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Recently, we talked about two fairly recent Reformation-themed board games, inspired in part because many of you seem to still be living in the First Golden Age of Boardgaming.  While that is fine in its way, and if games such as Monopoly, Chess, Scrabble, Uno, Risk, and Sorry! still bring you a modicum of happiness, that’s swell, really – but you are probably unaware an entirely new, fresh universe of board games has exploded within the last couple of decades.  We are currently in what has been aptly called The Second Golden Age of Boardgaming.  In 2020, we’ll explore this recent growth and diversity of fun at greater length.  For now, though, let’s look at a Quick 6 Board Games for Last-Minute Christmas Shopping 2019.

1. Commissioned, Chara Games

Commissioned is a 2-6 player game about the Apostles spreading the gospel. It is a cooperative game, so all players are working together to overcome persecution, strengthen in faith, grow the church, and collect the New Testament epistles. With a double-sided board and multiple scenarios, Commissioned offers a variety of game play experiences in a historical, Christian setting.

2. Pillars of the Earth, KOSMOS

Another historical setting, this time we are in the medieval age building a cathedral. Based on Ken Follett’s book by the same name, Pillars of the Earth is a fun, competitive worker-placement game. Each player gets a number of workers to place at different locations on the board and thus do different actions, such as making money, gathering resources, hiring other workers, all to ultimately help build the cathedral. The several workers for hire (represented by a deck of cards) come out differently each game, making replayability high – each game will be familiar but fresh. Fortunately, you don’t have to know anything about the book to enjoy this game. It was long out of print, but Kosmos recently brought it back. This game is very fun.

3. Ulm, R&R Games

Yet another historically-themed game, Ulm is also a Reformation-era game. Now we are in the German city of Ulm on the Danube, helping to improve various aspects of city. Players are competing with each other as different prominent families in Ulm, leaving their family crests around town so everyone knows who is making the city better. The game is driven by a unique tile-grid system, in which players draw a tile from a bag and insert it into the grid on the board, which determines the three actions you will take that turn.

Additionally, players can help build the Ulm cathedral through a small deck of cards, giving players bonuses and options galore. Martin Luther may even make a guest appearance, giving you additional points for your cathedral.

It’s much less complicated than it sounds – get this game!

4. Camel Up, Pegasus Spiele

Shifting radically away from historical games, Camel Up is a fast-paced, frenetic racing game that accurately captures the pulse-pounding world of camel racing. Well, perhaps “accurately” is a bit of a stretch, since real camels probably don’t clamber upon each other when racing as they do in this game. Players are spectators of the race, though you have some say in how the camels get around.

The winner is whoever has the most money at the end, so there is a bit of wagering during the game. If that bothers you, feel free to tell your kids you are just guessing with point counters. This is a gorgeous, fast family-friendly game you’ll want to play multiple times in a night.

5. Forbidden Desert, Gamewright

Forbidden Desert is another cooperative, family-friendly game, but that does not mean it is boring for adults. This is a frenetic game of discovery and escape. You and your fellow explorers have crashed in the desert and must find the pieces of a fabled airship to escape before the sand swallows you up or your water supply disappears.

The players each take a role with unique abilities, and the main enemy (the sand) shifts around differently each game, again offering you a new gaming experience each time you play. Adults will enjoy the puzzle-like nature of the game; kids will enjoy the power tools such as the jetpack and sandblaster. For an inexpensive game, you’ll get your money’s worth multiple-times over with this fun package.

6. Say Anything, North Star Games

For those times when you’ve got a lot of people over and want to play a fun, social interaction game, and perhaps you’re a bit tired of Apples to Apples, try Say Anything. One player asks a question (from a deck), such as, “What is the most overrated movie of all time?” and the other players answer on their small whiteboards. The other players guess which answer the first player will choose, and eventually the game devolves into hilarity, silliness, in-jokes, and pretty soon you are having so much fun you don’t care about who wins. It’s a safe game, though there is a family edition is you’re looking for something more intentionally kid-friendly. This game will provide you with good fun for a long time.

Posted by Christopher Rush

Christopher Rush graduated from Emmaus in 2003. After 15 years teaching high school in Virginia, he has returned to Emmaus and Dubuque to take over the English Department. His wife, Amy, is also an Emmaus graduate (2000). They have two children, Julia and Ethan.

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