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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 California, which 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.
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.
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.
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.