Best Board Games

Updated September 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

32 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
80 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best board games

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.

So, if you’re in the market for a board game, you can check out our five recommendations in the product list 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.

How many people are playing?

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.

  • 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.

Are you playing with kids?

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.

How long do you want to play?

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.

Strategy or luck?

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.

General game theme?

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.

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Get comfortable! At game time, everyone needs a comfortable spot to sit, with easy access to the playing board, and enough room to lay down cards or set a snack plate.

Fun facts

  • 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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