Back away from the TV. Table the Zoom. It’s time to break out the dice, unfold that colorful board and go old school, figure out who’s wielding the candlestick, settling Catan — or breaking out of prison, toilet paper in hand.
Yes, we’re talking board games. Game nights are fun at any time, but during the coronavirus shutdown, they offer the perfect escape from stress and screens. OK, Pandemic, the board game where a team of scientists battles a new plague, may be a bit too on the nose. But there are other, newer games out there to delight. Here’s just a sampling.
If you had to cancel that Hawaii vacation because of COVID-19, you’ll relish the theme and artistry of this 2019 award-winning strategy game. Designed by Adacio in California, Latice Hawaii is all about matching beautiful, gold-rimmed tiles by color and shape on a 16-inch board designed to look like the ocean. Yeah, it’s pretty dreamy.
Players start with 21-42 tiles that hold an image of aloha — a dolphin, turtle and hibiscus flower, among others — and the winner is the one who plays all their tiles on the 16-inch board first. It’s not as easy as it sounds. You can earn glimmering stones by matching on more than one side, and use them for additional moves. And you can use wind tiles to change the layout of the board completely.
Everything about this game of planning and concentration is pretty, from the ocean-blue tile racks to the sunny acrylic stones. There’s even a sand timer to make sure everyone moves swiftly.
Details: Designed for two to four players, ages 8 and up. Skip the reading instructions in the box and watch the short video instead at www.latice.com/how, then dive right in. The game is available on Amazon for $35.
GeekDad.com’s top game of 2018, Cryptid is a deduction game of honest misdirection surrounding the whereabouts of an elusive creature in the wilds of North America. Each player studies their clue book to help them locate the beast on the modular board, which is tessellated with hexagons of terrain, from desert and forest to water, mountain and swamp. Be careful not to give away what meager information you have to your fellow cryptozoologists. Glory should be yours alone.
During the game, ask each other questions with the aim of guessing each other’s clues. The first player to correctly use all the clues to find the beast’s habitat wins the game — but, like their opponents, they’ll have to overcome bear and cougar territory and abandoned shacks along the way.
Details: Designed for three to five players, ages 10 and up. The game is currently available on Amazon for $27.
You don’t have to be a ornithologist to enjoy this much-ballyhooed board game. Of course, having some interest in our fine feathered friends will certainly be a plus as you compete for the title of best birdwatcher in the land. Is that an American goldfinch? A piping plover? A white-throated sparrow? That’s up to you to figure out as you go birding for four rounds, documenting what you see, learning facts about different types of birds and scoring points along the way.
It’s not quite as straight forward as it might sound. There are also some secret objectives in play, which could make the difference as you try to stake your claim to be top birder in the group. And don’t be surprised if your new passion for birding doesn’t stop once the board game is put back in the box. A few spins through Wingspan can leave one checking the sky for dark-eyed juncos for days.
The details: Designed for one to five players, ages 10 and up, Wingspan usually takes about one hour to play. The game sells for $60 at stonemaier-games.myshopify.com/products/wingspan.
Escape from Iron Gate
When The Escape Game opened in San Francisco last year, it offered a lineup of slick puzzle-packed escape rooms where guests could pull off a daring art heist, hunt for gold or break out of an Alcatraz-like prison cell. The Escape Game is closed for the shutdown, of course, but there’s a new board game version ($40) of that Alcatraz-esque escape, complete with cellblock, warden’s office and devious puzzles.
The premise? You and your fellow wrongfully-incarcerated-for-life inmates are trying to break out of prison. Unlike a team-centric escape room, though, only one player will make it to freedom by passing through four gates, each requiring a different set of items, some common and some rare. Among them: a rope, toothbrush, instant noodles and TP, which is deemed a common item. (We beg to differ.) You’ll have to earn those items by solving fun ciphers, codes and riddles, or performing Cranium-style drawing tasks or charades.
The details: This is a party game designed for three to eight players, ages 13 and up, with plenty of re-playability. Playing as a twosome works, although the charades-style tasks are better with more people — and with better things to guess than “path” and “teach.” We say, skip the charades and go all ciphers all the time. Find the game ($40 and up) at https://theescapegame.com and other online retailers.
The Grand Museum Board Game
If you’ve been virtual-touring the museums of the world during this shelter-in-place, this one’s for you. This board game ($49 and up), made by Quebec’s Today Is Art Day, begins with the news that the museum director has vanished, leaving behind a staggering budget deficit. Now it’s up to the art-loving players to stage enough wildly popular exhibitions – an “Au Naturel” exhibit with Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” perhaps, or and “All Through the Night” with Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” – to keep the museum afloat.
It’s a gorgeous game, from the painting cards to the playing pieces, famous statues, including the David and Winged Victory.
The details: Designed for two to four players, ages 12 and up, this Kickstarter game has proven so popular, it’s sold out on many U.S. sites. Still available, though, at Amazon, albeit at inflated prices.
Silver & Gold
Ahoy, matey. Here’s a fun card game that should appeal to the inner pirate in all of us. Players compete to decipher their treasure maps using a variety of patterns shown on cards. Whoever has collected the most treasure after four rounds comes out on top.
The game is portable, quick to play and meant to be used over and over again. Sure, you’re marking up the cards with pens as you make your way through the treasure hunt. Just wipe the cards down afterwards and the game will be ready for the next group of explorers.
Details: The game is designed for two to four players, ages 8 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. Find it for around $20 on Amazon.