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Ticket to Ride 

(Days of Wonder, $50)

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The premise: CHOO CHOO!!! It's about building railroad routes across the country and trying to forget the tens of thousands of Chinese laborers you're crushing underfoot.

The play: Players use cards to claim color-coded routes across the United States and Canada. You can build a route between Montreal and Portland and call it the Hipster Express, and then someone can make a joke about the South being racist. Take that, the South!

How you win: Earn points by completing ticketed routes or by having the longest continuous track.

Is there an app for that? Yes, with multiplayer!

Geek factor (1-10): 1. Between the short play time and traditional structure, anyone can play.


The Settlers of Catan 

(Mayfair, $42)

IMAGE: Morgan Green-Hopkins
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The premise: An oddly hexagonal island must be stripped of resources and settled by competing clans. Build roads and towns and develop new technologies until all natural life is swept aside in the name of "progress."

The play: Extremely compelling. Catan is probably the most widely loved of the German-style board games, if not of all time. Its size is manageable, and a wealth of expansion packs (Seafarers, Cities, Knights) can add layers to the game's strategic complexity.

How you win: Reach a pre-determined point total by building towns, cities and roads.

Is there an app for that? Yes, but there's no online multiplayer.

Geek factor (1-10): 2. Even novices love Catan.


Lost Cities 

(Rio Grande Games, $25)

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The premise: You know those archeological expeditions you hear about? That shit doesn't happen magically. Lost Cities re-creates the fundraising process with cards.

The play: Players try to use color-coded investor cards and numbered cards (in increasing order) to earn profits.

How you win: Have the highest balance when the last card is drawn.

Is there an app for that? Yes, with multiplayer!

Geek factor (1-10): 3. While some strategy and mathematical analysis is involved, luck factors heavily.


Twilight Struggle 

(GMT Games, $60)

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The premise: No, not that Twilight. The Cold War one. Who wouldn't want to simulate those halcyon days when a few questionable decisions could lead to total annihilation?

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How you win: Reach 20 victory points, have the Victory Point Marker in your favor at the end of 10 turns or maintain full control of Europe—which, good luck with that.

Is there an app for that? No.

Geek factor (1-10): 7. With a moderate difficulty and hefty play time, Twilight Struggle definitely isn't Sorry. It's also the highest-rated game on BoardGameGeek.com, so there's that.


A Game of Thrones: The Board Game 

(Fantasy Flight Games, $60)

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The play: It's so great. No luck, no dice rolls, just your wits. Gameplay depends on convincing your opponents to jack each other up, weakening them just enough so you can stab them in the back. WARNING: The game's inherent treachery can lead to damaged friendships. Sound great? It is.

How you win: Be the best in the room at politics and manipulation.

Is there an app for that? No, damn it.

Geek factor (1-10): 9; 10 if you decide to role-play the house lords.