Welcome to Ars Cardboard, our weekend look at tabletop games! Check out our full board game coverage at cardboard.arstechnica.com.
What keeps me on the ground in our current pandemic? For one, board games. But I'm not reaching for the latest and greatest at the moment; I grabbed shorter titles that wouldn't melt my brain, and I looked deeper into my collection for these criminally understated treasures. Partly because I played with the family rather than a game group, but – and maybe you know the feeling – also because I can't focus on a two-hour strategy party when the world feels like it's on fire.
I enjoyed digging out some older titles during that time and was reminded of how great some of them are. For example, when I played with my 13-year-old daughter Sanssouci, we had so much fun that we played it again immediately. And Keltis – what a great presentation, even if you order it directly from Germany and download an English rule translation from BoardGameGeek.
Anyway, here are six titles I've played at home in the past few months. Hopefully, they will inspire you to play a little – and share your own quarantine board games in the comments.
2-4 players, 30 minutes, 8 years and older, $ 33 at Amazon (with ruinous shipping)
The delightful aesthetics – there is just so much beautiful green! – Increases solid gameplay, while a second card on the back of the board offers a thinking experience. If you played Lost Cities, you will immediately improve the gameplay: play one card per turn and build stacks that can only move in one direction (each card must be higher or lower than the previous one). Regardless of the color you play in, you can improve the piece on the board. However, don't start too many parts on their respective paths. Moving a few or fewer points will result in negative points. Mix in a very light set collection and you have a great way to spend 45 minutes. I am not alone in this opinion; In 2008 Keltis won the renowned Game of the Year Award in Germany.
2-4 players, 60 minutes, 10 years and older, $ 47 at Amazon
A new title from master designer Stefan Feld that really hits my sweet spot. There are countless ways to collect points and think a lot, but the gameplay couldn't be easier: take a tile each round and place it on your old Roman estate. Then take points and bonuses. At the end of each round you even choose your own evaluation conditions. The result is thoughtful without being overwhelming, and the wonderful grape and fish meeples add a touch of color. Much more accessible than Feld's masterpiece The Castles of Burgundy.
2-5 players, 60 minutes, 8 years and older, $ 44 at Amazon
A classic. I hadn't played this in a while, but Lockdown was a great opportunity to teach my 8-year-old son this set collection and route building move title. The iPad app for this is great – and much faster to play – but the tactility of the giant map, the plastic trains, and the presence of three trash-speaking opponents have made our personal game a hit.
1-4 players, 45 minutes, 8 years and older, $ 25 on Amazon
A summary of Reiner Knizia's old school where you put paired hexagons around a board and score points based on how many identical colors touch the five open lines that come from each of the paired hexagons. (Okay, the scoring takes a moment to turn your head around.) The gameplay is fast and fun, and you have to score each color the same – because your final score will be the score of your lowest color.
Robin from Locksley
2 players, 40 minutes, 10 years and older, $ 33 at Amazon
This new game by designer Uwe Rosenberg (Agricola, Patchwork) has about as much to do with Robin Hood as with the Sheriff of Nottingham. But what it does have is an easy-to-teach gameplay in which your horse moves like a chess knight and snatches prey. You collect this loot to meet a long set of conditions that are randomly placed on the edges of the play area – and you can move as far as your loot allows in a single turn. The set collection meets races, and although we enjoyed our first game, I still need a few more games to see how well it lasts.
2-4 players, 30-45 minutes, 8 years and older, $ 70 at Amazon (because it is out of stock)
This design by Michael Kiesling, a great layer of tiles, has been criminally overlooked. No dungeon, D&D lovers will crawl here – this game is about building a European formal garden as you move your nobles along the garden path so they can smell the roses (and earn you points). It's fast, fun, and extremely relaxing. The rules are easy to teach, the turns are quick and everything looks good. The game even includes a small expansion module in the box for a slightly more complex game. The main drawback? It might be difficult to find new ones at the moment.