Every year thousands of new board games are released around the world and added to an already saturated market. It can be hard to keep up with the newness or even just avoid getting caught up in the hype.
Even though my tastes in games have changed and I have more options available to me now, I still find myself wanting to play some of the older games that I grew up with. These are my Top 6 classic games that I still love to play in spite of their flaws or reimplementations.
It’s a thing you do with your eyes, but it is also something you can fasten around your arm right above your hand, but below your elbow. Jimi Hendrix sang the song “All Along the Blank Tower”. Rolex is a brand that sells this object. Tick tock. (Did you guess the word “watch”?)
Taboo is a party game that asks a player to get their teammates to guess a secret word by giving verbal clues. On the secret card, players have additional words that are “taboo” for them to say. If they use any of the taboo words, or the word itself, in a clue then they are buzzed out and don’t score any points for that card. A player will continue to draw new word cards for their team to guess until the timer runs out.
Taboo creates this hilarious frenzy of nonsensical shouting between teammates. Sometimes the
shouts answers are correct, but often they are wrong and the clue-giver must shush them and refocus their attention on the clues. One of my favourite parts of Taboo is buzzing a player who uses a taboo word on their card. (My buzzer of choice is my mouth although the game does come with a buzzer for more civilized players to use.)
There have been many games since Taboo (Codenames and Codenames Duet, Decrypto, Speechless) that reuse this system and require a player to get their team to guess a word by placing restrictions on the clue-giver, but none of them seem to work quite as easily, or play as quickly and simply, as Taboo does.
- Video Games
- Electronic Gadgets
- Board Games
- Things that Use a Remote
- Things Found in a Hospital
Your letter is L and you now have 1 minute to come up with answers beginning with this letter in the categories listed.
Scattergories is a game that pits players against each other and tests their vocabulary and recall as they try to name things in the listed categories. Players are given a single letter to work with each round as they complete their answers before time runs out.
Each completed answer could score the player a point as long as it is a valid answer (or is an invalid answer, but everyone at the table thought it was incredible anyway). An answer using alliteration, like Wil Wheaton, will also score extra points. The catch is that an answer is immediately disqualified if more than one person has written it down. In this game you are scrabbling against the clock to come up with answers, while also trying to make them unique. This tension and stress from round to round is why I keep coming back to play Scattergories.
A Standard 52-Card Deck
Okay I realize I am cheating a little bit here since the deck of cards itself isn’t a game (unless you are playing 52 Pickup), but there are so many traditional card games I still enjoy playing that I couldn’t choose just one. In times of minimal packing space, situations where other board games run the risk of getting ruined (like camping), or when the thought of a bigger board game is too overwhelming for a new gamer, a standard deck of cards has always been my best option.
Games like Euchre, Hearts, Poker, Blackjack, and President still hold up to modern day game design standards and because of that, it’s no surprise that many of the mechanisms in these games have been used in board games. Consider any game that uses trick-taking or poker hands, for instance. I have even played games like The Resistance, Spyfall, Werewolf, Tichu, and Skull using just a standard deck of cards. Additionally, I have used a deck of cards to introduce modern board game styles to new gamers with the help of Scott Huntington’s Femtitvå.
When in doubt, grab a deck of cards; it doesn’t take up much space, is easily replaced, and can be used for more than just card games. Cardhalla anyone?.
I was recently at a local board game convention and they had a used game sale. I got to the checkout with my selection of games and as they were totaling my purchases, the cashier picked up the used copy of Tapple, harrumphed, and said, “Wow. I didn’t think anyone would ever buy this”. I chuckled in that moment because I understood why the cashier judged this game. It looks ridiculous. Imagine an object the size of a dinner plate with letters around the outer rim in alphabetical order, with some missing, and a giant red button at the centre…or you can just look at the picture below.
Despite its looks, Tapple is a hoot. Players gather around this electronic flying saucer and are given a category like Department Stores, Graphic Novels, or Fast Food Restaurants. The round begins with a player hitting the big red button in the device’s centre, starting the timer. Each player takes a turn in clockwise order until all but one player is eliminated.
A player’s turn works like this:
- Name something in the assigned category (McDonald’s for Fast Food Restaurants.)
- Push down the letter that your answer begins with. (“M” for McDonald’s.)
- Hit the red button again, resetting the 10-second turn timer. (Play will pass to the next player who will then name something in the category beginning with a different letter than those already pressed down.)
Play will continue around the table with players taking their turn until someone is eliminated. An elimination turn might go something like this:
Play passes to Jessica.
Jessica: “Ahhh. Umm. Uh. Why did you have to say Sonic Burger, James?”.
Jessica glares at James while everyone else giggles quietly to themselves. They all stare at the lettered device trying to prepare an answer for their next turn and hope Jessica doesn’t steal their letter.
Jessica: “Um…um…WHY CAN’T I THINK OF ANY FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS!?” Ding.
If the device dings on your turn then you have run out of time and you are eliminated. If ever all remaining players manage to push down all the letters, a new category card is drawn and in this round, players must name two things (using different letters) on their turn that fit the category.
This game has always gone over well no matter the group. It makes me laugh so hard I cry, it makes me feel frustrated with myself and other players, and sometimes it even makes me feel so amazed with a friend and their clever answer that I forget to take my turn entirely. How could anyone possibly harrumph at a game like this?
Yes, you read that right. I still enjoy playing Monopoly.
You can ring your bells and cast your stones, but I feel no shame; Monopoly is a fun game. If you are reading this Top 6 list, I imagine you are already familiar with all of the house rules people use to play Monopoly while acting like these rules are the real ones, but you are probably unfamiliar with what is actually written in the Monopoly rulebook itself. Whatever the case, this picture sums up most people’s Monopoly experience.
Unlike the brawlers, this has not been my experience with the game. The reason I enjoy Monopoly is because when I play it, I go into it with the right expectations. I don’t pretend I will be playing the greatest board game ever made or that I will be spending the next couple of hours deeply strategizing over each move I make. I go into it expecting to have a really fun time with my friends and family…and isn’t that the reason why many of us play board games in the first place?
Does your person have glasses? Does your person have red hair? Do they have blue eyes? No, not this kind of Guess Who?–because it is just the worst when you randomly draw a female character. I play Guess Who? like this: Does your person drink too much coffee during the day? Does your person eat only gluten-free because they think it’s trendy? Does your person like to surf? Does your person have 10 cats?
I will always remember the first time I was introduced to Subjective Guess Who?. I was at my favourite local board game café (RIP Monopolatte) with my best friend and on the board game menu, we noticed this game. After we both thoroughly searched the shelves for it, we finally threw in the towel and asked the board game teacher where we might find the game. They laughed at us (which was okay because we were both regulars there and knew them well enough) because it isn’t its own game at all.
Subjective Guess Who? is played with all the components of a regular Guess Who? game, but what changes are the questions you ask. Rather than focusing on physical characteristics as you do in the original game, you ask subjective questions like the ones I wrote above. I have played this version of the game one-on-one and in teams with each teammate alternating who asks the questions. As you might imagine, it is difficult to actually deduce who the person is because of how subjective the gameplay becomes. But those moments when you do guess correctly, especially on your first guess, make you feel incredible and amaze your opponent.
Guess Who? with this subjective variant has made for some of my funniest board gaming experiences, especially because you are never quite sure what kind of question will come out of your opponent’s mouth. No matter the age of the gamers at the table, I would suggest playing this way and experiencing some of the joy and hilarity that is Subjective Guess Who?.
While it’s true that I have outgrown many of the games I played in my childhood or have found better replacements for them (I’m looking at you Clue), I will continue to bring these 6 games to the table. Regardless of how my collection grows or how my tastes in board games change, there will always be a spot for older, classic games in my collection…and my heart.