Board Games for Grown Ups

By: Brad Grzesiak

In addition to "reading for leisure," one of the activities I rediscovered after college was playing board games with friends. No, I don't mean Monopoly or Candy Land... there exists a whole swath of board games intended for the adult mind, which is more analytical than that of our youths and has a distinctly different capacity for enjoyment. Whereas our 8-year-old minds might have been completely satisfied with the "tactics" of the card game War, our more mature brains often crave more. What follows is a list of games I've found to appeal to a wide array of individuals:

Settlers of Catan

Quite possibly the most famous adult game in the last decade, Settlers of Catan has, by far, been the most successful of the types of games I'll cover. It's made such a name for itself that The Wall Street Journal covered how Green Bay Packer starting tackle, David Bakhtiari, got a good chunk of the team hooked. While it definitely encourages strategic play, it also requires a bit of luck and diplomacy. In a sense, it's a bit like Monopoly, except for how a game of Catan always feels like it's progressing rather than stagnating (games last 45-90 minutes)... oh, and the players usually don't end up hating each other by the end. It's won so many awards, I won't bother listing them here. "Settlers" requires at least 3 players, which makes it a great casual double-date activity, especially when accompanied by a bottle of wine or two!

Carcassonne

Named after a beautiful region in south France, Carcassonne features a gameplay-surface-building aspect similar to dominos while forcing players to manage the scarcity of their point-earning game pieces, affectionately called "meeples." There are four ways to earn points in the game, and three of them offer opportunities for opponents to swoop in and split or even steal points away. The game typically ends after 30 minutes after all the tiles, which are placed once per turn, are exhausted. Make sure to play on a big smooth table... the board can dynamically expand in any direction.

Jaipur

This 2-person-only card game seems straightforward, but it's balanced well enough that no one strategy can effectively always win. The basic idea of jaipur is to take turns either building your hand or laying down cards to earn points. The beginner's instinct is to hoard cards until a big play can be made, but the rules reward those who play early at the expense of their opponent. I pride myself as being a reasonably good game player, yet this is just one of those games I simply cannot "figure out." That makes it great for anyone feeling tentative about their abilities. An added bonus is that games are played best-of-three, so falling way behind in one game still affords you the opportunity to win overall.

Ticket to Ride

Who doesn't wanna pretend to be Cornelius Vanderbilt? Oh, um... never mind. Bad question. Ticket to Ride lets you compete against your friends to be the biggest railroad magnate in the US (or Germany, or Switzerland, or the Nordic countries, or... well, there are a bunch of expansions available). Players randomly select "tickets" that represent city-to-city routes that they must complete during the game. The larger the distance between cities, the more points you earn. Watch out, though. If you're too ambitious and don't complete your routes by the end of the game, you actually get penalized that number of points, reminiscent of those horrible standardized tests of high school.