A settlement-building strategy game that inspired a board game revolution, Catan provides fun and competitive (if at times frustrating) play. Buying Options. Buy from Amazon To find the best board games for adults, we polled Wirecutter staffers about their favorite games and considered nine roundups and reviews of board games, including those from Ars Technica, Popular Mechanics, Vulture, and Smithsonian.com. We also checked out the recipients of the prestigious Spiel des Jahres board game award, and we scoped out the best-selling and most popular games on Amazon and Board Game Geek, a prominent gaming forum.
Search Wirecutter For: Search Reviews for the real world Browse Close • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Browse Close • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • We spent 54 hours researching 115 board games and playing 13 top contenders with 18 people to find some of the best board games for adults.
, we consulted Wirecutter staffers, surveyed seven game experts and enthusiasts, and interviewed four board game experts: a clinical psychologist and neuroscience researcher turned owner of board game café , a ludology professor at Columbia University, a board games and learning researcher at West Virginia University, and the team behind video-series maker . • • • • • Board games are for everyone, so we have picks for new gamers, more advanced players, those looking for party or two-player games, and those who prefer cooperative play to competition.
This guide is a starting point to find games that are fun, interactive, and challenging, and our picks are a great introduction for anyone looking to get more into games. We didn’t include old-school classics (like Monopoly) or challenging enthusiast fare (like Scythe), but lists many other notable games. For more ideas, we encourage you to explore and to visit your local board game café, store, or bar for personalized recommendations based on your skill level and interests.
(Board game publishers print games in limited runs, so if you can’t find one of our picks at a major retailer, a local shop may have it to buy or play.) Although our picks are geared toward adults, most are family friendly.
If you’re looking for board games designed with preschool and elementary-school kids in mind, take a look at . We think these intro-level options are some of the best to show new gamers the joys of board games: They require lighter strategy and are quick to learn, but they involve enough exciting decision making to engage adults. Many of these games are kid friendly, and several have expansion packs to accommodate more players or to add complexity.
Fast-paced gem collecting: Splendor How it’s played: is a Renaissance-themed resource-collecting game. Players act as gem merchants, using tokens to purchase gem-mine cards and to attract the attention of nobles later in the game to gain even more points. Each turn, each player chooses between drawing gem tokens, buying a card, or reserving a card for later purchase and taking a gold joker token.
As players stockpile gem-mine cards, they can use those cards as discounts on other card purchases. The first player with 15 prestige points (earned by purchasing higher-level gem cards and winning over nobles) wins the game. Why it’s great: Splendor’s rules take about 15 minutes to learn, which means more time to play several rounds—and you’ll probably want to. After we played Splendor with three new gamers, everyone requested it again.
This game was first recommended by Wirecutter staffers, but our experts also told us they liked its balance of luck and intro-level strategy. Splendor isn’t as interactive as some of the other games we played, because players don’t share a board or have to barter with one another, but it was simple enough that we could chat with friends while playing and still pay attention to other people’s actions.
We enjoyed playing with the eye-catching gem coins and cards, and we appreciated that this game was easily portable for game nights or trips. “You can take Splendor out of the box and put it in a gallon Ziploc,” said Wirecutter writer Alex Arpaia. Splendor was a 2014 Spiel des Jahres nominee, and currently it has a 4.7-star rating (out of five) across 1,481 reviews on Amazon and a 7.5 rating (out of 10) across 37,000 votes on .
It’s in , as well as in . Players: 2 to 4 Duration: 30 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) An intro-level strategy game: Carcassonne How it’s played: is a city-building that involves strategically placing tiles and workers. It’s a little easier to learn than , with light strategy and a shorter play time. Players draw and place a random tile each turn to build medieval fortifications including roads, cities, cloisters, and farms, and place their followers on those locations to gain points.
Scoring depends on the size of completed developments with followers placed on them. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Why it’s great: Since all players build the map together, Carcassonne is very interactive. The rulebook is easy to navigate for players of all skill levels—Wirecutter writer Doug Mahoney recently played a game with his 9-year-old, who had no problem catching on. Turns go quickly, and we enjoyed playing the game with three and five players.
(We didn’t play it with two, the minimum.) Although developing a peaceful French countryside is a less striking theme compared with some other games we tested, the included optional River and Abbot modes add complexity once you’ve mastered the basic game.
Carcassonne also has an to add a sixth player and some extra mechanics to earn points (without overly complicating the game). Carcassonne was a 2001 Spiel des Jahres winner, and currently it has a 7.4 rating (out of 10) across 76,000 votes on the forum, the most votes of our picks besides Catan. It also has a 4.7-star Amazon rating (out of five) across 670 reviews. Players: 2 to 5 Duration: 30 to 45 minutes Rules: (PDF download) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) A standout train-themed game: Ticket to Ride How it’s played: is a train-themed, cross-country adventure game.
Players use cards to claim railroad routes and travel to cities across North America, and gain points by connecting destinations and creating longer routes. Players can cut each other off, forcing competitors to take longer routes. Once a player is down to two (or fewer) trains after using the other 43 to claim routes, the other players get one more turn and then the game ends. Players tally their points and subtract the value of any uncompleted routes from the total; the person with the most points wins the game.
(Ticket to Ride comes in several variations if you want more advanced options; Wirecutter writer Alex Arpaia recommends .) Why it’s great: Both Wirecutter staffers and our experts recommended Ticket to Ride as an accessible game that’s fun to play again and again—like , Ticket to Ride has become a game-night staple. The concept is easy to grasp, but we felt challenged to keep track of our routes and complete all of our destinations before running out of trains.
This game doesn’t have as much interaction as games that involve trading, but everyone builds on the same board, and we were delightfully frustrated when other players thwarted our plans. We like the compelling train-traveling adventure narrative, and the brightly colored pieces and board are fun to look at (although the board is quite large on a table). With two players, the game took 45 minutes, though Wirecutter staffers reported that rounds could drag on with more players.
Ticket to Ride was a 2004 Spiel des Jahres winner. At this writing, it has a 4.7-star rating (out of five) across 4,021 Amazon reviews—the highest number among our finalists—and a rating of 7.5 (out of 10) across 54,000 votes.
Players: 2 to 5 Duration: 30 to 60 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) Next-level strategy games These games have more-complex strategies, and more of them—and, accordingly, more-complicated rules—but their underlying mechanics are simple.
We think they’re great next-step options for most people (not super-serious gamers) looking for more of a mental challenge.
These games also tend to have longer playing times and cost a bit more. A ubiquitous classic: Catan How it’s played: is a civilization-building game in which players collect resources to create settlements, cities, and roads to earn points. They gather those resources if a dice roll matches the numbers on tiles where they’ve built settlements or cities, and by bartering with one another.
Players also get points by creating the longest continuous road or having the largest army, won through development cards that can be purchased with resources. If someone rolls a seven, a robber pawn moves to block players from collecting resources, and players can strategically build settlements to block others from building next to them.
The player who is first to reach 10 victory points wins. Why it’s great: Catan is known for popularizing , which require more strategy than luck and don’t boot players out of a game. It’s strategic, interactive, and fun to play. It was one of the first challenging board games I personally tried years ago, and I still get together with friends every few months to play it. The rules are more involved than those of our entry-level picks, so this game is much easier to play if someone who is familiar with it can coach other players.
And the play time is longer than that of Splendor, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride—rounds can sometimes drag on, so we recommend having snacks on hand (and beer, if you’re into that) and setting the group’s expectations from the start.
Several Wirecutter staffers reported that Catan could be divisive because of its competitive play. “Catan led me to reevaluate a friendship,” said Wirecutter editor Tracy Vence. But it’s so iconic, we couldn’t leave it off our list. Catan was the 1995 Spiel des Jahres winner, and it currently has a rating of 7.2 (out of 10) across 76,000 votes and a 4.7-star Amazon rating (out of five) across 2,258 reviews.
Players: 3 to 4 Duration: 60 to 120 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) Catan has multiple expansion-pack options to change up the game and extend player counts. If you want more people to barter with and plot against, we recommend the , which adds replay value and more interaction. Joe Wasserman recommended the expansion to add more options and resources, and the expansion for more variety (these expansions seem to be fan favorites as well).
A fast and fun civilization-building game: 7 Wonders How it’s played: is a civilization-building game. Players randomly draw an ancient city, and they have three Ages—a total of 18 turns—to develop their civilization and earn points. Cities can produce resources, which give discounts on future purchases (much as in Splendor) and can be traded with neighbors (without the tense negotiations of Catan). Using those resources, players can also build their civilizations’ might by earning coins, expanding their military, building Wonders of the Ancient World, exploring science, creating guilds, and building civilian and commercial structures.
The player with the most points at the end of the three Ages wins. Why it’s great: The high strategy level of this game means it can take a few rounds to master, but the rules are easy to grasp and the rounds don’t drag on—with only 18 turns, the game is true to its 30-minute estimate. We thought this game was fun with the maximum players, as well as with four players. It adapts for two players as well, but we think the game is more entertaining and interactive with more people.
Even though 7 Wonders is competitive, it’s not divisive: “The rules encourage you to scuttle cards that your neighbors might want, but they won’t know you’ve done it, so it doesn’t encourage board-game-night fights,” said Wirecutter editor Kimber Streams. And while trading can get heated in Catan, neighbors cannot refuse a trade in 7 Wonders, and it doesn’t consume their resources—both parties benefit.
Scoring can be tricky, but as Wirecutter writer Alex Arpaia noted, “The game includes some handy scorecards for the purpose, and a step-by-step guide in the rulebook.” Alex said she frequently referred to the guide and the smaller cheat sheet when playing.
7 Wonders was a 2011 Kennerspiel des Jahres winner and was recommended to us by Wirecutter staffers and Joey Lee, lecture professor and director for the Games Research Lab at Columbia University. It currently has a 4.3-star rating (out of five) on Amazon across 1,415 reviews, and a 7.8 rating (out of 10) across 60,000 votes on . Players: 2 to 7 Duration: 30 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) Our favorite party games These games are quick to learn and play, highly interactive, and designed to get a large group involved—they can help break the ice with strangers or make for a fun family activity.
Many games can be party games, but in this category we looked for games that could accommodate at least six players—the more, the better. An interactive card game for all ages: Dixit How it’s played: is a storytelling picture card game.
A turn starts when one player (the storyteller) describes a card chosen from their hand using one word or phrase, and each of the other players chooses the best-matching card from their hand to submit secretly. All the submissions (including the storyteller’s card) are shuffled and revealed, and players vote on which card best fits the storyteller’s prompt.
Players earn points for correctly guessing the storyteller’s card or for having other players guess their card. If at least one player, but not all, guesses the storyteller’s card, both the storyteller and that player gain more points, encouraging clues that leave room for interpretation.
Why it’s great: Dixit is a unique, family-friendly party game similar to Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity. It takes minutes to learn, so it feels very low pressure compared with , which have more complicated rules.
Although Dixit’s strategy is light, you can earn points by being clever and creative. And the art is gorgeous: I played with several adults who took Instagram stories of the cards. Plus, multiple expansion packs keep the game interesting and let you gape at more ethereal cards—check out the spooky pack or the bold and colorful option.
Wirecutter editor Tim Barribeau said, “I love Dixit for intergenerational play, as long as everyone has an imagination.” Dr. Jon Freeman, founder of The Brooklyn Strategist, called Dixit a “brilliant social clue-giving game.” Dixit was a 2010 Spiel des Jahres winner, and at this writing it has a 7.3 rating (out of 10) on across 36,000 votes, and a 4.6-star Amazon rating (out of five) across 763 reviews.
Players: 3 to 6 Duration: 30 minutes Rules: (PDF) A spy-themed word-affiliation game: Codenames How it’s played: is a word-guessing game where players divide into two teams.
One player from each team acts as the spymaster and provides one-word clues to get their team to figure out which word cards on the table conceal their team’s own agents. When guessing, players must avoid cards that represent the other team’s agents, bystanders, and the assassin (which causes an instant loss). Only the spymasters have access to the key card that reveals which cards correspond to which characters. The first team to locate all of their agents wins.
Why it’s great: This party game is a cinch to learn and very interactive. As a Bananagrams and Scrabble enthusiast, I love this game, and all the groups I’ve played with have caught on quickly and enjoyed playing several rounds; they also took more risks as they got more comfortable with the gameplay. It’s flexible, too—it can accommodate a few more players beyond the eight-person limit (though bigger teams means debating may take longer), and the rules also include two- and three-player variants.
Wirecutter writer Signe Brewster said, “Codenames is the best cross-generation game. I can play it with my parents or with nieces and nephews. It’s also fairly easy to pack up into a baggie and take on a trip.” (The Rules Girl’s team also recommended as a two-player or cooperative version, with a [PDF] but similar mechanics. You can also add the word cards from Duet to the base game for more word choices.) Both Columbia University’s Joey Lee and The Rules Girl recommended Codenames.
It was the 2016 Spiel des Jahres winner, and it’s the top-rated party game on with a 7.8 rating across 41,000 votes; at this writing it has a 4.8-star Amazon rating (out of five) across 1,914 reviews. Players: 2 to 8 Duration: 15 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (companion), (companion) A great cooperative game Cooperative games let players work together toward a common goal instead of competing against one another. This style of game is especially great if you want to keep the peace during a family function, or if you have that one friend who gets too cutthroat during competitive board games.
Collaborate to save the world: Pandemic How it’s played: In , players collaborate to save the world from a rapidly spreading epidemic of deadly diseases. Players draw cards and use four actions per turn to help cure diseases by building research stations, treating diseases, sharing knowledge, or discovering a cure. Players can also draw epidemic cards, however, which increase the speed and scope of disease proliferation.
By curing the four diseases, players win. They lose if they can’t contain the diseases—by allowing too many outbreaks, running out of cards in the player deck, or running out of disease cubes to put on the board. Why it’s great: Pandemic is an intense cooperative game that challenges players’ thinking. As Wirecutter editor Tim Barribeau summed it up: “Three ways to lose, one way to win.” It’s a highly interactive game because players work together to choose actions.
“Pandemic is a great introduction to stressful co-op games that are easier to lose than to win,” said Wirecutter producer James Austin. You can increase the game’s difficulty—the rulebook lays out Introductory, Standard, and Heroic modes, with the harder modes adding extra epidemic cards—so you can grow with the game as you master it.
A 2009 Spiel des Jahres nominee, Pandemic has a 7.7 rating (out of 10) across 72,000 votes on , and a 4.7-star rating (out of five) across 2,224 reviews on Amazon. Players: 2 to 4 Duration: 45 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) A great two-player game Most modern board games are designed with larger groups in mind, and although many include two-player rules, those modes can be convoluted and less fun than the original.
For this category, we looked for games that shone with only two players and weren’t checkers, chess, or Go. Best for two players: Patchwork How it’s played: is a strategic two-player puzzle game, similar to Tetris but with a sewing theme. Players move around a shared time-track board to collect buttons, and then use them to buy fabric pieces to construct a quilt on their individual gridded boards. On each turn, players can choose to move their piece along the track to gain buttons or purchase one of three patches laid out in a circle to add to their quilt.
Players win by gaining the most buttons and filling in as many spaces on their personal quilt boards as possible.
Why it’s great: Patchwork’s rules are simple, but the game challenged our pattern-recognition skills even as we played multiple rounds. Trying to knit our pieces together as tightly as possible without overlapping was a unique, surprisingly complex challenge. Play time is relatively short at around 30 minutes, so we were able to play several rounds, and there isn’t a lot of downtime between turns since this is a true two-player game. The order of the quilt pieces can vary, and the pieces are two-sided, so the game is highly replayable—you have countless ways to construct your grid.
For trips or game nights, we love that Patchwork is small and portable; you could easily pack the tiles and pieces in a bag. Even though we aren’t quilters, we thought this calmly themed game with beautiful pieces was delightful to play.
The Rules Girl team originally recommended Patchwork to us, and it was a 2015 Spiel des Jahres recommended game. At this writing, Patchwork has a 7.7 rating (out of 10) across 30,000 votes on , and a 4.6-star (out of five) rating across 433 Amazon reviews. Players: 2 Duration: 15 to 30 minutes Rules: (PDF) Apps: (mobile game), (mobile game) The competition There are many, many worthy games we didn’t mention in this guide—we started with 115 well-reviewed and widely loved games, but it obviously wasn’t possible to include them all here!
If you’ve played our picks and are looking for even more games, following are some of our other finalists: : Azul’s strategy and theme are unique—you’re a Portuguese artisan decorating the walls of a palace, and you gain points based on tile placement. Once you master the slightly tricky rules, the game is easy to play, with short rounds, and it has beautiful art. We enjoyed working our brains while playing Azul, and it won the 2018 Spiel des Jahres award, but it’s not interactive, and we don’t think it prepares players for next-level strategic Eurogames as well as some of our picks.
: Our previous pick for a great two-player game, Santorini is fun and easy to learn. Wirecutter editor Kimber Streams described the strategy as a “mash-up between checkers and Connect Four.” Although god cards can add oomph after you’ve played a few times, this game has a short play time and light strategy, and if more than two people are involved, players can get knocked out early on.
: Wirecutter editor Kimber Streams played this 2017 Spiel des Jahres winner and likened it to Carcassonne—in Kingdomino, you build a map and gain points by grouping land types together, but on your own board.
Although it’s fun, Kingdomino is less interactive than our picks, and the rulebook is less straightforward. : Recommended by several staffers, this bluffing party game is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it, but it takes longer to master than our picks.
I played with a group of four, and while we enjoyed a second round, it took me more than 20 minutes to explain the rules—not ideal for a party game. : This deck-building game came recommended to us as a more fun and accessible alternative to the popular Dominion. But it took us far longer to play than the estimated time on the box, and players can “die” with zero points and then have to wait out the rest of the game.
: We were excited to try Photosynthesis, which has stunning art and a rare theme that doesn’t center on capitalism. Unfortunately, the game was extremely slow and not very interactive. : This deduction-based party game has complex rules and a difficult learning curve. Although it was fun once our eight players understood how to play, we also dismissed this game because of its potentially offensive theme. : Wirecutter writer Liz Thomas loves this game, which has a host of wacky characters, from zombies to aliens, that battle players to become the King of Tokyo.
But we cut it because players could get eliminated early on. : We dismissed this tile-laying, settlement-building game because our experts said there were better games in this genre, and it has a weaker Board Game Geek rating—7.0 out of 10, across 15,000 ratings—than similar games like Carcassonne and Catan.
: We think Betrayal at House on the Hill is too complex for beginners, but some of our staffers . The following games came up in our research, were recommended by experts, or were mentioned by Wirecutter staffers, and will likely be fun, too: , , , and felt too challenging for our next-level specifications. is a cooperative deduction game that , but compared with our party-game picks, it has a drawn-out playing time and lower replay value.
isn’t as popular as our picks, and reviews report that the directions can be confusing. We like a lot, but dismissed it in favor of party games that could accommodate more players.
and weren’t as compelling or as fun in our experience as our party picks. We the look of —you use dice to make stained glass windows on an individual board—but it has lighter strategy than our picks. How we picked and tested Photo: Michael Hession To find the best board games for adults, we polled Wirecutter staffers about their favorite games and considered nine roundups and reviews of board games, including those from , , , and .
We also checked out the recipients of the prestigious board game award, and we scoped out the best-selling and most popular games on Amazon and , a prominent gaming forum.
Because so many amazing games are published each year, I asked several professionals for recommendations and to help us establish criteria for what makes a great game.
I spoke in depth with , a clinical psychologist and neuroscience researcher turned founder of the board game café ; , lecture professor and director for the Games Research Lab at Columbia University; , a board games and learning researcher at West Virginia University; and the team behind , a rules-explainer video series.
I also asked the following game experts and enthusiasts to weigh in on our finalists: , a doctoral candidate in the Microsoft Research Centre for Social Natural User Interfaces at the University of Melbourne; Crymson Pleasure, Vanri The Rogue, and AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps from the forum; Tom Vasel of game podcast; and David Miller, the executive editor of game news site . You can categorize board games in many different ways, organizing them by skill level, player count, or play time.
You can group them by the types of play pieces, such as dice or tiles; the , like trains or military; or the . A game’s mechanic is “the verb of the game, or the action that a player does repeatedly, whether it’s betting, singing, throwing, bidding, trading,” said Joey Lee. With our experts’ notes and feedback from Wirecutter staffers in mind, we decided to divide games into new-gamer, next-level strategy, party, cooperative, and two-player categories, and we determined that all our picks should meet the following criteria: • Easy to learn: The rules should be easy to learn, even if a game’s strategy is more complex.
We favored games with straightforward, clearly written rulebooks, though you can consult many , and many games also have accompanying apps. We used Board Game Geek’s community-reported complexity ratings combined with expert input and our own testing to compare how difficult our competitors were to learn.
We didn’t include any games that were harder to learn than Catan, but you can find many great, more-challenging games if you’re ready to progress beyond our choices.
• Interactive: We looked for games where players had to engage with each other throughout the game, whether cooperatively or competitively, to trade, build, and more. Additionally, we determined that a game shouldn’t eliminate players from a game early on and force them to wait for everyone else to finish. • Strategically balanced: The best games strike a good balance between luck and strategy, and have multiple strategies for players to learn rather than one dominant approach.
Dr. Jon Freeman named Monopoly as an example of a game with a dominant strategy that can wipe out other players (by buying the most properties, which is based on luck). He said that the best strategic games are “easy to get into but take a lifetime to master.” • High replay value: The best games are those you come back to again and again, so we looked for this attribute when reading reviews and asking Wirecutter staff for notes on games.
(We also found that strategically balanced games were fun and engaging to play repeatedly.) • Scalable player count: We preferred games that were fun and engaging with different numbers of people. (Although we didn’t test expansion packs that adapted games for more players, many games have these as options; we included notable ones for our picks.) • Player reviews: We considered each game’s Amazon and Board Game Geek ratings and reviews.
But Freeman advised us to regard reviews with a grain of salt—if you’re a seasoned gamer, an Amazon review might not provide sufficiently in-depth information, whereas if you’re a newer enthusiast, Board Game Geek ratings might shine favorably on an extremely difficult game. • Game length: Board Game Geek has user-submitted average play times (which can vary drastically from what’s on the box).
We also considered feedback from our experts on how long it actually took to play games, and we played a few ourselves to test the play times. Aesthetics weren’t a crucial determining factor, but we did consider games with compelling, beautiful art (especially for more-expensive games).
And although a companion smartphone/tablet app wasn’t a testing criterion, it is a bonus for most of the games on our list. We narrowed our list of 115 games to 16, reading the rules and watching explainer videos to understand how the games were played.
We then asked seven board game enthusiasts, reviewers, and experts to rank each game based on our criteria. Additionally, Wirecutter editor Kimber Streams and I each played 13 different games from our final list, with 18 people. Sources • Dr. Jon Freeman, , phone interview, January 4, 2018 • Dr.
Joey J. Lee, , email interview, January 8, 2018 • The Rules Girl team, , email interview, January 8, 2018 • Joe Wasserman, , phone interview, January 10, 2018 • Melissa Rogerson, , email interview, February 5, 2018 • Crymson Pleasure, Vanri The Rogue, and AnnaMaria Jackson-Phelps, , email interview, February 5, 2018 • Tom Vasel, , email interview, February 5, 2018 • David Miller, , email interview, February 5, 2018 • Aaron Zimmerman, Nate Anderson, and Tom Mendelsohn, , Ars Technica, December 8, 2017 • William Herkewitz, , Popular Mechanics, March 1, 2018 • Rachel Kaufman, , Smithsonian.com, November 21, 2017 Further reading •
best dating board games for adults of all times - 12 Best Board Games For Adults
If you have not explored board games for adults lately, you are in for a real treat. There are board games for two players and an unlimited number. (Yes, really!) Some are perfect party games for a large crowd and some work for a family game night. Some can be finished in less than an hour, and some provide a full evening of fun.
All of the games we present in this article are modern, challenging, and entertaining. The games we reviewed are only a few of those available, games we think are some of the best board games for adults out there.
At the end of our more detailed list of board games for adults, we’ve named some others you might wish to explore. Additionally, we have included an estimated time required for play to aid in your choice. Board Games for Adults Sheriff of Nottingham A game where players lie, bribe, and smuggle, the more devious you are, the more likely you are to win. Your goal is to sneak goods into the city of Nottingham past the watchful eye of the Sheriff.
You have the choice of legal or illegal goods. Which will you choose? As a merchant, you can make a deal with the Sheriff or get him to target another player.
You also get to take a turn as the Sherriff, who gets to confiscate goods for himself. Play this exciting game with up to five players. Playing time: 60 minutes Dead of Winter A post-apocalyptic survival game, Dead of Winter requires two to five players to cooperate for survival. However, each player leading his group of survivors battling flesh-eating human monsters has his own hidden objective. This means some players may survive and some die.
Players must decide how to meet their own objectives while leading their group to victory. Objectives can be harmless or jeopardize the entire colony. Players must make hard, quick decisions for both themselves and the colony in the attempt to not only survive, but also meet their individual goals. This game is always fresh and full of surprises. Playing time: 45 minutes to over three hours Legendary If you are a Marvel character fan, this game is for you.
Whether you are a fan of classic villains like Loki, Magneto, and Dr. Doom; the Fantastic Four; Guardians of the Galaxy; or all the Marvel heroes, there is a version you will love. Hero decks are chosen and shuffled together. A mastermind villain is chosen, whose card stack is modified based on the villain’s scheme. Players recruit hero cards to maintain a hand of five, battling the villain and gaining points with each battle won.
When the mastermind’s villain cards are all gone, whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins. However, if the mastermind completes his scheme, all the players lose. Playing time: Approximately 45 minutes Settlers of Catan A now-familiar civilization building, strategy game, award-winning Settlers of Catan has spawned expansion and extension packs for its fans.
One reason is because of its playability – children as young as ten can play. Players build roads, settlements, and cities with resources determined by the roll of dice – stone, brick, wood, sheep, or grain. The goal is to get ten victory points, some of them kept secret, to win. To do so, one must avoid the robber pawn, build an army, and trade and steal resource cards.
Now simply referred to as Catan, this game provides a fun evening of entertainment. Playing time: 60 to 120 minutes Tsuro: A Game of the Path In this quick game – it takes only 20 minutes to play – players take turns building a safe path by placing tiles on a 6 x 6 board. If a player is stopped at the edge of the board, or collides with another player’s token, they are out of the game. The goal is to be the last player with a token on the board. Sounds simple, but strategy is essential.
This board game’s versatility adds to its appeal; it can be played by up to eight players as young as 8 years old. Try this adult board game for a fun-filled family game night. Playing time: 15 Minutes Takenoko Two to four players take care of the emperor’s bamboo garden so that the Japanese emperor can feed his giant panda bear. Players plant and grow one of three bamboo species. The goal is to grow the most bamboo while making sure the panda is fed.
The player who does so the best wins the game. Playing time: 45 minutes Lords of Waterdeep In eight rounds, players must complete quests and collect treasure and resources while constructing buildings, all to collect the most points and win the game.
Strategy involves negotiations, trickery, and force as you attempt to control the city of Waterdeep.
This game for 2 to 5 players won Origins Award for Best Board Game of 2012 and continues to be a favorite adult board game. Playing time: 1-2 hours Pandemic Two to four players must work together to eradicate four deadly diseases. If they fail, everybody loses. Each player is a specialist in a particular area and must work with the other players to plan strategies to research cures and treat disease hotspots.
Epidemic! cards increase the diseases’ activities, while other cards control the spread. Players use up to four action cards to build a research station, discover a cure, treat those infected, or travel between cities. Fast paced and fun, this game works for those eight and over. Playing time: 45 minutes Carcassone Carcassone is a game full of possibilities and options that moves quickly.
Players deploy farmers, monks, knights, and thieves protecting and destroying parts of their opponents’ French landscapes. To do so, players place tiles adjacent to those already played, connecting roads to roads and cities to cities, etc. Each time a player completes an area, his meeple scores points. A game full of strategy, two to five players ages eight and up will enjoy playing, although gamers state it is best played with two players.
Playing time: 30 to 45 minutes King of New York and King of Tokyo These two stand-alone games each have six monsters – interchangeable between the two games. King of Tokyo came first and remains a gamers’ favorite. King of New York has a larger game board and adds the ability to achieve “Fame.” Additionally, the destruction of buildings provides bonuses, but also an intense response form the National Guard.
A relatively simple game, luck plays a role as players use purchased power-up cards (not interchangeable between the two games). The winner must collect 20 victory points or be the only monster remaining at the end of the game. Playing time: 40 minutes 7 Wonders In this fast-paced game, players have 30 minutes to develop one of seven great ancient civilizations into a world power. For each of the three ages in this game, players are dealt cards of resources which they organize on their double-sided boards.
Strategy must be used to gain victory points as play passes both left and right and one must weigh decisions considering the other players’ card play. The game ends when all three ages have ended.
The game is for three to seven players, but includes directions for a two-player variation. Playing time: 30 minutes Arkham Horror Board Game In this cooperative game set in the 1920s, players battle the Ancient Ones attempting to enter out world. Players choose one of sixteen Investigators and one of eight Ancient Ones.
Players acquire spells, allies, skills, and weapons as they fight monsters attempting to enter our world through portals in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. When too many portals open, the players must resort to combat to win and save our world. Playing time: Two to four hours Steampunk Rally In Steampunk Rally, players become history’s greatest inventors design racing machines that race across the Swiss Alps. This strategy game involves selecting parts to add to each player’s engine while assaulting their opponents.
Fueled by steam, heat, or electricity, the goal is to finish the race first with one’s machine intact, no easy task. Damage results in loss of machine parts, fortunately replaceable. This game keeps players involved in making tricky choices and using every bit of strategy they can muster to build their machines and win the race.
Playing time: 40-60 minutes Great Western Trail Called “one of the best pure-strategy games of the 2010s,” Great Western Trail takes players on a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas City. Players contract craftsmen to erect buildings along the trail, engineers to build a rail line, and cowboys to serve as trail hands. Every turn has multiple options, as you accumulate money and earn victory points. The winner is the player who manages to accumulate the most victory points, a challenging task.
Playing time: 75 to 150 minutes The Voyages of Marco Polo In The Voyages of Marco Polo, up to four players recreate the 1271 journey of Marco Polo to the court of Kublai Khan. Each player is a different character and has a special power. Five main actions, shown on the bottom of the game board, are possible, with one performed in each turn. Players can get resources, take one resource and two camels, earn money, purchase orders, or travel.
Play ends after five rounds with the winner the player with the most victory points. This game mixes strategy and luck is such a clever way, it is sure to become a favorite. Playing time: 40 to 100 minutes Scythe Although designed for five players, this game works best with four.
The beautifully illustrated imaginary setting on the hexagonal game board in 1920s Eastern Europe enhances the players’ enjoyment of the game. Players rely on strategy rather than might as they battle with coal-powered mechs in The Factory, a capitalistic city-state. The goal is to gain territorial control with both regional prestige and resources. Play begins with each player having access to different resources and a hidden goal.
The game relies heavily on strategy with even the “Encounter” cards offering choices. Additionally, each game is unique as the starting points may be the same, but a player’s decisions and choices change the direction of the action. Always a fresh and exciting play is guaranteed.
Playing time: 90 to 115 minutes Quantum Quantum is a dice-tossing strategy game where opponents wage war across a star system. Player’s dice are spaceships, the lower the number, the more powerful the ship. Your goal as a fleet commander is to gain territory and create new bases to win the game by constructing Quantum Cubes.
Each time you do so, you can expand your fleet, make a special move, or transform your ships. This game of space combat, strategy, and colonization has limitless possibilities, so play always remains unique and exciting. Playing time: 60 minutes Terraforming Mars Terraforming Mars uses a hexagonal mapped game board for play.
As the name implies, the goal is to terraform Mars, which includes building cities. Successful play requires chaining bonuses as you and your fellow players attempt to 1] raise the atmospheric oxygen level to 14%, 2] raise the planet’s temperature to 8 degrees Celsius, and 3] create nine oceans with tiles.
Players keep track of their resources and production on individual boards, competing for the best places for city, ocean, and greenery tiles, as well as different Milestones and Awards worth many victory points. The goal is to earn the most victory points and win the game. With 200 action cards, play remains surprising no matter how many times you play.
Play time : 90 to 120 minutes Clank! In Clank!, the goal is to loot in a multi-leveled dungeon without being killed by a dragon. The best treasure is close to the bottom of the dungeon, of course. Cards provide bonuses, but make you more likely to be a victim of random dragon attacks.
A game of thievery, stealth, and luck, Clank! is sure to please. Playing time: 30 to 60 minutes The Manhattan Project: Energy Empire Players are nations in the atomic era, attempting to increase their might in the areas of international leadership, industry, and commerce. Using power generating sources – solar, coal, nuclear, etc. – players progress through three main paths, building industry while keeping energy clean and controlling pollution.
A fast-paced game, you will want to play this one more than once. Playing time: 60 to 120 minutes Quadropolis Like a cross between Sim City and Monopoly, Quadropolis has players building their own metropolis on a personal 4 x 4 city map. Buildings earn points based upon type and position in relation to other structures and landscape features, such as city parks. After four rounds of play, points are totaled to determine who wins.
The goal is to build and place the best city structures with adequate resources – energy and inhabitants. A game of concentration, Quadropolis is refreshingly quiet compared to many adult board game.
Playing time: 30 to 60 minutes Stronghold You must play this game more than once to gain proficiency, as one must think ahead and use long-term strategy. One player defends the castle during a six-day siege, while the other attacks. The gameboard depicts the castle and surrounding area. Defenders gain victory points defending the castle if possible against goblins, orcs, and multitudes of enemies. Playing time: 120 minutes Mysterium Mysterium takes place in Sweden in the 1920s. Mr. MacDowell and a group of mediums contact a mute, amnesic, ghost who communicates through illustrated clue cards representing his visions.
Up to five players are guided to identify a trio of weapon, murder place, and murderer of the ghost and solve the mystery. Each game round represents one hour of time and the players have only seven hours to solve the mystery. The goal is to guess correctly and reveal who, with what weapon, and where the murder took place. Play moves quickly in this refreshing game similar to the Classic Clue, but with a twist.
Playing time: 42 minutes Five Tribes Called “Mancala on steroids by game reviewer Tom Vasel, players grab colored game pieces and place them strategically on a checkered board. Victory comes with the defeat of the Five Tribes of Assassins, Builders, Elders, Viziers, and Merchant as players attempt to grab control of the Arabian sultanate Naqala.
Chance plays an extremely minor role as players choose from many ways to score points using planning and patience, while keeping opponents from succeeding. Playing time: 40 to 80 minutes Castles of Mad King Ludwig King Ludwig II of Bavaria wants his castle built.
Players are building contractors charged with the task of designing and building the interior while selling services to other players. Players accrue points by adding rooms based upon size, type of room, and location. Each round begins with purchasing, after which a player becomes a Master Builder, setting prices for a set of rooms. At the end of each round, players receive points based upon the popularity of their rooms and responsiveness to the King’s requirements.
The player with the most points wins. Playing time: 90 minutes Party Board Games for Adults Games are part of a fun party and these new and entertaining games are perfect. Board games, as the name implies, include a board. Although some of the following games are not technically board games – players do not sit around a four-sided board – these boxed games adhere to the definition by having game pieces such as cards.
They also have rules for play. Try one at your next party. Captain Sonar Captain Sonar is perfect for after a four-couple dinner party, as it is best played with eight players – two teams of four. Full of excitement, two submarines fight a battle to the death, evading mines and drones. You may be a Captain, an Engineer, or a Radio operator (with a map, felt marker, and clear plastic sheet) seeking to follow the Captains directions.
It is not over until one of the Captains fires a torpedo to destroy the opponent’s submarine. You will want to play again to get your revenge! Playing time: 45 to 60 minutes Secret Hitler A small group party game for five to ten players, this deductive game divides players in German Liberals and Fascists. The card-carrying Fascists know each other’s identities, one of whom is Hitler. Each player is given a secret dossier with character and party affiliation cards.
Players elect a president and chancellor for each round who secretly enact one of three government policies.
The German Liberals attempt to win the game by enacting six Liberal policies. Meanwhile the hidden Fascists attempt to either elect Hitler as chancellor or enact five Fascist policies. A dark game of accusations and lies, the surprise of discovering Hitler’s identity and possibly assassinating him ends this game on a high note. Playing time: 45 minutes Codenames Two teams with three to four players each have a Spymaster who know their secret identity, one of twenty-five possible agents.
The teams only know the agents by their Codenames. The goal is to be the team able to make contact with their agents first. One word clues point to words on the board and the number of cards associated with the clue.
Everyone attempts to avoid the assassin while making contact with the agents on their team. Players will want to play this fast-paced game multiple times.
Playing time: 15 minutes The Resistance: Avalon The Resistance, a party game for adults, is designed for five to ten players, who attempt to deduce the other players’ identities, while liberating the population and defeating the Empire.
Imperial Spies and Resistance Operatives join to choose an assignment, then some secretly either sabotage or support the mission.
Play continues until a team wins three missions, thus winning the game. This deductive game with Arthur, Merlin, and Mordred will please King Arthur fans. Playing time: 30 minutes Loaded Questions There are four colored question categories – No Brainers, Anything Goes, Personals, and Hypotheticals. A player rolls and reads the question on the space where they land. The other players write down their answers.
Whoever rolled previously reads the answers and the current roller guesses who gave which answer. The roller moves one space for each correct match. The roller writes down the answer and the other players guess. The goal is to reach the Win! space. However, the board also has Reversal spaces. Full of funny and unexpected revelations, Loaded Questions makes a perfect party game for adults. Playing time: 45 minutes Camel Up Camel Up, a betting racing game, provides a quick (30 minute) simple, but surprisingly addictive play.
Camels move forward based upon dice throws, sometimes landing on top of each other. Place your bet early and win more money, but only if you correctly guess the winner. You will want to play this game over and over. Playing time: 20 to 30 minutes Game for Fame Game for Fame challenges players to gain celebrity while working with a team and gain cash prizes by working solo, contradictory goals, but that is part of the fun of this party game for up to sixteen players.
Players want to reach the red carpet of success while avoiding Re-hab. The player with the most money at the game’s end wins.
Playing time: 30 to 90 minutes (depending on number of players) Cards Against Humanity Not a game for the squeamish or extremely conservative party group, this currently best-selling game is described by its makers as a “game for horrible people.” Questions and answers are funny and tremendously inappropriate, perfect party fare for the right group. The game moves fast and works best with four to twelve players, although it can be played by as many as thirty. Playing time: 30 minutes or longer Werewolf Eight to twenty-four (or more!) players assume the roles of Werewolves, Villagers, the Seer, and a Moderator.
The Moderator controls the game’s flow. The Werewolves conspire secretly to kill a Villager, who could be the Seer, during the night phase of the game. During the day phase, the dead Villager’s identity is revealed and he is out of the game. The rest of the Villages vote on who the Werewolf is, who is also out of the game. The Villagers win if and when they kill all the Werewolves, and the Werewolves win when their numbers equal those of the Villagers.
Playing time: About 1 hour Say Anything A small group party game for up to eight players, Say Anything delves into what players think with some hilarious consequences.
Players take turns drawing cards with questions such as, “If you could have a big anything, what would it be?” The other players write down answers, throwing them face-up on the table – no duplicates allowed.
Players bet tokens on which answer the card reader will choose. Playing time: 30 minutes Adrenaline In this FPS (first-person shooter) game up to five players control robots armed with killer weapons.
As the name implies, this game is fast! And, if a player is shot, they get faster. Set in the future, players use a virtual tournament battle to settle a factional, world-wide dispute. The player who builds their arsenal with many weapons and can pull the trigger the most often racks up the most points and wins. Playing time: 30 to 60 minutes Kingdom Death: Monster Kingdom Death: Monster is a game of five cooperative and competing campaign systems.
Each campaign lasts thirty lantern years, each consisting of hunt, showdown, and settlement. Hunt through various encounters and events, meet and fight a monster, and, if you survive, expand your settlement.
Fights with the monsters – seven of them – are controlled by individual decks and are extremely variable, some of the three levels very challenging, requiring strategy and a sharp mind. Meanwhile, players craft gear on their individual 3 x 3 gear grids. Kingdom Death: Monster’s four players will find this game challenging.
Definitely an adult play. Playing time: 60 to 180 minutes Colt Express Colt Express is a two to six-player game where players are bandits robbing a train on July 11, 1899 at 10 a.m. going from Folsom, New Mexico, with 47 passengers. The goal is to get the most loot during five rounds of play, especially the Nice Valley Coal Company’s payroll guarded by Marshal Samuel Ford.
Players use Schemin’ and Stealin’ with two sets of action cards. Add special powers for each character and play moves quickly and unexpectedly to its conclusion, when the winner is the bandit with the most loot. Playing time: 30 to 40 minutes Other Adult Board Games to Explore • Falling Sky: The Gallic Revolt Against Caesar – a game of military and political maneuvering set in ancient Rome • Mombasa – a trading company game set in Africa • Orleans – a strategy game set in medieval France • Runewars, Runebound, Descent: Journeys in the Dark, Rune Age – four related fantasy games with dragons • The Gallerist – combines art and capitalism • Lewis and Clark – a reenactment of the 1803 exploratory journey • Anachrony – a futuristic game of survival • Captain Sonar – a submarine battle team game • Stockpile – a game of stock market investing • StarCraft: The Board Game – players seek galactic domination with 180 plastic figures • Grand Austria Hotel – turn a small café into a grand hotel are fun, but why limit yourself to what you know.
Modern adult board games contain adventure, require strategy, and provide unlimited entertainment. They tell stories, contain mysteries, and challenge your thinking and reasoning skills. Adult party games introduce cooperative and individual conflicts designed to get a group acquainted with each other, some in outrageous ways.
Our list is not all inclusive. There are adult board games of every size, subject, and description. Prices range from below $20 to over $300 for Kingdom Death: Monster. However, most run around between forty and sixty dollars. Grab your favorite today and get playing!
Sure, the classic board games like Monopoly, Risk, and Battleship are still great fun. But the number of new games has exploded in the last several years as designers dream up space adventures, deck-building sagas, and zombie survival games.
So order a pizza, invite over one to three friends, and try out the best board games in recent years. Here's what happens when you insert the political dynamics of Star Wars into Brain Jacque's Redwall series: You get , the best asymmetric strategy board game of the decade.In Root, you and up to three other friends will battle to conquer the woodland as one of four (furry or feathered) factions.
Will you choose the overextended feline Empire, a massive force struggling to dominate through sheer might? Or an aging warrior caste, the avian old-guard aiming to retake lost territory in spite of the limitations of their rigid code?
Perhaps you'll pick the simmering insurgency of downtrodden woodland critters: the rabbits, mice, and foxes sewing the bitter seeds of resentment and rebellion. Or will you go full Lando and become a wily rouge, raccoon agent and play all sides to your benefit?
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.
The publisher can’t legally say it, so let me do it for them. This is basically Jurassic Park: The Game, in all its '80s glory. In Dinosaur Island, you compete with up to three friends to build the most lucrative and exciting dino park.
You’ll take turns 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.
Beyond the stunning '80s artwork, sturdy components, and amazing Mesozoic theme, Dinosaur Island shines in its balance and potential for replayability. 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 raptors or decaying former customers will stop future investors and park attendees from lining up at the gate. Like Boggle meets Dominion, 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 (lets say, thanks to previous ill-advised purchases, you're dealt W, S, Q, X, and A), you can forgo a card's reward by flipping it over to create a wild. So you can spell squaw as SQ[X]AW or waxes as WAX[Q]S.
Although each player starts with eight of ten matching cards, your personal deck will rapidly evolve based on your purchases. Matching the game's exquisite 19th-century art and theme, cards in the marketplace also come in one of four different genres: adventure, horror, mystery, and romance. 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. Rising Sun is an absolutely gorgeous game of intrigue, alliances, and combat, set in a mythicized feudal Japan. Most fun with the full five players, Rising Sun’s antecedents are sure to be felt by veteran wargamers—there’s a touch of Game of Thrones: The Board Game, a sprinkling of Diplomacy, and a whole lot of Shogun in the mix. Play in Rising Sun is divided into three rounds, all of which start with a tea ceremony and end with battles in randomly selected territories across the board.
So what makes it so good? Unlike many of its precursors, Rising Sun is extremely fluid. During each of the three rounds of play, you can mobilize your soldiers to basically any corner of the board if you need. This dynamic ensures that you can’t ever solely rely on your physical or strategic might. Your enemies can gather anywhere. So you’ll almost always need to lean on deal-making with your ally, or at the very least enemies in détente.
While battles in Rising Sun totally lack randomness, each one is preceded by a blind bidding phase. These bids feel exciting and intense each time. They can often dramatically throw the balance of power, or drain you of your reserves for future fights.
In , you and up to three friends compete to design and craft historically marvelous stained glass windows. The basic mechanics underlying Sagrada are elegant in their simplicity. 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 4x5 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. Best of all, Sagrada is one of the extremely few games with a single-player mode (an increasingly popular trope for board-game designers) that's actually worth your time.
Visually arresting and endlessly replayable, Sagrada is certainly the best puzzle game in a while. is a deduction-focused party game like Mafia or The Resistance, but with significantly more jackboots and accusations of fascist behavior . The game begins as five to ten players are each given a secret dossier containing a party affiliation card and a character card.
The majority of players start as generic 1930s German Liberals, but a few are card-carrying Fascists—and one of the Fascists is Hitler himself. Only the fascists know who each other are. Each round, players elect a president and chancellor. Together, that duo secretly enacts one of three arbitrary government policies. The Liberals win by enacting six Liberal policies. The hidden Fascists try either to discreetly enact five Fascist policies together or (later in the game) to elect Hitler as chancellor.
Every game will descend into a dark spiral of collusion, lies, and impassioned accusations. You've never had so much fun accusing your friends of being Hitler.
With over 150 hours of game crammed into a 22-pound box, is immensity incarnate. Filled with countless playable characters and baddies, rule books more like tomes than pamphlets, and an immersive story that stretches across the far corners of its fantasy netherworld, Gloomhaven is easily one of the best games of the past decade.
Gloomhaven is a cooperative role-playing game. You can think of it rather like a figurine-focused campaign Dungeons & Dragons—but even more combat-oriented, played with cards rather than stats and dice, and overlorded by the box instead of a player game-master.
The game is broken up into nearly 100 scenarios, which basically boil down to sweeping through a dungeon and then making choices to advance the story, slowly opening up new locations, new loot, and new cards to modify each character's abilities. We loved the uniqueness of each playable character in Gloomhaven. 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 Gloomhaven 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! Here's a game with some seriously lethal levels of whimsy. In , you compete with up to three opponents to found the greatest woodland-critter city of all time—a tableau of 15 curious constructions and creatures, such as the Barge Toad or the Resin Factory.
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. Everdell is a thoughtful, challenging game that nevertheless moves extremely quickly. But you'll delight in discovering how to use your very limited resources to string together clever combinations of card effects, which will reap you satisfying rewards or heaps of victory points.
And with the gorgeous artwork, detailed components, and giant 3D cardboard tree, you can't help be transported into Everdell's whimsical world. Now in its fourth edition, Twilight Imperium still reigns tall as the uncontested behemoth of the board-game world. Like an insane mashup of A Game of Thrones: The Board Game and Star Wars: Rebellion, this beast hungrily consumes time, space, and brainpower in cruel quantities.
With all six players, you’re looking at a minimum of eight hours of playtime (not including two-plus hours to prep new players on the rules). Twilight Imperium is also set during the outbreak of a galaxy-spanning war, and when the hundreds of components are set up on your dining room table, it sure feels like it. There’s been a lot of tiny changes made from previous additions, most of which either streamline play and balance out issues with the 17 playable spacefaring races.
But the game is the same as ever. You’ll conquer planets, field massive spaceship armadas, trade goods, discover deadly new technologies, vote in the galactic senate (to change the rules of the game), and laugh caustically at the lamentations of your weaker friends as you dominate their home-worlds and eliminate them hours into the worst Sunday they'll have in weeks.
Spirit Island could be a Bizzaro-world sequel to The Settlers of Catan. Instead of colonizing a newfound landmass, you and your friends team up as the invaded isle's guardian spirits. You'll muster the native population, deploy your elemental powers, and work together to frighten, drive, and otherwise murder the invading settlers off your sacred land.
Catan fights back, baby! Wonderfully complex but not excessively complicated, Spirit Island is the best cooperative game of the decade (yes, even better than Pandemic).
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.
was the best game of 2016, and it many ways, still hasn't been beat. In this gorgeously illustrated steampunk 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. After half a decade of reviewing board games, and another two of playing as many as I could get my hands on, I've finally found it.
The most complex, complicated board game I have ever encountered. is a medieval, economic fantasy game for up to five players. Explaining even the gist of this monster's rules accurately would take a stout pamphlet. So please allow me to just straight-up butcher them: Using a hand of cards, you'll 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 (from saltpeter and rosary beads), 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? Most points at the end. Oh, also there's blimps and subs. Exhausted yet? If not, then this is the game for you! Feudum is a complex, challenging undertaking you will not soon forget. Like a second cousin to The Resistance or Secret Hitler, here's a four- to 16-player party game of secret teams, bluffing, deduction, and deception. At the beginning of each 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 , 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—which usually allow you to flip cards in lieu of dying or taking damage—a clearer picture of the battlefield starts to coalesce. Unfortunately, the game is currently hard to come buy.
Luckily, the game maker Godot Games is planning an expansion and is quickly approaching. After unpacking all the vaguely militaristic components and reading the game’s central conceit, “to conquer the fringe of the galaxy!” you'd probably figure this for a brutal war game. But is more Starship Enterprise than an Imperial Star Destroyer—and Picard's Enterprise at that. In this two- to five-player romp, you’ll scour the far edge of the known universe in your massive Worldship, 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, so the space battles are far fewer and farther between than in bloodier galactic-scope games like Twilight Imperium 4th Edition or Eclipse. 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.
In Santorini, 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 5x5 game board.
After each turn, the minion you moved constructs one floor of a tower in a bordering space. Sounds easy, right? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Ignore the cartoonish artwork, the Duplo-esque game pieces, and simple rules. This game is chess with more dimensions, where the most strategic, cutthroat 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, Santorini plays best as a three-player battle, where you and two other friends 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. Have a friend and an infinite amount of free time? Then you're almost ready to play . You're just going to need more time.
Just learning the rules can take up to two hours, and play can easily spill into the five-hour territory. With two massive game boards, hundreds of plastic figurines, and more dice and game tokens than you can keep track of, Rebellion plays like a monstrous mash-up of Risk and Twilight Imperium: 4th Edition .
In this asymmetric slog, you either take command of the Rebels, sending heroes like Luke and Leia across the galaxy to foment rebellion, or helm the Galactic Empire, fielding massive armadas of spaceships to scour for the rebel base, destroying planets with Death Stars, and capturing the rebel heroes in the process.
Like an abandoned star system, you will finish this huge game utterly depleted. 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.
In each round of the game, players set up a 5x5 grid of plain ID cards with codenames like "Octopus" or "Undertaker." Teams designate a single player to be the spymaster, who knows which eight or nine randomly selected codenames of the 25 belong to his or her team.
The spymasters take turns cluing in their team by saying just a single word followed by a number of cards associated with the clue. For example, you might say "Suit, two," if your only remaining codenames in the field of cards are "Chauffeur" and "Card." (Cards have suits, while chauffeurs wear suits.) Then you get to watch silently as your fumbling team decides your clue must be referencing the codenames "Chauffeur" and… "Watch." We never promised it would be easy.
Gaia Project is an update of Terra Mystica, an absolutely brain-numbing fantasy strategy game from 2012. In the annals of board-game geekery, Terra Mystica is generally considered one of top three games of the last decade—so the fact that Gaia Project is inarguably better is all the more impressive. In Gaia Project, you and up to three friends take the helm as one of 14 unique spacefaring alien races.
Your goal is to expand across a hexagonal galaxy, terraforming and colonizing planets, researching technologies, and outmaneuvering your opponents.
The game is sprawling, both in strategic scope and the physical expanse of the game. You'll split your attention across four different personal and shared game boards, racing to both claim planets and out-research your friends in six different technologies—from navigation to artificial intelligence. If you loved Terra Mystica (and its expansion), Gaia Project is a must-buy. The City of Kings is a cooperative, fantasy game for one to four players that rivals Gloomhaven in pure heft—and I mean that both in scope and sheer, physical weight.
This game's a beast! With the soul of your favorite grand-adventuring RPG, you’ll spend turns in The 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 Kings you 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 is a brilliant synthesis of two of my favorite board-game mechanics—dungeon-crawling and deck-building.
To play, you and a friend (we suggest two players, max) 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. Now this isn’t the first dungeon-crawling/deck-building game I’ve ever played. That title belongs to Clank!, but Thunderstone Quest may very well be the best.
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.
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. In , you and up to five friends climb up and around a 3D model train, punching, shooting, and stealing from one another, Wild West style. The game has a delightful computer-like "programming" mechanic, where players take turns laying down movement and action cards, which aren't enacted until the end of the round.
This can be delightfully wily. If an opponent surreptitiously moves your gunslinger early on, you might find yourself forced into a string of nonsensical moves. But the sheer enjoyment you will get out of playing Colt goes beyond the delightful strategy.
This is a game that understands that aesthetics facilitate fun as much as any clever game mechanic. Some of the components have zero purpose beyond adding to the Wild West experience; we're looking at you, totally-useless-but-awesome 3D cactus.
Now Boarding is a simple yet stressful real-time cooperative game for two to five players. You'll take the helm as individual airline pilots, traveling across a map of the continental U.S., picking up and delivering an ever-growing wave of grumpy passengers. As a team, you'll work together to coordinate your flights, utilizing each pilot's special routes, and use the airfare you earn to upgrade your plane—buying more seats, bigger engines to move farther, or new routes.
The challenge in Now Boarding is that everyone takes their turn at the same time, and each chaotic, blitz-like round is clocked by a 15- or 30-second sand timer (depending on the number of players).
Inevitably, your seemingly well-laid plans will crash or clock out. Every game I've played has teetered on the brink of total meltdown, with angry, white-knuckle passengers abounding and an extremely narrow path to a satisfactory end. So it's basically like flying. What's not to love about a game based on bribing, pleading, and lying to the faces of your fellow players?
In , you and up to four others play as merchants trying to get through Nottingham's city gate. They declare goods (in the form of cards in snap-fastened pouches) and occasionally try to sneak in valuable contraband. Each round, one player takes on the role of the sheriff, opening merchants' pouches if he suspects smuggling—but paying a high price if he guesses wrong.
Sheriff of Nottingham is easily the best bluffing game to debut this year, and highly recommended if you're secretly a dirty, stinking liar. Technically, debuted in late 2013, but this game slipped far under the radar.
That's a tragedy, because this dice-tossing, space-opera strategy game is just so much freaking fun. Your dice are spaceships, and each die's number demarcates its battle power, special talent, and movement speed around the board.
You and up to three opponents wage war across a star system made by laying down tiles of game boards and aim to surround stars with a specific number value of dice, which is how you create new bases and win the game. Unfortunately, this game is currently hard to come by, but if you happen to find one, be sure to snatch it up quickly.
Technically a stand-alone game, plays best as an expansion to One Night Ultimate Werewolf, which was easily the most fun party game of 2014. To start, up to ten players are dealt one of many face-down character tiles, secretly assigning them to either the evil werewolves' team or the villagers' team. The game starts with a "night phase," where players close their eyes and take turns switching and messing with other players' tiles depending on each character's power.
(Luckily, this phase is choreographed with the game's free iOS/Android app.) During the "day phase," the players spend a few minutes lying, misleading, or trying to put together what happened during the night. Then a player is elected by vote to be killed, and everyone flips their cards to see who became what, and which team won. Daybreak brings new characters with fresh powers to the table—further revitalizing an already replayable game.
s premise is delightfully mind-bending. A cataclysmic meteor is years away from destroying civilization, which you know 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 (even from the meteor itself!) from your future self within the game.
Anachrony may be the best "worker-placement" game I've ever played; a category of games wherein players draft minions and spend turns placing them on a limited number of options.
Here 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. 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. is rich on strategy and light on rules, edging it into the same territory as Carcassonne or Ticket to Ride—excellent hooks 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. Easy enough! 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. We loved Ethnos for several reasons. First, turns are crazy fast; you either pick up a card or play down a set, so even a five-person game rarely stretches beyond an hour.
And with 12 possible tribes of fantasy creatures, like hobbits, elves, minotaurs, and giants (although you only play with six each game), each game features a host of different special abilities, demanding a different strategic approach. The concept behind Photosynthesis is so simple, it's brilliant. Each player places two trees in a hexagonal, game-board meadow. As the sun rotates around the meadow's six edges, your trees soak up sunlight.
Unless they're behind and in the shade of other trees. You spend your sunlight like a currency to grow your trees taller; thereby collecting more light and making a longer shadow to cast on your opponents. Or you can spread and grow seeds to make more trees. To gain points, fell your giant trees faster than your friends.
That's it. Because of its sheer logicality, Photosynthesis is an absolutely perfect game to lure in folks new to the world of modern board games. Veteran gamers will find much to love as well. Sure, flora aren't known to be the most cutthroat of life's kingdoms, but you can revel in touches of nakedly competitive meanness as your shadows smother you opponent's ill-laid shrubs.
is unlike anything I've ever played before. You'll spend hours discovering and trawling across islands, deserts, ice-sheets, jungles, and more. Your goal? Either alone, or with up to three friends, you'll try to reveal the source of one of several horrid, mysterious curses calling you to this unknown continent. The game isn't just vast in scope and components (the core of the game is several hundred numbered and concealed terrain cards), it truly feels enormous.
Each time you move north, east, south, or west, you expand the map. You'll flip a new terrain tile, which can allow you to collect clues, fight enemies, or craft items to help you on your quest. As you exert energy exploring the continent, you will become fatigued (or freezing, wounded, or insane!), so you're constantly on the hunt for food and rest.
All told, I'll happily recommend 7th Continent for any board gamer with the following two traits: a soul for adventure, and boundless patience for an eight-hour quest. Unfortunately, this is another game that's hard to find, unless you're ready to spend some major bucks on eBay.
is a fluid and impeccably balanced strategy game of mercantile expansion in 19th-century Scotland. You and up to three friends expand your clans' business empires across Scottish lowlands—buying, selling, and developing markets for goods like mutton, cheese, bread, and of course whisky.
Although bursting with game pieces and options for each turn, Clans of Caledonia manages to combine heavy strategy with notably simple and straightforward mechanics. One of the best is the open marketplace, where selling goods (like whisky) makes them cheaper, and buying them up will cause prices to skyrocket. This intuitive mechanic means you're constantly worried about how your sales and purchases will hurt or benefit your competitors.
Serious board gamers will also spy features from some of the best European-style strategy games, like Agricola, Terra Mystica, and even Settlers of Catan.
Like its forbearers Dominion, Star Realms, and Ascension, Shards of Infinity is a member of the tight-knit clan of deck-building games. In Shards, you’re buying heroes and mercenaries with various skills and specialties to form your own sci-fi/fantasy army.
Each turn you’ll field as many heroes as possible, attacking your opponents and slowly chipping away at their life points. Although the gameplay and theme is hardly unique, Shards is a breeze to learn and moves extremely quickly. You can bust out Shards, play a game, and pack it away in 20 minutes flat. We also loved the variety of heroes you can hire—not just in their special abilities, but in the ways you can hire and field them.
Alongside the normal heroes, some cards—called Guardians—will stay in play even after your turn is over. Others cards—called Mercenaries—can be bought and played like normal heroes, or they can be instantly deployed for a one-time use.
Finally, a game that fulfills this city slicker's deep-seated need to herd cattle across state lines. In Great Western Trail, you and up to three other friends move cattle from Texas to Kansas City; taking turns to add to your herd, construct buildings along the way, or contracting cowboys, engineers, craftsmen, and more.
In the parlance of hardcore board-game nerds, Great Western Trail is a "point salad" game. One with an endless number of ways to cobble together enough points to attain victory. As you're building the best deck of cattle cards, or hiring helping hands at the right time, each turn will bombard you with a huge array of loosely connected options…and, more often than not, total analysis paralysis.
Definitely one of the best pure-strategy games of the 2010s, Great Western Trail will have you using the phrases "herding cattle" and "taking part in an ultimate test of strategic mettle" interchangeably. $42 "Frenzied" doesn't even begin to explain this game. In Captain Sonar, you and seven friends helm two submarines in a real-time elusive battle to the death. (Ignore the box, only play with eight players.) Imagine a full table of two teams of four, separated by a long cardboard shield.
Both teams' Captains are frenetically shouting directions as quickly as possible to evade drones and mines across a 15x15 grid studded with islands. The Engineers are pleading to let their ships surface to heal the damaged weapons or sonar systems; the Radio Operators are hungrily searching for areas of the map that match the enemy Captain's orders, which they're tracking with a felt marker, a clear plastic sheet, and a map.
Finally, with a raised fist, the game stops as one team's Captain, at her first First Mates's suggestion, fires a torpedo, crashing into the opponents submarine to the chorus of heavy groans from the losing players. Buy Captain Sonar, and you will play it whenever you have eight players at the ready. is a messy, goofy, and sprawling tabletop RPG, in which you and up to three friends embark upon epic quests as "gearlocks," creatures halfway between Harry Potter House Elfs and Sméagol.
They're not pretty. Component-wise, Too Many Bones is one of the most inventive RPGs. The game uses over 100 distinct dice for ailments, attacks, defenses, and other character-specific skills; countless cards that detail a day's adventure and options to complete it; repurposed poker chips for players and baddies; and mouse pads for character sheets and a battle map. We must admit, Too Many Bones is extremely slow out of the gate.
The rulebook is thick and seemingly organized for maximum confusion, so you'll likely stumble through your first adventure. But as soon as you know what you're doing, the game moves extremely fluidly. Each day usually gives you an option to load up the battle map with baddies, which you and your friends tactically assault. These battles and other adventure choices allow you to unlock new skill dice, or up the number of dice you can roll each turn. Somehow we left a five-hour game of Too Many Bones pretty eager to do it all over again as soon as possible.
Here's the most frenetic cooperative board game we've ever played; more so than even Spaceteam. The idea behind is actually pretty simple, as are (theoretically) the rules. You and up to seven friends 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's what makes the game interesting: 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. The most talked-about game of 2015, is arguably the best cooperative game ever designed. Each hour-plus game forms but a fraction of the 12- to 24-game saga that will probably take your gaming group months to complete. The core of Pandemic Legacy is a stylistic and mechanical duplicate of its 2007 precursor, Pandemic, in which the players are disease-control specialists working together to stymie outbreaks across the globe.
What's radically new here is just how much Legacy physically changes from game to game as the saga progresses. From incorporating new packages of game pieces and cards to introducing new board icons and new rules (which you literally stick into a blank page in the rulebook), choices in each game deeply affect the next.
Ten games in, you'll be playing a totally different game than your neighbors are. On its face, may seem a little stale. It's yet another train game where you chug along tracks on a game board to pick up and drop off goods for points, à la Railways of the World, India Rails, or Steam.
But, oh boy, don't judge this game too early. First off, any game that allows me to load up my train with countless barrels of whiskey to drunkenly cart out west is already a winner. Secondly, what Whistle Stop lacks in inventiveness it makes up in sheer perfection through which it's honed the "pick-up and deliver" game mechanic. In Whistle Stop, each time you lay hexagonal tiles of squiggly, al-dente railroad tracks (they slot into the game board), you're faced with a host of seemingly fantastic options about what the heck you should pick up, and where you should deliver it.
And do you block other players, trade your goods for company stocks, or just storm your trains westward, to usher in the end of the game before your opponents' tactics gain steam? Winning requires not just a strategic gamble, but a certain level of sinister, cutthroat foresight to assess the best way to screw over your opponents. Capitalism in all its glory! Yelling strange words, tossing cards, losing all hope…the loud and exhilarating is a game only your neighbors could hate.
During play, up to six players (or nine with the highly recommended Not Safe For Space expansion) chaotically attempt to assemble a spaceship within five minutes. Each player flips through a deck of interstellar "malfunction" cards while hunting for all six of the spaceship cards hidden among them.
You solve each malfunction card by laying down specific "tool" cards, of which everyone has a hand. The problem? The tool cards are dispersed through all the players, requiring you to call aloud for them by physical description, or by their absurd names.
You'll find yourself repeatedly yelling "The Quasipaddle! I need the Quasipaddle!" or " For the love of god, I still need the circle-y vacuum-looking thing with handles!
Who has it?!" is a gorgeous game of peril and nautical adventure that plays best as a solitaire experience or cooperative two-player quest. Based on Jules Verne's classic novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , you take the helm of Captain Nemo's Nautilus and spend turns sailing over seas, fighting ships, inciting rebellions, and discovering lost treasures—all while burning through a randomly generated deck of devilishly difficult adventure cards. At the start of the game you chose your own victory condition: either science, exploration, anti-imperialism, or war!
The biggest allure to Nemo's War is just how risky each turn can feel. For almost any trial, from convincing the Zulu people to overthrow their colonial overloads to fighting off Spanish galleons and giant squid, the game allows you to gamble resources, keeping them only if you prevail.
These resources can be crew members, special items, the ship's hull, or even Captain Nemo's sanity. While betting, you constantly feel on the brink of disaster as you decide when to press your luck and when to fight another day. Erect deadly siege engines, shuffle your armies and heroes across crumbling ramparts, or send ravenous hordes of orcs and goblins to assault a castle.
In Stronghold you play out an epic six-day siege, and we think deserves a spot alongside Star Wars: Rebellion and the vaulted classic Twilight Struggle in terms of top-tier asymmetric two-player games. What's especially brilliant here is how winning tactics diverge for the opposing sides.
A brilliant assault demands a cohesive, long-term strategy, while the game heavily rewards a defensive player with a snappy handle on short-term reactionary tactics. Be warned, your first game will be a wash, fraught with moments where you finally realize what you should have been doing about four turns ago. Clank! seamlessly combines two of what I think are the nerdiest and most engaging board game mechanics in one thrilling package.
That is, dungeon-crawling and deck-building. In Clank!, you're competing with opponents to loot precious artifacts in a multileveled dungeon, where the best stuff is always closer to the bottom. You're trying to sneak in, quietly grab all you can, and exit before you're all killed by the repeated assaults of an enraged dragon.
Each turn you draw cards from your deck. You use those cards to move, but also buy even better cards from a marketplace, which give you special abilities.
Our favorite aspect of Clank! was the thrilling, push-your-luck "clank" mechanic. It's where certain (theoretically noisy) cards give you fantastic bonuses, increasing the odds that you'll be the focus of the dragon's attacks when it's randomly triggered.
Video-game reviewer likens to " on steroids," a description that fits perfectly. In the Arabian-themed Five Tribes, you and up to three other players take turns grabbing fistfuls of colored game pieces and dropping them off one by one as you tactically maneuver about the checkered game board. With almost no chance involved and more than a half-dozen ways to score points, Five Tribes requires patience, malleable planning, and strategy, but rewards you with a gleefully entertaining game experience.
Like all classing racing games, brings the high-octane thrill of watching stackable camels trek around a small square. Seriously, though, this winner of the 2014 Spiel des Jahres (Board Game of the Year) is a hectic game that children and adults will find delightful. At its heart, Camel Up is a betting game—dice rolls spur the camels forward as you and the other players jockey for position to put money behind the right camel contender.
Or, you know, try to rig the race. Simple but not simplistic, you'll want to play this 30-minute game again and again. Huh. Here we have a deck-building game in the vein of with the heart, soul, and basic mechanics of…the early '80s arcade classic . Weird though it may be, is a blast.
You and up to three friends climb aboard a spacecraft to drill below the surface of Mars, playing cards from your individual decks to dig and bomb for minerals.
You cash in those minerals to buy even better cards, with the end goal of collecting the most achievement cards (which are contested throughout the game) and building a deck worth the most points. $52 Here to fulfill our continued fascination with surviving in a postapocalyptic wasteland brimming with zombies is . On the surface, Dead of Winter involves two to five players working together to battle zombies and fulfill a main objective, such as killing a certain number of zombies, that's chosen at random.
In addition, each player is also trying to fulfill one of 24 random, secret objectives—which could be anything from collecting a certain amount of food to sabotaging the main objective for everyone else. You'll be guessing until the very end whether everyone will win the game, no one will, or the jerk who's secretly trying to destroy everyone else will succeed.
Beyond the patina of demigods and heroic quests, Dice Forge seems rather simple at first. Turns consist of two to four players rolling pairs of personal six-sided dice. The faces of these die feature either victory points, which you collect to win, or resources, which you spend to buy upgrades or embark on quests. So what’s so unique about the game? Well, upgrades in Dice Forge involve a delightful game mechanic we’ve never actually seen before. Somewhat similar to the card-rewriting mechanism in Mystic Vale, here you’re purchasing and physically swapping in new faces for your die from a limited pool of options.
(The dice are quite well designed, so the swapping takes only a few seconds.) Some faces provide straightforward bonuses like more victory points, others feature neat tricks like tripling the resource produced on your other die. Simple to explain and quick to play, we appreciated Dice Forge’s unique balance of strategy and luck of the ever-evolving dice.
It's remarkable how much strategy fits into so simple a game. Century: Golem Edition is a re-theme of 2017's , where you took up the roles of historic caravan leaders traveling the Silk Road.
In Golem Edition (which uses the same rules, but features gorgeous new fantasy artwork and components), you and up to three friends are racing to enlist the friendship of peculiar and mystical golems.
To do so, you take turns spending crystal tokens to claim the cyclopean golem cards and buy up effect cards from a central marketplace. If you're playing right, your effect cards chain to create efficient engines which produce and transform worthless crystals (*cough* yellows) to the real money gems (sweet, sweet purples), which allow you to enlist more valuable golems.
Extremely easy to learn, with a rapid, fluid movement of turns, Century: Golem Edition will delight new and veteran board gamers alike. will keep you guessing who's going to win until the final turn. In this cutthroat strategy game, up to four players scramble for Africa as colonial business investors, trading goods like coffee and bananas, buying stock in four competing companies, and leading resource-hunting expeditions into the continent. What makes Mombasa so tricky is that everyone can buy stock in any of the four competing companies.
Players also raise and lower the stock value of each company as they play. Together, this can make winning early a pretty substantial disadvantage, because losing players can work together to even the scales by tanking your investments. Our favorite quirk of Mombasa is that the game has an entire game mechanic revolved around bookkeeping. Who says detailed accounting isn't exhilarating? In this intense European-style strategy affair, you and three friends take turns rolling dice, and then use those dice to trade for mercantile resources, secure trade contracts, and travel about a 13th-century map of the Silk Road and coastal Asia—all while jockeying for points.
Because so much of the game consists of adapting various strategies while finding clever ways to salvage unfortunate rolls, lays down a delightful and absurdly captivating mix of luck and strategy that will leave you wanting to replay the game over and over again.
Great First Date Games