The Joy of Modern Board Games
|Depiction of the ancient Egyptian game of Senet
|The Settlers of Catan
Today, there are hundreds of well-designed games in this mold. The BoardGameGeek website is an excellent resource for discovering them. I play Eurogames with my students, peers, and family. In fact, my game design course begins with these games and only addresses video games at the end of the semester. I'm not alone in that--game design at most schools builds from board games in the same way that computer science builds from mathematics and digital art from natural media.
The classic introduction to these Eurogames is Settlers of Catan, which is sort of like Monopoly redesigned for fun, strategy, and intelligence. From there, Carcassonne, Dominion, Puerto Rico, Seven Wonders are natural next steps, although there are really so many good games that it is hard to go wrong with anything rated highly on BoardGameGeek. Some of my personal favorites are Space Alert, Hive, Eminent Domain, and Space Hulk: Death Angel, all of which tend towards hardcore.
A key point for families: children who can perform addition and are just beginning to read are able to play Settlers of Catan and Carcassonne. My own children started with Abandon Ship at age four and then graduated to these other games within a year. Even such young children can quickly develop the critical thinking skills of strategic play through these, including minimax logic, basic probability, statistics (well, card counting), and negotiation.
Like many families, we have house rules for our favorite games. As a game developer, author of game textbooks, and game teacher, I try to understand our intuition and motivation for these changes and frame objective arguments for why these rules improve the games. I've written about those in many places previously and will start to collect some of those on this blog. But my first goal in a series of upcoming posts is to begin to publicly document some of our house rules to share them with a wider audience (...and to have a place to point or warn friends before they come to visit.) I'll begin with Carcassonne in the next post.