It’s lockdown and you’re stuck with the housemates or the family. You’ve played enough Monopoly, Risk and Scrabble to last you a lifetime, there’s nothing on TV and the internet is on the blink. It’s time to try something a little bit different.
At Lost Universe, we play anything and everything – it’s a hard job but someone has to do it. Over the years we’ve come across some wonderfully alternative board games, card games and role playing games that make the usual ones seem like tic tac toe. Here’s our pick of the best.
Known to most of the world as Settlers of Catan, people in the know like us just call it Catan. Impressed? No, ok.
Introduced in 1995, this has almost become a classic, but it is still one of the best entry points into alternative board games around. The rules are simple, so you’ll all be well practiced after just one or two games.
The premise: You compete against 2 or 3 other players to build your settlement on the island of Catan, using your trusty dice to find and use resources. Win by getting 10 victory points, which you get for building things like settlements and cities. Games can last as long as 30 minutes or as long as a couple of hours.
Check it out here!
If you have the patience to go a bit deeper into a game, say 2.5 hours deeper, Scythe is a wonderful game with beautiful artwork.
The premise: You are one of many civilisations that has survived The Great War, rebuilding your society on grain and iron. Your armies patrol the land in huge walking war machines protecting your farms and villages. In the crossroads between your societies is The Factory, the cause of the war but a great prize if you can capture it.
There are many ways to play Scythe, and many ways to win. Everyone starts with different strengths and weaknesses. All start with paths to the factory blocked by rivers, so you must find a way to tunnel or upgrade your mechs to swim across them.
The end of the game is triggered when someone gets 6 victory points by completing various objectives. But that doesn’t mean they win the game – there are many other points to score up. The fun with Scythe is the sense of place that the imagery takes you to, as well as the endless permutation of a win.
Does someone in your house flip the table when they lose? Maybe you should try Dead of Winter. It’s a cooperative game so when you win, you all win, and when you lose, you all lose.
The premise: You are in a zombie infested small town in North America, in the dead of winter (see?). You have built a colony of survivors and you must keep them alive until you complete your group objective. Each survivor you control has a different ability which makes them good at fighting zombies, finding resources, or dying (never choose Forest Plum, he sucks).
What makes this game even more fun is that, in addition to your group objective, each player has a secret objective, dealt out face down. Someone might get the Betrayer card or maybe no one gets it. So, you have to always question the motives of each other as you play.
Of course, the secret objective doesn’t matter if you all get killed by zombies first.
If there are any anime fans in the house, then this is one of the best card games you can get.
It’s based on the TV show My Hero Academia, where students train to become super heroes and develop Quirks (abilities), that cause explosions and stuff.
The premise: This is a deck building game where you recruit superhero students to your Hero Agency and choose them to complete mission cards. So you need to make sure you recruit the right heroes with the right combination of Quirks. Think top trumps but far more interesting and fun.
Check it out here!
Depending on your household’s sensitivities, this one could be the best or the worst idea to play in lockdown. The original Pandemic board games is a coop game where you work together to halt the spread of a deadly virus.
The Legacy version turns the original into a rich story-driven campaign with characters and plots that change with your every decision. They are split into seasons of 12 to 24 games, and when you have finished season 1, there are more to play.
Dungeons & Dragons can lay claim to being one of the best role playing games ever made. Recently made popular again by Netflix’s Stranger Things, kids who grew up in the 80s are now returning to stories and characters they thought long forgotten.
The premise: As a role playing game, you play as a team of adventurers, made up of humans, elves, dwarfs and other magical races. You build your own characters or you can use the premade avatars. The objective of the game is simply to create a fun story and drive the development of your character.
Having someone as a good Dungeon Master is key as they drive the narration and roll the dice to see whether your choices succeeded or failed. Some people are still playing the same characters and stories they started decades ago.
With the Essentials Kit you can dip your toes into this vast world without getting lost and losing interest.
Check it out here!
Statistically, at least one person in your house is a Harry Potter fan. So getting a Harry Potter themed game should be a no brainer. This is a family friendly card game that is very easy to play.
The premise: You are a new pupil at Hogwarts and you have joined one of the four houses: Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff. You must spend the year completing missions and winning points towards the Four Houses Cup.
For anyone who wished they had gone to a school like Hogwarts, this could scratch that itch as you isolate in your muggle lockdown.
Check it out here!
If Dungeons & Dragons seems like too much of a faff right now, Talisman is a much simpler role playing game and is bound to a board. It is in the same kind of fantastical world, one of magic and warriors, but you have a preset character and you play to win.
The premise: Get from the outer world to the inner world, passing several challenges, and enter a final portal to win the Crown of Command. Roll the dice to complete tasks and build your stats high enough to enter the portal.
While this one doesn’t have as much storytelling as D&D (cool people call it D&D), it is a great entry point for younger players into high fantasy board games.
Fans of the TV show Rick & Morty will adore this game. And we all know, anything based on that show is going to be weird.
The premise: Simply roll 8 different coloured dice to see what fate the Death Crystal has in store for you. Score up at the end of each round and the highest score gets the least terrible death. So…we recommend players be over 15 for this one.
These guys are some of our favourites. Check out some of our Rick & Morty gear!
Ok. This is the big one. A board-set dungeon crawler of a role playing game that has you all working together out of necessity.
The premise: You are a wandering adventurer, a sword / wand-for-hire whose bread and butter is clearing out haunted dungeons and cursed ruins. If you like video games like Baldurs Gate, Pillars of Eternity or The Witcher, then this is the board game for you. It is essentially a great PC game made physical and cooperative.
The world continues after you stop playing; you can return to where you left off, with the same characters and keep going.
As one of the most richly conceived board games out there, this one will set you back a few quid, but it’s a good long-term investment. Especially if you’re riding out lockdown and need to pretend to be someone else for a while.
Now we've peaked your interest, see some of our best table-top games here.
Now that we’ve introduced some new options, we hope you’ll think twice before bringing out the same old tired board games again. Board games are having a real renaissance in depth and quality and now is the perfect time to try something new. Whether playing cards or in-depth role playing games, it’s good to spend time together that isn’t in front of a screen.
Whether bedroom or living room, we all started playing games at some point. Here are our 10 favourite retro games from the “good old days.”