Board Games in a Time of Social Distancing


Greetings from my fancy new office—“Shelter in Place.”  It is quite lovely here and I am adjusting well to my new working conditions and office mates.  My current priority is remembering that my daily Zoom calls focused on helping the OFJCC navigate this unprecedented health and economic crisis warrant at least a fresh t-shirt every day…

It didn’t take this novel coronavirus, COVID-19, to inspire me to immerse myself in the world of board games, but it sure is a good time to familiarize yourself with this wealth of entertainment resources.  I’ve been doing that for many years already.  In fact, I grew up playing all sorts of games, many of which you’re probably familiar with:  Monopoly, Risk, Stratego, Rummikub, Spades, Charades—the list goes on.  Today, you may be surprised to learn, we’re experiencing a game renaissance, and the epicenter is in… Germany!  Who knew.  I didn’t, and I don’t know why, but somehow the Germans have become the world leaders in games.  In fact, perhaps the most prestigious annual gaming awards bestowed upon the industry’s top games, the Spiel des Jahres, comes out of the German gaming community.  The link will take you to the 2019 winners.

I’d like to share some of my favorites with you today, and I hope you might pick some of these up and enjoy them with your families. They’re all available on Amazon, and some if not all have digital versions, so you can even play online with friends and family. These are generally small business owners, so you can support those folks in need at the same time.

I’ve planned my first virtual board game night for this Saturday. A few friends and I have downloaded Agricola and Race for the Galaxy (described below) and we’ve scheduled a Zoom meeting so that we can play online and talk smack. Because what’s a good game night without smack talk?!

Finally, I want to direct you to—it is the preeminent gaming resource on the internet and a truly invaluable resource for any gamer or gaming family. For detailed game descriptions and related information for each game, click on the links below. Poke around when you have a few hours of free time. And now, please enjoy some of my all-time favorites, and please do share yours in the comments as well. Happy gaming!

For all ages (little to no reading required):


First off, it’s one of my kids’ favorite, so points for that.  Second, I often receive donations (of bean cards) – part of the game flow is to remove unhelpful cards from your hand – and well, that’s an action that’s pretty well-aligned with the rest of my life.  So more points for bean philanthropy!


Great for small and bigger groups alike.  You learn so many interesting things about the human brain when someone use the clue “Ankh” to connect the cards “Egypt,” “Key” and “Uncle”. Fascinating!

Ticket to Ride

It has little plastic trains that you put on cool maps from around the world, depending on your version (base or one of many expansions) of the game.  I’ve got a thing for maps, I admit it.

King of Tokyo

You’re a monster and you might get to use your freeze ray on an opponent.  And when you win, you’re the King of Tokyo.  And you can walk around your kitchen, declaring to anyone not holding a sharp object, “I am the king of Tokyo!”

For older children and more sophisticated gamers:

Race for the Galaxy (also on mobile)

It’s a space-themed card game – you explore the universe, develop technology, settle planets and generate a production/consumption economy.  The replay-ability is extraordinary and the quest for card synergy (like Agricola) can result in the most satisfying, bad-ass galaxy, and it also has a nice (not perfect, but good enough) iPad app for seamless online gameplay.


Okay, I’ve got the iOS version on my phone, but I’m not going to tell you that I’ve played 1,268 games. Online.  Mostly with my brother.  Some during senior staff meetings.  Ummm…. Almost every game has some element of luck, but Agricola does a great job of limiting its impact.  It’s all about card synergy, and thinking through all of the options lights up my brain.  And there’s cows, wild board, sheep, even a house goat.  But if you have the house goat, and can’t keep any other animals in your house, and then building out your stables and your pastures becomes all the more urgent, and then…

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Seth Leslie

Written by Seth Leslie

Seth Leslie woke up one morning to discover that he had been hired as the Chief Development Officer at the OFJCC and is absolutely elated that he can get paid to ask people for money. He loves the OFJCC because the OFJCC is full of wonderful people who build his community, enrich his life and inspire his Jewish journey. When he’s not schmoozing his way through a work day, he’s with his amazing family, just grateful to be in their presence. When he’s not being grateful for family, he’s playing board games or sharing single origin bean-to-bar dark chocolate, and most likely doing both at the same time.

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