10 Great Alternatives to Popular Board Games
by Serban, Quartermaster @ The Guild Hall
January 7, 2020
Let’s face it, although we might not want to say it; we’ve all got a little bit of hipster blood in us. There was something we looked at, at some point in life and said “it’s too mainstream” (usually it was right after we bought a double mocha-frappucino or some other artisanal drink). The point is, our hipsterdom isn’t always a bad thing. There are times when popularity does not equal quality, but rather ease of entry even for people outside the circle. Nowhere is that more true then when it comes to board games. In the world of cardboard and meeples, there are plenty of hipsterish alternatives to popular games. So here they are: 10 great alternatives to popular board games.
Jenga – Tokyo Highway
Jenga. The one game you can play without even knowing the rules. No, seriously, you see a tower of wooden pieces, it is instinctual to just remove a piece, even a 3-year-old could do it. The problem arises when said 3-year-old gets hammered by a tower of hard wooden planks. Now, this doesn’t make Jenga bad. It is a simple and perfectly respectable game. Tokyo Highway, on the other hand, is the surgeon’s Jenga. It is a dexterity game about incredible finesse, in which you struggle to ever-so-slowly build up a highway with the smallest possible cars. If you like the dexterity element of Jenga and want to improve your handiness as much as possible, Tokyo Highway is the way to go.
Activity – Concept
Without a shred of doubt, Activity is the most popular party game in Romania. And, most likely, if you’re reading this, you’re a local reader. Even if you aren’t, most likely you’ve heard of some variation of Activity. Every round, you get a word and you have to either explain it, mime it, or draw it. And there are plenty of versions to that. Sometimes you get split into teams, sometimes you’re on your own, so on and so forth. Concept builds on the same guessing base, but in a different direction. Rather than having to draw (and knowing you’ll never be as good an artist as your friend Alex), you use concepts. There’s a board filled with pictures of concepts in front of you, and you have to place cubes to guide your friends. It may seem a little too niche at first, but man, does it create a fun debate!
Dixit – Muse
Going from one game your friends always want to play to another, here’s Dixit. Just like Activity, Dixit thrives because of its simplicity. You say a word, you put down a card to match said word in secret, everyone else puts down a card and then you guess which one was the original one. Easy as that. Muse adds another layer onto that, with one player playing as the muse, which communicates through unique cards, all of which give off a different clue to help search for the original card. It offers an additional element of mystery and diversity, giving it more longevity than Dixit (and it also has a much better name, in case you want to play it with your parents).
Cluedo – Chronicles of Crime
Murders are lovely! Well, they generally aren’t, but with Cluedo and Chronicles of Crime, they are a blast. In both games, a person has died and you have to figure out the full details of the crime. Who did it? What weapon did they use? Were they alone in doing it? With Cluedo, all the information will be dealt amongst other players, which makes the game a little faster, but it is still a battle. With Chronicles of Crime, you all work together towards a common goal, but the coolest part is the attached app, which gives you access to VR crime scenes to bring out your inner detective like never before.
Chess – Onitama
If you didn’t live under a rock for the past year, chances are you’ve seen The Queen’s Gambit. The chess-based Netflix show took over the world in late 2020 and then, almost instantly, chess became the talk of the world. Everyone wants to brush up on their Sicilian defense and better their attack strategy. But chess is VERY complicated. If you’re looking for something just as thoughtful, also for two players, but with a little less analysis paralysis, try Onitama. It is just like chess, but instead of an enormous board with thousands of possible moves, there are only ten pieces and five possible moves, all of which are on small movement cards. What makes it even more fun is that once you’ve moved, that movement card gets passed to your enemy, so you can only use it once, then you have to wait for the move to come back to you, leading to plenty of shenanigans. And also, once again, it doesn’t require a Ph.D.
Uno – Exploding Kittens
This might seem like a bit of a cheat entry, as Exploding Kittens is a viral card game in it of itself, but Uno is simply undeniable. It is the king of card games. It’s simple, fresh and has plenty of possible house rules (all of which make the game worse, by the way). That being said, if you are looking for a card game that’s easy to carry and great at parties, Exploding Kittens is a great fit. It is hilarious, tense and plays very much like the card game version of Russian Roulette. And that, lemme tell you, is more fun without bullets. Not that I’ve tried it.
Alias – Just One
While writing this entry, it has occurred to me just how popular guessing games are. Everyone and their mothers have played a guessing game at one point or another. The only issue with said games is that they are not meant for the faint of heart. I, for one, panic every time I see a timer attached to my guesses. This does, however, make for great intensity. Alias, for example, is a masterclass in quick thinking and player immersion. Everyone has to be on edge, or else they’ll lose. But, if you’d like something calmer, try Just One. It is just as great at parties, but without the crazy timing element. On the other hand, it forces you to think more about the clues you will give, as two people writing down the same clue will negate it and thus, the guesser will not get it. It makes you think twice, a commodity you don’t have in literally any other speed-based guessing game.
Catan – Mare Nostrum
Monopoly – Ticket to Ride
Carcassonne – Tang Garden
To wrap it all up, there are two terrific tile-laying games. Carcassonne is the one you’ve probably heard the most about, with its colorful fields and its numberless extensions. Tang Garden, on the other side, provides a lot more intricacy and some stunning visuals. No joke, this game is so beautiful we stopped playing it the first time we played it just to show our hands to each other. It is that stunning. And after you’ve placed your tiles, you have to put down decorations, then place people on said decorated tiles. Although Carcassonne is a classic that can be expanded upon with basic tactics, Tang Garden is a Walz on unmatched beauty. And it is the absolute best an alternative can be.
So that about does it. What other alternatives have you found to these delightful games? Tell us in the comments! And just a casual reminder, you can find most of these games on our online shop and who knows? Some of them might just be on a sale…
Read more from the blog
Board Game Gift Guide 2021
Tabletop 101Boardgame Gift Guide 2021 by Serban, Quartermaster @ The Guild Hall December 16th, 2021Picture this: You need to find a gift for a friend of yours and you need to do so fast. You have no clue what to get them, but you know they like board games. What’s the...
10 games you can learn in 10 minutes
Whether you are a person who wants to find some new games to play or you are an avid player who wants to introduce his friends to his favorite hobby, we decided to make a list of whether you are a person who wants to find some new games to play or you are an avid player who wants to introduce his friends to his favorite hobby, we decided to make a list of 10 games you can learn in 10 minutes.
How to Get Into Middle-Earth Strategy Battle Game (MESBG)
reetings again, fellow wanderer! Do you feel like this scorching weather’s a good time to stay inside and play some wargames? Well, let me tell you all about how you can start your journey in Middle-Earth. Oh, it’s much simpler than at first glance, so you don’t need to sell your soul to Sauron. Well, at least not for this game…