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4 Great Board Games to Play When the Power Goes Out
Everyone loves video games. Or at least, you probably do, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. But, like your mother always told you, you can’t play video games all the time. After all, sometimes your console needs to spend three hours updating, or your game needs to download a ten thousand Gigabyte patch because making games that actually work is so last decade. Sometimes the power goes out, and worst of all, sometimes you have to spend time with non-gaming friends and family. When these disasters strike, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan, and what better way to pass the time than with that traditional favorite, the board game? Put down that Monopoly board though, because we’re coming at you with a list great alternatives that will have you rolling dice long after that update finally finishes.
King of New York
Do you like rolling dice? Do you like giant monsters that crush whole cities beneath their scaly feet? Do you like slaughtering your enemies with special powers and abilities? If you answered yes to any or all of the above, you’ll probably enjoy King of New York. If you answered no… maybe just go watch paint dry or something, since you clearly hate having fun. Anyway, King of New York is a game in which up to six players step into the over-sized shoes of a group of monsters locked in a vicious battle to prove who is truly the most powerful. They’ll do this by smashing buildings, fighting the military, and taking control of Manhattan in an effort to reach 20 victory points. Or, if they’re feeling belligerent, by simply killing their competitors to become the last man standing, because no one can dispute your kingship if you’re the only one alive.
Gameplay is super simple, and based on a game that everyone should be familiar with: Yahtzee. Every turn, you’ll roll six dice, and the results determine your actions for the turn. Rolling stars gets you points, lightning bolts earn you the energy you need to buy new ability cards, claws allow you to dish out some hurt to the other players, and so on. You get up to two re-rolls each turn to help you work towards a particular strategy, but this is fundamentally a game of randomness, chaos, and excitement. Even the best strategy can be foiled if the opponent gets a lucky roll, so every moment is tense and every turn matters. Don’t think the game is simplistic or boring though: Moment to moment risk management is a necessity if you want to come out on top, and that means making decisions every turn: Do you go for points, or attack the human military before they can bring you down? Stick around in Manhattan for the bonus points, or leave to avoid the other players retaliation? Aim for claws to attack the enemy, or hearts to heal yourself?
The mix of high speed decision making and tense dice rolling is a winning combination. Add that to a set of rules that can be explained in five minutes, and you have a game that should appeal to pretty much anyone.
You’ll have to act fast if you want to snap up under-appreciated this little gem, as the company behind it, The Flux Capacity, seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. Apparently, not even naming your company after a Back to the Future reference is enough to guarantee success in today’s competitive gaming market. It would seem that making good games also isn’t quite enough, because Khrysos Hunters really is an impressive piece of work. As in real life, the aim of the game is to collect a lot of treasure without dying. That’s not as easy as it sounds though, because all the other players are doing the same thing, and each is controlling a character with a unique set of special abilities.
How do they use those abilities? Once again, it’s all about dice. At the start of each player’s turn, they roll a dice. This dice not only determines where treasure appears on the map (Which is modular and built from individual cards, allowing a variety of configurations) but also determines their energy for the turn. Energy can be spent on moving, or on using special powers, which can have a host of different effects. With the right powers, characters can boost their movement speed, push their opponents around the map, defend against future damage, or attack each other. Killing another player allows you to steal two of their treasures before they re-spawn, so making good use of your attack powers is the fastest route to victory. The best thing about Khrysos Hunters is that each character has their own power set, and, despite the straightforward nature of most powers, each feels genuinely distinct from the others. Some focus on defense, stomping resolutely around the map while shrugging off the enemies attacks. Others are more offensive, relying on close combat, sniping attacks, or sometimes explosions to get the job done. Still others put their faith in fast movement, dashing around to stay out of attack range and pick up treasures before others can reach them. Every character, and therefore every game, is different, giving the game a lot of replay value.
If all that isn’t enough for you, the game even has an expansion with more heroes, more map tiles, and more terrain types. All in all, an excellent choice that’s well worth picking up before it vanishes forever.
Axis and Allies 1941
You can’t talk about board games without talking about Axis and Allies. This behemoth has been going strong for decades, with an endless array of editions and variants for fans to argue over. Unfortunately, the premiere World War II board game has something of a reputation for being unnecessarily complicated and taking a long, long, time to play. Created to appeal to new players and people who don’t have an entire day to devote to gaming, Axis and Allies 1941 seeks to rectify those problems, presenting a simplified, stripped down version of the game that lets you recreate mankind’s greatest war in an hour or two.
The setup is pretty simple: One team of players controls the allied armies of Britain, Russia, and America, while their opponents take command of the mighty Axis Powers: Germany and Japan. The two sides build units, wage war on land, sea, and air, and attempt to seize the enemy’s territory and conquer their capital cities. The size of the armies and the variety of the units are substantially lower than in most Axis and Allies games to allow new players to quickly grasp the rules, but there’s still a fair amount to work with in terms of strategic decision making. Choosing which troops to deploy, for example, depends on properly balancing cost, attack strength, defense, and speed in order to build an army appropriate to the situation. You have very limited funds to work with, so making the wrong choice can be costly: Building a bomber can cost you an entire turns worth of resources, so you had better be sure you’re not going to let the enemy take advantage of it’s poor defense to wipe it out.
One of the biggest appeals of games like this is always the visual and tactile pleasure of maneuvering piles of little plastic troops around the map. The armies in 1941 might not be quite as big as in other games, but they’re certainly satisfying to move around. Watching your mighty tanks sweep forward into enemy territory, or lining up your battleships against the enemy fleet for a huge, dice-filled, naval battle, is a true joy. If that sounds appealing to you, then this is a game you really need to own. It’s simplicity and low cost make it a perfect entry point into the genre.
WWE Superstar Showdown
There’s only one man who can close out this list…AND HIS NAME IS JOHN CENA! Yes, everyone’s favorite professional wrestler/internet meme is in a board game, and a surprisingly good one at that. They could have easily churned out some forgettable roll-and-move garbage, or another edition of monopoly, and still raked in the profits, but it seems like someone put some real effort into translating the back-and-forth rhythm of a wrestling match into a board game.
In Superstar Showdown, two players pick their favorite superstar from a choice of six (all from the modern era, so old favorites like Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin are sadly absent) and face off in a card based game of rock paper scissors. Each turn, players secretly selects three cards from a hand of six, representing various wrestling moves, and plays them face down. Then, they simultaneously reveal their first card, and compare card types, with strikes beating manoeuvres, manoeuvres beating grapples, and grapples beating strikes. Whoever played the winning card gets to activate its effects, which generally involving moving around the ring, attacking the opponent to remove cards from their deck (a fighter who runs out of cards is KO’d, losing the match), or sometimes boosting future actions or giving other effects. The process is then repeated for the other two cards. At the end of the round, whichever player won two out of the three cards gets the chance to pin their opponent, who must play a “Kick out” card from their hand or the top of their deck or lose the match.
And that’s pretty much it. Special “Slam” attacks which beat all other card types, “Guard” cards which always lose but negate any damage, and “reversals” that can be replaced with a winning card if they lose, add some more complexity to the card play, and their are some special rules based on your position on the board, but the core gameplay is just an elaborate rock-paper-scissors match. It works really well though. The advantage shifts rapidly as players either get lucky or anticipate each other’s actions, and even in the direst situation, you’re always just one good round away from winning by pin, so it’s never boring. The different wrestlers also have distinctly different decks that lend themselves to different playstyles, with some favoring huge, high damage attacks while others favor mobility and speed.
Sadly, the game only really works with two players, though there is a rather underdeveloped Tag Team Variant. Still, if you know someone who enjoys wrestling, or even just likes exciting, card-based board games, this is a good pick.