Outside the box: Board game recommendations for experienced players

If you’re new to the hobby of board gaming, there are plenty of fun, easy games to get you started (here’s my list of recommendations from last week). However, after you’ve been gaming for a while, you’ll probably be ready for a little more of a challenge. 

Here’s a list of some of my favorite board games for more experienced players. These games take a little longer to play but also offer a more in-depth play style. 

Let’s get gaming!

Dinosaur Island

Although this technically isn’t “Jurassic Park: The Board Game” due to copyright reasons, it’s still basically “Jurassic Park: The Board Game.”

In this game, each player gets to build their very own dinosaur theme park. You collect DNA to create different dinosaurs for your park, and you can also add attractions like amusement park rides and food vendors. But be warned: you have to make sure you have a high enough level of security at your park; otherwise, the dinosaurs may escape and terrorize your guests. 

When my husband and I first broke out our copy of “Dinosaur Island,” I was more than a little intimidated by the sheer number of components: boards, cards, dice, plastic pieces, etc. However, this game actually isn’t as overwhelming as it appears. Once you get the hang of the different steps, this game runs smoothly. And even if you don’t win, it’s still lots of fun to create your own version of “Jurassic Park.”

T.I.M.E. Stories

T.I.M.E. Stories is one of the most immersive and intense (but in a good way!) board games I have ever played. It’s a cooperative, multiplayer experience, where each player is a time-traveling secret agent tasked with solving problems throughout history (and even different dimensions). 

Once you’ve bought the base game, you can pick up a variety of different scenarios to play through: pirates on the high seas; a magical medieval fantasy realm; a haunted Hollywood mansion; and so on. 

Throughout the course of the game, you and your teammates have to investigate different locations, look for clues, and solve various puzzles. Also, you have a time limit to solve the mystery, as if this game wasn’t tense enough!

This game can be a bit of a brain-burner, which is why I’m thankful this is cooperative. Sometimes I’ll get stuck on a puzzle that just doesn’t make sense to me, but another player will know just what to do. 

Playing T.I.M.E. Stories is one of my all-time favorite gaming experiences, and I highly recommend every board gamer give it a try. The only downside: this game isn’t really re-playable, because once you go through a scenario, the mystery is gone. However, this game is so amazing that it’s worth investing in all the expansions, even if you just get to play through them once. 

Ex Libris

This game allows each player to create their own magical library filled with books about spells, monsters, history and more. 

However, the game isn’t as simple as just collecting book cards and then “shelving” them; you have to place the books in alphabetical order (and you get penalized if you don’t). Your first hand of cards may have books that start with the letters “H” and “S”; you have to be careful shelving them, because if you put them right next together, you might not have space for the “K” card you’ll draw in a future turn. 

Each turn, players get to stop at different “stations” that give you special abilities, such as drawing or shelving extra books, or even rearranging your bookshelf (which definitely comes in handy when you realized you played an “M” card ahead of an “L” card). 

Similar to Dinosaur Island, this game is still lots of fun even if you don’t win, because at the end you’ll have created a magical library, and who doesn’t love that?

Clank!

I’ve actually played two different versions of this game: regular “Clank!” which has a medieval fantasy theme, and “Clank!: In Space!” which is of course a sci-fi re-theme of the game. Both versions are lots of fun, so I’d recommend getting whatever theme appeals to you more. 

In this game, you and the other players are adventurers brave enough to delve into a treacherous maze in search of treasure. Your goal is to get in and out as soon as possible, but beware — there’s also a dangerous monster that could attack you and prevent you from escaping with the treasure. 

This game also has a deck-building element, where you get to create your own deck of cards to use throughout the game. 

Wingspan

This is probably the most beautifully designed game, at least in terms of artistic style, that my husband and I own. The simplest, most basic explanation of Wingspan is that each player collects a menagerie of birds and then lays eggs. (I promise, the game is actually more interesting than that explanation sounds.) 

The illustrated artwork on the different bird cards is absolutely exquisite:

In addition to simply collecting the birds, you have to make sure each bird is fed and placed in its proper habitat. You can also gain additional points by meeting goals such as laying the most eggs on a certain type of bird. 

This is one of those games where I don’t really care if I win or not, because it’s so delightful to just go along collecting the different bird cards. 

Star Wars: Imperial Assault

This actually used to be my all-time favorite board game, before the card game Star Wars: Destiny took over the spot. Imperial Assault is what I’d call a light RPG (a.k.a. role-playing game). It’s not as immersive as Dungeons and Dragons, but each player in Imperial Assault does get to pick their own unique character to play throughout a campaign. 

This game is best with five players: four people play as the Rebels, and one plays as the Imperials to oppose them. You battle on various maps throughout the campaign, and at each level you get bonus cards to make your characters more powerful. 

If you don’t have enough players (or time) to play through a campaign, this game also has a one-on-one skirmish mode that allows you to play through one stand-alone battle. I personally prefer the campaign mode of this game, because it feels like you’re playing through a story, but it’s nice to have both options. 

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