A couple years ago, a group of friends and I went on a crazy, continent-crossing journey without ever leaving our apartments thanks to a little imagination and a cooperative board game called Pandemic Legacy. Created long before the board game’s plot became our reality, Pandemic’s action revolves around a seemingly simple task: stop an unknown virus from spreading around the world and infecting the globe’s populace.
The best part about Pandemic (the game, not the actual pandemic we’re currently living through) is that it’s basically one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books. Every decision you make has consequences that carry over into every subsequent session. Cut the legs off an outbreak in Miami, and one might pop up in Jakarta. Build a research center in Khartoum but by the time you finish, Essen might be in flames. All this means you can play the game over and over to new results, though you will need a new board each time because there’re stickers.
My friends and I managed to save the world. Barely. The end narrative informed us our job was so poor that while the world would recover, it would take generations to do so. A serious ego boost, I’m sure you can imagine.
So as I sat at home last weekend, I sent a panicked text to one of my teammates.
To spare you the guilt I feel at possibly having doomed the human race, here are five care-free games you can play during your shut-in. Of course, if you’re willing to risk it, Pandemic can also be played online.
When you live in a city as epic is H-Town, it’s only a matter of time before it gets its own boardgame. Houston-Opoly is just that. Buy up the Houston Zoo, Port of Houston, and Minute Maid Stadium as you make your way around a Space City-themed board. But be careful, one wrong move and you’ll wind up in a traffic jam, this game’s very Houston-esque version of jail. If you want to bring this money game into the real world, head to Ebay where you can bid on the vintage Parker Brothers Monopoly Texas Edition from 1999. Lasso it in, and you can sling that colorful dough as an armadillo, a pickup truck, or even an oil rig.
Throw Throw Burrito
If you’re missing all that delicious Houston Tex-Mex, tide your tastes over with Throw Throw Burrito, a dodgeball card game from the creators of Exploding Kittens. As its marketing slogan goes, “Collect cards. Play your Hand. Throw things at your friends.” What could possibly be sweeter?
Catan Histories: Settlers of America—Trails to Rails
You know the original Catan (and if you don’t, you should); well, here’s the westward expansion edition. The third addition in the Catan Histories line, Trails to Rails uses Catan’s familiar hexagonal layout, this time overlaid atop a map of America. Players traverse this 19th century landscape, first by wagon trains then by locomotive, while building new cities, forging railroads, and getting gold rush-level rich.
Try your hand at this high-stakes, Wild West card game featuring art by Dave Matthews (yes, the musician). There’re gangs of outlaws, quick-draw gun fights, and a sheriff. It’ll take all your wits to survive this game that combines three-card poker and War, with a touch of Farkel.
Cards Against Humanity
Okay, so technically it’s called Remote Insensitivity (because you’re not in the same room and the cards are super insensitive), but it’s the exact same game in an online format. You can even find your favorite cards, including “A micropig wearing a tiny raincoat and booties” and “Waking up half-naked in a Denny’s parking lot” (plus all the really dirty ones we can’t print). So, text your friends, grab a beer, and let your dark side out to play.