My sabbatical is over and I’m feeling much better. I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick’s day. I spent mine with most of my old gaming group, but instead of playing D&D we explored some other games.

Up until a few years ago, I hadn’t paid any attention to the board game industry. Last I had looked, it consisted of risk, monopoly, scrabble, and such. If, like me, you hadn’t been paying attention, let me tell you that things have certainly changed. In the past, board games were made as inexpensively as possible. The boxes were flimsy, the cards were made of untreated cardstock, and the pieces were very simplistic pieces of plastic. Today, the manufacturing of most board games is a work of art. The quality of everything involved is top notch right down to the sturdy attractive boxes. I still don’t know which I find more surprising: the amazing quality of the products or the rise in cost (most games are now in the $50 range where in the past they were more like $5 – $10).

But enough of me showing my age.

There are probably hundreds of new amazing board games out there now. I’ve played a dozen or so and have really enjoyed them all. But by all accounts, two stand out significantly beyond the rest. These are the two we introduced the rest of our group to this past weekend. If you haven’t played them yet, I strongly recommend them!

Carcassonne

In Carcassonne, by Rio Grande Games, players take turns drawing and placing a tile. Tiles contain pieces of castles, roads, etc, that must be matched (somewhat similar in concept to dominos). Players score by completing castles and roads, with a few other twists added in. The strategies can be quite complex and devious, yet the rules are easy to learn and most people are able to jump right in with very little instruction. This is by far my favorite game.

There are a number of add-ons and I highly recommend getting them all. The “Big Box 3” contains the basic game and all of the most popular add-ons. For under $50, it is an exceptional deal.

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan, by Mayfair Games has a number of hexagonal tiles that make up the playing board. These tiles are randomized each game so there are different strategies each time you play. Players build roads, settlements, and cities, collect and trade resources, and use a great deal of strategy to build their empire and earn 10 victory points before anyone else. There are various ways of winning which make this an interesting and compelling game.

It involves a little more luck than Carcassonne, but is equally challenging. It is easy to learn and a new group can be up and playing very quickly.

Other Games

As I said earlier, there are a great many amazing board games out there. I’m only seen a dozen or so but have been very impressed with each. D&D is by far my favorite pastime, but on occasion these other games make for a very enjoyable diversion.