Because who doesn't love a freebie?
The school holidays are approaching, and for many parents juggling home learning with their children and work, things are about to get even more logistically tricky. With that in mind, we’ve put together some of our favourite free (usually print and play) games ready for the next six weeks. And don’t worry, we’re not going to try and teach you anything
Bandido: Covid-19 Edition
Bandido is one of the great ‘little games’ – something that will always stay in your collection and that you’ll use as your go-to for younger players. And gloriously it’s co-op, meaning there’s slightly less chance of conflict. The game is all about using your freshly printed cards to make paths, or rather, block them off. In the original Bandido you worked as guards trying to stop a tunnelling criminal from escaping jail. In this version you’re working together to stop the spread of an infamous virus. If we work together, we can overcome it – in the game and in real life!
Play the 2010 Spiel des Jahres award winner at home for free with merely the aid of your printer thanks to Asmodee’s new print and play selection. Dixit sets one player as the storyteller who announces a theme related to their card and play it face down. Everyone else plays a card they feel matches the theme, and these cards are shuffled and then revealed by the storyteller. If all the players guess which card the storyteller put down initially, they gain points, if there’s a split the storyteller and the correct guessers gain points. A fun game of word association that you now already know how to play!
Hisahi Hiyashi’s roll-and-write (or flip-and-write) about underground transit. Can you make all the trains run on time, or will you end up creating bottlenecks at the most popular stations? A good thinky puzzler. You’ll need to replace the 15 transit cards yourself, using part of a deck of cards – but otherwise you’re ready to go.
It’s war on the lily pads in this amphibious card-and-token conflict game. Thunderworks has given away all of the components for the game ready for you to print and play. There’s even a solo mode for those who want to practice their froggy war strategies against a cardboard villain instead. It’s a great game for ongoing conflicts during the summer holidays that don’t involve too many tears. Get a hop on and grab it now before the free offer expires.
Elizabeth Hargrave’s little game between Wingspan and Mariposas is a delightful take on the ‘I divide, you choose’ mechanic. Can you create a high-scoring set? This is our only non-free title on the list, but at $3 for the print and play version, it’s not going to chip too far into anyone’s pocket money. With a small expansion coming in the near future, it’s a great little card game to take with you whenever you go.
The huge RPG success of kids finding weird stuff in a mech-strewn alternative Scandanavia in the snow is now getting a board game. For those who have only had a chance to catch the Amazon Prime series so far, this lets you easily explore the world further. The game isn’t out yet, meaning this is a pre-release version of what’s going to be one of the biggest games of the year – when the Kickstarter finally lands. This is a great way to get into a meatier, bigger game, without breaking the bank. And if you like it, you can always put in a late pledge for the ‘real’ version with mech minis and all.
An escape room that doesn’t require leaving your living room – and a really excellent one for family brain-burner sessions. All you’ll need is a smartphone for the companion app, and a way to print the cards (don’t look ahead, spoilers contained within) and you’re all set. Players spend their time laying out cards in panoramas, adding and removing them as they complete quests, spot the lateral thinking solution to the puzzle, and generally have a good time of doing things like holding cards upside down to see if they can spot a clue that way. The best way to get away when you can’t.
Days of Wonder have offered up their roll-and-write classic for free. Corinth asks you to be a trader in 4th century BCE at the biggest market in the Mediterranean – and you’ve only got so long to shift your carpets, olive oil, grapes and so on. You’ll need a decent number of D6s to roll, although you could of course use an online dice roller. Place your dice to get gold, goats or goods and attempt to become the richest trader in town. Suitable for up to four players, this makes for a hearty distraction during the hot summer weeks.
Expedition is a card-driven RPG experience that uses a companion smartphone app to help direct the play. With all the usual fantasy sword-swinging and magic-chucking to hand, there’s a whole host of adventures to be had over the summer holidays. This is a great way to test the waters and see if you’re ready to dive into the great wide world of roleplaying games. This game does require a D20 – meaning you have an excuse to buy more dice. Great news right?
A whole entirely free, standalone case for you to solve for the award-winning Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game from Portal games. Print the cards at home (without looking – some are only revealed as the story goes on) and set about solving the mystery of a grizzly murder in the suburbs. Work together as a team (read: family) to unravel the mystery in this ‘true-crime’ board game. If it’s something that works for you then you’ve just found a whole world of crime to set straight together.
List by Christopher John Eggett
This article originally appeared in issue 45 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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