What is Hygge? Hygge is regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture and to describe its essence fully requires more detail than I can provide in this blog, especially as we need to get on to the board game section!
But...Hygge is about creating intimacy and cosiness, taking pleasure in soothing things and togetherness. It is an experience, a feeling of safety, being shielded from the world, whether you are with a group of friends, family, partner or simply enjoying a cup of tea by yourself. For more information on the Danish way of life, check out The Little Book of Hygge - The Danish way to live well - By Meik Wiking.
Board games fit into the Hygge ethos as they are a social activity which allows you to create common memories and strengthen relationship bonds and in addition, for many of us who grew up playing board games, there is that sense of nostalgia of more simpler times. It is also a great opportunity to put down our phones, switch off from technology and be in the moment!
So gather some friends, dim the lights, light a fire, play some mellow music, pour the hot chocolate...or whisky, grab a snuggly blanket and settle down for a Hygge evening with our top suggestions for Hygge friendly board games.
A Feast for Odin
The Vikings embraced Hygge with their culture of great feasts and storytelling with friends around the fire during the long Nordic nights. A Feast for Odin has created a Viking Saga in a board game, the game blends worker and tile placement game elements with intriguing puzzle aspects, which enables players to experience the Viking way of life. Players explore new territories and raid villages they find, in order to increase their wealth and glory, while also taking part in day-to-day activities such as gathering food to feed their band of hungry Vikings. In the end, the player whose possessions carry the greatest value is the winner.
Playing time: 30-120 mins
Patchwork is a quick two player abstract strategy puzzle game, in which Players fit together patches trying to form the cosiest (highest scoring) quilt on their 9x9 grid, collecting and using buttons as currency as they go, but patches also cost time! The game ends when both players have run out of time. Scoring is determined by the number of buttons players have left, players can score extra points by being the first player to completely fill a 7x7 square on their quilt, but points are deducted for any spaces left empty on your quilt. So players need to be mindful of how they use their time and buttons and which shaped patches they pick and where they place them to ensure they are not leaving unfillable, unseemly gaps in their quilt!
Playing time: 15-30 mins
What could be more Hygge than a board game about creating a patchwork blanket? Well...a board game with patchwork blankets and cats!
Calico is a good alternative to Patchwork if there are more than two players or if you would like to play solo. Like Patchwork, Calico is an abstract strategy puzzle game, where players are trying to build the best patchwork quilt. However, with Calico, each quilt has a set pattern to follow and players are not only trying to create colour and pattern combinations that are aesthetically pleasing, but also attract the cuddliest cats!
Playing time: 30-45 mins
Nothing strengthens bonds or creates shared memories quite like campaigning together! Fighting side by side to defeat monsters, defend the weak , and prevent evil forces from taking over Gloomhaven...or just for fun in a bar brawl!
Gloomhaven is a cooperative, campaign-driven dungeon crawl board game, with developing 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 unlocking new content as they go. The game has an individualist element to it, inviting players to create their own story. Gloomhaven is a great game to play in those winter months, when you are more inclined to stay inside evenings and weekends to play board games, particularly as it is very easy to become immersed into the fantasy world of Gloomhaven and find yourself craving you next game. We ourselves used last winter’s Pandemic lockdown as an opportunity to complete our campaign! (see our blog post - Our ‘gloomy Christmas’.
Playing time: 60-120 mins
Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion
If you have a more busy social life, so less time to commit, then Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion is a great option. This stand alone game, featuring new characters is set before the events of the Gloomhaven base game and is aimed at the more casual campaigner. With a simpler rule set and quicker set up, players use the scenario book itself, rather than board pieces and tiles.
Playing time: 30-120 mins
The Fox in the Forest Duet
Like ‘The Fox in the Forest’ The Fox in the forest duet is a two-player trick-taking game, however rather than being rivals, this is a co-operative game in which players work as a team, helping each other move through the forest. It is this need for good communication and co-operation. In this fantasy forest game, Players need to collect all the gems before the end of three rounds of play, in order to win! The requirement for players to work together, along with the fantasy forest theming of this game, provide those Hygge vibes.
Playing time: 30 mins
Ticket to Ride - Nordic Countries
This Board game allows players to explore, by train, the Nordic Lands where Hygge was born. As with the other versions of Ticket to Ride, Players collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes and pass through tunnels and onto ferries, as they connect cities throughout the Nordic Countries. However, unlike the USA or Europe maps, Nordic is designed for 2-3 players only and has a heavier focus on blocking your opponent and more aggressive play. Although from that aspect it may not sound like a good game for strengthening bonds, as Days of Wonder themselves describe on their website, ‘Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries edition takes you on a Nordic adventure through Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden as you travel to the great northern cities of Copenhagen, Oslo, Helsinki and Stockholm. Visit Norway’s beautiful fjords and the magnificent mountain scenery on the Rauma Railway. Breathe in the salt air of the busy Swedish ports on the Baltic Sea. Ride through the Danish countryside where Vikings once walked. Hop-on the Finnish railway and travel across the Arctic Circle to the land of the Midnight Sun’, which sounds very Hygge to me!
Playing time: 30-60 mins