I've always found it easier to socialize when we're also doing something.
Maybe it's because of all the happy times I have playing cards with my family when I was young or it's just a holdover from the "guys working on cars and talking" stereotype.
Maybe that's why video games are so popular with men but I find board games to ultimately be a more satisfying experience. You share experiences with video games but there's something about sitting across someone, moving actual pieces on an actual board that's just
more satisfying in a different way.
It's a great way to socialize with existing friends and a great way to make new friends. There are board game meetups in most towns and cities. Meetup.com is a good way to find some but also just Googlin' and keeping an eye out.
They're also intellectually stimulating, personally challenging and a ton of fun.
In short, board games are good for our mental health.
Also, board gamers are Good People. There's a standard of etiquette, good sportsmanship and being inviting to new gamers. It's pretty much the direct opposite of someone screaming about the sluttish ways of your mother (i.e., video game etiquette).
Now, I'm not talking about monopoly here. I'm talking about modern board games. If you've heard of Settlers of Catan, think of it as a Model T Ford and current-year games as a Tesla.
Board games can be split into cooperative and competitive.
If you like area control games, Kingdom Builder is the game for you. Easy to learn, difficult to master, this game plays up to 4 people. A randomized hex map is laid with 5 different kinds of terrain on it.
On your turn you pick up a card, which specifies a terrain, and then you put one of your little wooden houses on it. Easy, right? Except every turn you must play a house next to one of your other houses, if you're able to. This means you're carefully putting your pieces every round so you have the most amount of options in the future.
There's a set of 3 random end-game goals each player is vying to win so the game stays fresh every time.
Sagrada - building stained glass windows by placing available (and very colourful) dice in a grid to achieve three public goals and one personal goal
Clank! - racing deeper into a dungeon to steal as much treasure before the dragon wakes up by building yourself a custom deck of cards as you play the game
Galaxy Trucker - Build the best intergalactical trucker spaceship you can as your time ticks down! Everyone grabs tiles from the center of table to add weapons, shields and engines to their ship. You can make it really fast or load it for bear. Then everyone goes on a shipping run and, uh, not everyone will make it back. All you can do at this point is watch as pirates, aliens, mysterious planets and other challenges test the mettle of your ship. (Then you do it twice over again, but with increasingly bigger ships.)
Super Motherload - Mine alien planets for precious metals by placing tetris-like pieces on the board to claim whatever's underneath. It also has a deckbuilding element where each player has a different deck and 'market' from which they can buy cards to improve their base 10 cards. This one's a personal favourite.
There's Euro games like Castles of Burgundy and KeyFlower where each player is trying to build the best points 'engine' and the worst another player can do to another is Take Their Stuff.
In Tzolk'in: The Mayan Calendar, you need to save your people from destruction by placing your tokens on interlocking, and fully-functional, cogs. Each turn you can only either place your tokens or remove them and at the end of each turn, all cogs move one space forward so that the token you just placed is now worth more and will be worth even more if you keep it on the cog for multiple turns. This is a little more complex but it's a great example of the variety in board games.
I'll end on another competitive Euro: Castles of Mad King Ludwig has you building a castle with very thematic rooms for a mad king. You have three end-game goals you are trying to satisfy as efficiently as possible. Pieces start expensive but get cheaper as times goes on. Don't wait too long or someone will buy the Buttery, the Bottomless Pit or the Mold Room (all actual pieces) out from under you.
Hear me out. Modern cooperative board games aren't the "everybody wins no matter what" games from the 60's and 90's.
In these games, every is pitted against a central foe or challenge. You're all working together to defeat the foe or overcome that challenge by using your own particular set of skills that nobody else has.
On the cooperative side, you can group up as a team to fight what amounts to a 'boss level' in a video game by building and customizing your deck with new cards you buy and buy healing your teammates. (Aeon's End)
You can also be a group of firefighters running into a burning building to save everyone there while managing the fire (Flash Point). This is a good game for anyone starting out with co-operative games, as are Castle Panic and Pandemic.
(Yes, seriously. This was one of the first popular cooperative games and it came out pre-pandemic by a good 15 years.)
If you want the D&D battle experience, or a Tactical RPG experience, check out Gloomhaven, number one board game in the world right now.
I own this game and I can't recommend it highly enough for what it does. It's literally 100s of hours of gameplay.
In Gloomhaven, you also unlock new content. It comes with envelopes that you open at certain points that add to the game or open up new classes. Each class is a very different playstyle so you're always learning new things. It's also card-based, rather than dice-based, so there's a lot of strategy involved.
Your choices in the game can also affect how the game plays out.
It's also cooperative but if you want something comepetitive, there's an asymmetrical game by the name of Claustrophobia where one player controls the Demons and the other player controls the Holy Warriors.
If any of this piques your interest, r/boardgames.
If you're in the US, I believe people buy stuff from CoolStuffInc?
For all the cool Canadians, I can't recommend BoardGameBliss enough. Good prices, awesome staff and you can build loyalty points.
Yeah and I even held myself back on this one.
Anyways, if you want more info, let me know. I'm open to suggesting games for anyone too or how to introduce games to friends and family. (Party games like Codenames, Dixit, Liar's Dice or Sheriff of Notthingham
Board games have 100% strengthened my social bonds. They also prove that it's fun to think. Every game is a puzzle and with this many types of games, there's almost bound to be a game that appeals to someone.
P.s., I forgot about light games.
If you want something more casual, Quirkle is a great lil strategy game, as are Coloretto, Lost Cities and The Mind, where everybody has to collectively put their hand of numbered cards down, in order, without speaking or using body language. It works, too.
P.p.s Junk Art!! You build actual towers with a wide variety of 3D Tetris-like pieces. Sometimes you want to build high, sometimes you want to build fast, sometimes your opponent is picking what piece you have to use and vice versa.
Get the one with plastic pieces, though. The wooden pieces (while more sustainable) are very slippery.