At this point, the annual joint post of Naty (from Naty’s Bookshelf, your prime source of book recommendations) and me is a hallowed tradition. It’s the bridge between the worlds of books and board games. In the last years, we’ve done:
- 2020: Game-Movie-Book Recommendations for Theme Days
- 2019: Mutual Guest Posts with Book-Board Game Recommendations
- 2018: If You Liked This, Try This – Books and Board Games
- 2017: Bookish Board Games
Now we return to the roots and do another post on bookish board games – that is, board games which would appeal to book lovers. This time, we look at Eldritch Horror (Corey Konieczka/Nikki Valens, Fantasy Flight Games), Ex Libris (Adam P. McIver, Renegade Game Studios), and A Game of Thrones (Christian T. Petersen, Fantasy Flight Games).
Level of difficulty: Medium
Clio: Halloween might be over, but an atmospheric horror game fits the entire cold season perfectly. You sip a warm beverage and try to save the world from a Lovecraftian Ancient One. The players form a team – so all of you win or lose together. If you like horror but twitched when you read “Lovecraft”, rest assured that the game is committed to separating cosmic horror from Lovecraft’s racism (which means you have a fairly diverse set of intrepid investigators to choose as your character(s)). As the struggle against the Ancient One is global, you might find yourself searching for clues in the Amazon, closing a gate from Shanghai into the Other World, exploring the Antarctic for alien artifacts, or being attacked by a cultist in Rome. There are plenty of opportunities to high-five your fellow investigators over your successes (and just as many to collectively sigh over your misfortunes). Beware, however: If you like to discuss your moves and do joint planning as a group, this game might take some time.
Naty: What I love about this game is the storytelling factor – you have a team of misfits, each with their own abilities and you can develop them as you wish. The nice mix of luck and strategy means that playing Eldritch Horror never feels repetitive – it’s in fact the game we’ve played most often and still my favorite. This game does take a while (despite the seller’s 120-240min time window, I’ve never played it for less than 240min, easily going into six or eight hours even. But I am very analytical and love strategizing, so obviously you don’t have to be this anal about it) but since it’s cooperative, meaning you play with your friends instead of against them, it does not feel as tiring in my opinion.
Level of difficulty: Low to medium
Clio: Ex Libris casts you in the role of competing book collectors in a fantasy town, so bookworms should feel right at home. Each player wants to amass the best book collection in order to be named Grand Librarian of the town – as assessed by the breadth of the collection, the stability of your daring shelf constructions, and, of course, if you sorted them alphabetically. Just don’t get caught with books that city council has deemed too dangerous for the general populace and thus banned. You and your assistants venture out to acquire (and shelve) all the best books before your fellow players (who, of course, also know the best bookstores) can! I strongly recommend having a closer look at the book cards you collect – the puns and literary references on the back of the books are irrelevant for game play, but they will make you chuckle.
Naty: Okay so this is the cutest game ever. Every book on a card shows a funny, quirky title and you can easily spend twice as long as the 45min time just by reading them and giggling. You choose a book collector character (a witch, a bookworm, a yeti and so on) and try to build the Best Bookshelf Ever taking into consideration which types of book you have, the stability of your shelf and such. It lasts just enough to let you go a bit crazy with your shelf, but the game is over quickly enough that you don’t get bored. Really recommend if you’re usually not into board games!
3-6 players (up to 8 with the expansion)
Level of difficulty: High
Clio: I know, the TV show ended with a disappointing last season. Maybe the book series will correct it – but at the current pace it will take George R. R. Martin about two hundred years to finish it. Thus, you have no choice but to take the future of Westeros in your own hands. As the head of a noble house (like the Starks, the Lannisters, or the Baratheons), you aim to expand your standing with the local nobles, improve your position at court, and advance your claim to the Iron Throne. The Mother of Dragons expansion adds houses Arryn and Targaryen (as well as some part of the continent of Essos) and the Iron Bank into the mix. As all players’ orders are given in secret and then revealed at the same time, diplomacy and deception abound. So maybe you want to play this either with strangers or with very good friends.
Naty: I love how the game captures the atmosphere of its source, encouraging players to backstab each other, be strategic and clever, plus the gorgeous art. A Game of Thrones is one that I would recommend if you’re a bit more experienced with board games – there are a lot of rules and it might take a while to remember them all. If you like scheming and betraying all your friends, I think this is a really fun game to play with three more people in a cold winter evening.