Sometimes it’s better to be a lover than a fighter.
While there are a million choices for players looking to scrap, destroy worlds, or battle for supremacy – it’s easy to feel that your options are limited when it comes to peaceful play.
Thankfully, the hobby has you more than covered.
Here are eight of our favorite games that offer a calming, wholesome play experience…but sacrifice nothing when it comes to fun.
8. Hey, That’s My Fish! (2003)
Don’t take my fish, please
A perfect pick for players of all ages, Hey is a game that avoids direct conflict but rewards players who watch their positioning and placement. Taking place on a fracturing glacier, players are required to snaffle up as many fish as they can. However, moving from one space to another (any of the cardinal directions on a hex) removes the space you just left. Before long, the board will be splintering apart, and your pieces will have little space left to move. However, with a five minute playtime for an experienced group or couple, the game will start again and let you level the score. A great choice for casual play, groups can upgrade to the slightly more involved Ice Team if they’re looking for something that’s a little more challenging.
7. Hanabi (2010)
Make the sparks fly
A co-op masterpiece, Hanabi is a mainstay in many collections for a reason. Ideally played with four, the game asks players to put on the perfect fireworks show by collectively clearing cards in the right order. It’s just that there’s one tiny problem – you have no idea what your cards are. Each player’s hand of cards has their numbers on the reverse, forcing your group to collaborate to clear each set. With communication limited, players have to develop their own shorthand to communicate and make sure they get the results they need. Combining set collection, hand management, and belly laughs as things go wrong – there’s no better start to your session or light-touch game to play down the pub or across your table at home.
6. Unearth (2017)
Unearth your ancestors’ civilization
When it comes to finding the right board game for your group, you often have to make a choice between something that’s luck-heavy or skill-based. And, thankfully with Unearth, that decision isn’t necessary at all. A game of excavation and exploration, players are required to claim ruins and artefacts with the aim of set collecting. These options are controlled by random dice, with players using their unique ‘delve’ cards to influence the results of a roll. A wonderful lightweight pick for groups that value beautiful art and engaging gameplay (players will be glued to their opponent’s turns, with their choices benefitting them personally), unearth lets experts push their luck for valuable ruins and others use low rolls to hoover up gemstones. Cheap, fun, and chilled – a great choice for fantasy fans of all ages.
5. Cottage Garden (2016)
Make the most beautiful garden
Another polyomino classic from the brain of Uwe Rosenberg, Cottage Garden is a perfectly chilled experience for people who want their own space…or the garden of their dreams. A much-loved part of Rosenberg’s ‘Tile Trilogy’, Cottage garden offers players accessible fun…that’s a little more exacting than other games in the series. Players work to fill their flower beds, manage the options on display, score your completed spaces…or move the ‘gardener’ one space. This last addition of a timer revolutionizes the game and makes every play or pick matter. And with limited options on display, a chilled game of gardening can quickly turn into a frenzied free-for-all on a dime. Easy to learn but with a surprising degree of nuance, CG is a solid pick for players who are looking for a stroll down the garden path with a few spicy peppers thrown in on the way.
4. Morels (2012)
Nothing like a walk in the woods
Head-to-head games can be a bit of a stress-fest. With no one to stand between you, it’s easy to get into direct conflict. But we challenge you to find a less threatening topic than going for a nice walk in the woods to pick up mushrooms. With stunning card art and fluid play, sessions are built around chaining items together for max points…and deliciousness. Play is swift and subtle. And, given how small and portable it is, there’s little standing between you and an amazing chilled-out session next time you and your friends are out camping in the woods.
3. Takenoko (2011)
From Cottage to Bamboo gardens
No matter how annoying it may be, it’s just impossible to get annoyed at a tiny panda. We mean, just look at him. A beloved pick for beginners and euro-fans alike, Takenoko puts you and other players in the role of an Emperor’s courtiers – all of whom have to find a balance between growing bamboo (made with some amazingly tactile pieces) and keeping the thieving bear happy. Clipping along at an incredible pace, players are to achieve Zenlike balance between their crop and keeping the chubby, chibi, ursine terror happy. Perfectly balanced and playing quickly, this is perfect for players searching for equilibrium…and taking delight in indulging an exceptionally naughty bear.
2. Fantastiqa (2012)
Journey into magical lands
Get in, loser – we’re going on an adventure…with more of an emphasis on the Hobbit than Lord of the Rings. A Kickstarter success story, players enter a friendly fantasy world where you bring peace to a land of not-so-threatening monsters. Go up against giant rabbits, possessed musical instruments, and many more. Players are encouraged to complete quests, gather loot, and make alliances with a wealth of magical beasts. Add in gorgeous card art inspired by iconic romantic painters and a variable ruleset – Fantastiqa is an absolute delight for players from all backgrounds, and for groups where teamplay and co-operation are prized above all.
1. Suburbia (2012)
Build your dream city
“Why can’t we all just get along” I hear you cry. Well, thankfully – someone made a game out of it. Designed by Bezier, Suburbia is a buttery smooth game of engine building and drafting as you try to find homes for your people (points) and carefully plan your growth. Simple to learn, easy to play, but incredibly nuanced – suburbia challenges players to build the city of their dreams. This takes the form of carefully placing tiles on your map that begins empty and quickly fills with police stations, parks, commercial sectors, and more. Offering you SimCity in sixty minutes, it’s a wonderful creative experience for the young and nail-biting game of optimization for older players. But, at the end of the day, all you’ve done is built a city and avoided conflict. And that’s pretty cool indeed.
What conflict-less games do you bring out for a peaceful night? Tell us in the comments!