I love board games. I love table-top role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons even more, but board games are a close second. But as I got older, I found myself hunting for excuses not to join into games with friends and family. Why didn’t I want to play anymore? What was wrong with me? I felt like I was at risk of losing my geek cred!
After a bit of thought, I realized the problem wasn’t with me, but with the types of games we were playing. The thing is, I like games, but I don’t really enjoy cut-throat competition. I’m the player who always cuts everyone some slack, skips good moves to give the newbie a break, and gets legitimately worried about playing bad cards on friends (I play them on my husband, instead).
Side-note: Have you ever noticed that? Play a game like Munchkin with a couple, and I will bet you cash money they’ll go nuclear on each other at some point during the game, dishing out traps, curses, and monster enhancer cards and cackling with glee as their partner is reduced to a quivering Level 0 fighter with no armor and a rusty fly swatter for a weapon. Why? Because usually that’s the safe option, and while I could go into an interesting tangent on Attachment Theory here, that’s not my point.
The point is, I realized I don’t really enjoy most competitive board games because, in my experience, the investment to reward ratio for most of them is WAY OFF. For example:
- RISK: Hide in Australia for 4+ hours while Dan and his brothers pound the crud out of each other. Die horribly when the eventual victor remembers I exist.
- Axis and Allies: More of the same…
- Lord of the Rings RISK: Cower while Dan and Little Person pound the crud out of each other. Die horribly when the eventual victor remembers I exist.
- Walking Dead RISK: Hide from the other players for about 4 turns before the entire board is overwhelmed with zombies outbreaks. Spend the rest of the game losing ground and hoping for a quick death.
- Othello: Hours of strategy, resulting in someone winning, and someone feeling stupid. It literally doesn’t matter who wins, because there will be bad feelings regardless.
- Go: See above
- Chess: See above
- Settlers of Catan: %&#$ these cards! I do not need more wood.
- Monopoly: A long, inevitable slog towards bankruptcy and debt for everyone but that one friend…you know who you are…
But I DO like long, involved games with high stakes and emotional investment. So what was a geeky girl to do?
The solution, I realized, was two-fold. If we played a competitive game, it needed to be short, silly, and fun. If we played a long, high stakes game, it needed to be collaborative.
Thus, I present to you our current favorites in the form of A Very Incomplete List of Board Games for People who Don’t Like Long, Competitive Board Games:
- Zombicide: Black Plague (and all its various expansions)
- Zombicide: Invader (and all its various expansions)
- Arkham Horror (etc.)
- Eldrich Horror
- Pandemic Legacy Seasons 1 & 2
- Pandemic Cthulhu
- Zombies (collaborative house rules)
Competitive Board Games I actually Like:
- Munchkin (and most of its variations…)
- Gold Mine
- Robo Rally (Computer generated chaos and the hilarity of watching friends and family figure out their moves – does anyone else make little sound effects during the programming phase?)
- Small World (and Small World Underground)
- Unstable Unicorns
- Cards Against Humanity (NSFK)