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Big Shiny Robot!

Geeking on Board Games

Gather 'round the table for in-person fun

By Bryan Young
Posted // January 17,2012 -

I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim 2012 the year of the board game. If nothing else, it will be my year of the board game. While shopping for my kids during the holiday season, I came to the realization that they are old enough to comprehend most board games, and I received a sudden jolt that rekindled my love for the games I used to play as a kid.

I made a list of the games I wanted to play. At the top of my list was a game called HeroQuest. It was a co-operative dungeon-crawling adventure—think a board-game version of the video game Gauntlet with Dungeons & Dragons-sorts of quest elements. It was popular and fun, and I’d spent so many hours playing it in my youth that I assumed I could just head down to the hobby store and pick up a brand-new copy.

I was wrong. Apparently, it’s been out of print for 20 years, and used copies fetch upward of $300. I broke down and picked it up when I found it on eBay for about $75 with shipping.

There were other games I picked up this holiday season in the same fashion: Battle Masters, Star Wars: Epic Duels, etc. There are a few more I have my sights set on, but the games I bought have provided one of the most enjoyable and memorable holiday seasons I could have ever hoped for. Not only did my kids love playing all the board games to the point of obsession, but it also brought all of my siblings back together. We hadn’t sat down to play a game together in 10 years, but when I brought my stack of vintage board games to our mother’s house for the holiday, we spent 11 straight hours playing together with my kids and everyone else who happened by.

And it didn’t stop with that one session, either. We’ve all taken to getting together every weekend to keep up on our HeroQuest game (and play a few other games besides.) I’m lining up games with friends, too.

I had almost forgotten how far superior the convivial experience of playing a board game is to a video game. You have to interact with your fellow geeks (or family members), you have to look them in the eye and laugh, and you get to spend good, true quality time with them.

I’d like to challenge readers to put down your video games and your other forms of entertainment, and get together with some friends or family for a night of board gaming—even if it’s just a drunken night of global domination with Risk (which has proven to be quite fun for me on numerous occasions). Or pick up something new, like Munchkin, a hilarious card game that pits you against other players trying to kick the door open on monsters and steal all the treasure. The best part about Munchkin is that it’s both cheap and addicting.

My only problem with this resurgent interest in board games is that it’s taking up more and more of my time and brain power. Since the exact sort of game I’ve got in my head doesn’t exist—well, it does, but it was never released in the United States, and copies go for $500 if you’re lucky enough to speak Greek—I’ve been plotting ways to design it on my own to play. And I’ve got my eyes set on other games I want to buy, but are out of print, like Star Wars: The Queen’s Gambit. I’m told it’s incredible; if I can ever find an affordable copy, it’s mine.

But my challenge to you is two-fold. First, tell me what games you played as a kid and would like to revisit. Will I find a new favorite there? Second, spend a night this week playing games. Put down the video-game controllers, invite some friends over and break out the refreshments. You won’t regret it. 

Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of

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Posted // January 21,2012 at 18:13

Our family plays board games all through the holidays and makes a point to include a few new ones in the mix. This year, we enjoyed Guillotine (cutthroat cards), Loot (pirate strategy), Bananagrams (word making), Bohnanza (bean trading), Setters of Catan, Forbidden Island, along with some classics like Apples to Apples (an annual favorite). There's no substitute for this oldest of social media.


Posted // January 20,2012 at 17:11

Ooh!! I love board games! try Descent, its a more complicated version of hero quest.  Also Talisman is an awesome game.  you wander the board and kill monsters and collect gear.  you can find old versions that are expensive, or you can buy a newer version in the last 5 years.  other games to try are Ninja burger, Dominion, and cheap ass games, a company that produces fun, yet inexpensive games.


Posted // January 20,2012 at 16:17

Our new favorite abstract strategy game is Oversight by a new company called Griddly Games


Posted // January 20,2012 at 12:30

Hey Bryan, you might start by going down to Game Night Games (in Salt Lake City) on Wednesdays or Fridays to learn some new board games.

If you like Heroquest, I suspect you might like Talisman.  So far on your list you've ignored all the big eurogames, like Catan or Carcassonne - they aren't the same style as the game you grew up on, but I really enjoy them.


Posted // January 19,2012 at 10:20

Great article!

And watch out as the kids start to grow because they'll be able to take on a lot more strategy type of games and before you know it, you'll have to find new places to store all the games you'll get.


We love playing games so much that our kids started doing video reviews of the games they like.


You can check out their favorites at: TheBoardGameFamily