May 11, 2005

World's best Board Games

Today's topic: the World's best board games for kids and grownups, both euro and not.

I grew up with a closet full of board games, most of them birthday presents, most of them forgettable. Family Feud. Gambler. Monster Squad. Scooby Doo, Where are You? But some of the games were great. Risk was a suprisingly safe bet, probably my favorite game of all. This Game is Bonkers ("never the same game twice") is one I remember fondly, but now you can only get it second-hand, which is really not quite the same as a new set. The world travel and trading game Jet World was fun, even if some of it went a little over my head. Ahem.

Recently I've been looking for games that I can play with my kids. There are some great old classics. But there are also some great games that are brand-new.

Several of the best classic Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley board games are being released in nice wood-box editions by Hasbro. They are called the "nostalgia series" editions, and the series includes Monopoly, Scrabble, Stratego, Risk, Clue, Sorry, Chutes and Ladders, Yahtzee, Twister and Upwords. These nostalgia games seemed to have appeared first at Target (making me wonder if there was some kind of exclusive deal), but now you can find them at a few different internet game stores. These wood-box editions are the best way to get the classic board games. They are about $20 each, which I think is a great deal for a classic game in a bookshelf-friendly square wooden box that won't split at the corners when the kids sit on it.

My favorite game in the series is the Stratego set. It comes with exactly the same little gold-and-red and silver-and-blue plastic stratego pieces I had as a kid, with no silly paper stickers to fool with. And unlike the standard modern Stratego box, they have the numbers in the right order (#1 is the Marshall).

Every game in the series comes with special little touches. For example they use board art from older editions, and it is quite pretty. In Risk they went with little wooden pieces instead of the newer plastic ones. In Monopoly the houses and hotels are made out of wood.

When you play these classics with your kids, you can see why the games are so great. The kids giggle and cackle lining up secret armies in Stratego (and then they try to peek at yours). They wheel and deal and and pile on the houses in Monopoly (and then they miscount all the money). All are great games, great fun.

But they are old games. There is a whole other category of great games that are newer - games known by game enthusiasts. My friend Brian McBarron is a bit of a game person (currently at Google), and he tells me that perhaps 50 good games are invented every year, and every few years there is a really great one.

Brian introduced me to Settlers of Catan, the game that touched off the "euro game" craze in the U.S. It is sort of a board-game version of Age of Empires (or not really - but it's got resources and geography and so on, so it's something like that). It is a lot of fun. A little bit more complex than, say, Stratego, but a richer game. Brian has some other personal favorites like RoboRally (currently out of print, but coming back soon) and Puerto Rico, a widely recognized top game.

Brian tells me that Board Game Geek is the place to read about all sorts of board games. So I have been browsing and looking for a "gamer's game" that might be good to play with my kids. BCG is also a fun place to read what other people think about older games like Bonkers.

I have found a couple new games that I will try soon. Yesterday I also found a terrific new internet board-game store.

One game of the games I got is Heroscape (pictured). It is published by Hasbro ("the Microsoft of board games" says Brian), and so I do not know if it really qualifies as a "gamer's game". But it looks like my boy will love it. (It is being saved for the next birthday.) He found it in the future-present hiding place in my house, and he's been lusting after the little figurines. "I want to be the dragon," he says. "Heroscape is my favorite game," he claims, even before he has played it once.

Another game I am going to try is Carcassonne: The City. It looks like a clever and simple game. And I am a sucker for wood box games. We shall see. I will report back here later.

Now, what to do if you have a game habit? You need a nice game store that is not too expensive. I found a pretty nice one yesterday! House Full Of Games seems to have lower prices than everybody else, and they stock all the best "gamer's" games.

The store is run by Steve Blanding, a gaming nut who is a software engineer at Microsoft (like I used to be). He is very nice - he will even hand-deliver games for free in the Redmond, WA area. Too bad I live in Philly now! I found HFOG on Froogle by searching for low prices. For example, Puerto Rico is less than $25 at Steve's store, but about $32 everywhere else.

Another good online game store is Funagain Games - they have an enourmous selection. However, most of these gamer's stores seem to skip over oldies like Monopoly and Stratego. I wonder why! These are great games, and the good editions (like the nostagia editions) can be hard to find at the local toy store.

An update. (May 16.) My son couldn't hold out until his birthday and finally got us to let him open Heroscape. What a great game! More about that soon.

Happy Gaming!

Posted by David at May 11, 2005 11:13 PM

I remember the little wooden pieces for games! That was a long time ago... I may have to spring for the nostalgia Stratego set. It's one of the few games I remember playing as a kid where I could actually beat my older sister.

A friend recently taught me to play Puerto Rico. I was surprised at how much I liked it.

Posted by: mapgirl at May 14, 2005 02:16 PM

Best board games? Best Macaroni and Cheese? Why are you posting these on javablogs?

Posted by: Anonymous at May 15, 2005 03:11 PM

Sorry! This space used to be about Java and XML, but no longer, since in my job I have been spending most of my time on other things. I've gone to javablogs and have manually removed the feed.

Posted by: David at May 15, 2005 07:56 PM

i want to put my team game in this website.

Posted by: jabben a. mannan at August 30, 2006 05:22 PM

i love board games

Posted by: Renee at June 29, 2007 04:42 AM

Hiya guys out there
Did you now boardgames are the best 4 me but no one does not want to play so i call them snobs

Posted by: Renee at June 29, 2007 04:45 AM

please send me a catalog with the top board games beucause i have cafe-bar with 90 board games...thank you

Posted by: Anthopoulos Petros at August 6, 2007 08:27 PM

I played Questionary boardgame with my kids. It has won 8 or 9 awards. This game is a blast and also educational. I would recommed it to any parent or any store who wants to carry it.
Their website is

Posted by: cool duude at October 14, 2007 06:54 PM

Hey guys, can you recommend any good strategies for chutes and ladders?

Posted by: snaky at May 11, 2008 09:12 PM

hi i love board games

Posted by: at June 23, 2008 07:31 AM


Posted by: at September 11, 2010 03:03 AM

Spontuneous-it's one of those games that lets you sing and makes you rack your brains for obscure songs.

Posted by: Stan Hai at May 8, 2011 03:42 PM

Thank you for your blog or I would not have ever remembered the name of the board game, Heroscape, of which I kept the skeletal army pieces; the rest ended up in the dump.

Posted by: Cynthia at July 12, 2016 10:54 AM
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