tabletop entertainment

USTUDIO recommends board games | Guide by Freddie (In-Store Game expert)

Board games have seen a huge resurgence in recent times where they have become the social antidote to an often unsocial digital age. But you don’t have to stick to the classics (yawn), and you don’t have to fall out with your friends and family (I am speaking as someone who once cried and stormed out of the room over a game of Risk).

USTUDIO can help you find the game you are looking for! We asked our resident board game expert and all-round lovely guy Freddie to help with some common board game dilemmas and point you towards the right game for everyone, from the obsessive through to the most reluctant player. Read on for everything you need to know to find the perfect game for all different player types and social scenarios.

best for large groups - bristol 1350

Freddie - Bristol 1350- a game for up to 9 players, where they must escape Bristol during the plague, without letting the illness also escape the city. Players hide their cards which tell them if they’ve caught the plague and have to share cards not knowing who to trust. This dice rolling hidden role game plays best with more players, bringing betrayal and distrust!

Desc. - The dreaded Black Death has descended upon the town of Bristol. In the Bristol 1350 board game  you are racing down the streets in one of the three available apple carts, desperate to escape into the safety of the countryside. If your cart is the first to leave the town and it is full of only healthy villagers when you leave, you and your fellow cart-mates successfully escape and win the game!

However, some villagers on your cart may already have the plague! They are hiding their early symptoms from you so that they can enjoy their last few days in peace. If you leave town with a plagued villager on your cart, you will catch the plague. You must do whatever is necessary to make sure that doesn't happen!

On the surface Bristol 1350 is part co-operative teamwork, part racing strategy, and part social deduction. In reality, it's a selfish scramble to get yourself out of town as quickly as possible without the plague, by any means necessary.

The game comes in a magnetic book box and includes a rubber playmat, 9 wood pawns, 3 miniature carts, 6 rat/apple dice, a linen bag, and 64 cards.

best for experienced gamers - everdell

Freddie - That would be Everdell -a highly acclaimed tableau building and worker placement game with beautiful artwork, building up your anthromomorphised animals forest city around the evertree. The artwork and 3D tree board are really stunning, and it’s been celebrated on geeky sites since release. They’ve got expansions available, so will be something enthusiasts want to have and keep playing.

Desc. - Everdell is a charming and beautifully presented board game of medium complexity for 1-4 players. 

You play as the leader of a group of animals trying to build new territories full of critters and constructions. The turn based core game mechanics are a combination of card drafting, worker placement, and engine building but all done with such great balance and pacing that it is a joy to play.

The game also a must for its presentation. It has stunning artwork, a fab 3D tree as part of the board so it looks great on your table top. Coupled with an engaging and well paced and balanced gameplay it makes this a wholesome and firm favourite.

best game for 2 players - Radlands

Freddie - I’d recommend Radlands- a highly competitive “mad max” post-apocalyptic style 2 player game where you place cards to defend your base and launch powerful attacks against your opponent. A really nicely themed game that is designed for two players, with a small enough box to take for trips or holidays.

Desc. - Radlands is a 2 player card game where the players act as leaders of rival gangs of post apocalyptic survivors. The idea is to protect your three camps from the vicious rival tribe (your opponent.) whilst also trying to destroy your rivals' camps. If all of your camps are destroyed, you lose the game, but destroy your opponents camps and you are victorious.

The main resource in the game is water. You will spend it to play people and events, and to use the abilities of cards you already have on the table. People protect your camps and provide useful abilities, while events are powerful effects that take time to pay off.

best for simplicity / fewest rules - micromacro

Freddie - MicroMacro: Crime City is a cooperative game where you spread out a large map of a city where many (cutely drawn) crimes are happening, and you work as a team following victims and suspects to solve them. A clever concept that is all about searching and locating characters on the map and then discussing what the clues tell you is happening.

Desc. - Much like a giant deduction based 'Where's Wally', MicroMacro gets you scrutinising a massive illustrated isometric city map to try and solve crimes that have taken place all over the city. This is a board game for people who really dislike competitive board games!

There are 16 cases to solve with each case giving a number of clues by way of cards which lead you to various places on the map. The map will feature characters that appear more than once, capturing their antics in both time and location which helps you solve the various crimes. You can use more or less of the card clues to help you determine what happened, so depending on your super sleuth deduction levels it can be easier or harder to win.

best for entry level gamers - canvas

Freddie - Canvas- in this creative game players layer transparent cards with images on to build up 3 abstract artworks which then get scored at the end of the game. The imagery on the cards is beautifully designed and the number of potential combinations is huge, players will spend as much time admiring their works as playing the game.

Desc. - Canvas is a perfect entry level board game for 1-5 arty types or anyone looking for a quick to pick up after dinner family game.

The premise is that you are a painter in a competition where you collect elements of a painting to create an artwork. The elements are printed on clear acetate cards so you can overlay them to create a visual art piece and the piece is scored using a system of icons that are hidden or revealed depending on how the art cards are layered.

Best fun party game - wavelength

Freddie - Wavelength- a team game good for parties or family gatherings. Each team chooses a member to spin the wheel on a randomly selected scale (hot to cold, overrated actor to underrated actor etc), then give a single clue to their team to work out where on the scale they were indicating. Simple to set up and easy to split into teams for, the wheel is a sturdy piece that pops up from the box. Players will think their clue is perfect and then be amused and shocked as their team come up with a different conclusion (or potentially get it spot on).

Desc. - Wavelength is a social guessing game where two teams compete to read each other's minds. 

Teams must try and locate the hidden bullseye on a spectrum. One player (the 'psychic') knows the location of the bullseye and will draw a card with a binary phrase (eg Hot/Cold or Dangerous/Safe.) They then must give a clue as to where on the binary spectrum the bullseye is located. For example, a clue for Dangerous / Safe may be 'texting while driving.' The team then turns the dial on the spectrum based on the clue and the nearer they get to the bullseye, the more points are scored.

It’s a thrilling experience of talking and thinking and also has some of that deep word game sorcery, like Codenames, where your decisions feel tense, strategic and meaningful. 

best for travel / play anywhere - love letter

Freddie - Love Letter is ace - a small portable card game that comes in a sturdy pouch to throw in a bag or put in your pocket. The rules are simple to grasp, you have to keep one card in the your hand, on your go you pick up another, and choose one to play to activate abilities such looking at your opponent’s card. At the end of the game the player with the highest number card (ideally the princess) wins. Such a classic game, easy to learn, always fun to play with any player count from 2-5 and very portable, without the need for a big board.

Desc. - Love Letter is a quick game of risk and deduction, can you outwit your friends and earn the trust of the Princess? 

The noble Princess is looking for an ideal partner and confidant to help with her royal duties when she one day assumes the throne. You must prove your worth and gain her trust by enlisting allies, friends, and family of the Princess to carry a letter of intent to her. Can you earn the Princess' trust and become her confidant?

This 2019 edition of Love Letter features new artwork by Citadels artist Andrew Bosley, screen-printed tokens, and two new characters (five cards in total) that allow for games with up to six players. When played, the Chancellor (value 6) allows you to draw two new cards, add those to your hand, then place two cards of your choice on the bottom of the deck. The Spy (value 0) wins you a favor token if you were the only player to play or discard a spy during the round.

best for reluctant gamers - junk art

Freddie - Junk Art would be just perfect. Using 60 wooden shapes to build precarious towers, this game is like a more interesting Jenga. The shapes are all brightly coloured and interesting and the rules encourage different win conditions (fastest to use their pieces, last tower standing etc). It is less ‘board gamey’ but very social and fun to play.

A great family game of balancing and dexterity, players compete in over a dozen challenges to make beautiful 'art' out of junk!

Much like a sophisticated game of 'Jenga', players carefully balance the irregular wooden shapes on top of each other in an attempt to out play their opponents. 

best overall classic board game - 7 wonders

Freddie - That would be 7 Wonders. An absolute classic game, one of my favourites of all time. Each player builds up their civilization around their wonder of the ancient world, playing cards to build new additions, getting more complex over three eras. The game is perfectly balanced, with a player count from 3-7 players. There are light social elements as you trade with your neighbour, and each card played feels like you are making progress. It’s a truly brilliant game.

Desc. - 7 Wonders is an internationally acclaimed game of civilisation-building and card-drafting in the ancient world and has won more awards than you can shake a stick at!The aim is to guide a historic civilisation through three ages, developing your culture, science and military while building a Wonder that will serve as your crowning achievement.

The game plays out over 3 rounds, called Ages, during which you simultaneously play cards, one at a time, to develop your City. These cards represent the various Buildings you can construct: resource producers, civilian, commercial, military, scientific structures, and guilds and at the end of each Age, you go to war with your nearest neighbours!