For my first top 10 list, I thought it might be a good idea to not get too stressed out and just talk about some games that are enjoyable and relaxing. What qualifies as “relaxing” will vary from person-to-person, but for me — these are games that keep the ‘competitive juices’ at a low-level and I can just enjoy the act of playing the game.
The following list is fully comprised of games from my current top 100 list, so not only are they relaxing, but they are all fun to play as well.
#10 — Reef
For me, Reef is relaxing because of its visual appeal, gameplay in which I can generally focus on my own board and actions, and light puzzling. This one hit the 10 spot, though, because it gets close to getting my competitive-number-crunching brain working too hard.
#9 — Dream Home
A set collection and card drafting game in which you get to “design” your own home. While this game is deep enough to allow players to get very competitive, it also allows for players to simply sit back and focus on having fun with the house they design. I love games that can be enjoyable outside of winning or total points and Dream Home is one of them (but please, if you play with me…don’t mess up my large living room)
#8 — Just Desserts
The theme helps quite a bit with the relaxing nature of this game. Who doesn’t start to relax when thinking about delicious cookie, ice cream, and/or cake-based desserts? And if you have the ‘Better with Bacon’ expansion, you might even start drooling a bit. The theme is not all that contributes to making this game relaxing, but the low-interaction in the game helps as well. I am trying to achieve my goal first, but I am at the whim of the ingredient cards in my hand and the desires of the customers in the restaurant. So, all I can do…is my best and just enjoy the game as it progresses. Note: if you like to “immerse yourself” into a game’s theme and story, then be careful. You might start to get a little stressed if one of your “less-than-favorite” customers walks into the restaurant. I’m lookin’ at you, Mrs. Jenkins!
#7 — Patchwork
Patchwork is a great example of a CrockPot truth: Tile-laying is relaxing. Furthermore, add in the fabric theme of this game and it is very easy to stay calm while playing this competitive game.
Caution: in this Tetris-style game, the first time you create an opening on your board that cannot be filled in by any piece…your relax-o-meter may go down a notch or two. 🙂
#6 — Kingdomino
More tile-laying!! And the bright colors on the dominoes are very appealing to me. After several plays of Kingdomino, I have found that while I am always doing my best to score points and create the most successful kingdom, I never feel stressed or overly-competitive. And if I make a mistake and ruin my chance of creating a full 5×5 board, my pride takes a ding! but oh well, them’s the breaks. Bonus: if I get the water tile that includes the ‘Loch Ness Monster’ both my enjoyment and relaxation levels automatically double. Good ol’ Nessie.
#5 — NMBR 9
At its heart, NMBR 9 is a puzzle game in which one is trying to logically deduce the best path to create high point combos. Now, that sounds a little stressful and it definitely could be. For me, though, it helps that I’m not that great at this game. Thus, the pressure’s off. I just enjoy another game of essentialy “tile-placement” and see how high I can manage to get my numbers to successfully stack. If I manage to ever figure out a solid strategy to this game, this one might fall of the list. Oh well!
#4 — Aquarius
Pretty cards. Simple gameplay. And a nice mix of controlled actions and randomness. In those statements, Aquarius hits on what I find to be some common denominators of a relaxing game (Pretty, simple, and enough luck/randomness to negate over competitiveness)
And as the game progresses, the game gets more relaxing as the board being designed by players gets more enjoyable to look at. The most peaceful and relaxing part of this game? Whenever you get a large rainbow path put together. There may not be anything more relaxing in gaming to me than looking at the pretty rainbow that a long path creates in Aquarius.
#3 — Legacy of Dragonholt
This is a very different game from most that are on this list. I should also note that I have only ever played this game solo. I caution that the relaxing nature of the game could be lessened with a higher player count. As a solo play, though, it is a very peaceful experience. Legacy of Dragonholt, at its core, is a storytelling, choose-your-own-path style of game. [Note: the content at times can unfortunately be questionable, so be aware that the game could become uncomfortable to play in larger settings because of that].
Most of the game is making simple decisions on where to travel around Dragonholt as you try to improve your character and learn important pieces of information. For me, the reading, light decision making, and page-flipping is very relaxing. That said, there are some adventurous moments in the game that are less-than-calming. In fact, at the end of one play session, I found myself feeling emotionally-drained by the decisions I had to make and the consequences they created.
#2 — Dixit
This is the 2nd time I have mentioned Dixit this week, but why not! It’s a fun game! At the heart of Dixit is creative word selection and visual interpretation. For some that may seem stressful, but for me it creates a calming and enjoyable experience. The artwork in this game is so enjoyable to take in — each one filled with wonder and whimsy.
And my #1 most relaxing game…
If you’ve read all the way down to #1, maybe you can guess what elements of Carcassonne I find relaxing: Tile-laying? Yes! A visually appealing game? I would say so…the River module helps in that regard. Simple gameplay? Definitely! Add to all that — Meeples!! I sure love a game with Meeples (Kingdomino is the only other one on this top 10 to include Meeples). My wife and youngest son enjoy this game and any time it comes off the shelf, I feel confident I am about to have a fun and relaxing time.
Bonus: my favorite move in Carcassone — completing a 2-tile castle. Play the tile, place my Meeple, score 4 points, pick up my Meeple, smile at my opponents.
Thanks for following along on this relaxing journey — what game(s) would make the top of your list?