Giant Bomb Unplugged - Part 1: Ticket to Ride, Dominion

Giant Bomb Unplugged, a.k.a TheBeast's Introduction to Board Games is a blog series intended to introduce the Giant Bomb community to board gaming. I'll try to introduce a couple of games in every edition, hopefully there'll be something that interests you somewhere. Enjoy!

You’ve played Monopoly. You’ve experienced the seven hour campaign to take over Mayfair, that one perfectly nice person that turns in to a raging lunatic when confronted with the opportunity to deprive you of fake money, and the moment the game ends when your dog decides the only way to return some civility to the group is to go Godzilla on your Chance cards.

Chances are, you’ve not played a board game since then. Video games are way better anyway, right? Why mess about with cardboard and plastic when you can get way more engaging content on your TV screen? If all you’ve ever played is Monopoly, then I forgive you, that opinion is probably warranted.

The reality is, there’s a whole load of board games out there that are just as engaging, interesting and more social than any video game - and you owe it to yourself to tear yourself away from your TV for a few hours, crack open a few beers and sit around with your friends/family and give them a go. Here’s a few you might want to start with.

Ticket to Ride

Designer: Alan R. Moon, Publisher: Days of Wonder

This is one you might have heard of before; perhaps from a past TNT, from the Tested crew or otherwise, unsurprising considering this is one of the most popular modern board games around.

Having been dealt a set of Destination Tickets at the start of the game, your goal in Ticket to Ride is to place your own-coloured trains so that they create a link between the cities shown on your tickets. Your opponents are trying to do the same (with their own set of tickets) - if you’re keeping an eye on them, you might be able to guess where they’re going next and foil their plans.

Playing trains requires revealing a set of coloured cards that match the section of track you’re playing to, so you’ll need to be building up a good hand of cards as you play, deciding which cards you’re going to need both now and later.

All you ever need to do on your turn is one of three things; draw a new coloured card, place a new train section, or draw some new Destination Tickets - making Ticket to Ride an extremely easy game to pick up and teach. That doesn’t mean it’s simple though; there’s a whole wealth of strategic choices to make, and a different combination of Destination Tickets every time to keep things varied.

Recommended Versions/Expansions: You US people might prefer to pick up the original Ticket to Ride as you’ll probably recognise all the locations. I personally prefer Ticket to Ride: Europe because it adds a few twists to the base game that make things a little more varied. There’s a few other versions and expansions around if you’re interested too, but I’d recommend sticking with the original or Europe to start with.

Players: Between 2 and 5 players. I usually play with 2, which makes for a relatively easy-going game without much conflict that’s more about out-planning your opponent. With 4 and 5 players, you’ll have a very competitive game with lots of conflict where trying to block your opponents becomes a much more valuable tactic.

Recommended for: Ticket to Ride doesn’t really require much of an investment in the theme; it’s very lighthearted and easy to get in to, so you don’t need to be a train nerd or a strategy enthusiast to enjoy it. It’s the sort of game you can break out on a night in with your friends/family and show them how to play in minutes.

Dominion

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino, Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Another game you might have heard mention of from the Tested crew, Dominion is a so-called deck-building game in which you build up your own deck of cards representing your Dominion. The player with the most valuable deck (most Victory Points) at the end of the game is the winner.

You’ll start the game with a few cards representing money and a few Estates (the lowest value land card you can own - land is the main way to earn Victory Points). On your turn, you draw 5 cards from your deck and play out your turn. Usually, this will involve purchasing a card from the Kingdom decks - 10 different decks laid out on the table in front of all players. The base game includes 25 Kingdom decks, from which 10 are selected for each game (that makes something like 2.3 million possible combinations).

Each Kindgom card has a cost, as well as some associated action. This action, when pulled in to your hand from your deck, can be used to perform a whole load of different things, from attacking your opponents, through obtaining new and better cards, to improving your chances on later turns. As you build up money (you buy this too), you’ll be able to afford better Kingdom cards and better land cards.Once 3 of the Kingdom decks are depleted, or all of the most expensive land cards (Provinces) have been bought up, the game ends. Each player counts the Victory Points in their deck and the winner is declared.

Dominion is an exceptionally simple game to grasp, but with the variety of Kingdom cards available, you’re never likely to have the same game twice. Each combination requires different strategy, different thinking and a different approach - some cards can even change the way scoring works at the end of the game.Recommended Versions/Expansions: If you’re just looking to get started with Dominion, you can either get the base Dominion game, or Dominion: Intrigue; both of which come with all the cards you need - the latter just has different Kingdom cards and can also be used as an expansion. I’d suggest the original Dominion, just because it’s a good starting point.

Once you get addicted, you have 5 expansions (with one more coming this month) to keep you busy - each offering between 12 and 25 new Kingdom cards to throw in the mix (that should give you around 1 quadrillion, 360 trillion, 705 billion, something something combinations of cards to try out), as well as new game mechanic to keep things interesting.

Players: Between 2 and 4 players with the base game, Intrigue adds enough cards to go up to 6. This game is a blast with 2 to 4 players, offering loads of interactivity and lots of variation.

Recommended for: Everyone I’ve introduced this game to has become quickly addicted, and although the theme doesn’t seem that interesting at a glance - everyone quickly looks past it. The cards have enough variety that you never feel stuck in a dull medieval style game. Highly recommended to absolutely everyone.

Thanks for reading - I hope you find something of interest here. I'm hoping to write some more of these if there's enough interest, so reply, let me know what you think and I'll keep doing them.

Thanks to various BoardGameGeek users for the pictures.

13 Comments
13 Comments
Posted by TheBeast

Giant Bomb Unplugged, a.k.a TheBeast's Introduction to Board Games is a blog series intended to introduce the Giant Bomb community to board gaming. I'll try to introduce a couple of games in every edition, hopefully there'll be something that interests you somewhere. Enjoy!

You’ve played Monopoly. You’ve experienced the seven hour campaign to take over Mayfair, that one perfectly nice person that turns in to a raging lunatic when confronted with the opportunity to deprive you of fake money, and the moment the game ends when your dog decides the only way to return some civility to the group is to go Godzilla on your Chance cards.

Chances are, you’ve not played a board game since then. Video games are way better anyway, right? Why mess about with cardboard and plastic when you can get way more engaging content on your TV screen? If all you’ve ever played is Monopoly, then I forgive you, that opinion is probably warranted.

The reality is, there’s a whole load of board games out there that are just as engaging, interesting and more social than any video game - and you owe it to yourself to tear yourself away from your TV for a few hours, crack open a few beers and sit around with your friends/family and give them a go. Here’s a few you might want to start with.

Ticket to Ride

Designer: Alan R. Moon, Publisher: Days of Wonder

This is one you might have heard of before; perhaps from a past TNT, from the Tested crew or otherwise, unsurprising considering this is one of the most popular modern board games around.

Having been dealt a set of Destination Tickets at the start of the game, your goal in Ticket to Ride is to place your own-coloured trains so that they create a link between the cities shown on your tickets. Your opponents are trying to do the same (with their own set of tickets) - if you’re keeping an eye on them, you might be able to guess where they’re going next and foil their plans.

Playing trains requires revealing a set of coloured cards that match the section of track you’re playing to, so you’ll need to be building up a good hand of cards as you play, deciding which cards you’re going to need both now and later.

All you ever need to do on your turn is one of three things; draw a new coloured card, place a new train section, or draw some new Destination Tickets - making Ticket to Ride an extremely easy game to pick up and teach. That doesn’t mean it’s simple though; there’s a whole wealth of strategic choices to make, and a different combination of Destination Tickets every time to keep things varied.

Recommended Versions/Expansions: You US people might prefer to pick up the original Ticket to Ride as you’ll probably recognise all the locations. I personally prefer Ticket to Ride: Europe because it adds a few twists to the base game that make things a little more varied. There’s a few other versions and expansions around if you’re interested too, but I’d recommend sticking with the original or Europe to start with.

Players: Between 2 and 5 players. I usually play with 2, which makes for a relatively easy-going game without much conflict that’s more about out-planning your opponent. With 4 and 5 players, you’ll have a very competitive game with lots of conflict where trying to block your opponents becomes a much more valuable tactic.

Recommended for: Ticket to Ride doesn’t really require much of an investment in the theme; it’s very lighthearted and easy to get in to, so you don’t need to be a train nerd or a strategy enthusiast to enjoy it. It’s the sort of game you can break out on a night in with your friends/family and show them how to play in minutes.

Dominion

Designer: Donald X. Vaccarino, Publisher: Rio Grande Games

Another game you might have heard mention of from the Tested crew, Dominion is a so-called deck-building game in which you build up your own deck of cards representing your Dominion. The player with the most valuable deck (most Victory Points) at the end of the game is the winner.

You’ll start the game with a few cards representing money and a few Estates (the lowest value land card you can own - land is the main way to earn Victory Points). On your turn, you draw 5 cards from your deck and play out your turn. Usually, this will involve purchasing a card from the Kingdom decks - 10 different decks laid out on the table in front of all players. The base game includes 25 Kingdom decks, from which 10 are selected for each game (that makes something like 2.3 million possible combinations).

Each Kindgom card has a cost, as well as some associated action. This action, when pulled in to your hand from your deck, can be used to perform a whole load of different things, from attacking your opponents, through obtaining new and better cards, to improving your chances on later turns. As you build up money (you buy this too), you’ll be able to afford better Kingdom cards and better land cards.Once 3 of the Kingdom decks are depleted, or all of the most expensive land cards (Provinces) have been bought up, the game ends. Each player counts the Victory Points in their deck and the winner is declared.

Dominion is an exceptionally simple game to grasp, but with the variety of Kingdom cards available, you’re never likely to have the same game twice. Each combination requires different strategy, different thinking and a different approach - some cards can even change the way scoring works at the end of the game.Recommended Versions/Expansions: If you’re just looking to get started with Dominion, you can either get the base Dominion game, or Dominion: Intrigue; both of which come with all the cards you need - the latter just has different Kingdom cards and can also be used as an expansion. I’d suggest the original Dominion, just because it’s a good starting point.

Once you get addicted, you have 5 expansions (with one more coming this month) to keep you busy - each offering between 12 and 25 new Kingdom cards to throw in the mix (that should give you around 1 quadrillion, 360 trillion, 705 billion, something something combinations of cards to try out), as well as new game mechanic to keep things interesting.

Players: Between 2 and 4 players with the base game, Intrigue adds enough cards to go up to 6. This game is a blast with 2 to 4 players, offering loads of interactivity and lots of variation.

Recommended for: Everyone I’ve introduced this game to has become quickly addicted, and although the theme doesn’t seem that interesting at a glance - everyone quickly looks past it. The cards have enough variety that you never feel stuck in a dull medieval style game. Highly recommended to absolutely everyone.

Thanks for reading - I hope you find something of interest here. I'm hoping to write some more of these if there's enough interest, so reply, let me know what you think and I'll keep doing them.

Thanks to various BoardGameGeek users for the pictures.

Posted by mracoon

I'm always up for playing board games but the problem is I can never get my housmates to play. Most of the board gaming I do these days is with Carcassonne on my phone, which doesn't have the same feel as playing it traditionally.

Moderator
Posted by scarace360

Wtf is this a board game? never heard of them.

Posted by Outbr3ak

Do Arkham Horror sometime. I love hearing people complain about it!

Posted by CastroCasper

Dominion sounds pretty cool. The only thing is you need a group of people who are also playing it.

Posted by TheBeast

@Kurtdyoung: Not sure what you mean by that - you only need one set to play.

@Outbr3ak: I haven't played Arkham Horror yet, not my sort of thing I don't think.

@mracoon: Yeah, that's the biggest issue with them. You tried a game they might be more interested in? Dominion, Pandemic, Earth Reborn? Reminds me to write about Carcassonne - another great starter game.

Posted by Example1013

Risk or death!

Posted by EuanDewar

I didn't even know you were still here.

Hey.

Posted by csl316
@Example1013

Risk or death!

Posted by SSully

Ticket to ride sounds pretty cool. You say it is good with two people?

Posted by SaffronRevolution

Good blog series. I just wish I could get people to play. I own a few good ones, like Dominion, Tobago, Wealth of Nations, Through the Ages, and Agricola. But they just sit unloved in my closet..

Posted by TheBeast

@Example1013: I've not played much Risk - you should take a look at Conquest of Nerath, it's like Risk but with more awesome.

@SSully: Yep, very enjoyable with two, although does involve different strategies than with more players.

@SaffronRevolution: Yeah, it's a pity not many people are up for playing. Introduce your friends with some beer and a Dominion tournament :) There's also a pretty good chance you'll be able to find a board gaming group in your area if you're up for that sort of thing.

Posted by Example1013

@TheBeast: I'll look it up. Unfortunately I don't get to play board games very often, and I have a really nice, expensive all-wood Risk set (as well as three or four different Monopoly boards), so we usually just fall back on those.