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Why board games?

Why not?

Cones of Dunshire NBC
Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Board games have had one hell of a resurgence in recent years. According to ICv2, a trade publication which tracks comics, games, collectible figures, and related markets, has been growing for six straight years and is now 2.25 times larger than it was in 2008.

More specifically, “Euro games” — the term gamers use for German-style board games that emphasize strategy over chance and generally revolve around managing scarce resources — have become increasingly mainstream. Comparing them to childhood favorites, it isn’t hard to see why. Games like Candyland or Snakes and Ladders are basically elaborately presented dice-rolling exercises, with no element of strategy or skill. Once you no longer have the brain of a seven-year-old, even games that are mostly rather than entirely chance (say, Monopoly) are boring and frustrating, and ones such as Candyland are borderline torture. The best Euro games eliminate chance almost entirely, and are way, way better for it.

People around the world are increasingly embracing the German style. Smartphone and Xbox versions of popular Euro games have proven immensely popular; the train-building game Ticket to Ride was the third most popular game on the iTunes App Store upon release, and boosted sales of the physical game in the process. Parks and Recreation gave the genre a boost by revealing that character Ben Wyatt is a nationally ranked player of Catan, the first Euro game to go big in the US. And the show took it a step further when the character developed his own Euro game, the Cones of Dunshire (designed for the series by the since-defunct Mayfair Games, the publishers of Settlers).

But, as popular as the games have become, Euro gaming can be intimidating for neophytes. The games typically require much more setup than traditional games like Monopoly or Scrabble, and have steeper learning curves as well. So here are eleven Euro games, in order of difficulty, for newbies to dive into. Most of them also have versions for iPhone, iPad, Android, or Xbox Arcade, so you can try them out relatively cheaply before dropping $40 or more on a physical copy. Many are also available as modules for Vassal, a free board game runner for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.

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