As much as I love video games, there’s just something about board and card games that appeals to me more. Cracking a few beers and sitting around the kitchen table with a group of friends to fight zombies, pit monsters against each other, or come up with goofy plot descriptions for movies spells a good time in my books. It could be the banter between friends, it could be just the tactile nature of a hand of cards, but whatever it is, board and card games always bring a smile to my face. Hit the cut to discover my five favourite board and card games, and if there are any on this list that you haven’t played, I recommend seeking them out and giving them a try.
Balderdash is a game wherein one person – the Dasher – reads out a strange-sounding word, a date, a name, a movie title, a set of initials, or the beginning of a bizarre law, and the other players have to secretly write down the definition of the word, the significance of the date, the significance of the person named, the plot description of the movie, what the initials stand for, or the law. The Dasher changes every turn, so everyone gets a chance to write. As a writer, I love this game, and as a movie nerd, I particularly love the movie title category. One needs to employ a certain degree of strategy to make one’s answers sound silly yet plausible, and I just can’t get enough of it. Even if you’re not particularly good at creating convincing answers, there’s loads of fun to be had in reading everyone’s ideas. Unfortunately, my girlfriend inexplicably hates Balderdash, so I don’t get to play this as often as I’d like.
4. Fluxx (any variety)
Fluxx is a card game where every card changes the way the game is played. Some cards add new rules, some cards change the goal of the game, some cards let you steal cards from other players…there are tons of variations. The beauty of it is that it’s incredibly easy to pick up, and since it’s a just a deck of cards, it’s also easily portable and a terrific game for when you’re travelling. There are also a number of different themed versions of Fluxx, such as Zombie Fluxx, Stoner Fluxx, Martian Fluxx, Eco Fluxx, and my personal favourite, Monty Python Fluxx. Any game that forces you to sing Monty Python songs in order to play extra cards is awesome in my book! But it’s hard to top original Fluxx, as it’s a great game for all ages, as well as being fun and easy to play.
3. Last Night on Earth
Zombie-themed board games aren’t exactly plentiful, and good zombie games even less so. And while the Twilight Creations ZOMBIES!!! games are pretty cool, nothing, but nothing trumps Last Night on Earth. LNoE is one part board game and one part roleplaying game, as each player gets a character card that grants them special abilities and character stats that will be used in fighting the undead horde. There are also item cards such as weapons to help the characters along, but it’s never easy killing the living impaired, for in addition to the players controlling the heroes, there are also players controlling the zombies! As if that didn’t make things tricky enough, the game features multiple scenarios of varying difficulties, and some (like “Defend the Manor House”) definitely lean in favour of the zombies. The board has some variation to it as well, with the four quadrants of the map changing every game. Last Night on Earth is a bit complex as far as its rules go, but if you can master them, it’s a really fun time. The makers of the game, Flying Frog Productions, did a terrific job of capturing the feel of a zombie movie, and the game even comes with a cheesy soundtrack!
As a roleplayer and a fan of parody, I fall directly into the target demographic for Munchkin – a game wherein you collect cards (items, classes, races, martial arts styles, mounts, boats, etc.) to create a character, and then fight your way through hordes of monsters in a desperate race to reach level 10. A big part of Munchkin is player politics, and your ally one turn can (and will) stab you in the back on the next. Like Fluxx, there are many flavours of Munchkin, each parodying a different kind of roleplaying game. There’s classic Munchkin (Dungeons and Dragons), Munchkin Cthulhu, Munchkin Bites (Vampire: The Masquerade), Super Munchkin (Heroes Unlimited), Munchkin Fu (Oriental Adventures, Bushido, or GURPS Japan), Space Munchkin (primarily Rifts), and many, many more. It’s a funny, zany, backstabby game that is fun to play, but be warned: there’s a good chance you’ll get pissed off at someone. Don’t let that scare you away, though, because I consider this to be one of the best card games ever made. Second only to…
1. Magic: The Gathering
There’s a stigma against playing Magic that I’ve never really understood. I mean, yes, collectible card games are often played by awkward nerds and social outcasts, but you’d be surprised at how many non-nerdy, regular people play MTG. And it’s easy to see why it’s so popular! Magic: The Gathering is a game with infinite possibilities and endless variations. Based around the idea that the players are wizards, each with their own unique deck of cards that serves as their spellbook, Magic offers players the chance to customize their game to such a degree that every time you play, something will surprise you. Players collect cards that produce different effects (from making your opponent discard, to allowing you to draw more cards, to manifesting enormous monsters on the playing field to do your fighting, and so much more) and pit their custom-built deck against someone else’s in a kind of battle of wits. Players each start with 20 life, and usually the first person to reach 0 loses, but even that can be changed depending on what cards are in play. It’s like Fluxx combined with Munchkin, turned up to 11, all with a fantasy theme. There are so many different things to enjoy about MTG that I really can’t sum them up here. If you’ve never played and you know someone with a couple of decks, give it a shot. You’ll be surprised at how much fun you’ll have!
Munchkin Quest (the Munchkin board game)
Storming the Castle
A Touch of Evil
Apples to Apples
1000 Blank White Cards