Best Board Games

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Every game has a winner — that’s kind of the point of a game, isn’t it?

So up front we’ll tell you the winner for best classic, best contemporary, and best board game for families.

Ah, ah, ah — no cheating, though. 

You’ll need to keep reading to find out everything we love about these games. But for now, here’s what we can tell you. 

Our pick for best contemporary board game is Election Night! Winner of the 2019 Parent’s Choice Gold Award, this all-ages board game breaks down the complex political process in a clear, exciting, and entertaining way. 

The undisputed champ of all classic board games is, of course, Scrabble. In this classic word game players use lettered tiles to form words. Show off your big vocabulary, but let’s just hope you don’t end up with a “Q” or too many vowels.

And for an all-ages game night, you won’t go wrong with Clue, RAVE’s choice for best board game for families. Easy to play, Clue asks (and answers) the classic question: whodunnit? Gather clues, eliminate suspects, solve the mystery, and win the game.

If you’re of a certain age you probably remember playing board games in a wood-panelled basement, arguing over rules in playful competition with your friends, siblings, or maybe even your cousins visiting for a holiday. 

Were you the one who overturned the board if the game didn’t go your way? It’s okay if you were, your secret’s safe with us. 

Truth is, folks have been playing board games for a very long time. Some games like chess and checkers have actually been traced back for millennia. 

Despite all the tech distractions these days, board games are as popular as ever. Maybe even more popular, as families and friends rediscover board games as a great way to bond and have some fun.

So try it for yourself. Here are the best contemporary and best classic board games of all time. 

Just remember to always read the rules, and no cheating! 

The Board Games We RAVE About

Best Contemporary Board Game
Election Night!
Election Night!
Best Classic Board Game
Scrabble
Scrabble
Best Family-Friendly Board Game
Clue
Clue

We’re going to tell you the best board games, both classic and contemporary. But first, let’s talk a bit about the history of board games themselves.

Turns out, people have been playing board games for about as long as people have been gathering together in groups and forming the ties, bonds, and social structures we now call civilization.

What Was the First Board Game?

Some of the very earliest board games discovered include backgammon, Go and Liubo – games that continue to be played in one form or another to the present day. 

The oldest board game known to man, Senet — the Methuselah of games, if you will — was played all the way back in Predynastic Egypt (that’s about 3100 BC for those keeping score at home). 

How to play Senet: 

Senet is played on a board divided into 30 squares, referred to as houses. The “houses” are arranged in 3 rows, 10 houses in each row. 

The objective of the game is to move your pieces through the board, eventually reaching the finish line with all your pieces off the board.

A similar concept of many of today’s most popular board games, proving that board games really haven’t changed all that much over the past 5,000 years.

How Did Board Games Start?

In addition to Senet, other early evidence of board games include boards, dice, and counters found at Ur in Iraq dating back to about that same period of time as the Egyptians played Senet.

Early board games weren’t just for fun … and well, games, though. They served a variety of purposes. Here are just a few:

  • An upper class pastime – Senet was featured in illustrations in Egyptian royal tombs, and game pieces have even been found alongside other talismans of the journey of the dead.
  • Religion

It wasn’t long after board games were adopted by the royals of the ancient world, though, that the working classes wanted in on the fun. Eventually, games even gained religious significance. 

One such game was the Ancient Egyptian game of Mehen. We aren’t quite sure how Mehan was played but it’s believed it had something to do with the Sun God Re, pictured most often as a serpent and represented in Mehan by the coiled shape of the game board. 

But what was the first board game ever invented in America? That’s hard to say, but one of the most well-known board games of all time, Monopoly, is a thoroughly American creation.  

Story goes, Monopoly was invented in 1903 by a woman named Lizzie Magie. At that time, the game wasn’t called Monopoly at all, but The Landlord’s Game instead. Despite having a different name, fans of Monopoly would likely find The Landlord’s game pretty familiar.

The game was played on a square board which had various properties around the outside that players could buy for differing amounts, but it’s unclear if The Landlord’s Game also included “get out jail free” cards. 

Modern Monopoly was published in 1935 by Parker Brothers, and is now considered one of the greatest board games of all time. (Monopoly comes in second in our ranking, narrowly edged out by Scrabble).

More than likely you’ve already played Monopoly and Scrabble. We’re here to remind you of some old favorites, but also introduce you to some new games as well. Coming up next is our ranking of the best classic and best contemporary board games. 

Methodology

When researching this board game ranking, RAVE Reviews surveyed game experts from across the internet, using some of their input in our results. We also consulted similar rankings from all across the internet, as well as manufacturer specifications, consumer reviews, and, of course, personal experience. 

Each game was ranking on the following:

  • Nostalgia
  • Game play
  • Cult appeal
  • Educational component

Whether you’re planning a game night, seeking a new pastime for your family, or simply taking a stroll down memory lane, there could be a game in this article for you. 

How many do you remember? How many will you play?

Read on, and find out.

Best Contemporary Board Games

Election Night!

Election Night!
Rave Score: 100

Looking for a board game to help blow off some pent-up anxiety about politics and current affairs? Then the award-winning board game Election Night! could be for you.

Winner of the 2019 Parent’s Choice Gold Award. Election Night! is an all-ages board game, breaking down the complex political process in a clear and exciting way. In gameplay, you’ll compete for the presidency, vying for the states with the most representation or locking down smaller states across the board. 

The game uses the patent-pending PlaySmart Dice system, a uniquely numbered 12-sided dice system. For family play, the system makes challenging math facts easier to learn through well-conceived game play.

The game also comes with a double-sided game board, two dry erase markers and two decks of strategy cards. Perhaps best of all, Election Night! is versatile enough to be interesting to players of all skill levels. 

Election Night! is also the winner of the Mom’s Choice Gold Award, among many others.

Pros

  • Family friendly
  • Versatile game play
  • Award winning

Cons

  • Rules complicated for some

We Rate Dogs!

We Rate Dogs!
Rave Score: 99.8

Who doesn’t like to look at pictures of cute doggos?We Rate Dogs!, the card game based on the popular Twitter account, lets players do just that, as they choose their favorite pups to enter and win a competitive dog show.

Suitable for up to 6 players ages 8 and up, players in this fun, fast-paced card game rate cute canines in six fun categories, including floof, sass, “boopability,” zoom, ears, and wag.

Players can also knock their opponents’ dogs down in the rankings using action cards, while also improving their own dog in the standings. The goal: to be named the best in show.

But don’t worry, all the dogs are winners.  

The game includes 50 dog cards, 100 event cards, 1 category die, winner’s circle board, first player card, and player tokens.

Pros

  • Fast paced
  • Good for kids
  • Family friendly

Cons

  • Slow play with 6 players
  • Simple concept

Oh My God Stacy!

Oh My God Stacy!
Rave Score: 98.7

The next game in our ranking, Oh My God Stacy! brings us back to the classic high school movies of the 1980s. 

In the game you’ll play cards throughout the school day, collecting and stealing gear, messing with your classmates, forming bonds, and, of course, scoring max cool points. But a twist comes everyday with morning announcements.

With fast-paced gameplay, Oh My God Stacy! is for up to 12 players ages 14 and up, and comes with 152 cards, including action, gear, and morning announcements, among others, and pizza slice tokens.

Oh My God Stacy! is the perfect game to take Gen X on a walk down memory lane, but also appropriate for anyone familiar with cliques, jocks, preppies, punks, and squares at school.

Pros

  • Fast-paced game play
  • Homage to `80s teen films
  • Twists

Cons

  • Not for kids under 14
  • Needs a lot of players

Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens
Rave Score: 97.6

Does your idea of a good time include explosions, kittens, laser beams, and goats? If so, then the next game in our ranking, Exploding Kittens, is for you.

With more than 9-million copies sold, and with rules a bit like Uno, Exploding Kittens is like a highly-strategic version of Russian roulette. Draw an exploding kitten, and you lose. Avoid the explosions, and you win! Simple as that.

Samuel Franklin, founder of Game Finder, a video game review company, is a fan of the game. “Exploding Kittens is the perfect mix of strategy, luck and action while also providing simple enough mechanics that you can learn the game in 10 minutes,” he tells RAVE Reviews.

“Like any high-tier game though it isn’t short on long term fun as you try different strategies, take revenge for past game exploding kittens and occasionally gang up on someone who is having all the luck,” Franklin says. 

Exploding Kittens is for up to 5 players ages 7 and up. It comes with 56 cards, a box, and instructions.

Pros

  • Easy to learn
  • Fast-paced
  • Lots of expansion packs

Cons

  • Not family friendly
  • Expansion pack issues reported

Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity
Rave Score: 96.4

The next game in our ranking of the best contemporary board games is Cards Against Humanity. The people behind Cards Against Humanity call it a “party game for horrible people,” which tells you something about the devilish sense of humor it takes to play this game, and play it well.

Here’s how this simple and addictive game works: one player asks a question from a black card, and then everyone else answers with their funniest (or dirty, or mischievous) white card. Needless to say, this game is not for kids.

Version 2.0 of this modern classic comes with 150 new cards, expanding the cards that come with the game to 600 cards, which is 50 more cards than previous versions of the game.

The game also comes with a booklet of the real game rules and “preposterous alternate rules,” keeping the game versatile, and meaning nobody plays this game in quite the same way. There are also lots of expansion packs available, keeping the game fresh for repeated play.

And perhaps best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of Cards Against Humanity goes to the Make a Wish Foundation.

Pros

  • Now with extra cards
  • Expansion packs available
  • Easy and versatile rules

Cons

  • Not for kids
  • Simple rules
  • Frequently counterfeit

Donner Dinner Party

Donner Dinner Party
Rave Score: 95.8

Enjoy dinner while managing to avoid becoming dinner with Donner Dinner Party, the next board game in our ranking.

In this game, players recreate the story of the ill-fated Donner Party in a game of social deduction, pitting cannibals and pioneers against one another in a fight for survival.

A fast-paced game with a wicked twist, Donner Dinner Party is set in the winter of 1846. You can play a pioneer, hunting for food while striving to eliminate the cannibals from the party. As a cannibal you’ll eat the pioneers one by one until you’re the last one standing. 

Here’s how the game works: each round, players receive cards before “foraging for food.” The cards indicate what they may have found, like nothing, fish, or poisonous berries. Players then add one card face down to the communal dinner pot for dinner. If there’s sufficient food cards to feed the number of players, the round ends and everyone survives. There’s a wicked twist, though, and nothing is quite what it seems.

Rowdy and irreverent, this game is suitable for up to 10 players, ages 12 and up. The game includes a game board, playing cards, and 62 identity cards, including pioneers, cannibals, and more.

Pros

  • Fun and casual
  • Dark sense of humor
  • Easy for beginners

Cons

  • Not a lot of strategy
  • Adult themes
  • Similar to other games

Carcassonne

Carcassonne
Rave Score: 94.9

The next game in our ranking, Carcassonne, comes to us from Shawna Newman of geekymatters.com, a site dedicated to all things “geeky.” 

Carcassonne is inspired by the medieval fortress in southern France of the same name. A tile-laying game, players fill in the countryside around the fortified city, choosing from tiles that depict cities, roads, monasteries, and fields. 

Players can then add their followers on the ever-expanding board, like knights, monks, farmers, and thieves, each scoring points differently. And because the board is always changing, so are the opportunities.

“Since you build out the board as you play, each game is different,” Newman tells RAVE Reviews, “so it’s always something new. As a result, it’s easy to get addicted to this game and keep replaying it.”

“The game is so easy to learn, anyone can play it,” Newman continues. “This means it’s perfect for couples, families, and game nights with friends.”

Pros

  • Easy to learn
  • Expansion packs available
  • Always changing

Cons

  • Beware of counterfeits
  • Not much strategy
  • Simple concept

Spontuneous

Spontuneous
Rave Score: 93.2

You know how hearing a particular word can make a song pop into your head? Spontuneous turns this crazy occurrence into a board game, creating conversation and connection through music, singing, memory, and laughter.

The objective of the game is to stump your opponents, preventing them from singing a song that contains the trigger word, while players race to be the first to sing a five-word portion of a song containing that chosen word.

The first player to begin singing rolls the dice to advance on the game board. If everyone is stumped, the player who announced the word must be able to back it up with a song of their own, otherwise they are penalized. 

The first player to reach the finish line and complete the Spontuneous Challenge wins. The game is for ages 8 and up, and up to 10 players or teams. No singing experience required!

Pros

  • Small or large groups
  • Good for all ages
  • Award winning

Cons

  • Too challenging for some
  • Must be comfortable singing
  • Pop music knowledge required

Twilight Imperium – 4th Edition

Twilight Imperium - 4th Edition
Rave Score: 92.3

A big board fantasy game full of galactic diplomacy, The Twilight Imperium – 4th edition comes to RAVE Reviews from Marty Dorn of Gamingrig.com, a gaming and tech product review site.

Involving everything from space battles to planetary invasions and back-stabbing galactic politics, players lead one of up to 17 different factions competing to rule the universe. 

“Every player is an alien competing in space to be a top dog,” Dorn says, using political and economic strategy and, when left with no other option, military might. 

Dorn likes the 4th edition of the game in particular. “The latest edition comes with streamlined and strict playing rules, mindful tactics and a more appealing visual presentation,” he says. 

Twilight Imperium – 4th Edition is for ages 14 and up.

Pros

  • Tons of strategy
  • Improved visuals
  • Streamlined rules

Cons

  • Spendy
  • Not for kids
  • War themes

Splendor

Splendor
Rave Score: 91.1

The next game in our ranking also comes to RAVE Reviews from Marty Dorn of Gaming Rig. Splendor is a small board game that requires a variety of strategies to play successfully. 

In this game of chip collecting and card development, set during the Italian renaissance, players act as merchants as they try to buy gem mines, means of transportation, and shops. 

Game play begins with collecting gem tokens, the objective being to find a royal patron. The more you buy cards, the more you get gems,” Dorn says. 

Some cards have points values associated with them. Once a player reaches the 15 points, the game ends for that player, while other players can continue buying the cards to get more points. 

Splendor comes with 40 gems, or ‘poker style’ weighted tokens, and 90 development cards. The game is for 2 to 4 players ages 10 and up. Several expansion packs are available to keep the game fresh.

Pros

  • Expansion packs available
  • Quality design
  • Strategy required

Cons

  • Not for kids under 10
  • Low quality editions exist
  • High strategy
Rave Score: 90.8

In Blokus, the 11th pick in our ranking of the best contemporary board games, up to four players arrange each of their 89 shapes on a grid-like board to negotiate space and strategically defend territory. Whichever player has the fewest pieces remaining wins, and zero pieces left earns bonus points.

The goal is to place as many of the 21 pieces on the board. Sound simple? The one catch is that each piece must touch at least one other of the same color piece — but only at the corner. The game ends when there is nowhere else to move. The squares left unplayed are tabulated and the player boasting the lowest total points wins.

Winning the Mensa Select and Teacher’s Choice Awards more than prove the game’s educational bona fides. 

With unending combinations of piece placement and move options, it’s easy-to-understand concept allows for near-instant gameplay, as well as endless opportunities to refine strategy.

Pros

  • Simple adaptable concept
  • Lots of strategy
  • Teacher’s Choice Awards

Cons

  • Not for large groups
  • Missing pieces reported
  • Short game play

Scattergories

Scattergories
Rave Score: 89.3

12th spot in our ranking of the best contemporary board games goes to Scattergories. This up to 6 player game features a 20-sided die with letters by which players select categories to be guessed within a time limit for 3 rounds.

The letters on the die exclude the ones that are too hard to find words to match. Once the die is rolled and the letter has been tabbed, the timer is set for three minutes (an electronic timer with a paced beeping noise has been replaced with a sand timer in newer versions). 

After the timer begins, a player writes down as many words that fit into the category correctly. Using alliteration yields higher point totals. Once the timer expires, the tabulation begins. 

Based on old parlor games, this version was awarded the Mensa Select Winner in 1990 and deservedly so: It requires a quick wit as well as intuitive and quick, on-the-spot thinking. With rounds lasting under five minutes, this game really distinguishes itself in the realm of decision-making under pressure, an important skill for everyday situations.

Pros

  • Mensa Select Winner
  • Fast-paced play
  • Decision-making under pressure

Cons

  • Not for non-readers
  • Not for all children
  • Electronic timer replaces

Cranium

Cranium
Rave Score: 88.6

Not every game promotes the active use of such a wide variety of smarts, sillies, and even artistic abilities than Cranium, the next game in our ranking of the best contemporary board games.

In the game, players spell, act, draw, or just make guesses as they parade through a brightly colored game board. The one minute you have to complete your task feels fleeting, which only adds to the frantic fun of the game. 

Gameplay lasts around one hour and in a mixed group of talented people, everyone’s niche ability will have its moment in the sun. But it’s not a jack-of-all-trades skills test, plenty of luck is required, too.

The board, set pieces, and cards require note-taking. The broad range of skills needed to win may be silly, but are sure to lighten the mood in any group willing to take it on for an evening.

Pros

  • Uses a variety of skills
  • Fast paced
  • Rambunctious play

Cons

  • Not for introverts
  • Issues in update
  • Trivia questions difficult
Rave Score: 87.3

A simplified bingo-like game for early learners, Zingo is the next pick in our ranking of the best contemporary board games. Perfect for playdates and classrooms, the game begins when each player chooses a playing card on which is printed a grid of words and corresponding images. 

A player then operates the Zingo machine and two plastic playing pieces, each marked with a word and an image, are revealed simultaneously. As they are revealed, players can call for the card if their playing board has a match. 

The first player to verbally call for the card is awarded that piece, placing it over the corresponding image on their board. Once a player’s board is completely full, they are declared the winner.

Attention and focus building skills are enhanced, as well as object recognition. The ultimate joy is getting to yell Zingo! and declare yourself the winner.

Pros

  • Builds attention and focus
  • Similar to bingo
  • Boisterous play

Cons

  • Meant for kids
  • Limited words
  • Issues with missing tiles

Pictionary

Pictionary
Rave Score: 86.2

15th spot in our list of best contemporary board games is Pictionary, a team-structured charades game. When playing the game, prompts are provided on cards with categories ranging from “object” to “difficult” and “action.”

Using only a marker and a whiteboard, teams must then convincingly illustrate the correct term to their teammates. Drawing players are not allowed to use verbal cues, numbers, or letters during their turn. 

An accompanying game board is a series of squares with small game pieces. The team to reach the end first wins the game. A dry erase marker is key, since permanent markers would ruin all the fun.

With the sand release timer running, hysterics are quick to ensue in this soiree sensation. Being a visual artist or exceptional drawer is not as important as the ability to write visual cues for guessing.

Pictionary exercises the imagination and the ability to think in pictures. It also tests the non-drawing player’s ability to think through abstract associations under pressure. But beyond a test in drawing, the game is more than anything about communication and, of course, plenty of fun.

Pros

  • Lots of team play
  • Energetic game play
  • Good for those who like to draw

Cons

  • No strategy
  • Drawing required
  • Loud game play

Best Classic Board Games

Scrabble

Scrabble
Rave Score: 100

First up in our ranking of the 30 best classic board games is Scrabble. In this simple but absolutely classic board game, players use lettered tiles to form words, crosswords style. The player that uses up all their letter tiles while spelling the most words with the highest point value wins the game.

Arrange your words strategically across squares assigned bonuses like triple word score, and maximize your score. Any words from the standard dictionary counts, but there are even Scrabble-specific dictionaries to get the creativity flowing.

Most of all, Scrabble encourages linguistic skills, developed vocabulary, good spelling, and imaginative associations between letters. The game also encourages numeracy and arithmetic skills for tabulating totals and keeping score. 

Pros

  • Easy to learn
  • Teaches vocabulary
  • Fun to play

Cons

  • Easy-to-lose pieces

Monopoly

Monopoly
Rave Score: 99.8

Next up in our ranking is one of the most easily-identifiable board games on the planet, Monopoly. As we wrote earlier, Monopoly has been around in one form or another since 1903, and is a must-have for any board game collection.

In this mult-player classic, players use a board, set pieces, two stacks of cards, and a bank of cash — the famous “Monopoly money” — to buy property, collect rent and succeed in this game-ified version of the American dream.

Players can land in jail and when a full board rotation is completed, you’ll collect $200.00. Players use their money to buy property or for property ownership upgrades like the iconic greenhouses and red hotels, but if renovations costs are due, this can also backfire.

Monopoly’s lessons extend into personal finance and interpersonal negotiations, basic arithmetic and risk management skills. One drawback to Monopoly, though, is games can last for hours.

Pros

  • Teaches personal finance
  • Tons of strategy
  • Lots of versions available

Cons

  • Long gameplay
  • Some find rules complex
Rave Score: 98.8

Third in our ranking of the best classic board games is Catan. In the award-winning game, players vie to successfully develop, manage, and earn victory points for the rich Island of Catan.

Resources such as lumber, wool, brick, or grain serve act as capital for players to begin settling their land, while development cards create Catan’s roads, cities, and settlements.

Achieving 10 victory points (amassed through owning settlements and cities and other achievements) dictates the winner.

The Washington Post called Catan “the game of our time.” The game is highly analytical, but along with advanced strategic and planning skills, it also involves the creation of narrative and story. 

This combination gives it a long list of skills that are developed across cognitive and emotional intelligence meters.

Pros

  • Short gameplay
  • Highly strategic
  • Expansion packs available

Cons

  • Needs at least 3 players
  • Frequently counterfeited
  • Not for all kids

Qwirkle

Qwirkle
Rave Score: 97.6

The award-winning Qwirkle takes fourth in our ranking of best classic board games. With a fresh approach to tile laying games, players work to create a ‘Qwirkle’ with tiles sharing common attributes of color or shape.

Players select six tiles and can lay up to 6 tiles in a single line on the playing space. As long as the tiles share common attributes, points are awarded. Players also have the option to exchange tiles (with the loss of a turn) to choose more tiles from the elusive stash. 

The player with the highest point tabulation wins. Overall, Qwirkle is simple to learn, but addictingly hard to master, like a mix between Tetris, puzzles, adversarial strategy, and geometric manipulation.

Pros

  • Easy to play
  • Family friendly
  • Good game for “non-gamers”

Cons

  • Lots of pieces
  • Instructions unclear for some
  • No storyline
Rave Score: 96.4

Rounding out the top five in our ranking of best classic board games is Risk, the game of military strategy. 

Appealing to players of all ages, Hasbro’s dice rolling Risk with themes of diplomacy and conquest and will go down in history as one of the most popular board games in history, with a major fan base.

Pieces range from foot soldiers to infantry to artillery, each assigned with increasing point totals. These pieces occupy and defend territory against other players. As one conquers an entire continent, a larger point per turn is rewarded. 

There are various options for shorter or longer gameplay, and players can test their luck in the game by opting for a dice-determined “battle” if they can match the set pieces in a territory.

Global war has never been so much fun and what seems to be a simple set of pieces and rules quickly becomes an intense test for critical reasoning, risk assessment, and strategic judgment. 

Risk also teaches basic geography and could serve a wonderful, albeit bellicose, introduction to world history.

Pros

  • Teaches world history
  • Lots of strategy
  • Faster gameplay in new editions

Cons

  • War themes
  • Not for kids under 10
  • Complex rules

Axis & Allies

Axis & Allies
Rave Score: 95.2

Next in our ranking is another board game based on military tactics, Axis & Allies. 

Loosely based on World War II, game play begins already immersed in wartime action, with Axis expansion at its peak and the major powers of the world teetering.

Game players must make critical decisions to attack, strategically enter territories, and ultimately liberate and take occupation of cities. 

With a complex board, cards, dice, coins and plastic military figures, games can become tactical battlefields in a way both history buffs and historical fiction fans will enjoy.

This award-winning game is honored for its high quality game play for up to 5 players. The game brings logistics and economics together seamlessly, with simple game play but enough variables to keep things interesting.

Pros

  • Simple game sequence
  • Adaptable gameplay
  • Good historical detail

Cons

  • Military themes
  • Long gameplay
  • Ages 12 and up
Rave Score: 94.8

The seventh game in our ranking is also RAVE’s pick for best board game for families. Since 1950, Clue has helped us all become detectives, as players gather information to successfully deduce who, where, and how the crime was committed. 

A mansion is the setting for the board and players move around rooms, hallways, and secret spaces as they evaluate suspects, determine which weapon was used, and where the crime was committed. 

The plot commences with secretly stashing one card from each category in a closed “fact envelope.” Players then roll dice to move around the mansion, stopping along the way to deduce the answer hidden in the envelope. 

Once a player feels confident they have answered the facts of the case, they venture to make an accusation. 

If they are wrong, they must sit out and effectively lose the game, but if they successfully solve the three components correctly, they become the winner.

While solving a murder, Clue is never graphic. The game teaches deductive reasoning, fact-based research skills, and story and plot development. It also encourages the development of significant strategic and critical thinking skills.

Pros

  • Teaches deductive reasoning
  • Interactive game play
  • Strong storytelling component

Cons

  • Repeated play tedious for adults
  • More players, more interesting
  • Mild themes of violence

Battleship

Battleship
Rave Score: 93.2

From humble beginnings as a pencil and paper game during World War I, eighth place in our ranking goes to the Battleship. The objective of this classic game from childhood is to successfully guess grid coordinates to target and eventually sink your opponent’s five ships. 

Each game comes with two units that function on an x/y axis, with small pegs plus boats of different sizes to model the action and keep track of the guesses. 

Hits disclose patterns that can help to triangulate the placement of the ship, and a crucial part of gameplay is ship placement. Clustered ships are often easy to locate yet the relatively small size of each grid makes it tricky to space out.

The game is an excellent exercise in working with a grid-based chart, which has applications in both geometry and mathematics. The game also requires attention to detail, and deductive thinking skills.

Pros

  • Requires deductive reasoning
  • Family friendly
  • Easy to learn

Cons

  • Too simple for some adults
  • War themes
  • Less popular new design
Rave Score: 92.8

With the next pick in our ranking, Jenga, one wrong move means it all could come tumbling down. The popular game features quick setup and easy play, allowing for young and old to stack and remove the signature rectangular wooden blocks. 

The stack of blocks seems uniform, but the careful Jenga player finds and feels for the more loose fitting pieces. Some may also risk removing more stubborn fitting pieces to strategically confound the opponent.

The game can be played between two players or more on a solid and stable table or floor surface.

As the game progresses the actual structure shifts and changes and the removal becomes more and more fragile and delicate as it all begins to totter. The balancing act makes for heightened drama as the game progresses. First player to cause collapse loses. 

Jenga teaches precise hand-eye coordination and a strategic sense of structure.

Pros

  • Teaches hand-eye coordination
  • Good for all-ages
  • Physically interactive gameplay

Cons

  • Too simple for some adults
  • Rambunctious game play
  • Requires flat surface

Trivial Pursuit

Trivial Pursuit
Rave Score: 91.3

Tenth spot in our ranking brings us to Trivial Pursuit, the game by which true trivia buffs are born.

The game allows for both single player or team play, and with six challenging categories spanning Geography to Sports and Leisure, the pursuit of knowledge has never been more engaging. 

The board itself is a circle with spokes connected to a central hub. Dice rolls determine advancement and, along with question cards, some spaces on the board allow for extra turns.

The player’s piece is sometimes called a “cheese” because it resembles a cheese wheel, with triangular sections to be filled when a section has been mastered. The player that fills their wheel first and answers a question inside the hub of the trivia wheel wins the game.

Variations of Trivial Pursuit abound, with questions adapted for younger players. And while general knowledge is required, memory and knowledge in specific subject matter is most often tested by repeated game play.

Pros

  • Builds knowledge
  • Simple gameplay
  • Kids versions available

Cons

  • Not much strategy
  • Trivia too hard for some
  • New versions too easy for some

Twister

Twister
Rave Score: 90.9

Limber up because Twister, the classic game in which players themselves serve as the key board game pieces is coming up next.

In Milton Bradley’s creative socializer, first released in 1966, a plastic mat serves as the board with six rows of circles in bold primary colors guiding the placement of hands and feet. 

The spinner assigns a limb to a color, which forces players to adapt to the spin and, of course, the other player’s bodies on the mat. A player who touches the mat with anything other than hands or feet is eliminated. 

Two player options make the game competitive. In this version no circle can be shared by two players — more than four players make it nearly impossible, but quite comical.

Twister tests physical flexibility and creativity in movement, as well as strength and endurance. The game also teaches social skills. Those who need tons of personal space may not enjoy it, but yoga practitioners may find it a fun application of their skills.

Pros

  • Very physically active
  • Simple concept
  • Good for all ages

Cons

  • Requires physical mobility
  • No strategy
  • Close contact required

Connect Four

Connect Four
Rave Score: 89.7

Connect Four, the twelfth game in our ranking of the best classic board games, employs simple logic, deduction, and abstract strategy. 

Game play begins by each player choosing a color side and one player launching one of their 21 colored disc pieces down the chosen column grid. 

The second player reacts to their opponent’s decision and makes strategic defensive or offensive moves. Blocking and holding your opponent at bay is part of the fun.

When one player is able to vertically, horizontally, or diagonally reach the coveted four connections, they are the winner and the slide trigger is released, sending all the pieces down to start again.

Quick paced and rapidly understood, this Hasbro mainstay is good for all ages. Although less technical in many respects than other heavy strategy and grid-based board games on this list, Connect Four is a gem.

Pros

  • Good for kids
  • Quick paced
  • Simple concept

Cons

  • No heavy strategy
  • Not technical
  • Sliding bar durability issues

Operation

Operation
Rave Score: 88.3

Up next is Operation. Playing the game, wannabe surgeons are commissioned to remove body parts from Cavity Sam, Milton Bradley’s whimsical patient with a red light-up nose. 

Players remove body parts without touching the electrically charged edges that buzz the failed end of the turn. Drawing a card, players use tweezers as ‘doctor’ or ‘specialist’ to treat twelve often funny and even absurd ailments.

Will Cavity Sam need his Adam’s Apple removed? Or maybe the Butterflies in his Stomach? Playing solo and testing your extraction skills is a challenge too. 

Each successful removal is rewarded with the dollar amount promised on the card. 

If a player fails and you are holding the specialist card for that piece, your success will be rewarded with double the dollar amount. The player with the most dollars wins.

Pros

  • Develops fine motor skills
  • Good for all ages
  • Tons of nostalgia points

Cons

  • Simple concept
  • No strategy
  • Frustrating for some

Yahtzee

Yahtzee
Rave Score: 87.6

Yahtzee, the next board game in our ranking, is a fixture on game shelves around the world. In the game, players shake and roll their way to a full house, straight or the elusive Yahtzee to generate the highest score and win. 

Yahtzee is not a difficult game to play — a scorecard, dice, shaker and writing utensil are the only apparatus needed in the game. After rolling the five dice players choose which scoring category they are vying for in that round. 

Each player has up to three shakes per turn to create the best scoring mix of that category. After thirteen rounds, the scores are tabulated and the winner is declared.

As much fun and passion as this game generates, it also involves quite complex mental operations involving probability and overall quantitative skills.

Pros

  • Teaches probability
  • Simple gameplay
  • Not a lot of pieces

Cons

  • Some kids lose interest
  • No pencil in new versions
  • Players get competitive
Rave Score: 86.3

One thing’s for certain, players won’t be sorry playing the Hasbro classic board game Sorry!  

In the game, up to four players or two teams of two draw cards to move their three pawns — borrowing from the classic chess piece shape — out of their safety area. 

It’s here where the negotiation and antics begin, as players target their opponents while racing around the game board. The objective is to make it all around and return to one’s home space first.

The original game version features four pawns per player, but an upgraded version was released in 2013, using only three pawns, along with new fire and ice tokens, which give your pawns additional strengths. 

The jumping and sliding, elementary counting, and probability all keep players returning to say Sorry! 

Pros

  • New versions available
  • Big nostalgia factor
  • Teaches probability and counting

Cons

  • Durability issues
  • Missing pieces reported
  • Classic dice “popper” eliminated

Hungry Hungry Hippos

Hungry Hungry Hippos
Rave Score: 85.4

For the sixteenth pick in our ranking we went with a classic from childhood, Hungry Hungry Hippos. Ok, we just keep telling ourselves the game is for kids when, in truth, this game is insanely fun for all ages.

In the game, the Hippos are always hungry for small plastic marble sized pieces. Press a lever to open your hippo’s mouth. Quick movement earns your hippo the most pieces and gives you the win. 

The game accommodates four players at a time, one hippopotamus per player. The mechanism is a simple spring loaded pressure system that extends the hippo’s telescopic neck out and up to then retract and “eat” the marbles.

Marbles collected are stored in a small receptacle area behind each hippo, directly under the lever mechanism. After the hippos consume all the marbles, players count their catch to determine the winner. 

In a mechanical era, the analog appeal of Hungry Hungry Hippos makes it a real treat to play.

Pros

  • Perfect for kids
  • Active play
  • Family friendly

Cons

  • Mechanical elements break
  • Rambunctious
  • Pieces too small for very young

Mouse Trap

Mouse Trap
Rave Score: 84.8

The objective of Mouse Trap, the next game in our ranking, is to avoid getting your mouse trapped. 

With over 80 total pieces in the game, players use cheese to negotiate and roll a dice to advance. Players take turns building the Mouse Trap while moving around the Rube Goldberg-style game board. Use the trap to capture opponents’ mice.

Cringe as the crank turns and watch the pieces start to fall, hoping to catch a mouse in the ultimate trap. The player with the final remaining mouse in the game wins. 

The game’s customizable, 3D elements combine creativity and building with the strategic elements of gameplay.

This fun board game is for up to 4 players; and perfect for players 6 and up. 

Pros

  • Customizable, 3D elements
  • Good for familIes
  • Rube Goldberg-style game board

Cons

  • Game board requires assembly
  • Lots of pieces to lose/break
  • Some durability issues

Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders
Rave Score: 83.2

In this children’s classic Chutes and Ladders, players roll dice to advance players across the board. Land on a space with a chute, and you barrel back down and away from the finish line. 

There are other pitfalls and shortcuts to keep the game exciting, and the graphical design makes Chutes and Ladders perfect for non-readers or a family-friendly game night.

Furthermore, game play lasts only about 30 minutes, which is ideal for young attention spans. A developmentally appropriate game for children, Chutes and Ladders teaches children counting and number recognition as they travel along the gameboard. 

The game also teaches progression and sequencing and even some classic lessons about life.

Pros

  • Teaches counting/numbers
  • Good for families
  • Simple gameplay

Cons

  • Too basic for adults
  • Issues with new board design
  • Issues in shipping
Rave Score: 82.8

Also known as The Game of Life, this classic game takes players through the chronology of an ordinary life span. With a small car for a game piece and a spinning wheel to advance, in the game up to eight players navigate life’s ups and downs.

Picking cards, players are faced with decisions like “getting married,” or adding small blue or pink pegs for “children.” A bank is featured in the game with cash denominations and insurance plans available for purchase. 

As players drive the road they’re faced with various conundrums. Planning well and good luck seals success or failure, a lot like life. 

Savvy decisions, moral choices and a little bit of luck are layered into strategic play. Some more recent updates try to reward good behavior to make the message of the game a bit more constructive.

Pros

  • Fun for all ages
  • Can be simple or complex
  • Updated versions

Cons

  • New versions no stocks/insurance
  • No more hills and bridges
  • Spinner issues

KerPlunk

KerPlunk
Rave Score: 81.3

Twentieth place in our ranking goes to KerPlunk! 

The objective of the game is to not let your marbles go … well, KerPlunk! 

The game takes place in a plastic cylindrical tube, which is divided into halves by a midsection of colored straws, or thin plastic rods, inserted through small holes in the plastic casing.

In this quick play family favorite, players carefully draw a straw from up to 30 straws, all the while careful to not disrupt the marbles above. Once a player touches a straw, they are required to pull it out. The player who completes the game with the fewest marbles in their trough wins. 

Up to four players can play at one time.

The game is strategic in the placement and choice of straws to draw, especially in relation to other players to follow. It also requires a degree of dexterity and fine motor skills to be successful.

Pros

  • Family friendly
  • Active play
  • Builds dexterity

Cons

  • Choking hazard
  • Not much strategy
  • Fine motor skills required

Trouble (and Double Trouble)

Trouble (and Double Trouble)
Rave Score: 80.1

The game is Trouble. 

To play the game, pop the dice in the center bubble — perhaps the most iconic part of the game — and maneuver your colored pieces around the board and back to safety.

The spaceship look of the board and the one-of-a-kind feel of the dice bubble give this game’s layout a futuristic look. 

Trouble begins with players identifying which color team they belong to, and then popping the center bubble to begin movement. In order to do this, they must pop a six on the dice. 

A six is necessary to initiate movement out of home base for subsequent pieces as well. Make it all the way around and return to home base before everyone else to win.

Quick paced and easy to learn, Trouble has been creating mischief since 1965 and has roots in the ancient Indian game of Pachisi. 

The game teaches basic lessons of numeracy and sequencing in a stable and straightforward game play setting, with perhaps the most satisfying dice throw of all the listed games.

Pros

  • Teach numeracy
  • Straightforward gameplay
  • Very nostalgic

Cons

  • Quality decline in new version
  • Shipping issues
  • Not much strategy

Candyland

Candyland
Rave Score: 79.8

Queen Frostine, Lord Licorice, and other delicious pals greet players as they walk the candy-colored roads of Candyland, the next pick in our ranking of best classic board games.

Candyland is a very simple game, but the aesthetics of the design as well as the theme of candy will inspire the imagination of young players. 

There is no real strategy required to play, just simple adherence to direction and the storyline will develop. 

The first player to reach the Candy Castle is the winner of Candyland.

Milton Bradley’s pleasant game has been an after dinner treat since 1949. With new versions retaining all the sweetness of earlier versions, this game is perfect for pre-readers with simple counting and a syrupy theme.

Pros

  • Good for pre-readers
  • Iconic design
  • Simple to play

Cons

  • No strategy
  • Too simple for adults
  • Sugary themes
Rave Score: 78.3

Can you build a Cootie? That’s the question the classic game Cootie has been asking since 1949. 

In the matching table-game targeted toward young children, players use dice to acquire pieces of the Cootie bug. Game play is determined by chance. Maybe best of all, the Cootie can double as a toy if patience runs out, especially with younger children.

An icon among 20th-century games, Baby Boomers remember Cootie from their own childhoods. For new players, The game teaches a highly-simplified lesson in anatomy and physiology, but most of all it provides children with a fun 3-dimensional object to race to completion. 

For younger children, hand-eye coordination and shape matching skills are developed as well.

Pros

  • Targeted to kids
  • Nostalgic for Baby Boomers
  • Cooties doubles as toy

Cons

  • Simple game play
  • Not for adult game nights
  • Game play determined by chance

Pie Face!

Pie Face!
Rave Score: 77.4

In this highly sought-after party pleaser, Pie Face!, players put their face into a cut-out frame. Then, after spinning a wheel and rotating a lever, one unlucky player will be randomly launched at with a “pie.” 

The pie can be shaving cream or the sweeter whipped cream option or the cleaner option of a wet sponge. The element of surprise and the drama of anticipation make this game highly entertaining and hilariously messy. 

It is not hard to tell who wins and loses, although good natured play makes winners of all involved. With elements of Russian Roulette, this game is family friendly, risking nothing but a messy, moist face. 

It is hard to expect to learn much or develop any unique skills playing Pie Face, but players attest it is highly therapeutic, stimulating tons of laughter. 

Since they say that laughter is the best medicine, if you’re in need of a lift in your spirits, try playing Pie Face! With some friends. With a smartphone you might have yourself a viral video to boot.

Pros

  • Lots of laughter
  • Silly game play
  • Family friendly

Cons

  • No strategy
  • Possibly messy
  • Adults may find too simple

You’ve picked out your game. The next step is to host a game night. Here’s how to take your game night skills to the next level.

How Do I Host a Game Night?

The first step to hosting a great game night is, of course, the game. Now that’s out of the way, here’s what else you need to know about hosting a game night at your place.

The first step in planning any game night is to invite people. I mean, kind of a no-brainer, right? A game night is going to need some players. But there’s a little more to inviting people to game night than you might expect. 

Here are some pointers about inviting people:

  • The question of kids. Will there be kids at your party, and if so, is the game you plan to play appropriate for kids? If not, will you have alternate activities ready to keep the little ones busy while the grownups play?
  • How many is too many?

Next question is, will there be enough players for the game you intend to play? Or, perhaps even worse, will there be too many players, leaving some people out? 

As you can see, inviting people to your game night is a little more complicated than it might seem. So another key point:

  • Timing is everything

Once your guests have arrived, don’t start the game right away. Let folks mingle a bit and get to know one another. 

Have finger food available for snacking (we’ll get into the best snacks for game night a little bit later on) and plenty of seating. 

Furthermore, have your gaming area cleared off in advance. You may also want to have a backup game available, just in case your guests and your first game choice don’t quite gel.

Most importantly, with any game night it’s important to remember the point is to have fun, no matter who wins. 

What Should I Serve for Game Night?

Now that you’ve invited your guests, it’s time to talk about snacks. Here are some easy snack ideas to serve at your next game night.

  • Chips and dip  

I mean, you can’t go wrong with chips and dip, right? There’s a reason this favorite is as popular as it is. It’s versatile, easy to prepare, easy to serve, and easy to eat. 

Great dip options include guacamole and salsa. If you do go the salsa route, have a few levels of spiciness available and make sure each is clearly labeled.

Have lots of napkins handy, though, because any finger food such as chips and dip is bound to get a little bit messy.

  • Charcuterie board

For a touch more sophistication, try a charcuterie board, a mixture of meats and cheeses and also possibly savory add-ons like olives or pickles, served with toothpicks. 

Go even further with a sliced baguette or crispy crunchy crackers.

  • Fruits and vegetables

Next, consider serving your guests a platter of sliced fruits and vegetables. Apples, grapes, and strawberries are always popular choices. 

And don’t forget some dip to go along with your vegetables. Just remember to have a variety of dressing options available for your guests because, believe it or not, not everyone likes ranch.

  • Grilled cheese

Game nights remind us of the comforts of home, and for many people, nothing says home like grilled cheese. Prepare some grilled cheese, cut into squares. 

Don’t be afraid to try some adventurous cheeses, and to complete the comforting mood, serve your sandwiches alongside some warm tomato soup for dipping. 

What Is the Best Board Game?

Now your party is planned, the only thing left to do is settle on a board game to play. We’ve presented to you plenty of board games to choose from, including both classic and contemporary games. 

But if you want to know which games rose to the top of our ranking, here’s your answer:

For a game night full of your adult friends, we say you won’t go wrong with Election Night!, our choice for best contemporary board game. This award-winning game of politics and current affairs teaches the finer points of the political process in a fun and family-friendly manner. 

For a classic board game that’s also suitable for an all-ages game night, choose Scrabble. A game that will be familiar to many from their own childhood, Scrabble is an easy (or as easy as you’d like it to be) word game where you spell words and score points. 

And remember, no vocabulary, no problem. Sometimes the shortest, most simple words in Scrabble score the most points. That is, if you’re strategic about where you place the word on the board. 

For a game night with kids, our pick is Clue, the classic game of deduction and reasoning. In the game, players eliminate iconic characters like Colonel Mustard from the suspect list, solving the crime to win the game. 

RAVE Recommends

Game chosen, invites sent, snacks prepared. What else do you need? Here are a few board game accessories no serious board gamer can do without. 

  • Top Shelf Fun Game Haul Carrying Bag: Make your game night portable with this padded board game carrying bag with handle and shoulder strap.
  • Board Game Pieces Storage Containers: Losing board game pieces is a real drag. Keep your game pieces organized with these storage containers, perfect for dice, token, and cards.
  • GAMELAND Board Game Table Cover: Prep your gaming surface with this anti-slip and noise-reducing rubber foam game table cover from GAMELAND.
  • Blulu Game Card Stands: Keep your cards close to chest with these multi-color game card stands, holding up to 36 cards. Perfect for your next game night party favor.
  • Piecekeeper Board Game Storage Bowls: Another great game piece organizational tool are these portable folding trays from Stratagem. Available in a variety of colors, these bowls are perfect for storage and transportation.