During the COVID pandemic, almost everyone is faced with a choice. We want to keep ourselves, our family and friends, and our neighbors safe, naturally. But doing so requires a drastic change in lifestyle. In addition to other changes, staying home for recreation is a surprisingly big one.
How do people do it? How do you spend so much time at home? For many, this sounds incredibly boring and makes the pandemic harder to cope with. For others, this sounds like heaven – an excuse to stay home and play games. So, the introverts here at Level One Game Shop want to help out our extrovert friends! Here are 5 of our favorite long-form board games to help make those self-quarantine hours pass by quickly.
Board games with long game times tend to be long simply because they have a lot of pieces. Which, if you have time for it, is great! Collecting and hoarding little bits of cardboard and plastic is a special kind of satisfying. Watching a combat unfold before you – in miniature! – is remarkably thrilling. Imperial Assault is fun in both of these ways, in addition to letting you craft your own Star Wars story along the way!
Players each take control of their own Rebel hero, guiding them through achieving strategic Rebel objectives – or even personal goals. Game after game, the Rebel heroes level up and find newer, fancier gear to slice through Imperial resistance. Their upgrade path, and story, are both determined by their player and how they choose to work with the team.
Now, for the Empire, Imperial Assault has two modes. In the original version of the game, a lone player controls the whole of the Empire. They manage each Stormtrooper, Imperial Guard, Nexu Beast, and even the towering AT-ST walker. The Empire also levels up in the campaign the same way the Rebels do, responding to the increased Rebel threat.
Alternatively, Imperial Assault’s publisher has released a free app that runs on your phone, tablet or web browser. The app will automate the Empire player, turning Imperial Assault into a completely co-operative affair.
Find out more about Imperial Assault at BoardGameGeek!
Speaking of campaigns, Legacy-style board games started out as a fad that has converted to a genre all its own. Legacy games have the unique feature of altering every time they’re played. The game’s box includes envelopes and containers that are opened only when the game’s rules say so. Each box adds new content or altering existing content. Legacy games rely on using this slow reveal to tell a long story over a series of games.
One of our favorite legacy games is Betrayal Legacy. It’s based on the cult hit Betrayal at House on the Hill, which is already a very story-driven game. Betrayal Legacy stitches the short stories of Betrayal at House on the Hill into a long novel, playable a chapter at a time.
In Betrayal Legacy, the players experience first-hand the epic, generations-long battle with an extra-dimensional evil. The eternal haunted house is the focal point of these adventures. Even players have completed the Legacy campaign, the haunted house persists. Players can still play the board game, but now it’s been customized by the players’ experiences.
Find out more about Betrayal Legacy at BoardGameGeek!
Before we leave the cardboard kingdom of board games, let’s talk about heavy strategy games. When heavy strategy games have long play times, it’s not necessarily because they’re telling a grand story, it’s because of their complexity.
Indeed, many hobbyist board gamers seek out complex games with long play times. Heavy strategy games offer a richness and depth that smaller games can’t. They often have multiple viable strategies for victory. Players can find subtleties that allows them to find their own way and explore a variety of play styles.
Terraforming Mars is a great example. It can take two or three hours to play, and there are certainly a lot of pieces and components to the game. However, Terraforming Mars, at its core, is just a drafting game. If Sushi Go! is a sleek, svelte lizard dashing through the desert, Terraforming Mars is a powerful and elegant dragon, cruising over mountaintops.
Terraforming Mars puts this drafting gameplay into a heavy strategy context, and gains all the wonderful depth from it. There are many ways to score victory points, and several different mechanics with their own strategic lines of play. With so much strategic space to explore and such a high skill ceiling, Terraforming Mars rewards players who like replaying games over and over.
Find out more about Terraforming Mars at BoardGameGeek!
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Ok, now let’s talk about games that can be even more time-consuming. Role-playing games are, at their heart, story-driven exercises. They tend to be much slower-paced than simply reading a book or watching a movie. Each player has an opportunity to shape the story. Sometimes even the smallest action can have large repercussions on the narrative.
We’re recommending the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set because it’s a full-featured, accessible and affordable package of RPG storytelling. D&D is the original RPG, and is still the most widely-played. The most recent Fifth Edition of the game is arguably the best edition ever. Fifth Edition is a finely-tuned engine for telling fantasy stories of danger, darkness, magic, and heroism.
A solid RPG session probably takes about 3 or 4 hours to play. With that much time, players will feel like they’ve seen a significant amount of the story. The Starter Set’s campaign is a short one, but will cover maybe a dozen 3-6 hour sessions. It’s also a fantastic story for people new to D&D. It starts off with a little bit of combat, provides a charming little town with memorable characters. And of course, the story has plenty of ruins and dungeons to explore and dangers to face.
Find out more about the D&D Starter Set here!
Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Storm Strike Starter Kit
Warhammer is, by design, one of the largest scale tabletop games ever. In its fullest mode, Warhammer 40,000 has players assembling collections of troops, vehicles, and commanders. Players also can paint each one, customizing their army to tell their own little slice of a grand story. Then, they pit their army against other players’ armies in grand tabletop battles.
Like Dungeons & Dragons, Warhammer can be a hobby unto itself, even a combination of hobbies. Both Warhammer 40,000 and its fantasy counterpart Warhammer: Age of Sigmar have endless depth in customization and metagame strategies. The painting and customization side is also a deep and rewarding hobby in its own right. Miniature painting has a tremendously high skill ceiling and its own community of devotees. Then there’s the lore – the mysteriously engaging library of grimdark tales that somehow strike a balance between over-the-top absurdity and captivating coolness.
It’s easy to recommend a whole new hobby to occupy one’s time during quarantine times, sure. However, let’s flex a little bit and recommend something a little more subtle. We know ways in which to dabble in Warhammer and enjoy a little of every aspect of the wider palette. Sort of like wargame tapas!
Our go to here is the Storm Strike Starter Kit. This is probably the smallest scale game of Warhammer that players can play. In a nice, self-contained single box, there’s several figures for two different factions, rules, dice, and rulers. The figures are designed to be easy to assemble and made from differently colored plastic, so players can skip painting. The rules are slimmed down to allow players to start as quickly as possible. And there’s still enough content in the box to be a fun, single-serving game alongside Catan and Ticket To Ride.
Find out more about the Warhammer: Age of Sigmar Storm Strike Starter Kit at BoardGameGeek!
Long-Form Games to Pass the Time
We at Level One Game Shop are very used to recommending shorter, more accessible games under normal circumstances. Things have changed, though, and many people have the free time to explore new passions and interests. These five recommendations will help you get started on your journey into brave new ideas in tabletop games.