Life Board Game

Weekend Roundtable: The Big Game

If watching the Super Bowl this weekend isn’t your thing, perhaps you can occupy that time playing a different type of competitive game. What are your favorite board games?

Luke Hickman

Although I’ve grown to love Ticket to Ride, my all-time favorite board game is and will always be the classic version of Life – not the paperless debit card version. Although it’s mostly a game of chance (there are only a few variables: Which road do I take? Do I buy insurance or play the market?), it’s still a total blast for people of any age. Unlike Monopoly, it doesn’t take hours to get through. The game also always has things to laugh at, like the person who has more kids than can fit in the car, the one who has to buy a helicopter or two, etc. If only real life was as easy.

M. Enois Duarte

Growing up in Mexico, one of my favorite board games was Lotería. In English, it translates to “the lottery,” which may or may not involve money, but it’s similar to playing something like Bingo, making it a game of chance. The difference is that instead of numbered balls where participants mark a matching row on a play card, the players must cover their entire card, called a tabla (table). This is accomplished by randomly selecting from a deck of cards with various pictures, similar to a deck of tarot cards, and players match those pictures. Being poor from a poor country, we didn’t use anything special to match those pictures, like most board games. We used pinto beans. The beauty of the game is the theme of fate, which always made it seem somewhat dark to me. One of my favorites memories is playing at my cousin’s house while munching on boiled chicken feet and hot sauce. To this day, it still remains one of my favorite games, especially with a large group while drinking heavily.

Brian Hoss

Although I favor shorter games that are quick to play and quick to learn (like Fluxx and Gloom), I haven’t played a board game or card game for some time (maybe two years). I received two new games recently during the holidays and they sit unopened. When I was last able to play with some frequency, my favorite was Billionaire Banshee. It’s a geeky card game that pairs crazy and practical characteristics together and asks if the result is a yeah or no in terms of dating. (For example, the person is a billionaire, but is also a banshee.) The players take turns so that one person is the potential match and the other players have to guess if it’s a go or no-go. What I really like is that if you know the person really well, you can factor in their real dating history and what they go for. You can even argue that they would go for something when they say they wouldn’t and call them out. While that isn’t part of the rules, it is fun.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

I’m a hopeless sucker for neat music tech, and I have the guitar effect pedal that makes everything sound like a robotic Japanese girl to prove it. For anyone who’s familiar, it should come as no surprise that I’ve been fascinated with Harmonix’s DropMix ever since the board game was first unveiled.

The board has five color-coded sections, and when you put a card down on a slot, an element from a song is passed to your smartphone or tablet. (I’ll spare you all the acronyms that’d go into a more technical explanation.) An app on your phone takes all these disparate pieces of songs and seamlessly combines them. You could have, say, the drums from CHVRCHES’ “The Mother We Share,” the guitar loop from Run DMC’s “It’s Tricky,” the bass from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” and a synth rendition of the ‘Doctor Who’ theme all mashed together. Everything’s beat-matched, and if you’re not wild about what you’re hearing, a press of the board’s DropMix button will change it to a different key and tempo. If you’re tired of the tracks that come with the game, additional cards are being released at a fairly steady clip.

There are a few different modes, and I assumed I’d be goofing around in Freestyle the most, trying to unearth the most ridiculous combinations I could. It came as a pleasant surprise that DropMix is a genuinely addictive and competitive game, one that my wife and I have come back to more than any other board game we’ve played in the past few years. The goal is to rack up as many points as possible via those five color-coded slots with the cards you’ve been handed, and the right roll of the digital dice or special FX card can completely upend someone’s score. Plus, you get to make ridiculous mixes like this along the way.

Josh Zyber

My kids are just getting to the age where we can play board games with them and they will make some effort to learn and follow the rules – at least until their attention spans run out and they go back to running around and screaming (which is how they spend most of their days). We’ve had the most success with Sorry!, probably because they enjoy the idea of knocking Mommy or Daddy’s pieces off the board and gloating with the title phrase.

As for the adults, we’re partial to Clue. Friends of ours are obsessed with the game and have collected almost every conceivable edition of it. The Harry Potter version is pretty good, but we mostly default to the original classic. (Our least favorite version is Secrets and Spies, the rules for which are needlessly complex and confusing.)

What’s your go-to board game when you have a game night?


  1. Nick, UK

    Downfall! Infuriating, impossible to cheat at, great fun and one the best MB Games ever produced!! It’s still around today, but it’s been subjected to modernisation – the classic 70s/80s version is the only way to truly play it.

  2. I quite like ‘Monopoly’.

    As a Back to the Future fan, I picked up ‘Back to the Future Monopoly’. Imagine my surprise when one of the chance cards said ‘When this baby hits 88MPH, you’re gonna see some serious %$!X’. Yes, they censored the word ‘shit’, even though it’s in the movie. I can’t imagine why anyone thought that was a clever idea – anyone playing this game has to be a fan of the movie.

    • Barsoom Bob

      I’m sure they knew, they are protecting innocent youngster that might play the game and protecting themselves against lawsuits from shocked parents. 😧

        • William Henley

          The US Justice System is a weird entity, as are censorship rules. First time I saw Back To The Future was on a censored over-the-air television broadcast (it is illegal to use certain words in over-the-air broadcasts, however the fine has pretty much stayed the same since the rules were originally put into place, so a lot of times networks will just pay the fine because the content draws more viewers, and hence more advertising revenue, than the fines). So yeah, point is, I could see some parent buying this for their kid, be shocked that there was a cuss word in it, and sue for corruption of a minor.

  3. My first (and oldest – it was passed down from my grandfather) board game was “Uncle Wiggily” – I remember loving it, which may indicate why I grew up a weird kid…it’s almost something Tim Burton might have come up with – an old rabbit with rheumatism, crow creatures called “Skeezicks”, and a whole series of bizarre animals. Newer versions of the game make the animals look cute…they were pretty creepy looking in the version I owned, at least for a small kid.

  4. Deaditelord

    I didn’t play a lot of board games as a kid. My brother and I were much more into video games on the NES/SNES and my parents/relatives preferred card games such as Spades, Uno and Phase 10 since they were less likely to lead to fights among us younglings over accusations (justly or not) of cheating. Having said that I do have a soft spot for Monopoly and own two versions of the game: an unopened Nintendo version that was given to me as a gift from a friend and the plain vanilla version. I keep hoping a video game developer will create a decent version of Monopoly that can be played with friends online, but the most recent attempt by Ubisoft was a steaming pile.

  5. Alex

    Josh, have you played Clue Master Detective? That was always my favorite version. I remember in High School I built a Duke Nukem 3D level based on the mansion from the game. Lots of fun.

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