Top 5 board games to play during a Pandemic, whilst on ‘lockdown’
This is a strange and worrying time, we are being asked to stay home to keep ourselves and others safe. But, focusing on the positives, this is a great opportunity for ‘board gamers’ (or board game enthusiasts) to play even more board games!
For those who are looking for ideas to keep themselves entertained, now is a good time to try out new board games, other than the ‘classic’ monopoly, cluedo & ludo, to join the growing subculture of tabletop gaming!
Board games are a fun way to distract from the world outside, creating a fantasy world to draw you in and capture your full attention during the game play, so...here are my top 5 games to play during the pandemic whilst on ‘lock down’.
1. Star Wars Rebellion
2-4 players-aimed at aged 14+, play time 3-4 hours
‘The epic conflict between the galactic empire and the rebel alliance’…... And it is epic! This game is a great way to fill your time during the pandemic, as this game can take between 3-4 hours to play. But it is easy to get so engrossed in this fantastical epic space based civil war that you don’t notice the amount of time that has passed. On one side player/s endeavor to take control of the empire and discover the hidden rebel base, by unleashing the galactic empire’s extensive military to wipe out the rebel alliance, through brute force, whilst on the other side the player mounts a full-scale rebellion using guerrilla tactics and sabotage to evade or undermine the opposition. The game allows you to use iconic characters to attempt secret missions to aid your objects.
You get a lot for your money with this game, not only in the length of game play as mentioned, but they manage to squeeze lots of good quality components into the box including over 150 plastic miniatures, as well as cards, markers, custom dice and 2 play boards! Due to all of the components, set up does take a while, along with going through the ‘learn to play' booklet, but once you get going you are well rewarded for your initial patience. The many and differing components and also the two roles, adds some unpredictability and variety, which ensures no game is the same as previous ones, which makes it a great game to play again and again!
2. Terraforming Mars
1-4 player, aimed at ages 12+, play time 90-120 mins
This is a resource management game set on Mars. Each player controls a corporation and are competing to transform Mars into a habitable planet, through spending resources and using innovative technology. The game play is broken down into 4 phases and allows players to buy and collect project cards, build up production, place cites, oceans, greenery, and reach milestones and awards before your opponents. Through their actions players aim to increase their terraform rating gaining victory points, and once all three global parameters (temperature, oxygen and oceans) are at a level that makes Mars habitable, the game ends!
This game does have a variety of elements, which can make it initially tricky to pick up the rules, but if you have played other resource management games you are likely to pick it up quicker as many of the elements/ phrases will be familiar, but either way once you start playing the reference cards and symbol guide help you learn how to play the game. During our first play through of the game, we found the card drafting of project cards the hardest in relation to deciding which cards to keep before we were familiar with the cards of the game flow, but it was still very enjoyable and soon became a favorite during our second play! One small downside is that it can be tricky to keep your resource cubes in place on the player boards, however there are player mat overlay options available.
Another plus with Terraforming Mars, is that it has a single player variant - so great for those in lockdown on their own or with people who don’t like board games (weirdos).
Also, just in case things go very bad here on earth, you can treat this as practice for terraforming the real Mars if we need to relocate!
1-4 players, Aimed at ages 14+, each scenario can take 2-3 hours.
This is another game that is great at filling time during the pandemic lockdown, as the series of different scenarios provided, create an epic adventure with over 100 hours of game time! Gloomhaven is a cooperative, campaign-driven dungeon crawl board game, with developed characters and extensive scenarios. Within the game, players work together to battle monsters whilst also advancing their own individual goals, as they progress through a series of adventures and unlock new content as they go. The game has an individualist element to it, inviting players to create their own story.
Although this is a very complex and detailed game with a lot of different elements, the comprehensive rule and scenario books teach you how to play as you go, guiding you through playing scenarios, interacting with monsters and using character ability cards. The components of the game are good quality with thoughtful art work, which add to the sense of mystery and adventure and include; 18 character miniatures, books, tokens, cards, tiles, an impressive map board, ‘tuck boxes’ and even stickers!
For those of you who had already started your Gloomhaven adventure but are not living with your teammates, people have successfully played Gloomhaven remotely, using google hangouts, zoom or skype, with the aid of the Gloomhaven helper http://esotericsoftware.com/gloomhaven-helper. There is advice online about managing the logistics, from people who have played in this way!
Gloomhaven also has a solo player mode, so perfect for those living on their own or those that need a little bit of ‘me time’ during lockdown! The big box sequel to Gloomhaven, Frosthaven, having just been funded on Kickstarter becoming the top funded board game on the platform. Once you've finished Gloomhaven you might be able to move straight onto Frosthaven to carry on with this epic adventure.
2-5 players, aimed at ages 12+, play time 60-90 mins
In this game players take on the role of the viruses invading a patient’s organs. Bringing a whimsical and humorous take on this very ‘on point’ topic. Players secretly choose mutation and zone cards and place their viruses, the aim is to gain the most points by competing with opponents to control the zones of the body.
The board, cards and placing pieces are colourful, fun and include appealing art work, all of good quality. The rules initially appear a little overly complex, but actually the game is relatively easy to pick up particularly after the play through of the first round, and the board helpfully includes a visual play guide to remind you of each step.
Within the game, players' choices can really impact each other and create unpredictable events, so you may think you have developed a great strategy and predicted the moves of your opponents, only to find when the cards are revealed, that your plan has been ruined! Extremely frustrating…..but in a fun way! There are also a variety of ‘event cards’ which also gives you something additional to consider each round, keeping it dynamic.
The only slight downside (which my husband finds more annoying than I do!) is the two player variant. If playing with two players there is a 3rd dummy player, which works well, however on the step track on the board there is no reminder of the step one variant, so players need to remember that before selecting their cards, to first draw cards and place the dummy viruses, which is not required in the 3+ players game.
5. Pandemic Legacy
2- 4 players - aimed at ages 14+, play time 60 min
This recommendation, is likely not to be a big surprise as there has been a significant rise in Pandemic board game sales since the lockdowns have begun, so clearly others have had the same idea! There are a variety of Pandemic games, but i have chosen Pandemic Legacy, as i really enjoy the evolving story element of the game. Like the other Pandemic games, Players work together, aided by their individual specialist roles and skills, to fight a pandemic, coordinate a response and find a cure. Teamwork and communication are essential and players share knowledge to discover cures and set up treatment centers as they travel around the board. However, it is a race against time, as each turn the infections spread around the world, causing chaos and players must cure all four diseases before the infection rate becomes out of control.
What the Legacy game adds to the base game is that players have 12 months (12-24 games) to eradicate the infections, however the impact of each month (game) remains on the board (so any fallen cities remain fallen for the duration) and the outcome effects the next month. At the end of a month (game) players have access to ‘upgrades’ to help them fight the diseases, however there are also rule changes which can either help or add additional complexities to the game! So just when you think you have the infection under control a twist will make you rethink and keep you on your toes!
It is a very dynamic game, which involves destroying cards, changing rules, adding stickers to the board and mystery boxes! That does mean that you can only play through the entire Legacy game once, however if you do finish it before the end of lockdown, there is a series two to jump straight into!
Pandemic Legacy, allows for beginners to start by playing the basic Pandemic game a few times to become comfortable with the rules and actions, before moving on to the Legacy game, where your result impacts how the game progresses. The new rules are added in gradually to help you keep up and the rule book is comprehensive and easy to follow. This does mean that if there is longer a gap between games, it is easy to pick up from where you left it. However, I would recommend completing it with only a short gap between games to get the most from the Legacy story element of the game, making it a perfect game to play during the Pandemic lockdown. Also a good way to remind ourselves how quickly viruses can spread and why it is so important to do what we can to stop the spread!
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