8 Board Games To Try If You’re Not Sure What You Want To Play Next

8 Board Games To Try If You’re Not Sure What You Want To Play Next
Image: Kotaku
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From strategically conquering an entire galaxy to cooperative investigations into Lovecraftian madness and just building a simple train route, these board games are all essential ingredients for a fun-filled game night.

There’s always some pressure when it comes to picking which game you and your group want to play next, so to make things a bit easier, we’ve put together another list of boards games that deserve a spot on your shelf.

This article has been updated since its original publication.


board games wingspan
Image: Stonemaier Games

We cannot stress how much we enjoy Wingspan. Released back in 2019, this engine-building card game is all about building the best wildlife preserve by strategically assigning birds to certain habitats. It’s a simple premise (especially when compared to some of the other games on this list), but nevertheless engaging as hell.

The rules are pretty easy to pick up, and the game only runs for four rounds, so you’ll be done in about an hour. Thankfully, the 170 bird cards, each with its own set of effects, give the game plenty of variety and replayability. If the look of a board game is particularly important to you, Wingspan also features some of the most beautifully illustrated cards of any board game that we’ve ever played.

If you decide to pick up bird watching as a new hobby after playing this, we don’t blame you. If you’re a fan of digital board games, the digital edition of Wingspan is also worth your time too.

You can spot Wingspan here.

Cosmic Encounter

Cosmic Encounters
Image: Fantasy Flight Games

In Cosmic Encounter, you play as the leader of an alien race, and intergalactic conquest is the name of the game. Your aim is to spread your influence throughout the galaxy, establishing colonies in the planetary systems of the other players.

This board game has been around since 1977, and it’s easy to understand why it has been beloved for so long. The strategy is both fun and fulfilling, with the different gameplay cards available allowing for an enjoyable variation of tactics.

One of the biggest draws of Cosmic Encounter are the table politics. The gameplay requires you to form alliances and negotiate deals with other players to help screw over the other players — while also potentially setting up your “ally” for a masterful double-cross.

Experience Cosmic Encounter here.

Lords of Waterdeep

Image: Wizards of the Coast

If you dig the world of Dungeons & Dragons, but want something that’s less of a commitment than a long RPG campaign, try Lord of Waterdeep. It’s a game where you play as one of the titular Lords of Waterdeep and attempt to gain the most influence over the City of Splendours.

The game works by placing your faction’s agents at various locations that will help you gain resources, like gold or various types of adventurers, and then sending those resources to complete quests. The goal is to collect the most victory points from the various quests you complete over the game’s eight rounds. Throw in some intrigue cards that can give you a much needed hand (usually at the expense of your opponents), and you’ve got a great strategy game.

If you’ve never played D&D before, don’t worry. Lord of Waterdeep requires no pre-existing knowledge of the franchise. And if you’re a long time fan, you’ll appreciate the familiar faces.

Roll for initiative and grab Lords of Waterdeep here.

King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo board game
Image: Iello

Kings of Tokyo is a very easy to pick up board game that is a lot of fun to play. You pick one of six giant monsters to play as, and your aim is to become the King of Tokyo by battling it out with your opponents. That’s it, that’s the game.

It’s a king of the hill game that uses a combination of dice rolls and strategising with the power-up cards in your hands to stake your claim on the Japanese capital. The goal is to be the first to 20 victory points or be the last monster standing.

If you really enjoy this game, there’s a heap of different King of Tokyo expansion packs currently available. They’ll give you new monsters and power cards to battle with, so there’s an option to add even more content to this game to keep it fresh.

You can pick up King Of Tokyo here.

Fallout: The Board Game

Fallout board game
Image: Amazon

Based on the video game series, Fallout: The Board Game is a pretty faithful adaption. Start by choosing a scenario and then set off to explore the wasteland, complete quests and fight the various monsters, mutants and marauders that come across their path.

If you’re a fan of Bethesda’s Fallout games, this thing is great. It keeps the RPG elements of the source material, by allowing you to spend points to increase your character’s ability skills and customise your equipment loadout. It even manages to keep the VAT system, with dice that let you target specific body parts of your enemies. It does a good job of ticking the boxes of what we like about Fallout. There’s also an expansion set, New Californiawhich adds two scenarios, along with a bunch of new quests, companions and items.

If we have one big criticism of Fallout, it’s that the game moves much slower when playing with four people. There’s a delicate balancing act because more players help increase the fun but the threat of gaming fatigue is real.

Fallout: The Board Game is available here and you can grab the New California expansion here.

Terraforming Mars

Terraforming Mars
Image: Board Game Geek/Din0derek

This resource management game does exactly what it says on the box. In Terraforming Mars, each player takes on the role of a different corporation and are tasked with making the red planet habitable for humankind. While you work together on the terraforming process as a whole, the aim is to see which player has the most contributions.

You build various projects, gaining income and resources that you can spend on further productions. Once Mars has the appropriate temperature, oxygen levels and quantity of oceans, the game is over.

Terraforming Mars is very card heavy, and you really need to keep track of what you’re holding during any given round. It’s also one of the more aggressive resource management games that we’ve played, as there are a lot of cards you can play that directly target your opponent.

You can grab Terraforming Mars here.

Mansions Of Madness (Second Edition)

Mansions Of Madness
Image: Board Game Geek/Pleechu

Mansions Of Madness is a co-operative board game inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. In it, you play as investigators who are tasked with exploring a cursed mansion to solve the mystery of a chosen scenario. This edition of the game uses a companion app that tracks your progress, and also takes care of randomly spawning monsters, triggering events and randomising the layout of the mansion.

It’s very easy to immerse yourself into Mansions Of Madness spooky atmosphere, and we’ve had a lot of fun investigating and trying to solve the puzzles of the scenarios that we’ve played. If you’re someone who loves a good game piece, Mansions Of Madness‘ monster figures are fantastic. Being able to throw down a giant Cthulhu figure onto the board really helps to sell the enormity of the threat.

A single game will eat up a couple of hours, so make sure you’ve set enough time to adequately lose your mind to an eldritch horror. The app lets you save your progress, so you can easily jump back into a game you couldn’t finish.

If you’re still not sold on it, you can check out our in-depth review of Mansions of Madness.

Spend a night at the Mansions Of Madness here.

Ticket To Ride

Ticket To Ride board game
Image: Amazon

If you enjoy the euro-style gameplay of something like Settlers of Catan and what to pick up something similar, then you might get some miles out of Ticket To Ride. The aim of the game is to be the player who can build the longest continuous train, claiming routes and connecting cities.

Ticket To Ride is an incredibly easy game to pick (especially compared to some of the other titles on this list) and isn’t too intensive when it comes to strategising. Each player is randomly assigned Destination Tickets at the start of each match, giving you set goal cities that you need to reach.

There’s an economy of knowing which cards you need to play or stockpile, as you need these specific cards to claim certain routes. The last thing you want to do is lose out on the route that will connect your assigned destinations.

You can hop aboard Ticket To Ride here.


  • It’s a pretty good list, but Fallout feels a bit to “gamer” and complex.

    I’d be keen to see a casual list and a cardgame list. There are some AMAZING cardgames out these days – check out Tichu, The Crew, Hanabi … there are a lot out there.

  • The Lords of Waterdeep write-up feels a bit shallow here, so here’s a recommendation from someone who really likes it:

    It’s a solid worker placement game that’s set in a well-known D&D city, but it’s nothing like D&D. You essentially play as a questgiver in a fantasy city, and each turn you send your minions out to influence the city, but only so many minions can be in one part of the city at a time. Your goal is to raise cash and recruit adventurers, who you can then pay to send on quests. You can splash cash around to sponsor new buildings, which let you use turns more efficiently (and if you’re the owner, you get a bit of extra cream on top), but that means less time spent raising funds or meeting with adventurers. The turn count is very tight, but you get a lot of bang for those turns.

    To top it all off, each game you play as a different Lord, who each have their own secret bonus, so the winning strategy will change from game to game. It’s a very tidy little package.

  • I feel ‘everyone should own’ might be a bit of stretch there..

    Not ‘everyone’ is into these particular types of boardgames.. just saying..

    • To be fair, this list is a lot better than a similar list featured a week or two ago, which was filled with heavyweight games that really weren’t “must haves”. Most of the suggestions on this list appeared as alternatives by commenters, with the exception of Fallout. I get that Kotaku might want a computer game bent to it… but seriously, I don’t know a single person that owns that game, and a BGG rating of 6.48 doesn’t suggest it’s particularly “essential”.

  • King of Tokyo and Ticket To Ride are definitely good “Everyone” games, the rest are way too complex for the average person.

    • Cosmic Encounter and Lords of Waterdeep aren’t complex. I’ve introduced them to people with very little gaming experience and they had zero problems picked them up.
      Cosmic Encounter is basically negotiation with occasionally some relatively simple maths, and Lords of Waterdeep is a very straightfoward introduction to worker placement.
      If you think they’re too complex for the average person, then whomever was teaching the game was doing a bad job, or the people being taught simply weren’t very bright.

      • “Simple” is just about the last word I’d use to describe Cosmic Encounter. It’s a game packed full of complex interactions between pieces that require CCG levels of comprehension to fully get your head around.

        If your group found it fine then that’s great, but I’ve *never* seen it described as simple, and to think that anyone who can’t pick it up is stupid is all kinds of ridiculous.

        • You’re joking, right? You must be joking. There is NOTHING difficult about Cosmic Encounter.
          Round of cosmic encounter.
          Turn over card.
          I’m attacking X. Who wants in? / Want to negotiate.
          People say yay or nay.
          Ships get put on gate.
          Players play cards and numbers get added up.
          Ships get sent to warp and/or placed on planets.
          Play goes to next turn.

          Yes, there are some weird powers that can raise questions about how they would interact, but the rules and flow of the game are ridiculously straightforward. Every single card tells you when it can be played. If you *really* need it to be easy to understand, specifically pick out the easiest aliens (which are conveniently highlighted with GREEN on their cards) and use those rather than a random draw. The bulk of complexity comes from the powers that are complex.

          • The base rules of the game are super simple, you’re right. But when you add flares, alien powers and whatever else you’re playing with the complexity tends to skyrocket a bit.

            The timings are very particular, but your average non-gamer isn’t really used to the idea of a game with execution rules quite that precise. You can flub it a bit if you want, but if you’re going to make sure every power is happening at the right time relative to everything else that’s happening you’ll likely be spending a lot of the game resolving what happens when and asking people to hold off on things they want to do because they didn’t quite get the timing right.

            (And don’t me started on some of the aliens from later expansions. It’s obvious they were made by uber fans of the game because some of them are SILLY complex. Stuff like handing someone a special card and then somehow remembering what triggers that card so you can tell them when to look at it later.)

            YMMV obviously, that’s just been my experience with the game. It’s fantastic but it’s also tended to stump a lot of people who are pretty bright otherwise. If you’ve had no issues teaching then that’s awesome, I’m genuinely envious.

  • I usually prefer games on the more complex side,such as Scythe,Gloomhaven and my favourite,Anachrony.But I also enjoy a couple delightful,simpler games.These are Everdell and Stuffed fables.On this list I have Fallout and Terraforming Mars which are both decent games without being truly great Imo.I’d like to play Mansions but already have enough FF games and their innumerable expansions to fill a truck.

  • Solid list except for Fallout.

    Seriously, this game was universally panned. DON’T BUY THE FALLOUT BOARD GAME. It’s a mess.

    • That’s just not true about Fallout. Even my partner who has no interest in gaming enjoys it.

      It’s definitely one of those boardgames that looks complex, but the rules are actually surprisingly simple and the rulebook is one of the more helpful ones around. It’s got looting, fighting, exploring and it’s much more effective than other games at building a sense of continuity in the story without being a full-on RPG-lite.

      The victory conditions probably need some work, but the gameplay is enough fun that losing the game doesn’t feel like a waste, which is a big bonus when you have casual gamer friends around.

  • If anyone is looking for a wealth of easily accessible info on boardgames in video format, Shut Up and Sit Down is a really good Youtube channel.

    • Agreed, I’d argue SU&SD is the best board game site period. If you’re interested in something see if they have a review (spoiler, they will) and you’ll get a very balanced and independent take on it.
      Terraforming Mars seems fiddly at first but my group have been thrashing it. Solid games for more than four players are rare.

  • Tick to ride is fantastic however, i’d say to get Europe over standard TTR, only reason for this is that most of the expansions require europe for the pieces and such so with a massive amount of other boards out there to add on whereas i think the normal board can only be used for the 1910 expansion box, (i’d go for Pennsylvania/UK expansion as the new rules change up the game and make it even more tactical)

  • All great games. I do have to agree with finalattack about Fallout. Even my usual board gamer friends refuse to play the game.

    I’m curious to get my hands on Fallout Shelter the game and see what that is like. I imagine it is similar to This War of Mine the board which I love.

    I’m surprised https://boardgamesupply.com.au/product/wingspan/ hasn’t made the list.

  • Ok.. i know reposts are a regular thing now for Kotaku.. but why is there this article has been updated when as far as I can tell there has nothing been added or changed?

    Come on guys at least when the games lists were being reposted there was new recommendations and the like added.. I was actually keen to see what else was added and its the same list again but somehow “updated”?!. Otherwise just make another board game article?

    On my side me and my friends have gotten down to playing Zombie 15.. the time limit per round is a really fun spin on the game!

    • Well I guess they updated it this time. The whole thing is just a premise for affiliate links anyway, but we ain’t mad Chris, someone’s gotta do it.

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