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A Well Stocked Den - What Needs to be in a Board game Collection?

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Curious what people consider to be must have games in a board game collection. Across the various genres and across the various demographics. I spent some time trying to come up with something that was only 10 or so games it proved quite difficult. So, I thought I'd toss it to the forum and see what you all think. That might help me be able to draw up a list.

I'm guessing there are going to be a lot of questions. Like "who" do you mean in this needs? Or, you can't account for every type of gamer? Are we including children? I try to think of it like this - Imagine you are a grandparent and your children and all their children are coming over for the holidays what do you want to be in your closest so that various groups of these people will be able to find something to play with each other!
 

periodical

asleep at the wheel
(he/him)
Of our collection, the only universal recommendations I'd have are Codenames, Dixit and Love Letter. The others tend to fall into 2-player only, which is hard to say must-have about, and more complicated than I would expect for a g-maw's game library(drawing the line at about Coup or Dominion). Also should we consider like, a deck of playing cards or chess? I assume not.

Codenames is very simple to understand and has the fun group energy, while also being flexible enough to be a lazy relaxed game.

Dixit is my favorite version of Apples2Apples, both for encouraging abstract humor and examining your own thought processes vs your friends.

Love Letter is just an instant play with anyone, and has enough teeth to be able to come back to on a regular basis.
 
I'm sitting next to our shelf of high rotation games (in a normal year) so here we go:

Codenames, no question. This is our most requested game ever and the one I will bring if I'm going somewhere and don't know the crowd. The only time we've had an issue with it was when a few people at the party didn't speak English as their first language. However, they all spoke the same first language and they formed a team where they could get and give hints more easily. Probably not technically within the rules but still lots of fun.

Ticket to Ride is the best gateway drug to more complicated games. I would say the US version with the 1910 expansion is the best place to start but there are a lot of versions/expansions I haven't played.

Set is just a nice simple one, no reading skills required. Also tiny and easy to pack.

Hanabi is a great cooperative game, we have the tile version rather than the card version and it was worth the investment.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. Requires a laptop but damn do I love this game. We have a bunch of the manuals printed out ready to go. The frantic yelling and hilarious goofs under pressure we've had over the years were priceless.

Everything else on our shelf is a card game or for specific crowds. We don't own them but the games I request most from my friends are Betrayal at House on the Hill and Pandemic. I just got Wingspan this weekend and definitely understand why it was such a hit too.
 

periodical

asleep at the wheel
(he/him)
Ah, Hanabi is a great call for a teamwork makes the dreamwork game.

For me I remember the intense sibling rivalry between my partner and her older brother the one time they played (with me and sis-in-law along as dead weight partners for each of them), definitely if you want to sort out any longstanding family tensions it's a go-to. But the concept is so simple and you can be as loose with the rules as you want to accommodate different ages.
 
Ah, Hanabi is a great call for a teamwork makes the dreamwork game.

For me I remember the intense sibling rivalry between my partner and her older brother the one time they played (with me and sis-in-law along as dead weight partners for each of them), definitely if you want to sort out any longstanding family tensions it's a go-to. But the concept is so simple and you can be as loose with the rules as you want to accommodate different ages.
Wait, do you pair up for Hanabi? We always scored the whole group as a team so there were no partners. Interesting.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
As it so happens, I currently own 10 board games: Dominion, Hanabi, Root, Love Letter, Carcassonne, Just One, Concordia, Jump Drive, The Crew, and Codenames.

Of those, I’d say that Root is too complicated and requires too much buy in for a general collection. Concordia is a long game and takes some planning, but it’s easy to learn & fun, so it’s borderline. If I wanted to tailor my collection to a grandparent & grandkid friendly collection of 10, I’d replace Root and Concordia with Pandemic and 7 Wonders. The rest are all easy-to-play crowdpleasers.
 

periodical

asleep at the wheel
(he/him)
Wait, do you pair up for Hanabi? We always scored the whole group as a team so there were no partners. Interesting.

Oh sorry I just meant we did not care even 1/10th as much as they did, especially since they were both absolutely certain they knew every correct move.
 

karzac

(he/him)
If I had to only choose 10 games to keep in my collection, and want to cover as wide a swath of game types as possible, here are the ones I would keep:


Codenames
Simple, easy-going party game with enough teeth to it that it stays interesting, but relaxing enough that you don't have to get too into it if people just want to relax. Might replace this with Anomia depending on the day of the week.

Time's Up
Extremely tense, competitive and exciting charades-alike. I've played this at every family gathering for the past 8 years and it never gets old. Possibly my favourite game of all time.

Skull
My favourite bluffing game, full of prisoner's dilemmas.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf
My favourite hidden role game. The Resistance is more elegant, but ONUW wins out for punchiness and zaniness.

Modern Art
Now we get into the heavier stuff. Modern Art is the best auction game I've played, which makes sense because it's got every kind of auction in it. It's the epitome of the sort of game where you finish and think "Oh, that's what the strategy is"

Brass: Birmingham
I've never played the original Brass, but I don't think I need to, because Birmingham is so good. It's a tightly-wound spring of a resource-management Euro game, where every decision tugs on every other one. A bit overwhelming, but very satisfying.

Concordia
Concordia's like a much looser, much gentler cousin to Brass. Where a bad play in Brass narrows your options to a pinprick, every choice in Concordia sprawls into a web of other possibility choices, each drowning you in a sea of resources and points. The joy is in finding the most efficient path.

Bohnanza
My favourite negotiation game. Quite brutal depending on the group, but extremely raucous and fun.

Battle Line
Hard to say whether this or Modern Art is my favourite Reiner Knizia game. Great card game, with chess-like decision making and a bit of bluffing thrown in. My kingdom for a new edition with better card art.

Jaipur
A nicer, more easy going two player game. Easy to just play over a conversation and quite nice looking.

Inis
Drop-dead gorgeous and the most dynamic area control game I've played. Endlessly fun and interesting. Plays great with 2, 3 or 4.

Honourable mentions: Twilight Struggle, Star Wars: Rebellion and War of the Ring. I don't own any of these, but only because the guy I play 2-player war games with already owns them. If you have somebody to play big two-player war games with, these are all great.

As you can probably tell from the list, my interest tends toward the hobbiest side, but these still cover a pretty big swath of types of games. This list assumes that I am keeping these games around because I am a person who likes to set aside whole afternoons to play games (because I am that person). I have played every single one of these with siblings, parents and cousins, though, and every one of them I've played at least a dozen times I think. (well Brass I've only played with my brother, and he's into heavier stuff, but still)
 
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Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Codenames and Hanabi for definite.

Scrabble. I'm a Scrabble nut but its a very simple game that can be very fun to master. I can't speak to anyone else but it works across most demographics and is easy to learn. I even taught my girls English club when I was in Korea and they seemed to love it.

I think for a perfect collection, you don't necessarily need a "classic" but you do definitely need a two player game, so I think Chess or Go need to be in the optimal collection.

I think we need to make some categories here. I feel like we can have some overlap but here are some for having a very varied collection:

Two-Player Game

Four Player Game

Large Numbers of Players Game:

Party Game:

Party Game With Creative Element (maybe something that allows you to try to be funny or have fun with your failings):

Incredibly Long, Complicated Game of Depth:

Super Quick/Casual:

All Ages:

Great for Kids:

Cooperative:

Asymmetrical:

Strategy:

Campaign?:

Weird Novelty Game That's In Your Cabinet for a Rainy Day:
 
Oh sorry I just meant we did not care even 1/10th as much as they did, especially since they were both absolutely certain they knew every correct move.
Haha, okay. I was seriously trying to figure out how the heck that would work.


Skull
My favourite bluffing game, full of prisoner's dilemmas.
Oof, a friend brought this and Secret Hitler on a trip once and everyone else loved them so we played them a ton. I am terrible at bluffing games and have a bad taste for both since they were so frustrating for me. Very cool art in Skull though.

Codenames and Hanabi for definite.

Scrabble. I'm a Scrabble nut but its a very simple game that can be very fun to master. I can't speak to anyone else but it works across most demographics and is easy to learn. I even taught my girls English club when I was in Korea and they seemed to love it.
Man I haven't played that in a long time. No one in my current crowd seems super interested but I should just try it sometime.

I think we need to make some categories here. I feel like we can have some overlap but here are some for having a very varied collection:

I went through these and didn't have anything to add except:

Weird Novelty Game That's In Your Cabinet for a Rainy Day: My Dog Can Do That, a bizarre game where you make your dog to do tricks to move your piece around the board.
 

liquid

King of Games
(He/Him)
While I don't necessarily consider them the best games in my collection, Cockroach Poker and Not Alone are both small, portable, and I've yet to play them with someone who didn't enjoy them. The former is simple enough to teach anyone, and the latter feels meaty enough to satisfy people looking for something a bit more complicated. Both are bluffing games though, which might be a bit redundant.

Other than that, I think Johnny has the right idea with categories of games, to which I'd add Game That You and the Friend(s) You Play With Most Frequently Really Love. Maybe it's something simple, maybe it's complex as hell, maybe you get together with one specific friend or a group of friends really often, but it's nice to have something you know you all like that you can just bust out whenever.

also keep a cheap deck of magic cards because half of your friends have spent years playing mtg whether you know it or not
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
I wouldn't characterize Not Alone as bluffing. It's more doublethink: he thinks I'll go there, so I should go here, but he knows that...
 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
I feel like 6 is optimal, so that each team has another person to bounce ideas off of, but 4 works very well, yes.
 

Cyrael

...we're shy.
(he/him)
Just went through my board game collection and decided on 'which are the ones we love to play' and 'which ones can we play with people who don't love board games' and came up with this list:
  • Dice Throne
    • Easiest to describe as a scalable (1v1, free for all, teams) yahtzee battle game. 16 published heroes each with different abilities battle it out. A recent product called Dice Throne Adventures turns it into a dungeon crawl.
  • Quacks of Quedlenberg
    • Easy to explain, lots of variation, my 8 year old LOVES it.
  • Dominion
    • Usually a go to for people who like card games. I'm still perfectly happy with just the base game.
  • Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
    • Either the game we use to start or end a game night. Simple, fast, lots of yelling and slapping.
  • Arkham Horror
    • Still my favorite co-op board game.
  • Crokinole
    • Everyone I've met who 'doesn't like board games' still loves crokinole. Dexterity games with a beer or three always turn into fun.
  • Bargain Quest
    • Easiest game I have to explain card drafting, there isn't as much direct competition so folks don't feel like you are ganging up on them as much. The theme (you are the shop keeper helping equip the heroes) is a ton of fun.
  • Caverna
    • I like this more than Agricola but it seems to be pretty intimidating.
  • Killer Bunnies
    • This is the game I like to play with either my son (because it's silly) or my hyper competitive friends, as winning is never guaranteed.
  • Vindication
    • I've only had this out a few times but it's so beautiful I couldn't part with it.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
Lords of Waterdeep is a perennial favorite worker-placement game. D&D theme but very light, it's just spending cubes and gold tokens for points and sometimes other cubes or gold tokens.
 

ThornGhost

lofi posts to relax/study to
(he/him)
Has Settlers of Catan fallen so far out of favor? I still think it is one of the easiest Euro style boardgames to introduce people to. I'll second VV on Ticket to Ride. Carcassonne gets a lot of play in my orbit as well.
 

Sarcasmorator

Same as I ever was
(He/him)
I find Settlers sours over time but it's a good game to introduce people to, until they have a few games where the dice never come up right and/or the robber takes all their stuff a few times. Mostly it's just that I think there's lots of games better than Catan.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Moderator
When I go back to it after years of not playing it, I find that there's lots of games worse than Catan, too.
 

karzac

(he/him)
I like Catan, and there's definitely something to be said for name recognition when introducing games to people who are new to the hobby, but it has a lot of knocks against it as a beginner game. It's got some unintuitive rules, players can get locked out of playing by bad dice rolls and it's a negotiation game, which turns some people off. Catan's a sort of jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none situation. For a simple resources game, I'd take Splendor (or Waterdeep or Concordia one/two rungs up the complexity ladder); for a dice game, I'd take Machi Koro; and for a negotiation game, I'd take Bohnanza (always bet on Bohnanza).

Ultimately though, if your goal is to get somebody interested in games, the best bet is whatever they're interested in. So if people want to play Catan,go for it. But I wouldn't call it essential for a collection.
 
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Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
I think Catan is ok. It can be unsatisfying when dice don’t go your way, or when trades swing the game. Also, bad placement at the start can have an outsized effect. Those can all go either way though. I’ve generally had fun with it, it’s just not the kind of game I would want to play a lot of.

I have heard that the Cities & Knights expansion adds a lot, and I’d like to try it sometime.
 

liquid

King of Games
(He/Him)
Lords of Waterdeep is a perennial favorite worker-placement game. D&D theme but very light, it's just spending cubes and gold tokens for points and sometimes other cubes or gold tokens.
Lord of Waterdeep is nice and easy to learn, although I'm a bit uncomfortable that the otherwise fantastic expansion features a slavers' market as one of the locations you can place your workers to "hire adventurers."
 

John

(he/him)
I've still never played Lords of Waterdeep, but I have the iOS app, should try it some day. I still like the simplicity of Stone Age as far as worker placement goes. It's got dice, but you roll a ton of them, so you get something out of every turn, unlike Catan where multiple turns can go by and people can have nothing to do because the pair of dice rolled the wrong way.

I agree that you should probably sort games by category in order to whittle down to the essentials. I've got plenty of games that are very similar to each other, but one may have a theme or brand that differentiates them. Descent, Imperial Assault, Gloomhaven and HeroQuest all have the same core idea, but you don't really need all of them on your shelves (I keep telling myself that but I never get rid of any of them).
 
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