Well, tomorrow’s American Independence Day and the majority of our readers will be off work. So not only is it a great time to honor our nation and those who have fallen for our freedom, but it’s also a good time to gather family and friends ‘round a table for some board games. We’re always looking for an excuse, right?
With that in mind we thought we’d suggest a few thematic games you could play in celebration of the holiday. Surprisingly, it was more difficult to find games directly related to the revolution than we thought. C’mon designers! Get crackin’!
1775: Rebellion (Academy Games – 2013)
The American Revolution (1775 – 1783)
This was the first game to come to mind when thinking about our independence. For anyone familiar with Risk this is fairly similar in that you are trying to control the most colonies and use dice for combat. It has its differences, though, such as using cards for movement and playing on teams (colonial army/patriots vs. British army/loyalists). Either side can also call on the aid of the Native Americans, as well as the German Hessians and the French. The game ends once both sides have declared a truce which can be tricky because you don’t want to do it too soon. You really can’t get any more historically accurate as far as games go.
Founding Fathers (Jolly Roger Games – 2010)
Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)
After you’ve declared your independence, you’ll need to have a meeting to come up with your official Declaration of Independence. As articles for the declaration are proposed, you’ll be voting for or against them based on delegate cards from your respective states and affiliations. In the end you’ll want to have voted with the majority to proclaim yourself as the most renowned.
Lewis & Clark (Asmodee – 2013)
The Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804 to 1806)
So now we start getting into more games based on American history, rather than the Revolution itself. Lewis & Clark is a game in which you are trying to manage an expedition across the continent. Your goal is to be the first person to reach the Pacific. You’ll need to manage your crew and resources as well as rely on the native American’s help to get there. You do this by using multi-purpose cards, deciding to either use its benefit or use it activating another card. There’s some hand-building and a little worker placement too. It really is a neat game with some historical flavor to it.
Freedom: The Underground Railroad (Academy Games – 2012)
Underground Railroad (Late 1700s to 1860)
Slavery has always been a sensitive subject but, speaking historically, the designer did an amazing job of portraying a piece of history without being offensive. In this game you are all working together to bring an end to slavery in the United States. You will definitely feel the struggle the abolitionists felt as you try to balance raising funds and freeing slaves to Canada before they are caught and sent back to the plantations. This game offers up quite the challenge as well as being a teaching tool for younger generations.
Great Western Trail (Stronghold Games – 2016)
The Great Western Cattle Trail (1874 to 1893)
Ah, the Wild West. Cowboys, steam engines, trail blazing and, of course, cows. Great Western Trail puts you in the boots of those intrepid cowboys moving their cattle up a long, winding, and sometimes forking trail all with the hopes of shipping them to some far off town to make a profit. This game combines worker placement and deck building into a wonderfully tight experience. There are so many decisions and varied strategies you can take but the player who manages their cattle business best will win the day.
Ticket to Ride (Days of Wonder – 2004)
Steam Powered Locomotives (1820s to present)
There are a lot train games out there. And by that, I mean A LOT. However, we’re going to stick with a tried and true one here in good ol’ Ticket to Ride. It really is a classic at this point. (see Pub Q&A: What Makes a Classic?) Steam powered trains changed the face of transportation in this country, providing a means to travel great distances in shorter periods of time. To celebrate, why not play a game about creating routes to and from towns across the country? Gameplay is rather simple. Draft from a pool of cards, collect sets of colors, and lay down some trains. If you’re looking for a bit more difficulty try playing Age of Steam, Railways of the World, or 1830: Railways & Robber Barons.
Memoir ’44 (Days of Wonder – 2004)
World War II (1939 to 1945)
While there are many important events in US history, none has defined the nation in the modern era like World War II. The idea of war saddens me but it is uplifting to know that there are those who will stand up and fight for what is right. In Memoir ‘44 players take on the roles of either the allies or axis armies to simulate many of the famous battles in the War. Each game is one of those battles. The game employs the Commands and Colors card system. On their turn, players will play one card that gives orders to a specific area of the battle field. This is a great battle scenario simulator that is not overly complicated.
Check out some of our other content:
Twilight Struggle (GMT Games – 2005)
The Cold War (1947 to 1991)
Most wars are fought primarily by people. The Cold War was fought by ideologies. Democracy and Communism faced off in a drawn out conflict ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In Twilight Struggle, two players take on the role of the United States and Russia as they vie for control and influence over the nations of the world. Each turn, players will play a card from their hand representing a historical event and resolve its effects. These can be things like furthering the space race, increasing nuclear tensions, and changing influence. Since each card is an actual historical event, Twilight Struggle does a great job of showing how history played out in this strange war.
Timeline: American History (Asmodee – 2014)
American History (1492 to 2010)
If you’re looking for the more educational variety, you should try Timeline: American History. There are a lot of games in the Timeline series, but we recommend this one because it focuses on historical events in America and that is our focus here. The game is pretty straight forward. You want to be the first person to empty your hand of cards. You do this by placing an event into the timeline and then flipping it over to reveal the date. If correctly placed, it stays; if not, you discard it and draw another card. It really is a great way for kids to learn some history!
Hanabi (R&R Games – 2010)
Fourth of July Fireworks (1977 to present)
Fireworks! Celebration! The most visible way we celebrate US Independence is by shooting off fireworks. And there really isn’t a question why. They inspire awe at their sounds, colors, and beauty. Hanabi puts you and your friends in charge of putting together a fireworks show. But wait! The fireworks are all jumbled up and you must get them in order before the show! Hanabi is a card game where players are completely aware of every player’s hand but their own. They hold their cards facing outwards and players must give information to you so you know what to play on your turn. For me, Hanabi always turns into a big laugh-fest as everyone tries not to say what they want or not make crazy faces when someone picks the wrong card to play. Great fun and a great cooperative way to celebrate the holiday.
Happy Fourth of July! Now go play some of these games.