Pre COVID-19, board games were a way to bring families and friends closer. Post-pandemic, they became a way to pass the time while cooped up together — and there was plenty of time.
"I hear that in times of recessions, stores like this that provide cheap, good entertainment tend to do really well," says Fantasy Mountain Board Gaming owner Ben Callaway, though adding, "I don't know many recessions that also involve a pandemic that I can go back to for data."
He's the new kid on the block, having been open for less than a year as compared to nearly six years for Infinity Flux and 15 years for Dicehead Games and Comics, but Callaway says he had customers call him and request to pick something up from the shuttered store, which temporarily closed amid coronavirus precautions. Infinity owner Meagan Frey and Dicehead owner Shane Grubbe also operated curbside retail that saw patrons looking for fun ways to shelter-in-place.
Here are some of the titles they recommend.
Callaway describes this martial arts-based game as "like a simplified version of chess. I've found everybody who I play it with loves it, and you can play it like 10 times in a row," he says. Another plus is that it's very easy to grasp the game play, with simple card choice dictating your actions, so you won't have to waste a lot of time explaining or learning it.
Ticket To Ride
Another easy game to learn, Frey says Ticket To Ride can be learned in under 15 minutes. Cards are collected to claim railway routes as players race to connect two distinct cities, with longer routes earning players more points.
"Ticket to Ride is ... [a] good entry level game," says Grubbe. "If we can get our parents to play it, we know it's good for just about anyone. Ticket to Ride seems to be my best family game seller."
This mystical battle game sits at the other end of the spectrum. "If you're looking for a two-hour battle, Root is pretty complicated and really asymmetrical," Callaway says. In terms of game play, that means that each character has different capabilities and paths to victory as they battle for control of the wilderness. "It's a new, very popular game," he adds.
Also a more complex game, the goal of Terraforming Mars is to work together to make the planet habitable through your card play actions — which require resources to play — while also keeping ahead of the other players in overall victory points. "As you climb the scale [of board game difficulty], you're probably going to get into Terraforming Mars," Grubbe says of this highly awarded game published in 2016. "It's probably No. 1 for me."
Frey's personal favorite, Pyramid Arcade is actually 22 games in one. "There's one game that you could play with a 5-year-old, like a dexterity game, and you also have games in there that are three-hour-long strategy games, and everything in between," she says. "I love to take it on vacations because it's one box but there's so much in it."