The Undercity, Firefly, Fury of Dracula + 8 more geeky board games to roll the dice on

The complexity and creativity of board games have come a long way since the days Parcheesi, Monopoly and Risk, household staples of every American game closet and toy chest in the 20th century.  With the advent of the new wave of themed Eurogames starting two decades ago with titles like Settlers of Catan, Tikal, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride and others, avid gamers gathering on Sunday evenings in church basements, family dinner tables and geek dens have been treated to a vast wealth of imaginative new titles set in the wild realms of steampunk, sci-fi, dark fantasy, arcane adventure, gothic horror and every imaginable hybrid.   Whether a classic dungeon crawler, dice-tossing, mystery card collecting, miniature questing or intricate role-playing romp, there's a game for every possible taste and inclination.  Here's a sampling of some of the more popular offerings from this modern renaissance of tabletop games existing in the nerdier corners of the industry.

Take a look and tell us which ones you're already addicted to or feel might be worth congregating over with a cadre of friends.

FURY OF DRACULA (FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES)

The dead travel fast in this latest incarnation of Fantasy Flight Games' Fury of Dracula, with players attempting to hunt down the infamous vampire as he spreads a red reign of supernatural terror across Victorian Europe.  This gothic horror mystery game based on Bram Stoker's sensual novel features a beautifully rendered gaming arena reminiscent of vintage maps and its intriguing gameplay involves luring Dracula into clever traps between day and night rounds.  A single opponent acts as the dreaded King of Vampires while up to four other gamers take up the cause as Mina Harker and her crew of killers while they attempt to elude Prince Vlad's deceptive ploy of psychological hide and seek. - Jeff Spry

THE CAPTAIN IS DEAD (THE GAME CRAFTER)

Okay, so Kickstarted game The Captain Is Dead isn’t actually based on Star Trek. But it feels and plays like Star Trek…if the Enterprise were royally screwed. A collaborative game, you and the crew are fighting multiple disasters and intrusions, and each of you use your special abilities to keep yourselves alive and manning the right station at the right time. Choose from seven different roles, with three different specialties within that role. Each character has its own abilities, only some of which are helpful at any given time. Get the jump drive online, you win. I assure you, it’s easier said than done. Suggestion: Choose the admiral, who can draw a battle plan from any location. You’re welcome. - Carol Pinchefsky

THE UNDERCITY (PRIVATEERS PRESS)

Delve deep inside the subterranean labyrinths of this dark fantasy game and discover the mystical secrets hiding below the realm of Corvis.  The Undercity: An Iron Kingdoms Adventure Board Game from Privateers Press is a classic co-operative dungeon crawl amusement where 2-4 players join ranks to reveal a brewing ancient evil where steampunk meets sword and scorcery  It's a lush game design with rich details, packed with 40 different miniatures with 16 different sculpts.  Leap into the Black River Irregulars' odyssey as Milo Boggs (the alchemist), Canice Gormleigh (the gun mage), Gardek Stonebrow (a trollkin warrior), or Pog (a gobber mechanic) who controls a light warjack named Doorstop.Set in the same universe as Privateer Press' Warmachine and Hordes. - Jeff Spry

ALCHEMISTS (CZECH GAMES)

What if ye olde alchemists had to research and publish just like the scientists of today? Alchemists is a board game based on this hilarious premise. And just like the scientists of today your rivals, a.k.a. the other players, can debunk your scientific theories, and your university can give you grants. Here, you need to use logic to deduce which combination of ingredients yields specific results. Get it right, win some points; publish incorrect theories, lose some points. The alchemist with the most points wins. In addition, Alchemists has a smartphone/tablet component, so you can use iOS, Android, or Windows to read your ingredients, a nifty concept. - Carol Pinchefsky

PLANET STEAM (FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES)

If it's piping hot in the room blame Planet Steam, an economic science fiction game set in the year 2415 and centering around the harvesting of resources on the world of Steam, a planet containing a 6,500-degree core of hot rocks, water ore and quartz.  2-5 players take on the roles of entrepreneurs in a crazy steampunk boomtown, racing to assemble equipment, claim valuable plots of land, extract rare resources, and accumulate vast riches.  Once these resources are obtained using various tanks and converters, players must buy and sell those resources in a turbulent market to build their empire, trading and dealing for airship and dirigible transports to sell their wares off-world. The ruthless player able to strategically manipulate the market to their advantage and gain the most wealth can reign as King of Planet Steam. - Jeff Spry

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: THE BOARD GAME (FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES)

All you have to do to win Battlestar Galactica the game is to reach Kobol and jump away. It’s about as simple as it was in the television show...that is to say, not at all. You’ll find yourself performing actions and resolving crisis cards at every turn, and there are multiple crisis to thwart you. Plus, not everyone is as human as he/she seems—and the Cylon(s) has conflicting goals of their own. This is-he-or-isn't-he-an-evil-Cylon question infuses the game with a sense of paranoia, which captures of the feeling of the television show perfectly. So say we all. - Carol Pinchefsky

TAIL FEATHERS (PLAID HAT GAMES)

Set in the universe of Mice and Mystics, this fantasy, head-to-head skirmish game uses the beautifully carved birds and creatures of artist Chad Hoverter.  Tail Feathers is a standalone game in which the same miniatures from Mice and Mystics can be used.  Suitable for kids and adults, the cinematic story revolves around villainous rats atop vicious hunting birds pillaging the humble mouse settlement across Meanderfield.  Brave mice mounted on heroic starlings and blue jays swoop in to do battle against this formidable alliance.  Send the daring pilots of the Downwood Militia into soaring action against the Vermin Raiders, direct your ground troops on dangerous missions, lock beaks with opposing birds and defend your nest while attempting to gain aerial supremacy. - Jeff Spry

FIREFLY THE GAME (GALEFORCE 9)

Firefly the Game embraces Firefly the TV series’ original premise: Find a crew, find a job, keep flying. With different winning conditions—depending on the scenario you draw before you start—this big damned board game has a ridiculous amount of replayability…all of it steeped in the ‘Verse we love. The board is massive, and unless you’re paying close attention, it can take forever to make the right decision. Seriously, my first time playing lasted almost as long as Firefly did on Fox. Snif. - Carol Pinchefsky

ANDROID: NETRUNNER (FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES)

This is an ultra-cool asymmetrical two-player card game set in the cyberpunk world of Android and Infiltrator, where evil megacorps own and control all of human interests.  In this possible Gibsonian future of high cybercrime, humans have colonized the Moon and Mars while faceless corporations evolve the techno-science of braintaping, allowing for the development of lifelike artificial intelligence. Corporation players attempt to score points by advancing their ruthless agendas, blockading secrets behind Intrusive Countermeasures Electronics (ICE) and guarding their intellectual properties from the elite corp of hackers known as Netrunners. - Jeff Spry

BATMAN FLUXX (LOONEY LABS)

With ever-changing rules and fluctuating winning goals, Fluxx is one of my favorite card games. (After all, you can win by holding the “sun” and “chocolate” cards, for the winning condition “squishy chocolate.”) Batman Fluxx is one of Looney Labs’ many variant games, and it bases its look and feel on Batman: The Animated Series. As with every Fluxx game, you draw one card and play one card. But here, the winning conditions include holding both Batman and the Bat-Signal cards, which gives you the goal of "I am the night." Also, your “keeper” cards can have special abilities and drawbacks. For example, you have to toss your Bruce Wayne card if the Batman card is on the table. Neat. - Carol Pinchefsky

PANDEMIC: LEGACY (Z-MAN GAMES)

We’re saving the best for last, Pandemic: Legacy, rated #1 on BoardGameGeek. It combines the fabulous Pandemic, a tense and difficult cooperative game, with the permanent changes to the board of Risk Legacy. In this game, you and your pals are leading the Centers for Disease Control, trying to save the world. This game is played out over twelve+ sessions, and each session represents the worst month ever…until the next month. Players rip up cards and place permanent stickers on others. And some characters die, removing them completely from gameplay. It’s an investment of your time and energy, but it gives as good as it gets. - Carol Pinchefsky

 

 

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