One of the best things about modern day board games is that they’re more inventive than ever before. The quantity of new board games being released every year is always more than the previous year, and this means that games now have to be clever (and do something different) in order to stand out from the rest of the pack. Let’s take a look at new board games that you can play with your friends and family this holiday season, and that take some chances and do things a bit differently!
There’s a type of board game called Roll and Write, in which you roll dice and write different things onto a pad of paper (or dry erase board, depending on how you roll). Yahtzee is the first and most popular of these games, but there’s been a renaissance in this style of game lately, and one exciting new board game that stands out is Welcome To.
In Welcome To… there aren’t actually any dice to roll! Instead, you flip over 3 cards every turn. Each card will have a number on it and a corresponding action. Each player simultaneously chooses one of those actions (along with that number) and writes something onto their own private pad of paper. You’re all creating a neighbourhood of houses as you assign each number to one of the rows of houses. The trick is that while you can place the number on any house, the numbers in each row need to ascend from left to right. So, should you place a 7 near the middle or closer to the left of one row?
One of the two great things about this game is that it uses cards (so you know that you will have access to every number a certain quantity of times) as opposed to rolling dice, where you’re never sure how many times a certain number will show up. The other great thing is that it’s simultaneous. No one is sitting there watching someone else complete their turn, twiddling their thumbs! Everyone is involved all the time. A great brain burner of a puzzle game that will have you all comparing your neighbourhoods at the end to see who has the most points.
Another of this year’s exciting new board games is Magic Maze, wherein all the players are working together cooperatively as they navigate 4 characters through a maze (trying to evade capture).
Each player is given one action that they can do, like move north, or move west. The whole trick to this game is that players are not allowed to talk to each other, AND you’re on a time limit! Players can move any of the characters that they’d like, and there is no turn order. Whenever you see a character in a position that would make sense to move them in the direction that you’ve been assigned, then you do that action! The boards have some tricky things on them to make it not so obvious, and it comes with a totem that you can place in front of another player if you really think they should activate their action. You can’t say on which of the four characters they should take their actions, and since the game is played in real time, it can get quite frantic. Players with the totem placed in front of them often desperately search the board to figure out which character they should move, and it is hilarious and frustrating at the same time.
These kinds of party games often succeed by restricting what players can do, and this one found that restricting the ability to talk to each other was interesting and unique.
Much like the other games in this list, there is no other game out there like this Loony Quest. Each player is given an acetate page (see-through plastic) and a marker. A new level ‘board’ is flipped up, and the timer is set. Players now each try to draw on their own acetate page a path through the maze that’s on the board, but they can only do it by referencing the board. Once the timer is done, each player takes a turn placing their acetate page over the board to see if the path they made worked!
In some levels, players must draw a path to get a key before heading to the exit while avoiding dangerous areas full of bombs or bad guys. Other levels have players circling key areas of the board while ensuring their line fully surrounds each image but never crosses over it.
It’s a wild idea where everyone is playing at the same time, and it comes with tons of levels that get harder and harder. The levels (and the rules to each level) keep the concept fresh and challenging, and the skill required makes this game a great family game. Kids have almost the same ability as adults do in referencing the board and drawing the path.
Tiny Epic Quest
There’s a whole series of games in the Tiny Epic line, but I think Tiny Epic Quest is fun and offers some unique game play. As an overview, you’re pretty much playing a Legend of Zelda-type game, in 30-40 minutes. Each player moves around their elf heroes, from tile to tile, using one of the available travel options (by foot, by horse, by raft, by boat, or by gryphon) in an effort to accomplish quests, learn spells, and battle goblins. After each player has moved their three elf heroes, then it’s night time where players roll dice and try to accomplish quests and battle the goblins. Players are each motivated with a different starting card that ensures each player will be focused more on different aspects of the game.
One of the coolest parts of the game is something they call ITEMeeples. Meeples, if you haven’t heard, are little wooden people shaped tokens that players move around in many different games. In Tiny Epic Quest, these meeples are plastic and have little holes in their hand area where players can insert plastic weapons and items. The game comes with a bunch of different things that can be inserted into these ITEMeeples’ hands, and it really helps to make you feel like you’re progressing through the game and finding loot and then using that loot to do cool things. The game is a bit puzzley, which is great for me, so beware that it’s not all swinging a sword and casting spells, but this is why I like it.
Dungeons and Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard
Dungeons & Dragons: Rock Paper Wizard (shown at the top of this blog) is a game that is designed by yours truly and two other co-designers. I couldn’t help but include one of the games I helped to design in this list because it is pretty unique.
In this game, players are wizards who have just slain a dragon and now are fighting each other over the gold horde. Each round there are spell cards face up, and each player looks at each available spell and decides which one to cast—and at which opponent. The unique aspect here is that these spells each have their own unique hand gesture, and all players cast their spell at the same time (a la Rock, Paper, Scissors).
Once everyone has cast their spell (which looks super goofy and fun when you have all the players pointing hand gestures at each other), players then resolve each spell in turn, in order to see how it affects the game. Mostly players are pushing other players around on a small board, away from the gold. At the end of each round, the players that are closest to the gold horde receive some gold, while the rest do not. One spell is removed, and a new spell is added and you continue. All players are involved in the game at all times, and while it can get pretty chaotic with unexpected outcomes, there is a layer of strategy in here as you try to outthink your opponents each round.
It’s a great party game for your friends or family, and no knowledge of Dungeons or Dragons is required!
So whether you’re creating new neighbourhoods, cooperatively controlling characters, drawing paths through a maze, playing a small adventure with cute ITEMeeples, or throwing hand gestures at each other, if you’re looking to spice up your game night with something that will surprise your guests, then try out one of these exciting new board games.