Best board games of the holiday season

We always go on a bit of a board game binge over the holidays. We played some holdovers from past years — Settlers of Catan, Seven Wonders. I got an awesome bamboo catanboard for Catan, that was a great gift. And we got the Cities and Leaders expansions which added additional layers to this game. 7 wonders is a typical resource accumulate, barter, and build game, with a ton of strategic options.

triassicAnd then we tried a bunch of new games, the ones that passed the bar:

  • Triassic Terror. The great thing about this game is that we all finished within a couple points of each other, and the outcome was in doubt throughout the game. I have a lot of admiration for a game design that keeps everyone engaged and excited, the designer clearly thought hard about scoring mechanisms. Makes me think a lot about how to design games — if I were designing a game, I’d ignore the genre and backstory and visuals to start, and just get the mechanics and scoring system down, with a goal towards keeping everyone in the game. Only after I had nailed that would I start to overlay the story and visuals. I’ve bought a lot of games that had a great look or great theme, but fell apart completely as a game.
  • The Phantom Society. A very different game of ghosts and ghost hunters. Super simple game setup and game play so you can bring in people who don’t love the complexity of games like Seven Wonders, but you can seriously overbrain this game.
  • Renaissance Man. This game was good but not great. A lot of richness at the beginning of the game, but towards the end the paths all kind of peter out and the game gets a little constrained. But we played it several times and didn’t give up on.

We had some failures too but I won’t dwell on those…hope your holidays were good!