4 new board and card games to play at home
Can we swap the 2020 style Game of Life for another? This year has brought us to distraction. We scratched after new hobbies, hit the Gin (Rummy) and desperate at evenings monopolized by the same old, same old until – Oh. Too many puns?
Sorry! Uh, apologies!
What we meant was that we have some awesome new board and card games to try out – from Azul inspired by Portuguese tiles to a spy-themed version of Password, an archeology game. and a card game we can’t even start. to describe without sounding crazy. Here are four fun possibilities.
The story: During a visit to the south of Spain, the King of Portugal, Manuel I, in the 15th century, fell in love with the magnificent Moorish tiles of the Alhambra. Now he wants this art at home. Your imperial command, dear player, is to adorn the palace of the king of Dvora with these Moorish tiles. Take turns picking colored tiles from the artisans’ displays, then placing them strategically on your board, with extra points for collecting sets or patterns – and demerits for wasting tiles.
This magnificent game was the 2018 winner of the Spiele des Jahres Prize, the Oscars of the board game world.
Good to know: The game is easy to learn, but the more you play the more complex it becomes – and the more devious your tactics are, as you realize that your choices can help or hinder other players.
The details: Designed for two to four players, ages eight and up, this game ($ 23 to $ 40) designed by Plan B, takes 30 to 45 minutes to play.
It’s impossible to describe this mind-boggling card game without looking downright insane, so please indulge us. There are 100 numbered cards and players are dealt hands that increase with each level – one card each for the first round, two cards for the second round and so on, up to 12 cards each for the 12th round. There is no order of play. You play a card whenever you want. And the goal is simple: place the cards face up in the center of the table in numerical order, from lowest to highest. If you get it wrong, everyone loses.
The catch: there is no conversation. No secret sign. This is a mind game. Everyone puts their hand on the table, concentrates their concentration and then plays, essentially hoping for the intentions of their partners.
Bonk, right? Still, it sort of works. And when you play a successful game, there is an inexplicable thrill – a little “oooh!” – which reminded nerdy folks of “The Game” episode of “Star Trek Next Generation”, in which the crew fall victim to an addicting mind-altering alien game only to be saved by Ashley Judd. Hmm. It’s like that. A little high dopamine, but without the alien raids.
There are certainly strategies to play: if you have, say, a three, a four, and a 98, you’re going to play the first two almost immediately and hold on to the last until the very end of the round. If you have a 32, 51, and 60, however… you will need ESP to survive.
Good to know: The instructions are almost illegible. They are printed in lowercase characters, inverted on a black background. Don’t worry about them. They explain the shooting star cards, but these are just plain silly – they let you throw your lowest cards, which really doesn’t help anyone. Throw them away and just play.
Details: Designed for two to four players, ages eight and up, this collaborative game ($ 13) from Pandasaurus can be played in about 20 minutes – or two minutes, if you lose right away.
Code name duo
A riff on the classic and award-winning CodeNames game, this version is designed for two players. It is billed as a top secret spy game, with players trying to find secret agents and avoid assassins. Really, though, it’s a spy-themed password game.
The story: You and your partner have been sent to a bustling city to contact 15 unknown secret agents from among 25 possibilities, which also include three murderers and innocent bystanders. Put aside any disbelief about a Spy Master not knowing the code names of his secret agents, or that Daniel Craig could be named a “spoon” or “anchor” instead of James Bond. Let’s just play this stuff.
A key card tells you which of the 25 cards displayed are Secret Agents and which are Evil Assassins. Your partner has the reverse side of the same key card and needs you to guess a different but slightly overlapping set of nine. Your team has nine rounds – four for one of you, five for the other – to guess the 15, which means your one-word clues (hello, password) have to do the heavy lifting.
Good to know: If you enter this expected password – rather than the M16 hijinks – you will be much more entertained.
Details: CodeNames Duet ($ 20), from Czech Games, was designed for two people ages 11 and up and takes around 15 minutes to play.
Quest for Antiquity
This archeology-themed card game comes from the same creative team behind The Bears and the Bees – Seattle-based Brent and Tauni Beck, who are developing their grandfather Beck’s games with a test team including their five children and their 17 grandchildren. Like all of Papy Beck’s games, these cards are gorgeous. They are divided into one “treasure” costume and six “ancient” costumes representing six different civilizations with color codes, all mixed together.
At its heart, Antiquity Quest is a card matching game with a fun story: Professor Nigel Remington needs your help to save priceless antiques and treasures before the evil Tess Wynter gets her hands on them. Your mission: to assemble collections of five cards and accumulate “prestige” points so that you can one day land the coveted position of Remington’s assistant.
Good to know: The rulebook is witty, but the explanations make the game much more complicated than it actually is. You build sets of five cards and your points vary depending on whether you have a mixed set of five, five cards of the same suit, or five single cards of the same suit. Go play.
Details: This game ($ 25), designed for two to eight players, ages 10 and up, takes 30 to 45 minutes to play.