One of the things the missus and I do to avoid becoming TV zombies is try new board games. We don't have a big budget or a games library nearby, but fortunately we have interesting friends, who have their own collections of interesting titles. We regularly play the ever-popular Carcassonne, Zombies!!!, and Settlers of Catan, but recently we've had a chance to try a few interesting new ones:
Candamir: the First Settlers
Designed by "Settlers" maker Klaus Teuber, this Norse-flavoured game revolves around resource collecting quests and building items for victory points. Each player plays as a different character, with a few unique strengths and bonuses, so it's a little like a "canned" RPG. During each turn you venture forth from town towards an objective square, drawing cards to see if each square you pass through allows free travel, or requires you to fight an enemy or perform a risky task to proceed. Resources gained from quests are used to brew potions to help your character, or build items for different merchants in town, and the first player to make 10 items wins. There's an "XP" system too so your character can buff their abilities over the course of the game (unless you suck at it, like I did). Lots of fun, and not too hard to learn either.
|(not my photo)|
Ticket to Ride
This is a railway building game that can require you to be pretty sneaky in plain sight of your opponents. You collect same-coloured train car cards in your hand to build stretches of track between cities across a map of Europe and Russia (there are, of course, different geographical sets). Each player has secret objective cards ("Destination Tickets") for long multi-track stretches that they can complete for extra points, while trying to discern their competitors' objectives and disrupt them. At the end whoever completes the most objectives and has the longest tracks wins. This is by far the easiest of these three games to learn, but it has some intense play mechanics and a good balance of skill and luck.
|(definitely not my photo)|
Tzolk'in: the Mayan Calendar
My wife bought this for herself as a birthday gift. Wow. I'm pretty sure this is the most complicated board game ever made. The board consists of six interlocking gears, based on the cyclical Mayan/Aztec calendar. Briefly, you place and remove worker pieces on the gears, paying corn to place them and collecting benefits when you remove them. The thing is, the gears MOVE every turn, so where you place your worker is not where they end up a few turns later. There's a "buy low, sell high" dynamic in how/when workers are placed/removed, but where the game gets really nuts is how this interacts with the temple tracks (points for pleasing the gods), technology tracks (bonuses and multipliers to boost your resources), and buildings and monuments (a bunch of other stuff). We haven't even played a full game yet, and it took me 40 minutes just to set up the board (probably incorrectly) so I won't even pretend to say I understand it. But it looks challenging and fun once you learn it.