Board Game Review

5 Games to Break the Ice

This article is also delicately available at Zatu here!

Meeting new people is always hard, it’s one of the worst parts about being an adult. Children have no idea what it’s like! They walk up to another child, say hi, and they’re best friends. Adults are awkward. We don’t know how to communicate with one another. It’s as if that free spirited socialisation just dies off when you hit 21, which isn’t great. Luckily there are lots and lots of different ways to actually get to know someone without having to have a structured conversation. Lots of board games let you get to know a person without needing to ask them how the day was. The best thing is you can see how they deal with certain situations, particularly stressful ones, and if that’s not a good gauge of what a person is like, I don’t know what is.

Below we have listed five games that we think are perfect for getting to know someone in different ways. Breaking the ice! Some of the games are cooperative, some accusation based, and some downright rude! But all will give you a gauge on how they deal with the different situations they may encounter on a day to day basis!

Pandemic is a well-known cooperative boardgame amongst boardgamers. It’s one of those games that people hear and immediately recognise. It’s also one of those games that comes in a variety of flavours from Lovecraftian horror to Roman Empire, meaning it can appeal to a wider audience and give common ground for people. It relies heavily on working as a team and doesn’t suit the renegade well.

In case you aren’t familiar with Pandemic, the game is based around a team of professionals trying to stop the outbreak of four diseases. You’re trying to save the world! It’s played on a world map and requires heavy cooperation – it can be lost in the blink of an eye! Your objective is to collect sets of matching coloured city cards in order to cure the corresponding disease. All whilst this is happening, time is against you with new outbreaks of the disease appearing every turn. There are a lot of mechanics within the game but, as long as though you’ve got someone who knows what they’re doing, you should be fine. Our advice for pandemic is to not get wrapped up in the winning straight away, focus on getting synchronicity with the group.

This game requires cooperation and communication. Being able to stick to the plan and focus on the main goal can be two very different things. If you aren’t able to synchronise with the group you’re going to get swamped. It’ll definitely show how well you cope with pressure, but it’ll also show how well you can listen. No one likes a megalomaniac, and coaching this one makes play pointless.

In terms of the social element, you’ll always need to be talking and planning your next move. No one can go rogue on this one, not without a consequence! Cards can be traded under certain circumstances and some cards can be played as necessary. Always remember you win as a team or lose as a team! I can say in all honesty that we lose more often than we win but we still love the game and end up coming back to it every time!

If you want to see how someone does under pressure, One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a cracking choice! Blind accusations, desperate defences and pleas for mercy, it can be kill or be killed in this one! This one again comes in many flavours. However, the premise is always the same, secret identities out for their own agendas.

The game is very simple, everyone gets a role and follows its actions. The game has an app to help it be played, however a designated narrator could just as easily work. All players close their eyes and go to sleep (not really, but it builds theme). Then, when instructed, specific roles open their eyes and conduct specific actions. The Trickster swaps two people’s roles, the Drunk swaps roles with one of the unused ones, Werewolves acknowledge one another to help defend themselves later, and Villagers get a good old rest. When this is all done, everyone gets defensive! Accusations fly around and suddenly pacts form. The aim for the Werewolves is to not be caught, whereas the Villagers (including most of the abstract roles) need to catch a Werewolf.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf requires lots and lots of discussion. It’s entirely social! Whether you’ve got a narrator or an app, the game’s heavy on doing what you need to do when you need to do it. It won’t matter how well you know someone, if you’re Werewolves you’re in it together and you’ve got to have one another’s backs. If either Werewolf gets caught, you’re both done. On the flip side of this, as Villagers you’ve got to be wary of everyone and sensibly defensive. Accusations are strong things, but so is the bandwagon should you jump on it. One odd, strange or questionable move and you’ll be on the wrong side of an angry mob!

As for the social element, this game will give you lots to discuss, both during and afterwards! Because it’s based on instructions there is little scope for error, and any mistakes simply add humour to the game! Just don’t get competitive with this one – nothing kills a fun social game that a bad winner or a killjoy!

Secret Hitler has a checkered history amongst gamers, and the H word can be an immediate put off for some. It was actually one of the first social deduction games I ever played and it’s stuck with me for wholly positive reasons! Again, there are one or two variations on this one for those who don’t enjoy the H of it all, but they should play the same!

The game is a secret identity come social deduction game. You’re either a liberal or a fascist. Fascists want Hitler to be the chancellor at a certain point or to have X number of fascist policies in place, whereas liberals want X number of liberal policies in place or to assassinate Hitler. The X is wholly dependent on the number of players playing. The important thing to know is whether you’re a liberal, a fascist, or Hitler. These identities are kept secret. Although, the game setup makes it so that all the fascists know who the other fascists are. They also know who Hitler is, but Hitler, and the liberals, know nothing.

Games are played in a series of rounds with each starting with everybody electing a president and a chancellor. Once everyone has voted and agreed, the game can begin. If the majority of the people say no, the person to the left of the president becomes the president and they choose a Chancellor again. If you have three consecutive failed votes, a policy is forced through and the top card is drawn and placed on the corresponding track. When a vote is successful, the president draws three cards which will either say liberal or fascist upon them. They then choose one to discard and pass the other 2 to the Chancellor who then discards one and places the other on the corresponding track depending on whether it was liberal or fascist. Presidency is then passed to the previous players left and play continues.

Of course, it’s all well and good this being a game of routine and having it run in rounds, however, this is a social game. People will argue. They always do! The point of any social game is to discuss, gather ideas, sow distrust, and gain advantages. Naturally, the fascists are going to want to stick together to ensure that as many fascist policies are put in place and to make sure that Hitler is kept secret. You never have to explain truthfully what policies you chose to discard or pass on, you can lie as much as you want or you can tell the truth. However, you may not always be believed! Liberals have no doubt got it the hardest, there are more of them but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t draw the short stick and have to place fascist policies!

We found this game fantastic for parties, social gatherings and anything where people don’t really know each other. It’s a game that can be played, then played again, and then played again! Because you’re role may be different, and people can’t guarantee your motives, there’s a good chance you’ll get better at the game as you go. Incredibly, it was the more quiet members of our group who did the best, but that’s not to say they weren’t talking! This is the sort of game that shows you that running your mouth can dig you a hole!

Cards Against Humanity is one of those games where people know it, and immediately know whether they want to play or not. It’s well known, has a strong following, comes in many flavours, and is probably not for the more faint hearted. It’s a game that’s reliant on people being as vulgar, disgusting, and out right offensive as possible!

The game is simple, have the most white cards to win. Every player is given seven black cards, each with a different noun on them. These may be relatively innocent or frightfully disgusting. Players then take it in turns to draw and read white cards. These will have a scenario, question, or sentence with a blank space in them. It’s the objective of the other players to play black cards to best fill the gap or answer the question. Of course, making it makes sense will probably not get you any points, you’re going to want to go for the shock factor. Once all black cards are played, the main player for that turn reads out the white card, filling in the spaces as necessary. The main player then chooses who won based on their own win criteria (usually laughs!).

We often find this game can sometimes go on too long. It’s not to say we don’t enjoy it, it can sometimes just be really difficult to play the right card at the right time. We found the best remedy to this is to have a first second and third place and to allocate points based on this we often find this game can sometimes go on too long. It’s not to say we don’t enjoy it, it can sometimes be really difficult to play the right card at the right time!

As for the social element… This is probably not the game you want to play when meeting your partner’s family for the first time! This is definitely more of a party game. The sort of gathering where, even though you may not know a person, you have little risk of offending them. It’s also worth remembering with this one that the cards played may not be a true reflection of a person’s traits or personality. (Emphasis on may not…) It’s perfect for a good laugh and to get everyone talking, but the social element during this game are probably going to be more groans and laughs!

Cash and Guns is a game of daring theft, treachery, and backstabbing! I can’t think of a better way to get to know someone than to point a gun at them! It’s a very quirky game that’s not meant to be taken too seriously! You’ll need to talk, work together in some respects, and be able to tell if someone is bluffing or not.

To start the game off, all the loot cards are shuffled into eight separate decks. Everyone then receives a player standee, a foam gun, five blank cards and three bang cards. The oldest player receives the Godfather’s desk. The aim of the game is to have the most loot by the end of it. To kick off a round, whoever is the godfather at the time chooses one of the eight decks and lays all cards out for everyone to see. Everybody then chooses whether to load their gun with a blank card or a bang card. (Be carful! You can only use each card once!)

The Godfather then counts down from three and everybody points their gun at somebody else. Suddenly you can cut the tension in the room with a knife! Being the godfather does give some extra perks and they can order one player to choose a new target. After that, everyone chooses how courageous they’re going to be. Chances are that if you’ve got four people pointing a gun at you, you’re going to bottle it. Should you choose to back out of the gun fight, you lay your standee down down and you are safe! No loot gained though! If you stayed stood up, it means you’re wanting the loot but also risk being wounded. Once everyone has made that decision all loaded cards are revealed and resolved. If you are shot with a blank nothing happens. Take a deep breath! If you are shot with a bang you take a wound token and you are out of that round (three wounds and you’re out of the game!). Finally, any players who are still in get to begin taking loot in turn, starting with the Godfather.

If there’s one way to break the ice with someone, it’s to point a gun at them because they might take a famous portrait you fancy. There’ll be a lot of smack talk, pleading, and hilarity through this game. It relies on a positive vibe and, as I said, you don’t want to take this one too seriously. Sure you’ll want to win, but people remember what you’ve done. Point a gun at someone too many times and you’re going to be the target of a barrage of bullets!