8 Board Games That Are Quick To Set Up And Easy To Play

8 Board Games That Are Quick To Set Up And Easy To Play
Image: Board Game Geek
At Kotaku, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW - prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

Let us know if this sounds familiar. You’ve planned a game night and are excited to finally crack open that new board game you recently bought, only to realise you and your guests have no idea how to play it. What was meant to be a fun night has now become a lecture while you all attempt to figure out how this game is meant to be played.

You can easily waste hours reading through manuals, scrolling the web, and watching YouTube videos before you finally understand some games, and by that stage, your perfect game night is ruined. Thankfully, there are a bunch of board games you can easily set up and play without minimal forward planning. While some of them may seem intimidating, you’d be surprised at how easy it is to learn their rules.

Here are a few of our favourite games with easy setups.

This article has been updated since its original publication.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

board games
Image: boardgamegeek

Betrayal at House on the Hill is an RPG board game about exploring a haunted mansion, and it’ll seem fairly complicated to the uninitiated. There are hundreds of enemy tokens, a bunch of card decks, figurines and house locations to pop out and organise — but the basic principles of the game are very easy to learn.

In Betrayal, players each take turns exploring sections of the haunted mansion by placing mansion tiles on the floor that they’re on. Exploring these rooms can reveal ‘omen’, ‘item’ or ‘event’ cards, each of which has its own impact.

Ultimately, these cards can trigger an event known as a ‘haunt’ where secondary instructions (spelled out in separate booklets) guide players through the rest of the game.

There’s a bunch of great YouTube videos around for learning more about the game, but the best way to learn it is just to get going — the action is quickly revealed as you travel through the mansion’s haunted corridors.

Rounds of Betrayal at House on the Hill can last around an hour, but they’re always great spooky fun. You can pick up a copy of Betrayal at House on the Hill the game here.

Sushi Go

board gamesSushi Go is a competitive card game where players work against each other to snag the best sushi dishes at a restaurant.

Sushi Go has three rounds where players are dealt cards that they then build into a simple deck. Points scored are based on the sushi cards in your hand, which all have rules and points helpfully labelled at the bottom. Many of these cards have rules that double or triple final card scores.

The goal of the game is to finish with the highest score.

While card rules may seem initially complicated, there are a bunch of great videos explaining what each of them means, and the best tactics for winning the game.

Sushi Go is a great, rapidfire fun with friends, and usually lasts around 15 minutes. You can pick up a copy of the game here.

Lord of the Rings: Journeys In Middle-Earth

lord of the rings journeys in middle-earth
Image: Lord of the Rings: Journeys in Middle-Earth

Journeys In Middle-Earth is an app-enabled adventure board game based on the Lord of the Rings novels and mythology. In it, players take on the role of roving heroes as they encounter various threats and travel through a rigidly-structured storyline.

The game is split into multiple phases including exploration, combat and enemy attack. These allow players to travel across map tiles and fight approaching hordes.

All the action plays out with the aid of a free app that determines where to place tiles, how many enemies appear and how powerful player attacks are. While players will need to know what the board game tokens do, the rest of the action is actually guided by the app, including enemy movement and behaviour.

The simplest way to get started with Journeys in Middle-Earth is to run through the manual to understand the gameplay basics and token uses, and then launch the companion app (also available on iOS and Android) for further instructions and the main plot of the game.

You can also check out videos on YouTube for a rapid-fire rundown before you start your journey — but skimming through the instructions may be more informative.

Journeys in Middle-Earth is available from here.


8 Board Games That Are Quick To Set Up And Easy To Play
Image: Alex Walker / Kotaku

Skull is the perfect game to go with a round of drinks. In the game, players each hold tiles decorated with either skulls or roses. Everyone plays cards on their turn, and once all players have placed a tile, one player may challenge the others.

This involves a challenger identifying a set amount of cards they believe they can flip over before they encounter a ‘skull’ card that ends their challenge prematurely. They can flip over any cards until they fail the bet, in which case they forfeit one of their cards and the round continues. If the bet is won and all cards flipped over are roses, they win one round of the game, and the action continues until one player has won two rounds.

There’s a handy little guide over on UltraBoardGames if you’d like to learn more about how to play Skull, but as always, there’s a whole bunch of helpful YouTube clips available, too.

You can pick up a copy of Skull from here.

Trial by Trolley

8 Board Games That Are Quick To Set Up And Easy To Play
Image: boardgamegeek

Trial by Trolley is a card game created by Cyanide & Happiness that’s based on the moral dilemma of who to kill on duelling train tracks. In it, players attempt to sway the conductor of a train towards killing the other player’s team by placing a variety of innocent or guilty people on two duelling train tracks.

One player takes on the role of the conductor, while the rest of the players split off into two teams and draws cards from three decks — ‘innocent’, ‘guilty’ and wild card ‘modifiers’. The teams work against each other to convince the conductor that the opposite team deserves death by placing innocent cards on their side of the train tracks, and guilty cards on their opponent’s track. Modifiers can then be played on any card to change that character in some way.

Once cards have all been placed, the conductor decides who must die. The team with the least death tokens at the end of the game wins.

Trial by Trolley is available from here. This video by Geek & Sundry should help with anything else you need to get started with the game.


dixit board game party
Image: Libellud

Dixit is a very simple game. In it, players attempt to outrace their opponents across a board on a quest to gain 30 points. They each hold six picture cards which are used to advance their score.

Each round plays out with one ‘active player’ choosing one of their picture cards to describe. Rather than simple descriptions, these could be lyrics, feelings, songs or noises. They should not describe exactly what’s on the card — that would spoil the fun!

After this, every player chooses a card from their hand that they feel matches the active player’s description and plays it facedown. Once all players submit a card, they’re shuffled and revealed. From there, players vote on whose card they think is the active one and places a token on it.

Everyone scores points based on how accurately they guessed.

Dixit is available here. Triple S Games has a very simple and effective guide for how to play Dixit that’s only 2 minutes long, so set up should simple and quick.


board game
Image: Alex Walker / Kotaku

Azul is built on simplicity. In it, players draw tiles and attempt to place them on a board in a way that scores them the most points. The rules and tactics of the game are easy to learn.

Players win the game by completing a row of their mosaic wall. This is done by taking tiles from the central ‘display’ on the game board and placing them on the pattern lines of a player’s play board.

The more rows of the same pattern that players are able to build, the more points they’ll earn from their mosaic.

Azul is a very visual game, so it’s easiest to learn by watching or doing. Check out Teach the Table’s YouTube video for a deeper explanation.

You can check out what Kotaku Australia thought of Azul here and then grab yourself a copy of the game here.

Fallout: The Board Game

Fallout board gameFallout: The Board Game is massive. It’s another giant board game RPG filled with hundreds of tokens, map pieces, cards and figures, so it would be easy to assume that it’s far too complicated to pick up fast. Luckily, that’s not the case.

As always, a quick run through the manual will help, but much of the action of Fallout: The Board Game is actually spelled out on quest cards and map tiles.

The game is determined by certain story scenarios and card-based quests, and these spell out exactly who you’re fighting, your major goals, where map tiles should be placed and any items that you’ll need to pick up along the way. After set-up, it’s a simple matter of understanding what moves you can take on your turn.

Combat and exploration are the two central skills you’ll need to take on your Fallout board game adventure. Exploration is easy — players have a set amount of moves, and when they move onto an undiscovered tile, they can flip it over and uncover that location’s secrets and enemies.

Performing an attack requires rolling several dice that determine hit and defence points.

Once you understand those two moves, you know the basics of Fallout: The Board Game, and can proceed easily. The game is compatible with one to four players, so you can go alone if you choose, or with friends.

You can enter the wastelands of Fallout: The Board Game here. For a quick rundown, check out Geek & Sundry’s helpful guide to the game:

Do you have any favourite, easy-to-learn board games? Tell us about them, and why you love them in the comments below.


  • I find some of the card-based “engine building” games are pretty easy to pick up and play, or teach, apart from some late-game concepts (which AFAIK can be issues based on player personalities rather than the gameplay mechanics).

    Splendor is a classic I like to fall back on – plus the theme is more neutral if you’re trying to play with people who only know “family games” (Boggle/Scrabble/Rummikub/etc.)
    Ascension and Star Realms are of course the more flavourful options for folks after more exotic themes without the MTG-style metagaming.

    I also need to follow up on some solo-suitable dungeon crawlers I started reading about – interested in finding some compact exploration and combat examples that make like good mini adventure-RPGs without needing an app or too much extra bookkeeping.

  • Pandemic.

    Don’t look at me like that, you were all thinking it… And the way this article danced around even using the word pandemic, it had to be done.

    It’s both topical AND not hard to learn.

  • Looking at my board games, and as the usual rule reader and teacher of games, it’s hard for me to really think what ones work easily to just start playing because they all seem like that now.

    Carcassonne is something easy to just start playing as you dont need to set anything up. A person new to the game could easily grasp the joining and the meeple placement, however it may take a bit for them to get the tactical decisions of the game and learning ways to swoop in and claim things others worked on.

    • Yeah Carcassonne is easy to teach with the road and city scoring, but farmers and completion denials are like what I was talking about with the engine builders – like how some players don’t get in Splendor why the game doesn’t end as soon as someone hits the point cap because of everyone getting equal turns.

      That does remind me though that Tsuro would be a pretty good option – kinda like playing pool sometimes where even if you don’t get the nuance you can still have a bit of fun bouncing pieces around the table!

  • Skull is a great game. If you like bluffing, there is also Cockroach Poker (despite the name, its nothing like Poker).

    Another easy game, and something a bit different, is Illusion, takes about a minute to explain it.

    If you’re into Roll and Write, a favourite is Silver and Gold (by the amazing Phil Walker-Harding)

  • There’s nothing better than sitting down to a good board game and learning how to play it. You can enjoy hours reading through manuals, playing the game, non competitively to learn and later scrolling the web and watching YouTube videos as a group to truly understand the finer nuances of some games, and by nights end, your perfect game night is complete.

  • This article could probably use an update.
    Cascadia is one worth checking out, it’s extremely accessible and has been received very well. Also Land vs Sea is an Australian developed and published tile placement game with a really nice tactical bite.
    There’s Terraforming Mars: Ares Expedition which is a more accessible, card based version of the big box game. The art is also significantly better than the original.
    Hadrian’s Wall is one of the best ‘… and write’ style games out there. The single player game is also as good as the multiplayer
    Sleeping Gods from prolific designer Ryan Laukat is a wonderful campaign based game with a great story and beautiful art.
    The Lost Ruins of Arnak is another very accessible worker-placement style game that is fun and looks great on the table.
    For party style games the brand new So Clover is one of the best I have played recently.

Show more comments

Log in to comment on this story!