Best Board Games to Play in a Pandemic

Just remember that now is not the time to bust out "Pandemic" the board game.

For Lovebirds Who Are Tired of Talking To Each Other

When I bought Wingspan for my bird-curious husband for Christmas, I didn’t expect it would be the current glue holding our marriage together. We’re very much in love, I couldn’t think of a better person to be trapped in quarantine with, blah blah blah, but this much time together is really testing the limits of our conversational gamut. There’s not a lot of news to share when you’ve spent all day in the same 700 square feet. For example, he tried to go to London Drugs today but forgot his wallet—that’s kind of our big news story for the day.

So it’s with relish that we’ve thrown ourselves into this competitive bird sanctuary-themed board game, hunkering down with a couple of beers and a deck of complicated watercolour cards. There’s simply no time for talking when you’re trying to remember how many eggs you need to trade in your action cube to roll the dice for enough berries to activate your Cedar Waxwing, people!

It’s so engrossing, with its complex rules (there’s a “quick start guide” in addition to the appendix, a 12-page instruction manual and multiple demo videos on the game publisher website) and multiple ways to turn your conservatory of birds into a point-collecting machine. Also, it’s full of fun bird facts—each card tells you a little something about the Carolina Chickadee or Black-Bellied Whistling-Duck, so you can share tidbits with your partner to fill the long night of silences that stretch ahead. An egg-cellent game, recommended for lovebirds everywhere. —Stacey McLachlan, executive editor

A Throwback To A Simpler Era

Growing up, when someone would speak about their profession my father would reply with complete Nick Offerman-esque sincerity: “There are only four professions—Law, Medicine, the Military and the Clergy.” I feel it was frequently a dentist or an accountant that this was directed at. I find myself feeling the same about board games: there’s Monopoly, Risk, Scrabble, maybe Clue, and everything else is for nerds or children. And I suppose I’d allow an exemption for both Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary. But generally you should be playing bridge, crib, hearts or poker if you have free time on your hands and you’re not 14.

But then Crokinole came back into my life. I had weirdly played it quite frequently in my youth when my grandparents—children of Neepawa, Manitoba—had a board, but had completely forgotten about it until visitors from Quebec were staying with us and they mentioned that Croque-EEH-nahl was their fave game to play at their cabin in the Laurentians. And suddenly all the memories came flowing back and I hopped on Craigslist to see if anyone was hawking old Croak-IN-all (that’s the proper prairie pronunciation) boards. Low and behold some oddball crokinole fan off Fraser Street had several boards for sale (as well as a few drifters imprisoned in his basement). I snagged the cheapest option, and we spent the night firing these little discs at each other. I’m not going to go into the rules—they’re simple and hard to remember at the same time—but the game is a riot and can be played with a few Labatt 50s under your belt, the only two requirements that count.—Neal McLennan, food editor

For Those With Trustworthy Friends and Family

My close circle has been obsessed with the game Codenames for awhile now, to the point that I made one of my family members a custom Codenames board based on things he likes. It sounds super nerdy (and it probably is), but it was among the best gifts I’ve given. 

The game is essentially a word association game, in which “spymasters” have to direct their partners to choose the correct word on the board by giving a one-word clue. 

It’s incredibly fun and competitive, especially if you play with a group of people who know each other well. So when I found out that you could play online, I started a video chat with three of my brothers (I’m rich with brothers, as the other editors like to point out with glee), and jumped in. 

There’s only one catch: in the online version, it’s extremely easy to cheat. The good part for me? I’m easily the least trustworthy of us four, so if I’m not cheating, chances are that no one else is either.—Nathan Caddell, associate editor