There’s a lot of board games in the world, and only a limited amount of time to try to play them. It is often a bit of a feat of scheduling to attempt to wrangle the necessary people to play a game that lasts longer than 3 hours. But there are some games that are so worth it. Here are a few of my favorites.
Fury of Dracula
Fury of Dracula is an excellent hidden-movement game. One player takes on the role of Dracula, while the other players control vampire hunters who are trying to find and kill Dracula.
Count Dracula is moving around Europe working to expand his vampiric influence on the world. All of his movements are hidden. The vampire hunters are working together to try to flush out Dracula and kill him. Think Specter Ops, but much more complex.
The game begins with Dracula secretly choosing a starting city, while the hunters all have a specific starting city, which is public knowledge. Each turn there is a day phase and a night phase.
The hunters can each take one action during each phase. The available actions are travel, rest, search for clues, trade, or supply. Travelling, which can happen by land, rail or sea, can only occur during the day phase. Some of these actions are dangerous, meaning you’ll have to draw an event card. These cards could help or hurt the hunters.
Once the hunters have all gone, Dracula will take their turn. Every time Dracula moves, they will secretly play an encounter card in the city they move to. Each time they play an encounter card, it pushes the previous cards played along a track. Letting these cards mature off of the track is one of the ways Dracula can gain influence and win the game.
These encounter cards can also hurt the hunters. If a hunter stumbles into a city where an encounter card was placed, the card is revealed (which also helps the hunters know how long ago Dracula was in that city), and the hunters must deal with that card.
The hunters are trying to figure out where Dracula is, close in on his location, and kill him. But Dracula is no wilting flower. He is very powerful, and sometimes the hunters will become the hunted, with the vampire turning on them and killing them.
Fury of Dracula is so very worth playing. There is so much depth to the game, and it is well-balanced. I have never played the game and thought that it was easy for the hunters or easy for Dracula.
The game challenges my brain to really think out all of the possibilities of every movement, every action. It also does a great job of encouraging good interaction between the players. You absolutely need to coordinate with your fellow hunters, or you’re never going to find Dracula. I’ve found that because there are so many possibilities, it really takes multiple perspectives brainstorming ideas together to figure out where the heck Dracula is.
Fury of Dracula is for 2-5 players, takes about 2-3 hours to play (though it always takes us like 4 hours because we talk over all of the possibilities so much), and costs $59.99.
Unfortunately Fantasy Flight Games’ agreement with Games Workshop has ended, so it’s no longer available from Fantasy Flight Games. You can still find it on Amazon and from other third-party retailers. You may even be able to find it in your friendly local game store as well. If you’re able to find it, I definitely recommend buying it, because there’s no telling when you might see it again.
Okay, I know this board game is a classic, but it’s a classic for a reason. Twilight Imperium is the “4X” (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) game that I hold all other 4X games up against.
In Twilight Imperium, each player has their own race, their own starting planets, and their own special powers and benefits. Everyone is trying to explore and conquer other planets, to gain resources, build up their fleets, advance their scientific knowledge and technologies, gain power and win the game.
The rules are a bit of a bear to get into. There is a lot to learn, because there are so many different options for you to do. Once you get into the game though, you will find out that every action is actually pretty simple, and they make sense.
You’ll definitely want to make sure to read the rules or watch a helpful how to play video before attempting to start playing. I like this rules explanation video:
What I love about Twilight Imperium is that is does a great job of keeping people involved even when it’s not their turn. Each player will have a Strategic Action that they choose in player order at the beginning of the turn. Each of these will have a primary ability and a secondary ability.
The player holding the strategic action will get to perform the better, primary ability. All other players will then have the option to immediately perform the secondary ability. These can allow players to grab a technology upgrade, build again, collect on trade agreements, etc.
I love the Strategic Actions. They make sure that players are involved even when it is not their turn. I freaking hate games where there it feels like there is an eternity of me doing nothing until it is my turn again. Because Twilight Imperium’s actions are relatively simple and because of the Strategic Actions, it is never too long before I am involved in some kind of way in what’s happening in the game.
I also love just how much there is to this game. There is political maneuvering, a technology tree, resources, trade agreements, space and land battles, building up units… It’s pretty amazing just how many different options a player has.
Yes, it takes a very long time to play. Normally with 5-6 players, it takes me about 6 hours to play, maybe even more. So you’ll definitely want to set aside pretty much a whole day to play this one, especially if you need to teach everyone the rules.
But the game is so very fabulous. The variety of the races, the fact that you build the board making it different every time you play makes it have incredible replay value. For all the depth of the game, the actions themselves are actually very easy to understand, and often quick to execute, which means the game doesn’t often feel like it’s dragging.
Fantasy Flight Games says that Twilight Imperium is for 3-6 players, but personally, I think the game is best at 6, because it ups the competition of the game
They say it takes 3-4 hours to play, but if it’s your first time playing, I really think it will take you longer than 4 hours to play. It’s going to take a bit longer simply because it takes time to really understand the rules and be comfortable making quick decisions. You can grab the game for $89.95.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Battlestar Galactica is hands down one of my favorite games. It completely captures the feeling of stress and paranoia of the t.v. show, and it’s incredibly fun to play.
So the point of the game is that the humans are trying to survive long enough to get far away from the Cylons that are chasing them and trying to destroy them. But there’s a traitor in our midst!
Some of the players are actually Cylons, who look just like a human. These Cylons are working to try to sabotage the efforts of the humans, so that they can bring about their complete destruction.
At the beginning of the game, each person is dealt a loyalty card, which basically tells them if they are or are not a Cylon. About halfway through the game, there is another loyalty card phase. This means that even if you thought you were a human at the beginning of the game, halfway through you might be “activated” and become a Cylon.
The second loyalty card phase is just genius. It really throws so much doubt as to who might or might not be a Cylon. For the first half of the game, it is possible that no one is a Cylon, but once those loyalty cards come out again, there has to be a Cylon in the mix.
So some of the main mechanics of the game are that each person gets to move and take one action on their turn. These actions are things like activate vipers (which help protect the civilian ships), shoot Galactica’s guns at the Cylon ships, or force a jump.
Then at the end of their turn, they will draw a crisis card. These cards have to be dealt with in one way or another. Sometimes the player or the President has to choose what effect we take. Or sometimes it’s a vote.
The crisis card will have a number that you need to hit, and it will tell you which kinds of action cards will help hit that number. Players only draw from certain action card decks (which are all color-coded). These action cards will have point values on them. If played into a check that requires that color, they help add to the result. If you play an action card with a color that is different from what the crisis card requires, it counts as negative points to that check.
All the cards are played face down in turn order. Then you have to add two cards from the destiny deck (which is comprised of two action cards of each type). The destiny deck helps add a bit of mystery to the check. This affords a little cover for the Cylon, who will sometimes play cards against the check in order to sabotage the humans.
If you love the show, or if you love traitor games, you absolutely need to play Battlestar Galactica. It’s so freaking fabulous. It does such a good job of making sure everyone is engaged in every turn, and making sure that no one trusts anyone. It’s just fabulous.
Battlestar Galactica is hands down one of my favorite games to play. I highly recommend playing the base game with the max player count of 6 people, because this makes sure that there are two Cylons in the mix. Having two Cylons makes the game incredibly stressful, but so very fun.
Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game is for 3-6 players, costs $49.94, and takes about 2-3 hours to play. Though depending on how badly the humans do, it could take a little less time to play. Even though Fantasy Flight Games’ website says it should only take 3 hours to play, my games often go longer, because we bicker and accuse people of being a Cylon.
Mansions of Madness Second Edition
Mansions of Madness Second Edition is a Cthulhu-themed cooperative game. Everyone is working together to try to figure out why creepy weird stuff is happening.
What makes Mansions of Madness Second Edition different from the first edition is that the whole game is run by an app. In the first edition, a player had to run the game, introduce the monsters, keep track of everything etc.
Now the free app takes care of all of that fiddly stuff for you. It tracks how much life is left on a monster. It randomizes the layout and monsters that appear during the game. It also slightly changes the scenarios for each playthrough. It’s incredibly slick, and the app looks amazing as well.
The app also comes loaded with different scenarios, so in essence it’s like you have multiple games all in one game. The scenarios all vary in length of play time and in difficulty level. I’ve been able to beat almost every scenario, but one of them is just too dang hard!
Mansions of Madness does an excellent job of encouraging players to work together to maximize their turns in order to defeat the monster and solve the case. What’s also fantastic is because the app is randomizing everything, there is a lot of replay value for the scenarios.
The Cthulhu theme is spot on, and the app even plays disturbing sound effects and mood music, which really helps set the mood. Besides the app itself, the physical pieces of the game are fabulous. The room tiles are thick cardboard and are beautifully illustrated. There are a ton of monster and investigator minis, and they are really cool looking as well.
Mansions of Madness Second Edition, published by Fantasy Flight Games, is for 1-5 players, takes about 2-3 hours to play, and costs $99.95. The price is a bit steep, but trust me, you get the full value of your money out of this game. I have played this game probably more times than I’ve played any other game (except maybe Pandemic Legacy), and I’m still excited to play it again.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game (the second edition) is an area of control game based off of the bestselling novel series “A Song of Ice and Fire” by George R.R. Martin. Players will be battling for control over Westeros.
Everyone will start out as one of the major families, with their family’s stronghold, lands, and armies. Most of the game consists of the second phase, the Planning Phase. In this phase, each person will play order tokens face down on the board at the same time. The orders that you may be carrying out include things like raid, support, defense, march etc.
During the time where everyone is placing their order tokens, you are welcome to chat with your rivals and make deals. But promises made are not binding, so when the chips are down, you may be the one betrayed. Or if you are bold, you might be the one betraying another player.
Once everyone has placed their tokens, all of them are revealed. The player that is the highest on the influence track resolves their orders first, and so on. As you can imagine, going first could be a huge advantage.
The First Phase, the Westeros Phase, is actually skipped for the first round. The Westeros Phase consists of revealing cards from the Westeros Deck. These cards effect everyone playing the game. These will force you to do things like adjust your supply track. How much supply you have is based of off territories you control. Your supply also determines how many troops you can have.
So if for instance you just lost a critical territory, then the next turn the supply Westeros Card is drawn, you will have to go down on the supply track. Now if you have more armies than you can now support, you have to immediately destroy what you can no longer supply.
Westeros Cards will also let you do things like muster, where you can now recruit new units. They will also let you bid on the influence tracks. These cards are the only times you can do these actions, and when they appear in the game is random.
There are three influence tracks, the Iron Throne, The Fiefdoms Track, and the King’s Court Track. If you are first on these tracks, they give you a special power throughout the game. For instance, being first on The Fiefdoms Track grants you the Valyrian Steel Blade Token, which lets you add one to your combat strength once per round.
As you’re jostling for power though, you can’t completely forget about the Wildlings across the wall. They are slowly building power throughout the game, preparing for an attack. When they attack, players must work together to thwart them. If they do not muster enough power and the wildlings win, everyone suffers some kind of consequence.
I think this game is fantastic. It offers a ton of different options, and requires a lot of thought and planning to win. I love that the Westeros decks change each game, which definitely adds to the replay value. You never quite know what’s going to happen at the beginning of each round, and that Westeros card could totally eff you, or it could really help you.
A Game of Thrones lasts for 10 rounds, and whoever controls the most areas with castles or strongholds wins. This is definitely a longer game, often taking at least 3, if not more than 4 hours to play. But if you love area of control games with a lot of planning, strategy, and diplomacy, this is totally a game that is worth your time.
A Game of Thrones: The Board Game, published by Fantasy Flight Games, is for 3-6 players and costs $59.95.
NOTE: After I compiled this list, I realized that all of these games are published by Fantasy Flight Games. Obviously there are games published by other companies that play longer than three hours that are worth your time. These just happen to be my personal favorites.
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