Best Board Games for Geeks

As a true geek, I’ve been a board game enthusiast my entire life and will take any opportunity to get people together to play board games. In short, I love board games. I remember when I played my first real board game. I was over my friend’s house and his dad pulled out Settlers of Catan. At first I was a bit overwhelmed and, to be honest, I didn’t understand very much of what was going on. By the end of the game though I was hooked for life and finally knew what it meant to play a true board game. I quickly started building my arsenal of board games and pushed games like Trouble, Monopoly, Sorry! and The Game of Life to the back corner of my closet (not that I don’t break these out for nostalgia purposes once in a while though). Board games are now a huge part of my life and I seldom leave home without packing several board games in the car in case someone wants to strike up an impromptu game. I also keep a few of my favorite board games in the trunk of my car just in case someone has a board game night that way I am ready to go.

The 8 Best Board Games for Geeks

1. Ticket to Ride

ticket to ride - best board games for geeks

Ticket to Ride is described by Days of Wonder as a “cross-country train adventure where players collect cards of various types of train cars that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities in various countries around the world.” This is a bit of a boring description for what is an absolutely fantastic and exciting game. While technically the description is accurate it doesn’t describe the thrill you’ll get when you connect all your routes and the surge of joy you’ll experience when you’re the first person to get down to your last few trains knowing your game mates have yet to connect theirs (since you get points for connecting your routes).

This game is probably unlike any other game you’ve played before. It consists of a map of North America with connections going between some of these cities. In the beginning you’ll receive some route cards and then you have to pick from the cards the routes you want to connect. You then place trains on the board trying to connect those routes all the while trying to hope your opponents don’t block you before you do so. What makes the game so exciting is that each connection between two cities is of a different color. If you don’t have the train cards of that color in your hand you can’t place your trains along the connections you need. Although there are wild cards, you only get half as many train cards if you select one (hint: sometimes it’s best to grab the wild cards anyways just to complete a route). The game ends when you or your opponent(s) gets down to two or less trains. You then score points for all the route cards you completed and the player with the most trains connecting (known as the “Longest Continuous Path”) gets an extra 10 bonus point. The winner is the player with the most points.

Various versions of the game exist including: Ticket to Ride Europe, Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries, Ticket to Ride Germany, Ticket to Ride Rails and Sails, Ticket to Ride New York City 1960, Ticket to Ride: First Journey (to introduce youngsters to the game), Ticket to Ride Asia, Ticket to Ride India, Ticket to Ride: The Heart of Africa, Ticket to Ride Nederland, Ticket to Ride France, Ticket to Ride United Kingdom and the expansions USA 1910, Europa 1912. There are also other spin-off games which can be found on the Days of Wonder website. Last but not least, Ticket to Ride 10th Anniversary Edition. This once existed but it is now out-of-print and no longer available (though you can still find it on Amazon and Ebay from time to time).

It should also be noted that Ticket to Ride United Kingdom comes with a double-sided board with Pennsylvania on one side (basically, you are getting two games for the price of one). This isn’t entirely clear on the website and is probably overlooked by many people who are looking at the entire lineup of the Ticket to Ride games. This is a huge oversight by Days of Wonder because in my humble opinion it is actually the best version of the game. It includes stock share cards which are collected as you connect cities on the board. These share cards are then added up at the end of the game and depending on how much of each company you own you get bonus points (obviously you want to have the majority of cards for the best companies). This adds an interesting element to the game and provides even more balance to an already well-balanced board game. It also can keep you in a game where you otherwise feel like you have no chance of coming back (and anyone who has been there knows exactly what I am talking about).

I cannot recommend this game highly enough and it has unbelievable replay value, especially when considering how many versions of the game now exist. This game is perfect for board game night and a great family board game. It’s also a great game to take to the board game cafe and play with other board game geeks.

2. Acquire

Acquire - best board games for geeks - the geek street
Previously owned by Avalon Hill but since acquired (no pun intended) by Hasbro.

The game Acquire was designed by Sid Sackson 1963 for 3M. The game was eventually sold to Avalon Hill (the best quality version of the game, which you can still purchase at a price) and then purchased by Hasbro (their version is much more cheaply manufactured). However, Sid Sackson deserves all the credit in the world because Acquire is my absolute favorite game. I’ve played this game with so many people and everyone loves it (okay, full disclosure, for some reason girls tend to hate this game and I am not sure why). If you like investing, stock trading or business you’ll love it too.

Acquire has a game mechanic that can sound a bit boring at first. You place tiles (there, I said it, you happy?). As you go around the board placing tiles eventually two or more tiles will touch. When this happens a corporation is formed. The person forming the corporation gets a free stock and then can purchase up to 3 additional stocks. After a corporation is formed by one individual the rest of the players also have the option to purchase stock (3 shares max) in this company at the end of their turns. The play continues as more corporations are formed (up to 7 in total) and mergers begin to take place. Mergers occur between any two companies that are connected by a tile as long as both companies do not have 11 or more tiles comprising them. If both of them have more than 11 tiles they are considered “safe” and the tiles which would connect these companies are removed from the game as players pick them up (dead tiles).

During mergers players look at the stocks in their hand and reveal their cards if they hold any stocks in the companies. Majority and minority shareholders get paid out and the larger company goes on living. Shareholders can also trade in some of their stocks of the acquired corporation for stocks of the newly formed larger company if they wish (and if stocks in the company still remain).

The game ends when there are no more tiles to be placed or a company reaches 41 tiles or more. At the end of the game all remaining corporations are sold off and money is split between the majority and minority shareholders. Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins.

3. Sushi Go Party!

sushi go - best board games for geeks - the geek street

Sushi Go Party! is not only one of the best board games for geeks, it is a great family board game and one of the best games to play with friends. Some of the best family board games are easy to understand and easy to teach, Sushi Go Party! is no different in this regard. In fact, I’ve found newcomers to board games to have an enjoyable time playing this this game even after just learning it. The funny thing is that it looks extremely confusing and when you unbox the game people usually give you that look like, “Uh-oh, this game is going to be extremely complicated.” Rest assured, you and your family will love this board game and won’t find it overly complicated at all. Soon you’ll be adding this to your arsenal of the best family games.

Some of you might now be thinking why I didn’t recommend the original Sushi Go! game. That’s a good question and there’s an extremely simple answer- this one is better! Pretty much by the time you start enjoying the original Sushi Go! you’re going to end up wanting a bit of variety and start looking at Sushi Go Party! so you might as well just save yourself the extra step and go get this game right away. Sushi Go! will just end up collecting dust on your board game shelf so please don’t waste your money.

Sushi Go Party! is what is known as a pick and pass card game. Playing a pick and pass card game you do exactly that, pick a card and then pass your hand to the player next to you. Your hand starts with a different among of cards depending on how many people play. The object is to select a card from your hand that you think would be best to use on that round. As the play continues the number of cards in your hand dwindles down until you eventually are forced to play the last card in your hand. After you play the last card in your hand that ends round 1 and there are 3 rounds in total. At the end of the last round people add up their points and the person with the highest point total wins.

Scoring is based on which card you play of which there are many options: sushi, sashimi, wasabi, dumpling, maki rolls, nigiri, squid, egg, pudding, wasabi, chopsticks, etc. (hopefully you get the idea). Each of the cards explains on the front of it exactly what the card does. For instance, the wasabi card says “next nigiri 3x,” so the next nigiri card you play will be worth 3x the value if you play it after a wasabi card and you have to play it in that order. You can’t throw the nigiri card down first and then throw the wasabi card down on top of it. This board game also has a long-game aspect to it as well. Dessert cards are saved until the last round (round 3) as opposed to the other cards used in each round which are discarded at the end of the round. At the very end of the gam the dessert cards are added up and scored. Most times if you hold the most dessert cards you get the points listed on the card. In some instances, you might get points deducted if you have the least amount of dessert cards. This can make or break some games and adds a surprising and fun element to this game.

Sushi Go Party! is a great game for geeks and casual gamers alike. It’s a great addition to have in your board game collection, especially if you have a ton of board games that are super-serious. You can even play this at a birthday party or other gathering as it is a great birthday party game for adults and kids alike. This game will lighten the mood compared to more serious games and you can even take it out on a rainy day for some fun family board game bonding time.

4. Agricola

agricola - best board games for geeks

Agricola is a true geek board game. It has very complex rules and instead of trying to explain all of them I will just link you to them here. This is the type of board game for those who enjoy a steep learning curve and games which require a lot of thought and planning. Geeks will want to play this game primarily with other geeks, though this is not to say that Agricola is not a good family board game because it is. However, most people don’t want to take the time to learn it so if you’re going to play it with family make sure you know the rules inside-and-out so you could explain the game to them. Otherwise, make sure to play this game with other family members who are also board game enthusiasts.

Now, onto the fun stuff. This game, as the name suggests, is all about farming. Unlike The Farming Gamewhich to me feels more like Monopolythis game is an extremely complicated farming game. This game is all about resource management and placing your workers in the correct spaces at the correct times. By placing family members in various spots you are able to plow fields, plant crops, collect wood, clay, stone and other resources, grow your family, raise livestock and many other farm-related actives. You can also renovate your house and even install a fireplace! You can also take up various occupations which will provide you with much needed bonuses.

The game has 14 rounds in total which are punctuated by harvests which take place during rounds 4, 7, 9, 11, 13 and 14. During the harvest phase your crops are harvested and your family is fed. Also, breeding of any livestock you have takes place as well. The game ends at the end of the 14th round so there is no waiting around like some games (Monopoly) where you are just waiting and waiting for the game to be over. This game has a predictable endpoint every time you play (one of the best features, actually). At the end of the game points are totaled based on a scoring card. The person with the most points wins.

Now I know you are thinking this does not sound like a thrilling game. Trust me, it is. Anyone who likes games like Command & Conquer: Red Alert, Age of Empires, Starcraft, Rise of Nations or any other type of RTS game with resource management will love this game. Although there is no multi-tasking like the aforementioned games that does not take away from the fun of the game. The game feels sort of like a farming game for chess players, to be honest. It has great balance and a planning aspect that requires in-depth analysis. This is another one of my personal favorite board games and I can honestly say that enduring the steep learning curve of the game is definitely worth it.

Looking for a farming game that is not too complicated? There is also the Family Version of Agricola and even The Farming Game: Card Version which I recently came across; both are much easier to learn and fast-paced compared to their counterparts.

5. Pandemic

pandemic - best board games

Pandemic is a co-op board game (the only cooperative board game on this list) where teammates play as elite members for the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). Your team is tasked with curing 4 deadly diseases which are spreading rapidly all over the world, hence the name of the game. Starting out in a research facility in Atlanta, you and the members of your team must travel across the globe finding resources to create cures and stop the spread of disease by treating infections.

The game starts out by each player receiving a player card and a number of epidemic cards as determined by the number of players. Then, a disease infecting nine cities is marked on the board by disease cubes. These cities are determined by drawing cards known as infection cards. The game then goes on and each player takes a turn. The turn consists of doing 4 actions, drawing two player cards and infecting cities. The 4 actions consist of either driving or ferrying, taking a direct flight, charter flight or shuttle flight, building research stations, treating diseases, sharing knowledge and discovering cures.

There is only one way to win but three ways to lose. To win, you and your team have to cure all 4 diseases. If 8 outbreaks occur, if a disease becomes too widespread (you run out of disease cubes) or your team runs out of player cards, you and your team loses the game. Luckily for your team each player gets a player card that allows each player to perform a special task. For example, the player with the scientist card only needs 4 city cards instead of 5 to cure a disease.

One cool aspect of this game is that you are able to set the difficulty level at the beginning of the game. You do this by altering the number of epidemic cards you start with. If you start with lowest number most time your team will win. This is not the case if you increase the number of epidemic cards. Altering the difficulty level is a really cool aspect that you don’t see in most board games.

If you’re looking for a fun game to play with friends look no further than Pandemic. It’s one of the few truly great cooperative board game available on the market and it’s sure to have you and your friends coming back to save the world again and again.

6. Photosynthesis

board games for geeks - photosynthesis - games for science geeks

Photosynthesis is a strategic board game where each player plants trees and seeds around a board that the sun rotates around. As the sun casts light upon the board each player who has trees that are in the direct path of the sun’s ray will score light points. If you are behind another tree and your tree isn’t tall enough you are considering in that tree’s shadow and you score no light points. Players take turns planting more trees, more seeds, as well as growing their trees (for which you have to spend your light points), until the sun revolves around the board three times. When the sun finishes its last revolution the players then add up their light points and the player with the most points wins.

This game sounds incredibly easy but I’d actually rank it as a medium difficulty board game. It’s not complex like Agricola but it’s not as simple as a game like Sushi Go! either. It really hits that sweet spot in terms of complexity, strategy and gameplay. It’s well-balanced and there’s a lot of room for different styles of play. You can be an aggressive gamer or a passive gamer with a long-term strategy, it’s really up to you.

This is a phenomenal board game for geeks just based on the fact that it’s scientific and it makes sense. Your trees get light from the sun, your light is used to make seeds and grow trees, your trees cast shadows and then the other trees are affected by those shadows. It’s also a visually appealing board game and super easy to set up. Furthermore, it’s a great game for board gamers who like a high level of competitiveness between players. Although I’ve said this already one too many times, it’s one of the best board games in my board game collection.

7. Machi Koro

Machi Koro - Japanese board games - board games for geeks
Click this image to go to Machi Koro: 5th Anniversary Edition
(This edition includes both expansions for free)

Machi Koro, along with its two expansions, is a great Japanese board game. This game is a bit different from most of the other board games on this list in that it’s a dice-rolling board game and a type of money-management game. The game also includes cards that are used to determine which number on the die generates money for you. Some cards have other special abilities as well, like re-rolling the dice, for instance. Each player’s goal is to collect coins and construct buildings. When all your buildings are built you win the game.

In the original game, each player starts with 4 buildings (which are under construction), a wheat field and a bakery. The starting player then rolls the dice and all players collect coins based on the cards each player has. The next player then rolls the dice, then the next, and so on. You can get coins on your turn or other players’ turns. During your turn you can use your coins to buy more types of buildings or construct the building you started with. The game goes on as you collect more money, build more buildings and construct your 4 starting buildings. The game ends when the 4 buildings you started with are finally built.

This game is truly a simple board game with a unique charm that only a Japanese board game can provide. It’s just a really fun board game and it only takes about 30 minutes to play the game. It’s also a game that isn’t exceptionally overwhelming so you don’t get burnt out too quickly. You can play this game 2 or 3 times and still feel like you want to come back for more.

As far as the expansions are concerned, the Harbor Expansion adds more cards and a bit more dynamic to the game and is actually the one I prefer. There’s also a Millionaire’s Row version of the game which is compatible with both the original version of the game and the Harbor Expansion. There’s also a Bright Lights, Big City version of the game but I haven’t had a chance to play it yet (though I did hear this version drags on a bit longer than the other versions). Test them out though and see which version you prefer.

I recommend Machi Koro for anyone who likes Japanese board games and anyone who likes a strategic game that doesn’t stress you out.

8. Bohnanza

bonanza - farming board game - best board games for geeks

Bohnanza is one of those board games you don’t hear a lot about on the web or find too many people talking about. It’s unfortunate as this is truly a hidden gem of a board game. I mean, heck, the tagline is “to bean or not to bean,” what’s not to love about that? And I really didn’t want to start out by saying this but I’m going to anyways, Bohnanza is a tough game to learn (at least in my experience and the people I’ve played with). It shouldn’t be but for some reason it is. That being said, I love it anyways and I know it’ll be a board game you’ll love too.

The object of the game is fairly simple, you want earn the most coins by selling your bean crops. I won’t explain the rules too in-depth because, as I mentioned above, it is tough to learn and frankly it’ll just confuse you if I try to explain it. I don’t know if the rules are written poorly but there is definitely some sort of je ne sais quois that makes it difficult to first start playing.

You start the game by planting beans and then drawing, trading or donating bean cards. You then draw new bean cards and harvest your beans. You start with two bean fields but you can buy a third bean field if you want to trade in your coins (usually one of the toughest decision in the game). The game ends when the draw pile runs out for the third time (this takes a bit of time, usually well over an hour). Players count their coins and the person with the most coins win.

The game sounds deceptively simple but it’s not. It’s an interesting game because it’s a farming card game, for one, and also because adding the trading element to it makes for an interesting game dynamic. Most games where you trade cards with other players can be a little unfair because you’ll notice some people are usually offering unequal trades. I didn’t notice that as much in this game. It is fairly well-balanced for a card trading board game.

I recommend Bohnanza highly and with it being such a small game it’s a great travel game throw into your backpack and take with you for board game nights with friends.

This best games list is not exhaustive nor is it ranked in any particular order.

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