There are probably more games than there are beers. Not surprising, with both there are countless variations in the constituent parts. With or without dice, with or without high fermentation, game board or only loose cards, brewing malt or roasting malt, or both! And so on, everything can be endlessly different. And just like with beer, personal taste plays an important role in whether something is ‘nice’. Circumstances and the company also ultimately determine whether playing a game turns out well.

I myself have warm memories of an insurance game we once received from a neighbour, a promotional item from his company. It was great. The right game at the right time. In any case, those often neglected giveaways can be gems, such as the underwater pipeline game Spaghetti Junction, which was once produced for offshore company All Seas. I have also never forgotten The Great Parking Game by parking garage giant P1.

With all variations there are basic requirements for a ‘fun game’. The most important is: equal opportunities. Johan Huizinga already wrote it in his standard work Gay Ludens (1938): a game must form its own domain with its own rules, separate from ordinary reality. A good game should evoke a believable world of its own, be it the London Underground in the fantastic London Game (also started as a promotional game!) or the Caribbean Sea in Pirates!. Ideally, differences in knowledge and skill from the ordinary world are irrelevant. Brokers are not significantly better in Monopoly, a biomedic is not more likely to triumph in Pandemic. That’s exactly why Scrabble is only fun with opponents of equal language skills, that’s why Trivial Pursuit is a dangerous party game: it can really skew a party. In the interest of those equal opportunities, a good game must certainly also provide an opportunity to catch up. For those who had bad luck, chances should be able to turn.

One last requirement: not too complicated rules. You don’t have to practice for hours. There is a paradox in this. The ancient East Asian game of Go has a simple board of 19 by 19 lines, simple pieces in black and white and a handful of simple rules. It is one of the most complex mind games out there.

Read also: In humans, everything is a game

Ten classics you’ll want to keep playing


30 seconds

Arrow fast party game. Have your partner guess five words as quickly as possible without saying those words themselves.

999 games, 3-28 players, €32.99


Dog. Denn Letzten beissen die Hunde

A much improved version of the old Mens don’t get annoyed!, with running cards instead of a dice.

Schmidt Spiele, 2-6 players, €30


Barricade

Ultimate running game: block each other’s passage and work together against those who are too far ahead.

Ravensburger, 2-4 players, €19


Backgammon (various versions)

Advanced and ancient version of Barricade for two players: break through your opponent’s barriers.


Mancala (various versions)

Ancient game without dice: work your stones through the dimples as fast as possible to the end.


twenty-one

Simple card game for everyone that remains exciting (just increase the bet with each new round).


Catan

Neoclassical board game that Risk and Strategy Makes Pale: Peacefully occupy an island by building streets and cities.

999 Games, 3-4 players, €37


Qwirkle

Nice numeral variant op Rummicub with beautiful shapes.

999 Games, 2-4 players, €30


Ticket to Ride

Much improved variant of Travel Europe: build railway lines to connect different cities.

Days of Wonder, 2-6 players, €34


Dominion

A trading game disguised as a battle game, where you buy and play cards, full of provinces to conquer, witches to fight, militia, counselors, thieves and lumberjacks.

999 Games, 2-4 players, €45

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