Now and then something comes up where you end up stuck inside with the same group of people for an extended period of time. Bad weather, March Break, work layoffs, etc. When the world conspires to make you stay in, there is no better time to break out some board games.
Playing board games can be a great way to pass the time and to take your mind off of whatever it is that has you stuck at home. Also, to me, having a lot of time on your hands means it’s the perfect time to get some of the more difficult to get to the table games played.
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Being isolated or stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t do some tabletop gaming!
If you are looking at having an extended period of time at home with the same group of people you are also looking at the perfect opportunity to get those hard to get to the table games in your collection played. Longer epic games that take too long for a regular game night, campaign and scenario based games that need multiple sessions to complete, and legacy games that require the same group of players for every session, are all ideal candidates.
Playing with the same group is also good for playing the same games over and over and truly learning to master them. For that you want games with a really high replayability factor.
Or if you are stuck alone or without other gamers around, this can be a great chance to dive into some solo gaming. There are a ton of great games out there that are just as good, if not better, with only one player.
Now is the time to break out that epic game you never have enough time for.
It’s the perfect time for what I call “event games”. These are games where on a normal day you would have to plan a special event just to get them played, a.k.a. long epic games that last for four or more hours.
The thing with these games is that they are so good and so engaging that you often don’t notice the time go by. Being stuck at home also gives you the added bonus of taking one of these games and splitting the session over multiple game nights, leaving the game set up in between.
Twilight Imperium – Whenever anyone talks about long epic hobby board games Twilight Imperium comes up. This is one of the most involved sci-fi 4x games out there. If you want an empire building game where you start off with just one planet and a few units and spread out to the stars, improve your technologies and build an empire, this is the game for you. It also features asymmetric player races and a very cool political system where the rules of the game can change by popular vote.
Xia Legends of a Drift System – Every game of Xia is played to a set number of fame points (five for a short game, ten for a normal game). If you are going to be stuck at home for a while, why not play a game where the goal is to earn twenty or even forty fame? Normally I prefer to limit this game to three players due to downtime issues, but if you’ve got all the time you need, you can toss a few more players into this sci-fi sandbox.
Mage Knight – The game that inspired Gloomhaven. This game has so much going on that the first time you play it’s going to take you four to six hours just to get through the tutorial. If you’ve got a ton of time then that may be the perfect chance to sit down and learn how to play Mage Knight, a fantasy sandbox adventure. This game is also great if you are on your own, as it’s known for its excellent solo play.
Firefly – You got a ship, now find a crew and do some jobs out in the black. Here’s another very open ended sci-fi adventure game that is notorious for how long it can take to play through. When time isn’t a factor you can fully dive into The ‘Verse. There are a ton of expansions for Firefly to keep the game interesting as well. All of these are known to add to the game time but when you aren’t worried about time, why not toss in everything you’ve got?
Through the Ages A New Story of Civilization – Civilization building games are well known to be time sinks and this one is no exception. Normally I never recommend going above three players due to game length but now is a great time to play with four. So far Through the Ages is the best of the civilization games I’ve played but Nations or Clash of Cultures are some great alternatives if you don’t have this one.
War of the Ring – This is called “Lord of the Rings in a box” by many gamers. There isn’t really a story more epic than the tale of The One Ring. Play this folk on a map adventure game from Ares Games with two players or in teams. War of the Ring is considered to be one of the best thematic games of all time.
Dominant Species – Play a species trying to adapt and thrive as an Ice Age encroaches on Pangea. This is one of my favourite games but I almost never get to play it. The reason for that is the fact that every time I have played it has lasted over four hours. If you’ve got the time on your hands, this evolution based game is well worth learning and playing.
Legacy Games are a great way to spend some extended downtime.
The main complaint people have about Legacy games is that they take far too much commitment. You need a group of players all committed to playing the same game with the same group for multiple sessions in a row.
Doesn’t that sound like the perfect thing for when you are stuck in a place with other gamers for more than a couple days?
Risk Legacy – This was the first Legacy game and still one of the best. Don’t let the Risk name fool you. While the foundation may be Risk there’s a great game built on top of it. While individual games are very quick (much quicker than standard Risk) it’s going to take you about fifteen games in total to finish a full campaign of Risk Legacy. When you are done with your campaign you can continue to play on your own unique Risk Legacy board.
Gloomhaven – While technically you can have multiple parties created for each game of Gloomhaven and don’t need the same people there every game, most people prefer to play through this epic campaign with the same players all the way through. Despite its high buy in price, I think Gloomhaven is one of the best values for money you will see in our hobby. A full campaign is going to take you approximately a hundred plays. Not many games can offer that.
Charterstone – In this competitive Legacy game from Stonemaier Games, players construct buildings and populate a shared village. Requiring exactly twelve games to finish a campaign, Charterstone can be a great way to spend a week or two. One of the few board games to be nominated for the prestigious Diana Jones Award for Excellence in Gaming.
Aeon’s End Legacy – Aeon’s End is one of the most unique deck builders I’ve played. For one it’s cooperative which is rare in the field of deck-building. The main thing that makes it unique is that it’s a deck-builder where you never shuffle your deck. A lot of the strategy of the game is in how you discard your cards to stack your deck for the next round. Aeon’s End Legacy, of course, adds a legacy element to this unique system.
Clank! Legacy: Acquisitions Incorporated – Based on the very popular Acquisitions Incorporated fantasy world created by Penny Arcade this version of Clank! has you make permanent changes to the game as you explore the dungeon, avoid the dragon, and try to become the most successful adventuring corporation. In addition to new gameplay elements, this version of Clank! has improved the production values by including things like miniatures over meeple.
Extended time off means it’s a great time to dive into a Campaign game.
A few months back, I talked about what makes for a great campaign game and how scenario based games and campaign games differ. Now I’m going to talk about both of these kinds of games as I think they are both great options when you have the time and the group to dedicate to them.
All of these games feature some kind of story or arc that takes multiple gaming sessions to complete. Making them way more than you could ever finish in one game night.
Cthulhu Death May Die – This scenario based game features a very unique take on the Cthulhu mythos. Instead of your usual investigation, slow descent into insanity, mystery-solving game, you have a two-fisted, dice chucking adventure where you are going to be blasting cultists and kicking Old One butt. For a lot more information on this game check out my full review of Cthulhu Death May Die.
Star Wars Imperial Assault – This campaign game for up to five players is one of the best “dungeon crawl” style games I’ve ever played and it also happens to be set in the Star Wars universe, a fantastic combination. Since it was first released, they’ve updated the game to include an app that now allows groups to play cooperatively and even lets the game be played solo. If you get sick of playing the main campaign you also have the option of playing it as a two-player skirmish miniature war game.
Lord of the Rings Journeys In Middle Earth – Star Wars Imperial Assault is part of a line of games that started with Descent Journeys In The Dark. This Lord of the Rings game takes everything Fantasy Flight has learned from those previous games and uses it create this new system. Fully app integrated and fully cooperative this Tolkien based adventure game plays one to five players and features an ever changing campaign, making the game extremely replayable.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game – This deck-building game from Paizo attempts to capture the feel and adventure of their full roleplaying game in card form. Similar to their RPG, stories for this game are broken into adventure paths with a wide variety of characters and paths to choose from. Using some elements of legacy games, this deck-builder has players carry over and improve their characters from game to game.
Legends of Andor – When I first saw this game I thought it was going to be more of a thematic adventure and not the rather rewarding cooperative puzzle that it really is. Players work together against time to complete adventure goals. While there are some random elements, completing a scenario in this game is all about figuring out the puzzle and acting together to solve it.
There even some great multi-session games that are great for playing with kids!
While not common, as time goes on there are more and more campaign and scenario based games aimed at younger audiences. These are all games we’ve personally played with our kids.
While kids may not be interested in playing a very long game, they can really dive into a campaign game that’s made up of multiple shorter sessions.
Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle – This cooperative deck-building game set in the Wizarding World says it plays two to four players on the box, but there’s no reason someone couldn’t play it solo. While not specifically designed for younger kids, I’ve found this game works with kids as young as six. At that age, you just need to play with open information and allow for lots of coaching. Thankfully coaching isn’t a problem in a cooperative game. The base game includes seven books to get through and you can find even more in the Monstrous Book of Monsters expansion.
Mice & Mystics – In this cooperative fantasy dungeon crawling adventure the players take on the role of a prince and his retinue that have been turned into mice by evil magic. While a little crunchier than the other games I’m recommending for younger gamers, in this system it’s the story of Mice & Mystics that will reel the kids in and have them coming back for more session after session.
Stuffed Fables – I don’t think there will ever be a game with a cooler theme then this: in Stuffed Fables you are playing the stuffed animals who are defending their child from the monsters under her bed on her first night in a big girl bed. This was the first Adventure Book game, which features a spiral bound book that both tells players how to play each scenario but also forms the board for each section. This one is even more accessible than Mice & Mystics and easier for younger kids to pick up.
Talisman: Legendary Tales – Don’t let the Talisman name fool you. This isn’t the six hour random adventure fest we grew up with. This is a family weight cooperative bag builder that my kids have fallen in love with. Check out my full Talisman: Legendary Tales review for more info on this game from Pegasus Spiele.
If you aren’t into epic games or playing a full campaign, check out these games with a high replay value.
So you’ve got a bunch of time on your hands but don’t want to commit to a long campaign game or a six plus hour game session, or maybe you’ve got a mix of gamers you are spending your time with and you won’t be playing with the same people all the time.
Here are some games that I think have great replayability. These are games that I personally wouldn’t mind playing multiple times in a row or over a short time frame.
Azul – This could be any of the three Azul games, the base game, Stained Glass of Sintra or the latest, Summer Pavilion. I enjoy all three of them, though lately, I do seem to be enjoying Summer Pavilion the most. If stuck playing the same game multiple times I would be happy with any of these three. For me, maybe it would be a good chance to finally grok how to score well in Sintra.
Sagrada – One of the things I love about this dice drafting game is how replayable it is. With players getting random window patterns at the beginning of the game, having randomly generated scoring cards and a changing selection of tools, no two games of Sagrada should ever be the same. If you don’t have anyone else to play with you can hone your skills and try the solo mode.
Race For The Galaxy – This role selection card game is my most played game of all time. For some reason, I never get sick of this game. I’m currently playing three different games of “Race” online right now. My only caveat here is that you make sure to pick up and include The Gathering Storm expansion if you are going to be playing multiple games of Race for the Galaxy. I personally think this expansion is needed to complete the game. All other expansions are optional.
Imhotep with A New Dynasty – When you combine Imhotep with its expansion, A New Dynasty, you end up with over a thousand possible board combinations. If you’ve got some time to kill and people willing to play, I suggest making a list of all 1028 and cross them off one by one as you play them. For more information on these check out my Imhotep review as well as my review of Imhotep: A New Dynasty.
Carcassonne – This classic tile-laying game never grows old for me. Nowadays I tend to play online but I never seem to get sick of building roads, placing farmers on fields and capturing cities with my knights. While the base game is great there are a ton of extensions you can add to keep Carcassonne interesting. Personally I prefer to play with at least the Inns and Cathedrals and Traders and Builders expansions, but everyone has their favourite mix.
Steam – The reason Steam is on this list is that I wanted something a bit heavier and also due to the sheer amount of different maps that are available for this economic train game. The base game comes with two maps and there are a ton of others available for sale. Not only that but you can also get a ridiculous number of print and play maps online. There’s a huge community of Steam gamers out there creating new content for this game. Note this recommendation includes Age of Steam and the maps for both Age of Steam and Steam are compatible.
Terra Mystica – I included this heavy fantasy euro on my list because the game comes with fourteen very asymmetric factions. If you’ve got a lot of gaming time on your hands I think a great way to spend it would be in trying all of the different factions of Terra Mystica. If that’s not enough for you, the Fire & Ice expansion adds six more factions as well as some other new rules.
Terraforming Mars – I have been hooked on Terraforming Mars since the first time I played it. It’s now my favourite medium weight game, perfect for when I have about three hours to play. In 2019 Terraforming Mars was my most played game and I’ve yet to have a bad experience playing it. While the best way to play Terraforming Mars is using the drafting variant, most gamers avoid drafting due to the amount of time it adds to the game. Well if you are stuck at home with nothing but time, it’s time to start drafting. While you’re at it, why not toss in all of the expansions and have a really epic Terraforming Mars experience.
Magic The Gathering – Back in my University days, I played a lot of Magic the Gathering. I would play multiple games in a row and multiple sessions throughout the day. It’s what we did before, between and after class. While I call out Magic here really any deck construction game works. What is great about these kinds of games is that you can continue to play even between matches by tweaking and adjusting your deck.
There you have my list of games that I would be looking to play if I was stuck at home for a few weeks and needed something to keep me busy. What do you play when you have some time to kill?