The range and quality of board games currently available is astounding. There’s never been a better time to be a fan of rolling dice, neatly arranging card decks and punching out cardboard tokens.
There are a lot of great board games out there, so trying to decide which one you want to play next can feel a bit daunting. To help you out, we’ve put together a few of our favourite titles that deserve to be part of any collection, from beginner to expert. At the very least, they’re worth one play through with your mates.
They’re also a great option for a post-isolation celebration. You can enjoy seeing your friends after such a long time apart – until they screw up your meticulously crafted strategy, and you spend the remaining game silently resenting them, that is.
We know that not everyone digs the same type of game, so we’ve put together a range of genres and play styles — from creating a civilisation from scratch to backstabbing your friends to become the ruler of Westeros, adventuring through a fantasy hellscape and seizing the means of production in an alternate-1920s Europe.
This article has been updated since its original publication.
Team up with your friends to solve a mysterious haunting.
Betrayal At House on the Hill has two phases – the first is the “Exploration” phase, where the players build a mansion room by room. Eventually, you’ll trigger the second phase, the “Haunt”, and that’s where the fun starts as you’re beset by supernatural monsters. To make things even more interesting, one of the players is secretly a traitor who takes the side of the monsters and uses the “Exploration” phase to assist their undead master.
With the mansion being procedurally generated, there’s a ton of replay value. Unlike the rotting corpses hidden beneath the mansion’s floorboards, every game feels fresh. The variation in monsters is also fun, ranging from ghosts to vampires to dragons. If you’re new to the game (or these types of board games in general) it does come across as a bit overwhelming to master, but it’s surprisingly easy to learn.
Gloomhaven is only a few years old, but it’s quickly become one of my favourite board games. A campaign-driven dungeon crawler where you play a mercenary trying to get paid while surviving the dangerous world surrounding Gloomhaven. It plays like a mix of eurogames and Dungeons & Dragons, with a lot of different dungeons to explore and an emphasis on tactical decisions.
There are almost 100 unique scenarios you can play through, where your every action will determine what happens next. Considering each scenario can take anywhere between one to two hours to complete, you’ve got plenty of game ahead of yourself. There is so much packed into Gloomhaven that I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the surface of my own campaign.
Just put aside some time to set it up and clear some space on your shelf, because this thing is a beast. It comes with 1,500 cards and the whole bundle weighs around 10kg.
The Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-earth does what it says on the box. You, and up to four other friends, play as one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s iconic heroes while questing your way across the realm of Middle-earth, from Gondor to the Grey Mountains.
While most of the games on this list are more tactically focused, Journeys in Middle-earth places its focus squarely on the adventuring. As you progress you’re able to customise your skills and items, giving you just enough RPG elements that. Despite playing pre-set characters, you can give them your own spin.
The game requires a companion app that takes the role of game master while also tracking your progress and dish out scenarios that play into the greater campaign. The app also keeps track of your character’s items, which helps alleviate the usually frustrating mess of flipping through a stack of cards to find that one specific piece of equipment.
Scythe is set in a dieselpunk reimagining of 1920s Europe where you play as one of five nations currently vying for control in a power vacuum created by the closure of The Factory, a capitalistic city-state that previously ruled the region.
At first, Scythe does feel a bit complex but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be playing one of the best engine-building games of the last decade. Farm some resources, conquer new territories, recruit new followers and activate up some chunky-looking mechs to keep your domain protected. It isn’t particularly combat-heavy and the skirmishes that do occur play through fairly fast.
Scythe also has one of the most unique aesthetics of any board game I’ve played and some gorgeous game art by Jakub Rozalski. When I first opened up my copy I spent my time looking through each individual card, completely ignoring the rulebook.
I’m a firm believer that every household should own a copy of Catan. It is one of the all-time classic board games — endlessly replayable and a great place to start for those new to strategy games.
The gameplay is pretty straight forward. You’re plopped onto the randomly generated isle Catan and need to collect as many different types of resources as possible. From there, you’ll combine those resources to build new settlements, upgrade existing ones and increase your domain by laying down some roads. It’s simple to play, but the strategic trading element keeps it consistently interesting. One turn you’ll be rolling in wheat, and the next you’ll be trading all of your wood to get a single piece.
While the TV show squandered our collective goodwill over those final seasons, A Game of Thrones has remained a consistent go-to with my friends. Choose your House, start manoeuvring your armies to secure as much of the Seven Kingdoms as you can, and finally claim your spot on the Iron Throne. (If you want to play as House Targaryen, you’ll have to grab an expansion pack.)
A Game of Thrones is an all-around solid strategy game, the real charm comes from the table politics and scheming. Making deals to crush a specific opponent, only to turn around and stab your ally in the back isn’t just a fun thing to do, it’s an essential tactic.
For the A Song of Ice and Fire purists, the game is directly inspired by the books, with this second edition being released the same year the HBO adaptation aired. You can also try to create your own (and much better?) ending to the series. Rob Stark teams up with Stannis Baratheon, sieges Casterly Rock and decimate the Lannisters? Sure, why not.
The set up for Star Wars Rebellion is pretty simple: It is a period of civil war, so pick a side.
The game is built around a series of skirmishes and missions that are all led by classic Star Wars heroes and villains. If you’re playing as the Empire, your goal is to sniff out the Rebel Alliance’s base and wipe it from existence. As the Rebels, your goal is to raise your reputation throughout the galaxy, drawing as many planets to your side as possible and strategically striking the Empire’s resources.
You also get a lot of great minis, ranging from Stormtroopers to X-Wings to Star Destroyers. You even get a Death Star, which, if you’re a Rebel, is a looming menace. The game does take a couple hours to play, so clear your afternoon schedule.
If you’re a fan of Sid Meier’s Civilization series, Tapestry is right up your alley. Starting from the dawn of mankind, it’s up to you to build your own civilisation from nothing and help it grow throughout the following millennia. The type of civilisation you want to build is up to you and is influenced by which of the four skills — science, technology, exploration, and military — you want to invest your points into.
The variation that comes from those is what keeps me coming back to Tapestry. I don’t think I’ve built the same civilisation twice, and even when I’ve tried to repeat previous tactics, my strategy inevitability changes depending on what the other players are doing.
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