For my first Ready Up article I wanted to have a look at the most popular board games over the last few decades, to really put recent games in context. I’ve always loved board games, like a lot of families, they were a staple of holiday periods, and this never went away!
We still have our classic games for the holidays but I decided to look at which games were actually the most popular in their decade and which persevered through time.
The 70s: Game of Life.
This game gets a bad rep. And I get it, I do, but it is a classic. I remember playing this as a kid, it was like a more interesting monopoly! Unfortunately I couldn’t get my hands on an original version, so I had to get their updated model. And I have to say, I was very disappointed. They’ve changed quite a bit actually, and they’ve managed to make it quite boring. They’ve taken most of the risk out, everyone ended up as millionaires despite losing. We went through the motions but there were no real decisions, no competitive edge. It really has got even worse.
The crux of the game is to go from the start where you chose to either go the employment or college route which affects your prospects in salary. From there you go through the “stages in life” which is what I believe most people take issue with. It’s the very traditional, education, employment, marriage, children, buy a house, retirement set up.
Action cards add a bit of spice to the game, you can to pay out for certain things like skydiving lessons. The original is a bit harder as you don’t get return on all the expenditure, which they have updated in the new version. A lot of Actions include chance spins (instead of rolls) with another player to see who gets the money, but you don’t lose anything if you don’t win. No risk.
Overall, it’s not the best way to kill an hour, and I’ve now found a friend with the old version which we are going to replay just to check how vast the differences are. I can see why it was huge, and why it’s lasted throughout the decades…but maybe giving this version a miss in the future.
The 80s: Pictionary
What can I say? Pictionary is an extremely versatile game! So, yes there is a way to play by the rules, or if your situation doesn’t fit the rules, make them up!
Ideally you’ll have 2-4 teams, each team has at least 2 people in it. We had three people. We had to improvise.
Essentially for those living under a rock and don’t know what Pictionary is, it’s very simple. Your team picks a card and has to draw which ever object, action, person etc. The other teams have to guess and whoever guesses first before the timer runs out gets to move along the board. It can get pretty rowdy…especially if Gin is involved.
It’s a great game which doesn’t seem to ever get old. It can be fun with the family or with some rowdy drunken friends.
Can you guess what some of our drawings were meant to be?
The 90s: Settlers of Catan
This game is still one of my favourites. We do own the Knights and Cities expansion pack, but for this review we played the original game. We had a good mix of players for this game. A total noobie, an advanced strategist and some mid-way holiday players. I think Catan is a great game to start moving away from the roll to move games. The dice in this game are rolled each turn to see what resources are collected. Some rolls you won’t get anything, but others will roll and you’ll get to collect.
It’s quite basic in design. You want to build settlements and cities and to do so you need to build roads. In order to build these things you need to acquire resources, whether that’s because you have a settlement built on a stone quarry, forest, sheep field, or so on. You can trade with others, the market, or trading ports (if you own one). There is a competitive edge added when other players cut off your road by building a settlement before you’re able to, or moving the robber to your land which stops you from collecting any resources from that land.
There are added development cards to help you get ore points, or to let you collect resources from other players and such.
For me, I fell in love with this game as it is so similar to Stronghold, which was the first PC game I ever played. It is simple in design and although you only have to get 10 points to win, it’s harder than it seems; especially as it comes down to the luck of the dice when you are collecting resources.
It is a little dated now, but can be beefed up with some expansion packs. It’s a good solid game with which to start your board gaming adventures. Noobies should have the hang of it entirely by the end of the first game and can be enjoyed many times over. The versatility of the board pieces also add an extra element of difficulty. Random works well for inexperienced players, but gives an extra little bit of challenge for more seasoned players.
The 00s: Pandemic
I will admit, this was my first experience with Pandemic. It’s been long anticipated.
For this game we actually had a table full of novices. The rule book never left the table! We quickly discovered it is a game with a bajillion ways to lose, and very few chances of winning.
The set up very much had the same affect on me as Dead of Winter: Panic. It looks super complicated. But once everything is where it needs to be and you get through the first round it starts making a lot more sense.
It is very much an all win or all loose game. Which is interesting. There is definitely an element of its all of us against the game, which is very fun when the game is so challenging.
We each picked characters which were promptly renamed to things like Dr. Douchbro and Martha’s mum. We were scientists, quarantine experts and such, each with our own ability to tackle aspects of disease.
There are four diseases in the world. We decided on Syphilis, Cholera, Zombism and Aids. Yay! The aim of the game is to have all of the diseases cured and eradicated. The catch is, for each person’s turn, new infections are made and there is the chance of an epidemic occurring, which means it spreads to the connecting cities. Cures are difficult as you need 4-5 of the disease cards to make a cure, and you can only trade cards on your turn when you are both in the city of the card you want to trade…complicated.
The game itself was loads of fun, a great way to spend an evening, and a very inventive design. I was a little disappointed with the ending, we obviously lost, but we lost because we ran out of cards. Yup. That obviously translates in game speak to we didn’t strategise well enough, and to stop the game from going on too long, but it felt quite disappointing.
I’ll definitely be playing again, and have started browsing for extension packs already.
The 10s: ???
What comes next? We are over half way through this decade and my gosh there are so many up and coming games that could be a good contender for this decades Top Game. I wonder what it will be.
Perhaps Agricola’s competition Caverna will take the top spot? Who knows, possibly something not out yet!