Recommended by Brandon Perdue
Late last year, Hasbro released another in its long line of Risk variants, and at first glance Risk Legacy might be easy to overlook as “just another Risk edition.” But, Legacy is unlike any board game out there.
The key experience of Legacy, though, is not the dice-laden struggle for world domination – though there is that – but the way that the struggle changes the world around it, forever. Through an oddly compelling system of stickers and victory rewards, each game of Risk Legacy that you play will forever alter your (individually numbered) game board, and often turn traditional Risk wisdom on its head.
The game also includes numerous envelopes in the box that you are only supposed to open once certain conditions are met, and when you do, new rules and components are added to the game. Yeah, it’s Risk, but it’s also the only board game I’ve ever played where people have to use spoiler tags when they talk about it on the internet. And, that’s kind of thrilling.
Merchant of Venus
Publisher: Fantasy Flight
Recommended by Brandon Purdue
Last year, Fantasy Flight Games and Stronghold Games simultaneously announced that they would be publishing new editions of the 1988 classic Merchant of Venus. There was some legal tension over who actually had the rights, but this story ends happily.
Merchant of Venus casts players as spacefaring merchants, each with their own ship, traveling the spacelanes to buy low, sell high, and survive. But, space has many dangers, and successful merchants will have to balance their profit margin with upgrading their ship to handle the many threats they encounter along their way to fortune and glory.
Stronghold and Fantasy Flight came to an agreement and collaborated on the new 2012 edition of Merchant of Venus. Published by Fantasy Flight, the game includes two versions: a classic version only slightly retooled from the 1988 original, and a more dramatically overhauled update with entirely new rules and mechanics.
Publisher: Repos Production
Recommended by Brandon Purdue
With more than half a dozen prestigious awards under its belt, 7 Wonders remains one of the most engaging games to come out in the last few years. Players take control of ancient civilizations, each built around a Wonder, like the Great Pyramid at Giza or the Colossus of Rhodes, then they compete to have the greatest civilization at the end of the game.
The game is played through a card-drafting mechanic, with players choosing one card from their hand to play – representing various buildings, technologies, and other improvements for their civilization – before passing the remaining cards to the next player. Points are scored through achievements in science, culture, economics, militarism, and, of course, the Wonders themselves.
7 Wonders is an exciting addition to any collection. If you’ve already got the base game, check out its expansions, including Cities, which just released this August and adds new cards and rules for team play.
Publisher: daVinci Editrice
Recommended by J.C. Ciesielski
"The Outlaws hunt the Sheriff. The Sheriff hunts the Outlaws. The Renegade plots secretly, ready to take one side or the other. Bullets fly. Who among the gunmen is a Deputy, ready to sacrifice himself for the Sheriff? And, who is a merciless Outlaw, willing to kill him? If you want to find out, just draw (your cards)!"
Bang! is a great game that doesn't take long to learn. It's a 4 to 7-player game that takes roughly 30 minutes to play, and this card game recreates an old-fashioned spaghetti western shoot-out, with each player randomly receiving a Character card to determine special abilities and a secret Role card to determine their goal. The more players, the more interesting the game plays out, as there are more people to potentially be the Outlaw and the Wild Cards in the game. There aren't too many pieces, which is always a plus for "pick me up" games, meaning you could carry it around in a backpack or briefcase and bust out a game during lunch with some friends. This can be played and appreciated from the age of about 10 and up. Strap on your six shooter; we're out on the range for adventure in the old west.
Publisher: Looney Labs
Recommended by J.C. Ciesielski
You may be asking what the fluxx a game called Fluxx is all about. Let me lay down the skinny for you.
Fluxx is a game with a unique feature that separates it from most others. There are no set rules. They are made up as you go along. Nuts, right?! Each player is dealt 3 cards, and then a draw pile is created. The usual "draw one, play one" is used, but depending on how and what you play, these things can change in an instant. Each card has a specific purpose. There are rule cards that affect how the game plays out, goal cards that dictate what you need to achieve to win, and cards that are either friend or foe, depending on what the goal is and what you need to win.
One fun feature is that it only takes a minute to learn, and it's easy for just about any age. The older the player, the more strategy comes into effect. Another is that there are multiple versions of the game, (Animal Fluxx, Zombie Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx, and that's just to name a few) that can be intermingled and make the game's diversity and possibilities much wider and out there. This is another "pick up and go" game that can easily be carried around and only needs 1 other person to play, but can accommodate up to 6. So, go out and get Fluxx'in! Be sure to practice safe Fluxx!
Mouse Guard Roleplaying Box Set
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment
Recommended by Kristine Chester
Mouse Guard began life as a comic series but was soon adapted to the Burning Wheel RPG system. The game is a perfect way to introduce new players to either Burning Wheel or roleplaying, in general, thanks to its structured gameplay, which provides plot direction, while at the same time emphasizing and rewarding character roleplay. The box set comes with the book, the rules expansion, some shiny Mouse Guard six-sided dice, and enough sets of action, weapon, and status cards to run a full patrol of guards. The set also includes some added touches like Mouse Guard map tokens and a full version of the Territories map. The one downside of this gift is its popularity. Finding a box set for sale at its retail price will require patience and quite a bit of searching.
Miskatonic School for Girls
Publisher: Fun to 11
Recommended By Kristine Chester
Miskatonic School for Girls takes the gothic horror of Lovecraft's work and puts a cute and fun spin on them. Miskatonic is a deck-building card game, where up to four players compete against one another as different houses. The last house left with its sanity wins. Each house adds students with unique talents to their deck to increase their house's strength, while inflicting the bizarre faculty of Miskatonic on their opponents. These characters are derived straight from Lovecraft's stories, so anyone familiar with his work will appreciate the nods, references, and puns added to the game. Miskatonic School for Girls is quick to set up and play, making it perfect for travel or for taking up that extra time spent waiting for the rest of your RPG group to arrive.