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Has it been years since you’ve played a board game? Maybe, despite your fond memories of starter games like Candy Land, you think board games are only for kids. Actually, they’re a great way to socialize and have fun at every age.
Choosing a board game, however, can be tough. Quality, features, and brand aren’t generally issues – the majority of board games today consist mostly of plastic playing pieces, a paper booklet of directions, and a cardboard playing board. And while there are hundreds of small and new board game companies issuing fantastic games every year, toy giant Hasbro owns the majority of the super-popular classics, including Monopoly, Scrabble, Jenga, and the aforementioned Candy Land.
No, when it comes to choosing the right board game, the number one differentiator, of course, is personal preference. Your decision probably includes three major concerns: the age of the players, the number of players, and the difficulty of the game itself.
Here at BestReviews, we want to be your top source of accurate and unbiased buying recommendations.
We don’t accept free products or manufacturer perks in exchange for a mention or a good review; we do our own research, check with experts in the field, and listen to owners of the actual product in question.
So, if you’re in the market for a board game, you can check out our five recommendations in the matrix above – all are fun games to play with family or friends – or you can read on for our take on choosing the best board games for a wide variety of situations, ages, and group sizes.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Winning Moves Games Monopoly Board Game - The Classic Edition
A favourite of all ages for years
One of the most popular board games of all time, classic Monopoly — along with its many variations — has the perfect combination of luck, strategy, and out-and-out competition. It’s fun for ages eight and up, and designed for two to four players. You get the classic board, a banker’s tray, game money, Chance and Community Chest cards, plastic house and hotel figures, eight silver-tone playing tokens to choose from, two dice, and of course, written instructions. Set aside an hour or two of playing time, and prepare to make deals, invest, get rich, and possibly go to jail.
Some games, such as chess, are only meant for two players, while others, such as Apples to Apples, aren’t much fun without a fairly large group. Of course, there is a huge range of board games best suited to four participants.
Check out the game box before you buy: it will indicate the suggested number of players.
If it’s just you and your sweetie looking for an alternative to movie night, consider a game (or two) of classics like Scrabble or backgammon. Looking for something newer? Carcassone involves a puzzle-like building of a city in France, while Hive has no board, but features bug-bedecked playing pieces, and a goal of trapping your opponent’s queen.
Consider the interests of your players, along with their strengths and weaknesses. Some games are best for players who excel at teamwork, while others are better for strategy or bluffing.
Expecting a large group? There are classic options – Trivial Pursuit, Apples to Apples, and Scattergories, to name a few – and also some newer choices. The Resistance is fun for up to ten players, and involves plenty of bluffing and cooperation. One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a quick and easy role-playing choice for up to ten players. And, of course, Cards Against Humanity is great for up to 20 players, but this isn’t for kids, those bothered by potentially “adult” language, or anyone sensitive to offensive content.
If you’ve got a table of four, your choices are nearly endless. The Game of Life is a classic family game, as are Sorry!, Monopoly, and Risk, in its many configurations. Looking for something different? Give Blokus, which is something like Tetris, a try.
Whether your game night is just you and your significant other with a backgammon board, or you have a crowd of a dozen on their way over, turn off your distracting electronics before the first roll of the dice.
If little ones are joining the gaming table, you need to keep their sensibilities in mind, but that doesn’t mean everybody can’t have fun.
Generally, with very young players, choose quick games that rely on luck, have simple rules, and a very clear course across the board. For these players, Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders are always safe options.
For somewhat older or more active kids, consider Operation or Mousetrap, which keep both minds and fingers busy, and provide plenty of laughs along the way. If you want something a little more contemporary that pre-teen and teen players will enjoy, look for Quelf, 5 Second Rule, or Say Anything.
You’ll find a suggested age range on just about every game’s box, but remember – it’s just a suggestion.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Hasbro Game of Life
Fun to play while learning life planning
Updated to reflect the career choices of today’s young players, including video game designer, The Game of Life is a classic board game that teaches kids how to plan, go for their dreams, make money, and possibly lose money. For ages eight and up, and two to four players, it typically takes an hour or more to complete a game. You’ll get the board with spinner, play money, cards, Spin to Win tokens, pegs, and car game pieces. Note that this isn’t the original version of the game, and some people miss the life “negatives” that have been removed from this version.
Some games take half an hour or less to complete, while others might last for hours. Not all, but many, board games indicate the usual length of play on the box.
Typically, if you have young players with short attention spans, you’ll do best with an easy game that’s over quickly, such as Connect 4. With older players, go for games that last longer.
If you’re playing with a group, and might need to cut things short, look for a game that is easily “called” before the official ending. Apples to Apples, Trivial Pursuit, and Scattergories all qualify, and are lots of fun, to boot.
Have drinks and snacks ready to go before the game begins. Nothing messy, however – stick with easy finger foods that aren’t too greasy, sticky, or powdery.
Some of the most popular board games, both classic and new, involve strategy more than mere luck. While there’s something to be said for luck-based games – they’re usually quick, easy to play, and competitive for all players – the play becomes more intense, personal, and fun when there’s some serious thought or strategy behind the moves. Chess, of course, is the ultimate in strategy games, but if that’s not a personal favorite, there are many other options.
If you want to introduce strategy play to young players, one of the most popular choices is Qwirkle, which involves matching tiles by shape or color. If you’re playing with older kids, consider Forbidden Island, which requires cooperation, strategy, and problem-solving skills to locate ancient treasures before the island sinks.
If you want a strategy game for an adult crowd, try Pandemic, Catan, or 7 Wonders. These all have complex storylines, sophisticated rules of play, and a need for thought before each move.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Cards Against Humanity, LLC. Cards Against Humanity
An adult game for thrills and kicks
Cards Against Humanity isn’t for everyone. The game’s slogan is “A party game for horrible people.” The recommended age range is 17 and up, and the adult themes certainly warrant the minimum age. It’s a great game for a party; in fact, up to 20 players can enjoy the risqué and politically incorrect cards. The game play is simple: each round, one player asks the question printed on a black card. For example, “This is the prime of my life. I’m young, hot, and full of __________.” The other players answer with the funniest choice from their selection of white cards, which say things like, “Poor life choices,“ “My sex life,” “Nickelback,” and many others far more adult. A set includes 500 white cards, 100 black cards, and a rule guide.
Most board games fit under a rough theme, which might be anything from words to trivia. Some people have a strong preference for a particular theme, while others enjoy a wide variety of games. If you do a lot of gaming, keep several different types in your game closet.
Trivia games are great for parties. The most popular game in this category is Trivial Pursuit, which has many options, including junior, Star Wars, and 1980s.
There are plenty of games that revolve around money, including Monopoly, The Game of Life, and Payday.
Word games, such as Scrabble, are great fun for literary types, but also appeal to a wide age range of players.
Fantasy games are extremely popular with the young adult crowd. Most involve a blend of strategy and teamwork, and you’ll usually need to set aside a fair amount of time to complete a game. A few popular choices are Descent: Journeys in the Dark, King of Tokyo, and Shadows Over Camelot.
Party games are best for a large crowd, are easy to play, don’t take much time, and cover a wide range of interests. Scattergories, Pictionary, and Taboo are examples.
Card games that play like a board game, but without the board, are also perfect for a large group. Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples fit in this category.
Two of the most popular board games ever, chess and checkers, have been entertaining people for centuries. Modern chess has been around since the early 1200s, while checkers dates back much further, to roughly 3,000 B.C.
Monopoly, one of the top-selling board games of all time, has recently had an update. The thimble, wheelbarrow, and iron playing pieces were retired in favor of new pieces: rubber ducky, tyrannosaurus rex, and penguin.
The very first travel-sized version of a board game was an early version of The Game of Life. (It was called The Checkered Game of Life at the time.) Milton Bradley created it to entertain union soldiers during the Civil War.
You can find games with themes to suit just about any interest. Tailor your game choices to your crowd.
The “patient” in Operation has a name: Cavity Sam.
Donald Trump is the only president who has starred in his very own board game. Milton Bradley released Trump: The Game in 1988. The slogan was, “It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether you win!”
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.