Board Gaming Gifts That Do The Shopping For You

These two Board Gaming Gift ideas solve the age old problem: How do you buy a board game for the board game geek in your life who seems to already have…ALL THE GAMES?

Such GREAT ideas for buying a gifts for gamers! I never would have thought of that second option, but now I'm pretty sure that's going to be the best gift I've ever given!

Like all my posts, this one about buying a board gaming gift absolutely has affiliate links in it. This includes an affiliate partnership with UnboxBoardom. These links don’t influence my opinions about a product or service and if you are curious as to why this disclosure is even here in the first place, you can find the answer by reading my full disclosure policy.

My family faces this problem every year…they ask me for my Christmas list, and I send them a list of board games. They are then faced with 2 potential problems:

  • What if someone else already purchased one of the games on my list for me?
  • What do I do if that game isn’t available on Amazon?

Not only that, but sometimes the titles of games are just plain confusing to non-gamers. For example: if I put Kingdomino on my list, I could see myself opening up a box of dominos on Christmas morning. I failed to consider this first world problem when I asked for Scythe last year and in hindsight I consider myself extremely lucky that I didn’t end with a really sharp grass cutting blade.

My family aren’t the only ones in this boat. I find myself in the same predicament whenever I consider buying board games as gifts for my other gamer friends because I struggle to remember what’s in their collection and what isn’t. And of course I have the same quandary as to whether or not they may already be getting that gift from someone else.

So what should you do?!

Well, of course there’s always the option of buying Gifts for Gamers That Aren’t Games. That’s totally a viable solution. But sometimes…you just want to get them a board game. They are gamers after-all.

Let me suggest 2 solutions to the game gifting conundrum, and if you stick with me until the end, you’ll get an exclusive offer just for Art of Boardgaming readers!

1. The Obvious One…A Gift Card

In years gone by (and possibly even today) many people see the gift card as a tacky way out of having to decide what to give someone. For me personally…. I couldn’t disagree more.

Amazon Gift cards are a fantastic board game gift!

Yes, I do love knowing that someone spent a lot of time and energy on a gift. And yes, the thoughts really do count! But never do I look at an Amazon Gift Card of any amount and go “Oh man… that person didn’t care enough to find something for me.” 

Instead…after I thank them for their generosity, my brain instantly begins to go through my Board Game Wish list and wonder what game that gift card is going toward!

Not only that, but if your gamer friend or family member has some pretty expensive games on their list, and your gifting budget is, well, not as big as the price tag, your gift card can be combined with other gift cards to pay for his or her shiny new box of cardboard and plastic.

Basically what I’m trying to say, is that if you put a nice note with a gift card telling them that “Hey – This is money towards that game you’ve got your eye on” it’s totally NOT a cop-out gift.

2. The Surprise Choice…A Board Game Subscription

This year I was introduced to a new service that, to be frank, I never thought I would be interested in. It’s called UnboxBoardom and it’s a subscription service…for board games.

UnboxBoardom, your board game gift HQ

UnboxBoardom is just like Blue Apron, Dollar Shave Club, or Kiwi Co; but way cooler. Just like those other crate delivery services they will send you a box every month, every other month, or every third month; but instead of razors or food in the box… it’s a GAME.

Let me tell you quickly how it works. Oh, and stick around and I’ll tell you how to save $10 on your first subscription!

1. You Buy the Subscription

Right on the UnboxBoardom homepage, click on “Give as a Gift” and select the subscription plan you would like to gift your friend. Then let the website walk you right through the checkout process!

There are three plans to choose from:

  • 4 games a year (one game every 3 months)
  • 6 games per year (one game every other month), or
  • 12 games per year (one game each month)

Each plan costs about $30 per box, so of course the bigger the plan, the more expensive your gift.

Be sure to select "Give as a Gift" when purchasing your board game gift subscription at UnboxBoardom

2. Your FRIEND Chooses The Game

As long as you select “No…I’ll be the expert” as you checkout, on the first of the month, the lucky gamer will receive an email letting them know that UnboxBoardom is about to send them a free game! And not only that, but they get to choose between 3 board game options!

Now while these games aren’t $90 games, many of them are great games that belong in any good game collection. Games like Power Grid, Pandemic, Sheriff of Nottingham, Baseball Highlights 2045, and Plague Inc. And they are worth the subscription fee.

For example, as I write this post, Plague Inc is selling for $39 on Amazon, which if my high-school math serves me correctly is almost $10 MORE than the price you would have paid for that months subscription.

I mean, I WAS home schooled.

Then with a simple mouse click your excited friend will select their game. Easy peasy!

3. The Game Arrives

Around the 15th of that month, a package will show up at your favorite gamer’s front door!

My Board Game Gift arrived from UnboxBoardom in THIS VERY BOX!

And that’s just the beginning of the fun.

Plague Inc. was the board game gift that I received from UnboxBoardom

Now that you know how the system works, let me share a little bit more about why UnboxBoardom is the perfect choice for that hard-to-buy-for-gamer on your holiday shopping list.

Reason #1: It’s a gift that keeps on giving

The kind folks over at UnboxBoardom gave me the exact experience of what it would be like if someone gifted me a subscription to their service. They were extremely generous and signed me up for a one month trial subscription of their service so that I could test it out at no charge…so it was literally as if someone gifted it to me.

To be honest, I was really skeptical at first because I thought someone would choose my game for me. But when I got an email on October 1st giving me 3 options for games…I was super excited. In fact, it was really hard for me to choose between Baseball Highlights 2045 and Plague Inc!

It felt like Christmas.

Then after I made my selection…I kind of forgot about it. Until….

When the board game gift from UnboxBoardom shows up at your front door... It's like Christmas all over again!

A package showed up at my door around the 15th of October and it was my UnboxBoardom subscription!

It felt like Christmas….ALL OVER AGAIN!

Now…Imagine if this happened 4, 6, or 12 times in a year. And every-time they open that email to choose their new game, and every time a new game comes to the door…their going to remember who got it for them. That’s pretty cool. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving! 

The more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realized this would be a gift that, as a gamer, I would LOVE receiving.

Reason #2: It’s a Gift I Wouldn’t Necessarily Buy For Myself

I worded this point carefully because I don’t want to speak for all gamers…but I don’t think I’m alone on this.

Like most gamers, I spend a lot of time choosing what game is going to be the next one added to my collection. In fact I keep my current list all written down in a handy wish list.

Because of that, I wouldn’t necessarily buy a subscription service for myself because I’ve got my eyes on a few specific games. But UnboxBoardom knows that gamers love choosing their games which is why that email on the 1st of the month with 3 options is so exciting.

And besides, isn’t that just the kind of gift you like giving or receiving? That experience that they want, but wouldn’t necessarily purchase for themselves?

Reason #3: It’s Unique

If you pride yourself on finding the unique gift for your friends or family, find shopping off a list to be boring and unimaginative, or hate the idea of everyone just exchanging gift cards, then you really should take a look at UnboxBoardom.

It might be the gift that has everyone talking this holiday season, because it’s so much more than a typical game!

I promised you a deal exclusive to Art of Boardgaming readers, and now it’s time to spill the beans. UnboxBoardom wants you to be the gift-giver of the year, so they’re giving YOU $10 OFF your first Subscription just for being part of the AoB community!

Use the code AoB10 at checkout when you get a board game gift subscription from UnboxBoardom

How to Claim Your $10 Coupon

Here’s the deal.

When you buy a subscription to UnboxBoardom, whether it’s for yourself, or as a present to someone else, at checkout use the coupon code: AoB10, click “apply” and your $10 discount will be automatically applied.

Board Gaming Gift Idea - UnboxBoardom - Be sure to use the coupon code AoB10 at checkout!

Finding the perfect gift for your gamer friend or family member doesn’t have to stress you out this season! Give them the gift that keeps on giving with a subscription to UnboxBoardom. Or if that’s not their jam, give them a gift card to Amazon or their local game store.

Whatever you do, just showing interest in the hobby they love will mean the world to them.


Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about gift ideas for the board game fanatic are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item or use the coupon code, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally or believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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The Importance of Being a Good Loser and How to be One

No one wants to be a loser. Although I can tell you that I have PLENTY of practice. But no one wants to play with a sore loser either…and it’s hard to be a winner if no one will play with you. That’s why learning How to be a Good Loser is imperative.

We all have that one player at the table who if he get's knocked out early...the game might get knocked out too...if you know what I mean. Being a good sport, or having sportsmanship in boardgaming is not only something that is a must, it's something that doesn't always come naturally. These three tips are a GREAT place to start!

I bet you never saw this coming, so I’ll just make you aware that this post about being a good loser has affiliate links in it. Surprise! These links never influence my opinions about a product or service. Why is this important? You can find the answer by reading my full disclosure policy here.

If you’re like me…or anyone else on the planet, you hate being around bad losers. You know the feeling. Everyone at the table is having a good time…except for that one player who is stewing and steaming in his or her own little corner. Maybe they have an outburst of anger, or what I feel is sometimes worse, that slow burning passive-aggressiveness directed at anyone who dares make a tactical move in their direction. (On the board game of course).

But here’s the truth. Even the most genial gamer will sometimes struggle with “negative” emotions. Whether they just had a rough day at work, or are on a particularly long losing streak, those very real selfish feelings of “I’m not having fun so no one else is allowed to either” can creep up. Left unchecked, that misplaced passion can lead them down the path of being a sore loser.

But sore losing isn’t always defined by a table flipping through the air and an abrupt end to game night. It just takes a tiny bit of introspection to discover that you may be doing something that is rubbing your friends around the table the wrong way. Something that may have them questioning whether or not you’re fun to play with.

So here are 3 practical tips on how to be a good loser from someone who’s really good at losing…but not perfect at being a “Good Loser.”

1. Move Your Goal Post

The Situation:

You find yourself one hour into Scythe with at least another sixty minutes to go, and you believe that you have no hope of winning.


First, let me encourage you to get rid of the line of thinking of “I have no hope of winning!” Whenever you believe you have no hope you are making the assumption that everyone else at the table is going to play perfectly for the rest of the game. Play hard and watch for mistakes, it may not be as hopeless as you think!

I recently played a game of The Manhattan Project where by all appearances I had the game in the bag with about forty minutes left to play. And I’m not bragging here, the two others at the table said something along the lines of “Well, looks like it’s a battle for second!” Long story short: I lost.


So let’s set aside my tip from above and assume that there is absolutely no hope for victory. I have a news flash for you…sulking isn’t going to win you the game, being passive aggressive isn’t going to earn you any friends, and quitting, well, that’s just a total jerk move because in most cases it ruins the game for everyone.

This is when it’s time to Move your goalposts.

Say what?

Change your goal for the game! Without making it un-fun for everyone else, assess the situation in your head and make a new goal for yourself. For me, when I’m down and out, I immediately start playing hard for second, or I experiment with a strategy that I’ve wanted to try.

Pick a goal and go for it.

Something to Avoid

Don’t make your goal to king-make.

(King making is playing in such a way to help another player at the table win, often in a seemingly unfair way to everyone else at the table).

King making can really cheapen the experience for everyone at the table. But don’t shy away from it either if it is your most optimal move. Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where one decision will cause one player to win, and the other decision will allow the other player to win. In these instances king-making is unavoidable, but outside of those situations, try not to become that person as you can really alienate others at the table.

When in doubt, I’d encourage you to make the move that you believe increases your chances of getting a higher score. If it king-makes, so be it. But if you’re trading all your good cards for a useless card just to give someone else the win, you’re being a jerk.

2. Remind Yourself of the Cost

The Situation:

You’re a deputy in a friendly game of Bang! when suddenly out of nowhere your Sheriff is convinced you are an outlaw and starts “shooting you.” Within a few rounds you are eliminated from the game.


If someone else is going through this and they are older than 5, it might not be smart to say “It’s just a game!” While it is true that it’s just a game, it can also sound trite.


If you need to excuse yourself, do so gently. If you do anything that you need to apologize for – do so quickly. That phrase I mentioned earlier, instead of dwelling on that I start considering the cost of my actions.

When I slam the table, what is the cost to my friendships at the table?

When I storm out of the room, what will be the cost in invites to future game nights?

When I get visibly angry, what will be the cost to my reputation?

It’s that last one that I dwell on the most. Losing doesn’t ruin how someone views me, but my reaction to it might, and that’s a cost that I do not want to pay.

If you know you struggle with losing, remind yourself of the cost as often as possible. You can, and should, be stronger than your emotions.


Storming out. Flipping the table. Doing anything else that you may expect a 5 year old to do in the cereal isle when told by his mother that no, they aren’t getting Fruit Loops.

3. Honor the Win

The Situation:

Your game of Stockpile just wrapped up. You know the exact turn where you bid on the wrong stack. Had you bid on that other stack instead you just know you would have won.

The winner is about to celebrate, and you say:


The next words out of your mouth are, in my opinion, the hallmark words that will define whether you are a truly a good loser or a bad loser. Before I go on let me mention that this is probably one of my largest weaknesses and also one of the biggest areas I have been working on.

I have failed at this next strategy wayy more times than I would like to admit. Are you ready?


The winner is about to celebrate, and you say:



“Great win!”


“Awesome strategy!”


“I like how you __(insert strategic move that they made during the game)__!”


“If I had just done __(insert “mistake that you made that you believe cost you the game)___ I would have won.”


“Your special player ability is overpowered!” (I hate it when people say this. ESPECIALLY if it is their first time playing the game.)

With those simple statements you have verbally invalidated your opponents win in order to feel better about yourself.

Not only that, but most of the time you’re probably dead wrong.

Here’s why:

Most board games are not a linear experience where a single change by you in strategy will not also affect the way the rest of the players play the game. Sure, if on turn two you had attacked instead of farmed, the game would have turned out differently.

But who knows HOW differently. 

What would your opponent have done to counter your move?! How would that have changed your future decisions as well? There really is no telling what would have happened. If there was… WE WOULDN’T PLAY GAMES because the outcome would already be pre-determined.

Very rarely does a game come down to one identifiable mistake. But even if it did…your opponent didn’t make it…you did.

Honor. The. Win.

That’s It?

Yep. Being a good loser really comes down to simply remembering that it’s ok to lose, it’s just not ok to be a jerk about it. The hard part is remembering that…when we’re losing.


What is your worst “Sore Loser” experience?

Want To Read Some of AoB’s Popular Posts?

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about how to be a good loser are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.


Board Game Terminology 101 | Worker Placement Games

The term Worker Placement Games might seem boring if you don’t know what it means. But I firmly believe this core mechanic is 10x more fun and challenging than the roll and move or roll and attack that you’re used to!

This post explains worker placement games perfectly! But wait...THERE'S MORE! It also gives 3 suggestions for games that give variations on the core worker placement mechanic.

Hey guess what!! This post about worker placement games has affiliate links in it. These links never influence my opinions about a product or service. Why is this important? You can find the answer by reading my full disclosure policy here.

Board game terminology can be daunting. If you wander into a game night as people choose the game for the evening you can quickly feel like you are in a foreign country.

People will throw around phrases like:

  • Deck Building
  • Take That
  • Area Control
  • Action Point System
  • Engine Building
  • Card Drafting

…and that is just a very tiny portion of the gamers lexicon. While you’ll understand the individual words, for some reason strung together they can sound like an alien language.

I promise you, none of these terms are hard to understand. Even without coming here you will certainly start picking up on what they mean as you get involved in the hobby. But don’t leave! Because I’m gonna give you a jump start.

Here’s the deal, I’m going to stick with the super basic terms in this series. Specifically, the terms that define the mechanics of a game.

Shoot…I just used a word that might not make sense if you’re new to gaming…Mechanics.

Simply put, mechanics are the actions, often paired with physical objects, that make a game work. For example – the mechanic of everyone’s favorite game, Monopoly, is called “roll and move.” Seems pretty self explanatory. On your turn you roll…and then you move. Now I hear you, yes there is more to Monopoly than rolling and moving (barely), but “roll and move” is the core mechanic. It’s what you do on every single turn.

Buy Monopoly on Amazon (Seriously...don't)

Sorry for the super long intro. Ready to dive in? Let’s do it!

Worker Placement Games Defined

Worker placement games are one of my all time favorite styles of board games. Let me give you a quick definition:

Worker Placement: In order to complete the action(s) on their turn, players select from a group of actions that are available to everyone. This is generally done by placing a token or marker on a space that represents that specific action on the game board. Usually, once a space on the board is occupied, no other player is allowed to take that action until the players token is removed. Sometimes this mechanic is also referred to as Action Drafting.

Ok… There’s the basic Art of Boardgaming definition, but let’s break it down a little bit further.

I’m going to use Tiny Epic Kingdoms from Gamelyn Games as an example because it is Worker Placement Game in the simplest form.

Tiny Epic Kingsdoms Area Control Cards

In Tiny Epic Kingdoms there is a card placed in the center of the table that has the list of available actions (see below). Like most worker placement games, some of the actions are free while others will have some cost associated with them. Most importantly, at the beginning of the round, all the actions are available.

Beside the action card are 5 shield tokens.

Note: I’m not going to go into detail on what the actions are, because you can understand how worker placement works without learning how to play Tiny Epic Kingdoms. If you’d like to learn more about this specific game you can check out my Tiny Epic Kingdoms Review.

Tiny Epic Kingdoms - Action Selection Board

In this particular worker placement game, players must claim and preform one action on their turn. To do so, they take one of the shield markers, place it on the section of the card that has the action they would like to use, and then they do that action. This continues until no shields are available. Then the shields are removed from the card, and play resumes where it left off.

If you’re with me so far, you can see that turn order can be a huge advantage in worker placement games! Having someone steal the action that you wanted to do before you get a chance to can be incredibly frustrating. However, good worker placement games always have a way to mitigate this advantage.

For example, in Tiny Epic Kingdoms there are more shields than there are players (Max player count of 4). This means that in a 4 player game, the first player to place a shield, is also the last player to place a shield when the board has the fewest options available. Then the action board is cleared and play continues with the NEXT player having the advantage of being first. Round after round this evens out who get’s the advantage of being the 1st player.

Buy Tiny Epic Kingdoms on Amazon

Worker Placement Game Variations

You will quickly discover most games take a core mechanics and put their own spin, or variations, on it. In my opinion, this is one of the things that makes games awesome!

If you just took a mechanic and pasted a new theme on it, without tweaking or combining it with another mechanic, gaming would be boring. Instead, it can be the subtle changes on a mechanic that you are familiar with that make you fall in love with a new game.

There really isn’t a way to label all of the variations, and it would be nearly impossible for me to create an exhaustive list. So instead I’m going to show you 3 more games that take the Worker Placement core system that I talked about above, and add to or tweak it.

1. Viticulture

This game falls pretty classically into the worker placement category, but there are some variations in Viticulture from Tiny Epic Kingdoms that you will find in other worker placement games.

Variation #1: Players Have Their Own “Worker” Pools

Instead of having a common pool of shields, (Like Tiny Epic Kingdoms) each player starts with 3-4 worker pieces, and can grow their pool up to as many as 6! This is strategic! If you don’t play your workers right it’s possible for you to have 3 actions, and another player to have 6 in the later rounds of the game. It’s all about what actions you choose, and when.

Viticulture on Tabletopia - Worker Pool

Why is the picture look different? Well…I don’t own a physical copy of Viticulture. But it’s a favorite with the group that I play with on Tabletopia. And it’s such a fantastic example of worker placement games that I just couldn’t leave it off this post!

Variation #2: You Can Place a Worker on a “Blocked” Space

Viticulture gives players an option that few other worker placement games provide. Each player has one “Grande” worker that has the ability to be placed on any spot, even if that spot is already taken by another worker. I LOVE THIS! Essentially, this means that as long as you haven’t used your Grande Worker yet in the current round, all the actions on the board are available to you, even if someone else has already taken them.

Variation #3: Unique Action Availability

Viticulture puts another spin on worker placement that may exist elsewhere, but I haven’t yet played a game that does it. In each round of Viticulture, placing workers is set up into 2 “seasons.” Summer, and Winter.

Viticulture board on Tabletopia - Summer and Winter Seasons

In the Summer, only the actions on the yellow side of the board are available to you, and in the Winter only the actions on the blue side are available to you. However, you don’t get any of your workers back until after the winter season. Ergo, any workers you place in the summer, won’t be available to you in the winter.

While this may not seem all that tricky, managing your workers and deciding whether you should save some of your workers for winter, spend them all in the summer, or vice-versa, is more challenging than you might think.

Buy Viticulture on Amazon

2. Manhattan Project

This game is worker placement…to the tenth degree. It doesn’t just tweak the mechanic… it blows it up. (see what I did there? Manhattan project…bombs….blows it up…please laugh.)

Again – I’m not going to teach you the game here, I’m just going to discuss some of the ways it tweaks the Worker Placement mechanic. If you want more info about the game, head over and check out my Review of The Manhattan Project.

Variation #1: Semi-Exclusive Actions

In The Manhattan Project there is a board with a bunch of actions that are available to everyone, but you also have a player board that you can populate with cards that have actions that are almost exclusive to you. I say almost because there is one space on the group board that when used, allows players to place workers on your player cards…so you have to watch out for that.

This is super cool because in The Manhattan Project you get to take…

Variation #2: Multiple Actions Per Turn

In all the games I’ve discussed so far, you get to place one worker, preform that action, then the next player places one worker, preforms that action, etc until everyone passes or is out of available workers. The Manhattan Project is…um…not like that.

The Manhattan Project action selection board

On your turn you can take one space on the main board, and then you may place as many of your available workers as you wish on the actions available on your player board (assuming you don’t have any workers on them already), and preform those actions. And the crazy thing is…you can have as many as 12 of your own workers! Seems like it would be crazy, and you certainly can have some swingy turns, but you’ll find that often times it’s not a good idea to go all out and spend all your workers on 1 turn because…

Variation #3: You Have to Spend a Turn to Retrieve Your Workers

That’s right. In The Manhattan Project there is no “first turn” advantage each round. This is because instead of removing all the workers and cleaning up the board being “free,” players must literally spend one of their turns every-time they want/need to get their workers back. The strategic decisions that go into this sometimes feel immense because you know that every other player is going to get a shot at those action spaces you’ve freed up on the board when you retrieve your workers.

Variation #4: Unique Workers

Workers Scientists, and Engineers - The Manhattan Project Review

The last way that The Manhattan Project blows up the Worker Placement Mechanic is that you have not 1, not 2, but 3 different “Types” of workers. Certain actions can use any type of worker, but some require engineers, and even others require scientist. Not only that, but most of the locations require more than one worker! Suddenly those 12 workers you can have don’t give you as many actions as you thought they would.Buy The Manhattan Project on Amazon

3. Tzolkin

Tzolkin was the first game that showed me just how far creative minds can take a concept in a board game, and innovate it to the point where it is almost something completely different. The designers of Tzolkin took the worker placement model, and almost literally turned it upside down.

Variation #1: Action Spaces MOVE

Ok, in practically every worker placement game, the action spaces are a fixed point on the board. Tzolkin is very different. There are many available action spaces…on literal plastic gears which advance one space each round!

3 player Tzolkin game with Workers Placed

With this innovation, instead of placing a worker and immediately taking the action of that space…

Variation #2: Workers Are Placed For Future Actions

As you’ve seen, most worker placement games go along the lines of “Place a worker & preform the action.” But in Tzolkin after placing your workers, you take no actions. Instead play moves on to the next player.

After everyone at the table has gone, all the gears are physically turned one space forward, moving your workers to a presumably better action space!

Now you are faced with a decision, put more workers on (if you have them), or take any number of your workers off the board, and gain the resources or abilities of each space where you removed a worker!

Workers on the gears of Tzolkin

(and many others) call this “Reverse Worker Placement” because you are getting the actions when you remove as opposed to when you put the worker on. It’s a really brain burnery because it forces players to plan 3-4 moves ahead since you need actions that are further around the gear. This of course means that players workers will sometimes have to sit on a gear for multiple rounds before they can take it off.

Buy Tzolkin on Amazon

Worker Placement Wrap Up

If you came into this post thinking that Worker Placement Games were guaranteed to be identical, repetitive, or just boring I hope that these examples have shown you that is simply not the case! And if you came here because Joe Smith said “Worker Placement” at yesterdays board game night and you didn’t know what in the world he was talking about – I hope I didn’t confuse you too much. 🙂

What Worker Placement Game Have You Tried?

Want To Read Some of AoB’s Popular Posts?

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Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about Worker Placement Games are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.


9 Epic Board Games Like Pandemic

Love Pandemic but ready to try something new? Curious if there are more games out there or overwhelmed by the sheer number of games you could try? Check out these 9 Epic Games Like Pandemic!

Picked up Pandemic from target and absolutely LOVED it. But when I wanted to try to find some more games like pandemic I wasn't sure what was out there. This list of games like Pandemic was a great start!

This post about games like Pandemic includes affiliate links. Why? Because I want to. But you can find out more info about all of that over here by reading my full disclosure policy here. It’s a real page turner!

When deciding which game to feature as I continued my “Games Like _X_” series, I thought it would be smart to highlight a game that turns the concept of a board game completely on it’s head.

That game? Pandemic!

Now before we break this game down into its individual parts as I have done with Games Like Ticket to Ride and Games Like Settlers of Catan let me first defend my claim that this game is revolutionary.

Whenever I’m talking to non-gamers, Pandemic is a game that I quickly bring up once we’ve made it through the whole “No… not like monopoly” conversation. And with almost 100% certainty I can say one phrase and have their undivided attention:

“This game can take you and 3 friends on…and beat you all.”

Please understand, I’m not saying Pandemic is the first collaborative game to ever make an entrance into the board game market place. However, I will claim that among the new-gaming crowd who uses Target as their game dealer, it does have higher name recognition than any other collaborative games on the market.*

(*Completely made up statistic, backed with no scientific proof).

So, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s break down Pandemic into 3 of it’s core elements, and see if we can find that next game that you, or your new gaming friends should try out.

1. If You Like Saving the World…

One of the key aspects of Pandemic is it’s theme. Players work together to save the world’s human population from certain destruction. Pandemic is not the only game that uses this “Let’s be heroes” core theme. In fact there are many games out there where players work together to save the world, or portions therein, here are three.

Flash Point Fire Rescue

Flash Point Fire RescueIn Flash Point Fire Rescue, players work together, racing to rescue 7 to 10 victims from a structure fire. While it may seem simple, much like how the disease cubes get out of control in Pandemic, “fire” wreaks havoc over the board in Flash Point Fire Rescue.

Pathways get blocked, fire spreads, and the building gets progressively damaged and unsafe.

Also similar to Pandemic, players take actions on their turns choosing to move, extinguish fires, move emergency vehicles, and others! Players lose if 4 victims don’t make it out alive, or if the building collapses. Everyone wins if a 7th victim is rescued and everyone goes home a hero until the next time!


Zombicide Board Game

In Zombicide your curing diseases much like Pandemic…if those diseases are zombies and by curing them you mean…killing the already undead. I don’t know about you, but if there are 100 zombies coming my way, I’m going to want them gone just like I’d want the Ebola virus eradicated!

Players each take the role of a survivor (with unique abilities) and work together to to accomplish goals all while…um…removing some of the Zombies from the board and evading others.

To win the game you’ll have to find weapons, keep the army of the un-dead at bay, gain skills, and complete the goals of the scenario you are playing! Fair warning, this game is a little more complex than Pandemic, but on the flip side, you’ll be prepared if when the Zombie apocalypse begins.


You and your fellow Bomb Defusing Team members are facing an explosive death! Twenty bombs have been detected and armed on-board your ship and the timers are ticking down.

Can you disarm all the bombs in time?!

FUSE takes the co-op style of Pandemic and adds the element of “real-time” game excitement.

Each bomb is represented with a card that displays a dice combination (Fuse includes 25 custom dice). Players roll dice, decide collectively where they go, roll and repeat over and over. Because each game only lasts 10 minutes (the timers are counting down) you will viscerally feel the stress level go up in the room. The mechanics are easier than Pandemic. The task… may just blow up in your face.

2. If You Like Adjusting The Difficulty Level…

One of my personal favorite elements of Pandemic is that you can take a nice leisurely stroll through the game using just 4 epidemic cards. Or, you can crank the difficulty all the way up to try to achieve legendary status by putting in all 6 epidemic cards.

It’s this combination of increased difficulty with brain burnery puzzling that makes pandemic an experience you can simply replay over and over again.

Before I jump into the games I’d like to feature in this section, I should point out that Flash Point falls in this category as well. But I promised you 9 games, so I’m not going to cheat and count that one twice.

The Lost Expedition

The Lost Expedition is a punishing 2017 release.

Your group of explorers have been tasked with finding Legendary explorer Percy Fawcett who disappeared while searching for El Dorado. But you soon realized that your search was over, and you need to get out of the jungle or you will all be missing as well.

Manage your resources: food, water, and ammo. Try to keep everyone healthy. And attempt to escape with your life.

Players work together to play cards, carrying out the selected cards mandatory actions, choosing between the “either/or” actions, and deciding whether or not you should complete the optional actions. Most actions will cost you – and many give you little or no benefit.

In the easy version of the game, you only need to move your group 6 spaces to safety. In the hard, you have 2 additional spaces that you need to move.

As of this writing, I have yet to win the game on easy.

Stop Thief!

No…it’s not the 1970’s, and no, I’m not recommending a roll and move game. From my not-super-popular opinions about dice you should know that I would never do such a horrible thing. 🙂

Actually, Stop Thief! is not just a reprint of the 1970’s nostalgia classic, it is a complete restoration of the game. The mechanics have been changed – the graphics have been updated, and it looks just plain fantastic.

In this competitive game, players (as private investigators) try to catch thieves and earn cash rewards. Investigators receive audio clues from an included smart phone app and move their pawns around the board using movement cards trying to apprehend the criminal.

Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of apps merging into the board games, but I have to admit, this app looks really sweet!

The best part of this app is that it makes the difficulty level of the game completely adjustable! You can play it on easy with your younger children, or you can put it on hard, and make some other settings modifications to play it with a group of adults. The difficulty level is quite literally…in your hands.

Forbidden Island

If you picked up your copy of Pandemic at your local Target, then there’s a good chance that you saw this game sitting there as well. Forbidden Island is another cooperative board game created by the design genius Matt Leacock. (If you don’t recognize that name, go look at your Pandemic box.)

Forbidden Island is simple, and beautiful.

Players take turns moving around the island (that is set up with tiles at the beginning of the game), trying to collect artifacts and get back to the helicopter before the cursed island sinks into the sea. As time passes, more and more island tiles sink, making players choices both simpler, and harder at the same time.

Much like Pandemic you can feel your game stress level start to rise as you go from believing you had everything under control, to realizing that you might be hopelessly stuck on an island as it falls into the sea.

And of course, in a similar style to pandemic, you can adjust the difficulty of this game as well. The game comes with a water level “gauge” which, like the epidemic track in pandemic, tells you how many tiles will get flooded each turn. Want a tougher challenge? Start the game with a higher starting water level….good luck!

3. If You Like Having “Actions” To Spend on Your Turn…

In all of my “Games like _X_” posts I usually pull one or two mechanics out that are a little bit more obscure. By that I mean, a “hardcore gamer” may look at what I list below and think these games are nothing like Pandemic. And to that end, I would like to re-iterate what I said in my Games Like Settlers of Catan post:

While no 2 games are EXACTLY alike, some will share similarities in certain ways. You can have games that share a theme, like zombies; games that share similar mechanics (how the game works), like set collection; or games that even just look similar, like boards with maps.

So, I’m taking this one aspect of Pandemic and showing you three games which use that element.

The mechanic of “Actions” or choices of what you can do on your turn as opposed to a scripted turn sequence. In Pandemic you get 4 actions and 8 options for what to do with them. These games, take the concept of “action points” and run in different directions (Many of the games mentioned above also have this in common with Pandemic):

Burgle Bros.

Burgle Bros. is a game that I have not yet had the chance to play. However, it is really high on my Tabletopia “let’s try this out” list!

(Tabletopia is a digital gaming platform that let’s you play board games with friends in a 3-D digital environment. You can read my thoughts about it here.)

For some reason though, as I was writing this post I completely forgot about this game, so I want to give a big shout out to Spencer of the Married with Boardgames podcast who brought this one back to my attention when I was talking about various action point games.

Burgle Bros. is yet another cooperative game, but instead of trying to do something awesome, like save the world from diseases of epic proportions, players attempt to pull off a robbery, evade guards, and escape off the roof in their getaway helicopter without getting caught.

Each player has useful abilities that are unique to them, and of course players have 4 actions on their turn, with 5 action types to choose from.


This may be the best theme in existence.

In Takenoko players get to move a Panda around the table!!! Really, that’s all you need to know. 🙂

Other than the obvious draw of the cute Panda mini, the actual object of the game is to grow bamboo by cultivating, irrigating, and growing 3 different varieties of the plant. Sounds collaborative, but it’s actually competitive! Quick aside, this game is super cool because it is 3 dimensional, with the pieces of “bamboo” growing up off the board throughout the game!

Ultimately, players are attempting to collect sets of bamboo in various ways. Players have 2 action points on their turn and decide between 5 different available actions. The winner will be the player that manages the board in the most efficient manner, collecting bamboo, garnering victory points, and getting bragging rights over everyone else.

Railways of the World

Alright, full disclosure – most of the games on this list are pretty close to the difficulty level of Pandemic. Railways of the World steps you up a notch….or two or three in the difficulty scale. I always like to throw a game like this into the mix when I’m making these lists.

But, if you are up for a good, 2 to 3 hour strategy game, and you like the idea of getting to choose your actions on each turn, you might want to check this one out.

In Railways of the World you compete against other train barons to build your rail empire; deliver items across the country; upgrade to bigger, faster trains; play your role in developing growing cities; and ultimately, walk away with the most prestige!

Another dissimilarity this game has from the other action point games I mentioned here is that on your turn you only get to do one action. Not 4 like Pandemic. However, I think you may find this is a strength to this game and not a weakness. You’ll find yourself adjusting your strategy when it’s not your turn and having to choose just one action allows you to plan multiple turns in advance.

Now, if you are looking for a good game to just sit down and play with your family, and the only game you’ve played so far is Pandemic, this may not be the one for you. However, if you have a group that is hungry for new challenges, I highly reccomend you take this one on!

You can also read my Railways of the World Review.

BONUS: Actual Games LIKE Pandemic

Pandemic has become so popular that the designers and publishers have teamed up to make multiple expansions for it:

They have also created several stand along games that use the Pandemic as it’s base for theme, or mechanics, but add a little extra flare here to spice things up.

And last, but most certianly not least, they have released a Legacy version of Pandemic. If you’re not sure what that is, you can read this post about Legacy games. If you and your family or friends love playing Pandemic over and over, I highly suggest the Legacy edition! It puts a HUGE twist on a great game.

So, I’m really, REALLY, excited that you liked Pandemic so much that you are looking for something new. Here’s what I want you to do next. Try something out! It doesn’t matter if it’s on this list, something you found at Target, or something you found somewhere else.
Go. Play. Games.

More games like _(Fill in the Blank)_:

Games Like Ticket to RideGames Like Settlers of Catan

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post about games like Pandemic are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.