While we may be living in ‘interesting’ times, it’s still essential to make every effort to spread a bit of love an optimism wherever possible. And with board gamers being one of the most welcoming groups of hobbyists around, picking out a game with a positive message at its core can be a great way to keep things light and come away a little happier than you were before.

So, here are six of our favorite games that have a great example at their core. Starting with-

6 | PANDEMIC (2008)


Grim subject matter wrapped around an amazing mechanic; Pandemic may be a little hard to take in the current months. But bear with it and you’ll find a solid gem at the game’s core. Putting you in the hazmat suited booties of a CDC operatives, players are forced to communicate with clarity and respect as they work together to fight back against the game’s viruses. This helps develop empathy for the beleaguered cities (something taken to another level by the game’s legacy sequels), giving back-up and support when it’s required, and celebrating a hard won win with friends. And speaking of the power of co-operation-

5 | THE LORD OF THE RINGS (2000)


One of the most adapted series of all time, it can sometimes feel like every developer who’s been in the same room as a copy of the book has taken a run at adventures of Frodo and friends. However, few have come close to capturing the spirit of the original than Reiner Knizia’s 2000 effort that tracks the dogged progress of the Hobbits from the shire to the slopes of Mount Doom itself. Built around close, collaborative, and often sacrificial play – Knizia’s classic adds just enough grit to its gears to make players feel like they are carrying the ring themselves. Add in some gorgeous art by the iconic John Howe and it’s tough to find a game that better exemplifies the true power of fellowship.

4 | THE FOX IN THE FOREST (2017)


A card that arguably exists to teach players a lesson, Fox is a fun and affordable trick taking game that took the industry by storm when it was published by Renegade a few years ago. Built for two, the game’s gorgeously illustrated cards are made up from a number of suits which possess a range of powers when played to the table. However, the game’s fantasy wrapper is a little more than for aesthetic convenience. Players are awarded points based on how many points they have won – get to greedy with your tricks and your score count drops to nothing. Fight fairly and valiantly and you’ll find a decent score in your balance. But prove to be the underdog (or lose on purpose) and you’ll score beaucoup points. Perfect for all ages and idea for travel play, Fox is an essential add for any collection or when accompanied with a book of fairy tales – making it ideal for kids big and small.

3 | TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (2009)


And the emphasis on storytelling doesn’t there. Z-Man’s long loved games still continues to occupy space on gaming shelves for a reason. Taking inspiration from the original book of tales, the game lets players lose on an outsized board to tell the best damn story possible. This includes getting into scrapes with genies, cruel princes, plundering Atlantis, grappling with wild beasts, and much more. But while the game is designed to allow grand adventures and world-ending stakes, the highest scoring and most profitable stories are those involving kindness and humility. Acts of compassion and care often prove to be the best rewarded, with violent kings and princes often coming to untimely deaths. And while the game’s boards and storybooks may occupy most of your table space, there’s no substitute for pulling this game out after some rare Harryhausen and spinning up a story of your own – where the Gods are just and you end up getting cursed for kicking a monkey.

2 | SPIRIT ISLAND (2017)


Another co-operative classic, Spirit Island may seem like usual fare but reading the blurb the Co-Operative Settler-Destruction Strategy Game” should give a bit of pause. Flipping the script on games like Catan or Robinson Crusoe, players are put in charge of the Godlike beings of the island who work in tandem to fight back on the behalf of otherwise nameless indigenous populations being threatened by invading colonists. Rock hard and infinitely replayable, the game is an incredible education for individuals who may otherwise not spare a moment’s thought about those being crushed underfoot….and when you use your nightmare powers to scare the &^%£ out of those trying to destroy your homes, it’s pretty rad too.

1 | TRADITIONAL GAMES: MANCALA


Few games represent the perseverance of the human spirit better than mancala. Played for generations, the game’s origins can be traced back to the 7th century with the earliest examples being found in 7th century Egypt. For modern history however, the game was infamous for being part of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, with many slaves passing on the game to others while in captivity. The ‘sowing’ action of the game allowed individuals to pass on stories of homes to children born into servitude and teach essential skills such as advance planning, critical thinking, and numeracy. Banner by slaveowners, individuals would carve Mancala sets were hidden, hand crafted, or carved into living rocks near shorelines to pass on the skills and stories necessary – making it a testament to perseverance, the ability to endure hardship, and the human capacity to endure. You can learn more about the cultural importance of the game from here, and maybe even pick up a copy for your family or loved ones and pass on the story of the game for yourself.

Do you have any game to recommend, that spreads a positive message?! Share it in the comments below :)

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