Reviving a cottage classic

Image by Dave Photoz

As the cold weather and global pandemic force us inside for the season, we are all searching for new indoor group activities. It’s the perfect time to rediscover some of the board games that have been collecting dust – or add some new ones to the rotation. Some outstanding new games have come out in the past few years, as well as variations on the classics, which are changing the game and turning board game night a perfect activity to engage everyone in some friendly competition.

Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan is well on its way to becoming one of the classics, having achieved worldwide popularity after debuting in Europe in 1995. The game is set on a newly discovered island, which players must race to settle by collecting resources and building out their infrastructure. There is a good combination of strategic game play and sheer luck, which ensures that it can be anyone’s victory, if you make the right moves.

The game board is reassembled every time you play, giving the board a random element so that it rarely feels over-played or predictable. There are also many expansion packs available which add different rules and pieces for extra variety. These are a good addition for frequent players, but definitely not a necessity. Catan is designed for three to four players, but extra pieces can be bought separately to include up to six people. The easy-to-grasp strategy and endless variations has helped secure Catan’s position as a games-night staple.

Disney Villainous

Disney Villainous is another new addition to the board-game canon, and has received a ton of critical praise since winning Toy of the Year at the 2019 New York Toy Fair. After picking their favourite Disney villain, players race to complete their character’s evil plot first and block the other players in their schemes. The game does have a steep learning curve for the first few play-throughs, but once you get the hang of it players begin to develop strategies for completing their favourite villain’s plan. Ravensburger (the company making the game) also sells three extra card packs with new playable villains in them, so if your favourite movie isn’t featured in the base game you can pick up one of those.

The game’s Disney content makes it a great choice for engaging younger members of the family, but keep in mind that it is designed for players 10 and up, so younger players may need some extra help with their strategizing. The game runs at a relatively low price so it is worth picking up and trying out, even if you aren’t the world’s biggest Disney fan.


Risk has been a familiar favourite in the board game world for over 60 years, and it’s managed to remain popular partly because of its many updates and revamps. For those unfamiliar with the game, the concept is pretty simple (even if the game play isn’t): players are each assigned armies and territories on a map, and must wage war on each other for total world domination. The newer editions of the game have added new elements like capital cities that must be conquered, and special edition versions with new maps inspired by franchises like Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

You might remember Risk as being a painfully long game, but its rule book has been updated in recent years to speed things up – newer versions of the game can take just one hour to complete. Its designed for two to five players ages 10 and up, so it is adaptable to most group sizes, and its status as a familiar favourite makes it a great choice for multi-generational groups.


Another familiar favourite that’s probably already in your games chest is Monopoly. In this game, players move around the board buying properties and charging other players rent, eventually either buying houses and hotels to charge more rent or losing all their money and being eliminated. This classic game comes with an interesting ideological history, since it was originally designed to demonstrate the evils of land-grabbing – so if you’ve ever gotten frustrated when you just seem to land on every hotel on the board, remember that the game was designed to get your emotions going.

Luckily, Hasbro has released some new editions of the game that reduce the tantrums and increase the fun – they’ve even released a Monopoly Sore Losers edition which flips the game on its head by having players win by losing. Muskoka residents may have also seen the “Bracebridge-opoly” and “Huntsville-opoly” games for sale in local Walmarts earlier this year, featuring local landmarks in place of the regular Monopoly properties. Unfortunately, this collaboration between Outset media and Walmart sold out quickly, so you may have to find a second-hand seller to experience this novelty edition of the classic game.

Ticket To Ride

Ticket to Ride is a great new game where players compete to create railways routes across the United States (other maps are also available), connecting major cities to win points. The game rules are simple and easy to understand, which makes it a great choice for groups with younger kids – the makers recommend for kids eight and up. Playthroughs are also pretty fast, taking around 30 minutes to an hour – another plus when you’ve got little ones joining in. The more people you have, the faster the game will go as well, since more players means more train tracks getting are placed.

Ticket to Ride is an excellent game to pull out of the cupboard on a whim, because it is quick and easy to play while still being a ton of fun. This makes it perfect for power outages and rainy days when you need a quick way to entertain.

Posted in Around Muskoka.