Charles Barouch writes:
“Let’s say I have a $50 check and the stipulation is that I use it for fun. What are the 10 ten games I should consider?”
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Some assumptions before we go spending our money on board games.
What a great question from Charles. Before I dig into the game recommendations I want to point out an assumption I’m making. I’m assuming that Charles, for whatever reason is looking for one game to buy for under $50, not how many great games can he get for only $50. I’m thinking that he’s trying to get the best bang for his buck and looking for one amazing game.
I also want to point out that these recommendations all come from Amazon and were indeed under $50 at the time that I wrote this article on Boxing Day 2019. If these prices are no longer valid I do apologize.
Finally: I don’t actually know Charles’s taste in games so I’m going to try to make sure this list covers a variety of game styles and mechanics.
Here are 10 great board games you can get for under $50 right now:
Shogun – A great mix of Euro style area majority mixed with cube pushing folk on a map area control. Toss in the very cool cube tower for battles resolutions, and you have one of my all time favourite games of all time. If this one has gone up in price, check the price on Wallenstein, it is basically the same game with a different theme and a somewhat more cutthroat map. This is also a series where I wouldn’t bother with the Big Box editions, all you need is the core game. Just avoid Immortals, another game from the same designer with similar mechanics that honestly just isn’t nearly as good as the original game.
Amerigo – This is another game that uses a cube tower but in a very different way. In this Stefan Feld point salad the cubes that come out of the tower determine which actions you can take and how powerful they are. Sail your ships to randomly generated islands, found settlements and generate resources to get victory points. Be sure to watch out for pirates along the way. This is one of my all time favourite Fields, that I really need to get back to the table again soon.
Orleans – One of the best games to come out in the last four years. This Euro bag builder is truly fantastic. My favourite game from Tasty Minstrel Games, one that has hit the table multiple times and that I’ve never gotten sick of. A worker placement game where everyone has their own board to place their workers on. I’ve got some expansions on my pile of shame but the base game is just so good I never actually break them out.
Roll for the Galaxy – While I generally prefer Race for the Galaxy myself, if you are going to spend the money why not get a ton of dice and other upgraded components? Also, I know that many people prefer this For the Galaxy game over the card game. While I do personally prefer Race, I still really enjoy Roll for the Galaxy. Though I do recommend the next time you are game shopping after picking this up, you grab the Ambition Expansion as it really improves the game a lot.
Terraforming Mars – How could Terraforming Mars not be on this list? Yes, I admit it does need to be on sale for you to get it for under $50. Thankfully it’s been at this price for a couple of months now. Of all the games I’m suggesting this is probably the one that’s going to have the most universal appeal. I have met very few people who didn’t enjoy Terraforming Mars. If you are lucky and there’s a good enough sale on you just may be able to pick up the Terraforming Mars Prelude expansion as well for your $50.
Legendary Encounters: an Alien Deck Building Game – I wanted to make sure I had at least one cooperative game on this list, and at the $50 price point this would be my co-op game of choice. I much prefer the Legendary Encounters system to the base Legendary games and this Alien themed game does a great job of portraying the tension of the movies. I really love the way the players can interact to help each other out in this series of games. While I haven’t tried it, I hear the Predator version is just as good.
Viticulture Essential Edition – This wine based worker placement game completely blew me away when it came out and it still stands the test of time. So many mechanics to love here, the way the wine ages, how you improve your vineyard, the way play moves through various seasons. Still one of my favourite Stonemaier games. This new essential edition combines some of the best parts of the original Tuscany expansion right into the base game.
Agricola – While I personally would almost always rather play Caverna than Agricola, you aren’t going to find that one for under $50. Agricola is still a very solid game, one that I will almost never turn down a chance to play. Sure it can be tight and punishing, it earned the name Misery Farm for a reason, but I think this is a feature not a flaw. There aren’t many worker placement games that are this tight out there.
Castles of Burgundy – A new edition of this Stefan Feld Classic just came out and it looks significantly better than the original while still managing to look like a drab boring Euro. I have to admit that I was really hoping the new release would make this game pop a bit more. Like many Feld games, don’t let the boring look and dry theme fool you. This is a fantastic dice driven tile drafting game. Many gamers consider this Feld’s best game. It’s also considered to be one of the best two-player board games out there, but I enjoy it at all player counts.
Clank! A Deck-Building Adventure – This game refreshes the mechanic of deck building by adding a push your luck dungeon exploration element to the game. How deep do you go? Do you risk getting two artifacts? Or do you jump in and out quickly hoping the dragon will get the other players before they can escape? While many people seem to prefer Clank! In! Space!, I find it a bit too long and fiddly, and prefer the original game.
Here are 5 excellent roleplaying games you can get for under $50
So I went into this with the assumption that Charles was looking for board games but it occurred to me that he may actually be more interested in RPGs. Just in case that is the case, here are five RPG recommendations for under $50
Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook – One of the most memorable RPG experiences I’ve had was running a Star Trek RPG. The thing with Star Trek is that everyone knows it. People know the tropes, they know the technobabble, they know the world. It’s just so easy to roleplay in. Star Trek Adventures is the latest Star Trek Roleplaying Game to be released and is published by Modiphius Entertainment. I’ve heard nothing but good things about this game and the system. There’s also a Star Trek Adventures Starter Set if you want to check out the game without investing fully into hardcover rulebooks.
Dungeons & Dragons – I’m not just saying D&D because it’s popular, the new 5th edition really is solid. I had the best time I’ve had playing D&D since AD&D 2nd Edition with this new version of D&D. You can get a Player’s Handbook for just under $50 at MSRP or you can grab the D&D Starter Set or The D&D Essentials Kit. Actually, for $50 you can currently grab both. Based on conversations I’ve had on Twitter, it seems the Starter Set is still the best to start Dungeons & Dragons with.
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4e Starter Set – This would be the first thing I would pick up if I had $50 to buy a new RPG with. I’ve been a fan of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay since the game first came out in the 80s. It has always been my go-to world to run games in. I’ve played every other edition released but haven’t had the time to check out the newest 4th edition. I did see this starter set at Origins and it’s a beautiful boxed set. If you don’t dig starter boxes you can get the full Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition Core Rulebook for under $50 instead.
Legend of the Five Rings Beginner Game – Legend of the Five Rings has been around for a long time. It’s a setting that I’ve always been fascinated by but never had a chance to actually check out. This beginner boxed set from Fantasy Flight is the entry point for the latest version of Legend of the Five Rings using the narrative dice system first introduced in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd edition but probably better known as the system driving Star Wars Edge of the Empire.
Shadowrun Sixth World: Core Rulebook – Personally I was always a Cyberpunk fan and never gave much of a look at Shadowrun. While it has never really been my thing, the system has tons of loyal fans. For those of you who have complained that the system is too fiddly and uses far too many D6, this new Sixth Age edition is supposed to streamline all of that. This is a setting that I feel I’ve avoided for too long and really need to dive into and check out at some point.
There you have 15 games you can get right now for under $50, well at least you could when I wrote this post. If you had $50 to spend on games, what would you buy?
For even more games you can get for under $50, including some Canadian shopping suggestions, be sure to check out our 10 for 50 podcast episode!