Gaming News

Published: March 19, 2024

Adam Knight

Dexterity Games that Deserve Your Time

Dexterity games used to be gimmicks and little else—think back to the likes of Crossfire! and Twister—but to let a simpler past distract from future brilliance would be a disservice. The dexterity games below offer deep gameplay to go with all the laughs, so if you’re looking to see how a little flicking can bring game night glory, read on.

A Dexterity Dungeon Crawl

Catacombs flicks (hah!) away the idea that dexterity games are only fillers by delivering a one vs. all dungeon crawler built on dashing discs. Every monster and hero deals their damage when they send their disc bouncing around the dungeon, with a collision marking a hit. Spells and the like add effects to your strikes, giving the four heroes you’ll take into every adventure a chance to feel unique.

Catacombs, designed by Ryan Amos, Marc Kelsey, and Aron West, uses its dexterity element to add to the narrative, warming up the often cold calculation endemic to tactical affairs by its sheer goofiness. A monster flicked with reckless abandon might knock their own ally out of the way of certain doom, telling a story of a goblin’s self-sacrifice. Or your grand swordmaster might miss their fatal swing by a hair, instead winding up in the perfect position to be a dragon’s dinner. Because every action comes as a result of your flicking prowess (or lack thereof), you’re not dealing with fickle dice or a luckless deck of cards: it’s not chance, it’s skill that’ll see you escape alive.

Round by round, you’ll alternate flicks between monsters and heroes, a sequence that flies by, with dynamism aplenty as discs dash around. As your heroes clear out rooms, you’ll collect loot and advance onward, ending up with some nefarious boss. You’ll have to balance hero health to survive, using items, spells, and more to last through the journey’s duration, just like any dungeon crawl. Maybe you’ll find a healing room or an item shop to lighten the load.

Or maybe the evil player, the monster controller, will plunge the party into mortal danger.

While Catacombs has easy-to-understand core gameplay, there’s enough special abilities, rules, and strategy to push it into core gamer territory. It’s not a partydexterity game, with length running one or two hours depending on what scenario you choose. Catacombs also doesn’t aim for Gloomhaven length, instead providing one-shots while allowing for custom campaign creation. If you’re a Dungeons and Dragons DM that wants to run something different, then building a Catacombs narrative (or taking an existing campaign into the flicking universe) can be a delight.

Dungeon crawlers looking for something with new flavor ought to give Catacombs a look. It’s a gateway for folks intimidated by more advanced board games, where the simple delight in flicking discs conquers trepidation. As well as those looking to replace dice and card luck with physical ability, an idea that brings with it all kinds of unintentional hilarity.

If that sounds appealing, then know that Catacombs has a number of editions and expansions. The most recent, the 3rd edition, cleans up the rulebook and clarifies some cards. Expansions add variety, though I’d advise giving the core game a try first, as Catacombs is a unique experience. It’s great fun, but if its dexterity doesn’t strike your group’s sweet spot, you don’t need a bunch of bonus content clogging up your basement.

Especially when you can fill that space with bugs.

Area Control, Dexterity Style

Wander into an arcade, particularly one still lingering from a few decades ago, and you’ll likely find one of those coin-pushing machines. You know, where you try to land your token just so where the pushing bar will shove it, and hopefully many others, out to your waiting hands?

Kabuto Sumo, designed by Tony Miller, takes that concept and adds . . . bugs! A whole insect collection transmuted to tokens of various sizes and abilities, in fact. You’ll take turns sliding your various bug pals onto a central platform, hoping to shove off your enemies and save your allies. Assisting in your aggressive efforts are special abilities, like a stag beetle’s pincers gripping and tossing discs away. You’ll take quick turns one after another, games hitting that perfect twenty minute filler length.

As a showcase small box game, Kabuto Sumo delights as a goofy curio. Add in the Total Mayhem expansion, though, and your disc-based shove match gets dexterityaccessorized into a full-on battle. We’re talking chairs, ladders, guitars, and more that not only redirect your bug battlers around the arena but add new victory conditions, giving rise to deeper strategies—yes, I’m using the word strategy to describe a literal push-and-win game—and devastating tactics. While the base game holds its own, Total Mayhem is a must if your group finds themselves digging the thorax tangle.

Also, Kabuto Sumo looks great. The art is fantastic, the little discs are chunky and colorful (and the Total Mayhem objects are hilarious). For a three hour dry euro or war game, aesthetics might be easier to shove (cough) aside, but for a light joy like this one, looking good creates a gateway appeal to your audience. From your six or seven year-old, to your roommate who’s not big on board games, to your partner after akabutosumototalmayhem.jpg (679×1151) long workday . . . they’re all going to perk up when they see this hit the table (or coffee table, or patio, or gap between airport seats). That, in itself, is a huge win.

Lastly, Kabuto Sumo and its expansion aren’t expensive. You can get the whole collection for cheaper than a standard euro like Concordia, much less something stuffed with miniatures. The dollar per laugh here is top notch.

The New World of Stacking Games

Jenga, the venerable party classic, deserves respect, and if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, For Science! and Junk Art are the two games that pay Jenga warm compliments, then go on to upstage their inspiration.

For Science!, designed by R. Eric Reuss of Spirit Island fame, has you literally building cures to diseases under real-time pressure. You’ll be working together, first, to lay out cards with block diagrams in a row. Like a mad scientist schematic, these cards determine the cure you need to make, which, while that timer 22215470076g.jpg (1311×1287)ticks, you’ll then have to build out of massive wood blocks. If a cure proves too tricky, you’ll need to adjust it on the fly, though scrapping too many ideas gives the disease a chance to mutate. Once your team of breakneck block builders thinks they have a cure developed, you’ll need to confirm the blocks look good, which earns you an ability-granting puzzle piece. Get enough of those to surround the diseases and you win.

Simple, right?

Well, For Science! doubles down on the exclamation point in its title by throwing manic events into the mix. You might be asked to run around the room, operate without talking, or smack the table to simulate riot conditions. Like Pandemic, you’ll all play characters with special powers too, which play with physical space. You might be able to help hold a block up while it’s being verified, say, or draw more options for cures without penalties. All of this comes together in a frantic, cooperative, real-time experience you’ll never find anywhere else.

That all said, For Science! is a boutique production, difficult to find save at secondary markets like Noble Knight. So while it’s a singular experience, you’ll have to hunt for it.

Junk Art, designed by Jay Cormier and Sen-Foong Lim, is easier to find, and easier to play. Its title conveys the goal: make art from, well, junk. Like For Science!, you’ll have a collection of blocks (the junk) and a bunch of different game modes to choose from. In this, Junk Art adapts to your group’s mood. Do22229590038g.webp (900×900) you want a turn-by-turn strategy session, wherein you’ll be passing cards around the table, each player forced to add the junk on the card to their tower, with the tallest tower standing at the end the winner? Or perhaps you’ll need to play your cards for yourself, attempting to collect and stack specific sets to win. The ‘world tour’ mode has you playing several games back-to-back, each one with differing goals, the winner having the most points at the end of three.

These varied game modes make Junk Art last in a way Jenga doesn’t quite manage. Most of its types, too, don’t focus on a single player’s mistake, instead carrying out the construction to define a real winner. And if your masterpiece doesn’t quite hold together, the rounds are short, ensuring you’ll be back building a trash tower before long. That Junk Art also plays well with kids is a given – the colorful blocks are a good time, even outside the game itself.

If you want one end-of-the-night or first round filler that gets your group going, Junk Art is a great go-to. It’s always funny watching your buddy’s grand creation teeter into a table-sprawling collapse, or cheering as you nail that perfect placement for the win.

The Final Flick

Dexterity games are more than just gimmicks: they can make for satisfying fillers or game night mainstays. In particular, they play well to break up heavier, brain-bending games by forcing folks to look up from their cards, get their hands working, or stand up and move around the table. You’ll almost always find laughs waiting for you, whether by a flick sending your hero straight into the spike pit or a push poking your beetle right off the edge. Gamers of all ages and most skill levels can find a spot at the table with these titles, too, making them a useful add to any collection.

In short, don’t let the genre dash past you: dexterity games are a delight you deserve to enjoy.