Weve seen a huge resurgence in tabletop gaming in the last decade, fueled by quality games and generating everything from clever crowdfunding efforts to designated gaming bars in its wake. Its gotten so serious that PAX, the convention convergence of all things gaming, is spinning off PAX Unplugged to give tabletop gaming a designated space.
But with literally thousands of choices out there for aspiring gamersboard bored kids and grown-ups alikehow do you choose? Rather than roll the dice and hope for the best, check out this guide to the best board games for every group of players, from parties to couples to families and beyond.
Take the grid mechanics of Battleship, the economic savvy of Monopoly, and the turbulence of the stock market, and you have Acquire, the game of building, growing, and investing in hotel chains. Gameplay is pretty simple: Players just take turns placing tiles on a grid, starting and merging hotel chains according to some simple rules. It might sound a little dull to the younger crowd, but its a good way to teach tweens about investment, and theres plenty of math involved to keep those skills sharp too.
The fact that the Game of Life is a tedious and dull adventure motivated solely by a job and children and that sees players at the mercy of uncontrollable spins might be accurate, but its far from fun. So ditch the reality and go feed pandas instead.
In Takenoko, each player tries to achieve certain objective cards by growing different types of bamboo or feeding a roaming panda different varieties. You expand the territory, irrigate for farming, fertilize soil, and so forth, so theres still a true-to-life feeling to it. Heck, theres even a different outcome for each roll of the weather die. Younger players will love the adorable panda, and grownups will appreciate the escape from the anxiety of having to negotiate another salary.
Photo via gen/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Admit it: The only fun part of Yahtzee is the loud crack of a half dozen dice raining down on your dining room table. But wouldnt it be better if you threw some goofy monsters into the mix too? Enter King of Tokyo.
This ones a king-of-the-hillstyle game that pits players against one another as they roll dice to dole out attacks, slowly heal, or rack up victory points. First player to 20 victory pointsor the last monster standingwins. To keep things interesting, theres a full deck of special ability cards that you can buy with energy tokens, and the board opens up another spot in Tokyo for groups of five or more.
People who make a living as editors enjoy the old board game standby, but we understand how its appeal might start and stop with that particular demographic. Quiddler, played with cards instead of tiles, takes some of the struggle out of the equation by asking players to come up with words using the letters in their hand. First player who can use all of his or her letters goes out, triggering a last round for everybody else. Repeat with additional hand limits, from three all the way up to 12. (Golf rules, so youre stuck with the points in your hand, and lowest score wins.)
Because you can divide nine cards up into three three-letter words, its a fine way to build kids vocabularies. Set a higher minimum word length for the adults to level the playing field, or just use a handful of cards to teach kids about anagrams (rats, tars, star, arts) and a different way of looking at things.
Photo by Julie Sweeney/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Do you like My Neighbor Totoro? Then youll love this gorgeous card game about growing trees and making forest sprites happy. The mechanics are as simple as matching like items, but the age recommendation here is based on the relative difficulty added by the delicate nature of placing cards without overlapping with others and the strategy of fulfilling certain objective cards.
Its all the zen of gardening with none of the mess.
Also great for: Couples
As hilarious as it is to play the NSFW party standby with your friends over a few beers, that ones probably best left on the shelf when little kids or grandparents are involved. Its SFW predecessor, Apples to Apples, is moderately good fun of exactly the same format, but both games can ultimately be cracked by understanding the sense of humor of your fellow players better than anyone else.
For a different sort of competitive spirit, try Superfight, which pits fictional characters against each other in battles that their human players must defend and promote with compelling rhetoric. Sure, it promotes a certain upping of the bullshit quotient, but think of it as a study in embracing creativity instead.
Also great for: Parties (supports up to 10 players)
Photo by Keegan Berry/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
7) Machi Koro
Dont be fooled by all the different types of cards you have to lay out as youre setting up this game: The mechanics are really quite simple. Roll the die, determine which cards are activated, settle up debts, and wash, rinse, repeat. But dont be tricked into thinking its a simple game about a cute little city wanting a cheese factory, either. This game can get pretty cutthroat quickly, and a runaway leader can take things over just as fast. Still, its great for the reinforcement of principles about city building strategy and basic economic principles.
Photo by Liz Henry/Flickr (CC-BY-ND)
If a train leaves Grand Central Station traveling west at 40 miles per hour, and another train leaves Philadelphia traveling east at 55 miles per hour, how quickly do your eyes glaze over? Reclaim the glory days of the railroad with Ticket to Ride, a game in which players race to complete routes between cities and earn points for connecting the nation (or nations, in the European variant). Its a great primer in geography and a fun way to teach your kids about a world before self-driving cars because ugh youre so old. As a bonus, you can take this one on the road with zero concern about losing a billion pieces in the car: The iPad app is a pretty seamless translation of the original.
Also great for: Couples
If youve destroyed all good will with your family with crushing victories in Machi Koro or Ticket to Ride, it might be time to try something cooperative on for size. In Pandemic, players work together using individual specialties to try to rid the world of four contagious diseases. Its a fun change of pace to teach kids about working together toward a common goaland a timely reminder during flu season that you really gotta wash your hands more than you think is necessary.
Pandemic: Legacy is another well-respected option for more advanced players: It boasts a higher BoardGameGeek rating, at 8.6, but it takes longer to play and is recommended for ages 13 and up on account of a mechanic that requires you to permanently alter game pieces by tearing them up or writing on them, for example. Tread carefully!
Photo by Jane Reifegerste/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
At first glance, Jaipur is a deceptively simple game about commerce: buying, selling, and trading diamonds, leather, spices, gold, silver, and cloth. But its rapid-fire rounds belie the deeper strategies at play here. Do you take all the camels for later swapping power, or swap some of your commodities? Decide quickly, because the going rate for the goods at the market diminishes the more are sold.
The games built-in mode is a best of three round, but you could easily ignore the Seals of Excellence and just keep playing for hours.
Nobody likes Scrabble. I get it. But the makers of Paperback found a way to make a word-centric game fun again with the added mechanic of a deck-builder like Dominion. Earn pennies for your lexicographical creations, then use that buying power to pull a Pat Sajak and buy a vowel (or a consonant, or a two-letter combo card) for later use. With enough buying power, you can also snag one of the wild card books on offer, building your fame points for the ultimate victory.
As an added bonus, the game includes a half dozen variations already built into the rule book, so you can experiment to find the best fit for your players.
Though it supports up to five players, most people agree that Carcassonne is best as a duet, with two people duking it out to claim the most roads, cities, and farmland in an ever-expanding tile city.
Once you get the hang of it, there are plenty of expansions available to help keep things fresh, including Inns & Cathedrals, Rivers, and more. (They complicate the scoring, but the mechanics are largely the same.)
Also great for: Families
Photo via rachel_pics/Flickr (CC-BY-ND)
As the box eloquently puts it, you win by getting a head. You play an executioner in Revolution-era France, trying to please the people by beheading the least popular nobles. But action cards keep shuffling up the front of the line, making it difficult to predict whos next on the chopping block. While in game time, this plays out over three days, youll be able to knock out a round in about half an hour.
Photo by Luiyo/Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
All the relaxation of a Zen sewing hobby, none of the hazards of needles and sewing machines. Each player is trying to make the most complete 9×9 quilt using an array of Tetris-esque pieces, available for purchase with buttons that you earn over time. But the bigger the piece you play, the more quickly your token advances through the time track, effectively giving you fewer turns to pick up more patches. Its rare to find a game that rewards the resistance to rush, and its fitting that a quilting game would be such an exercise.
Can you build the biggest farm with the most animals in eight rounds? This intentionally two-person variant of Agricola will reveal your hidden animal husbandry skills as you try to foster a variety of cows, horses, pigs, and sheep. It removes the more complicated parts of the original game, opting to focus solely on the animals insteadand includes adorable animal tokens to boot.
Only one issue: This game is currently out of print, so third-party sellers are charging between $80 and $100 for a new set. See if you can find one used at your local retailer.
Photo by Oliver Hallman/Flickr (CC-BY)
One designated player from each team acts as spymaster, trying to get his or her teammates to guess all the words in a five-by-five array that correspond to their color on a tiny grid only the spymasters can see. GIve the right one-word clue, and your team can unlock a handful of thematically related words at once; give the wrong one, and you might lead them to guess something for the other teamor worse, the assassin, ending the round immediately.
The bigger the group, the more second-guessing will inevitably occur, and youll have to watch out for those friends with a seemingly unending supply of inside jokes that will carry them to victory.
For bigger, ballsier groups, try the mildly NSFW Codenames: Deep Undercover expansion from Target. If youre up for a challenge, take a swing at Codenames: Pictures, where each card is an image with a few different attributes, rather than a single word with a few potential meanings.
Also great for: Families
You didnt misread that play time estimate. Each round of this fast-paced card game about a hapless crew trying desperately to keep their ship from falling apart goes by so quickly that youll want to play four or five in a row.
Adapted from a popular app by indie developer Henry Smith, this version translates many of the mechanics for introducing chaos to the gameplay into cards for players to resolve as a team before the time runs out.
Two expansions are available: the NSFS (not safe for space) edition with some exceptionally phallic tools cards, and the Triangulum expansion, which also ups the player limit but in a less risque way.
Smush Pictionary and Telephone together to get this hilarious lost-in-translation game thats perfect for large groups with no artistic talent whatsoever. Full disclosure: You could cobble this together with a few pads of sticky notes and an old dictionary, but the reusable dry erase boards keep everything neat and tidy if you spring for the official set.
Like any good party game, theres a NSFW expansion set called Telestrations After Dark that lets players choose from more R-rated prompts.
Also great for: Families (if you stick to kid-friendly vocab words)
OK, the name is a mouthful, but the game is a delight for fans of the Adult Swim cartoon. In one episode of Rick and Morty, alcoholic mad scientist Rick gives his family a Mr. Meeseeks box: Simply press the button on top to summon a gangly blue dude who literally lives to serve.
This party game plays on that mechanic, with each player drawing request cards that they have to fulfill with certain specific dice rolls. If you go looking for help for a Meeseeks, that could help you earn your precious victory points faster, but at what cost?
20) Sushi Go Party
This pick and pass game has players select one card from a group and then passing the remaining hand on down to the next person. Its a mechanic familiar to players of 7 Wonders (see below), but this time the keeper cards are all adorable cartoon depictions of Japanese fare like sashimi and wasabi. Make the best combination of sushi to score points.
The party pack edition includes almost two dozen different dishes that you can pick from to customize gameplay for each round. If you own Sushi Gos original box, youll get a kick out of how enormous the party tin is.
You know the deal by now: Take turns reading out fill-in-the-blank prompts from white cards for the other players to complete with the black cards in their hands. The player with the funniest/raunchiest/cleverest answer wins the round, and the game continues until folks tire of it, become too drunk to play, or get bummed out by the appearance of the smegma card.
There are more expansions for CAH than we can keep count of, but trust us when we say the possibilities are practically endless at this point.
22) Unexploded Cow
Become a hero to French villagers when you solve their issues with unexploded land mines and mad cow disease in one fell swoop. You grow your herd by paying for proud cows, fine cows, sturdy cows, and more, and then roll the die to see who goes boom instead of moo. Be careful, though: Other players can steal your cows or cause trouble with spies.
Though five- and six-player rounds are on the outer edge of this games limits, they just mean faster roundsand more potential for treachery!
Also great for: Families
Editors note: This article is a compilation of blurbs from existing lists on the Daily Dot; both instances will be updated regularly for relevance. Visit those pages for further detail about play time, game ratings, and how many players each game supports.