In my high school days, I used to play a lot of wargames from Avalon Hill and SPI. I once spent an entire summer playing one game of War in Europe, which had a 42-square-foot map of Europe and 3500 or so pieces. Each turn was one week, so it was literally a full time job getting through it in a couple of months.
All that is to say I spent a lot of time hanging out at game stores, particularly Nan's in Houston (a great game and comic store that still exists and I still visit every time I am in Houston). I play fewer wargames now, but I still like strategy games that are a bit more complicated than Monopoly or Risk. But it is hard to find a game store with a good selection (if there is one here in Phoenix, I have not found it).
But I definitely want to try this place -- the Complete Strategist in New York City. Click through for some good game pr0n.
His list of games is good, though I have never played Gloom and I have never been a huge fan of Carcassonne. Ticket to Ride is an awesome game and is perhaps the most accessible for kids and noobs of either his or my list. If you recognize none of these games, it is a great place to start (there is also a great iPad app). To his list of games I would add:
- 7 wonders (our family's current favorite)
- Small world (our family's previous favorite, also look for the great iPad app)
- Dominion (my current personal favorite)
- Race for the Galaxy (you can also download an online version to try, one of my favorite quick computer games)
All of these games tend to present simple choices with extraordinarily complex scoring implications. In most cases, one must build infrastructure early to score later, but the trade-off of when to switch from infrastructure building to scoring is the trick. Five years ago Settlers of Catan would have been on any such list, but it is interesting it is on neither his nor mine.
Once you catch the bug, there are hundreds of other games out there. My son and I last summer got caught up in a very complex Game of Thrones expandable card game. Recommended only for those who love incredible complexity and are familiar with the books. There are also a couple of games I have liked but only played once so far. My son and I last summer played a fabulous though stupidly complex game of Twilight Struggle (about the Cold War, not hot vampire teens). This is considered by many to be one of the greatest war / strategy games ever. We also tried Eclipse (space game, again not the teen vampires) which we liked. I have played Le Havre and Puerto Rico as iPad apps. They were OK, but I think the fun in them is social and the of course does not come through in the iPad app. In the same vein, tried to play Agricola with my kids and they were bored stiff.