Stay social at camp: 10 board and card games to sell at outdoor retail

Board and card games are making a comeback and perfect to pass the evenings outdoors. Check out some our favorites from the new generation of games.
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In an age of hi-tech video and smartphone app games, there’s been a curious revival of old-school board and card games.

We’re not talking about ‘Monopoly’, ‘Sorry’ or ‘Uno.’ Rather, it’s a new generation games making the rounds with names like ‘Ticket to Ride,’ ‘Carcassonne’ and ‘Apples to Apples.’

The games are fun for kids and teens, but dare we say that those in their 20’s and 30’s are behind the recent push (geek is chic?). In past few years we’ve been introduced to the genre at campsites and ski huts as a fun way to pass the evenings outdoors.

Outdoor retailers, including REI, have begun to pick on the trend, carrying a small selection of games. And at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, we came across new exhibitor Moosetache Games, which centers its board games like ‘Hike’ and ‘Rowboat’ on the outdoors.

“We’re driven by the idea that anyone any age can keep the spirit of play alive,” Moosetache Games co-founder Cristina Ramos told us. “By developing games that spark social connections and showcase the beauty of the outdoors, we hope to bring people together and infuse fun into each day.

Indeed, experts and followers say part of the board-game comeback owes its thanks to people wanting to be more social playing games, instead of staring at their phones or tablets in solitude. And since no electricity is required, they make for perfect outdoor games. Other drivers of the revival include an invasion of so-called Euro-style games like ‘Settlers of Catan’ to the United States several years ago, and the baby-boom-echo generation wanting to pass on fond childhood memories of playing board games to their kids.

At outdoor retail, board and card games can serve as a quick add-on sale, especially for campers who will have access to a table, but a large tent floor can work as well.

In no particular order, here are 10 trending board and card games to introduce to your customers:

>> Settlers of Catan – As mentioned above, this German game is credited with spurring the rush of Euro-style game to the United States. It, and others of its kind, involve resource collecting and building on the board with a mixture of luck and interaction. It’s a great introduction to the genre.

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>> Apples to Apples – Another popular game that your store may already carry. It’s in the category of party games that works well with larger groups, and no board is necessary. The objective is for players to best match the cards in hand, marked by red apples with nouns on them, with the single green apple card in play containing an adjective. Players take turn being the judge of the most logical, creative or funny pairing. Note: there’s also a popular R-rated version of this game called ‘Cards Against Humanity.’

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>> Ticket to Ride – Our friends at Warren Miller are piggybacking off the recent success of this board game, borrowing the title for this year’s film, now on tour. As for the game, it’s another European carry-over, where players race to lay their train routes across maps of Europe the United States, or other countries. This one’s easy, great for kids, and teaches some geography too.

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>> Carcassonne – It’s easier to play than it is to pronounce (car-cah-sohn). This French game involves laying matching tiles to build a kingdom of castles, roads, missionaries and farms, which players claim with their “meeples” (little wooden people) for points. It’s quicker to play than some of the other games listed here, and a hard surface is recommended.

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>> King of Tokyo – This card and dice game with monsters, aliens and robots debuted in 2011 and is quickly moving up gamers' favorite charts. There are several stages of the game and numerous ways to win, either by gaining the most points, or being the last monster standing.

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>> Dominion – Known as a deck-building game, players amass cards (and there are a lot of them) featuring mythical characters with abilities to gain even more cards, money and victory points. Heavy on strategy, there’s a little more thought given to each move and certain cards play best with others. Up to four players can play, but it’s also a fun two-player game.

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>> Pandemic – Don’t let the title bring you down. Here’s a cooperative game where 2-4 players work together to beat the board rather than each other. Each player takes on a unique role to help the team stop several viruses that have simultaneously broken out across the world.

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>> Small World – Here’s a popular strategy board game that kids will enjoy for its quirky characters, all battling out to occupy territory on the map and survive. A fun mechanic of this game involves building up race of dwarves, wizards, orcs or humans, but then knowing when to let them decline in order to build up your next race.

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>> Hike – How could we not pick a game about the outdoors? It’s good for kids, quick and compact at camp, and up to 7 players can play. The design of the cards makes it easy for kids to pick up and learn about nature as well.

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>> Lost Cities – Some games aren’t fun with just two players, but this game specifically is designed for a two people and involves an adventure travel theme. Collect and replace the right cards to move ahead in up to five expeditions at once. It’s easy learn and typically takes about 20 minutes to play.

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You might also come across games like Agricola, Puerto Rico and Through the Ages. These strategy games also are popular, but definitely more complex and marketed toward teens and adults versus kids.

Looking to learn more about how to play some of these latest games? We like the YouTube channel Watch it Played, where host Rodney Smith runs through gameplay with his two kids. Other board game sites include The Dice Tower with video reviews of games, and Board Game Geek with a vast database of game forums and rankings.

--David Clucas

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