The Hottest New Board Games

Published by The New Yorker, April 7, 2015:

Board games are enjoying a renaissance, thanks to the popularization of “Eurogames,” which emphasize analytic strategy in a wide variety of contexts. Here’s a handy guide to some of the hottest such games out right now.

Temp Insanity

Manage scant resources and struggle to overcome formidable odds in this high-risk, low-reward game set in the world of temporary office work. Choose your bachelor-of-arts degree, then divide your precious Hours in the Day among actions such as going to interviews, checking back in, standing by, and cooking beans. Gain enough Favor Points to bid on Gig cards; if your bid wins, scramble to acquire the requisite skills that you lied about on your resume. Parlay your Gig into a Job and you win! Get sick and you lose. Most games go on for years.

How Splendid!

Experience the majesty of Victorian England as a member of the burgeoning middle class. Take walks in the park, host teas, and enjoy evenings at the theatre—but beware! Danger lurks at every turn, in the form of devastating Shame points, which can be racked up by having the wrong china pattern, smiling improperly, uttering the word “leg” in public, or committing any of the thousands of other infractions detailed in the longest rule book in board-game history. Anxiety tokens protect against Shame but negatively influence Health, forcing players to decide which is preferable: embarrassment or an early grave. Losers are encouraged to avoid polite society. Winners feel hollow and insecure.

“S.V.U.”: The Board Game

Play as your favorite character and investigate crimes “considered especially heinous” in this board-game version of “Law & Order” ’s grittiest franchise. Start by rolling a die to determine the crime, then another die to determine the perp. The action unfolds according to an easy-to-follow formula, dictated by the Plot Progression indicator. Twists include “Found Some Dirt on This Lowlife” (Tutuola); “I Know It’s Difficult, But …” (Benson); “I’m a Father” (Amaro/Stabler); “Good—But Not Enough to Convict” (D.A.); and “I’m Going Undercover” (Other Detective). The Witness-Stand Breakdown card brings the game to an immediate end.

Zero Lower Bound

In an economic landscape of inadequate demand, political sclerosis, and destabilizing inequality, where counterproductive-event cards are constantly coming into play, what can you do as a central banker to reduce unemployment, restore growth, and avoid the horrors of deflation? Winner receives an actual Nobel Prize in economics.

Great Houses of Europe (Part of the “Golden Age” Series)

As the head of one of five ruling European dynasties, keep your territories intact and your lineage strong by arranging interfamilial marriages. Marry cousins to cousins and plan ahead to achieve “double cousin” matches for special bonuses. Closer marriages earn more Stability and Prestige points, securing your family’s power against external and internal threats alike. The last house to be extinguished by the ravages of rare hereditary diseases wins!

Invite Your Friends: A Board-Game Adventure

Experience the excitement of playing a board game in this incredibly accurate simulation of what it’s like to be a board-game player. First, struggle to establish an elusive Quorum of Players. Then, use your Player token to place your player’s Tokens on the board’s Board while you roll dice to gain your player Points and spend points to determine your player’s Dice Rolls. Features exquisitely detailed fractal miniatures. Winner is the winner who Wins without making the other Players decide never to play board games ever again.

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