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. 

We’ve had 2 years and 24 board gamers selecting their eight games. So if you want a recommendation for a game to play in a hospital, at a reunion or in a cabin in the woods, you have 24 games to choose from… and who needs more than 24 games to play in hospital?  So I’ve decided to change the questions, to get recommendations of great games to play in other situations. This month, I’ll share my own suggestions and next month, we’ll hear from someone else. 

Ellie Dix

1: A game to play on an aeroplane:
Tiny tables and turbulence.

In this ‘roll and write’ game, players work on individual player boards (writing with dry erase pens), which fits onto a small table or you can hold in your hand. Boards have four rows of different dice colours, each row contains the numbers 2 to 12. Roll different colour dice and choose which totals to cross off on the corresponding row colour of your board. Some colours require decreasing numbers to be crossed off round on round, other colours require increasing numbers. You must always work from left to right and can’t go back and fill in missed numbers. Gain points for each crossed off number. The winner has the most points.

My own version of this game comes with a foam-lined lid, designed to give you a perfect noise-dampened dice rolling tray. This is super-useful on a plane, where a dropped dice may never be seen again.

2: A game to play in a pub:
Murky lighting and plenty of noise

In Skull, each player has a set of four cards. The cards just show a rose or a skull – the graphics are big so they’ll be visible across a dimly lit (and possibly slightly sticky) table. Cards are played face down, then someone will stop play and make a bid. The bid is a declaration of how many face-down cards they think they can turn over without revealing a skull. Other players may place higher bids. 

The highest bidder then reveals cards. If a skull is uncovered, a rose card is lost, making the game more difficult for this player. If no skull is uncovered, then the player wins a point. First to two points wins. Skull is all about bluffing, so a poker face is a must. It’s simple to learn and fun to play over and over and small enough to take with you for a night out on the town.

3: A game to play with a large group:
A captive audience for something big.

BGG Listing

You’re going to need a lot of dice, but Reiner Knitzia’s Decathlon is a perfect game to play with a big group of people. The game, which is free to download and play, contains ten mini games, each based around one of the ten events in the Olympic Decathlon. Each event uses a number of dice in a slightly different way. 

For example, to compete in the 100 metres, you divide 8 dice into two sets of four. On your turn, you throw the first set of four until you are satisfied with the result. Then you freeze this set. Now throw the other four dice and proceed in the same manner. Try to freeze sets of dice with high values but which contain no sixes. You have a maximum of 7 throws – which can be split across the two sets however you like. Score the total value of all dice, but subtract the sixes from the result.

Each event works in a slightly different way, but all are based around pushing your luck and throwing dice. To play with a large group, set up each game as a station in a different part of the room. Split the group into 10 sub-groups and rotate around the stations. Give players enough time for everyone to have a turn at the event at their station before they move on.

4: A game to play with four players from four different generations:
Fun for everyone from 4 to 104.

No Thanks
BGG Listing

In No Thanks, a deck of 35 numbered cards are shuffled and revealed one-by-one. Each time a card is revealed the active player has to either take the card or say ‘No Thanks’ and force the next player to make the same decision. If you say ‘No Thanks’, you must also put one of your counters on the card. If you take a card with counters on, you also take the counters. The cards will score points, but the aim is to get the lowest score possible. If you get a run of consecutively numbered cards, you only score the lowest card in the run. Counters also reduce your score. 

It’s a wonderfully simple game because on each play you only have two choices – take the card or pass on the card (and put down a counter) – so even young children can get involved. Despite the binary choice, the decisions are still interesting and there are multiple strategies that can be equally valid. This is a fabulous game for old and young (and everyone in between) to play together.

5: A game to play outdoors:
Wind, rain and seagulls won’t stop play.

BGG Listing

A two-player strategy game played on a more colourful version of a chess board. Each player controls 8 satisfyingly chunky ‘dragon towers’, which can move straight forwards or diagonally forwards. The colour square your piece ends up on determines the colour piece that your opponent must move on their turn. Your aim is to get one of your pieces to the other side of the board, whilst preventing your opponent from doing the same.

While you can play multiple rounds outdoors, it’s also easy to pick up and move inside between rounds if you get too hot or cold. This game won’t even feel a few drops of rain and the chunky towers would withstand a gail. Towers are built for all sorts of weather. Plus it’s a terrific game.

6: A game to play in a library:

Nova Luna
BGG Listing

No discussion is necessary when playing this wonderful tile placement game. The player who is currently in last place on the rondel (the circular track) takes the next turn. They may always select one of three tiles, which they place in their own tableau. When a certain configuration of tiles is achieved, the player places a counter on the tile that shows the configuration. Players aim to get rid of all their counters by creating multiple scoring configurations before the other players. 

Though other players may take the tiles you want, there’s no real player interaction, which reduces the need for table talk. I’d be very happy to be tucked away in a cosy corner of a library with just Nova Luna and a couple of friends to play with. 

7: A game to play with someone who claims to hate board games:
Can you convert a non-believer?

The Quacks of Quedlinburg
BGG Listing

My husband is not a keen board gamer 😞… but when I introduced him to Quacks his eyes lit up. He loves this game. People are often put off playing board games because their experience revolves around playing games with too much luck, too much strategy and lots of downtime. Quacks deals with all three of these issues. 

In Quacks, players are pulling ingredients tokens out of their own bag and adding them to a potion they are making. Everyone is playing simultaneously, so downtime is reduced. Luck is certainly involved, as players are selecting tokens from the bag at random and unseen. But players add to the standard ingredients in their bag as they progress through the game, so they can influence the contents of the bag and therefore increase or decrease the chances of drawing certain things. 

This is one game that seems to have an incredibly wide appeal. It’s hugely popular across the board gaming community and it’s a great one to introduce to non-gamers too.

8: A game to play with one other player:
A cosy game for two .

Lost Cities
BGG Listing

Five suits of different colours represent five different expeditions. If you play a card in a suit, you are committing to going on that expedition, which costs you 20 points. So for each expedition you commit to, you really need to score more than 20 points – hopefully lots more. Cards are numbered and must be played in ascending order, so you’ll have to play the lower value cards before you can play the higher cards down. The face value of each card represents the points you get, though there’s also the chance to double, triple or even quadruple your score in an expedition. 

At the same time, your opponent is also committing to expeditions. You’ve got a strict hand limit of 8 cards and you’re going to want to discard cards you don’t want to play later. But anything you discard is available for the other player to pick up. You don’t want to hand over a wonderful gift to them, but need space in your own hand for your own high scoring cards. The game is fabulous. There’s a lot of tension about which cards to play and which you suspect your opponent of holding on to. I’ve had whole afternoons just playing Lost Cities… I must organise another. 

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