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June 2023 - The One About Board Games
I know, I know. “Nate, your monthly newsletter is late again. Why?”
By now, anyone following this newsletter knows that I’m huge into board (and card) games. There’s just something so satisfying about sitting down with friends and family, learning the rules of a new game for the first time, and then having a fun time.
Come to think of it, it’s extremely similar to programming in that way.
What I’m trying to say is that I just spent the whole last weekend in Reno with some friends at RAGECON (Reno Area Gaming Expo), a board game convention which had thousands of attendees this year. After spending roughly 9 am to midnight playing games every day, I was fried; the side effect is that I’m serving you up some of the most fun games I played. One isn’t even released yet, so you’ll have to keep your eyes open for it on Amazon this year.
My next few newsletters will have some life announcements, and I’ll be writing a new article soon on “Module Federation with Webpack” for my fellow software engineers.
As always, hit me up if you want to talk about anything in this newsletter.
I hope life is treating you well.
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All games are listed with my rankings (out of a total of 5 ⭐️). All games are worth buying, but the rankings are just my personal preference.
BANG! (Dice Version) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In BANG, you’re in a classic spaghetti western (and in true form, all the player cards even have English and Italian written on them). You take turns rolling dice to take actions like firing off shots, healing yourself (or others), and more. You also have a secret role of outlaw, sheriff, deputies, or renegades (who try to end up in a shootout with only them and the sheriff at the end of the game). This game is incredible and it’s also very cheap (even with the expansions - 1 & 2).
Cat in the Box ⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you’ve ever played Up and Down the River (usually played with poker cards), you’ll know the exact foundations of how to play this game. However, it adds some complexity by letting you choose what color you play cards as (like the quantum cat you are) and permanently lock other players out from using them.
In the world of Everdell, you are a small animal building up your forest city across the seasons of spring, summer, and autumn in order to get ready for winter. You have to build different buildings and recruit animals (shopkeepers, farmers, etc.) to live in them (each of which has points assigned to them + perks). It’s incredible and deep, but you need to be prepared to open your wallet. The big box set is $350 (although you can buy the base game for $60).
If you’re like me and did not grow up playing Dungeons and Dragons, you probably don’t have much experience with “campaign” board games that you play with others over long periods of time. Gloomhaven comes with dozens of scenarios that you and your friends can play over months (or even a year) together; when you finish a scenario, your character gets experience and other perks that carry over to the next game. It’s incredible but also $135, so be prepared to pay a bit here too.
Gnome Hollow ⭐️⭐️⭐️
If you’re going to look for this on Amazon after reading my newsletter, you might be disappointed; it’s not released yet, but the creator was playing with us during the gaming conference and just sold this game to Hasbro (which means you should see it soon on shelves). Gnome Hollow is like a more complicated version of Carcassonne (which is also incredible if you haven’t played it). However, Gnome Hollow includes a store you can trade at along with some awesome ways to block other players from getting points. You also play as a gnome. Who doesn’t want that?
New York Zoo ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
In New York Zoo, you are a zookeeper tasked with expanding your business and placing animals down faster than anyone else. You get bonuses for breeding animals and filling up an enclosure, and the first person to finish filling up their zoo wins. I loved this game; it’s also sold out on Amazon which tells you how popular it must be.
Pitch Car ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Pitch Car racing is less of a board game and more of an event, but I’m throwing it in here anyways. You set up a Pitch Car track on a table and then take turns flicking your “car” (a wooden circle piece) around a track in a race at the same time. You can have loops, ramps, and more. My group played it for 5 hours and it was fun every second (but I’m biased because I took home the gold).
Raccoon Tycoon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
This was a surprise favorite from me. I got asked to sit down and play Raccoon Tycoon randomly with some friends, and it blew me away (but I’m also really into investing, stocks, options, etc.). You play as an animal business tycoon who is building a series of railroads, trading resources, and trying to outbid other players for railroads. This was also the only new-to-me game of the event I ordered before I even stood up from the table, and that should probably tell you something. It’s unfortunately hard to find - you can buy it from third parties on Amazon for about $30.
Secret Hitler ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Did you play an ungodly amount of Mafia growing up and want to play something similar now? Do you want to play a game that could also be called, “Trust Issues: The Game”? This will be your jam, then. In Secret Hitler, you play as either the liberals or the fascists. The liberals are trying to pass benevolent laws, and - you guessed it - the fascists are secretly trying to elect Hitler as chancellor to end the game. With the right group, this game is pure, unbridled, amazing chaos.
T.A.C.O. The Game ⭐️⭐️
This game kills some time and infuriates your friends. It reminds me a lot of Exploding Kittens, but I probably wouldn’t pay more than $10 for it. It’s created by the same person who designed the Gnome Hollow game I wrote about above. It’s also hard to find since this was only a Kickstarter project.
Are you super into Disney movies? Have you always wanted to play as a villain from one? If so, this is your game. In Villainous, you play as a unique Disney villain (for example, Syndrome from The Incredibles) and try to fulfill all your nefarious goals. There are multiple expansions you can check out too (in fact, so many that showing you an Amazon search is easier than just a couple links).
I can’t believe it took me this long to play Wingspan. You take on the role of placing birds, having them lay eggs, and then combo-ing actions to rack up victory points. Even as I type this, I realize I’m not doing it justice. The fact it has a five star rating on Amazon with 10,555 reviews should tell you it’s good. It’s just genuinely fun.