Sep 21, 2020
Here are our favorite new lockdown games we're playing in lockdown
Online lockdown board games during the quarantine. What to play? Despite all the disadvantages of self-isolation, it has one big plus: this is an excellent time to try something new or catch up with things you’ve wanted to do. Read books that have been gathering dust on the shelf for a long time, listen to lecture tapes, watch films, or find a new hobby, such as board lockdown games.
Isolation is not a hindrance to tabletops, because they can be played safely on a PC. All you need for this is Discord or Skype and a utility for the game itself. In our case, this is the Tabletop Simulator: a virtual "game table" available on Steam. In it, you can swarm alone (there is no usual AI in the board lockdown games, but some include rules for one player), or you can create a server and invite friends or random people from the in-game chat.
To put it mildly, the program is far from ideal, but it supports integration with the workshop. The TS board game library includes all the best board lockdown games from the last twenty years. Moreover, both those that have long ceased to be published and those that hurt finances: a hobby is not the cheapest. And in TS, you only have to pay for the game itself; the workshop's content is free.
Tabletop Simulator runs on a physics engine, so there is even an option to turn the tabletop over out of spite - just like in real life. Usually, beginners are advised of simpler board lockdown games - those that can be mastered in one evening. But this time, we decided not to fill the list with casual lockdown games alone. It includes, first, worthwhile lockdown games with a curious theme, competent mechanics, and excellent game play. Some of them are more difficult to master than others, but nothing super difficult is included. We also note in advance that not all the lockdown games presented have localizations.
Economy lockdown games are one of the most popular genres in the industry. Here you are not just making money, but rather solving problems - preferably with minimal losses, almost like in computer management simulators.
An army of monsters besieges a small town, and the only thing that can save the situation is capitalism. You and your comrades are the owners of shops where you equip adventurers to fight evil spirits; the task is to serve customers and, at the same time, become the best merchant in the city. But each savior hero has his own needs, and monsters have vulnerabilities. So you need to not only get rich but also make sure that you do not send the hero to certain death by selling him beautiful but useless armor. And you can also get caught selling magic weapons just on the day the inquisitor arrived in the city. Or forget to put your best lot on the window and miss the buyer. In general there are a lot of problems to solve, but you can handle it, after all that is the fun of the game.
Agricola, Caverna and A Feast for Odin
It is best to talk about these projects in conjunction: one developer is responsible for all three, and all of them are devoted to farm management. The difference is, for the most part, only in scale. In Agricola, you work on a small farm, in Caverna, you arrange the life of a tribe of cavemen, and in A Feast for Odin, you try to feed an entire Viking clan. You always need to take care that the charges do not starve to death, but otherwise, these are surprisingly meditative lockdown games. Know yourself, raise livestock, harvest crops, and slowly develop technologies - but the process is delayed due to the enormous scope for tactics. Besides, despite their similarities, all lockdown games have incredibly different dynamics, so at least one of them will surely suit your taste. In Agricola, you will often clash with other players for rare maps and resources, while in A Feast for Odin, there is almost no confrontation - you can send your Vikings to even another continent.
Food chain magnate
Food Chain Magnate is sometimes referred to as the "High-Speed Monopoly," which is not so far from the truth. The difference is that in "Monopoly," you can go bankrupt at any time from the roll of the dice, but here - from your own decisions. Or if another player suddenly decided to sell their cheap burgers on your territory.
In the restaurant owner's role, you need to hire employees, organize advertising campaigns, and make sure that there are enough goods in the warehouse, and there is a demand for them. But the market in Food Chain Magnate is free: the game does not give favors to those who lag and does not put a spoke in the wheels of those who rush forward. Therefore, the only way to survive in a small town is to act effectively. Manipulate prices, cut opponents, use someone else's marketing to your advantage, feel out the market situation. The game rules are quite simple, but the gameplay itself is ruthless: it's not for nothing that Food Chain Magnate is known as one of the best board lockdown games in the genre.
War lockdown games
The genre's name speaks for itself: in these lockdown games, you need to control your armies to defeat others. Or to take essential points on the map faster than opponents. Not only are tactics essential here, but also the ability to cooperate with opponents at certain times.
Inis is an extremely dynamic wargame, where bloodshed does not always solve all problems. As the leaders of the clans of the ancient Celts, you and your comrades will compete for the king's title. You can earn it in one of three ways: by showing your strength, by taking possession of the land, or by building enough temples. But there is one catch - there is not enough space on the map for everyone, so at every step, you have to push your elbows and adapt to the situation.
Inis is a game not so much about war as about tactics and the ability to "read" an opponent at the right moment. Four cards are dealt with everyone at the beginning of the round, and the players gradually exchange them - no new cards appear. That is, everyone knows in advance what can happen on the field, the number of events is strictly limited, and you have at least some information about who gets which cards. It remains only to figure out who and when will inevitably make you a pod. But this riddle has no right answer, and it gets more complicated with each new game.
If you've ever wondered what a Dawn of War series would look like in turn-based strategy format, then don't pass up Forbidden Stars. In it, ultramarines, orcs, chaosites, and eldars clash in the war for the Herakon sector, according to all the canons of Warhammer 40,000. Infantry, equipment, fleet go into battle - you can even control warp storms to block the enemy's path to the goal. Units of all factions, of course, are unique: each has select properties and different ways to level up. Moreover, bluffing plays a significant role in this whole meat grinder, because orders to the troops are distributed behind closed doors: you see where the opponents will act, but you do not know what exactly they will do. The gameplay is full of nuances - many board gamers value Forbidden Stars precisely for its tactical depth. And linking to a well-known franchise is just a nice bonus.
Twilight Imperium 4th Edition
The legendary Twilight Imperium is one of the most ambitious lockdown games in the history of the industry. This is a full-fledged 4X strategy and done with such a scale and attention to detail that even some computer counterparts can only envy. Seriously, it has almost everything that comes to mind with the words "space strategy": almost two dozen races with unique abilities and technologies, huge fleet battles, interstellar trade, politics, secret alliances, and betrayals. The intertwining of these mechanics makes the game completely unpredictable; each game is an event that will be remembered for a long time. Twilight Imperium is not easy to master, and sometimes it takes a prohibitive amount of time - but trust me, it's worth it.
Cooperative lockdown games
Cooperative lockdown games are another popular niche in the industry. As in the case of war lockdown games, the name fully reflects the essence of the genre: in co-op, you do not compete with friends, but together try to "defeat" the game. Which, as a rule, is extremely difficult - but the victories are sweeter because of the challenge.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 and Season 2
Probably the hottest game on the list. As specialists at the Center for Disease Control, you are trying to develop vaccines for four viruses that are sweeping the planet. You need to rush around the globe to collect enough data and along the way to help the infected cities - otherwise, the situation could get out of control. The main feature of Pandemic Legacy is that it is a "storyline" game: the story is conventionally divided into twelve months-parties, and each subsequent one introduces new mechanics, nuances, and possibilities. Also, the consequences of your decisions persist between parties. If you foolishly made a mistake, then it will backfire on you more than once. The plot never ceases to amaze until the very end - you don't expect the twists here. Only, if anything, play both board lockdown games in order. The second season is one big spoiler for the events of the first.
The topic of colonialism is trendy in board lockdown games: on its basis, it is easy to do projects repeatedly where white people develop the resources of third world countries. Spirit Island turns this idea upside down. Here you play not as invaders from the mainland, but as ancient spirits trying to drive the invaders from their home island. While you gradually gain power, waking up after centuries of sleep, the colonists controlled by the game are also awake. They continuously send scouts to new lands and lay settlements, along the way, of course, destroying your temples and killing residents. Thanks to this, this lockdown game turns out to be more than dramatic: at first, you will fight back with your last strength and continuously balance on the brink of defeat, but if you hold out long enough, you can effortlessly sweep significant cities off the face of the earth. In a word, Spirit Island is an unusual take on a hackneyed topic: thoughtful in the right way to approach it, and it is insanely replayable.
Tragedy Looper is the easiest to describe with an analogy: Imagine Groundhog Day, but as a good anime thriller. Three protagonists find themselves in a city where typical schoolchildren, yakuza, pop idols, and aliens quietly coexist. Something terrible must happen to someone from the city's inhabitants, and the fourth player - the master - must organize this "something terrible" to win. For example, to set up an accident, or to bring the killer and his victim together. The heroes, however, do not know which of the inhabitants they should keep away from, and which must be saved at any cost; moreover, the rules prohibit them from discussing their moves and openly coordinating their actions.
This is where time loops come in. Every time the protagonists lose, the round starts over: everything returns to normal, and the players have a few minutes to share their guesses. In a few words, all this may sound confusing, but in reality Tragedy Looper is an incredibly intense murder mystery. The protagonists and the master play cat and mouse with each other: the first try to understand what is going on in general, and the second - not to give out their plans ahead of time. If you like detective stories and smart social puzzles, be sure to give it a try.
One line recommendations
If we undertook to tell about all the board lockdown games that are worth paying attention to, this text would turn out to be too long - even if we wrote about each one with a paragraph. Therefore, here will be a few words about good projects that are not included in other categories but can still be good fun.
If you need something for two players, you can take a closer look at 7 Wonders: Duel. Roughly speaking, this is a very compact version of computer Civilization: you develop the economy, research technology, passive-aggressively fight with your neighbor. In terms of depth, the game is not inferior to broad strategies, and the game lasts only forty minutes - the perfect thing to arrange gatherings for 3-5 matches in a row.
If you want something for two players, but more serious, ask yourself this question: What do you like more - "Star Wars" or "The Lord of the Rings"? If the former, take a look at Star Wars: Rebellion, and if the latter, take a look at War of the Ring. Both allow you to relive their trilogies' events from a different angle, or even wholly replay them in a new way. Luke may well go to the dark side of the Force, and the fellowship of hobbits may disappear two steps from the Shire.
Need entertainment for the crowd? Throw in Tournament at Camelot serves up a tournament starring Arthurian heroes as a bribe card game. And the illustrations evoke memories of memes about the "suffering Middle Ages."
Need something more conversational or social? Then Codenames or Decrypto. Both boards are tied to guessing words by associations, but they have enough differences to provide players with a completely different experience.