The holiday shopping season is upon us and one of the common questions we’re running into this season is what board game we would recommend to someone who already has Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride. We’ve been asked this so many times, in fact, we decided to put our recommendations on our Web site to help you with your holiday shopping.
Here they are: Power Grid, Puerto Rico, Acquire, Fresco, Forbidden Island, and Dominion.
Players play the role of a company that owns power plants and try to supply electricity to cities. Players buy power plants at auction and buy resources (coal, oil, garbage, nuclear, etc) to produce electricity to power the growing number of cities in their expanding network. The game ends when a player has 17 cities in their network, but the winner of the game is the player who can supply power to the most cities in their network. For example, in a recent 4-player game I played the winner had 17 cities but was only supplying power to 15 of those cities.
The concepts in Power Grid are familiar– using resources to fuel power plants so that electricity is produced, and auctioning power plants and buying resources. What continues to impress me about Power Grid is that the game play mechanics are so well-balanced. There is a benefit to doing well in the game but there is also a benefit if you’re in last place. The order of play changes each round based on how well players are doing so people’s ability to purchase the most impressive power plants and buy inexpensive resources is always shifting, thus each game is usually a white-knuckled affair right to the very end.
This 8-year old classic is often overlooked by newcomers to Euro board games. In fact, we overlook it from time to time, too! But Puerto Rico is an excellent addition to your board game library. Players are plantation owners in Puerto Rico in the age of sail. You will grow five different kind of crops (corn, indigo, coffee, sugar and tobacco) and try to run your business more efficiently than your competitors. You also develop San Juan with useful buildings, deploy your colonists to best effect, sell crops at the right time, and ship goods back to Europe for maximum benefit.
We used the word “classic” to describe Puerto Rico, but the true classic on this list is Acquire, which was first published in 1962. Players strategically invest in businesses (hotels), trying to retain a majority of stock. As the businesses grow with tile placements, they also start merging, giving the majority stockholders of the acquired business sizable bonuses, which can then be used to reinvest into other chains. All of the investors in the acquired company can then cash in their stocks for current value or trade them 2-for-1 for shares of the newer, larger business. The game is a race to acquire the greatest wealth.
For folks looking for a hot 2010 release, we recommend Fresco. Players are artisans restoring the fresco in a Renaissance church. Each player has five workers. You plan the each worker’s day, including the time they wake up and go to work. Sounds kind of strange, huh? Not really. For example, getting to the market early means you get first pick of the paint. Players decide their actions in secret. Paints purchased and money in the coffers are kept hidden, too. You then take your paints (sometimes mixing colors to produce new colors required) to the cathedral to restore a segment of the fresco, thus scoring points.
As an added bonus, Fresco ships with three expansion modules, thus giving you more playing options.
We wanted to put Pandemic on this list but it is currently out of print. Fortunately, the designer of Pandemic also created Forbidden Island. The two games are similar in mechanics but vary in theme. Forbidden Island, like Pandemic, is a cooperative game. All players work together to defeat the game. In Forbidden Island, players are explorers trying to rescue four treasures from an island that is not-so-slowly sinking into the sea. It’s a race against time to collect the treasures as the game board (made up of tiles representing the different areas of the island) literally disappears around you. This is a fast-paced game, which makes it a great opener or finisher to your board gaming day.
One of our most popular games isn’t really a board game. It is a card based game with a fantasy theme. Players start with an identical, small deck of cards. In the center of the table is a selection of other cards you can “buy” as you can afford them. Through your selection of cards to buy, and how you play your hand as you draw it, you construct your deck on the fly, striving for the most efficient path to the precious victory points by game end.
(BoardGameGeek.com was used as a reference for some of the gameplay mechanics described in this article.)