I’d hazard a guess that if you’re reading this, you probably own at least a few games. My personal collection ebbs and flows somewhat, and doesn’t fully represent my gaming tastes – it leans towards the lighter side of things, and a lot of stuff I can play with varied groups. But I have quite a bit on those shelves. If it were to all vanish, where would I start building back up from? In thinking about this sort of thing, I have to consider – what are the key games that I love? What are the cornerstones of a collection that is friendly for friends that I’d love to introduce to gaming? Does it matter if I look at my shelves and think “wow, this is an odd mix of stuff that’s missing what some people would see as ‘must-have’ titles?” Do I want new, do I want classic, a mix of it all?
Five titles could seem like a lot to someone with no games, or limiting to someone like me – or you, dear reader! Given the sheer catalogue of board games available to us all right now in 2018, it’s a tough choice. I have a fairly broad range of tastes, but I’m sure some of these will have caveats due to player numbers and the like – but if I were suddenly to have to build up my collection from nothing again, where would I start? Let’s dive in.
This was one of the first hobby games I ever played, and I love it to this day – either vanilla, or with expansions. The simplicity of “do one thing on your turn” is wonderful, tile laying is satisfying gameplay, and learning to maximise the use of your meeples is something that players will learn over multiple plays. It’s fabulous with 2 players, which makes it nice and flexible if you’re looking for something to play with partner or a small group. There’s also a reasonable amount of player interaction for how simple all of the actions are, but it’s not so complex you can’t chat with your opponents while you play.
I feel like I need to recommend a specifically 2 player game even though Carcassonne plays so nicely at 2. Jaipur is one of my favourite games of all time, and my favourite 2 player game – the simple gameplay, the gorgeous art, the tricky set collecting and trading decisions make it such a tidy package. I don’t think i’ve ever taught it to someone and played less than two games in a row because it’s been so well received. Cheating with a 2nd 2 player recommendation, but a quick one – I have also always been impressed with Lord of the Rings: Confrontation, if you’re more into some secret movement and mind games.
This game is magical. I’ve never had it fall flat, no matter who I’ve taught it to – newbies, work friends, seasoned gamers. There’s something that just grabs you about the way this game plays, the slowly escalating competition and trying to milk points out of other players as they really, really don’t want that card, no thank YOU. Simplicity of play and components, but depth of experience, means I’ll always come back to No Thanks. It’s been a gift to friends on more than one occasion!
Ahhh the venn diagram intersection of party game and word game – and the freshest pick on my list. There’s so many party and social deduction games out right now (honorable mentions because I’m not very good at sticking to list parameters as is previously apparent: Codenames, One Night Ultimate Werewolf), but Word Slam has been making waves for good reason. Like charades but with random words as what people need to guess, and with you as the clue-giver frantically searching through decks of cards with nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs trying pick some out and give your clue that will hopefully make sense. It’s a delight, and it’s certainly been a fun one to play at conventions – but I feel like this has been just as much of a hit for smaller game nights, so I’m glad it’s in my collection. Now, will Concept teeter on the edge and get pushed out? The answer is yes. The versatile Word Slam forever.
I went back and forth with wondering if a deckbuilding or a card drafting game would be the better choice for this last slot, and figured that I couldn’t go wrong with Sushi Go. Either the basic original or the variety-filled party release of this game would be ideal, and as well as being quick to teach/learn and play, it has a good player number range too. The quick drafting and set collection over three rounds is just the right amount of thinking to fun ratio – and I can’t help it, those illustrations are really fantastic. A cheap and terrific starting point to introduce yourself or other folks to the drafting mechanic.
So, as a fairly omnivorous gamer, these have been my picks for a starter collection! I’d love to hear yours – based on tastes and accessibility of gaming groups, playing digitally or analog, I can imagine the myriad combinations of five picks for this one!