A guide to the best tabletop games

Featuring Settlers of Catan, Fluxx, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and Forbidden Island

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A guide to the best tabletop games

Settlers of Catan

Move over Monopoly and Scrabble: there’s a new wave of games in town. Yasmin Sulaiman takes a look at five of the best tabletop pursuits to liven up your nights in

Settlers of Catan (Kosmos, 1995)

In a nutshell
One of the best-selling tabletop games of all time. Designed for three to four people, each player represents settlers founding a new colony on the island of Catan.
How to play
The board is made up of hexagonal tiles which are laid out randomly at the outset, so it’s a different set-up each time you play. Players expand settlements by gathering and spending resources in order to earn victory points (one for each settlement and two for each city).
You’ve won when
A player reaches ten victory points. Most games last a fairly swift 90 minutes.
Variations
Catan addicts have a huge array of spin-offs to choose from, including Catan: Seafarers (Catan plus ships and trade) and Starfarers, where colonists now aim to colonise the Catan star system alongside its peaceful alien population.

Fluxx (Looney Labs, 1997)

In a nutshell
A card-based game in which the rules are constantly changing.
How to play
Each player (it’s designed for two--six) picks one card and plays one card. But there are five types of card: New Rule, Action, Keeper, Creeper and Goal, each of which changes the gameplay. Keep your eye on the Goal cards because …
You’ve won when
Someone meets the conditions of the Goal card that’s in play. We admit, this one takes a few goes to understand, but it’s worth persisting.
Variations
Lots and lots, including Pirate Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx and – our personal favourite – Zombie Fluxx.

Carcassonne (Hans im Glück, 2000)

In a nutshell
A tiled board game based in the real medieval French town of Carcassonne and features some of the cutest counters you’ve ever seen: tiny wooden people-shaped figures called ‘meeple’.
How to play
Created for two–six players, the game starts with just one terrain tile face up on the table. Each player then draws a tile and places it adjacent to the existing tiles to create the board. Players can also place ‘meeple’ – called a follower in the game – on a newly-placed tile.
You’ve won when
You’ve got the most followers on the board after the last tile has been places, which signals the end. Sounds simple but it’s surprisingly absorbing.
Variations
The expansions for this one tick pretty much every medieval box: look out for Inns and Cathedrals, The Princess and The Dragon, and Bridges, Castles and Bazaars Carcassonne sets, amongst others.

Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder, 2004)

In a nutshell
Ever wanted to make the epic journey from Montreal to Vancouver by rail, but can’t spare the time? Do it in this game, but with tiny plastic carriages instead.
How to play
Each player collects colour cards in order to lay their carriages on specific routes connecting cities. You get points for every track you lay, and each completed route gets you points too: the longer the route, the more points you get.
You’ve won when
You’ve got more points than anyone else because you’ve got the longest routes; that’s easy to do in a two-player game but much more challenging when you get to the upper threshold of five players.
Variations
The original TTR board is based on a map of the USA, but you can also pick up boards for India, Switzerland, Scandinavia, Asia and Europe, where Edinburgh makes an appearance.

Forbidden Island (Gamewright, 2010)

In a nutshell
A Mensa-select cooperative game, where players work together to rescue treasures from a flooding island.
How to play
There are a few stages to each turn. The set of beautifully designed tiles and treasures are randomly placed in a square at the start with each player getting to move between tiles and has their own special moves to help the rescue effort as flood levels keep rising.
You’ve won when
You’ve picked up all four treasures and every player gets to the helipad tile to escape. Cooperation’s the key here: if one of you is left behind, everyone loses.
Variations
Just one: Forbidden Desert. Here, you’re seeking rather than avoiding water; it’s a similar set-up but much, much harder.

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