Because a cardboard house is better than no house at all.
Dreams, these days, feel less like grasping for beautiful, wispy clouds, and more like attempting to scrape molten chocolate from a river of acid. For millennials, there’s no more caustic dream than owning a house. We're certain our avocado-heavy diet isn’t helping, but the real reason we can’t seem to save any money is probably due to our overflowing game shelves. Thankfully, we’ve figured out a way to indulge both our expensive gaming habit and our fantasies of brick-and-mortar property. Sort of, anyway.
Board games that let you live the millennial home-owning dream
From crafting room layouts to designing a garden, below are five board games that will enable you to live out every aspect of the home-owning fantasy. You might not have the Scrooge McDuck swimming pools of cash needed to secure a real house, but you can probably afford the game boxes below. And if nothing else, they might work as a makeshift shelter if you stack them right.
Since we’re freeing ourselves from the burdensome restrictions of reality, let’s start quite literally from the ground up, designing the very schematics we’ll be building a life upon.
Floor Plan is a new roll-and-write published by Deep Water Games, and designed by Marek Tupy. Up to 100 players compete to win the hearts (money) of interested clients, each with their own demands. Rolling two dice, you’ll determine the dimensions and type of each new room or add detailed furnishings to the interior and exterior. Don’t worry about making the house sensible or look pretty though. All that matters is giving the money dispensers clients exactly what they want.
Swimming pool between the kitchen and dining room? Not a problem in Floor Plan. Eager for a house composed solely of corridors and kitchens? You can have that, provided the dice gods are kind. And when you look down to realize you’ve created a sprawling tangle of maze-like accommodation, the best news is that you won’t actually have to live there! That sucker Sharon has just paid $5 million for this disaster of an abode. Uh, sorry, we mean this modernist design with a future-retro philosophy you’re bound to adore!
If anything, Floor Plan is the best title to capture the existential horror of millennial life. Grinning unbearably as we work for a pittance to sell a ludicrous house to people with more money than we’ll make in our lives. Crying? No, you must be mistaken. It’s just raining in here, that’s all.
With the blueprint sorted, it’s time to get down to the juicy details in Klemens Kalicki’s Dream Home. Where Floor Plan had us working with a horizontal slice, Dream Home flips the axis upright to give us a side-on view of our suburban fantasy.
Drawing room cards from a shared pool, players fill out spaces in the floors of their house. Just make sure you’ve got a legal placement available, or you’ll be left with a barren, empty room you must never acknowledge or speak of again. The manual doesn’t specify, but we’re going to assume those spaces are haunted.
The path to success is developing point-scoring combos by linking up rooms of the same type. Because just like in real life, you can tell whose bank account is really winning by the size of their kitchen. Heck, you can even throw a grand piano in there too, just for fun. Dream Home is quick, breezy, and enjoyable for all ages and experiences. So basically the opposite of sorting out a mortgage in real life. That’s probably something to do with the lack of estate agents, now that we think about it.
No property is perfect without a bit of green space, so it’s time to dig deep into the board gaming soil and uncover Cottage Garden. A meditative experience, Uwe Rosenberg’s Cottage Garden sees players filling their personal patch of gridded soil with beautiful flowerbeds. Similar to Bärenpark or Patchwork, the challenge is in determining how to slot a range of Tetris-y shaped segments into your plot.
If you’ve ever tried to grow flowers in your life, the structure will certainly feel familiar. You’ll start with a glorious plan of color mapped out in your head. Then, at the first sign of trouble, you’ll quickly devolve into acceptance that, if it fits, it’s probably all right. Plus, Cottage Garden allows you to employ one of life’s great distraction strategies. Awkwardly left a patch unplanted? Shove an adorable cat there and everyone will be too busy saying “aww” and “look at his little clawsies!” to notice.
It pays to plan ahead, but Cottage Garden keeps the options simple, never taxing your mind too heavily. Ideal, really, given we’re already balancing the mental strain of fitting four more Kickstarters into our budget. We don’t have a problem, honest.
Welcome To… Your Perfect Home
With the house and garden in check, you might reasonably assume we’d be finished. However, if you’ve ever lived in student housing, you’ll be well aware that half the secret to a happy life is not being woken up at 3 am by someone shouting in the street with a megaphone.
If we’re going to be settling our happy brain space here for good, then it’s important that we get on with the neighbors. Thankfully, Welcome To… Your Perfect Home allows precise control over who slots in and where behind those white picket fences. Another Deep Water release (designed this time by Benoit Turpin), Welcome To drops the dice in favor of a flip-and-write formula. By picking numbered cards from one of three decks, players fill the houses in their neighborhood with digits.
The catch is that streets need to be lined up in sequential order, from lowest to highest. Given that the decks are shuffled, it won’t be long before you need to compromise. And when attempting to factor in parks, pools, and other scoring options, things inevitably get a little messy.
Referring to each of our neighbors solely by an allotted number might seem cruel, but we have enough trouble remembering our real friends’ names. You can’t honestly expect us to come up with 30 or so imaginary ones too, can you? Plus, neighbour “12-B” does have a certain charming ring to it….
The Castles of Mad King Ludwig
And finally, it’s time to stretch our musings to something a little wilder. Given we’re already tens of thousands of dollars in virtual debt, we’re going to toss the budget right off the ramparts with The Castles of Mad King Ludwig.
Laying down vestibules, banquet halls, and royal gardens, players compete to create the most extravagant fort -- and win the favor of the titular sense-free sovereign. Extravagant, however, doesn’t necessarily mean practical. The whims of Ludwig are famously strange, with a randomized pool of public and secret objectives directing your design. This results in bizarre compounds bulging with bedrooms or featuring an abundance of butter storage without anywhere to actually eat it.
Living in a castle is one of those childhood dreams you know will never come to fruition. But then again, it hardly feels less ridiculous in this day and age than saving up enough for a typical deposit. The worst part is that even in our board games, we’re still reliant on a wealthy relation to sort us out with some housing. You don’t think uncle Ludwig could cough up the money for a real house now, do you? Well, it was worth a try.
If, like us, you're not yet ready to return to the (depressingly pricy) real world, then why not develop your cardboard culture further? Suburbia will let you generate everyone's fantasy of a city filled with with nothing but airports and factories, while Between Two Cities's argumentative collaboration will remind you precisely why daydreams are best enjoyed solo. If you have any suggestions for more games we can pretend to be property magnates in -- and no, Monopoly is not an acceptable choice -- then be sure to drop us a message on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. While you’re having a think, be sure to check out the Going Analog Podcast as well!
When he’s not losing himself as a mercenary in Gloomhaven, Henry Stenhouse can be found gobbling up all the latest and greatest party games, then wondering why he can never find the time to actually play them with friends. Share your love of deckbuilders with him on Twitter @Fernoface or drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.