Hi, folks! I hope your holidays were filled with good times and lots of games. But I’m not writing this to small talk about family gatherings, so let’s just jump right into another edition of how to Build Your Board Game Collection For a Dollar a Day!
If you’re just joining us, make sure you check out the first installment of the series here. This time around I’m gonna talk about cooperative games. On the off-chance you can’t figure it out from the descriptor “cooperative,” these are games where everyone wins together or everyone loses. What about the tension from player conflict, you may be asking aloud. Well, instead of your fellow players throwing wrenches into your well-laid plans, the game itself will be hurling wrenches at you.
The first game I’m going to talk about is Pandemic. In Pandemic, you and up to three additional players are fighting epidemics breaking out across the globe. You accomplish this by using a limited number of actions to directly treat a city, travel to another city, or trade cards with another player. With enough cards of the same type, you can develop a cure for the disease. To win, you have to cure all diseases before you run out of time or resources. Now, at MSRP, Pandemic is out of our 30 dollar monthly budget, but it’s often on sale for around $25. However, Pandemic is quite a popular “gateway” game for new players, and you can find used copies fairly easily.
Which brings me to my next tip for saving money on boardgames. Buy them used. You don’t get the joy of punching out the tokens yourself, and all the new game smell is gone, but you can save significant money buying used. And saving money on games means you can get more games with the money you save!
Can’t find Pandemic cheap enough? Try Forbidden Island or Forbidden Desert. They’re made by Z-Man Games, the designers of Pandemic, and they’re both lighter games. In each, your team is trying to achieve a goal before the terrain disappears. Forbidden Island is the lighter of the two, and can be had for about 12 bucks. I saw it on the shelf at Walgreens, even, so it shouldn’t be hard to find. Forbidden Desert is a little more complex, and runs about $20.
Flash Point: Fire Rescue is also mechanically similar to Pandemic, but instead of saving the world, you’re rescuing people from a burning building. Flash Point plays up to six players, whereas Pandemic plays up to four. So, if you have a slightly larger group, Flash Point may be the way to go. It’s similarly priced to Pandemic, at about $25.
The next co-op game I’ll talk about is FUSE. Fuse is ostensibly about disarming explosives by solving logic puzzles, but the theme gets swept aside by adrenaline while you’re playing. Yes, adrenaline from a boardgame. The game runs exactly ten minutes while players furiously roll dice, negotiate how to divvy them to solve their personal tasks, and then pass the dice to the next player. Each player has cards in front of them with their personal tasks, which range from simply having four different colors of dice, to having to build a pyramid from dice, with specific colors on each level. Other tasks include making a line of dice in which each number is greater than the last, or placing four dice that balance a simple equation. If numbers and pattern recognition are your thing, try Fuse. Or, if you just like cool dice, FUSE comes with 25 six sided dice in five colors, but the numbers all look like they’re from one of those 80’s digital watches. FUSE runs about 15 bucks on Amazon.
Hanabi is a game about fireworks where you have to play numbered cards in order, but you can’t see your own cards. Other players can see them, though, and may spend their action to give you partial information about the number or color of cards you have. Other communication is limited, so players must make the most of the hints they do have to finish the patterns. Hanabi is about 8 dollars online.
“Numbers, logic puzzles, trading resources, BAH! I want ACTION!” some of you are probably saying. Well, do I have a game for you and up to five friends! Space Hulk: Death Angel is all about mowing down hordes of aliens with large weaponry in the Warhammer 40,000 universe.
Each player has a squad of three heavily armored troops with varying special abilities, and can choose one of three actions each round. You can move, you can shoot, or you can support one of the troops, which gives them a token good for one die reroll. Each round, several alien “Genestealers” pour in through the ductwork, and the players try to stem the rising tide of doom. A normal attack gives a 50% chance to kill an alien, and the more of them there are in one spot, the less likely it is for your dudes to survive. Now, I can’t accurately give you a price for this one. It’s out of print forever, but there’s still copies in stock for the base game. It’s been hovering around 22 dollars on amazon for a while. So, if this sounds like a game for you, and it doesn’t yet cost a month of rent. Grab it, grab it, grab it now. It’s also great to play solo.
And finally for this article, I’ll mention Castle Panic. If you dig tower defense games, this is the co-op for you. It’s also got an “Overlord” mode, with one player vs. everyone else. Or, if you like zombies, it’s been redone as Dead Panic. Do you want a little more conflict in your cooperation? Munchkin Panic. And if you prefer Star Trek, defend the Enterprise in (you guessed it) Star Trek Panic. Each of these is in the 20 to 30 dollar range, mostly depending on how recent it is. Check for used copies if your preferred flavor is too many dollars.
So, here’s where I tell you how to spend money. If Space Hulk: Death Angel sounds even remotely interesting, get it before it’s gone forever. Then with the remaining eight-ish bucks, get Hanabi. If Space Hulk: Death Angel is not at all interesting to you, get Forbidden Island and Fuse. Or, get whatever combination of games that sounds interesting to you and is within your budget.
Now that you’ve spent your gaming budget for the month, let’s talk about some free digital boardgames to tide you over until your next game night.
Star Realms is a quick sci-fi flavored deckbuilder game, where you recruit from four factions. With the digital version, you can play through a campaign, or single games against the AI. Like most free boardgame conversions, there are in-app purchases for additional content, but they are not mandatory to enjoy the game. It’s available for Android, iOS, and through Steam on PC.
Pathfinder Adventure Card Game lets you command a party of fantasy adventurers through a number of campaigns and single games. You can get more content through in-app purchases, or you can grind in-game gold to buy more characters, equipment, and adventures. This one is just for smartphones and tablets of the Android or iOS varieties.
The KeldonAI program is a third-party engine for Race For The Galaxy and the first three expansions. Race For The Galaxy is a euro-style tableau builder where you build a galactic empire, racing the other players for the most victory points before the end of the game. There’s a lot of iconography to learn, and the KeldonAI does not have a tutorial, so you’ll need to look up a video to teach you how to play. Race is quite deep, with many strategies to win, and vast replayability. Rio Grande Games has give the KeldonAI permission to be distributed, so it’s all on the up and up. And here’s a protip: Race For The Galaxy is about $20 in cardboard form, and I’ll be telling you to buy it at some point in the near future, so take the time to learn it now, for free.
Boardnaut Studios has converted a number of print-and-play games from the BoardGameGeek forums into Android and iOS apps. Maquis is my favorite of them so far. It’s a solo player worker placement style game where you’re playing as the French resistance in WWII. It’s quite hard, and though the AI does not react to your actions, it seems to always do exactly the most disruptive action. You can also create your own physical copy from file on the BoardGameGeek page.
There are many, many games you can play through a web browser. That particular list is a few years old, but most of the links are current. There’s also a whole subforum on BoardGameGeek dedicated to digital boardgaming. No matter if you prefer wargames, abstract games, or any other kind of board game, there’s a vast amount of cardboard-free boardgaming out there. I’ve just scratched the surface in this article.
And now we’ve come to the end of this installment, and I still don’t have a clever way to end these articles. Until the next time I give you ideas on how to spend money, it’s up to you to save the world, put out fires, escape a sinking island, blast apart aliens, protect a castle, or arrange a fireworks show with your co-players. That should keep you busy and having fun, for the low, low price of about a dollar a day.