Before COVID & self-isolation, I made a point of hosting fairly regular game nights, and as such I’ve tried to buy games that can appeal to a range of player experience levels (while also having a strong appeal to my personal tastes, since it is my money & storage space on the line).
A few favorites:
- Carcassonne (IMO the best option to pull out as a gateway to Euro-style games for new gamers)
- Ticket to Ride (I especially appreciate the new Cities mini editions they’ve been releasing annually — perfect for either quickly teaching the mechanics of the original game, or as a warmup/cool down from a more involved gaming session)
- Mysterium (an obvious choice given my long history with Clue/do — if you’re reading this, stop now & go treat yourself to the excellent digital edition, or just go ahead & buy the physical set if you happen to have at least 2 other willing players at your disposal)
- Onirim (a brilliant & very thematic solitaire game — the mobile edition is often free-$1, and the physical set packs a whopping 7 expansion decks into the box which can be mixed into the base deck as deeply as any one player wants. Can also be a co-operative 2-player game)
- Betrayal at the House on the Hill (this one also appeals to my Clue/do roots, design wise, but especially tickles my fancy for horror movies/stories. I recently had the pleasure of starting the Legacy edition with a few gaming friends, and I’m very, VERY excited to get deeper into those campaigns)
- Risk (an oldie, but a goodie — currently trying to track down a proper vintage set, or at least vintage-style reprint edition, as I find the modern mini Artillery figures ANNOYINGLY fiddly compared to the old cubes)
- Monopoly Revolution (the ONLY Monopoly I’ll willingly dust off to play, simply because I love the aesthetic of its circular board & modern, minimalist playing pieces. The game doesn’t really teach players anything except the bittersweet rush of imminent failure, so I heartily welcome the electronic banking unit in this edition)
- Kill Dr. Lucky (I adore the “19 1/2 Anniversary” edition available at retail, but the original print-and-play version is an absolutely stellar game without the added flair of proper tokens & graphics)
- Kingdomino (dominos meets Carcassonne is an apt summary. A very charming “Game of the Year” winner with a lot more depth of strategy under the surface than a glance at the box & contents would indicate)
- The Game of Life (specifically the Winning Moves 1st Edition facsimile, only because the newer editions have absolutely destroyed all of the weird humor of the earliest versions, and are absolutely pointless as far as competitive gameplay is concerned)
- Gloom (if you want a very compact game that’s absolutely dripping with theme & storytelling elements, this is THE game to buy)
- Tokaido (a game so relaxing to play & stunningly designed, I rarely care if I win or lose. The whole “point” of the game can be distilled as: have a cooler & more rewarding vacation than your opponents in ancient Japan. That said, there’s AMPLE room for developing a deeper strategy once you’ve grasped the basic mechanics, and if you so wish)
As for games I seek out from a collecting standpoint, I have a soft spot for vintage editions of what I refer to as the “Old Warhorse” games. These are any of your Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley brands which were ultimately absorbed by Hasbro (think Clue, Yahtzee, Sorry, etc) which may not necessarily be technically “good” games (due to their inherent simplicity as family games designed for mass appeal). If I stumble upon a vintage set in fair-to-very good condition, I’ll buy it (snagged a truly gorgeous Deluxe Yahtzee from the early/mid-60s not very long ago).
Otherwise, I’d have to say Ticket to Ride is the only brand outside of Clue/do I make an effort to “collect.” I own every unique map available in the digital edition, and thanks to the low cost of those, I’ve been able to test-drive & decide which maps and/or unique editions are worth the expense of acquiring physically, too.
Somewhat unrelated, but a point I like to raise: for anyone interested in expanding their board & tabletop gaming experience, the digital editions of these modern games are probably the most cost-effective way to decide if you want to drop $30-$50+ on the physical editions. At most, if you go for a mobile version, you’re only out a few dollars if it happens the game isn’t entirely up your alley (keep your eyes peeled for flash sales on titles you’re considering — desktop and/or console versions will have a higher initial cost, but those often include a few expansions with your initial purchase to sweeten the deal). These digital editions include very succinct tutorials, more often than not, so you also have the added bonus of learning these deeper games without having to trudge through a massive manual.
The website Board Game Arena is also a great way to learn & play some of the most popular modern board games without any costs unless you want a membership to allow you more freedom re: hosting private games and/or utilizing customized rules & mechanics. These play in the web browser of your choice, and more accurately reflect how you would play these games in real life vs the entirety digitally designed games you’ll find on iOS/Android/Steam/Switch/etc.