The 10 Best Board Games
We spent 41 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. Whether you're instigating a family competition over the holidays or just hoping to occupy restless kids when it's raining outside, there's a board game for every occasion. The genre has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent times, with dozens of inventive new titles being released every year. We've had fun combing through the best options to compile this list. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best board game on Amazon.
March 27, 2019:
Removed Scrabble, as the traditional board version is quickly becoming obsolete in a world where you can get a match at any time on your cell phone. Likewise, the Trademark Games Trio was jettisoned in favor of newer, faster-paced games, although we'll always be a sucker for a good game of backgammon or chess.
In their place are newer titles that expand on traditional ideas of what a board game should be, like Z-Man's Pandemic and Betrayal At House On The Hill. The former encourages teammates to compete against the game, reducing the likelihood that your next get-together will end up as a screaming match between over-competitive players. The latter, on the other hand, actually encourages betrayal, so be sure your friendships are on solid ground before embarking on a game (or only play it with people you don't like).
Beyond play styles, we also tried to include choices suitable for just about any occasion or number of players, so you can have fun at a party or, in the case of Cephalofair's Gloomhaven, all by yourself. While we're confident that each option has enough replay value to keep you occupied for weeks at a time, you might want to consider purchasing several, so that you'll always have the perfect game for the evening at hand.
Bonding On the Board
You have a surface on which representative talismans move, explore, battle, or befriend one another.
Sometimes the talismans are neglected in favor of a pair of dice and a few strategically positioned tokens.
Whenever the clouds roll in on a summer's day, when the power suddenly goes out and you have nothing but candlelight to entertain you, when there's a sleepy afternoon with nothing looming and a few friends or family members together in good spirits, we inevitably reach for a board game.
The idea behind them is supremely simple. You have a surface on which representative talismans move, explore, battle, or befriend one another. Sometimes the talismans are neglected in favor of a pair of dice and a few strategically positioned tokens. Whatever the precise rules and the precise pieces, a board game elevates your presence with your friends and family.
If you look closely at board games ranging from the most mentally taxing (chess, Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.) to the simplest and least intellectually challenging (checkers, Settlers of Catan, etc.) all of them have lurking beneath the surface a structure that encourages community. There's no time limit to your turn in Monopoly, for example, so you can spend all day on a single game, chatting, cooking, and relaxing all the while with the people you love.
Catan, a much shorter game, actually encourages tremendous amounts of hilarious and, at times, cutthroat negotiations over the raw materials needed to build a farm, a town, or a city, and its gameplay times out to fit a brief escape from the day or to stretch on in a marathon session of games.
The most important thing about these games is that, unless you go and add a consequence for the loser more tragic than having to clean up once the game is done, there really aren't any stakes. You're free to compete at whatever level suits you, and those little moments when your competitive edge flourishes, or your preference to see your friends and family succeed even at a small cost to you will bring the lot of you closer together than you ever could have imagined.
Prepare For The Players
If you want to have a successful experience with a board game, one in which everyone at the table–winners and losers alike–is satisfied, you've got to know your audience. The worst thing you can do to kill a night of revelry is whip out the wrong board game and tax everyone's joy. Even if it's one that you love, you aren't going to play these things alone, so you'd better have a good collection of games at hand.
These games tend to take a lot longer, though, so if you've got kids of friends with short attention spans, you might not get to finish what you started.
One of the best things about looking through our list is that the purchase of one board game here rated does not preclude you from the purchase of another. You could get your hands on all of them and use them with different friends or family members depending on their tastes and the mood of the room.
Odds are, however, that you're going to grab one or two off of this list to start, so we've got to narrow it down, and before you even think about evaluating the personality types coming into your game space, you have to know how many personalities you're dealing with.
For example, if you've invited five people over for a game night, chess and checkers (consummate two-player games) won't exactly fit the bill. Similarly, games like Monopoly or Settlers of Catan are decidedly less fun with fewer people. Get a bead on the average size of your playing crowd to figure out the scope of the games you should pick up.
After that, it's all a question of taste. I'm a huge fan of strategy games that allow for alliances between and among players, complete with the opportunity for timely betrayals and a little bit of playacting. These games tend to take a lot longer, though, so if you've got kids of friends with short attention spans, you might not get to finish what you started.
There's a good chance that you've played a game or two already with the people who are most likely to join you on this new board, so take a moment to think about who they are, how they act, and the environment in which you can best them.
The Board Goes Way Back
A lot of board games come with very poorly written instructions, no instructions at all, or instructions so complicated and convoluted as to make the preparations to play the game outlast the game itself. But board games are older than history, which means they're older than writing. So, really, not having written instructions on how to play a game is all part of the tradition.
So, really, not having written instructions on how to play a game is all part of the tradition.
One of the earliest prehistoric games is called Senet, and evidence of it dates back to Predynastic Egypt c. 3500 BCE. Other ancient games like Mehen (also Egyptian) or Go, from China, date back a similar number of years.
Millennia later, in the United States, games based on Christian morality hit the scene with titles like The Mansion of Happiness or The Siege of the Stronghold of Satan by the Christian Army. This was back in the middle of the 19th century, when advances in agricultural technologies and techniques allowed for an increase in leisure time among the fledgling middle class.
Toward the end of the 19th century, the middle class in America exploded for the first time, and, so, too, did the board game industry, with rags-to-riches titles like The Game of the District Messenger Boy and Monopoly. The popularity of these games remained a constant hum beneath the breadth of leisure activities in the country until rather recently. Since the 1990s, in particular, the board game industry has seen unprecedented growth from exciting new titles and crowdfunded hits, and the numbers continue to rise.
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