Our Librarian Ian's Favorite Table Top Games

During this pandemic, board games have been a valuable pastime for many people, whether it's breaking some out with the family and friends or learning how to play games on new online platforms. At Johnson County Library, our Table Top Games Committee has been trying to think of ways that we can share our passion with our patrons even if we can’t meet in person. Join us each month for a virtual Table Top Games event!

Ian's Table Top Games Story

I have always been an avid video gamer, but my board game experience was limited to Trivial Pursuit until I started working as a teen services librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. I volunteered to participate in a tabletop gaming initiative a couple of the other intrepid teen services librarians were starting in our system. I was aware that these fancy and complicated European tabletop games existed, but they seemed too complicated for me to seek out on my own. I quickly learned that the difficulty curve of modern board games was mostly something I had invented in my head. I founded a weekly teen tabletop gaming program at my branch and it quickly became my favorite part of the workweek. When I came over to Johnson County Library and found that they had their own Table Top Games programming, I tried to keep my cool when my manager asked if I wanted to be involved with it. “Yeah, that would be cool,” I said, doing backflips and fist pumps in my head.

One of my favorite things about tabletop gaming is that they covertly promote useful life skills. In my tabletop gaming incubator we would play games and then discuss which 21st Century skills they reinforced. These included things like literacy, leadership, teamwork, and flexibility. My favorite games are those that have a low barrier of entry but have tons of replayability.

Some of my favorite games:

Splendour - Who knew a game about Renaissance jewel merchants could be so THRILLING. Granted, a lot of this games appeal is its excellent gameplay mechanics (and wonderfully tactile poker chip “jewel” tokens). It’s a game where every single playthrough teaches you a new, better way to play. It’s almost plain unfair that there is an app version of this (which I had to delete from my phone to, you know, be a productive member of society).

Carcassone - Another example of “who knew a game about constructing a medieval fortified town in France could be so much dang fun!” The Germans really know what they are doing when it comes to elegant game design. This is another one of those games that takes minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master.

Takenoko - If this game is available at one of our game nights, I’m usually going to try to make people play it with me. While this game growing bamboo for a voracious panda is pretty cutesy on the surface, the gameplay is phenomenal and so much fun.

Betrayal at House on the Hill - I’m not a big horror movie guy, but this game about a group of people exploring a haunted house is one of my favorites. It’s all the fun of a D&D-esque role playing game without having to learn any lore or math. Best of all is when the game switches up halfway through and one of your party members starts working with the monsters (vampires, werewolves, giant amorphous blobs, there are dozens of crazy horror movie scenarios!) trying to destroy you.

Ticket to Ride - This is my favorite game to introduce folks to the wild and wonderful world of board games beyond Monopoly. It’s hard to think of a more perfect gateway game.