Practicing social distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19 has resulted in big changes in how we socialize, especially when it comes to board game nights. While some games have moved into the digital realm, there are still plenty of physical games that can work surprisingly well despite players being remote.
Whatever your gaming preference, we've put together a list of some games that we love and will work great playing through Zoom, FaceTime, or Skype!
Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective is one of the original mystery deduction games. Written in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle, this set of ten mysteries includes a set up detailing the case and all the clues (and more) you'll need to solve it. We've found this works great for remote play if people familiarize themselves with the material first before starting (so each household needs a copy), but then the actual gameplay is just everyone hypothesizing and deducting through conversation. For playing, video is not even necessary, although it's still great to see people get their "Ah-ha!" moments!
ROLL AND WRITE GAMES
Roll and write games are a type of game that despite the name don't always include rolling dice or writing. They do however make for games that are easy to play remotely! Yahtzee is the the one most people are familiar with, but there are plenty more that follow the same vein with changes or additions. Bloom, Twice as Clever, and Welcome To Your Perfect Home are all games that follow this idea of rolling dice (or flipping cards) and then applying those to a spot on your scoresheet. For something dicey on the less strategic side, try Pass the Pigs. That supremely-silly one would be perfect to combine with an online cocktail hour with friends!
SOCIAL PARTY GAMES
Party games may not seem like an easy type of game to play right now, but surprisingly there are a few that work very well despite people not being in the same room. These games pretty much only need one screen showing the board or cards and maybe some pens and paper for everyone else.
- Codenames has been the number one selling party game for several years, and for good reason. This competitive or cooperative game to clue giving tasks two teams to uncover all of the secret agents hiding under different aliases (words or pictures depending on the version). You will be trying to give as few clues as possible to get the players to flip over the correct cards. You could play with a camera set showing all the cards, or even with just a photo of the board.
Just One is great little cooperative word guessing party game. Everyone except for one person will learn the secret word. Each person then has to come up with a one word clue to get the person to guess the secret word, but if anyone clues are the same they get tossed out, so it can be tricky deciding whether to risk going with an tricky clue that no-one else would think of or go with an obvious clue hoping everyone else would think its too obvious to try to play it. This is great to play remotely as all anyone else would need is a pen and some paper to write down their clues.
- Additional party games that can be played pretty easily with just the host owning a copy and everyone else participating remotely include: Boggle, Wits and Wagers, 5 Second Rule, Eye Sea, and This That & Everything.
I'm honestly not sure how this category would play over Zoom, but I think some of them might be fun. Because you're all working together in cooperative games, it would easy for one person to have a copy of the game and be responsible for moving pieces, flipping cards, etc., while the other players view the action and provide input. Some co-ops would be too big or fiddly for this to work, but some of the simpler ones might translate well to this kind of play.
For kids, try some of the Peaceable Kingdom board games: Dinosaur Escape, Hoot Owl Hoot, Cauldron Quest, or Race to the Treasure. For older kids or adults I think Forbidden Island would be a solid choice. The Choose Your Own Adventure games would probably be great if you're in the mood for atmosphere and adventure, rather than strategy.
SIMULTANEOUS PLAY RACE GAMES
These are great puzzle-based games where players race each other to see who can solve the same puzzle first. Since the goal for each person is the same, it's easy to play these remotely. They can also be played solo as well as with any number of players, though each player will need a copy of the game to play with. Fans of Tetris and block puzzles, these are for you!
- Genius Star has you roll dice to decide where to put your blocker pieces, then it up to you to figure out where to put the eight different shaped pieces on the six by six grid. Quick, easy to setup, and a fun challenge to race against each other! Each box includes boards and pieces for 2 players.
- Katamino is a little like Genius Star's big brother. In this each piece is a pentamino, a shape made of five conjoined cubes. Using the booklet you will select a puzzle, telling you which pentaminos to use and where to place your setting stick: defining your playing field. There are hundreds of individual puzzles to race, so every game will be a new challenge
- Rubik's Race is a shifting tile puzzle. Using a five by five grid with one open spot, you will need to slide colored tiles round in order to match your interior three by three grid with the scrambled goal pattern. This one quick and easy to learn, but the randomized nature of the "Scrambler" goal means every games different as well!
These games all play on grid based boards (similar to Chess or Go) making them very easy to see and understand over video chat. They also have great abstract concepts and most play relatively quickly (10-20 minutes).
Quarto is a four in a row game where your goal is to create a line of pieces sharing the same feature: color, shape, height or filling. The twist is your opponent selects the piece you place. Players share the pieces placed on the board so whoever places the fourth piece and yells "Quarto!" wins!
- Onitama plays a little like a condensed, quicker chess. You will be controlling your master and four pawns and trying to capture your opponents master or move your master onto your opponent's shrine space. To do this you and your opponent will be rotating through a total of five movement cards: cards which dictate how you may move your pieces. When you move a piece, that card is rotated out and will be picked up by your opponent after their turn. In this way the five movement cards are rotated between you. Patience and planning will allow you to strike at the perfect time!
- Shobu consists of four small boards, each with four black and four white stones. The goal is to knock off all of your opponents stones from any individual board. Every turn you will be moving two pieces. The first move is passive, meaning you can't push or knockout any of your opponents pieces. Your second move is aggressive, and gives you the opportunity to move your opponent's stones around or off the board. This second move however must be in the same direction and number of spaces as your first move, so each turn you end up sort of planning backwards. This game is especially beautiful and really rewards long-term strategies.