Some things are better left in the past.
But then some things are better left not left in the past. If you get what I’m saying.
Ok, what I’m saying is some stuff should NEVER BE RELEGATED TO THE PAST IN THE FIRST PLACE. Like the following games for example.
These games are the stalwarts of the industry, those games that have stood the test of time, and not just because they love to create drama over something entirely luck based at your family Christmas (I’m looking at you monopoly…). But instead, they stand the test of time because they are just REALLY REALLY genuinely good. Mechanically, thematically, other reason-ily, just totally good games.
Lets start with some more recently republished and updated classics…
1. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Ohhhhh I do love this one.
So much so that I must mention it in about every other article I write on this site, it’s just that good!
This one started out life relatively recently (compared to some of the ancient games on this list) in the 1980s as a text based folio of mysteries, murders and character dialogues. Now that might SOUND boring, but it actually won the Spiel des Jahres in 1985 it was so gosh darn good. And that was WAY before all these board game hipsters (myself unfortunately included) started getting involved.
And whilst you’re here why not give my actual real life review a read…
2. Survive! Escape from Atlantis
Sticking with the 80s theme are we. Yes.
Also: awww look at that adorable child sticking his nose up against the glass of a pod under some water in what appears to be definitely the actual city of Atlantis. Definitely not some flimsy, plastic, sugary Disney ride thats for sure…
I’ve distracted myself. Back to the article!
Survive is an example of a successful game, much like Sherlock, that has been reprinted time and time again over the last 30+ years. It is a classic survival game, that actively encourages people to be mean to each other, which is brilliant, but in a way that doesn’t seem overly mean and aggressive, double brilliant!
Alongside that it’s also a wonderful game for people getting into the hobby of board games, and continues to have replay value despite being very very simple on the surface (something I would consider a positive).
Right, less of that 80s ‘Stranger Things’ faux nostalgia muck and more of the GOOD ANCIENT super historical stuff, ok?
Backgammon it is then.
I am a huuuuuuge fan of backgammon. And much like a lot of old timey abstract affairs it involves a geometric print playing surface and some round monochrome tokens as playing pieces.
Backgammon is great because it’s strategic, has a lot of replay value, has never needed to have different rules or mechanic changes added to make it more enjoyable, and actually has a fairly decent ability for the loosing player to come back late in the game and still win it.
4. Fury of Dracula
I want to suck your blood? More like I want to play your amazing but actually very very long hidden movement game. Nailed it.
Ok, YES we’ve come right back to the 80s again but don’t blame me! Blame the people who keep reprinting these clearly excellent games. I wish I had a game that would be reprinted and have its rules rewritten 3 or 4 times over the next 30 years. Pretty sure that counts as a win in the industry.
This game is the original modern hidden movement game (not sure there are any non-modern hidden movement games but I’m just gunna go out there and say there are JUST IN CASE someone fact checks this…), whereby one player assumes the role of Dracula, and in a bid to be really super vampirical and totally badass, tries to evade capture for a specific number of turns.
This game can sometimes suffer from being TOO LONG, and if you’re not a fan of long games, but really want a hidden movement mechanic then go for ‘Whitehall Mystery.’ Because that is also good.
For the original big daddy though, Fury of Dracula is where it’s AT.
5. Dungeons & Dragons
Ok, ok, choose some older games they said. Well, I’ll go one decade older but THATS ALL YOU’LL GET.
Well, maybe it’s not all you’ll get (see the rest of the article). But is IS where I’ll start.
The 70s! What a wondrous time of brown and orange coloured interior design, trousers with the foot holes cut a little bit to widely, and television sets being large cubes with bulbous screens that made a weird high pitched noise whenever you turned them on. A glorious age for sure.
Not only was the aesthetic glorious though, as was the tabletop gaming. 1974 was the year the now infamous Gary Guygax (and Dave Arneson) brought the legendary role playing system of Dungeons & Dragons into the world.
I mean, what more needs to be said really. This one goes from strength to strength. Hell, it was even a major plot point in one of the decades most watched television series.
70s not good enough eh?
Lets go back 2 WHOLE DECADES MORE. To a time of very businessman friendly calculated risk. Or not so calculated risk as my plastic troops keep telling me. ‘Stop invading people without properly planning a milatary strategy’ they whine at me from the game board. Well, rather fight than be the boring guy who just sits back and watches everyone else rip each other apart, only to come back strong at the end and suddenly invade everything whilst everyone else is looking, right? Nobody likes that guy.
Everybody likes Risk though. Well, maybe not EVERYBODY, but at least enough people to keep it in print, including tons and tons of licensed versions, for just about 50 years.
Oh, so you want to go OLDER STILL.
Well then how about some 6th Century gaming for you.
I honestly don’t really have much to say about this one. It’s Chess, and it’s bloody brilliant. Abstract strategy at it’s purest, this game will never get old, is incredibly deep whilst being incredibly simple, and will be played for generations and generations to come.
Everybody should own a Chess set. It should basically be a human right at this point.
The original version of Santorini was conceived around 30 ish years ago, as far as I can tell from loose descriptions on the internet (don’t blame me I just can’t be bothered to fully read the kickstarter page).
Sure, it’s not the oldest, but what it lacks in age it makes up for in just, well… really really good gameplay.
Like a lot of the games on this list it is an abstract strategy affair for 2 players. Unlike a lot of the games on this list however it has a theme that really elevates it to the next level. As players you take control of greek gods looking to rule the city of Santorini (you know, the place in real life with those lovely blue domed roofs that you see on people’s holiday instagram posts), and the first player to move their piece to the top level of a building wins the game.
Again, like so many on this list, it is deceptively simple, but incredibly deep, replayable and most of all just plain fun.
NOW we’re getting into the REALLY RUDDY OLD stuff huh?
Yeah you know it, it’s Go!
Yes, the game that some super crazy smart guy just got beaten at by an even smarter and super machine learning-able AI that google has developed.
As far as games that stand the test of time go this one is the absolute KING. It is the most abstract of the abstract, the most strategic of the strategic, and it even has a built in difficulty modifier. So if you totally suck, you can play with a handicap!
I’ll be needing that I think…
10. Love Letter
Ah the last game of the list! Finally I can stop writing!
I mean, finally I can stop… providing you all with such valuable and relevant information.
Nope, that’s still bad.
Moving on, the last game is a wonderfully simple game called Love Letter. I’ll be honest here as well, this game actually isn’t old at all, and after researching more is really just a very excellent and quite new game.
It’ll definitely stand the test of time though. Actually, scrap that, this is my new number 10…
Actual 10. Mancala
Look! It’s so gosh darn simple you can play it in the gosh darn SAND ON THE BEACH.
Another monster old game, this one is good, but I’d probs choose one of the others to play if I’m honest.
Where Mancala shines, is in it’s sheer simplicity.
Actually, that’s where the majority of these games shine to be honest. Just design simple games people! Can’t be that hard right?