Like superhero comics and fantasy stories, board games are back in a big way. And as it turns out, Game of Thrones ticks two of those boxes. If you’re looking for something fun to do with friends, without any screens involved, then board games are a great option.
We’re a long way from Scrabble and Ludo now—there’s a whole new range of games that rely on strategy, skill, and some clever scheming. Here, we’ve made a list of seven board games that we really love which you can buy here in India.
Most of the games on this list are also are easy to get into, without a steep learning curve. That makes them good for beginners, so you know what to choose if you’re trying to introduce your friends to board games. Here are our picks:
1. Gobblet Gobblers
Noughts and Crosses (also known as Tic-Tac-Toe) is one of the best known games in the world, that we’ve all played when bored in school (or during a long meeting). Gobblet Gobblers is a really innovative variant where you have pieces of different sizes that can be used to capture a square that the other player has. The game is simple enough that it can be played by children, but it’s fun no matter what your age is.
The pieces come in two sets of three sizes—small, medium, and large—and you can play them just like you would noughts and crosses. The goal is the same—get three pieces in a row, either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally, to win—but because you can cover smaller pieces, the tables can turn very quickly on what looked like a sure win.
There’s a lot more thinking that goes into each move, because you aren’t just thinking about your three-in-a-row but also what will happen if your opponent puts a bigger piece on top of yours, and it’ll take a few plays just to wrap your head around the idea. Because the basics are so familiar, though, anyone can pick up the game and just start playing in seconds, and each round is over in minutes so it’s great for pick-up and play sessions.
Buy Gobblet Gobblers on Amazon for Rs 670.
One of the most famous board games out there, Carcassonne is beautiful and relaxing. There’s a strategic, competitive element to the game, but if you just want to play something without having to think too deeply about what you’re doing, this game allows for that as well.
The game is pretty simple—it’s like a jigsaw where you can put together any picture you want. There’s a number of tiles, and tokens called meeples. These tiles have different elements on them, from simple pastures, to churches, roads, and castles. Each player takes turns picking up a tile from the pile, and laying it on the table. The tile needs to touch a piece that’s already on the board, and it must line up visually. That means that if you have a road going vertically in one tile, it can’t just connect to a road running horizontally. Castle walls must line up, and so on. It’s very intuitive and kids can pick up how to play in seconds.
Each player also has a small number of meeples. When you place a tile, you can also place a meeple there — on a road piece, inside a castle, or laying on a pasture. Once you’ve put a meeple on a piece of construction, that belongs to you. When a structure is completed (roads are completed from castle to castle, or to crossroads. Castles are completed when there are no open walls. Churches are complete when all the eight tiles around them have been filled) you take the meeple back, and add the points to your total.
You’ll have to balance quick, small structures (allowing you to use your limited meeples in more buildings) and large towns and roads, which mean big points at the end of the game. Each session should last around 45 minutes to an hour.
Or just sit down with a friend, forget about the points, and make the most beautiful castle you can manage. It’s really up to you. Carcassonne is also available as an app on iOS and MacOS, so you can try it out without spending much money.
Buy Carcassonne on Amazon for Rs 3,499.
3. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is one of the most enjoyable pick-up-and-play experiences we know of, and it’s particularly great if you want to have a board game night with friends.
The rules of the game are simple—you live in a village that has a werewolf problem, and the villagers are going to do something about it. All the action takes place in a single night as various villagers (including the hidden werewolves) wake up and carry out different actions based on their roles, while everyone else keeps their eyes shut. Then it’s the morning, and the villagers need to figure out who the werewolf is, so they can kill them off. The werewolves, of course, spread doubt and confusion during the day phase as they pretend to be innocent villagers themselves.
Complicating matters is the fact that they actually could be innocent villagers—one of the night characters is the troublemaker who randomly switches cards without anyone seeing. This means that you might think you’re a villager and try to hunt down the werewolf, but that could be you.
Once the discussion is over in the daylight phase (players can set the time limit, in our experience three minutes was perfect) everyone points a finger towards their suspect for the werewolf and that player is dead. If a werewolf was really executed, then the villagers win—but if it was a villager who got killed instead, then the werewolves win.
You need a narrator to move the game forward—there’s an excellent phone app you can download to take over that responsibility, but otherwise one of your friends can be the narrator too. There are no strategic moves to make when playing, it’s just bluffing and reasoning your way through, and that means the game is fast and fun.
Buy One Night Ultimate Werewolf on Amazon for Rs 2,254.
If you loved the idea of One Night Ultimate Werewolf, but thought it sounded a little too random, then you should definitely check out Coup. It’s an amazing card game that is all about deduction, bluffing, and assassination (character and otherwise). Coup is a game about influence, and everyone has a couple of different cards that allow you to raise money, kill off your enemies, or take money from other players.
Once you’ve got enough money, you can carry out an assassination, reducing your opponents’ influence, but some cards like the Contessa can block an assassination attempt. Here’s where it gets complicated though—only each player can see what cards they have. So, let’s say you try and assassinate someone, and they laugh and say they have the Contessa. They don’t actually need to show the card—unless you challenge them. In case of a challenge, if the other player really has the card they claimed, you’re the one who will lose influence, losing one of your cards.
Lose all your cards, and you’re dead. The goal, obviously, is to be the last person left with cards to use.
Unlike Werewolf, with Coup, there’s a clearer strategic component to the game as you count cards, remember who has claimed what roles in the past, and try to figure out just when you’re being bluffed. When there’s a good number of players, you will also find yourself forming alliances and teaming up to cut down other players, which adds another layer of complexity to things. At the same time, each round remains fairly short, around 5-10 minutes at most, and it’s easy enough to pick up after a round of play, making it a great choice for parties.
Buy Coup on Amazon for Rs 1,495.
5. Ticket To Ride
Possibly the most famous game on this list, Ticket to Ride is fun for kids and adults both, and with its beautiful board and little tokens and pieces, there’s a tactile delight in playing. It’s also a surprisingly competitive game, so it may be avoided if you’re friends with folks who might flip the board if they lose.
The game is really simple—the board has a number of locations on the map (there are a lot of variants, but the simplest one is just called Ticket to Ride, set in the US. There is also Ticket to Ride: Europe, India, Asia, Africa, Germany, and more, which add more complex rules), and differently coloured train tracks that connect different cities. Each player has a set number of train carriages, and you’re collecting tickets in different colours each turn. Once you have enough tickets in the right colours, you can place your carriages on those tracks by spending the tickets.
At the start of the game, each player also gets two destination cards which tell you what routes you need to connect, and once you’ve completed a route you can take more routes as well. Completed routes get your points, and the longest continuous train track also gets points.
Sessions last for an hour or so including the time it takes to set up and pack away all the little pieces, but the game is really fun. There’s also a Web version and app, so you can get a taste of the game without having to put down much money at first. However, this is one of those games where the physical version really adds a lot of value.
Buy Ticket to Ride on Amazon for Rs 4,690.
6. Discworld: Ankh-Morpork
Based on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld book series, Discworld Ankh-Morpork is another gorgeous game that fans of the series really should try out. It’s a fun strategy game on its own terms, and the game’s Discworld trappings just take it to the next level.
Meant for two to four players, the map is a gorgeous reproduction of the city of Ankh-Morpork, and features the locations you’ve read about in the books. The character cards are also based on characters from Pratchett’s stories, and although set up takes some time and effort, the gameplay is quick and simple. Each turn, you’re playing one of your cards, and carrying out the actions written on them, while you vie for control of territory in the city once the Patrician Lord Vetinari goes missing.
You can place your minions on the board, make money in a number of different ways, or even try to bump off the competition. What makes it a little more complicated and fun is that each of you is also playing as a character yourself — and these characters have different victory conditions, so it might appear that someone is helping you out except they’re actually making their own moves.
Although there’s a lot of strategy involved in winning this game, there’s also a certain amount of luck involved and dice rolls. It’s a fine balance and the game does a great job of seeming fair despite relying on luck.
Discworld: Ankh-Morpork is currently unavailable online, but we purchased it in Khan Market in Delhi for Rs 11,990.
7. A Game of Thrones: The Board Game
If you’re a fan of HBO’s hit series based on the books by George R R Martin, you’re going to want to check out Game of Thrones: The Board Game. But this is a board game for people who are willing to commit some time to it. The game is set after the death of Robert Baratheon, during the War of the Five Kings. Up to six players take control of different factions from among the great houses including everyone’s favourites, the Starks and the Lannisters.
You’re fighting for control of the seven kingdoms, and each army has different resources to begin with. You’re starting with different troops and resources, and different geographical conditions, which has all the makings of a good strategy game.
But this is Game of Thrones we’re talking about so of course there’s a little extra complication in the mix. There are a lot of different resources up for grabs, and a lot of negotiation going on for power. You can’t just build up a giant army and crush everyone, so there’s a lot of deal-making and promises, and of course, a great deal of backstabbing too.
Play too honourably and you’ll find yourself as dead as Ned Stark, but betray everyone you know and you’ll soon be isolated and then it’s off with your head instead. Through the planning phase, everyone takes turn to issue orders to their armies, and these are executed in the action phase, so there’s a fair amount of tension in how much you can trust someone and how far you can stretch your limited military resources. Just like in the series!
If that sounds like something you want to get started with, we should present one caveat—the game is long. Just setting up everything can take a long time when you’re still uncertain about how the resources are distributed or what the rules are. The first play session we had lasted for six hours (with a couple of breaks for food, and sanity) and then packing everything away is another long haul. This isn’t a game you just pick up and play. But even if your friends aren’t enthusiastic board gamers, this could be part of a great weekend plan where you stream an episode on Sunday and then play a session with your friends, before the next episode is out on Hotstar on Monday morning.
Buy A Game of Thrones: The Board Game on Amazon for Rs 5,999.