Board Games Crash Course

Dan Nixon walks us through

You’ve just been invited to Game Night, but the last time you played a board game was when you and the family pulled out that dusty version of Clue. Well, things have changed! Board games these days can be much more complex, strategic, and some take so long to play, your family will think you’ve been kidnapped. You hear your friends talking about card drafting, worker placement and this guy Rodney that teaches them all these strange looking games. They look very interesting, very intimidating and there are so many!

Here you will find a crash course on modern games to bring you up to speed on board games. These should be able to be found pretty much everywhere, but please look to your Friendly Local Game Store first. Dip your toes in the many different type of modern board games and see what you want to maybe wade into slowly or dive into headfirst.

The Bread:

Settlers of Catan

The Settlers of Catan, now just simply Catan, is the game that introduced many people to modern board gaming. Players acquire resources, build roads and villages all hoping to be the first person to 10 Victory Points. Rolling dice will be familiar, but the resource management and negotiation aspects of the game will show someone new to the hobby what a board game can do. A mix of strategy and luck helps the beginning gamer not get completely plowed over by more experienced players. You will also learn to HATE the robber! You’ll see.

Ticket to Ride

If Catan brought you to the table, Ticket to Ride kept you there.  Ticket to Ride is a game that many people claim as the game that hooked them. The railway themed, set collection classic has sold millions of copies. Players collect cards of the same color that are then used to claim a train route between two cities for points. The longer the route, the more points. Connect your trains across multiple cities from LA to Miami. More points! The game can be played both in an easy-going or aggressive style, all up to your preference.


Need a game able to handle a larger group? Bring Codenames to the table and it is sure to be a crowd pleaser. A five-by-five grid of words is your board and two teams of spies work to find their teams’ designated words. The team’s Spymaster gets his team to guess their words by giving a clue comprised of one word and a number. The clue should link as many of your team’s words together as possible. Try to link five words and hope your team is on the same wavelength as you or go with the easy one clue for two words.  The team then must try and guess those words but hope they don’t guess the other team’s words or worse, the Assassin for instant defeat!

The Meat:

Colt Express

I’m a sucker for the Old West and Colt Express fits this to a T. The theme of a board game can sometimes get lost or nonexistent. Colt Express oozes theme in every aspect. The players take the role of train robbers with the goal of obtaining most loot which is acquired by robbing the passengers and attacking your fellow train robbers. Players choose one of the game’s characters, each with their own special ability and a deck of cards is used to map out your actions for the turn simultaneously with the other players. Once all the cards are played for the round, each card is revealed, and the action plays out like a movie. This is a great game for adults and kids. Take on the persona of your favorite Western movie character and play this game. “Yoo hoo! I’ll make you famous!”


The mechanic of co-operative gameplay was a game changer for me. “We aren’t trying to beat each other? We are working together as a team? We all win, or we all lose?” Mind. Blown. This modern-day classic is not only fun and challenging but also stress inducing. You are a team that is working to stop four different viruses from wiping out the people of Earth. For every player’s turn, which includes moving, curing disease or building research stations, the game takes a turn to make things worse and to try and beat you. In multiple ways.  

Personally, it took multiple attempts to capture my first win in this game. I played with two others from my group, Hook and Jimmy, who were playing for the first time. We were close to failure, but snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. As Hook and I hollered and high fived, Jimmy looked less enthusiastic and simply said, “Well that was easy.”

Special Sauce:

 Star Wars Rebellion

Star War Rebellion is an epic-sized game providing players with grand space battles, secret missions of espionage and the familiar faces you’ve come to love and love to hate. The military powerhouse Galactic Empire and the scrappy Rebellion Alliance square off to determine the fate of a galaxy far, far away. If Emperor Palpatine and his minions find the planet holding the Rebel Base and destroy all troops and ships, they win. If the Mon Mothma-led Rebels hold out long enough and recruit enough star systems to their side, they win! The components are phenomenal with the miniatures really being the standout. Four players as teams of two is enjoyable, but for optimal space opera fun, experience this game as a one-on-one battle.

This game really is A New Hope in a box but set aside at least double the movie’s two hour run time to play this game. My brother and I are both huge Star Wars fans and this game was a must-have when we saw it. The expansion is said to greatly improve the game as well, but we have not yet been able to test it out.


Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective

I hesitate to label Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective as a board game as there are no dice, cards, or even a board. It is however a challenging puzzle for you and your game night friends to rack your brains with. Each Consulting Detective collection, of which there are four, includes ten cases. After reading a small narrative pertaining to the case, you and your team will utilize a map of foggy London, newspapers, and your skills of deduction to solve the case. Other than solving the case or not, you can also score yourself against how Holmes would’ve solved the case. Don’t worry about this. It’s fun to check, but if you solve the case at all, you should consider it a win!

I first played this on a gaming camping trip with two friends late into our night. We took our time. We formed our theories. We were tired and wanted to quit, but the case and our need to be correct drove us to an agreed upon conclusion. In the end we solved it, but we were nowhere near the score like Holmes. But we did solve it!

Leave a Reply