Board game enthusiasts often get a bit snobby about the more “mainstream” games out there. Sometimes this is with good reason — Monopoly is pretty tedious, after all, and is inclined to go on for hours and hours and hours because no-one really knows the rules properly. But there’s a few amongst the pile that are actually worth playing.
Scrabble, first and foremost, is still a great game, as anyone who’s played Words with Friends or the numerous Facebook ripoffs will be able to attest. Simple, effective, clear rules, well balanced play and a nice sense of competition — plus the requirement to actually use your brain rather than play based entirely on luck.
Lexicon is an interesting card game based around building and modifying words. It’s very quick to play but it’s pretty fun, plus random enough to provide a different play experience each time.
Rummikub is an odd game that makes your brain hurt after a while. Ostensibly very simple, the mechanics of the game actually require that you remain very observant throughout and plan ahead.
Yahtzee is a decent game, though mostly luck-based. It has a nice element of poker-like gambling to it though ultimately there’s not a huge amount of depth. Word Yahtzee, on the other hand, is a much better — if less well-known — game. Requiring you to build words according to specific criteria (such as “two letters”, “three words” and the like) the game requires much more in the way of brainpower than regular Yahtzee but as a result is significantly more difficult.
I remember board games being a staple gift at Christmas and birthdays when I was young. Theme-heavy games such as The Gunge Game and The Bigfoot Game were often filled with exciting plastic bits and pieces but tended to be largely based on luck. Titles such as Scrabble, Yahtzee, Rummikub and the like were often set aside due to their focus on mechanics and strategy rather than theme. But it’s those games that stand the test of time a whole lot better — I have no desire to ever play The Gunge Game again, for example, despite its awesome little rubber snot-monsters. I played Lexicon, Yahtzee and Rummikub tonight, however, and I expect I will do so again.
Interestingly, a lot of these classic games have now spawned a bunch of more quick-playing spinoffs. Monopoly, for example, now has a card-based variant named Monopoly Deal. Monopoly Deal is, ironically, significantly better than Monopoly, largely because a game takes about twenty minutes (if that) rather than three bajillion hours. Scrabble also has a couple of variants, such as the fast-playing, hectic Scrabble Dash card game which is a lot of fun but probably better with more people. And there’s variants on Cluedo and Boggle out there, too.
So while some classics may not, in fact, be the best games in the world — some of them genuinely are, and in some cases they’ve spawned spinoffs that are decent things to play in their own right. So while I’m not saying you should cast aside your copies of Catan and Power Grid just yet, dust off that Scrabble box once in a while and give it a chance. You might be surprised.