Board games every gamer should own

A guest article from Spireland.

Last week I wrote about how sticking to one game can rot your brain out.   While picking up a new miniatures game can be a time consuming and fiscally heavy investment a board game can be a simple way to cleanse the gaming palate.  Finding board games that you’ll want to own can be difficult as there is just a ton of games out there to pick from.  Most game stores will carry a stupefying amount of games and it’s tough to pick out something with some staying power.  I’ve been lucky, in that a member of my gaming group is addicted to board games and he brings over a new one every few weeks that I get to try.  Some of them I pick up a copy, and I’d like to share with you the games I think you may want to consider picking up.   For those already into board games, these are not deep cuts; these are the classics for those that have no idea where to start.

Settlers of Catan

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This game is a classic, for a reason.  It’s simple but still has some deep strategy. The game is popular enough that it’s seeped its way into pop culture.   It’s not very complex so that almost anyone can pick it up, though complicated enough to have some deeper strategy to it.   You are settlers to an island and are competing with your opponents for resources in order to build the largest settlement.   The game setup results in a different board every game, which means it’s easy to keep playing this game.   When you decide you are looking for more than the basic game a plethora of expansions are available, adding deeper layers of complexity to the game.



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Dominion is what had been termed a “deck building game”.   In this game you take turns purchasing cards to build your deck.  It is somewhat of a resource management game as what type of cards you buy will influence how well (or not) your deck functions.   Cards that let you buy better cards are useful, though you won’t win the game with them.  Cards that will win you the game won’t be useful in building your deck.  This game is especially fun for gamers like me, played Magic The Gathering, as it’s got some of that constructed feel to it.    This is another game, like Catan, that if you want more, has many expansions.

7 Wonders

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7 Wonders is my favorite game on this list.  The reason it’s my favorite is that I have no patience, and I love drafting games.  In this game you are building a civilization through three distinct phases.  Each phase gets a random set of cards that you have to draft a card from, and pass it along.  This mechanic makes for a frustrating and engaging game that forces you to make difficult choices.  Unlike others on this list you can hammer out a game in 30 minutes, which appeals to the less patient gamers among us(like me).   Another interesting facet of this game is that there are multiple win conditions.  A player can chose to pursue a victory through science, military or building infrastructure.

Battlestar Galactica

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Battlestar Galatica is a game where everyone works together to try and survive cylon (evil robot dudes) attacks while trying to find a new home.  The game mirrors the popular reimagined show.   What makes this game a real gem is one player is secretly a cylon and has a different goal, to stop the other players from succeding.  The game’s mechanic for picking who (or if there even is one) is a cylon makes it so you don’t know who you can trust, leading to a very interesting gaming experience.  This is not a game if you want to work together and play nice.

Mansions of Madness

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Mansions of Madness is a game that is very much like a traditional RPG, in that the players compete against a game master who runs the game and the monsters inhabiting the board.  This game captures the feel of the traditional RPG version of Call of Cthulu, a very dark universe, so it can be a different experience then a game like Dungeons and Dragons.  In this game you can win, though it can be very tough.  Most likely you will go insane and murder every other player from all the crazy monsters you see.    The game includes five basic scenarios you can run though, and variants on each scenario lead to a lot of replay value.  The game does suffer from a long lead time and you have to have a player that wants to “run” the game.


There are many games out there that are worth your gaming time and dollars.  Board Game Geek is a website that collects user reviews of almost every game on the market.  Don’t trust my input, go take a look at what’s out there and find something that works for you and your group.

Sean Ireland has been utterly addicted to playing with toy soldiers for the last 15 years.  He maintains a hobby blog at and can be reached on twitter @spireland.


About Reecius

The fearless leader of the intrepid group of gamers gone retailers at Frontline Gaming!

8 Responses to “Board games every gamer should own”

  1. Casey July 6, 2012 12:12 am #

    Big fan of Settlers of Catan. It’s a lot more challenging when you get up to 5-6 players and requires quite a bit more strategy to pull off the win. It is also a lot less predictable at that level and makes things more fun for those who are not experts. I haven’t tried the others but 7 Wonders and BSG both look entertaining. Thank you for the recommendations!

  2. JamesP July 6, 2012 1:55 am #

    It’s been out of print for years but if you can find it, Block Mania from GW is always interesting and great fun. It’s set in the Judge Dredd world, two neighbouring city blocks go to war and have to destroy their rival before the Judges show up and arrest/ kill both sides.

    (For those unfamiliar with Judge Dredd, imagine two 40K hive blocks with thousands of inhabitants attacking each other before the Arbites arrive and take out everybody)

    Send forward elite militia units to infiltrate or attack with hordes of punks and fatties. Shoot/ bludgeon your opponents forces or burn their block around them. Or just try to blow the whole thing up!

    It also has anti-grav surfboards and alien crocodiles with guns. What more could you ask for?

  3. mercutioh July 6, 2012 4:50 am #

    I’d add ticket to ride,small world, and dwarf kings hold as some great pallette cleansers. The first two being absolute must haves the latter being an easy transition for a gamer looking to bridge the gap between Minis and Board Games

  4. Aervyper July 6, 2012 5:21 am #

    I would add Risk 2210 to that list. It is a very challenging spin to the original.

  5. mercutioh July 6, 2012 7:21 am #

    also GREAT board game write up. fantastic read on some games that are core to the board gamer experience. Board gaming is a far easier “sell” to the non-gamer and as you said it opens up some different thought patterns for applications across gaming in general.

  6. Overwatch July 6, 2012 8:38 am #

    Ugh… Battlestar can be really tedious, I don’t think I would have added that one on there.

    Carcassone and Ticket to Ride would be a good additions to this list, as would the new version of the Game of Thrones board game. The new edition is far more balanced and really fun.

  7. Fuegan17 July 6, 2012 9:10 am #

    I like dominion, but another deckbuilding game, thunderstone, i like even more because your deck is made in order to battle monsters in a dungeon. Its like a deckbuilder with dungeon crawling!

  8. edwin July 6, 2012 9:59 am #

    Arkham horror should be alongside mansions of madness.

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