Did you ever play games of Risk or Axis and Allies with the maximum number of players? How about a seriously loaded game of Arkham Horror complete with all expansion packs? Sometimes playing board games with our families or friends should be an all-night affair. This is one of those times. Short games that only take 15 to 20 minutes are a blast. They give everyone a chance to try new strategies, or you can cycle through your library. But we can make the case for games that take all evening: You travel through time (at the pace of regular time, sure, but it doesn’t feel that way).
Once your crew hooks into a long game, rivalries develop, and witty banter flows. They also allow you to take a step away from the table and return later. During epic Axis and Allies games in my past; it was common for us to break into separate rooms for tactical sessions between rounds. With these ideas in mind, here is a list of three games (it’s by no means exhaustive) that you and your gaming crew can spend an entire evening playing.
City of the Big Shoulders
A euro-style, resource management, and worker placement game— City of the Big Shoulders is best played with top hats. You experience Chicago’s golden age over the course of five decades starting from 1875. The entire aim is to hire workers, invest in companies, and end the revolution richer than your other business partners. Starting with a single company (like Quaker Oats), you complete objectives to create your goods and bring them to the market. That increases your fame, which in turn increases your stock.
It has a steep learning curve at first. The most confusing part is which money goes in your pocket or your companies. When stock shares are on your company card and you pay dividends—give your company money. Our first play, we didn’t do this. We still had an absolute blast. Several games in and it has become an evening staple that we schedule once a month to drink and play in top hats. City of the Big Shoulders has enough strategy, depth, social barter, and long-term development that the game is fun even when you lose. Even if you come in last place, you will enjoy just developing your company and playing the mini-game. That is the secret to the success of this game: everyone has fun at the table.
Fury of Dracula
Fury of Dracula has been around for a while. A fourth edition of the game came out in 2019, and it is delicious. A “One-vs-Many” style board game; the player of Dracula attempts to elude four other players as hunters. It retells the classic Bram Stoker’s novel with a few twists (obviously, in the board game Dracula can win). Since this is a deduction game, one team must work together and use their characters’ abilities while Dracula does his best to bluff and outwit the party.
Dracula has a stacked deck in his favor and is vastly more powerful in combat, but he can only move at night. Given this set-up, the game can be over quickly if players catch Dracula. That person is clearly not cut out for the life of an immortal. Let someone else be Dracula and try again. The more likely scenario is that you spend the evening plotting and scheming together while trying to hunt down your friend who is two steps ahead. Victory for the hunters always feels well earned and losing as Dracula always feels like you were so close.
Dice & Dragons
Dice & Dragons is a unique way to spend your evening. The game itself is hella simple. You pick a hero class: Wizard, Warrior, Ranger, Cleric, or Rogue. Then you pull up a dragon you want to defeat and take turns rolling some dice. Matching the dice to your characters’ abilities determines what effect you achieve and in one round of play everyone will be an expert. Killing your first dragon will probably take about 10 minutes—which is impressive considering the life span of most dragon hunters.
Where an evening can be spent playing Dice & Dragons is in campaign mode. Have one player take on the role of your game host, and then have everyone else create their characters. There’s a campaign book with dragon after dragon and a bit of story for each one. Between adventures, you get gold and can level up your characters. The dragons get progressively harder and by the end of the campaign, you will have to strategize to win. It’s like Dungeons & Dragons had a Roguelike child and crossed it with a board game. When you finish with one campaign, there are others you can download off the website for free. The best part about Dice & Dragons is how easy it is to pick up, but how complex and in-depth it gets the further on.
Originally published on April 13, 2020.
Rick Heinz is a storyteller with a focus on D&D For Kids, and an overdose of LARPs, and the author of The Seventh Age: Dawn. You can follow RPG or urban fantasy related thingies on Twitter or reach out for writing at [email protected]