101 Best Board Games for Kids, Teens, and Adults

101 Best Board Games for Kids, Teens, and Adults

The tabletop scene is full to bursting with incredible ideas that’ll light your imagination on fire. Board games are not just for stuffy Christmas gatherings. The best board games are replay able as well; besides being great value, they’ll keep you coming back to the table for months on end. To make sure that people are always having fun and love to get together regularly, you’ll want to make sure you’re bringing the ideal board games for your group to the table. The best board games for families, for example, might mean something that people of different ages can play, and that aren’t so competitive they cause any major fallings out at the end

How Do I Choose the Best Board Game?

  • Choose a board game that you can replay a lot of times without it feeling repetitive and getting stale over time, especially if you are just getting one.
  • Go for board games that are flexible to how people like to play as well: players can work together in it, go it alone, play it as a game of negotiation, or just battle boldly. Choose something that fits well with the people you’ll play with, and the kind of game you think you’ll have fun with a group of like-minded friends.
  • If you are choosing a competitive board game, consider the difference between games where you’re competing indirectly like in poker compared to when you’re directly attacking each other like in chess. Which one do you find more interesting.
  • Which do you prefer; the idea of a game that’s all about building up complex economic strategies that take a whole afternoon to pull off, or a punchy experience that’s over in 30 minutes or an hour. If it’s for younger kids, they will prefer simpler games which are easier to play.
  • Some people enjoy games more when there’s a strong theme that helps them grasp the mechanics, while some will only want to focus on the mechanics and will be happy with ‘abstract’ games that are all about the rules, really. So know which category your playmates fall in.

Pandemic

Easy to get your head around but tricky to beat, Victory hinges on your team’s ability to communicate, prioritize threats, plan ahead, and stay cool under pressure. Your goal is simple. Pandemic pits you against terrible disease outbreaks, and besides keeping these outbreaks under control, you must develop a cure for each disease by collecting five cards of a certain color. New infections drop onto the board at the end of every turn, and if more than three gather in a single location they’ll start spreading to neighboring cities and the number of infections that are deployed goes up with each epidemic. Do you focus on making a cure or should you keep those disease levels down? That’s just one of the many crises you’ll need to overcome, and this white-knuckle decision-making is where Pandemic shines.

Magic Maze

Here’s the most frenetic cooperative board game we’ve ever played; more so than even Spaceteam. The idea behind Magic Maze is actually pretty simple, as are the rules. You and up to seven other players take the role of four Dungeons & Dragons characters engaged in a petty larceny at a labyrinthine local shopping complex. Against a three-minute sand timer, you guide the characters around a walled maze, one move at a time, to find and steal weapons. The yellow barbarian must nab the yellow sword; the green ranger pinches the green bow, and so on. Once all four characters make it to their armaments, everyone scrams for the exit. Here is the interesting part of this board game; each player controls every character simultaneously, but only a few actions. In an eight-player game, you may only be able to move characters south, while your friend can only open doors, or move characters up and down escalators. Everyone has to coordinate, but nobody is allowed to speak. You can stare intently at your friends, or place the game’s “Do Something!” figure in front of them, but you have to silently hope they realize what it is you want.

Betrayal Legacy

There’s nothing quite like taking part in your own horror movie. Betrayal legacy casts you as one of six tropes, with everyone loose in a mansion that’s revealed room by room. Unfortunately, something’s waiting for you all inside. And as you’ve probably guessed, it’s not pleasant. Because of this, Betrayal’s board game play is dripped with tension. Each player lays down room tiles drawn at random as they explore the house, and that results in a unique setting each time. You never know what you’ll find through the next door, either – your journey triggers creepy events, calamities, and ‘Omens’ as you go. Once you find enough Omens, a full-blown horror scenario kicks in. This is where things get properly tense; one of 50 missions is chosen and the house turns on its inhabitants with swift, often-bizarre savagery, and you all will have to work as a team if you want to get out of there alive. Well, most of you will need to work as a team. You see, one player may be revealed as a traitor at this point. They have special rules of their own, and the majority of them boil down to murdering everyone else. Betrayal Legacy’s only major blemish is a conceptual one: as in the Jurassic Park series, the game never fully answers: why do people keep returning to this den of death?!

Spirit Island

Spirit Island is wonderfully complex but not too complicated;Spirit Island is the best cooperative game of the decade. As spirits, you’ll spend your turns building influence on the game board, learning new powers, and picking which ones to use. Meanwhile, the game automates the unceasing advance of the settlers who explore, settle, and ravish new biomes in a set order. The game includes dozens of ways to modulate the difficulty, but even the easiest modes require an almost preternatural cleverness; your team needs to know which battles to fight, and to discover the best way to collaborate for maximum fright or damage.

Sagrada

In Sagrada, you and up to three friends compete to design and craft historically marvelous stained-glass windows. Each round, someone grabs a handful of multicolored six-sided die from a bag and rolls them. Then, players take turns drafting and placing the die like shards of stained-glass onto a personal 4×5 grid “window,” making sure to follow the game’s simple placement rules: Dice of the same color or number can’t ever touch. As your window fills up, these restrictions can become absolutely crippling, so foresight is a must.

Pinch ‘N’ Pass

Pinch ‘N’ Pass is perfect for kicking off games night, most especially when you want to break the ice and give everyone something to focus on. It’s also great for people who don’t like board games. Pinch ‘N’ Pass are about quick wits and even quicker responses – this is a naming game where anyone is able to join in. Because there are no turns, the fastest answer wins. The rules are equally simple. If you select a ‘Pinch’ card, you’ll be given a category like “Tom Cruise movies”. Players then call out something that fits the bill (e.g. Live Die Repeat) and take the card for themselves but anyone who yells another suggestion from that category is able to steal it. Whoever’s left holding the card when the timer runs out gets a point. This allows them to move one space up the board. Meanwhile, ‘Pass’ cards have the opposite effect. It’s about getting rid of the card instead. End the round with one and you’ll be forced back a space.  Pinch ‘N’ Pass’s timer is randomized, so you can’t really tell how long you have left on the clock. This results in a fast and furious game that can last anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes.

Scythe

Scythe was the best game of 2016, and its still hasn’t been beaten yet. In this gorgeously illustrated steam punk reimagining of 1920s Eastern Europe, five players complete for regional prestige, resources, and territorial control of a hexagonal game board. Although battling your friends with coal-powered mechs is a significant part of the game, Scythe is by no means a combat-centric slog. The game actively penalizes direct warfare, which might sound frustrating but makes the game all the more strategic and balanced. You’ll find yourself immersed in Scythe’s strategy and aesthetics as you plan each turn’s single action. For example: First you might complete a quest to steal food and money from local farmers, next you’ll build a mine to connect territories across the board, and lastly you’ll sweep into a nearby Soviet territory to do battle and steal all their iron.

Fallout

Fallout is a tabletop version of Fallout 76, and works brilliantly even if you’re playing solo. Fortunately for us, this board game doesn’t share the teething troubles of its online counterpart. Players set off to explore what’s left of America, build influence among factions, beat the snot out of monsters, and complete side-quests that’ll earn them even more stuff. However, what’s really pleasing about this game is the attention to detail. Everything feels drawn straight from the Fallout universe, right down to the card descriptions and artwork. The games can last up to 2-3 hours.

Villainous

There’s a lot of unexpected depth in Villainous, it is surprisingly tactical and it also take skill to come out on top in this battle of dastardly backstabbing. Gorgeous artwork and beautiful playing pieces are the icing on this very, very appealing cake. Based on classic Disney movies both old and new, Villainous casts you as a famous baddie looking to get their own way. Maleficent must place a curse on each area of the board, Jafar needs to get his hands on the lamp, Ursula wants Triton’s trident, and so on. In an inspired twist, each villain has unique abilities inspired by their personality from the films. As an example, King John’s got underhand methods of sponging yet more money from his foes. These skills come in very handy when trying to undermine other players – for added spice, you’re also attempting to scupper your opponents’ plans while working toward your own. You can drop pesky heroes like Ariel on top of them to block some of their moves, for instance. This makes the game a whole lot more devious; good strategy is needed to do so while furthering your own goals. Happily, there’s plenty more where that came from – Villainous has got two expansions on the horizon that add more beloved characters to the fun, ranging from Scar to Hades.

Planet

Planet is a hands-on, tactile game for two to four players with simple rules but mind-bending geometric play. At the beginning of the game, each player holds aloft their inchoate planet: a giant, faceless dodecahedron. Each round, players will flip over a stack of magnetic tiles that snap onto their planets.  These tiles have biomes on them—deserts, mountains, oceans, jungles and arctic tundra. Moving clockwise, you’ll draft these tiles, and stick them on any free side of your slowly evolving world. After a few rounds players start to compete for animal cards, each printed with the rules for who nabs them. Usually the planet with the most animals wins.  While the game is quick and simple to learn, Planet demands a creative spatial awareness that I found fantastically challenging.

Chronicles of Crime

Chronicles of Crime is a mystery solving game, wherein through a mix of cards and the game’s app, you and your friends band together in a gumshoe detective’s journey. You’ll investigate disappearances, find stolen treasure, and even solve murders. With the prodigious use of a QR reader you can dive into the games world—asking suspects about clues, or about one another—and the app tracks and changes the story as you progress. An the most interesting thing about Chronicles of Crime is that while you’re playing—as you’re collecting DNA, analyzing a crime scene, navigating red herring leas and interrogating witnesses—you really do feel like you’re solving a mystery.

Blockbuster: The Game

Blockbuster: The Game is the life of the party. Blockbuster is a “movie game for anyone who has ever seen a movie. This brand-new movie quiz is fast-paced and surprisingly brutal, which obviously makes it a hoot when the drinks and jokes are flowing. Your goal is to team up and collect a deck of eight ‘genre’ cards, but each turn begins with a one-on-one round. After being handed a category (e.g. “spy movies”), both sides take it in turns to yell out a movie as quick as they can before resetting the 15-second timer. Whoever can’t think of anything loses. The winner then picks 6 movie cards for the next stage of the game, ‘Triple Charades Jeopardy’. To act out, quote, and describe 3 of those cards for their team The trouble is, you’ve only got 30 seconds to do it. That’s why winning Round One becomes so crucial; you can keep the easy cards for yourself and saddle your opponents with the hardest ones.

Vindication

Welcome to Vindication, s deep-strategy fantasy game, where you all simultaneously wash ashore, and embark on a quest to build your character and regain your lost honor. You’ll spend turns discovering the mystical island you ran aground on, earning and spending 6 unique character traits like wisdom, vision and courage, forming a team of companions, fighting monsters, acquiring rare relics, and more

  1. Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride is one of the most accessible board games you can buy. The basic idea is that you score points by creating train routes across the country, and the winner is the person who finishes the game with the highest score. You get extra points for fulfilling specific routes, which you draw cards for at the start of the game, and for having the longest continual route at the end of play. While the train pieces are quite basic little plastic counters, the rest of the game is delightfully made, with the board itself a particular highlight. You can choose from a large number of variants, depending on what country you want to play in. If you’re looking for a game simple enough to play with family, which also offers satisfying tactical depth and a minor lesson in geography too, Ticket to Ride is essential.

Articulate!

Articulate appeared on store shelves since 1992, and it’s a trivia classic. It can also be played by a massive group of 20+ people; but you have to divide the players into teams of at least two per side. The rules are straightforward and easy to get your head around. Taking it turns, a member of each team must describe as many words from a category as they can within 30 seconds, but they can’t say what that word sounds like or rhymes with. Thanks to a broad range of subjects including Nature, World, and Action, you also don’t need to be a font of obscure knowledge to win. Instead, this game hinges on your ability to verbalize something and how in sync you are with your teammates.

Decrypto

In Decrypto teams of four players work to craft cunning three-word clues while cracking the opposing team’s codes. Each team has their own secret board of four hidden words. Everyone on each team can see their teams’ words, but not their opponents’. Each turn one team member privately pulls a card with three numbers on it, and then gives three clues that lead their team to pick the correct words matching those numbers. If you correctly intercept your opponents full code twice, you win the game. As rounds progress, teams gradually begin to piece together what your secret words are, so you’re best off if you give opaque and tangential clues.

Banana Grams

Banana grams may sound daft, but its pure gold if you’re into word games, this game challenges its players to make a crossword from letter tiles. Because each word must be connected to another one and make sense, it gives your gray matter a workout and you need to be quick, too. Once someone’s used up their pile of letters, you all take another tile, even those who haven’t finished their crossword yet. This ratchets up the pressure in a big way; if you’re not on your toes, you could find yourself with a mountain of letters to wade through. Don’t worry about being left behind, though. Because the game keeps going until no tiles are left, there’s room for underdogs to pull off a last-minute win nonetheless.

Gloom Haven

Gloom haven is where it’s at if you want a deep, engrossing fantasy RPG to lose yourself in. Along with an enormous box stuffed with miniatures and over 1,700 cards, the consequences of one game carry into the next. This provides a sprawling adventure across multiple sessions, making it a bite-size introduction to the likes of Dungeons and Dragons. As a wandering mercenary, your team will brave dark depths in search of loot while battling monsters via turn-based combat. Meanwhile, every scenario and choice builds on your group’s unique story. It’s fairly easy to get your head around, though. We loved the uniqueness of each playable character in Gloom haven. They transcend the traditional D&D; tropes that are easy to grow tired of: healer, magic user, ranger, frontline bruiser, and so on. Each character in Gloom haven has an odd mix of abilities that blur the lines between classic fantasy archetypes. The game also forces you to “retire” and switch characters periodically throughout the game, an act which would be devastating, if you didn’t already know how much fun the next character will be! Despite dealing with persistent stats that evolve with your character, the manual is surprisingly straightforward. It’s expensive, yes, but it’s also the sort game that will keep you going for months on end.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

Deduction and deception go hand-in-hand for One Night Ultimate Werewolf, a game that practically makes wink murder a competitive sport. It starts out simply enough; each player is randomly cast as one of a motley collection of village residents. Yet they’re not the only ones playing – hidden amongst them are werewolves who seek to prey on the unsuspecting villagers. Over the course of an in-game night you must figure out who that monster is before they get you. That’s not as easy as it sounds because many roles allow for subterfuge; you can never be absolutely sure who is telling the truth. Over the course of each ten-minute game, suspicion runs rampant and, because there’s always the chance that there are no werewolves in any given match, innocent players will have to talk their way out of a death sentence.

Wingspan

Wingspan is a breathtaking “engine” building game where you and up to five friends compete to coax flocks of birds into nature reserves. You’ll spend turns luring unique bird cards into one of 3 biomes, or playing each of the biome’s special ability—get food, lay eggs, or gather more birds. Each time you play a biome, your birds have a chance to use special abilities, often times creating long, clever chains of well-laid actions. You can play three separate games of Wingspan, and never see the same bird cards twice. Along with brilliant artwork and extremely high-quality components, the best part about Wingspan is discovering strange new avian engines to soar into victory.

Root

In Root, you and up to three other friends will battle to conquer the woodland as one of four factions. Root has it all: soldiers, rebels, and rogues. Combat, resource management, and diplomacy. Players must balance the many and diverse needs of each unique and challenging faction while ensuring a steady accumulation of victory points, which are achieved through building structures, spreading influence, fulfilling quests, or establishing control of territories.

Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game

Codenames is a clever alternative that throws strategy into the mix. Codenames is a riveting party game for people who love intrigue and spycraft. Four or more players on two teams battle to interpret clever but exceedingly bare-bones clues. One player invents single-word clues that guide their team-mates toward particular cards laid out in a grid. This clue can be anything, but no hints are allowed to be given beyond that. In other words, get ready to go crazy watching your team talk their way out of right answers. It’s also harder to come up with clues than it sounds, leading to moments of quiet as players desperately think of links. While that may be too thoughtful for a knees-up, it’s perfect for later in the evening when things are winding down. It’s a great icebreaker, too; finding out the reasoning behind someone else’s clue can teach you a lot about them.

Tomb Raider Legends: The Board Game tasks you with plundering an artifact from trap-filled dungeons, but everyone else wants to get there first. To make matters worse, replica artifacts litter the board so you can never be certain who’s got their mitts on the real one. What follows is half-an-hour of bluffing, backstabbing, and theft. And each ‘room’ of the tomb is randomly selected making you uncertain of what’s coming. This threat must be defeated before anyone can progress to the next stage, so you’ve got to be tactical about whether you tackle the danger head-on, heal yourself, or attack your foes while they’re distracted. It becomes even more strategic because players need to decide their moves well in advance – you end up trying to second-guess what everyone else is going to do. Although the rules aren’t always clear, once you understand them this becomes a fast-paced game with a wicked edge.

Codenames

Sand Castle Games NOW

Res Arcana is a fantastically dense strategy game that you can pull out, play and pack up in as little as 30 minutes. In the game you and your friends take on the roles of various practitioners of the occult and alchemical arts. With hands of complex but easy-to-understand cards, you’ll weave magic, monsters, and machinery together in clever combinations to rapidly increase your stock of magical essences that can quickly win you the game. Perhaps it’s no surprise that a game about alchemy has found a way to distill and transmute heaping mounds of strategy into such a compact and speedy game. Each game I’ve played featured radically different game-winning engines for the champion player. And I especially love how Res Arcana’s brevity conjures a certain, unshakable tension that’s easy to delight in. Each turn feels important, and each decision feels potentially game ending.

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is regarded as a classic for good reason. The challenge is having a strategy in mind while placing your pieces. As everyone fills out a section of Southern France using tiles drawn at random, cleverly placing Meeple earns you points for each completed city, road and connected field – so long as your piece has control of that section, anyway. While there is luck of the draw in the tiles you choose, placing a piece to steal control of a city from an opponent requires long-term tactical thinking. As a result, it’s one of those rare games that’s easy to pick up but genuinely tough to master.

Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounter was first published in 1977 and has been through numerous editions since, but all of them are just brilliant. Each player gets a unique alien power from a huge deck, and then they have to try and establish colonies on rivals’ planets. Not that it’s as straightforward as that. For each encounter, the players involved negotiate with everyone else for temporary alliances. This ensures that no two games are the same. While it’s pretty simple, Cosmic Encounter’s got an odd setup that can seem peculiar to those familiar with traditional attack and defense games. Once you’ve gotten to grips with it, though, the ever-changing alien powers make every game a blast. Examples include winning encounters by losing, reversing card numbers so 17 becomes 71, or being able to resurrect lost ships. If the options in the box aren’t enough for you, there’s a big selection of expansions to add.

Claustrophobia 1643

Claustrophobia 1643 is an asymmetric, two-player strategy game of survival, hellfire, and demonic combat. The game consists of 20 different unique, playable scenarios—each of which lasts between an hour to an hour and a half. One player takes the reins of the infernal forces of hell, the other role plays a rag-tag group of humans, and you both face off in a battlefield of twisting, tunneling catacombs. Both players get their own detailed miniatures and rules to play. The humans start with a set number of warriors (four at most) while the demons are constantly spawning new friends into the game.

Dinosaur Island

In Dinosaur Island, you compete with up to three friends to build the most lucrative and exciting dino park. Dinosaur Island shines in its balance and potential for replayability. Here players take turn genetically reengineering dinosaurs, hiring research and marketing specialists, constructing park enclosures, shops, and restaurants, and mopping up the blood as your dinos inevitably run wild and maul visitors into a fine pulp. There are routes to victory for numerous styles of dino parks, but the best part of Dinosaur Island is just how dismissively the game treats security failures and dinosaur breakouts. Much like in the movies, it seems that no amount of escaped decaying former customers will stop future investors and park attendees from lining up at the gate.

Hardback NOW

Like Boggle meets Dominion, this exceptional deck-building word game is the mash-up I didn’t know I needed. Up to five players take turns drawing hands of five cards—each card featuring a single letter and a reward—to spell a single word. You then cash in the reward for each card you used to buy more cards, gain victory points, or collect other bonuses. If you’re struggling with your hand, you can forgo a card’s reward by flipping it over to create a wild. Although each player starts with eight of ten matching cards, your personal deck will rapidly evolve based on your purchases. These card’s genres can give you various special benefits when used alone or in pairs: like doubling a neighboring card’s value or giving you items that allow you to draw more cards for longer words. Charming, challenging, and endlessly repayable, for any word-game fan Hardback is a must have.

Tiny Towns

Tiny Towns is simple but addicting strategy game with just a handful of rules. You and up to six friends take turns calling out resources—colored cubes of either wood, wheat, brick, glass or stone—for everyone to place within their personal 4×4 grid of a town. Your goal is to place the right resources in the right shape, so you can replace them with buildings. The key in Tiny Towns is flexibility and foresight. You’ll spend most of the game working around your increasingly congested hamlet, adapting your strategy as other players pick the lion’s share of the resources you’re placing on your board. Tiny Towns is great for families though it can be challenging and delightfully cutthroat when you’re gunning to win.

Monolith Arena

Monolith Arena is a chess-like war of escalating tactics, here you’ll  need to take control of one of 4 distinct factions—dwarves, elves, men or demons—and fight to be the first to destroy your opponent’s home base. Players take turns drawing and deploying randomly drawn factions tiles onto a hexagonal arena. Most of these tiles are a variety of units, unique to each faction. Some units attack in different directions, some attack at range, and some can move once you’ve set them down. Once the board is completely filled with tiles, or once someone draws and plays an Attack tile, a battle begins! For most of Monolith Arena you’ll find yourself stuck in a spiraling arms race. Your enemy might lay down lightning quick assassin to stop the archer before he can fire. The key is to know just the right time to execute a battle for maximum effectiveness.

Everdell

Everdell is a thoughtful, challenging game that nevertheless moves extremely quickly. In Everdell, you compete with up to three opponents to found the greatest woodland-critter city of all time. Each turn you’ll either place one of your steadily growing corps of workers to gather materials (berries, sticks, resin, and stones), or purchase a new citizen or building with those aforementioned materials to add to your town. Each new addition gives you victory points at the end of the game, and/or a special bonus or power during the game. Once you’re out of actions and have deployed all your workers, you have to gather them back up to prepare for the next season. After three seasons, the game’s over.

Architects of the West Kingdom

Architects takes a few delightfully unique twists on the genre. First, the game forces you navigate every architects’ prototypical quandary: will you design and erect your buildings with virtue, nobility, and moral clarity or are you going to be a total shyster about it? Certain choices—like sending goons to the black market, raiding the city coffers, or hiring priests—will move you along the game’s virtue track, which can lock you out of places to send your minions. Another great twist is that workers, which take the same action multiple times, create a compounded effect. Send your first worker to the quarry and you receive one stone, send your second and receive 2, etcetera. And italso allows you to round up and imprison your opponents’ workers, usually when one of your opponent’s is benefiting too much by taking the same action.

Empires of the Void II

In this two- to five-player romp, you’ll scour the far edge of the known universe in your massive World ship, exploring and politicking across eight backwater planets while befriending exotic alien races. Sure, you’re also duking it out with your opponents. Ships can do battle, and you can conquer planets to outright colonize them. But fulfilling quests of diplomacy and aid—like curing diseases or fighting off piracy—tend to pay higher dividends. In all, Empires of the Void II is an engrossing, gorgeously detailed and highly repayable game that rewards grand strategy and card-hand management—one who forces you to outwit and outmaneuver your opponents, rather than outgunning them outright.

Santorin NOW

In this board game, your aim is to be the first to move one of your minions to the top of a three-story tower. Each turn, players pick one of their two minions, and move it one space over grass and half-built towers on a 5×5 game board. After each turn, the minion you moved constructs one floor of a tower in a bordering space. This game is chess with more dimensions, where the most strategic player wins. Each player gets a mythical Greek hero card that gives them a special power—like building two pieces of tower, or moving twice under certain conditions. With the cards, Santorin plays best as a three-player battle, where you and two other players are continually self-balancing the game. You’ll find yourselves ganging up on anyone close to winning, capping towers so they can’t climb on top—until somebody discovers a brilliant move no one can stop and takes the match.

The City of Kings

The City of Kings is a cooperative, fantasy game for one to four players. With the soul of your favorite grand-adventuring RPG, you’ll spend turns inThe City of Kings slowly uncovering a sprawling map, fulfilling quests, battling increasingly tough enemies, and leveling up your hero’s nine distinct stats. And whether you’re playing the game’s preset story or random encounters—each tense game boils and builds until finally ending in an epic crescendo. In The City of Kingsyou don’t just control your hero. You’re also directing a caravan of little workers, whom you send across the board—mining and collecting materials to fulfill quests and craft new gear. These workers end up playing a huge role in keeping your heroes properly armed and tackling various scenarios.

Thunderstone Quest

Thunderstone Quest is a brilliant synthesis of two of my favorite board-game mechanics—dungeon-crawling and deck-building. To play, two players take turns cavorting about a fantasy town or battling through a dark lair to defeat powerful monsters. Each turn, you’re building a custom deck of heroes, items, spells, and weapons that will help you delve ever deeper into the dungeon. Each game of Thunderstone follows a “hero’s journey” progression, where you start weak but grow and evolve as play progresses. The final boss fight is also an exciting crescendo each time, because if approached with strategy it can decide the entire game.

Terraforming Mars

In Terraforming Mars, you and up to four friends take turns buying and playing cards that construct cities or enact terraforming projects on a hexagonal map of Mars. Each terraforming project has a planetary effect, and will give you a special bonus—for example, allowing you to produce resources like titanium faster, or lowering the cost of future projects. It’s by chaining those bonuses together to form clever bonus-earning engines that you’ll earn the most victory points and win the game. But you have to work fast; the game ends when everybody’s terraforming projects have done three things: raise the atmospheric oxygen level to 14 percent, up the planetary temperature to 8 degrees Celsius, and lay down all nine ocean tiles. If you’ve ever read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, you need this game.

Anachrony

Anachrony’s premise is delightfully mind-bending. A cataclysmic meteor is years away from destroying civilization, which you known because future scientists traveled back in time to tell you. Now, you’re competing with up to three players to build the fortified society best able to withstand Armageddon. You’ll do so in part by hazardously borrowing tools, genius minds, and rare minerals from your future self within the game. The time-traveling mechanic in Anachrony is where the game truly shines. At the beginning of each round, you can “borrow” up to two resources of various types from your future self. But doing so causes holes in the fabric of space-time itself. To fix them and close the time loop, you have to develop time travel and spend and send those resources back to your past self later in the game, lest you suffer grave consequences. In Anachrony, you’re loading up your minions into exosuits, and sending them away to gathering water and minerals, build massive structures, research new technologies, and travel through time.

Ethnos

Ethnos is rich on strategy and light on rules, and it’s an excellent hook to introduce newcomers into the world of modern board games. The game basically revolves around collecting and playing cards in simple sets: either sets of one color or sets of one type of fantasy creature. Yes that easy! Each time you play a set of cards, you place a token onto a region of the fantasy game board that corresponds with the color of the top card in your set. That top card will also give you a special bonus. Wizards let you instantly pick up more cards, for example, while feathered Wingfolk allow you to place your token anywhere on the board. The game is played in two or three phases, and at the end of each you score points for having the largest sets of cards and the most tokens on each region of the board.

Feudum

Feudum isa medieval, economic fantasy game for up to five players. Using a hand of cards, the players should take turns by picking four of 11 possible actions to send six types of pawns across a complex, fantasy board to spread influence and domination, collect a dizzying array of goods, defend and develop your new holds, and jockey for influence in six separate guilds—each of which function with cascading effects that may require a supercomputer to effectively preplan. The winner is the player with the most points at the end.

Human Punishment: Social Deduction 2.0

At the beginning of this game, you’re dealt a character card and two secret ID cards that combine to place you on one of three teams. There’s the Humans, who are trying to kill all nonhumans; the selfish Outlaws, each of whom are trying to be the last alive; and the Machines, who are trying to kill all humans, but aren’t concerned with     the       Outlaws. The game moves clockwise, with each turn an option to: investigate one of someone’s two ID cards, draw a special action “program” card, or pick up one of several guns on the table and aim it. If you start your turn with a gun in hand, you have to either fire it off, switch your target, or drop it. As folks discuss who they are, and fire weapons a clearer picture of the battlefield starts to coalesce.

Splendor

Splendor is a board game of buying cards by paying a cost in gems of different colors, and every card you buy gives you more gems you can use to buy cards more easily, so everything snowballs satisfyingly as you play – the only way to buy the higher-value cards is to have a great suite of other cards in front of you. Some cards have point’s values on them, and when someone reaches 15 points, the game ends that round, though other players have a chance to buy one last card which could net them even more points.

Quacks of Quedlinburg

Quacks of Quedlinburg are easy to teach and simple to play: most of the game involves reaching into a bag of tokens and then reveling in the agony or the ecstasy of what you’ve drawn. Especially since it was you who decided what tokens went in there. The idea is that you’re all fraudulent potion makers, making a brew using the ingredients found in your bag. You reach in, grab a token, pull it out and place it in your ‘pot’, which is actually a score track. Pull out higher quality ingredients and you’ll get along the track more quickly, giving you more points at the end of round. You’re all doing this together, eyeing up each other’s success as you go.

You play nine rounds of filling the pot, and between rounds you get to buy new tokens to go into your bag, ready for drawing next time.

Photosynthesis

Take your place as Mother Nature, competing with other players to plant trees of your color in the best spots in the forest, where they’ll absorb the most light. At the start of the game, you’ll place two small trees in spaces near the edge of the hexagonal board, and you’ll have a bank of more small trees, medium trees and large trees ready for later in the game. You’ll also place the huge sun token along two sides of the board. The sun’s light beams in straight lines across the board from the token, and if your trees get touched by it, you get light points, which you can spent to plant more trees, or grow your existing ones. But if your tree is behind someone else’s, the sun won’t reach it, so you’ll get less light points that turn. The bigger the tree, the longer the shadow it casts. But the good news is that the sun moves partially around the board every turn, so suddenly shaded trees are in the sun, and others are in the dark. When the sun has gone all the way around the board three times, the game ends – 18 rounds in total.

Spyfall

Spyfall is about being the worst spy in the world. Everyone is handed a card at the start of a round, which tells them the location they’re in (e.g., a submarine), and a job they have on the submarine (e.g., captain), except for the Spy, who gets a card that just says “Spy”. The Spy’s aim is to work out where the hell they are, and everyone else’s aim is to work out who the Spy is. The actual round consists of asking other people questions, which sounds easy but is hilariously hard: the non-Spy players need to ask something that the Spy would be likely to get wrong, but that doesn’t totally give away the location by implication. And similarly, if a non-Spy player is answering, they need to give an answer that makes clear to other non-Spy players that they know the location, but still doesn’t give it away to the Spy It’s so funny to hear the strange questions and cagey answers people come up with, and the increasing desperation near the end of a round when a Spy might get the feeling everyone is on to them and just takes a wild guess before they get caught.

Survive: Escape from Atlantis

The idea of the game is that you all control a group of inhabitants of the island of Atlantis, which is in the process of sinking in the water. You need to get your people from the central island, made up of hexagonal tiles, over to the safe islands in the corners of the board. You can’t move your people very quickly, though, unless you can get them into boats, which are much more efficient. The key twist is that not only do you get to move your people, but you also control the various sea creatures patrolling the oceans, which are capable of destroying boats, eating people who have fallen in the ocean, or both. And then as a bonus way to mess with your friends, the players are also the ones who decide how the island of Atlantis collapses: you’ll choose a tile to remove every turn, potentially dumping your opponents’ little plastic people into the water where they can become shark bait. Every tile also does something when you flip it – some bring more sea monsters onto the board, some give you a power-up to use later in the game, some are whirlpools that immediately destroy everything within a certain area and one is a volcano that immediately ends the game.

Fog of Love

Fog of Love has two players travelling along the rollercoaster of a relationship: heartbreaks abound, compromises must be made, hidden desires will drive your action, and perhaps you’ll split up but that’s all part of the story. You each play as a character, with traits drawn from a set of cards that inform your goals for what you want out of life and how your character would act. You’ll be role-playing, effectively, through a plot given to you by the game. You open written information about scenarios your characters find themselves in, which give you different options for what your character would do. You each choose which option your character would go for, and then you see if they match. Do you choose one that would push your character closer to what they want, even if that puts you in conflict with the other player, or do you just follow their lead on this one because it’s the nice thing to do? In this way, though it’s not a competitive game in any way, it’s not exactly cooperative either. 

A narrative is built not just from the scenarios that come up and how you react to them, but also extra ‘Scene’ cards you have, which could be funny or serious, adding more to the feel that you’re playing out a romantic drama. And it reaches a peak with the Destiny cards, which are the final game-ending state you’re working towards.

Flamme Rouge

Just like real bike racing, Flamme Rouge encourages you to form a pack. If you’re in front, your rider will become more exhausted. If you’re behind someone else, you’ll have an easier ride by being in their slipstream. So in a dream race, you’ll be second the entire way, until the last turn, when you’ll burst out into the lead.  Each of your two riders has a small deck of cards, and every card has a number on, which is how far the rider can move in a turn. One of your riders is a Sprinteur, and their deck has some very high numbers, but also some low ones, and some gaps in between. Your other rider, the Rouleur, has more middling numbers. Everyone’s riders have exactly the same decks.  At the start of a turn, you’ll draw three cards for one of your riders, pick how far they’ll go that turn, and then do the same for other rider, without the option to change the first one, which is your first chance for a pitfall – maybe you gambled on moving quite far this turn with your first rider, but your second rider gets all low numbers, so your own riders won’t be helping each other with the slipstream. Everyone else is doing the same in secret. Then the cyclists move on the track, in order from front to back, and carnage ensues: your careful plan rapidly backfires when it turns out you’re at the front because everyone else went slow… but actually that means they’ve saved your other one from falling behind! Or maybe your plan goes perfectly, but someone else predicted it and is now leeching off your slipstream. At the very end of the track, hopefully you’ve saved your high cards for one final run over the finish line.

Jaipur

Jaipur is made only for two players, and it pits you against each other perfectly by creating an almost Prisoner’s Dilemma-like system where you have to decide whether to go for speed or quality. It’s a trading game: there are cards in the middle of the table you can pick up, and if you collect enough matching-color cards, you can trade them for tokens with points values on. Whoever trades a color first gets higher-value tokens. But if you trade a larger number of cards at once, you get special bonus tokens with big points of their own, on top of the regular tokens. Some colors’ tokens are worth much more than others too and there are fewer of them. Even seemingly easy wins can be tight decisions: there are only five cards in the middle of the table to take from at any time, and if three greens come out, you might think that’s a great bonus for you, but those three will be replaced with something as soon as you take them, and what if it’s something more valuable that you leave open to the other player?

How Do I Choose the Best Board Game?

  • Choose a board game that you can replay a lot of times without it feeling repetitive and getting stale over time, especially if you are just getting one.
  • Go for board games that are flexible to how people like to play as well: players can work together in it, go it alone, play it as a game of negotiation, or just battle boldly. Choose something that fits well with the people you’ll play with, and the kind of game you think you’ll have fun with a group of like-minded friends.
  • If you are choosing a competitive board game, consider the difference between games where you’re competing indirectly like in poker compared to when you’re directly attacking each other like in chess. Which one do you find more interesting.
  • Which do you prefer; the idea of a game that’s all about building up complex economic strategies that take a whole afternoon to pull off, or a punchy experience that’s over in 30 minutes or an hour. If it’s for younger kids, they will prefer simpler games which are easier to play.
  • Some people enjoy games more when there’s a strong theme that helps them grasp the mechanics, while some will only want to focus on the mechanics and will be happy with ‘abstract’ games that are all about the rules, really. So know which category your playmates fall in.

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