In Eight Games different board gamers share the eight games they’d select in eight different situations. The links are given to Board Game Geek listings for you to find out more.
This month Benjamin Kocher, chooses his eight games.
Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He’s a rule book editor and board game reviewer. A certified copy editor, as well as a freelance writer and editor, Benjamin covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favourite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available.
1: A game to take to granny’s house:
A family friendly afternoon.
When I think of Granny’s house, I think of year-old candies, creaky floorboards, and lots of little doilies all over the place. Perhaps it’s the doilies, or maybe it’s the luscious quilt she sleeps with, but Patchwork is the first game that comes to mind.
Patchwork is a relaxing game of making a patchwork quilt using polyomino tiles, trying to maximise your board’s space. Each tile has a unique shape, and may have a button or two on it. Buttons are the game’s currency, and you use them to buy more tiles. Each tile has a cost in buttons, as well as a time cost.
As you take tiles, the time cost moves your marker around the progress board, passing over buttons that indicate it’s time to get paid (in buttons, of course!). Each button your board gives you one button to spend, so you’re constantly replenishing your currency. At the end of the game, any spot not filled with a patchwork piece deducts 2 points from that player, and the player with the highest score (in buttons) wins!
Don’t be surprised if the winning score is -3 your first few games, as those empty spaces come back to haunt you (much like the ghost in Granny’s basement).
2: A game to take to a restaurant:
Play around the drinks and cutlery.
Small tables cluttered with plates, cups, eating utensils, and other accoutrements makes for not a lot of room to play games at a restaurant. Which is fine, because you don’t have that much time for a game before your food arrives anyway. Because of these restrictions, I will always recommend a card game—in particular, Red7.
Red7 plays quickly—as fast as five minutes, even—but is a solid card game where the object of each turn is to win. Obviously, winning is preferred in any game, but in Red7, you must end each turn so that you are winning, as per the new rules on each card discarded each round. There are seven different colours (suits) of cards, and each colour has a different win condition that you must meet by the end of your turn. If you can’t, then you’re out!
With the win condition constantly changing, it’s every player for themselves as you try and trap your opponents with a condition they can’t meet in order to be the last one in play, thereby winning the game in its entirety. It’s a fun game with some brain-burning choices, but quick and small enough to be enjoyed practically anywhere.
Red7 features in The Dark Imp’s 3 Filler Card Games video.
3: A game to take to a reunion:
Some people you want to chat to, others… not so much.
Cash ‘n Guns
I don’t know about you, but family reunions are places where sibling rivalry can be taken a bit too far. Croquet competitions with no-mercy rules and contests of “who can eat the most ice cream” are just some of the joys involved in having the clan back together. As such, it’s important to bring a game that not only encourages the rivalry, but ratchets it up a notch.
Cash ‘n Guns allows for a lot of players (up to eight), so it’s a good way to involve a lot of people. The rules are simple and the game is fun, so young cousins and old uncles will have no problem taking to the game. The game is played over eight rounds, and at the end of each round, all surviving players take turns divvying up the loot in the middle of the table. That’s the “cash” part.
The “guns” part determines who gets to partake in the bounty. Before loot is distributed, each played chooses one card from their deck of eight cards (the same cards for all players), and plays it facedown in front of them. On the count of three (from the player who is the godfather), all players point their foam guns at one other player. Players may then opt to back out (and not take part of the money grab), or take their chances. Then all players reveal their cards. Players who played a “Bang” card shoot their target, giving the one wound. The other card option is a “Click,” which doesn’t shoot, and the target player is safe (assuming there’s only one gun pointed in their direction). Any player who is takes a wound is out of the round, and doesn’t get any loot.
The remaining players take turns taking one piece of loot from the middle until it’s all gone, and then a new round begins. The player with the most cash at the end wins! While some people may claim to love all their family members equally, you’ll quickly discover which sibling is the biggest rival with Cash ‘n Guns.
4: A game to take to a primary school:
Arm yourself with multiple copies and take over a whole classroom.
From a young age, I have always loved games with a dexterity element to them. Perhaps it was growing up with Crokinole that instilled that love in me. But Crokinole is rather drab. Not much to look at there!
As a youngster, I also loved silly things. That’s why Coconuts is a great choice to take to a primary school. The silliness of flinging coconuts into cups is loads of fun, and is great for young and old alike. In Coconuts, players use their monkeys to fling coconuts over their heads and (hopefully) land in a cup. If a coconut lands in a cup, that player puts the cup on their player mat. The first player to make a six-cup pyramid on their player mat wins the game. But watch out, because your cups are fair game, too!
The option to use special ability cards can add to the fun, such as by making a player take their turn with their eyes closed, placing a card over your cup as a shield, and more. The games are quick, and there’s always a lot of laughter.
5: A game to take to a youth club:
Hook in the next generation of board gamers.
King of Tokyo
I have yet to meet a youth that doesn’t enjoy King of Tokyo. It’s a best-seller for a reason, and kids and adults find endless joy in it.
In King of Tokyo, players take on the role of giant kaiju (a.k.a. monsters) and try and defeat everyone else, be it through points or brute strength. Each turn, the active player rolls all of their dice. That player keeps aside what they’d like, and then may re-roll up to two more times, setting aside any dice they’d like to keep after each roll. There’s a slight Yahtzee-type element to the game, but the cards make things more than interesting.
Cards can do anything from granting extra dice, healing more damage, getting points, and hurting your opponents in other ways (to name a few card abilities). The first player to reach 20 points wins, but if points aren’t coming, then you can battle for victory.
Die results include damage, numbers (1, 2, and 3), hearts, and energy. One heart result will give your kaiju one more HP. Collect 3+ of any one number and get that many points. Energy grants energy cubes, which can be used to purchase special cards. Damage is everyone’s favorite, though. By rolling damage, you are able to inflict pain on your opponents. If you are outside of Tokyo, your damage is directed to the player inside the city. If you are in Tokyo, then that damage is applied to all monsters outside the city.
Being in Tokyo is risky, because more players can beat up on you, but you also get extra points if you start your next turn inside the city. There’s definitely a balance there, and knowing when to hold or when to run can be what wins you the game. The re-rolling of the dice helps mitigate luck, as do the cards, but there’s also a good amount of press-your-luck. The game doesn’t drag on, and is usually fairly quick. The rules are simple to remember, and the cards add spice to the ruleset.
When it comes to tromping around Tokyo and destroying your friends, who wouldn’t enjoy it?
King of Tokyo features in The Dark Imp article Conflict without conflict.
6: A game to take to a job interview:
Demonstrate your best qualities and answer questions while you play? (This really should be a thing)
Long job interviews are stressful. But, if you’re playing a game, things can’t be too terrible, can they? Well, yes, they can (it’s a job interview, after all). Fortunately, you brought and awesome game—one that will show off how smart and capable you are. Obviously, that game is War Chest.
War Chest is an abstract strategy game has similar aspects to Chess…but is also completely different. Players first pick which units they will use on the battlefield (aka board), keeping in mind that certain control points on the board must be captured in order to win the game. Each unit provides a unique ability—much like in Chess how each unit moves a special way—and you must use those abilities to capture enemy units and gain control of the board.
Aside from special abilities, you must also decide if you will “stack” units, making the stronger. Stronger units take longer to defeat, but there are also fewer of them in play, since stacked units still only count as one. From the ranged Crossbowman to the tactical Ensign, there are countless angles to take each game.
Another interesting aspect of War Chest is the bag-building mechanic. When players recruit new units, they go into that player’s bag. Then, when new units are drawn, they get pulled from the bag. So while you’re creating a specialised army, you must still make due with what you pull, and when. The thought that goes into each game rivals that of Chess, and the team-play (2 v. 2) allows for combined strategy to take effect.
When taken in to a job interview, your (future) boss will mediately detect a person who thinks before acting, and is able to improvise when necessary. A team player as well, War Chest is sure to snag you that awesome job you’ve been eying. Plus, the coins used for the units have some serious heft to them, showing you prize quality in what you do as well.
7: A game to take to a hospital:
No brain-power needed.
Tides of Time
This is something my wife and I have done during both of her pregnancies. There are many great games to play at the hospital, but you need to keep in mind that space is rather limited, and the patient is most likely confined to the bed. For our first child, we brought Tides of Time by Portal Games, and that’s what I’m going to recommend here.
Tides of Time is a two-player card game in which players are working to build up their own tableau of cards. Each card is one of five suits, and has a unique scoring condition on it as well. Cards are drafted back and forth between the two players, so what you don’t select becomes an option for your opponent. Once your cards have been played in the round, tally your scores according to each scoring condition on your cards in your tableau. Then, you may select one card to remain in your tableau for the rest of the game. The rest are shuffled back together and dealt again.
After the second round, a second card is selected to stay in your tableau for the remainder of the game. So while you’re drafting with the other player, you’re still able to plan ahead a little bit. At least, you know what could help your opponent, and that’s always a good thing to grab.
8: A game to take to a cabin in the woods:
You have lots of time and lots of space.
Betrayal at House on the Hill
I don’t know what it is, but when I head “cabin in the woods,” I instantly think of horror movie. I’m not even a big fan of scary movies (I’m something of a big baby), so I don’t know why I always think of that. That said, Betrayal at House on the Hill would be a brilliant game to play in a cabin in the deep, dark woods. Actually, I prefer Betrayal at Baulder’s Gate, because it’s more fantasy in nature, but for the purpose of this recommendation, I’ll just use Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Betrayal at House on the Hill (or simply “Betrayal,” for short) is a story-driven game in which players are collectively exploring a dusty old house. The exploration is how the game’s “map” is built, placing a new room tile in each new area you explore. This makes it so the game changes every time you play. Eventually, however, something mysterious will happen, and you will have to complete a mission or quest. These stories are found in the included book, and depending on how your exploration went will determine new roles.
Essentially, you’re trying to work cooperatively to complete the story, which can be somewhat creepy in nature (who doesn’t love acting out their own ghost story?). Inevitably, one player will end up being a traitor to the group. However, nobody knows who going into the game—not even the traitor! This traitor aspect adds more depth as they try and stop you and your terrified group of regular beings from accomplishing your goals. Oh, and your characters can die, so losing is even more terrifying as your party is slowly reduced in number.
Betrayal is one of the most thematic games I’ve played, as well as having one of the best narratives in a game I’ve seen. Telling ghost stories around a campfire is always fun. But playing it out yourself—especially in a secluded cabin in a dark forest—gives the term “ghost story” a whole new meaning.