More than Monopoly: Five games you haven't heard of

Board games are making a huge comeback, particularly among adults in their 20s and 30s. And, for the most part, they’re not just playing old staples like Monopoly or Risk, or their many variations. Modern strategy games have not only introduced new themes, but entirely new ways of playing.

games and puzzles

King of Tokyo (2-6 Players, Ages 8+)
This is a great game for the family. It has a simple premise: the players are giant monsters trying to take over Tokyo. The game uses a combination of dice rolling and card collecting to perform actions and use special abilities.
On each turn, you roll six black dice.  How they turn up determines what you are able to do, whether you attack other monsters (claw), heal yourself (heart), gain energy (lightning bolt), or score victory points (1, 2 or 3). You get up to three rolls each turn and choose which dice you want to keep with each roll. Your goal is to collect 20 victory points. The trick is to stay alive long enough to gain them.
Why we love it: This game is a combination of chance and strategy. The rules are easy to pick up, which means younger players catch on quickly. I think the artwork is a lot of fun, especially for the monsters. My personal favourite monster to play as is Cyber Bunny. There is more to keep you going when your base game starts to feel a little stale: there is expansion, called “Power Up!” with more monsters and unique abilities, as well as a sequel called King of New York.
Munchkin (3-6 Players, Ages 10+)
Don’t let this card-only game fool you - it’s full of menacing monsters. The cards will be set up into two piles: treasure and door. When you take a card from the second pile, you “kick down the door.” Behind the door, you might find a piece of armour or a weapon with a certain number value. Kicking down the door can also uncover a monster, whom you must choose to fight or flee in terror. If you stand and fight, simply add your level to the combined value of an armour and weapon card to exceed the number that represents the strength of the monster. If you are too weak, you can team up with another player to do battle. With the monster hacked to pieces on the floor, you are rewarded with treasure, though you may have to give some over to another player if you asked for their help. If you choose to flee you must roll a die and get a 5 or 6 to be successful.

Why we love it: I think that one of the best parts of the game are the little jokes and puns on each of the cards. Pro tip: bond with the other players over how groan-worthy the puns are. I always laugh when I see the “Curse! Duck of Doom” card which states that “You should know better than to pick up a duck in a dungeon. Lose 2 levels.” There have been many variations to this game, each with its own theme-appropriate puns. My favourite happens to be the pirate-themed Munchkin: Booty.


Bang! (4-7 Players; Ages 10+)

Bang! is a deception game set in the Wild West. There are four possible player roles–Sheriff,

Outlaw, Deputy, and Renegade. Each role has its own objective. The Sheriff wants to eliminate Outlaws and the Renegade. The Outlaws want to eliminate the Sheriff. The Deputies help to protect the Sheriff. The Renegade wants to be the last man standing. The Sheriff is the only player to reveal his role card.


As the game proceeds, you try to figure out everyone else’s role. Every action you take–including taking shots at other players–will give you clues to deduce who the others are. As the game wears on, it becomes harder and harder to hide, since eliminated players must reveal their roles.


The game ends one of two ways. If the Sheriff dies, victory goes to the Outlaws or, if he’s the sole remaining player, the Renegade. The Sheriff and the Deputies share victory if they take down the Renegade and all the Outlaws.


Why we love it: Bang! is the first deception game I played, and I keep coming back to it. It is a new experience every time I play because each role needs different strategies to win and that’s even without taking into account the character cards. Even if you are eliminated from the game, you can’t help but try to figure out who everyone is. We carry the base game on its own or as part of Bang!: The Bullet, which includes three expansions in an awesome bullet-shaped case.


Castle Panic (1-6 Players, Ages 10+)

This is a great cooperative game. You and the other players work together to protect a castle surrounded by goblins, orcs, and trolls.  If the monsters destroy the all of the castle towers, you lose. To win the game, you must defeat the monsters and have at least one tower still standing.


Why we love it: I love cooperative games. They are great when you have a mix of experienced and new players. It is really helpful that included with the game are reference cards that help players remember what they can do on each turn and in which order. Castle Panic is a versatile game with its different modes of play. I absolutely love that you have the option to play the game by yourself which isn’t something I’ve really seen before. On top of the different modes there are also optional rules to make the game easier or harder. These options make for great replayability and a very unique game overall.


Love Letter (2-4 Players, Ages 8+)

Along with the rise in popularity of big-box strategy games has come a good deal of excitement over so-called micro games, which play in a short amount of time with only a handful of components. Love Letter is one of the biggest hits in this format, even though it is played with a very small deck of cards in about 20 minutes.


The premise of this game is to get a love letter to the princess. The cards represent the various people who deliver the letter for you.  Each one holds a value that increases depending on how “close” the person is to the princess.  For example, the Guard is worth 1, the Handmaiden is worth 4, the King is worth 6.  The Princess herself is worth 8. These values come into play when players are forced to confront each other.


Each card has a special power. For instance, if you play the Handmaid, you are protected from the actions of the other players until your next turn.


The goal of the game is to be the last player standing. It’s a game of deception and strategy all while trying to guess who the other players are. Will the Princess get your love letter?

Why we love it: This game is one that we play between longer games like the others on this list. The game starts with a great introductory story that can be read out to new players that really sets the tone. I love that the creators have put a lot of effort into the design of the game - everything from the story to the beautiful artwork on the cards. It’s a game with simple rules and a short run time that still makes you think and strategize.