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Growing up, board games were how my family bonded. We lived in a big house in the country about thirty minutes away from civilization, so when we didn’t “go into town” (seriously, that’s what we’d say, like we were on fucking Little House on the Praire), we had to find ways to interact that didn’t always involve arguing over what movie to watch. I mean, what did you expect? Us to sit around and actually talk? Psh.
So, ever since I was little, board games were always the answer. At least once a week you would’ve found the five of us crouched over our dining room table, arguing over properties, crying over territories stollen, and getting sent to our rooms for cussing each other out.
It was heaven.
And so, since my idea of a good time is usually more of a “let’s drink wine and play Catan” as opposed to “let’s do Molly at a musical festival,” I feel it’s my duty to break down the absolute best games ever created. Because no matter how nerdy it seems, there’s something truly wonderful about inviting friends over, getting a shitton of beer, and arguing over who is going to end up with the longest road at the end of the game (there’s always a “longest road,” isn’t there?).
Risk destroys friendships. Risk destroys families. Risk destroys lives.
Now, I know some people love to play Chess. These are the same people who love to smoke giant tobacco pipes and say words like “indubitably.” And it’s not so much that it’s a bad game. It’s just that someone who knows how to play can’t sit down with someone who doesn’t know how to play and enjoy a game that doesn’t make them both just absolutely want to die. If you know how to play, and you play with someone who is the exact same level as you, then maybe you’ll make it out without crying, but that’s something I have yet to experience.
Chess’s younger, dorkier brother, Stratego has a similar “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re fucked” feel, with fun pictures and characters. I mean, the title of it alone says it all. STRATEGO. It is all strategy. And while strategy is great for games, this isn’t one where you get the occasional brain breaks to scroll Insta and think about how miserable your life has become to be playing Stratego on a Saturday night.
7. Trivial Pursuit
Don’t know any useless facts? Horrible at trivia? The thought of being on any sort of Jeopardy show makes you break out in a cold sweat? Perfect — this is your hell! But instead of losing out on money like you would in a game show, you lose to your douchebag friends who think they’re amazing for knowing what jungle planet Wookiees hail from, which is, arguably, worse.
Honestly, due to the amount of caffeine, stress, and alcohol coursing through our bodies, most of us do not have the steady hands to pull of these procedures.
This game has all the makings of a good time. An interesting board, the ability to fuck with your friends, and the fact that you can take little breaks for snacks or tuning out when things get dull. The only problem? There are those Stratego-esk folks who stay alert the whole time and sit there with their little checklists open, watching your eyes and deducing what cards you’re showing other people. If you’re not a total brain, odds are you’ll only be halfway through figuring out the location when your friend who went to an Ivy is announcing that he knows the answer.
This is about as classic of a game as you can get. Get $200 every time you pass Go, build some hotels, and watch the poor schmuck who decided to buy Park Place go bankrupt thanks to your empire on orange. People understand it pretty quickly and assuming you have a spine and zero morals, you’ll make out pretty well. Still, it’s famously known to drag on forever (and ever and ever), and it ends up being down to two people who just slowly chip away at each others’ finances and patience until someone just says “fuck it” and tosses all of their money over.
You know what’s great about this game? There’s no real winner. And as someone who craves winning as much as she craves oxygen, that’s a weird thing to say. But as a team game, you either all win together, or you all lose together. And when you’re fighting the board to try to stop the outbreak of deadly diseases, it feels pretty damn good to beat it. That said, when you’re a turn away from winning and pull a Pandemic card and everything starts outbreaking and you all die, it’s a pretty shitty moment, but hey, at least everyone sucks together. Still, without a winner, how are we supposed to know who’s the best?
2. Settlers Of Catan
Catan sometimes gets a bad rap from losers who don’t actually know how to play, but the truth is: It’s one of the best games of all time. The only reason it’s not #1, is because there’s a learning curve, which is why some people say it’s trash. These are the people who played once when they were sort of drunk, built some settlements on sheep (without a solid 2-1 trade) and wondered why people weren’t trading with them. Say it with me: “No one wants your fucking sheep.” Learn to play the game, really learn, and your life will be forever changed.
1. Ticket To Ride
Easily the best game of our generation, Ticket To Ride is vastly underrated. And by that, I mean every single person isn’t playing it every moment of their lives. It’s easy to understand, it’s easy to play, and if you’ve got your shit together, it’s easy to win. It has the geography of Risk, the building of Catan, and the smarts of Monopoly, in a game that will most likely allow you to end it without flipping the table. And at the end of it all, isn’t that the sign of a truly great time?.