10 great modern board games for summer

Board games have come a long way in the last decade, and with so many fun new titles available you can put Monopoly, Operation and Scrabble back on the shelf and try something else.

  1. 01

    Azul: a beautiful game with a nasty streak

    Photo of the Azul game board in play.

    Azul is a simply gorgeous game about placing mosaic tiles. But don’t let looks deceive you, as pleasing on the eye as it is, Azul is ruthless.

    Players alternate selecting sets of tiles from a central reserve. You’re trying to get the exact ones they need to complete a row - but you can easily be forced into taking tiles you can’t use, which will wreck your score.

    Perfect for people who love solving puzzles, but also who want a game to be very competitive.

  2. 02

    Santorini: a faster, friendlier chess match

    Photo of the Santorini game board in play.

    Santorini is at its core an amazingly simple game. Each turn you move one of your worker pieces, and place a tower level. The winner is the first player to move their piece onto the 3rd level of a tower. But you can place a cap on the tower so no one can move there.

    This fast-paced game will challenge the brain and is a great fit for families and people who fancy themselves chess masters.

  3. 03

    Flipology: fast, frantic, flipping

    Photo of Flipology in play.

    Flipology is a game published by Aoteroa’s own Cheeky Parrot Games and comes in a nice small box ideal for taking on holiday.

    You start with a lot of facedown cards. Each turn you flip one over and an effect will take place, which will flip more of your cards, or some of your opponent’s. This can very easily lead to massive chain reactions.

    The winner is the players whose face-up cards at the end of the game are worth the most points.

    A wonderful travel game and great for the beach.

  4. 04

    Pandemic: a little too topical perhaps?

    Photo of a portion of the Pandemic game board in play.

    A lot of modern board games are cooperative. This means players work together as a team to beat the game. There are not individual winners and losers. This is great for families who prefer bonding over games than sulking and hitting each other with the Monopoly bank.

    Pandemic was one of the first big hits in cooperative gaming, and despite being 12 years old is still one of the most popular games in the genre.

    In Pandemic, you are a team of scientists trying to stop the spread of a set of deadly diseases across the world. Only through great teamwork can you save the day and the world.

  5. 05

    Horrified: do the mash, the monster mash!

    Photo of a game piece on the Horrified board.

    Horrified is a cooperative game like Pandemic, but this time you are adventurers trying to stop the evil machinations of the Universal Studios monsters in the classic horror movies.

    Each monster has its own unique powers and weaknesses. To defeat Dracula you must track down all his coffins and destroy them before finally driving a stake through his heart, whereas the Mummy requires you to solve an ancient riddle.

    Another great game for couples and families as it promotes teamwork.

  6. 06

    The Crew: a different sort of space ship bridge

    Photo of The Crew mid play.

    The Crew is a trick taking game, much like Hearts, 500 or Bridge, where players will each play cards and the winner is the player who put in the highest card from the matching suit.

    The twist with The Crew is that it is also a cooperative game.

    Each player has to win the hand that contains a certain card, but communication between players is limited. Which leads to a lot of “I think they have this card, but I’m not sure” moments.

    The crew produces great moments and is perfect with 4 players.

  7. 07

    Kiitos: what if Scrabble was a lot more fun?

    Photo of Kiltos mid play.

    Kiitos is a very simple word-building game where players have a handful of vowels and consonants and must competitively build words.

    You start by placing one letter and naming a word of at least four letters - for example, placing an H and saying “Home”. If the next player has an O they must play it, but if they don’t they can place a new letter and change the word. The player whose word gets completed wins the round.

    While this seems very simple, it’s horribly addictive and great for people who love word games – and also designed by a New Zealander!

  8. 08

    Sagrada: stained glass window making

    Photo of the Sagrada game board.

    In Sagrada you draft dice from a central reserve and try to place them in a stained glass window, in clever combinations, to score points.

    Each player has a window they are working on, and each window scores differently. The arrangement of both the colours of dice and the pips on them has an impact on your score.

    Another striking and engaging puzzle game.

  9. 09

    Wingspan: now with birds from Aotearoa!

    Photo of Wingspan mid play.

    Wingspan is a wildly popular board game about bird spotting, and it uses a blend of drafting cards, managing food resources and limited actions to make a very clever game.

    But what sets wingspan apart from many other games is the hundreds of unique bird cards, each with their own abilities.

    With a new expansion themed on the birds of Oceania, it’s also become a lot more relevant!

  10. 10

    Architects of the West Kingdom: local lads make hit game

    Photo of the game board for Architects of the West Kingdom.

    Aotearoa is home to a small group of internationally successful board game designers. The most successful are Shem Phillips and Sam Macdonald of Garphill games, based out of Waikanae.

    Architects of the West Kingdom is slightly more complex than many of the games on this list, but that extra depth offers extra reward. In Architects you are lords and ladies competing for favour in the court by building a cathedral in medieval France.

    What makes Architects so compelling is the high level of player interaction. As you place pieces on the board to claim rewards, other players can become jealous and arrest your workers, ransoming them back. This leads to an amazing ebb and flow in the game.

    Definitely one to check out to support Kiwi made, and to try something a bit more challenging.