See? These people (and this dino) get it.
Image: Ravensburger (YouTube)

Calling out around the world, are you ready to camp your butt next to an air conditioner? Because summer’s here and the time is right for staying the hell away from all outdoor activities. As summer temperatures continue to break records and raise sea levels, I highly suggest keeping it cool and pull out some awesome board tables and tabletop RPGs.

There are some really exciting games coming out over the next few months—for example, Batman: The Animated Series stars in a miniatures game in September and the Coup and Resistance card game universe is getting its own cyber-dystopian role-playing game. Of course, neither of those help us survive the dead of summer. But these ones will! Here are some great recommendations—some recent releases, a personal favorite, and a couple of games that are getting some promising expansions in the near future. Be sure to leave a comment with what you’re playing right now to beat the heat!

1) Jurassic Park: Danger!

Players: 2-5

Description: Jurassic Park: Danger! is a cooperative tabletop game with one fascinating twist—one of the players is actually a dinosaur, three dinosaurs in fact! The human players take on the role of different characters from Jurassic Park, trying to accomplish plot-related tasks on Isla Nublar as they’re chased by the final player’s league of killer dinos.

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What makes this a good summer game: Jurassic Park might be a hot property in gaming right now, but that’s not the only reason this is a fun get. Cooperative games are really popular right now, and for good reason. But not everybody wants to join the team—sometimes it’s fun to be the asshole dumping sand on the group picnic. This game has the best of both worlds: Some players get to join forces and have fun together, but one sneaky pete gets to unleash their inner monster and work against their friends. Plus, it’s only $25 and available at Target, so it’s a great last-minute option if you’re running late to your friend’s board game night and forgot to bring something.

If you’re looking for something similar: Mysterium

An image from the cover of Scum & Villainy.
Image: Off Guard Games

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2) Scum & Villainy

Players: 3-6

Description: Imagine if Solo: A Star Wars Movie and Firefly had a baby, and it was really good at tabletop RPGs. That would be Scum & Villainy, one of the latest releases from Evil Hat Productions whose printed rulebook hasn’t come out yet, but you can still order a digital copy or check out the free Quickstart Guide. Players take on the role of a criminal crew struggling to make ends meet under the rule of the Galactic Hegemony. Find a crew, find a job, keep flying.

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What makes this a good summer game: I love a good underdog story, especially ones where breaking the law is not only allowed, it’s encouraged. While playing the honorable team trying to save the day can be thrilling, it’s also fun to simply kick back and steal some shit. It’s an RPG you can one-off if you just want to spend an evening robbing rich people, or you build a summer-long crew and make a story that really packs a punch.

If you’re looking for something similar: Firefly: The Game

Welcome home.
Image: Avalon Hill

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3) Betrayal at House on the Hill

Players: 3-6

Description: It’s the perfect hybrid of a board game and an RPG, with so many twists and turns you’ll come out the other side wondering what the hell just happened. Players take on the role of guests at a creepy house with awful Feng Shui, exploring different rooms and surviving a series of trials and horrors. Then suddenly, one of the players transforms into a Haunt and turns against the others, leading to a daring showdown that no one might survive.

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What makes this a good summer game: Chances are pretty good that you’ve played this game, or at least heard of it, it’s a popular one. But in anticipation of the Pandemic-style Legacy edition that should be launching by the end of the year, now felt like a great time to pull Betrayal out and get some quality time in the ol’ spooky manor. It’s a game with amazing re-playability with non-stop surprises, especially thanks to the Widow’s Walk expansion that added several new Haunts. And if you’re like me and got really tired of the awful player board set-up, they’ve just released new ones that really streamline things.

If you’re looking for something similar: Eldritch Horror

An image from the Quickstart Guide for Star Trek Adventures.
Image: Modiphius Games

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4) Star Trek Adventures

Players: 3-6

Description: Space—the final frontier. In this tabletop RPG, you and your Starfleet crew embark on a series of missions to the far reaches of the galaxy, discovering more about the universe and yourselves along the way. Players can use a variety of pre-made missions or create their own, using any series in the franchise as inspiration, or embarking on something completely different. The rulebook is a little pricy, but anyone wanting a one-off to test the waters can get the Quickstart Guide—which includes player builds and a mission—for free.

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What makes this a good summer game: What I love about Star Trek Adventures is that it’s constantly growing. It’s been around for a little while, but the community that has thrived within it continues to give the game new life. Not only are there several books and expansions, including one that was just announced this week, but there’s also a Living Campaign, which continues with two more missions this month. The ongoing campaign not only lets Gamemasters and players enjoy cool storylines, but their choices and preferences shape the future of the series.

If you’re looking for something similar: Star Trek: Ascendancy

Everything you need to beat back the colonizers.
Image: Greater Than Games (Kickstarter)

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4) Spirit Island

Players: 1-4 

Description: For those who like Settlers of Catan but are sick and tired of colonialism, this game is tailor-made for you. Spirit Island is a cooperative game where players take on the role of different spirits on an island, tasked with protecting the land from the aggressive invaders. Instead of trying to grow and expand your empire, the goal is to destroy settlements and beat back the colonizers using your magic and spiritual energy.

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What makes this a good summer game: It’s a cooperative game that does something unique: It seeks to protect instead of expand. A lot of cooperative board games are about growing and dominating, but this one is about safeguarding something that you care about against outside threats. It’s an interesting perspective, with a valuable lesson, that also results in a really fun (and challenging) game. Plus, you can play it by yourself!

If you’re looking for something similar: Forbidden Island