The Verge’s favorite board and video games


Play is important — in fact, it can be as important to a grown-up as it is to a child. If you’ve spent the day concentrating on work, doing your taxes, cleaning your home, or caring for others, it’s not a bad idea to also take a little time for yourself to escape from your adult responsibilities.

These days, play can take a lot of different forms — whether it’s assembling the latest monster Lego project, getting together for a marathon board game, or staying up later than you should with your favorite virtual city builder. On a screen or on a tabletop, virtual or touchable, played alone or with friends — games are a way we can keep ourselves centered. 

We asked the staff of The Verge what games they play in order to give their busy brains a rest — and these are some of the answers we got. 

Tabletop games

Becca Farsace, senior video producer

Splendor board gameSplendor board gameSplendor board gameSplendor board game

A strategy card game in which players compete to build Renaissance Europe’s most lucrative and prestigious jewelry business.

The best part about the game Splendor is taking a moment to look around and watch your friends thinking really, really hard. This is a board game that has no board, just cards and chips, where the objective is to collect gems and acquire capital and property. It is best played with three to five people on a large table. And it involves a whole lot of strategizing, thinking, and endlessly scanning cards. This makes for great thinking faces!

I ditched the box for a small pouch and now bring this game to most bar hangs. And when I’m at home, I find it best when paired with a long playlist that you won’t have to spend any extra mental strength thinking about. 

Loop strategy game

The Loop strategy game is, unfortunately, hard to find.
Screenshot: Pandasaurus Games

Over the last year, I’ve made a purposeful effort to engage in more screen-free entertainment, and now my shelf is overflowing with fantastic indie board and card games. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but Loop by Pandasaurus Games is so far the best co-op board game I have ever played. The basic premise is to stop the evil Dr. Faux from creating riffs in the space-time continuum across seven different eras while destroying his clones. If an era gains too many rifts, Dr. Faux creates a time vortex, and if he creates too many he destroys the world.

It sounds simple, but there is a surprising amount of strategy involved, almost like a chess match. You have to think several moves ahead, and not just about what you will do but also how that will affect your teammates when it’s their turn. It encourages players to communicate and plan effectively, yet doesn’t slow down the game’s pace with crunchy mechanics. You don’t have to mess around with dice, stacks of cards, or tons of game pieces, and every playthrough is completely different. 

You’ll probably lose a lot (I did), but that frustration kept me coming back to kick Dr. Faux’s butt — and when my team and I finally did, we cheered and high-fived. It was such a cool feeling!

Unfortunately, Loop is no longer available at most stores, but you may be able to pick up a copy at eBay or your local gaming store.

Evolution: Oceans board game

Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, reviewer

The board and cards for Evolution: Oceans.The board and cards for Evolution: Oceans.The board and cards for Evolution: Oceans.The board and cards for Evolution: Oceans.

$55

A strategy board game in which you enter the mysterious world of the Earth’s oceans.

Finding a board game that will entertain a 13-year-old girl, a 16-year-old boy, my partner, and me is a challenge. We’ve cycled through all the classics as well as newer options — Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Catan, and more. While these are all great, inevitably one of the group develops a passionate dislike for the game (usually after a few too many losses) and it drops off our rotation. However, Evolution: Oceans has been a constant crowd-pleaser for over six months now, and we all love it. 

Part of the Evolution series from NorthStar Game Studio, Oceans is a beautiful, complicated, compelling, and challenging strategy game. You create new species to fill your ocean and fight to develop them and keep them alive using adaptations and abilities such as schooling and speed, tentacles, and parasitic abilities. 

Cards give you your powers, and these are gorgeously illustrated, making this game a visual feast. It does have a fairly steep learning curve, but once you get going and the strategies unfold, the gameplay is smooth and relatively fast-paced. There is a fair amount of player-to-player interaction, so we’ve had a couple of temper tantrums, but nothing big enough to knock this one off our family’s top spot… at least not yet.

Lego Horizon Forbidden West Tallneck set

Lego Tallneck modelLego Tallneck modelLego Tallneck modelLego Tallneck model

$90

A Lego brick model of a Tallneck, an iconic Horizon machine in the Forbidden West.

Legos aren’t exactly a board game, and in fact, I don’t get many Lego sets anymore, but building the Horizon Forbidden West set for my birthday last year was such an absolute delight, that I had to include it here. The Tallnecks are one of my favorite creatures from Sony’s hit video game series, so it was really fun to bring an awesome robot dinosaur to life in Lego form. And best of all, the Tallneck is actually, well, tall, measuring 13 1/2 inches in height and towering over the comparatively tiny Aloy minifigure that comes with the set.

I sadly had to deconstruct my Lego Tallneck — which I named Aioli — when I recently moved my desk setup into a different room. But I’ve just realized I have a perfect spot to rebuild AIoli once again, and fortunately, there’s plenty of headroom for his head to stand tall.

Video games

Anbernic RG28XX handheld emulator

Andrew Liszewski, senior news reporter

The Anbernic RG28XXThe Anbernic RG28XXThe Anbernic RG28XXThe Anbernic RG28XX

The Anbernic RG28XX is a new, tiny console that feels just as small as the Micro, but with a larger screen and the ability to play thousands of different retro games through emulation.

I have been mildly obsessed with handheld consoles ever since seeing a print ad for the original Nintendo Game Boy in a TV Guide decades ago. Although my favorite Nintendo handheld is still the tiny and highly pocketable Game Boy Micro, its hardware is really showing its age, and I hate carrying around a handful of cartridges. The Anbernic RG28XX is a new, tiny console that feels just as small as the Micro, but with a larger screen that’s easier on my aging eyes and the ability to play thousands of different retro games through emulation. However, my game of choice is frequently Baseball Advance, an obscure Game Boy Advance sports title from 2002. If I find myself with a couple of extra minutes to spare, I’ll usually be going to bat with the Tigers against the Blue Jays for a couple of innings.

Words with Friends 2 mobile game app 

Barbara Krasnoff, reviews editor

Hand holding mobile device with Words With Friends 2.Hand holding mobile device with Words With Friends 2.Hand holding mobile device with Words With Friends 2.Hand holding mobile device with Words With Friends 2.

$0

A Scrabble-like word game for mobile and online players.

Back in the summer of 2018, I was temporarily unemployed and taking occasional freelance gigs, including one where I worked as an extra for the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. There was a lot of sitting around between scenes, and one woman and I started using our phones to play Scrabble — or, rather, a Scrabble-like mobile game app called Words with Friends 2. When the job was over, we kept it up, and after a couple of weeks, I started another game with a former work colleague. When each game was over, we started another. And it just never stopped.

I still play with these two friends — friends whom, I might add, I never otherwise see. While the app itself is free, Words with Friends 2 can be pretty obnoxious — there are constant ads and never-ending urgings to pay for various upgrades. But I can’t give up yet. I’m behind several games, and I’ve got to see if I can make a seven-letter score at least once this coming round…. 

Cities: Skylines II video game

Liam James, supervising producer, audio

Virtual cityscape with mountains.Virtual cityscape with mountains.Virtual cityscape with mountains.Virtual cityscape with mountains.

Cities: Skylines II is a spiritual SimCity successor that lets you build your own version of a city from the ground up.

Part of my job as supervising producer of audio for The Verge involves building very complicated spreadsheets to track all kinds of important metrics. While that might sound awful to most people, I find it exhilarating. I love organizing problems in ways that make solving them… well, almost like a game. 

So what do I do to relax? Well, I love city-building games because when you boil them down, they are just spreadsheet simulators with a fun and pretty UI on top. My latest obsession is Cities: Skylines II, a spiritual SimCity successor. After a bumpy launch earlier this year, the game has ironed out most of the bugs and performance issues. 

Most recently, I’ve been experimenting with a city build that has no roads for cars. To get around, my citizens must walk or take mass transit. But without cars and trucks, how do you move commercial goods around your town? Well, the truth is, I don’t know yet, but I am having a heck of a time figuring it out. There are endless ways to get lost inside a city builder, but for me, the most fun comes from solving one problem at a time and seeing how it affects all the other systems — like a column in a spreadsheet. 

Sean Hollister, senior editor

2-D duck game2-D duck game2-D duck game2-D duck game

Duck Game is a 2D arena battle with the frantic energy of Smash Bros, but here you’re playing ducks with guns.

Ouya, the indie game console, was one of the biggest technology flops of the past decade. And yet, it spawned a game I still play with friends almost every week. Duck Game, largely a one-man indie hit from 2015, kept my friend group together through the pandemic with online play for up to eight people.

It’s a 2D arena battle with the frantic energy of Smash Bros., but here, you’re playing ducks with guns — blasting one another with pistols, machine guns, net guns, lasers, mind control rays, sleeping bag cannons, grenades, and more, all while dodging stage hazards, friends who can stomp you with their newfound shoes, chainsaw jousters, and the occasional flying sword.

There’s no blood, just clouds of duck feathers, but almost everything kills in one hit, so hilarity ensues as everyone makes mistakes. The game doesn’t teach you how to play, and yet, it has so much depth, my friends are still discovering new techniques nearly nine years after we began. You can fire shots at all sorts of angles if you jump just right! Holding a certain box can let you drop faster! You can sword pogo sticks like Yoshimitsu from Soulcalibur! Grab and throw your foes after they play dead! Change the pitch of the game’s mostly useless musical instruments with the analog trigger! 

Did I mention this game has a dedicated quack button to taunt your foes? Quack quack. 



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