If you’re a reader and/or have befriended one, you’ve probably also played Scrabble—or UpWords or Bananagrams, for that matter. I grew up playing and loving word games, with a smattering of Dungeons & Dragons as a teen, but it’s only as an adult that I’ve discovered bookish boardgames and card games that fall squarely in my wheelhouse. Let’s dive in, shall we?
I don’t know where my love of books featuring diseases came from, but it’s here and it’s real. Whether it’s nonfiction about doctors, researchers, and epidemiologists, or dystopias brought about by a devastating new virus, I am so ready. (Perhaps it’s how I’m assuaging my fears about the state of global health? Get your flu shots, folks.) As it turns out, there’s a game for that!
Players compete with each other to raise the oxygen percentage and temperature on Mars, thus making it safe enough for humans and collecting game points in the process. Building forests and seas alternate with mining, science experiments, some government bureaucracy, and more, and there are lots of winks to science fiction and Kim Stanley Robinson in particular. It’s a space nerd’s game, no doubt. While the rules could use some clarifying and/or simplifying to make learning it a quicker process, it’s a beautifully detailed, thoughtfully constructed game, and one I’m actually going to buy. (My games bookcase is rapidly beginning to resemble my books bookcase: overflowing.)
A card game not unlike Rummy or Hearts that is also completely its own weird, occultish thing, Illimat is great for 2–4 players, which I’m always looking for because finding more than 1 other person to play a game with you is sometimes next to impossible. And the game pieces themselves are gorgeous! Plus it’s fairly easy to learn; we picked it up at a boardgame convention at a demo, where the lovely British man at the booth both taught us and played a round with us in about 20 minutes.
We’re seeing more and more of this (also: Dune, Tak from the Kingkiller Chronicles, Game of Thrones), and while most of these take the form of RPGs or territory-claiming games, it’s perhaps no surprise that this is a gentle, simple, cozy card game. The original graphic novel is about a young girl who discovers that she has a knack for caring for (you guessed it) tiny tea-making dragons, and The Tea Dragon Society Card Game is all about learning the dragons’ personalities, caring for them, not getting bit when they’re grumpy, you get the idea. Adorable, low-key fun, and definitely good for kids!
Need even more bookish games? Here are some pairings!
Note: Portions of this post were adapted from exclusive content for the Book Riot Insiders community. Sign up here for more of this brand of bookish goodness!