When most of us were growing up, board games were a big part of our lives. The classics like Monopoly, Clue and Pictionary were staples in most households, but the world of board games has long since transcended this classic handful of games and breached into the realm of well designed, easy to learn games for adults. Armed with a few of these titles, your weekly or monthly board game night can be sparked back to life and fun, and new friends can be made (and new enemies made from friends). Here are eight of the best board games to move on to if you’ve played Monopoly one too many times.
While it might not hold the same nail-biting effects as a real money blackjack app, Carcassonne is almost always included on any list of board games to try as a steppingstone to the more serious and strategic games available, and for good reason. The game offers one of the best introductions where each turn has a large number of possible moves, all offering different strategic options and opportunities to further the player’s campaign to win the game.
The game is played by taking turns placing workers and tiles onto a table to slowly build a classic French countryside by assembling cities, roads and fields. Each time you play a tile that completes a city, you can place one of your workers (meeples) as a scoring move. Your meeples can also be used as bandits, farmers and monks, each offering different scores. Winning Carcassonne is achieved by being the player with the most points at the end of the game.
Mention the realm of co-operative board games and Pandemic is almost certainly one of the first games that will be mentioned because it’s a game that most avid boardgame fans will have in their collection. It’s a game designed by legendary game designer Matt Leacock, who is also responsible for other great co-op games that could easily be on this list, like Forbidden Island and Forbidden Dessert.
The game is built around the premise that deadly diseases are spreading throughout the globe and the players are humanity’s only hope if we are to stop their devastation. Each player is randomly assigned a role with a special ability, and you work together with the goal of stopping the spread of the diseases and find a cure. As the game progresses, the tension and possible loss conditions increase in likelihood and a loss can blindside you if you aren’t careful. If you want to play co-operative instead of against your friends, Pandemic offers a great introduction to this genre of board game.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a game based on the premise of trying to claim as many railroad routes to connect cities as you can while trying to outsmart your opponents by cutting them off and forcing them to take longer routes, earning them less points. Ticket to Ride is a game that can be played on repeat and never gets old because there is always a new trick or strategy to learn. It’s also one of the most satisfying games to win because scoring is done at the end, so you could narrowly claim victory over your opponents in a nail-biting points round up.
Ticket to Ride is a really great introduction to the concept of games that are only scored at the end and a way to ease yourself and your board game group into the next game on our list that takes the basic concept and adds a level of complexity.
Catan, previously called Settlers of Catan, follows a similar principle to Ticket to Ride in that the idea is to build settlements and cities and join them by roads, but there’s more to it than that. The game is a strategic masterpiece with a world championship competition, and can be enjoyed on any level, from the most basic to the more expert strategic players. This style of board game, where strategy and knowledge of the game’s systems can be more important than luck has spawned a genre known as euro games where you’ll find other huge games like Carcassonne, Power Grid and Five Tribes.
Players accumulate points in various ways like building the longest road or having the biggest army in the game, which you’ll need development cards to accomplish, purchased with resources. The ultimate goal is to be the first player to 10 victory points. The game takes longer than others on the list with a playtime that can reach two hours for more experienced groups. Don’t forget to check your friendship at the door because this one has the potential to test them.
7 Wonders is the first card-drafting game on the list, but don’t let the genre give you the wrong impression. This one is quick and easy to learn and games last just 30 minutes on average. Here, players will build a civilization by drawing and playing ancient city cards through three ages that are played across 18 turns. Each city can produce resources, in turn allowing discounts or traded with other players. By building your civilization, creating an army and making scientific advancements, players earn points and at the end of all 18 turns, the player with the most points claims the victory.
7 Wonders takes just a few rounds to understand and become proficient at. It is a competitive game, but it does well at pitting you against your friends while keeping the competition friendly. This is a game where the more players are playing, the better it is – while the minimum number of players is two, it’s recommended that at least four join in.
Sheriff of Nottingham
There’s no greater feeling than deceiving your friends during a friendly board game, and the social deduction masterpiece that is Sheriff of Nottingham takes full advantage of this. The premise of the game is to sell your goods and ultimately earn more money than those you’re playing against, but to sell your goods you need to get them into the city, past the notoriously corrupt Sheriff.
Players will take turns taking on the role of the sheriff and trying to deduce if the other players are telling the truth or if they’re trying to smuggle illegal goods into the city for sale. More than this, anything goes. You’re free to bribe the sheriff to look away or slip him some coins to check the next player trying to get through. The genius of the Sheriff of Nottingham is that victory is still possible even if you never lie or smuggle illegal goods, so it becomes a delicate balancing act to not get caught.
Codenames is one of the more casual entries on the list, but it doesn’t make it any less fun or interesting. At its heart, this is a word guessing game in which two teams play against each other. One player from each of the two teams becomes the spymaster and is tasked with giving their team single word clues to try and guide their team into figuring out which word cards on the table are hiding their own team’s agents. Locating all their own agents wins the game for that team.
This 15-minute game is incredibly easy to learn and offers a lot for more casual players who enjoy team-based games and benefits from bigger teams (up to 4 per team). There are some rule variations too that allow for two and even three player variations and it thrives as a game that can be played with players of any age and even by players with vastly differing ages.
Munchkin is an interesting hybrid between a deck building and combat game designed by board game designer Steve Jackson. It’s available in two variants – the deck only option, simply called Munchkin and the version featuring a more complete package including a gameboard called Munchkin Deluxe, which is a strong recommendation, particular to those that are new to more complex board games and could do with the help visualizing the progress of the game. The game first hit shelves in 2001, but since has found itself with many different addons which can be played standalone or integrated into the base game for a more complete experience.
The name of the game was borne from a nickname given to players of the role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons who would look to exploit loopholes and gray areas in the rules for their own gain, and that is quite an apt description of the game itself. You’ll take turns kicking down a door, fighting whatever creature lies beyond it, looting the treasure and trying to be the first player to reach level 10 by using the treasure to make your character unstoppable in combat. Trading and bamboozling your opponents is naturally encouraged.
Board games are so popular because they’re universally accessible and quick to learn, though mastering the strategy and becoming the best at it can take a lot more time. The true value of something that can be quickly learned but can provide entertainment over and over is immense, and nothing does this quite like the board games on this list.