Board games... eight chances to spice up game night


All board game nights inevitably devolve into shouting. Spaceteam encourages that. Players work cooperatively to fix their ailing spaceship before getting swallowed by a black hole. To do this, they must enact repairs (indicated on orange cards) using specific tools (contained on blue cards). Don't have the right tool? Ask your teammates. But since you're all working simultaneously, ask loudly, because everyone else will be. Brace yourself for unpredictability, too, as anomaly cards could send you or a teammate floating off into space. Here's the real kicker: You've got just five minutes to complete repairs or you all lose. Ages 10 and up; $22


People with green thumbs too often go unappreciated. That skill may give you bragging rights in Photosynthesis. This beautifully crafted strategy game pits your species of tree against the rest on the board in an intense competition for sunlight. Players plant and cultivate seeds, growing trees that collect light points and harvesting them to collect victory points. If placed smartly, your trees can block light points from other players. But as the sun rotates around the board, it's possible your own seedlings could be thrown into shadow, sapping your ability to make your forest thrive. Ages 8 and up; $45

Cards Against Humanity

Get ready to throw political correctness to the wind. For the past seven years, Cards Against Humanity has excelled at reducing even the most mundane gathering into a raucous and racy laugh riot. Each player takes a turn as the "Card Czar," laying down a black card with a question or fill-in-the-blank phrase. The rest compete for each black card by finishing the thought with the most scandalous or chuckle-inducing white card they hold. Pro tip: Each Card Czar has a unique sense of humor, so the raunchiest white card won't always guarantee victory. And if your Christmas giftee already owns the set, consider Cards Against Humanity's Absurd Box expansion ($20), which creators claim they came up with while tripping on peyote. Ages 17 and up; $25


Ever since Hollywood rebooted the Mission Impossible franchise, everyone's wanted to play spy at least once. Enter a card game that not only allows you to realize that dream but to do so with your best friends as fellow agents. Codenames breaks players into two teams, with a five-by-five spread of cards in front of them. Some of those cards represent friendly agents, others the opposing faction. Each team's spymaster must deliver verbal clues — one word and one number — to aid the team in identifying their own cards. But it's not just the opposing cards you have to watch out for. There's an assassin in the mix, heightening the intrigue. Ages 14 and up; $14.89

Terraforming Mars

Sci-fi geeks will revel in the opportunity to reshape a planet currently inhabited exclusively by NASA robots. Players of the tile-based board game Terraforming Mars work together to terraform the Red Planet by creating oxygen and water and raising the temperature, all the while competing to earn victory points. Project cards enable them to build infrastructure, introduce plant and animal life, or mine the moons of Jupiter for resources. Each action contributes to the terraforming process, which is measured by increasing the temperature, oxygen and ocean on Mars. The game only ends when all three benchmarks are met, but only one contributor will be declared the winner. Ages 12 and up; $69.95

Unstable Unicorns

Unicorn Army. Just let that phrase sink in. Then build one. That's the goal of Unstable Unicorns, a hilarious card game that encourages players to backstab their friends at every turn while trying to amass the largest stable of mythical one-horned critters. The rules are straightforward, with each player drawing from the deck for a chance to upgrade their stable, downgrade another's or simply incite all-out pandamonium. No, that's not a typo. There's actually a card that turns all of a player's unicorns into pandas. Because unicorn armies weren't silly enough already. Ages 14 and up; $20


Fans of complex gameplay and alternate history will both enjoy this dive into the rust-and-bolts world of steampunk. Scythe players take on the role of different fallen leaders in Eastern Europa circa 1920s that could have been, each on a quest to regain glory. Those quests involve exploration, expansion, the deployment of mechs and the achievement of hidden objectives. Grow your empire to acquire more resources, and dispatch your army to repel invasion. No two players will chart the same path to victory. Will you be a brash conqueror, a cautious explorer, or the sleeping superpower daring others to attack? Ages 14 and up; $56

Monopoly Cheaters Edition

Face it. We've all cheated at Monopoly at one time or another. Skipping a space, skimming from the bank — these subtle moves get us ahead at the expense of the rules. Now, however, the man in the top hat is rewarding our treachery with an edition where cheating is built into those rules. The new game includes a set of "cheat cards" directing players on how to pull one over on their opponents. Succeed and you'll be rewarded. Get caught and you could wind up literally handcuffed to the board. May the sneakiest cheat win. Ages 8 and up; $20

Spokane Renaissance Faire

Sat., Oct. 7 and Sun., Oct. 8
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