Since I’ve been stuck at home, I’ve been playing more board games. But I can only get my boyfriend to play Rivals of Catan — the two-player version of Catan — with me so many times.
So I called up my friend Nick Sibicky for board game recommendations. I give him credit for helping me become the board game geek I am today. Eleven years ago, we played a “gateway game” of Catan, formerly Settlers of Catan. Now I’m hooked on American specialty and European tabletop games.
Sibicky, 37, of Lynnwood, loves board games so much that he also designs them. His games — King’s Forge, Farlight and 10 Minute Heist — plus multiple expansions, have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars via Kickstarter.
Here are Sibicky’s nine board games to play during the quarantine. His games aren’t on the list, but you should check them out. I never get tired of playing King’s Forge.
Welcome To Your Perfect Home is a roll-and-write game — without the dice. You’re a neighborhood architect, and you want to build the best new town in 1950s America.
“You’re basically trying to design a neighborhood and put all of these houses in the most efficient places in a neighborhood,” Sibicky said. “If it sounds boring, well, it’s not.”
Rather than roll dice, you flip cards and write on your score sheet. From three piles of cards you choose both a house number and a corresponding action. You fill in a house on your street with that number and then take an action to increase the point value of the estates you build. You can also score points for building parks and pools.
Ages 10 and older. For 1 to 100 players. Playing time is 25 minutes.
Codenames Duet is the two-player version of Codenames. Just like in Codenames, you give one-word clues to try to get your teammates to identify your agents among those on the table — but in Duet you’re working together to find all of the agents.
You need to reveal all 15 agents — without revealing an assassin — before time runs out to win the game. Players alternative giving a one-word clue that can point to multiple words on the board. Whoever receives the clue places a finger on a card to identify that agent.
“In Codenames, you need two teams of people, but Codenames Duet works beautifully with two people,” Sibicky said.
Ages 11 and older. For 2-4 players. Playing time is 10-15 minutes.
EXiT: The Game
EXiT: The Game is an escape room in a box.
In escape rooms, players must work together to solve riddles and puzzles to unlock a room — before time runs out.
“If you can’t go to a physical escape room because of COVID, you can literally play a game that mimics that experience to try to escape your on social isolation,” Sibicky said.
In each EXiT game, your team starts out locked in an imaginary room. With each solved riddle, you’ll eventually find your way to freedom. But the clock is ticking. The faster your team escapes the room and the fewer hints you need along the way, the more points you earn.
Each game can be played only one time, because you mark up, fold, tear and cut the game materials.
Ages 12 and older. For 1 to 6 players. Playing time is 45-150 minutes.
The king of Portugal, Manuel I, on a visit to the Alhambra palace in Spain, was awestruck by the beauty of its Moorish decorative tiles. On his return, the king ordered that his own palace in Portugal be decorated with similar wall tiles.
As a tile-laying artist, you have been tasked with embellishing the walls of the Royal Palace of Evora.
Players take turns drafting colored tiles from suppliers to their player board. Points are scored based on how well you’ve placed your tiles to decorate the palace. You can earn extra points for specific patterns and completing sets. Wasted supplies hurt your score.
“Azul is perfect if you want to play a pretty strategic but not highly thematic game,” Sibicky said. “Not everyone needs to be fighting an orc. You’re just making pretty patterns with pretty colors. It has super broad appeal. You can’t go wrong with Azul.”
There are now three versions of Azul with expansions. Sibicky recommends them all.
Ages 8 and older. For 2 to 4 players. Playing time is 30-45 minutes.
The Resistance: Avalon
The Resistance: Avalon is the King Arthur version of Resistance. It’s a social deduction game inspired by games like Mafia and Werewolf, except it increases the resources for informed decisions, intensifies player interaction and there is no player elimination.
In Avalon, Arthur represents the future of Britain, yet hiding among his brave knights are Sir Mordred’s unscrupulous minions. These moles are few in number but have knowledge of each other and remain hidden from all but one of Arthur’s servants.
Merlin alone knows the deep-cover agents, but he must speak of this only in riddles. If his true identity is discovered, all will be lost. The traitorous Mordred of Arthurian legend will make himself king.
“You’ll want a tight-knit group of people who are willing to lie and try to outwit each other,” Sibicky said. “You can’t take the game too personally. It’s very intimate in that sense.”
Ages 13 and older. For 5-10 players. Playing time is 30 minutes.
For Sale re-imagines the buying and selling of real estate as a game of Poker.
When in the buying round, players try to purchase the most valuable properties for the least amount of money. When selling, you’ll then try to “flip” them — turn around and sell those properties — for the highest profit.
The game is about bidding and bluffing to get the highest-ranking properties. You make your bids with thousand-dollar coins. It isn’t how much you pay for the homes — it’s how much you sell them for.
Whoever earns the most money wins the game. If you have coins leftover, you get to add them to your total score.
Ages 10 and older. For 3-6 players. Playing time is 30 minutes.
Although he hasn’t played it himself, Sibicky felt he had to recommend Pandemic Legacy.
“It’s such an ideal quarantine game,” he said. “You can’t not include this on your list.”
Pandemic Legacy is a cooperative game, just like in Pandemic, but this one is a campaign with an overarching story-arc played through 12-24 sessions, depending on how well your team does at the game.
In the game, you’re all disease-fighting specialists working together to treat disease hotspots and research cures for each of four plagues before they wreak havoc on the world. Each player has a unique role with special abilities to help fight the pandemic.
But with Legacy, “every time you play it, a new part of the story unfolds,” Sibicky said. “It’s a board game of spoilers. You don’t know what’s going to happen until you actually play it.”
During the campaign, new rules and components are introduced with each session. They may require you to write on, rip up and place stickers on game materials. Your characters can either gain new skills or detrimental effects. You may even lose a character.
There are two versions of Pandemic Legacy available. If you don’t like campaign games, pick up the non-legacy Pandemic.
Ages 13 and older. For 2-4 players. Playing time is 60 minutes.
In Photosynthesis, trees compete for sunlight so they can grow taller as the sun moves around the board.
You’ll take your trees through their life-cycle, from seedling to full bloom to rebirth, earning light points as their leaves collect energy from the rotating sun’s rays.
You score light points if your trees are in the direct lines of sun rays or taller than the trees blocking them from the sun. Light points are exchanged for more seeds or saplings, which are then planted on the board.
Sibicky said players need to be careful about where they sow and when they grow — trees in the shadows are blocked from light and, therefore, don’t earn light points.
“Your tree that’s in the sun in one round, might be in the shadow the next,” he said. “You have to plan for these things.”
You score game-winning points by maturing trees and removing them from the board.
Ages 10 and older. For 2-4 players. Playing time is 30-60 minutes.
I’ve added Go to Sibicky’s list for him. Go is this game lover’s favorite game.
Sibicky, who also manages a Go YouTube channel, was named Teacher of the Year by the American Go Foundation in 2019. An instructor at the Seattle Go Center, Sibicky’s channel has 389 lectures and more than 25,000 subscribers.
Go is a strategy board game for two players invented in China more than 2,500 years ago. Go is played on a grid of black lines. Black and white game pieces, called stones, are placed on the lines’ intersections, or points. The aim is to surround more territory than the opponent. Players also receive points for removing stones from the board when they are surrounded at all points.
Ages 5 and older. For 2 players. Playing time is 20-90 minutes.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.