Whether you’re struggling with lockdown restrictions, enjoy travel with friends and family, or just love a change of scenery – visiting somewhere new on your tabletop can be tremendously entertaining.
However, finding that ‘perfect location’ can feel pretty challenging. Especially when our opportunities are at an all-time low.
So, here are eight of our favorite games that will take you two shores anew without ever leaving your gaming table.
8. Istanbul (2014)
A merchant race
A timeless classic from the far-off lands of 2014, Pegasus’ amazing Istanbul is a lightweight masterpiece that plays up to five and is as quick to complete as it is fun to play. Putting you in the role of merchants at the city’s grand Bazaar, players manage their contracts and build efficient routes to make their way through the city’s winding streets. Coming complete with glorious parts and pieces, the game is one of unquestionable balance – asking you to control your merchant and their assistants as you struggle to gather rubies. However, dealing with transport limits, managing special abilities, and optimizing your approach leaves precious little time for sightseeing.
7. Ticket to Ride Map Collection – United Kingdom & Pennsylvania (2015)
Travel the world
We may be cheating a little bit with this one. A wonderful map-pack from the delightful Ticket to Ride team, it replicates the city’s famous tube system – bringing optimization and additional strategy into play. In practical terms, this means focusing on shorter stops (replicating the tube) and forcing players to use using wild and bonus cards to extend their travel to Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. And for those of you wish to travel further afield, flip the map over and – boom – you’re in Pennsylvania. A perfect expansion for enthusiasts and anglophiles – this is a solid pick at an extremely affordable price point.
6. Tokaido (2012)
It’s all about the journey
Moving from the smoggy streets of London to the beautiful skylines of Japan, we find ourselves somewhere with a true view. A family-friendly contemporary classic, Tokaido’s emphasis on travel makes it perfect for groups that enjoy a sedate walk over a demanding hike. Set in ancient Japan and letting you play as travellers crossing the region’s East Sea Road – this is a game that rewards players who like taking their time but still keep their eyes on the prize. Combining set collection, time management, and gorgeous card art – Tokaido is Zen in play and spirit.
5. Taj Majal (2000)
Build your palaces!
If you’re looking for a game about palace intrigue, pal – you’ve found it. Set in northwest India, Taj Mahal may be old enough to buy a drink, but it shows no sign of slowing down. A game of influence an opportunity, players take on the role of princes trying to fill the power vacuum left in the decline of the Padishah rulers. This takes the form of a tight-fisted game of betting and hand management as you attempt to outmanoeuvre your rivals and push the envelope from strategic play to strategic play. Offering an authentically gritty slice of history, this Knizia classic deserves a place on every shelf and a place at every gaming table.
4. Castles of Burgundy (2011)
Who will be the most prosperous?
Beloved by the folks at BoardGameGeek for a reason, Burgundy is an acquired taste that definitely lingers on the tongue. Set in beautiful mediaeval France, players take on the role of aristocrats aiming to climb the greasy pole and establish their own glorious, quasi-benevolent fief. Thematically, this means developing your region using the games’ surprisingly elegant hex-based bored…and making the most of the limited range of resources on offer. While the game may have an initial difficulty spike, it won’t be long before players start rubbing shoulders with the best that France has to offer. Chasing victory points, optimising your configuration , and hate drafting components from rivals – all in a day’s work for you and your fellow Kings (in the making).
3. Australia (2005)
Venture into adventure
Want a little bit of sun? Slip on your canvas shorts, slide a vegemite covered ‘roo steak on the barbie, and get ready to explore the land of Oz. A game of exploration and area control, players are required to complete nature and industrial projects to prepare the land in the most flattering depiction of colonisation since Catan’s wonderful citizen-free island. Before long, your group will be hoovering up points and money (which is also, surprise, worth points) as you manage movement and try to beat your rivals to the punch . Designed to be accessible to family as well as experienced gamers – an additional advanced mode adds more complexity by adding ranger management and windmills to the game. This brings additional considerations to your tactics and breathes new life into what would be an otherwise fair but fine experience.
2. Sagrada (2017)
Nothing like a gorgeous stained-glass window
A beautifully, semi-solitaire pick from Floodgate Games, players are placed in charge of managing the stunning glass windows that line the building. A crowdfunding success story, Sagrada is a game of jostling with your opponents for resources to complete your pane and abide by the game’s strict scoring rules – with multi coloured plastic dice taking on the role of glass panes. With exacting (but easily understandable) rules about scoring, Sagrada is unquestionably a game of skill, tactics, and pinching your opponent’s last red dice when they need it most.
1. Terraforming Mars (2016)
The only way to visit the Red Planet
No one said we were limited to earthly bodies. Almost as demanding as actually terraforming Mars, TM is a worryingly realistic depiction of rampant corporations taking hold of the red planet. Played semi-cooperatively, the game sees you reshape the planet to match your needs, with your company working with others to manage oxygen levels, temperature, and controlling/creating the planet’s waters. While we’d love to sightsee out of our tiny cabin portholes, there is work to be done – with the meat of the game seeing you complete projects and siphon off victory points and keep your bosses on earth happy. A classic for a reason.
What are your favorite board games that make you feel like travelling? Tell us in the comments!