In this day and age, it’s easy to forget that you can have a pretty good night in without gluing your backside to the couch and your eyes to the television. In fact, you can actually have a pretty solid bit of fun with a couple friends, a few good beverages, and absolutely no technology whatsoever. Instead of relying on your favorite gadgets, all you really need is a good board game or two.
We’re not suggesting that you dig through the closet to find that dusty old box of Chutes & Ladders or Sorry. Rather, we’re encouraging you to pick up something a little more appropriate for your age group. And while not all of these games are specifically intended for adults only, we think you’ll find that their complexity and application to certain social situations (like tossing a few back amongst friends, for example) makes them excellent for get-togethers big and small. Without stating the obvious (we’re looking at you, chess), the following collection is comprised of the 15 best board games for grown-ups.
This 4+ player party game is old enough that, if you were a kid in the 90s, there’s a fair chance you had it in your household. But that doesn’t make it any less fun now. The premise is this: two players on each team have to draw a card and get their partners to guess the word printed on it without using any of the other associated words on the same card. The trick? You’re racing against both the other team and the clock. It’s quick and has a shallow learning curve, but still requires a bit of brain power and offers up plenty of excitement.
Scrabble is one of the all-time greatest board games ever. And it’s a must have for anyone who appreciates language, has a bit of an appetite for creative problem solving, and enjoys some good competition. With up to four players, this game revolves around spelling words out on a tiled board – kind of like a crossword – and tallying up the point values of those words. The person with the highest score wins. Just make sure you keep a dictionary handy to dispute any questionable word choices and a small notebook to keep track of scoring.
Another brain-teaser, this card-based game for up to 8 players will get your gears moving if you like word association, deduction, and problem solving. There’s a lot of spy-themed mumbo-jumbo in the game’s instructions, but what it boils down to is a fairly simple premise. Two teams – each consisting of a single “spymaster” and one or more “field operatives” – compete to uncover their team’s tiles in a 5×4 grid using password-style single-word communication. The first to uncover all their tiles wins. There are a lot more rules and pitfalls, but you’ll have to play it for yourself to find out.
Ultimate Werewolf Deluxe Edition
Boasting an insane 5-75 player range, Werewolf is simultaneously extremely simple to play, but also incredibly hard to master. The reason behind that is this; it requires players to brush up on one of the most underrated card game skills: bluffing. Each round starts when every player has drawn a character card. Those cards determine whether the player is a normal villager or a werewolf. The werewolf’s goal is to stay alive, whereas the villagers are tasked with uncovering the monster amongst them.
Created and illustrated by The Oatmeal – an extremely popular web comic – this 2-5 player game was the most-backed project in all of Kickstarter history at the time of its campaign. And that’s reason enough to give it a second look. It’s played kind of like a combination of strategic Russian roulette and Uno, in which players draw cards until someone pulls an “exploding kitten” card. If someone does draw the card, other cards in their hand can be used to diffuse, move, mitigate, or avoid it. There’s also an NSFW version of this one, if you like your games a bit more vulgar.
Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest
Like Scrabble, Risk is widely considered an all-time classic – especially for anyone who appreciates a good deal of strategy. The goal of this 2-5 player game is to gain control over the entire world while taking out all the other players who stand in your way. Using a simple system of dice, cards, and game pieces, this long-form board game is deceptively easy to learn, hard to master, and will keep you and your guests occupied for hours.
Sheriff of Nottingham
Like Werewolf, Sheriff of Nottingham is a bluff-based card game. Though, that is where the similarities end. In this game, one player assumes the role of Nottingham’s Sheriff and must deduce whether the other players – the “merchants” – are smuggling illegal goods to market. Using a unique, interesting, and complicated combination of bluffing, negotiations, and bribery, this board game promises to keep you guessing and, perhaps, test even your closest friendships.
If you are unfamiliar, Cyanide and Happiness is a webcomic series that hinges on some very taboo and potentially offensive subjects. As you might imagine, their card game hinges on the very same themes. As such, this game is 100% not kid friendly – but it is quite a lot of fun for any group of 3-or-more grown-ups who can handle a bit of crass humor. It’s kind of like a fill-in-the-blank game, only instead of words, it’s done in comic panels. And since their are 360 panel cards, the combinations – and, by proxy, the foul-mouthed fun – is nearly endless.
Cards Against Humanity
Another very much not-safe-for-children game, Cards Against Humanity is likely a one you’ve heard of before. It’s extremely popular at parties because of its easy playability and no-holds-barred language and subject matter. Another bonus: if you don’t want to drop the money to buy the set, you can actually download and print all the cards from your computer for free. Just keep in mind that this Mad Libs-style competitive card game is not for the faint of heart nor the easily offended.
Axis & Allies 1941 Edition
This long-form board game is a lot like a much more advanced version of Risk. As such, it takes far longer to play, is a good deal more immersive, but also offers a lot more potential value. That’s especially true if you’re a history buff, because this game is actually based on what happened in World War II. And while the outcome might not necessarily end up historically accurate, the maps, units, and characters are all based on real-world people, places, and things. Just remember to clear your calendar because this game can take upwards of 2 hours to play.
A bit different from the other games on this list, Pandemic is actually an entirely cooperative board game. That means, while playing, either everyone wins or everyone loses – which goes along with the subject matter brilliantly. In Pandemic, you and up to three other players are tasked with combating a worldwide disease outbreak. Each player is assigned a role (Operations Specialist, Scientist, etc.) and each role has special abilities that can be used to fight the diseases. And since playtime takes just around an hour, this Pandemic is a relatively quick board game for anyone who wants to take a break from cutthroat competition.
This quick and easy card-based strategy game is an excellent 30-minute play for up to 4 people. And the commerce-based play system ensures that even if you’re up against more experienced players, you can still get a leg up over the competition. It works like this: using randomly drawn cards, each player must amass as much land as possible – all while competing against, attacking, sabotaging, and bringing general chaos down upon other players. Its brevity, mixed with the variety of play and potential to add in multiple expansion decks, make this game enjoyable no matter how many times you play it.
Backgammon is kind of like the Craps of board games. It looks enigmatic, complicated, and too few people actually know how to play it. If you ever take the time, this game is one of the most enjoyable 2-player games we’ve ever had the fortune of learning. It is equal parts strategy, luck, and – if you get the right set – good design. And, because of the way that it’s built – this is also one of the more portable board games out there. That means you can play it at home just as easily as you might on, say, a long flight.
Played across college campuses the world-round, Catan (also known as Settlers of Catan) it a tremendously fun 3-4 player strategy board game that offers up a ton of replay value. After all, Catan has been honored as both “Game of the Year” and “Game of the Century” across several countries (including the USA and Germany). It requires a bit of brainpower and strategizing, but once you get the hang of it this clever colonization-themed competition is a superbly enjoyable social game. It also has the added benefit of being made right here in the USA.
Monopoly: National Parks Edition
Although it has a reputation as a friendship-ruiner, Monopoly is – inarguably – one of the greatest and most successful board games of all time. And this one holds a special place in our hearts because it is based on the United States National Parks system, for which we have an overwhelming amount of admiration and respect. If you’re going to pick up your own box of Monopoly, we strongly recommend you make it this one.
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