Boxing Day can often turn into a day to literally box your family in the face as the stress of Christmas day has passed and you no longer have to pretend to be nice to one another. This Boxing Day, instead of beating your family members, how about digging out some board games and besting them across the table? Here’s five of my choicest picks.
1. Machi Koro (2-4 players)
Machi Koro looks a lot like a card based version of Monopoly, but it isn’t quite. You are the mayor of small town Machi Koro and are in charge it turning this little place into a bustling metropolis. This is done by spending your cash buying new facilities such as bakeries, farms and shops amongst others.
Each building has a condition which will help you improve the value of your town. A dice is rolled on each player’s turn which relates to the condition on your card, for instance roll a three and the shop will instruct all players to give you some money, however another player might have another building stating that if someone else rolls three, they have to be given money, and so on. It’s complicated to explain but simple to play and the game moves at a fair pace. For 2-4 players, but really excels when you have 3 or more people playing.
2. Formula D (2-10 Players)
I was in two minds whether to put Formula D on this list as it has recently gone out of print and the only way of getting hold of a copy would be an expensive second hand copy from eBay. However, if you already own this great racing game, maybe it’s time to dust it off? Formula D looks very daunting for the first time player, with a huge board, multiple dice, character cards and mini gear sticks all look a bit overkill for a boxing day hangover.
But while the game has depth for the hardcore board gamer, it also comes with a basic ruleset too which is perfect for casual play, the most complicated game my family play is monopoly, and in no time they were zipping around the board like Gerhard Berger. As mentioned before there are advanced rules if your party is a little more experienced. Street racing, stats, ability, component damage all make Formula D as deep as you want it to be.
3. 221b Baker Street (2-6 Players)
Sherlock Holmes is popular these days, isn’t he? Why not try and be the great man himself? Well in 221b Baker Street, you can! While initially the game looks like a Cluedo knock off, it turns into its own beast entirely. The game sounds the same: collect the clues, solve the crime. But it’s not necessarily murder, sometimes it is indeed find the murderer/murder weapon/motive, sometimes it’s other crimes such as theft, I played a case about preventing a crime. Players roll a dice and move around the board, a statement is read out at the start of the game which gives players leads to follow.
Investigate the places on the board to get clues such as the theatre, the carriage depot and the docks amongst others. These locations can provide further clues to aid you in your investigation, although sometimes you can run into dead ends or red herrings to stump you in your case. Couple of downsides to take into account, the clues are often cryptic, which can fox some players and foxed me on a couple of occasions and with more players it can move quite slow, moving from top right to bottom left of the board for instance might take around 10 turns to complete, however if you’re pressed for time, I added a second dice to a game of four people which made movement much quicker. Baker Street is easily the most mainstream game on this list: it’s on sale at Waterstones, WHSmiths and Toys R Us as well as independent retailers, so if you want some brain taxing fun over Christmas then 221b Baker Street is for you.
4. Pandemic (2-4 Players)
Too much conflict over Christmas? How about some team building in the cooperative board game Pandemic? Players must work together to prevent the world falling under the grip of a terrible virus. Each player takes the role of a specialist and players must work towards curing four diseases or viruses that have broken out around the world. Each specialist has a skill which can be used to combat the spread of the disease. While I won’t go into the full rules here, they can be quite difficult to explain unless you’re playing, the aim of the game is to prevent these diseases becoming a pandemic.
Each disease is represented by a coloured cube which is placed on a city when it is drawn randomly from the city pack, each player has four actions per turn, moving to an adjacent city is one, as is removing a single disease cube. If a city has three disease cubes on it and gets infected again it becomes a pandemic and spreads to neighbouring cities. Making your task much harder. If you run out of coloured cubes then you lose and the game has won. While it sounds complicated, in action the game is easy and anyone thinking of buying should check out some let’s play videos of the game. Pandemic is considered a modern classic board game for good reason, it’s a lot of fun, frustrating at times, but also hugely rewarding.
5. Ticket to Ride (2-5 Players)
Another modern classic is the award-winning Ticket to Ride. Players each take control of a rail company and the aim of the game is to earn points by making the best rail network across country. Players are give cities to link for bonus points and there are also points for the the longest continuous route. Each turn players pick cards from a deck, five are face up and the deck is face down. Players can choose to pick from the face up cards they can see and then replace them with the ones they pick with cards from the deck or simply take cards from the main deck blindly.
Each city is linked by coloured markers on the map, the amount of markers vary depending on the distance between them. Each card from the deck has a corresponding colour. For instance, Denver to Oklahoma City is four red markers, meaning I need four red cards in order to build my rail connection. This offers a certain amount of tactics too. Having played the game a while you begin to recognise where players are going and it gives you the chance to cut them off. It’s simple but keeps you coming back for more, which is why this game gets a lot of love.
That’s all for now. Happy gaming this Christmas, folks!