HINKS: Recommended board games to pass time during COVID-19 shut-down

A top 10 list of must-play board games, according to reporter Aaron Hinks

The ‘new normal’ has resulted in millions of families spending more time together and coming up with creative ways to stay busy.

With seemingly no end in sight of the stay-at-home recommendations and physical distancing measures, I’ve been leaning on board games as a way to occupy my mind.

In these unprecedented times, my after-work-routine involves board games, computer games and gardening – evidenced by the newly purchased flowers sitting outside waiting to be planted.

I’m no expert on the board games but I do know how to win – a lot. Although, the fierce competitor I live with may disagree on that assessment, but that’s a different column.

I’m using this space to share some of my favourite board games. I’m always looking for something new to play, so I hope readers will comment with their favourite games.

I’m limited to two-player games, however, I’ve learned that with some creative rule bending, it is possible to play a three- or four-player-game with only two people.

1. Crokinole (2-4 players)

A classic cottage game, it was reportedly invented in 1876 by a craftsman in Perth County, Ont. (my home province). This game involves players taking turns shooting discs across a circular playing surface. It’s kind of like curling or shuffleboard. This game brings back my nostalgia of Crokinole tournaments during rainy days at the family cottage.

2. Settlers of Catan (3-4 players, but I’ve made it work with two people)

Invented in 1995, players take on the roles of settlers, each attempting to build and develop holdings while trading and acquiring resources. I’ve learned that there is a two-player cardgame of Catan, but I have not yet played it.

3. Chess (2 players)

I mean, it’s a classic and I’m not going to not mention it.

4. Canasta (2+ players)

Canasta is a card game of the rummy family and involves multiple decks of cards. It has a bit of a learning curve and games can go on for an hour, but hey, if you’re looking to kill time, this is it.

5. Pandemic (2-4 players)

It’s fun, co-operative, and timely. For the record, I owned and enjoyed this game before our current crisis. The game is based on the premise that four diseases have broken out in the world (yikes) and threaten to wipe out a region. Each player is a “specialist” and through combined effort, the goal is to discover all four cures before any of several game-losing conditions are reached.

6. Munchkin (3-6 players)

Munchkin is a card game with players starting at level one. The goal is to reach level 20 by primarily killing monsters and using equipment cards to increase their power.

7. Secret Hitler (5-10 players)

It’s one of my favourite party games but unfortunately, I won’t be able to play it until physical distancing measures are lifted. My friends and I have discussed the possibility of playing it virtually.

The game launched after a Kickstarter campaign raised more than $1,479,046. It’s a political game based on betrayal set in 1930’s Germany. Players are secretly divided into two teams – liberals and fascists. Known only to each other, the fascists co-ordinate to increase distrust and install Secret Hitler. The liberals must find and stop the Secret Hitler before it’s too late.

Disclaimer: Be careful of ‘in game’ and ‘out of game’ interactions. I once played with a few friends and won multiple times as a ‘fascist.’ The next day, I was on assignment taking photos of the Sea Festival Waiters’ Race. I was standing next to a local politician when one of my friends came up and loudly called me a fascist.

It wasn’t a good look.

8. Codenames (4+ players)

Another game that I cannot play until physical distancing measures are lifted, but it’s a lot of fun. Invented in 2015, two teams compete by each having a ‘spymaster’ give one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board. The other player attempts to guess their team’s words.

9. Dots and Boxes (2+ players)

All this game requires is paper and pen. It’s not my all-time favourite game, but when you’ve played everything in the house four times over in a week, a level of desperation sets in. The goal is to “capture” the board by surrounding squares with a continuous line. Once an area is surrounded, that area ceases to be playable. Each turn, players are allowed to draw one line, but can draw an additional line for each square they complete.

10. Dice Golf

Another game that gets played in our household when times get desperate. I’m sure there’s an official way to play it, but this is my interpretation. Before the game, each player makes a wager, we usually play with quarters. One at a time, participants roll five dice three times. After each roll, a player is able to ‘keep’ one or more dice and roll what remains. Threes count as zero.

After three rolls, the total is added up and the lowest overall score wins.

There are many more games I could mention, I’m thinking of Magic the Gathering, Star Wars, Clue, and Operation, but this list represents my favourites.

The games I listed require multiple people to play. However, several can be played online, including Chess and Settlers of Catan. Please comment below, or on Facebook, with your favourite games.

Thanks for reading, and for now, it’s time I get back to admiring my plants that are sitting about 15 feet from the garden.

Aaron Hinks is a reporter for the Peace Arch News.

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