Which board games are right for your family?

By Cody Carlson

For the Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 18 2014 3:50 p.m. MST

There are many great games on the market today. Which one is right for your family or group?

Cody Carlson

We truly are living in the golden age of board games, and great new games are appearing on shelves every week. While many people have most likely heard good things about these new games, they are often intimidated by learning new mechanics and rules. The following is a guide to many different types of board games on the market today to help you and your family choose one that will be right for you.

First of all, there are a lot of great “gateway” games out there that are easy to learn and a lot of fun. The Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Courtier are all fun games that are relatively simple to learn and provide great experiences for family and friends. Once you've played some of these games, you might want to graduate to different and more complex games.

Let's start with card games. In the last year or so, the light card game has really taken off. The light card game uses only a relatively small number of cards (fewer than 20) and exploits the many options that are possible with the combinations. Light card games are quick to set up and play, and they usually feature some really intense competition.

Examples of light card games are Love Letter and Coup.

A big trend in the market today is deck-building games. In a deck-building game, players are given a starting hand of cards that is relatively weak, with each card boasting some kind of currency or power. More powerful cards are laid out on the table, and each player takes a turn “spending” his cards by discarding them into his personal pile in order to “buy” the more powerful cards from the table. These new cards, too, are placed in the player's individual discard pile. When his initial draw deck is empty, he shuffles his discarded cards and finds a more powerful deck. Some games allow players to attack other players with their cards and take other fun actions.

Examples of deck-building games are Dominion, DC Comics Deck-Building Game, Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game and Eminent Domain.

Some board games work a deck-building mechanic into game play. Essentially, the way you buy and use cards can affect the action on the board, allowing you to field more units, take more actions or play nasty tricks on your opponents.

Examples of board games with deck-building are For the Crown, Asgard's Chosen and A Few Acres of Snow.

Many board games feature a worker-placement mechanic. In a worker-placement game, players usually have one or more “workers,” usually a small wooden cube, disc or Meeple. A board features many spaces that offer specific actions or items. Each round, players take turns placing their workers on the spaces until they are all gone, and players may then use their actions or items to do the things they need to achieve victory.

Examples of worker-placement games are Lords of Waterdeep, Russian Railroads, Mercante and Caverna.

Light war games have been around for a while, but they, too, just keep getting better and better. Light war games are games that have a war theme and in which players engage in combat, usually dice- and card-driven. When one thinks of a typical light war game (distinguished from heavy war games, which attempt to offer more of a simulation of actual battlefield combat in a variety of ways), one usually thinks of the traditional game of Risk. Even Risk has taken a leap forward recently, however, with Risk Legacy, a game that evolves every time you play it and encourages players to make permanent changes to the board with stickers and markers.

Other examples of light war games are Axis & Allies, Memoir ’44, Conquest of Nerath, Friedrich, Twilight Struggle and Tide of Iron.

The last few years have seen the rise of the cooperative game. A cooperative game is a board game in which players work together against the game itself, usually powered by a card mechanic of some sort. This is a great kind of game for families and groups who don't really like competition. Most cooperative games tend to be difficult to beat, however, because if they were too easy they just wouldn't be worth playing.

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