Games have changed in recent years. While one time a deck of cards would have been enough to pass the time on your break, now there are a host of options that allow you to be codebreakers, international heroes, investigating detectives – or just enjoy a spot of fun with your friends and family. And the market is booming; game purchases are up by 40% and the top games are shifting millions of copies. So read on for our tips on the best games to bring on your cottage holiday…
Best for…parties: Codenames
In Codenames, two teams act as spies and compete to see who can make contact with all of their ‘agents’ first – using only a bunch of cards with words printed on.
One player gives a one-word clue to try and help their teammate point to multiple words on the board. The teammate tries to guess words of the right colour while avoiding those that belong to the opposing team. And to make it even tenser, there’s a rogue assassin card that everyone wants to avoid!
Codenames is a fiendishly clever and fiendishly fun party game that’s easy to pick up and explain but hard to stop playing. Games typically last between 10 and 20 minutes and the cards are reversible, so you can just flip them over to start again at the end of a round.
Best for…rainy days: Ticket to Ride
Monopoly may be regarded as the classic go-to game for all the family, but with Dad acting like Lord Sugar, the banker using ‘creative’ accounting techniques and the improbable odds of you landing on those fiendish purple spaces every time, the average game of Monopoly is perfect for causing family arguments. And the games go on forever too!
Ticket to Ride puts you in the shoes of a railway magnate and offers accessible mechanics with a bit more skill and strategy. Players compete in building railways to secret destinations over a map of American (regional variations are available). The player who gets the most points wins, based on length of network and how close they are to their destination.
With other additions offering a variety of different play styles, Ticket to Ride is the definition of an ‘easy to play, hard to master’ game. And it’s really caught on; since its release in 2004 it has sold a whopping 3 million copies.
Best for…wordplay: Bananagrams
Bananagrams offers variations on the word-building fun of Scrabble. Players can all play at once and there are many gameplay variations possible.
What’s more, unlike Scrabble, there’s no board to pack, the whole game fits in a handy banana-shaped pouch and it can be played in really short rounds, so it’s perfect for packing up and taking on a break.
One of the best features of Bananagrams is its educational value. Children (and grown-ups) can learn new words and practice their spelling whilst enjoying themselves on holiday – what could be better!
Best for…bringing a group together: Pandemic
Board games don’t have to pit player against player. There’s a growing trend for co-operative experiences where teams work together to beat the game, and the modern classic Pandemic is perhaps one of the most notable of this new breed.
Pandemic involves players teaming up to travel the world to stop a global outbreak of infectious diseases. Doesn’t sound like the kind of thing to put a smile on your face, but once the clock starts ticking, and you charter a flight to use your character’s skills to prevent an outbreak in Tokyo, you will be hooked on the high-stakes fun.
Games typically take an hour and involve players formulating a strategy and harnessing their characters’ skills to work together and save the world (no pressure!). Teamwork is the name of the game, so it’s great for bringing people together.
Best for…pick up and play fun: Love Letter
A simple and elegant game played with 16 cards and a few tokens. Love Letter is a game of deduction using a ‘rock paper scissors’ system.
Using a hand of just two cards, players must outwit each other until they have the highest scoring card at the end of the round. The cards represent characters from the royal court and the player who wins each round has managed to sneak their titular Love Letter to a princess. The first player to collect a set amount of tokens from each round is the winner.
With so few components, and such easy to explain mechanics, Love Letter is perfect ‘pick up and play’ game. Being suitable for between 2-4 players it’s ideal for playing when you’re in the pub, parked in the car or out and about on holiday. And if royal courts aren’t your thing, there are plenty of themed variants, including Batman, The Hobbit and more!
Best for…all the family: Dobble
Dobble is a fast, fun and really easy to play game testing players’ reactions and recognition skills.
Comprising over 50 circular cards, each featuring 8 coloured symbols (with over 50 in total), Dobble offers 5 different types of games that involve players identifying the symbols before their opponents.
Because it uses pictures, Dobble is really easy to explain and suitable for all ages. Games only last a few minutes and it’s portable, so perfect for taking out and about to picnics, on walks and more.
Best for…something a little different: Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective
A board game that doesn’t use a board, Consulting Detective features 10 ‘cases’ that players must work together to solve. Using only written materials and a map, the detectives receive a written introduction to the case from Sherlock Holmes himself. This details the crime and the players and offers clues for them to crack the case.
Players then consult the map and travel to locations, interrogating suspects and gaining clues. When they feel they are ready to make a case, they name the suspect and compare notes against the master himself – gaining points for correctly identifying the guilty party in as few actions as possible.
A completely unique and engaging experience, with no board and 10 cases, it’s perfect for taking away and enjoying into the early hours whilst you try and use powers of deduction to correctly identify the culprit. It’s unlikely you will beat Holmes himself, but trying is half the fun!
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