pumpkin spice latte hookers. The game explicitly mentions that no one else should speak during your turn, and if anyone doesn’t like what you are doing they are instructed to hand you a contempt token instead. It takes a very specific group of people to enjoy it with, as it is more of an art project than a game, but it can be a very fun experience.
Did you want a game for an incredibly narrow group of friends? Look no further! This game has you interviewing someone else to figure out if they are a robot. The interviewee has one of three cards to say if they are a human, a robot, or a murderous robot. The human can act freely, but both robots have strange behaviors they have to incorporate into the interview. Should the patient robot do something they weren’t supposed to do, there is a public card telling them something they must do to make up for it (i.e. scratch your nose). The murderous robot has to do this task twice as well as two of three other tasks before they can kill the interviewer. This all takes place in a freeform, five minute interview. The interviewer has cards telling them questions that they can ask, details on how to elaborate on those, but you can go completely off script (and it’s more fun if you do!). A lot of the fun comes from the ‘atmosphere’ the game provides: official paperwork to be completed, a set of human and robot stamps, and a very strict beginning script to establish a power dynamic. If you accidentally kill a human interviewee, you have to write out an apology on the form to their next of kin explaining why. I won’t lie, this is a very hard sell to get people to play, but I have genuinely enjoyed playing it.
If you remember the Friday the 13th videogame for the week it was popular, this is basically the same thing. You and your friends play as teenagers trapped in a cabin in the woods as a maniac slasher (controlled by AI) tries to kill you. You have to find certain objectives (car keys, battery gas, etc) to get to one of the finales where you take on the big bad to try and escape. Each player gets a character with strengths and weaknesses, and a deck of random cards and events keeps things fresh with multiple playthroughs. This is a great one for groups who don’t want to do anything competitive, or just for a group who is really into slashers as this leans heavily into the tropes.
“Hey, are there exactly 8 people who want to play this game?” Two teams of four take different tasks on a submarine trying to track the enemy team and sink them with torpedoes. One is the captain who has the final say on actions, one is the engineer who marks off which systems can be used depending on how you moved, one is the weapons guy keeping track of which are online at the time, and finally one person keeps track of the enemy sub using dry erase markers over a transparent overlaid on their version of the game map. Each decision comes as a sacrifice, and every move gives away valuable information to the enemy team. It winds up being a tense game of cat and mouse for most of the game until one team is pinpointed, at which point the game usually wraps up very quickly. My favorite moment was having the enemy team tied to one of three positions, and just absolutely Picarding my way forward and firing a blind missile…to get a direct hit. Every job on board is stressful, every job is essential, and what’s worse is that if you have the courage, the game can be played in real time - no turns, you move as fast as you can secure orders.
Dude is a simple game. Dude is a great game. You have a deck of cards with different ways of saying Dude (i.e. Dude. vs dewd vs dood) or different drawings of people saying dude (surfers, aliens, robots). You can only say Dude, and your goal is to find someone else saying it the same way you are. If you think so, you can ask them “Sweet?”. If they “Sweet” back, you reveal your cards, and bank the point if you match. At any point, you can put your card on the bottom of the deck and take a new one from the top to try and match your dude-ly mating call. Once a player finishes their deck they proclaim “Chill” and the game ends. Everyone counts up how many dude pairings they had, and the most points wins. The game is just an amazing chorus of people shouting Dude with intense eye contact and the frenzy of spawning salmon. You can also house rule to change the word! We used ‘ope’ (as midwesterners) and the game worked exactly the same. Note that Space Team is incredibly similar, replacing Dude with Technojargon.
This is a really old game, but I love it. Its craps for beginners, where the dice are a pair of pigs. You throw the pigs, and depending how they land, you score the throw. Your turn ends when the most common result comes up, so it’s up to you how many times you want to throw and grow your score. Good, simple fun.