Board game Finder: What to consider when setting up the board
How to find a board game for players of any age and experience level, and for any occasion.
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Key facts about comparing board games:
- Board games can be a whole lot of fun, offer a rewarding mental challenge, and reveal unexpected ultra-competitive streaks in friends and family members.
- There's a wide range of games available, from classic favourites like Monopoly and Cluedo to an almost overwhelming array of strategy and role-playing games.
- Board game prices vary substantially depending on the game you choose. While many of the board games on offer at your local Kmart or Big W generally fall into the $5-$60 price range, some complex games can set you back $100 or more.
Types of board games
There's a whole lot more to the world of board games than those old family favourites like Monopoly and The Game of Life. That said, these roll-and-move style games still have their place, and they're always an option whether you're looking for games to suit kids, adults or the whole family.
Party games are also eternally popular, with games like Pictionary and Scattergories encouraging some fast and rowdy fun. Our guide to the best party board games can help you find the right game for your next bash.
But browse the range of board games available online and it quickly becomes obvious that there's an almost overwhelming range of different game styles available. Many of them are classified using a confusing range of terminology, so here are some of the common types you might come across if you're taking a deep dive into the world of board games:
- Roll and move games. While these traditional games sometimes involve some form of strategy, there's usually a whole lot of luck involved too.
- Area control games. In these games, players compete against one another to dominate or control as much territory as possible. Risk is a popular example.
- RPG games. RPG stands for role-playing game. These games allow players to assume the identity of a particular character in a fictional world, with Dungeons & Dragons being an obvious example.
- Engine-building games. Engine-building board games such as Terraforming Mars essentially require players to acquire the resources they need to build an "engine" that produces more resources or points as the game progresses.
- Social deduction games. These games commonly involve a little bit of deceit, persuasion and subterfuge. They're all about working out the hidden motives and secret identities of other players, and Werewolf is one of the best-known examples.
- Drafting games. In these games, players pick cards (or other resources such as tiles or dice) from a selection pool, with the next player then choosing from the same pool. 7 Wonders is a popular example of this style of game.
- Strategy/Euro games. These games are decided based on skill rather than luck, requiring you to outsmart your opponents. Settlers of Catan is a popular example, and several of the board game styles listed here also fall into this category.
- Legacy games. These are choose-your-own-adventure-style games where the outcome of the game and the choices you make have a permanent effect on factors such as game rules the next time you play. Pandemic Legacy is one well-known example of this style.
- Worker placement games. In worker placement games, players place their "workers" on spaces on the board to gain resources or powers. For example, in Agricola you can send your farmers out to plow fields, build fences and more.
How to compare board games
Instead of just picking up the first board game you find, it's important to shop around to find a game that's right for you. Make sure you take the following factors into account when comparing your options.
If you're playing a family game, the age of the players will always play a part in determining your choice of board game. Check the age range on the box as a guide, but consider your child's patience levels and attention span when choosing what to play. You might also want to check out our guide to the best board games for families.
Are you looking for something simple and fun, where everyone can pick up the rules in a few minutes? Or do you want something complicated and highly involved, where there's a steep learning curve and you'll need to invest plenty of time and effort to truly master the game?
Some games are purely decided by luck, others by skill, and many by a combination of the two. Check the rule book to see which category a game falls into.
Time it takes to play
How long will it take to complete the game, on average? Note that the complexity of the game doesn't necessarily determine how long it takes to complete — some challenging strategy games can be finished in around half an hour, while most of us will remember those childhood Monopoly epics that seemed to go on for days.
Individual or team game
Decide whether you want a game where players form teams, or one where it’s every player for themselves. While teamwork can be enjoyable and rewarding, there’s also a lot to be said for taking on all your friends and family in an individual quest for total domination.
Look for a game based around a theme that interests you (or your children). From dinosaurs to military strategy, global pandemics to farming, there are board games to suit just about any taste.
Think about the type of gameplay the game involves. For example, do you simply roll a dice and move around a board or is there more strategy involved? Will you need to negotiate with other players, form alliances or just fend for yourself?
Now is also a good time to think about the aim of the game. For example, is the goal to control as much territory as possible, eliminate other players from the game or something else entirely?
Space to play
Check how much tabletop space you'll need to play the game — some complex strategy games can require quite a bit of room — and whether that suits your needs.
3 things to consider
- Board games for kids. If you're trying to find a board game that's suitable for kids, there's more to consider than just the age range listed on the box. Not only do you need to consider the style of gameplay and how complex it is, but also how long the average game will take and the attention span of your children. You might also want to check out our guide to the best board games for kids.
- Research your options. Looking to expand your board game collection? Rather than just shopping at your local department store, jump online to research what's available based on the style of game you like. There are literally hundreds of games out there you've never even heard of, and you don't need to be a board game fanatic to enjoy them.
- Number of players. Don't have a big group of people to play with? Don't worry. There are plenty of board games out there that are a lot of fun with 2-3 people or even solo. Check out our guides to the best 1-player, 2-player and 3-player board games for more information.
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