Back in 2001 a group of friends and I hooked up four original Xbox consoles to four TVs and played 16-player deathmatch on Halo until the sun came up. Fast-forward to 2015 and you can’t even play two-player split screen in Halo 5 on the Xbox One. Online multiplayer is now the preferred way to play games with friends, which means sitting on the couch together and playing locally is no longer a big selling point for games.
Don’t get me wrong, you only have to look at the Nintendo Switch to know that living room multiplayer gaming isn’t dead, but it’s not what it used to be. And that is part of the reason why board games are doing much better than people who haven’t played one in a while may assume.
“[There’s] nothing like sitting down with friends and playing a game in the same room,” explains Dekan Wheeler, Marketing Manager for board game company Cryptozoic. “It actually feels like tabletop gaming has expanded in the recent years as video game designers have taken emphasis away from local multiplayer.”
Dekan says that the social aspect of board games is what drew him in, but what kept him hooked was learning the rules of each game and planning his moves ahead of time. In that way, video games and board games share a lot of common ground – knowing the rules and how to bend them to win is a big part of what makes any game fun. Physical or digital.
Of course, this newfound growth in the tabletop market also means your choices of what games to play has expanded a lot. To make it easier to jump into, the following list has been designed to pair video games and play styles with tabletop games fans should consider if they want to trade in their mouse and keyboard for some cards and dice.
If you’re into fighting games, you may like…
Street Fighter II Deck Building Game
A fighting game as a card game – how could that possibly work? The appeal of games like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter is you honing your ability to quickly react to a dynamic situation in a controlled environment. And while the Street Fighter II Deck Building Game takes away that speed aspect, the need for players to react and think ahead remain at the core of the game.
Surprisingly, the game is less focused on attacking your opponent and more about fighting boss characters to grow your own power and then unlock better moves and items. You do have opportunities to attack opponents though, and you will have to defend yourself from incoming attacks too, but overall the game encourages players to bide their time and gain power, then attack when the time is right.
Street Fighter II Deck Building Game is an odd twist on the Street Fighter formula but makes great use of the license for its presentation. Think of it more as a Street Fighter II RPG. It’s an interesting take on a genre that you’d assume wouldn’t easily translate to any other medium.
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If you’re into weird conversations while playing games, you may like…
How well do your friends know you and who you would date? That’s the question Billionaire Banshee hopes to answer. The premise of the game is simple – every round a potential person for a player to date is chosen, and alongside that is a Perk and Quirk card. Perks are good attributes, such as the date “owning an island made out of chocolate”. But a Quirk is a negative attribute you have to deal with – such as “constantly having diarrhea in their sleep”.
Everyone who guesses correctly gets a point, and so the game goes until a winner is chosen. The weirdness comes from seeing how people justify their choice not just for themselves, but for others too. You may think you know what somebody’s dealbreakers are, but they could surprise you. And, potentially, disgust you too.
The cards have a nice pixel-art aesthetic that contrasts well with the bizarre things written on them. Plus, you can remove the more offensive cards if you have a particularly sensitive player in the group. What makes this game great is how it brings out people’s creativity in some truly terrible ways. It’s about convincing people to side with you, even when you know you’re wrong.
To win at Billionaire Banshee you’re probably going to have to lie, much like you’d lie to someone in Garry’s Mod Trouble in Terrorist Town. The trick to winning isn’t being good at lying, it’s convincing people that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. And sometimes that means arguing why a bit of diarrhea in the bed is a small price to date someone who is a billionaire.
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If you’re into being the bad guy, you may like…
Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game
Instead of trying to translate the mind-bending puzzles of Portal directly to a board game, Cryptozoic has taken the overarching story and tone of the world to create a game focused purely on killing test subjects in the name of science. And cake, of course.
To win a player must get as many pieces of their cake on the board as possible, all while keeping their test subjects alive. Eventually, players will want to start clearing the board to end the game, which means even their once precious test subjects become expendable.
Little touches, like the inclusion of a miniature companion cube and the artwork on the game cards, show how much attention to detail went into making this game. But perhaps it’s the greatest strength is how Portal the board game stays true the source material and dark sense of humor while always making fun a priority.
So if you’re the kind of gamer who has no problem killing their friends for personal gain, like shoving them in front of a train in Gang Beasts or stealing their souls in Soul Hunt, you have to try Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game.
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If you’re into being sneaky, you may like…
Rick & Morty: Total Rickall
What do Garry’s Mod Murder and Prop Hunt have in common? If you’ve ever watched SeaNanners play them you’ll know the answer – they reward you for being sneaky. And if you’re cool with betraying your friends you’ll love Rick & Morty: Total Rickall.
Based on the season two episode of the same name, Total Rickall tasks players with killing off parasites that hide in plain sight as real people. With all the party guests in the middle of the table, you and your friends have to uncover who is real and who is fake using random cards to reveal their true identities. The problem is you often can easily share this information, and if you kill too many real people then it’s game over. On the flipside, if shoot all the parasites everybody wins.
This is the basic mode, and it’s a fun place to start, but the game becomes far more interesting in the advanced mode where some players are themselves parasites. This twist incentivizes some players to lie to their friends and help the parasites win. Parasites cannot communicate with each other without revealing themselves and risk death, so they have to learn how to lie in smart, subtle ways.
If you’re into sneaking around in Prop Hunt, hiding out in the open and revealing in your friends’ inability to see what you’re doing, this is the game for you. Just be prepared to be accused of being a total scumbag liar.
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Can’t get everyone around to your place but sill into playing board games? You may like…
The biggest strength and drawback of board games is pretty obvious – you have to be in the same room with your friends to play. So, for all those times you can’t get everyone into the same room, there’s Tabletop Simulator – an online board game simulator that lets players create and share their own custom games.
Obviously, you lose the physicality of actually moving pieces and the social aspect playing in a shared space with friends, but you do retain the simplistic gameplay that board games offer. The asymmetrical nature of tabletop gaming makes them perfect for when you want to play casually with a friend while having a relaxed conversation. Not every game needs to be a fast paced shooter.
There’s a ton of included games and an active community of creators building not just little board games, but also full-on tabletop RPGs for you to play with friends. If you’re short on shelf space and want to play board games anytime day or night, Tabletop Simulator is for you.
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