Board games have become a popular social pastime and hobby. They can be a great way to bring everyone together and bond with family and friends. But there are so many different types of board games out there, that sometimes newcomers and even veterans may find it difficult to choose what games to buy.
Here I’ve collected a list of some of the best games that I think everyone passionate about board games should own. I’ve tried to include a little bit of everything so no one will leave your game night unsatisfied;
The classic decade-old game of negotiation has occupied the first position in this list for many reasons. Catan first came out in 1995 and has only risen in popularity since then. In the game, players find themselves stuck on an island and must collect resources from the game and each other to build their empires and win the game.
Catan is a very easy-to-explain game and anyone could quickly learn how to play it. It doesn’t require a lot of strategic thinking and mostly resolves around the interactions between players. There’s not a lot of dead time, and players are constantly engaged with the game, even when it’s not their turn.
While playing Catan, especially for newer players, you will probably enjoy the company of others and the fun of the group, rather than the game itself. It also has a ton of expansions and variants so it can be played in various ways.
Another game that gamers hear a lot about is Pandemic. In Pandemic, four viruses have taken over the whole world and are spreading quickly. Players take different roles such as a medic, or a researcher, and work together to find the cures for these viruses.
Pandemic is a game where you can kick back and relax with your fellow players and play at your own pace. By this, I don’t mean the pressure is low. In fact, the game usually is very stressful. Rather, my point is because Pandemic is a coop game, players must work with each other to win the game. This means that you don’t have to worry about a human intelligence sitting as opposed to you. The only enemy in the game is the infection deck, which spreads the viruses throughout the game. And it is only controlled by the laws of probability, so players can try to predict certain threats and neutralize them.
The challenge in Pandemic isn’t competing with the infection deck. It is working together as a team and trying to find the best courses of action. So it is an extremely helpful game to get familiar with coop games. It also has many themes and expansions that are all based on the core mechanism, so you are playing Pandemic, but in n new way each time.
Splendor is an easy yet challenging game for two to four players. Splendor is one of the purest and most minimal forms of resource management and engine-building, in my opinion. And because a ton of board games contain at least one of the two, it is an ideal gateway game to get your feet wet.
In splendor, players collect different jewels – which are the resources of the game – and use them to buy various cards. These cards grant victory points from 0 to 5, and the first player to reach 15 or more points is the winner. The cards also grant one certain resource to the player. This resource is considered permanent and is never spent. It also doesn’t fill your pool so you can have as many resources on your cards as you’d like.
This is the engine of the game. Players buy cheap cards to gain their permanent resources and go on to use them to buy more expensive and valuable cards.
Each player on their turn has to either collect jewels, buy a card, or reserve a card. And the whole game is as simple as that. It only takes a few minutes to teach this game, but the strategy is very deep. This makes Splendor a must-have for all gamers.
Scythe is one of the games that I never get tired of playing. It’s an asymmetrical game you can play solo, or with up to five players – seven if you have the Invaders from Afar expansion.
In Scythe each player represents one of the nations of Europa, and competes with others by collecting resources, developing technology, and engaging in war. The game is asymmetrical because each nation grants very special powers that shape the strategy of the player. The factions are not balanced, meaning some are, in nature, strategically stronger than others. This may seem like a problem because you think the player with the strongest faction has a higher chance of winning the game. But in my experience, Scythe is a game of unexpected events. There have been countless games where the player with the weakest position finds an amazing action and wins the game, to everyone’s shock and regret.
That’s why I think people who want to get more involved in board games should give Scythe a few tries; because it teaches you to adapt your strategy to the game’s conditions.
5. Exploding Kittens
Exploding Kittens is a goofy game from a goofy company by the same name, and it’s about some kittens that cause explosions. Each player gets some cards and the rest form a deck in the middle of the table. Turn by turn every player must draw a card from the deck and add it to their hand. But if the card is an exploding kitten, they explode and leave the game.
The game continues until only one player remains and is declared the winner. The action cards allow players to do special actions. They can peek at the top cards of the deck to check for exploding kittens, skip drawing a card, force another player to draw more cards, and even negate each other’s actions. That’s what makes Exploding Kittens so fast-paced and thrilling.
The game is easy to teach to everyone, and two to five players can play with one deck, but you can play with more people if you have more cards. The Exploding Kittens company has also produced many funny and strange expansions for this game, so you never get bored of it.
Spyfall is a perfect game for when you have a lot of people and want to have some quality fun together. Spyfall can be played with four to eight players, and up to twelve players with Spyfall 2. The game features a number of different locations and in each round the players visit one of these locations shown on the cards.
The catch is that all of the players know where they are except for one, who is called the spy. The spy doesn’t know where they are and must find out while the others must try to find the spy. Players ask each other questions, one by one, and try to find out if they know about the location. Whoever answers a question suspiciously, is probably the spy.
But at the same time, the spy is listening and collecting hints to try and guess the location. If this happens the spy can reveal their card and announce the location and if it’s correct, everyone except the spy loses.
Spyfall is on this list because you don’t have a lot of options when six or more people want to play. Spyfall is a perfect instance, because it takes less than ten minutes to play, and fully engages every player. Things get even more complicated when a second spy is added to the game in Spyfall 2.
7. Raiders of the North Sea
Raiders of the North Sea is a great instance of a worker-placement game for two to four players. In Raiders, players are viking leaders, and compete with each other to gain the most glory, and become the next viking chieftain.
At the beginning of the game, each player gets one black worker. On each turn, the player places their worker on a space and performs its action, then picks up another worker from the board and also performs its action. In other words, each player takes two actions on their turn depending on the color of the worker they used to perform it. This takes the worker-placement mechanism to another level, because whatever action you take on your turn, your opponent can do the same on the next turn. Players must collect money to recruit warriors and provisions to feed them, and invade one of the several locations north of the village to gain glory and loot their resources, and give offerings to the chieftain. Warriors each provide a benefit as well as power to the player, so they can invade stronger locations and get more plunder. Whoever gets more glory points from these warriors, and by invading buildings and looting resources is the winner.
Raiders is heavier than most of the games on this list and requires more thinking. There isn’t much interaction between the players, other than racing to attack the most lucrative locations first. That’s why you’ll probably be in your head most of the time, rather than talking and laughing with your friends. Other games by Shem Phillips have roughly the same theme with unique twists to them, and if you like Raiders, you’ll love the West Kingdom games also.
You might have heard about these games many times before, and that’s because they’re considered the best in their type. I recommend these games to anyone who wants to start collecting board games and wants to have something for everyone’s taste. What other games do you have in your collection that you think are worthy of being on this list?