I enjoy answering questions from people looking for a game and I get quite a few of them.  It occurred to me that for every person who asks a question about which game they should choose, there are probably a dozen more who have the same question but, for one reason or another, won't ask.  So I thought it might be a good idea to put together this Buyer's Guide.  I've listed a few of my favorite games in several categories along with brief explanations of why each game was selected.  Longer descriptions (and in many cases detailed reviews) can be found by clicking on the pictures.  I hope you find this useful!

Happy Gaming!

Steve Blanding
(Last updated on November 13, 2009.)

Where Do I Start?

If the last time you've played a new board game was when you were a kid, choosing a good game can be quite a challenge. Particularly since there are so many really good games out there to choose from. Where do you begin?

Here is a list of games that I think are a particularly good place to start. Any one of them would provide a fine introduction to the new breed of games. These are the games that I tend to pull out first when I'm introducing people to the games I like to play.

Carcassonne (Rio Grande Games/Hans Im Glük - 2000)

Carcassonne is the king of the tile laying genre. In a tile laying game, players draw from a pool of tiles and then place the tile according to a specific set of rules hoping to better their position or harm that of their opponents. Although the luck of the draw is an ever present factor, in a good tile laying game like Carcassonne, it's really about skillful placement and careful planning.

This game, with its attractive tiles, is very pleasing to look at. It plays in a relatively short amount of time. It's very easy to learn and it's easy to teach. It's also quite unlike the games that most of us grew up playing. It's a modern classic and it's a great way to introduce someone to the new breed of games.

There are a lot of different Carcassonne expansions and variants on the market now (some would argue there are too many). If I were going to buy just one of them it would be Carcassonne: The City. That said, the way that I personally prefer to play Carcassonne is with the original game combined with both the Traders & Builders and Inns & Cathedrals expansions.

The Settlers of Catan (Mayfair Games/Kosmos - 1995)

This is the game that started the whole modern board gaming craze. It took the world by storm with its elegant and balanced game play and its deep strategy. This game is a little bit more difficult to learn than the others but it's really not that bad. You might find it a little daunting at first but don't worry, you'll soon get it. And once you do… look out! You'll never be satisfied with Monopoly and Risk again.

This game also has a lot of expansions. Stick with the basic version until you're comfortable with it. Once you've played that enough times and you feel that you're ready for something new, buy the Cities and Knights expansion and take it to the next level.

Fluxx (Looney Labs - 1997)

If you're looking for something fast and light that can be played just about anywhere, then you might want to consider a card game. And the card game that I find goes over the best with people who are unfamiliar with the new breed of games is Fluxx.

Now Fluxx is definitely not a perfect game. It's highly chaotic and more often the winner is chosen by luck rather than skill. But what Fluxx has going for it is that it's extremely approachable, it's unbelievably easy to learn, and it's just plain fun.

At the start of the game, the rules are printed on a single playing card that's face up in the middle of the table. As play continues, cards are added to the table which alter the rules. So the rules are constantly in flux, hence the name.

Once you've played Fluxx a few times, then you might want to graduate to some more strategic card games such as the Mystery Rummy series or Citadels.

Caylus (Rio Grande Games - 2005)

If you're looking for something a little meatier, Caylus ranks as one of my all-time favorite games. This one isn't necessarily for the beginner but it definitely represents the pinnacle of strategy gaming.

In Caylus, players are building a castle but before the castle can be built, the surrounding town and infrastructure needs to be constructed as well. Players compete for resources and employ various strategies to curry the most favor from the king.

Caylus is one of those rare games where there is no luck whatsoever. The outcome of the game is entirely dependent upon the actions of the players. If you're looking for a great way to measure your strategic aptitude, then this is the game for you.

Caylus is available in two versions: the gorgeous special edition shown here, and a more affordable basic edition. Both editions are identical except for the artwork and quality of the components.

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