It’s summer again, another perfect opportunity to gather around with some friends and roll some dice. It’s never been a better time to be a tabletop game fanatic and no matter how much or how little free time you’ll have this season, we’ve got some great recommendations on how to roll through these upcoming summer months.
1. One Night Ultimate Werewolf
3-10 Players / 10 Minutes Playing Time
One Night Ultimate Werewolf is always my first recommendation for parties, quick games and tabletop gaming wherever people are sloshed. The setup is quick, just a quick recap of the rules and a secret assignment of roles. It can be played without a proper table setup and can happen wherever you and your friends happen to be.
Fundamentally, this particular tabletop game is close to the old whodunit games you may have played back when you were a kid on camping trips or long car rides. What this affords you is a slew of different villagers to keep the game variety interesting, plus lovely full-color character cards and durable tokens. It is also integrated with a companion app that will take the place of a “moderator” player, making it far easier to get a good game if your number of players is low.
2. King of Tokyo
2-6 Players / 30 Minutes Playing Time
This game is the brainchild of Richard Garfield (of Magic the Gathering fame) and the design philosophy really shows. King of Tokyo is a game of rampaging through Tokyo as a gigantic B-movie style monster. It’s fun, fast and while there’s some real strategy within it, most of the gameplay revolves around rolling dice and smashing your opponents.
At its core, King of Tokyo is a strange combination of the game King of the Hill and Yahtzee. Players gain victory points by taking the hill (Tokyo) but in doing so make themselves the target of everybody else on the board. Players roll special dice and then “take or leave” them in a fashion like Yahtzee, hoping to roll into more damage, healing, victory points or energy that they can use to further mutate their monster and gain new abilities.
There’s almost no set-up time needed, and the rules are very easy to explain. The game’s depth comes from knowing when to hold back and let another player take the heat, or to charge in and try to claim victory. Games go by quickly, and you’ll find yourselves playing multiple rounds, especially if you add in their Power Up! expansion that adds in monster-specific abilities that add a lot to the game variety. I highly recommend King of Tokyo for anybody who has some friends and a half-hour to kill.
1-5 Players / 90-115 Minutes Playing Time
Enough party games; if you want something to really sink your teeth into, look no further than Scythe. In the vein of civilization games and other faction builders, Scythe takes you to the alternate historical world of Europa where gigantic mechs tower over the common working man. You’ll take the reins of a military faction vying for power, building from the ground up into an unstoppable mech army of the proletariat.
This tabletop game has quite a bit of depth and it really shines in its presentation, visuals, and top-quality miniatures and boards. The game’s setup complexity is mitigated by the inset player boards with clever indentations shaped for their playing pieces. It departs quite a bit from its historic wargaming roots, and you’ll find more games are won with clever negotiations and maneuvers than with raw power alone. You’ll find a ton of replayability here, especially if you grab the expansions with additional factions.
Scythe is a solid pick for a group more familiar with tabletop gaming or for your nerdy friends who appreciate more depth and strategy in your games. It does take quite a bit of actual focus and practice to get into the swing of it though. For new players, the first game is likely going to take the better part of an evening. If you plan on having an afternoon free with your friends this summer, consider starting the mech revolution with Scythe.
1-4 Players / 60-120 Minutes Playing Time
I’m not the first person to sing Gloomhaven’s praises, and I won’t be the last. But Gloomhaven is the single best tabletop game on the market today, hands down. It is the closest thing to a dungeons and dragons campaign in a box you can get, except for maybe trapping a good DM in a box. Beautiful artworks adorn this massive collection of boards, miniatures, tokens and playing pieces. And if you can get past the hefty price tag, you won’t find better value for your buck.
Gloomhaven is a persistent RP; this means that your game session will affect every game session you play afterwards. You take the reins of wandering adventurers and depending on your successes or failures, you’ll unlock new areas, new characters and take different directions in the overall storyline. The moment-to-moment gameplay focuses on a deep Euro-inspired tactical combat system that feels completely new with every new character. And you’ll grow to love your characters, cheering their triumphs and suffering through their failures.
Gloomhaven is in a lot of ways like a traditional tabletop RPG experience. It’s best played with a few friends who can agree to meet regularly. You and your friends can spend the entire summer playing the game and I guarantee you won’t get bored. You’ll be just as anxious to see the next character, the next dungeon and what twists the story takes. If you’ve got the time to meet for a regular game night, I can’t recommend any game more strongly than the immersive experience of Gloomhaven.