Please Don’t Play Monopoly This Christmas! | December 7, 2011

Christmas is coming and the mind turns to turkey, crackers and games. Sadly for many, the games may only extend as far as Monopoly, the great mire of board games. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with Monopoly, I’ve played it aplenty, but it really isn’t the best option out there.

So treat yourself to a new game this yuletide and try out one of the following:


Tactile Fun – Toppletree

This is like a cross between Jenga and Connect 4, as players take it in turn to build the brightest, most insanely coloured tree ever seen. Forgiving enough for younger children to enjoy and cunning enough for adults, especially those that may have drunk a little.


Some Skill, Some Luck – Settlers Of Catan

This game’s very popular, so you’ve probably already got it, or at least heard of it. Build settlements, get resources and build more stuff. Very simple and easy to grasp, although it takes a few games to really figure out how to get started, and you can still get whipped by miserable dice rolls.


Cards – Dominion

Collect cards and use their powers to collect more cards. It can be confusing at first, until you realise that you keep all the cards that you collect, just not all in your hand at once. Each round you draw the top 5 cards in your deck and use them together to your best advantage, always keeping in mind what other cards you’ve already collected. Really simple to play but kids might need to be guided through some forward planning.


More Cards – 7 Wonders

Hot out last year. Build your civilisation through 3 ages. In each age every player is dealt a hand of cards, each then plays one card and passes the hand onto the player on their left, receiving the hand from the player on their right. So you’re balancing what’s best for you and what’s bad for those that get the hand after you. This is a really quick game to play because everyone ‘goes’ at the same time.


Fastest To Learn – Ticket To Ride

Appealing to the middle aged man who wants to build a model railway in all of us, the rules for this game literally fit on a train ticket. Lay railroads linking cities across the US (or other places, depending on the edition you get) to build routes in your colour. Very tactile, very easy to enjoy what you’re building and absolutely straightforward for kids to learn.


Family Fun – Finca

Collect fruit and sell it at market. Lots of lovely brightly coloured pieces and a simple game to grasp, but that isn’t to say there isn’t depth. I expect this, of all the games I mention, is the most likely to displace that boring old game of infinity and stalemate that is Monopoly.


Race Game – Cartagena

Very simple, very fun. You all play pirates trying to break out of the famous Cartagena jail to an awaiting sloop. All the game is in the tactical movement. You have cards in your hand (or in view of everyone else, depending on which of the two game set ups you use) with different symbols on them. These symbols match to squares on the board. Play a card and you can move one of your pirates to the next free square with that symbol. But the only way to get more cards is to move a pirate backwards, to the next square in that direction with either 1 or 2 pirates on it. If you’ve ever played Hare & Tortoise, it’s like that, but simpler.


Cooperative – Pandemic

It’s a co-operative board game! All the players work together to stop the global virus pandemic. So it’s players versus the game. Worth having for the novelty alone.



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  1. Hello you.

    I love Pandemic, but it’s a nasty beast of a game; you’re far better to let players choose their characters than follow the manual’s random assignment: “Oh fantastic. I’m Simon Mengele, the tobacconist. He gets cut price cigarettes every fifth round…” Rubbish.

    I reckon the game with the simplest and tightest mechanic I’ve come across is “Lost Cities”. You should pick that up.

    Currently learning the rosetta stone of iconagraphic complexity that is “Race for the Galaxy.”. A fierce pancake.

    Comment by John Dunn (@contactJohnDunn) — January 12, 2012 @ 10:26 pm

    • Howdy, Pandemic has a great way of making the players feel like impotent fools, which is an interesting life lesson for kids to be introduced to as young as possible. One day I’ll participate in a game of it where the world isn’t consumed by a rampant pathogen. I’ve not played Lost Cities and I’m quite simply frightened of Race For The Galaxy. That said, I’m keen to play Die Macher – I have a friend who’s got it, just need to find 5 hours to play it in.

      Comment by jonbrown1975 — January 19, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

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