Sometimes you just want a pleasant game to enjoy in the evening with a glass of wine and some good company. The following games are all competitive games, but still make for a wonderfully chill evening, providing great gameplay that won’t send you to bed angry.
#5 – Quadropolis
Days of Wonder’s entry-level city builder is a charming little game. The tiles & architect pieces are bright and attractive, and the acrylic resources are amazing, especially the tiny meeples. But even more impressive is the versatility. The game comes with two sets of rules and additional components allowing you to play the game using either the Novice or Expert rules. The truly startling thing about this, however, is that both modes provide a satisfying experience; this isn’t a case where once you move beyond the initial “tutorial” mode to the “real” game, you never go back. Instead, this box contains 2 equally enjoyable sets of rules allowing you to select the mode that best fits your mood. Both play smoothly, letting you relax and build up the town of your dreams, be it full of parks, retail locations, or just an industrial landscape of apartment blocks and factories.
#4 – Kingdom Builder
That’s right, this much maligned SdJ winner has made it to 2 lists in a row! Kingdom Builder plays quickly and smoothly making for a relatively chill play session, that is unless you’re one of the people who detest this particular SdJ winner. For me, it’s a game to pull out when I want to take it easy and avoid complicated rules explanations, especially if I’m teaching family or non-gaming friends. There’s nothing jarring about the game, and while building site restrictions can be frustrating, judicious use of initial placements and special abilities can make it easy to get around them.
#3 – Siggil
This beautiful card game reminds me of Mahjong with it’s intricately woven set-up, and the ways in which cards are uncovered and revealed during play. The game itself features players vying to capture various spirits as they’re released from the tableau, and while players can and will steal from each other, it’s still a welcome come-down from a hectic day or intense game session. Plus the game can be played solo for an even more contemplative and relaxing experience. Setting up the game does take almost as long as playing it, but the process is so meditative that, for me at least, it’s a calming period that lets me clear my mind for the game itself.
#2 – Tokaido
What could be more relaxing than a journey along the silk road, filled with souvenir shopping, soaking in hot springs, and enjoying the beautiful vistas and delicious meals to be found along the way. The goal of the game is to have the most rewarding experience during your journey rather than to finish first, and while you might get blocked out of visiting that shrine you were interested in, there’s always something else to check out on your travels. And it doesn’t hurt that I own the Collector’s Edition, which augments the experience further with painted miniatures, metal coins, and other goodies. Turns are fast and relatively simple, allowing players to enjoy the entire beautiful experience.
#1 – Gold West
This resource management & area control game from J. Alex Kevern is as close to perfect as I can imagine. The mancala-esque resource conveyor belt makes for some super satisfying moments when you get exactly what you need for your turn, and the simple, yet rewarding mechanics all move together seamlessly making it a pleasant teach and a welcome addition to any collection. The beautiful components and graphic design make it a delight on the table, and people can’t help playing with the adorable prospector and stagecoach pieces. For a game about gold prospectors setting up or looting camps, it’s an incredibly relaxed experience overall – one evening, I even had a player describe it as being “like an evening of smooth jazz”.