Board games are such tactile things. Like poker and other games, you sometimes spend half your time watching other players, twirling a satisfyingly weighty chip in your hand while you wait your turn.
Caressing and flippinng a bit of plastic can be surprisingly helpful for making you think. It will help you plot your next move, or inspire new strategic thinking.
It’s important that games come with quality paraphilania then. If the pieces are flimsy, plastic bits that feel too light or too cheap, then what would otherwise be a fantastic game will almost feel ruined.
Rather than name and shame the worst of board games, we thought we’d take a look at the very best items that we’ve come across in the beautiful world of board games.
The pyramid in Camel Up
Camel Up is essentially a game of gambling. You throw down bets and risk everything for the chance to gain a few more Egyptian quid.
The ceremony around which camel leaps forwards and which ones fall back then, is an important moment in each round. It’s good that it comes with a sturdy pyramid for you to shake around, hoping to elegantly slide out the dice that would make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. The Camel Up pyramid is central to the game, both literally and metaphorically.
The energy cells in Galaxy Trucker
Yet another classic from the archives of our man Vlaada, Galaxy Trucker is a hilarious game of mad, manic survivial as you haphazardly build a truck that can sustain the ordeals of deep space shipping.
Rushed, foolhardy or just plainn unlucky players will find themselves facing down the lasers of aggressive pirates or violent meteor storms. Make sure you bring enough of these little glass globules for your batteries or you’ll be drifting through shit nebula without a … battery.
The purses in Sherriff of Nottingham
Oh Sheriff, it’s just a couple of wheels of cheese. Honest. No really, I promise. Here’s my bag, nothing worth inspecting here. Sheriff of Nottingham is a game all about trade and customs procedure, but it’s about a million times more fun than it sounds.
Do you play it safe and pass through legitimate, but low value, goods into the market? Or do you risk it, and try to smuggle in some valuable spices in among all those apples. Either way, sealed bags of goods must past through the suspicious Sheriff, whose judgment over these delicate, stringed beauties is one of the most tense and brilliant moments that board games have to offer. And the soft, velvety bags just make it that much better.
The diseases in Pandemic
Team up and save the world before nasty viruses destroy it. That’s what Pandemic and its many variations task players with doing in a collaborative race against the clock.
With multiple ways of losing, and usually not quite enough resources to go round, planning for outbreaks is a critical part of the game – meaning keeping a close eye on rapidly prolfierating disease cubes.
These little cubes looks and feel delightful, betraying the deadly lethalities that might destroy your hopes of winning within.
The tokens in Splendor
For what is an uncomplicated game with few pieces, Splendor does a remarkable job at leaving an impression on the senses. Players are tasked with building up stacks of different coloured coins with which to buy cards that will, in turn, unlock more purchasing power for the acquisition of yet more cards.
Building up your ‘engine’ on the pathway to gathering points is a game of short and long term planning, requiring a great deal of contemplation as you go. It’s helpful then, that players can enjoy spinning the chunky, slick tokens in their hands as they plot their next move.
The boats in Survive: Escape from Atlantis
We’ll always have a soft spot for Survive at Best Play. It was the first game we ever made a Gist of, and the first game we ever decided to give away for free to fans.
The game mostly involves players frantically trying to escape an increasingly dangerous island as they simultaneously sabotage the attempts of everyone else doing the same thing.
Boats are the safest, swiftest way to safety, and are one of the most satisfying pieces in a game full of well-made and pretty bits to move around. Slot your character into the driving seat, or jump aboard the back of someone else’s boat, hoping to stowaway on a rival’s dime.
The train in Colt Express
This award-winning and action-packed game comes with a Wild West setting and delivers a mechanic that deliberately creates ridiculous situations.
Moves get made in the wrong order, meaning players often end up shooting into space, flinging a punch into the wrong person’s face and making away with a small fortune by mistake.
This creative mayhem all takes place aboard an imaginatively crafted locomotive, with players dancing between carriages and away from pesky officials. We love it.
The fish in Archipelago
Archipelago is one of the deeper, longer games we would talk about at Best Play. It pits rival colonial powers in the Imperial-era Caribbean, who flit nervously between fierce competitors in times of plenty and uneasy bedfellows when the outlook becomes bleak.
Although fighting and construction are commonplace as players attempt to build up their colonies, trade is an important and victory-changing part of the game.
The tiny turqoise cubes of fish stand out as a highlight, but really it could be any of them: the black squares of coal or the red ones of meat are also a joy to trade.
The game capitalises on this, regularly demanding players offer up a resource sacrifice for the good of everyone. But, of course, no one will be willing to give up their precious cubes just for everyone else’s benefit. And therein lies the excellently balanced motif of one of the best games available.