2 Players, 45 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 8+
Two-player board games are somewhat unique in that there are a few things a two-player game needs to be in order to be successful. It needs to have interaction and competition. It needs to have clever mechanics and a tight ruleset. It needs to be simple to learn and difficult to master, and most importantly, it needs to be fun! Many board games share these traits, but they’re especially critical in two-player games- otherwise, why not just play a larger game with only two players? MindWare’s delightful Double Spot was designed to exemplify all these traits, and what results is a fast (and fun) battle of wits- and a perfect game for two players!
3+ Players, 60 Minutes, Medium Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 8+
Draw a horizontal line across your paper, then draw four, equal-sized circles underneath, touching the line. Take one end of the line, draw a hook on the end to turn it into a “J” shape. Then, off the other side of the line, draw a line straight up, then a smaller line out two inches to the left, then another two inches down. Finally, connect both ends of the line, and what do you see? The answer is a finely played round of Up-A-Bit, a fantastic re-release of the classic party game by Outset Media- although, the real answer is a rollerblade that probably looks a train, sorry.
2-10 Players, 60 Minutes, Medium Complexity, Low Strategy, Ages 8+
“This town ain’t big enough for the both of us” growls the stranger, a steely glint shining in his eye. A tumbleweed blows through the dusty street between you. He’s right, it is a really small town made of cardboard and wood, but you’re not about to tell him that. Your hand floats over your tiny wooden bullet-disc, you pull back your finger, aim your shot, flick, and fire. The disc spins across the table and slams into the wooden cowboy, knocking him to the ground. “Dang partner,” he mutters as he stares up at the sky. “Do you play crokinole?”
Sapphiro by MindWare makes an impression the minute you pull it out of the box. A glittering rainbow of multicoloured gems grace the gameboard and your objective becomes clear almost immediately. You want these gems. You NEED them. Specifically, you need one gem of each colour, and you don’t want the other players to get them. It’s a good, simple premise for an abstract game, and the rules are just as easy to parse. It’s easy to start playing Sapphiro, but it can be difficult to stop!
3-5 Players, 45 Minutes, High Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 10+
Avast, me hearties! Come close and let this salty old seadog tell you the treacherous tale of one Long John Silver. Mutinied he was, and taken prisoner by a crew hungry for treasure, but that rascally old pirate wouldn’t give up the location of his riches that easily. The crew bickered amongst themselves, eager to betray each other and take the treasure for themselves, and ol’ Long John fed into their paranoia, giving them each different clues, some of which weren’t even true, to distract the crew long enough that he could escape and take the cursed gold for himself… In Treasure Island, you get to play as a pirate scrambling across a Caribbean island, trying to claim Silver’s treasure for yourself, or you can play as Silver, handing out the vaguest clues you can, and occasionally even lying through your teeth to throw the crew off the trail long enough for you to escape the brig!
2-4 Players, 30 Minutes, Medium Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 8+
There’s nothing quite like a good brainteaser. That pleasant tickle at the back of your skull when you’re onto something big, or when those pieces are about to slide into place... there’s something magical about that “eureka” moment where everything falls into place, and it gets so, so much better when you’re the first to figure it out and you get to smugly explain it to family and friends. A lot of board games work on this basic premise, but Q-bitz Extreme is the only one I’ve seen that takes it completely literally, offering players a unique spatial puzzle that’s challenging for kids and highly competitive for adults!
2+ Players, 10 Minutes, Low Complexity, Medium Strategy, Ages 6+
What do shampoo and corn have in common? What’s the difference between a bell pepper and a crossword? It’s not a joke, but it is the sort of hilarious parallels you’ll be drawing in one of our favourite party games ever- we’re reviewing Pickles to Penguins, the quick-thinking, picture-linking party game with fans from Albuquerque to Zanzibar!
2-4 Players, ~30 Minutes, Medium Complexity, High Strategy, Ages 8+
Congratulations! It’s your first day working at the World Health Organization, where you’ll be studying illness, researching cures, and SAVING THE WORLD! Let’s start with that last one, actually. Four new virulent diseases are ravaging the planet, and it’s up to your team of super scientists and doctors to stop them before it turns into a global PANDEMIC! That’s right, we’re reviewing the modern classic, the granddaddy of co-op games, the sickness-smashing, disease-dueling, illness-eradicating game of strategy and stress!
Some games never go out of fashion. Monopoly has been kicking for over a century, Charades has been around since the early 1800’s and Checkers was played 5000 years ago in Ancient Mesopotamia. They’re great games, and they’ve withstood the test of time for a reason, but sometimes a small tweak can make them feel new and fresh again, providing a game that’s immediately accessible for new players due to its familiarity, yet fresh and engaging for people who have played for years. Fat Brain Toy’s newest game, Pencil Nose, is one such tweak, and I think it’s my all-time favourite variation on Pictionary.
Parka Pete balances delicately atop his lovingly made igloo, frozen in horror as his home is slowly surrounded by Antarctica's most fearsome predators- penguins with ice picks. With a silly premise, silly pieces, silly gameplay, and (with luck) a few silly players, Igloo Mania will have you and your friends laughing faster than you can say “get the igloo glue”!