Here at GeekOut, we really love getting together with friends and fellow geeks in a social environment; be it in a pub, or over at each others houses. But when we’re there, we don’t just sit down and immediately start talking about life and current affairs, because that isn’t what we’re always interested in. Not to say those don’t have their place in conversation, but we need something to sink our teeth into, something to have as a compliment to our conversation.
In this week’s’ Top 10, we talk about some of our favourite examples of a board game that helps to drive conversation, giving you a vocal point – A common, shared theme, to which you can all discuss further, or just use as a way to say “Oi, remember that time you were really crap at that game? I remember it.” This is our Top 10 Social Board Games.
Compared to the rest of our list, the classic gentlepersons game of chess is actually pretty mundane and anti-social. But when you think about it, Chess is as much a social game as any other. Rather than focusing on the environment around you, or indeed letting a big party of people into your social bubble, Chess allows you to be in deep thought and to engage in a battle of the brain against one other individual.
Couple this with the fact that Chess usually has pretty big tournaments and even smaller tournaments, you realise that actually, this little isolating game isn’t so anti-social after all. If anything, this is one of the more popular games at our meetups – because it’s a nice way to get introduced to a specific person. If you think someone is a cerebral, why not challenge them to a healthy game of Chess? You might end up liking the way they think and then going for a chat afterwards.
Looking for something with nearly universal appeal? Munchkin has almost every genre covered with their parody roleplaying card game, from fantasy to western, and have touched upon practically every title and famous name therein. At some point everyone will find a card or two that’ll give them a laugh, and by that point their already hooked.
It’s sneaked its way onto the list on a technicality, because the board for Munchkin is actually an optional extra, but in its many varieties it has something for everyone, and can be mixed to accommodate any group’s tastes, and has a dearth of extras to keep the game fresh and interesting. Not to mention all the group coordinating to tear down the guy who’s winning, you just can’t compete with that kind of unified back-stabbery.
Alright, let me be clear right now. Pictionary is in no way, shape or form supposed to be a game that you sit down and draw the next Van Gogh, but by George, you’ll be surprised at the amount of conversation this silly, unsuspecting game can draw (haha) out of people. But the reason this game stirs so much conversation is that it gets you to work in pairs, one person draws, the other person guesses what the heck you’re trying to tell them!
Colour me impressed, Pictionary is known for being a simple game to play, but ultimately filled with laughs and jokes at each other’s expense. Most people cannot draw a hand, so when they’ve got to draw a hand and it turns into just a circle with 5 prongs sticking out of it, you’ve got to wonder where on Earth people got that impression from. It’s sometimes so hard to see what people are trying to tell you, that when they finally tell you, you can’t hold back the laughter. You’ll get many a fun memory from this classic party game.
7) Hero Quest
The game that set many a generation of future role playing gamers up; Hero Quest was a game by Games Workshop that had somewhat of a cult following. It’s not any higher on the list simply because of how much of a cult following it had, but by god, much like a tabletop RPG, there was so much you could put into Hero Quest. The more you did put in, the more you could get back out of the game too.
Don’t think for a second this is a simple board game for people to just play as a barbarian, smashing doors down and attacking skeletons. This could be a longstanding campaign, which people can then go to one another in between sessions and say “Hey, remember I picked up that item? Any idea what it does?” If Dungeons and Dragons is a considerably social tabletop game, Hero Quest is social-lite. It gets you thinking about the next step, the next part of the story and ultimately how to continue your character.
If you’re bringing a game to an event you’ll want something easy to learn, fast to play and supporting a good number of players, and you could do far worse that Tsuro, game of the path. A hand of tiles that each form paths along which to move your token around the board, keep moving and stay on the board, last man standing wins.
It’s easy enough to pick up the idea, but it may take you a few games to get the strategy right, so it’s a good job that you can usually get through three games in an hour. It works well with two players, better with three, and by the time you get to the maximum eight, players will start dropping like flies as tiles flood the board.
Tsuro is a great way to get new people involved in gaming, as anyone – even people who don’t usually play board games – can get to grips with it in a matter of minutes. Call it a gateway game.
5) 7 Wonders
7 Wonders is… well it’s hard to describe but I’ll do my best.
Three ages of culture are represented by decks that are split up between the players, each age you build something in your hand before passing the rest on to the next player. You trade and war with the players on either side, and the victor is the player who ammasses the most points at the end of the third age. I swear it all makes sense if you play, it’s a terrible game to try and explain, but incredibly easy to learn.
That said, at once depending and fearing your neighbours makes for a rather interesting dynamic, communication is a must, as is keeping an eye on everyone around you. You also have to consider, not just the cards you build but the cards you’re passing on. Communication may not be key, but it flows so naturally at the table that one can’t help get involved, and afterwards reflect on what strategies work, where the pursuit of points lies. Science? Conquest? Culture? Guilds? What have you tried before, and what will you try next time?
As a simple game for new gamers it’s a fun way to bring new people into the group, and get them playing both with you and against you.
In the 90s and the early 00’s, there was a game that featured not just a board for you to play on, but something rather more interactive; something exciting and new, an untried medium for which board games were about to finally tap into… Oh and did I ever mention that the game was so incredibly cheesy that it kept people up at nights, chatting the night away?
Atmosfear is a horror board game, which isn’t unheard of, even for its time. The thing that makes Atmosfear so interesting is that it was a board game There have been many iterations of the game, of which they started on VHS and eventually moved their way over onto DVD. With the VHS games, they were pretty straightforward: You have a countdown before a certain action would take place. When it went onto the DVDs however, random timers were a possibility, making the game a lot more interactive. Love it or hate it, the game got people talking and even to this day, people still like to talk about it. Why? It’s never been imitated properly.
Also The Gatekeeper was hilariously cheesy.
The models may be getting a little over-priced, and if I’m honest they’re getting over-designed too these days, but there’s one thing that you just can’t match Games Workshop on, and that’s customer service. While the game materials may seem expensive these days, never forget that part of that price tag pays for unlimited use of the tables, an education in the rules, the painting, sculpting, and not forgetting the atmosphere.
No… not that atmosphere…
I’m talking about the friendship, the conversation, everyone gathered in one place in pursuit of the same thing. It’s guaranteed conversation, and friendly people who want to talk about it, and more often than not about the latest Game of Thrones, or latest film, or whatever the kids are talking about these days. It’s in the big events that bring everyone together, the competitions of the game, building, painting, sculpting for speed or beauty, it’s the coming together with like-minded people for a few hours a week to be utterly yourself.
Kudos to Games Workshop, despite some questionable decisions made over the decades, at worst you leave a legacy to be remembered by everyone.
I love D&D for the group storytelling, but Dixit does it just that little bit better. Players each have a hand of cards, no numbers, just artwork. The turn player chooses one, and gives a clue as to what’s on that card, and the other players put down cards from their own hand that they think match the clue. The trick is to have some people guess which card was yours from the collection, if nobody guesses correctly then you were too obscure and get no points, if everyone guesses right then they get the points because you were too obvious.
This is a great game of communication, description, and interpretation, a creative game that requires getting to know one another and to think the way they’re thinking. Now for some of us those are unsafe waters to swim, but by and large it’s a great one to get people talking whether they’ve just met or have known eacho other for years.
1) The Ungame
I’m going to turn this whole list on its head now. We’ve been talking about really fun games to play together, to really embrace the spirit of playing a board game with others. You will talk about the board game and what actions you did surrounding the game you just played. It’s a lot of fun for everyone involved. With Warhammer, you even can call that a spectator game, too, as it’s visually pleasing to watch play out and converse with the players.
Now, imagine you aren’t very good at talking about who you are. Imagine that your feelings are really hard to express to people on a day to day basis. Perhaps you’ve had a really hard life and you don’t really like to talk about it. Imagine now that you’re going to meet with lots of brand new people for the first time in your life. It’s a terrifying experience; will they like you? Will they mind that you’re there? Will they even realise or pay attention to the fact you’ve made the effort to meet these people?
Out comes The Ungame… A game that nobody loses. Everybody is a winner, because the goal of the game is to be able to express yourself freely. To converse, to chat, to explore each others deep feelings. It’s a powerful game for communications and as such, it’s a game that doesn’t take the centre stage, but instead likes to give you, the player, an encore. This is the definitive social board game.
Yes, it’s true, our top social board game is actually called The Ungame. But just because we’ve finished our list, this doesn’t mean we’re done with talking about social tabletop games in general! Read on for two of our picks for a social game (to some capacity), which allows us to let out our social side.
What? Another Top 10 list where Monopoly only makes it into the honourable? Gee whiz, Timlah, are you guys biased against Monopoly over there at GeekOut? What on earth are you doing to the institute of board games, if you’re always putting Monopoly down?!
Woah, hold your horses there bucko! Monopoly isn’t the most social game in the world; in fact, it’s arguably one of the most anti-social games in the world. Yes, you chat to one another throughout the game, but the game is only social in so far that you are having to chat to one another to make trades, to get money off one another and so on. You are collecting rent from your friends and family; people you possibly don’t even pay rent to or collect rent from in the real world. Suddenly, you’re taking away their lifeblood, the thing that keeps them in the game: Money.
This game is infamous for not necessarily being the most social game in the world, but rather one of the best games that ends friendships. Now of course, that phrase is actually an over exaggerated view, however there have been reported incidents of people falling out over the game… Which is quite sad, as the game was made to teach you the pitfalls of capitalism. Perhaps friendships are just one of these pitfalls.
Sadly boardless, there’s one hell of a social element to werewolf. A minimum of eight players adopt the role of innocent villagers, at least for the most part, because one or two of those innocent villagers are bloodthirsty, shapeshifting savages who hunt and kill people at night. Each morning the innocent villagers get to start pointing fingers and resolve to lynch one amongst their number for the heinous crime of lycanthropy… Oh! And murder by bloody dismemberment.
Treachery, mistrust and groundless accusations is one hell of a way to get to know each other, and it’s a game that only improves in larger numbers. People get to talking, coordinating their lynching and nightly attacks and forming temporary truces and rivalries that last only as long as the game does, then it’s all hands in for a new round. Great for parties, great for events, not so good for small groups, and without a board it gets dumped down here in the honourable mentions.
Although we’re now done with this week’s list, don’t forget to continue the conversation by letting us know what you thought about our list of social board games. Do you have a board game that drives more conversation than the ones we’ve put into our list? Let us know what you think about the inclusion of The Ungame as our number one in this week’s list, as I’m sure a few of you have more questions than answers and that’s fine – As we can talk about it.
Now, tell yo kids, tell yo partners, this week we need you to decide our fate for next week’s Top 10 topic! Let us know what you thought of this week’s list either in the comments below, or as usual, carry on the conversation over on our social media pages; Facebook and Twitter. Hey, as we released this article on February 13th; the Bristol geeks are going to be out and about for another geek social! Will any of the above games make an appearance? If you’re in Bristol, come join us at Old Market Tavern from 2pm!