Five Geeky Games for a Perfect Game Night

Okay, so maybe we have a little bit of a problem. Boardgames in this house have achieved a kind of holy status. At first it started out with just a few games. The Settlers of Catan, back in 2002, followed by Puerto Rico.  But very quickly, it became apparent that playing board games — especially geeky board games — was a lot more than just a passing fancy for my husband and I. Now, I’m not talking about Monopoly, here.  I’m talking about games that challenge intellect, inspire imagination, and reflect our geekiest nature. In fact, over the last few years we’ve had to buy furniture to actually support and store our habit (note: mid-century modern buffet tables work particularly well for this).

At least every month we try to share our love of fascinating boardgames with our friends. Some are quick to play, others take hours just to set up. But pound for pound I’d say that these games have provided more entertainment and camaraderie than anything else in the house save maybe our D&D dice. Since we’ve been at it for quite awhile, I thought I would share my top 5 awesomely geeky games that are perfect for a weekly or monthly game night at your house. I particularly omitted games that work best with two people, opting for those that can support a crowd. Don’t see a game you like? Feel free to suggest more in the comments!

The Settlers of Catan. This is the flagship game, the one that started it all.  With an ever changing board, endless possibilities, and some of the best phrases in the business (“I’ve got wood for your sheep”) Settlers of Catan has achieved a kind of sainthood among board games. Overall, we’ve probably logged more hours playing Settlers than any other game. I suggest this as a first game for anyone unfamiliar with games of this category. Settlers was created in Germany and first published in 1995. Since then it is sold over 15 million copies. The goal of the game is to build an island and then collect the most points which are deemed by building roads, cities, and settlements. While relatively simple, the game is fun on many levels and can be replayed often. There have been many expansions to the game, and it can accommodate up to six players. (Learning curve, moderate; setup time, moderate)

Carcassonne. Another simpler game, Carcassonne was created by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, and it is a freestyle board game; that is, every time you play Carcassonne the board changes. Points are determined by roads and gaining control over cities and farms. With various expansions, it can accommodate up to six players. It has a shorter play time than Settlers, which is ideal if you just want to jump into a game. I personally love the whole medieval feel of it. (Learning curve: simple; setup time simple)

Puerto Rico. We purchased Puerto Rico after Settlers, looking for something with similar gameplay. We were not disappointed. It’s a highly intelligent game with a setting during the colonization of Puerto Rico (which, let’s face it, can be a little uncomfortable at times). However, the principles of the game have to do with growing resources and little cities of your own; shipping, trade, and distribution are all very important, and by the end of the game the player who’s done the best job of maximizing the flow of goods (and, um, sometimes people) in their city typically has the most victory points. I love how unpredictable this game is; there have been times, playing, where I’ve been positive I’ve lost, only to find that I have, in fact, won. More frustrating, however, is the converse of that statement. (Learning curve: somewhat high—for first time players, at least; setup medium to moderate)

Munchkin. There is nothing serious about playing this game, that’s the whole point (as if you couldn’t tell by the name). The basic idea behind Munchkin is a card-based RPG. Except this time, everything is hilarious. Within ability to play multiple classes, races, and sometimes both at once, it’s both fun and entertaining (and particularly good if you’re planning on serving alcoholic beverages at your party). Not necessarily recommended for hard-core gamers however, those who just aren’t people to take things with a laugh. Unfortunately, I’ve seen even games of Munchkin get out of hand. A big plus to this however is the fact that you can take it pretty much everywhere since it’s a deck. Between Steve Jackson‘s game mechanics and John Kovalic‘s art, you can’t go wrong. (Learning curve: simple; setup: simple)

Arkham Horror. This is big-time gaming. This is the game to end all games, literally. You’re struggling, however fruitlessly, against the inevitable coming of the old ones, facing terrifying foes and traversing parallel dimensions. Starting out, you have the feeling that you probably won’t even win. Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve won more than a handful of times and even then that’s probably questionable. Set up alone on this game is quite extensive, but playing a detective, a magician, or any one of the amusing and often seedy characters in the Lovecraftian landscape, make this game geeky to the nth degree. Not to mention of course, that any game that causes you to lose sanity just rocks. I particularly like the collaborative nature of the game (i.e. no one wins, and everyone works together to, you know, have the world not end).  Also important to note is that you need a very large table to play this properly. Ours really isn’t adequate, especially now that we have an expansion or two. (Learning curve: tough; setup: tough)

One thing to do, regardless of the games that you choose, is to be aware of your friends’ experience and comfort levels. There are some of us who are absolutely obsessed with finding the newest, coolest, geekiest games. We decided long ago that playing board games went far beyond the games of our childhood. But for others, Monopoly and Life are just about as far as they’ve ever gone and they find learning these new games to be frustrating and, sometimes, just plain boring. So start off slow, especially if you want people to keep coming back, and before you know it, even the most inexperienced geeky gamer will be having tons of fun.

Advertisement





82 Responses to Five Geeky Games for a Perfect Game Night

    • Wow, why don't you just sell yourself to Wal-Mart already Jacky-boy. You piece of horse f***ing shit.

  1. Very Awesome list. The only one I don't play often is Arkham Horror, but in my gaming group it gets played practically every time. Dominion with its expansions has grown in popularity among me and my friends. Carcassonne is usually the game we start out with new game players as well.

    For the purpose of this list you excluded good 2 player games, maybe you could come up with a list for 2 players? I often can't travel the hours to join one of my gaming groups or go two states away to hang out with my college friends' gaming groups, so have just one gaming friend nearby. fun list.

    • Yes please! My husband and I play a lot of games, but we don't have a lot of like-minded folks nearby. A list of good two-player games would be greatly appreciated — a good start would be Ingenious; we really love that one!

  2. Very Awesome list. The only one I don’t play often is Arkham Horror, but in my gaming group it gets played practically every time. Dominion with its expansions has grown in popularity among me and my friends. Carcassonne is usually the game we start out with new game players as well.
    For the purpose of this list you excluded good 2 player games, maybe you could come up with a list for 2 players? I often can’t travel the hours to join one of my gaming groups or go two states away to hang out with my college friends’ gaming groups, so have just one gaming friend nearby. fun list.

  3. A game that is out of print but rocks is Betrayal At House On The Hill. Unfortunately you cannot get the game for less than $120. If you get the opportunity, it's a great game. The rumor is Wizards of the Coast will reprint the game.

    • Man, if they reprinted Betrayal I would be the happiest person around. For now I must make do with a game or two at my friends house.

  4. A game that is out of print but rocks is Betrayal At House On The Hill. Unfortunately you cannot get the game for less than $120. If you get the opportunity, it’s a great game. The rumor is Wizards of the Coast will reprint the game.

  5. I own Carcassonne and Puerto Rico, and my friend has Catan and Munchkins. Haven't heard of the last one, though.

  6. I own Carcassonne and Puerto Rico, and my friend has Catan and Munchkins. Haven’t heard of the last one, though.

  7. I've played all of these games several times, and I love trying new games. One of my favorites is Galaxy Trucker. Not a game for people who associate board games with Monopoly, but if you have played Puerto Rico then you'll be all right.

    Quick and intense gameplay, lots of humor.

  8. I’ve played all of these games several times, and I love trying new games. One of my favorites is Galaxy Trucker. Not a game for people who associate board games with Monopoly, but if you have played Puerto Rico then you’ll be all right.

    Quick and intense gameplay, lots of humor.

  9. No Agricola? Heresy!

    It's quickly become the favorite of our game nights. Somewhat complex to learn the first time, but especially if you have a consistent group, it's a blast to play.

    So much complexity and variation of choices it rarely seems to play the same way twice for me.

  10. No Agricola? Heresy!

    It’s quickly become the favorite of our game nights. Somewhat complex to learn the first time, but especially if you have a consistent group, it’s a blast to play.

    So much complexity and variation of choices it rarely seems to play the same way twice for me.

  11. Smallworld is an excellent game as well as most of the games that others have recommended. I personally dislike Agricola, but that's just how I feel. Actually, several of the people I play it with don't really like it that much.

    If you are into geeky stuff, Blue Moon City is also quite fun and quick to pick up and play.

    And Last Night on Earth is a really fun semi-cooperative zombie killing game.

  12. Smallworld is an excellent game as well as most of the games that others have recommended. I personally dislike Agricola, but that’s just how I feel. Actually, several of the people I play it with don’t really like it that much.

    If you are into geeky stuff, Blue Moon City is also quite fun and quick to pick up and play.

    And Last Night on Earth is a really fun semi-cooperative zombie killing game.

  13. Zombies is an excellent competitive zombie-killing game. Can be played with 2 players but best with more (though the game is shorter that way), you're fighting amongst yourselves to steal the few resources, kill the most zombies and make it out alive.

  14. Zombies is an excellent competitive zombie-killing game. Can be played with 2 players but best with more (though the game is shorter that way), you’re fighting amongst yourselves to steal the few resources, kill the most zombies and make it out alive.

  15. You know, reading this reminded me of my own love for Settlers and Munch, and even reminded me of a game not on the list, that I've had weeks of fun with – Illuminati.

    This thing is just about the most addictive game you can play legally. . . especially since the rules are (basically) that there are no rules. it's pure cutthroat intellect versus intellect, baby, and the goal is world domination. The potential for laughs and pwnage is tremendous, so the selection of players is key to enjoyment. hm… and for noobs, one piece of advice: trust noone! lol

    • Agreed. Illuminatti is my all time favorite "board" game, ever. I've unfortunately only been able to play a single 3-player (less than optimal) since the latest expansion came out.

  16. You know, reading this reminded me of my own love for Settlers and Munch, and even reminded me of a game not on the list, that I’ve had weeks of fun with – Illuminati.
    This thing is just about the most addictive game you can play legally. . . especially since the rules are (basically) that there are no rules. it’s pure cutthroat intellect versus intellect, baby, and the goal is world domination. The potential for laughs and pwnage is tremendous, so the selection of players is key to enjoyment. hm… and for noobs, one piece of advice: trust noone! lol

    • Agreed. Illuminatti is my all time favorite “board” game, ever. I’ve unfortunately only been able to play a single 3-player (less than optimal) since the latest expansion came out.

  17. Shadows Over Camelot is worth checking out. It accommodates up to 8 players and the set up and learning curve are moderate. The players all work together to defend Camelot. The task is complicated by the fact that one of you may be a traitor determined by loyalty cards dealt at the beginning and that you keep hidden from everyone else. I can't count the number of evenings I've stared at people who I thought were my friends and questioned every action they've done all night. The only thing worse than calling out a loyal knight is losing the game because you allowed a traitor to last until the end.

  18. Shadows Over Camelot is worth checking out. It accommodates up to 8 players and the set up and learning curve are moderate. The players all work together to defend Camelot. The task is complicated by the fact that one of you may be a traitor determined by loyalty cards dealt at the beginning and that you keep hidden from everyone else. I can’t count the number of evenings I’ve stared at people who I thought were my friends and questioned every action they’ve done all night. The only thing worse than calling out a loyal knight is losing the game because you allowed a traitor to last until the end.

  19. Maybe my friends and I are playing the game wrong, or have spent too many years power gaming, but I honestly can't think of an Arkham Horror game where we lost. Maybe I was just born to be a Door-to-door Salesman. But the game is fantastic and I say every gamer should have it.

  20. Maybe my friends and I are playing the game wrong, or have spent too many years power gaming, but I honestly can’t think of an Arkham Horror game where we lost. Maybe I was just born to be a Door-to-door Salesman. But the game is fantastic and I say every gamer should have it.

  21. Here's some other great games:

    Name (learning curve/setup)

    Acquire (simple/sinmple)

    Agricola (medium/medium-high)

    Pandemic (medium/simple)

    Caylus (medium-high/medium)

    St. Petersburg (medium/simple)

    Ticket to Ride (simple/simple)

    San Juan (simple/simple)

    As others have mentioned, check out boardgamegeek.com. Happy gaming!

  22. Here’s some other great games:

    Name (learning curve/setup)

    Acquire (simple/sinmple)
    Agricola (medium/medium-high)
    Pandemic (medium/simple)
    Caylus (medium-high/medium)
    St. Petersburg (medium/simple)
    Ticket to Ride (simple/simple)
    San Juan (simple/simple)

    As others have mentioned, check out boardgamegeek.com. Happy gaming!

  23. While Settlers is the game that started it all for me, Carcassonne and Puerto Rico do get a lot of play time in our house. Not a big fan of co-op games so I can't say that I've tried Arkham and I've never heard of Munchkin. I might have to look into that one as a party game.

    I like to think that we have pretty geeky game nights and I can't remember the last time that we didn't play Agricola at a game night. I know it takes a bit longer to set-up, teach, and play, but I have taught it to complete beginners. They are able to catch on and even enjoy themselves their first game.

    Just because a game is longer or more complex doesn't mean it's not good for beginners. Sometimes you just have to jump in. You'll figure out how to swim soon enough.

  24. While Settlers is the game that started it all for me, Carcassonne and Puerto Rico do get a lot of play time in our house. Not a big fan of co-op games so I can’t say that I’ve tried Arkham and I’ve never heard of Munchkin. I might have to look into that one as a party game.

    I like to think that we have pretty geeky game nights and I can’t remember the last time that we didn’t play Agricola at a game night. I know it takes a bit longer to set-up, teach, and play, but I have taught it to complete beginners. They are able to catch on and even enjoy themselves their first game.

    Just because a game is longer or more complex doesn’t mean it’s not good for beginners. Sometimes you just have to jump in. You’ll figure out how to swim soon enough.

  25. One of the more popular games for college students on the west coast is Quelf. It's a really goofy game, but a ton of fun at parties and easily fascilitates drinking ;)

  26. One of the more popular games for college students on the west coast is Quelf. It’s a really goofy game, but a ton of fun at parties and easily fascilitates drinking ;)

  27. If you like Puerto Rico, I would highly recommend Race for the Galaxy, it is also by Puerto Rico games, that is loosely based on the same idea, Also San Juan which is a more Puerto Rico themed game of Race for the Galaxy. I myself have never played San Juan, but have read good things about it

  28. If you like Puerto Rico, I would highly recommend Race for the Galaxy, it is also by Puerto Rico games, that is loosely based on the same idea, Also San Juan which is a more Puerto Rico themed game of Race for the Galaxy. I myself have never played San Juan, but have read good things about it

    • Wow a whole family of gamers lol! You're lucky, my parents don't understand why I have to have so many dice with wierd numbers of sides on them =)

  29. I second the motion to put Betrayal at House on the Hill on this list, for the following reason: Hasbro decided at the end of 2009 that they would print a second edition of Betrayal for release in fall 2010. For those of you keeping track at home, that's next season. :)

  30. I second the motion to put Betrayal at House on the Hill on this list, for the following reason: Hasbro decided at the end of 2009 that they would print a second edition of Betrayal for release in fall 2010. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s next season. :)

  31. god i remember playing this game http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5641/night
    called nightmare . when we played it in the dark with the sound turned up on the tv , yes it comes with a video gm on tape, towards the end your heart starts beating faster and faster and everyone is rushing to take a turn all the while watching the clock on the tv click down .

    that and

  32. I'm guessing you didn't mention risk for the shere fact any true geek already knows it?

  33. This may sound like a shameless plug but If you can get your hands on it I highly reccomend the 2008 Re-Release of the Classic Space Hulk.

    The Game takes a little bit of time to set up and it's only two player (which is a shame) but it fairly rockets along once it's set up. It also features the everchanging board which is a concept I love.

    Only downside to getting this game is that there was only one print run of it. >_<

    Still it's the game I'm asked to host the most by my gaming group so if you can find it check it out.

    • I'm not surprised; Space Hulk is awesome. However, there *might* (I can't emphasise 'might' enough on this one) be some kind of one-time release in October this year, and I personally think it's another print run of Space Hulk, which would be awesome? That's wishful thinking though, so don't quote me.

  34. I’m guessing you didn’t mention risk for the shere fact any true geek already knows it?

  35. This may sound like a shameless plug but If you can get your hands on it I highly reccomend the 2008 Re-Release of the Classic Space Hulk.
    The Game takes a little bit of time to set up and it’s only two player (which is a shame) but it fairly rockets along once it’s set up. It also features the everchanging board which is a concept I love.

    Only downside to getting this game is that there was only one print run of it. >_<
    Still it's the game I'm asked to host the most by my gaming group so if you can find it check it out.

    • I’m not surprised; Space Hulk is awesome. However, there *might* (I can’t emphasise ‘might’ enough on this one) be some kind of one-time release in October this year, and I personally think it’s another print run of Space Hulk, which would be awesome? That’s wishful thinking though, so don’t quote me.

  36. Don't knock Monopoly too hard! It really depends on your group. If you limit yourself to the rules explicit in the game, it sucks, but if you take the liberty granted in deal making it can really be fun. Imagine the possibilities if you include financing and loan options, insurance contracts, and mutual free rental agreements.

    However, if Monopoly is still not geeky enough, I suggest checking out Guillotine, from WotC. This card game is quick to learn and play, and loads of fun. You play as executioners during the French Revolution, trying to obtain the best collection of noble heads. You change up the order of the execution line, so you take (for example) Marie Antoinette instead of the Lady in Waiting – but other players are doing the same.

  37. Don’t knock Monopoly too hard! It really depends on your group. If you limit yourself to the rules explicit in the game, it sucks, but if you take the liberty granted in deal making it can really be fun. Imagine the possibilities if you include financing and loan options, insurance contracts, and mutual free rental agreements.

    However, if Monopoly is still not geeky enough, I suggest checking out Guillotine, from WotC. This card game is quick to learn and play, and loads of fun. You play as executioners during the French Revolution, trying to obtain the best collection of noble heads. You change up the order of the execution line, so you take (for example) Marie Antoinette instead of the Lady in Waiting – but other players are doing the same.

  38. I would suggest:

    Dominion: non-collectable card game that plays like one and has lots of expansions

    Race for the Galaxy: Puerto Rico in space

    Successors: a wargame has to be on the list and this is a good one

  39. I would suggest:
    Dominion: non-collectable card game that plays like one and has lots of expansions
    Race for the Galaxy: Puerto Rico in space
    Successors: a wargame has to be on the list and this is a good one

  40. Yes please! My husband and I play a lot of games, but we don’t have a lot of like-minded folks nearby. A list of good two-player games would be greatly appreciated — a good start would be Ingenious; we really love that one!

  41. Man, if they reprinted Betrayal I would be the happiest person around. For now I must make do with a game or two at my friends house.

    • Betrayal at House on the Hill HAS been reprinted. it is available now. i've seen it with my own eyes at my friendly local gaming store.

  42. god i remember playing this game http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5641/night
    called nightmare . when we played it in the dark with the sound turned up on the tv , yes it comes with a video gm on tape, towards the end your heart starts beating faster and faster and everyone is rushing to take a turn all the while watching the clock on the tv click down .

    that and

  43. god i remember playing this game http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/5641/night
    called nightmare . when we played it in the dark with the sound turned up on the tv , yes it comes with a video gm on tape, towards the end your heart starts beating faster and faster and everyone is rushing to take a turn all the while watching the clock on the tv click down .

    that and

  44. I remember playing this one game in college…it was not a "board game" because there was no cardboard involved, but it was a card game of the non-collectible variety. Basically, time travelers have to accomplish certain things to win, and there are various time tricks and famous objects you get to achieve this, as well as points in history that you can change to make your own future the right one.

    BUT, the best non-trading card game ever is Dominion. Hands down. The game with more cards than you will ever need for one game, thus making each playing experience unique. I do not ever get tired of playing Dominion, and I recommend it to everyone who is geeky. Especially people who enjoy roughly-medieval era things.

  45. I saw the title and was going to cry if Munchkin hadn’t made the list. I bought it for my boyfriend fo Valentine’s Day and it’s a hilarious mess of fun.

  46. I saw the title and was going to cry if Munchkin hadn’t made the list. I bought it for my boyfriend fo Valentine’s Day and it’s a hilarious mess of fun.

  47. I'd love a list of the best two-player games, too! My husband and I love to play, but often have a hard time finding gaming companions…

  48. I saw the title and was going to cry if Munchkin hadn't made the list. I bought it for my boyfriend fo Valentine's Day and it's a hilarious mess of fun.

  49. Some other suggestions include;
    7 Wonders: flexible for the number of players, medium complexity due to the symbology on the cards and learning how to get the most of your cards. It's a deck building game.
    Dominion: previously mentioned by others. Deck building, low complexity, easy to learn
    Race for the Galaxy: I put it at medium to high complexity due to the need to learn the symbology on the cards and the interaction of your cards.
    San Juan: can't believe you left this one off if you like Puerto Rico
    Risk Godstorm: for when you want a lightweight wargame
    Midgard: another medium complexity, very cool thematically game
    Forbidden Isle: simple, fast and cooperative
    Shadows over Camelot: really great game, semi-cooperative meaning cooperative unless there is a traitor.

  50. Excellent board games! The only one on the list I've never played is "carcassonne". One of my favorite games is "Dominion", although it's more of a card game…

  51. Excellent board games! The only one on the list I've never played is "carcassonne". One of my favorite games is "Dominion", although it's more of a card game…