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Dice fall on a tableau of cards with a box in the background.
Machi Koro 2
Image: Pandasaurus Games

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Out with the old board games, in with the new hotness

Three quick fixes for that busted old board game collection

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Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

You are an upstanding member of modern gaming society. How do I know this? Well, I heard through the grapevine that you doted on your grandmother recently, celebrating her foray into smartphone gaming. It was very kind of you. Also, I was lurking just around the corner when you chatted up the neighborhood kids about their village in Minecraft. Later, I checked the security footage and yeah, that was you who turned off motion smoothing at the corner pub, wasn’t it? I appreciate you. But tell me: When are you going to take care of yourself?

More specifically: When are you going to spruce up your aging board game collection?

Now, don’t get defensive. I’m not here for the hard sell on the wider world of hobby board gaming. You can keep Othello, all right? It’s not really hurting anyone. All I’m saying is that you’re taking up valuable room in your living space with some woefully out-of-date board games, and it’s time for an intervention.

Instead of Monopoly, try Machi Koro 2

The worst part of Monopoly — aside from the fact that it was originally intended to be an indictment of capitalism, not a celebration — is that there can be long swaths of time where you are prevented from actually participating in the game. Go to jail and stay there, basically, unless you have the right card or the dice come up in your favor. Sitting four people around a table, only to banish one of them to the corner of the board indefinitely, is a really bad way to spend your time. Stop it, and try Machi Koro 2 instead.

Machi Koro 2 is a city-building game. Players purchase businesses — in the form of cards — and place them on the table in front of them to form their commercial district. Then you roll the dice, and then you get paid. It’s as simple as that. Earn more money than your neighbor and you win.

And ultimately that’s what makes Machi Koro 2 so much fun. It keeps everyone at the table engaged at all times, plus the quick pace of play means you can get in three or four games — likely more — in the same amount of time it would take you to play just a single round of Lizzy Magie’s masterpiece.

Instead of Pictionary, try Telestrations

Once Pictionary came out in 1985, it became sort of a phenomenon. There was the best-selling game, of course, along with several expansions and iterations. But there was also a television show hosted by Alan Thicke. Anyway, I have news for you: You are not a B-list celebrity and therefore have no need to prostrate yourself in front of a whiteboard as a means to earn good publicity. You are allowed to privately enjoy good board gaming experiences, and that’s why you should give Telestrations a try.

There are plenty of good drawing games out there — among them Doodle Dash and Pictomania. But in my opinion they pale in comparison to Telestrations. Why? Because in Telestrations I can make my terrible drawings privately on my own personal notepad. If I take the sand timer that comes in the box and melt it in the microwave or throw it into the street in front of a tractor trailer truck, I can even take all the time I like to do those terrible drawings. That makes it more accessible than most games in the genre, and teaching it is an absolute breeze.

Best of all, the fun in Telestrations comes from interacting in a game of collaborative Telephone fueled by dozens of misunderstandings. It’s not just everyone laughing and pointing at uncle Ted as he struggles at the easel for the fifth time that night. Everyone gets a hand on the ball in this communal party game.

Instead of Yahtzee, try literally any modern roll-and-write game

Yahtzee is just an objectively bad board game. Roll dice furiously, take note of the outcomes, and hope that you fill in what amounts to a Bingo card before your competition. The game’s only redeeming value is that wonderful little dice cup that helps to keep all those bones from falling on the floor … most of the time. If you find a copy of Yahtzee anywhere in your neighborhood, just throw it right in the garbage and get yourself a modern roll-and-write game instead.

Roll-and-write games take that classic Yahtzee “gameplay” and attach some actual strategy to it. The best of the bunch doesn’t actually have any dice at all. It’s called Welcome To… and it uses a deck of cards to accomplish pretty much the same thing. Whatever card gets drawn is available to all players at the table, who must use it to flesh out the design of a 1950s-style neighborhood. The theming appeals to an older generation, while a dose of crossword puzzle-grade strategy keeps things interesting for everyone else. Best of all, there’s literally no upper limit on the number of players who can play at one time. Regardless of how many folks you’ve got trapped in the house on a rainy summer day, you can always set folks up with Welcome To…


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