I love chess. In my opinion, it is not a game to “grow out of” when you discover hobby board games. The components are beautiful with clever rules and incredible accessibility. There are some other great games, however, that evoke some of the best aspects of chess in a fresh form factor that can are really fun.
If you like manipulating piece movement, try: Onitama
A huge part of being good at chess is understanding how to utilize your different pieces’ movement patterns to cover the board. Being able to attack more squares, create forks (where pieces threaten multiple pieces at once), and strengthen pieces by putting them on valuable outposts are all incredibly important. Onitama hyper-focuses on this skill, as players are tasked with having pieces that move in different ways each game, pulled from a random set of movement cards at the beginning of the match.
Though I love chess, it’s fun to bust out Onitama when I want a more tactical challenge rather than play through prepared openings or plans. With fantastic production value on top, I highly recommend Onitama.
If you like creating brutal attacks on the board, try: Hey! That’s My Fish!
Hey! That’s My Fish! is the most cutthroat, bloody, conniving game of betrayal and warfare. Can’t you tell?
(photo of Hey! That’s My Fish!)
In this game, instead of squares, play is conducted on a grid of hexes. All penguins can move as far as they want. When they leave a tile, they pick up the one they left (which have values of one, two, or three fish), and the goal of the game is to collect the most fish.
As tiles leave the game, more and more penguins break off from the pack, only to be left to an icy grave (or they probably just swim back). This game is really simple, but it’s really great. If you can track down a copy of the deluxe copy, you can get a miniature of a dabbing penguin, so there’s really no discussion here.
If you like trapping your opponent into losing, try: Quarto
Quarto is like Connect 4 with extra layers on top of it. Players take turns playing pieces, with the goal of getting 4-in-a-row. The twist? You can win by getting 4-in-a-row by any one of the pieces attributes: color, height, shape, or center. Another really interesting wrinkle is that you hand your opponent their piece to play. You literally hand them victory from missing something on the board, and this captures a lot of chess’ tactical complexity in a much simpler way.