Dan Hoffman, owner of Canton Games, stresses the importance of buying games from local retail stores, rather than online. “Walking into a store like Canton Games, we talk to you about a few different games and find the one that’s exactly right for you, he says. “We can teach you how to play and even help find you new friends to play with. Buying online, you just get the box, but buying from a FLGS [Friendly Local Game Store] you get the whole game.”
Here, in no particular order, are some of Hoffman’s favorites, in his own words.
Tichu — An amazing four-player partnership card game. The goal is to run out of cards in your hand. While you’re playing cards, you’re trying to pick up points — only certain cards are worth points. My all time favorite, I’ve been playing for more than 20 years.
Agricola — A worker placement game for 1-5 players. You are building a farm with your family. You start with a big field full of nothing — at the end of the game every empty space is worth a point. There quickly comes a time when you realize you don’t have as many turns left as you thought you did, and you’ve got to race against the other players to get the last minute resources to improve your farm.
Genoa — A game for 3-5 players where everything — everything — is for sale, up to (and including) the actions taken on your turn. The goal of the game is to have the most money at the end. You get money by collecting goods and filling orders, but you only get one action per turn. If you want to do more, you have to bribe the other players to let you take an action on their turn.
Dominion — A deck building game for 2-4 players. You’re building a deck of cards as the game progresses. The goal is to get the most victory points in your deck by the end of the game, but victory point cards are just dead weight in your hand — they don’t do anything until the end of the game when they make you win. So the game has a great balance — in the early game you’re buying bigger money cards so you can buy bigger action cards and have more wild, explosive turns, building yourself up to the one 6-point card, rather than six 1-point cards.
Ultimate Werewolf — A party game for 7-75 (yes, 75) players. Everyone gets a card, and you’re either a werewolf or a villager. Then it’s all just talking to your neighbors, trying to sniff out who may or may not be a wolf. We’ll vote to eliminate a player as a team. Then a night phase happens where the werewolves get to eliminate someone. I’ve made some of the best friends of my life by playing this game. For a version playable with fewer players, check out Ultimate Werewolf: Inquisition, designed by yours truly.
Codenames — This is hands down the best word game ever. I’ll give you a clue and a number — the number is how many of the available words I’m hinting at with my clue. We’re racing against the other team to correctly guess all the words before they do. Also see Codenames Duet for a two player version.
Keyforge — This is a new Unique Deck Game for two players. Your goal is to collect aember and use it to forge three keys before your opponent does the same. The wild thing about this game is that unlike most card games there’s no customization. You open a deck, that’s your deck forever. You can’t change it at all. This takes away from the pay-to-win feeling that some other card games have.
Unlock! — These are essentially escape rooms in a box. You decipher the clues on the cards and try to move from one room to the next, solving puzzles and finding hidden objects along the way. I have been absolutely devouring these lately.
The Mind — Played with 2-4 players, The Mind has you playing cards cooperatively from lowest to highest. The catch – you’re not allowed to talk to each other during the game! Just look into your teammate’s eyes, try to read their mind, and hope you can play in order.
Valeria: Card Kingdoms — A resource gathering game for 2-5 players. You roll two dice to determine what resources get produced each turn, but every player has their own unique setup. You can either collect gold to recruit villagers which get you more resources when the dice are rolled or you can collect might to go out and fight monsters for points. Multiple paths to victory, a lot of fun every time!