If you’re of a certain age you probably remember playing board games in a wood-paneled 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’ OK if you were; your secret’s safe with us.
So, what are the best board games of all time?
Truth is, folks have been playing board games for a very long time. Some games like chess and checkers have actually been traced back millennia.
Despite all the tech distractions these days, board games are as popular as ever. Maybe even more popular in the past decade, as families and friends rediscover board games as a great way to bond and have some fun.
Just remember to always read the rules, and no cheating!
Diving right in, let’s talk about the best board game of the past decade right up-front. Pandemic Legacy Season 1 is, without a doubt, the best board game of the 2010s.
It earned its spot for a variety of reasons, and you’ll have to keep reading to find out everything we liked about the game. But for now, suffice it to say this groundbreaking legacy game changes as you play it. There’s no gaming experience quite like a legacy game, and Pandemic takes the genre to the next level, as players race against time to save humanity from a rampaging virus. For suspense, strategy, and gameplay that develops as you play, there’s no better game than Pandemic.
So try it for yourself. Here are the best board games of 2010–2020 as well as a quick look at the best classic board games, going back to the 19th century and beyond. And if you’re looking exclusively for children-friendly board games, we’ve got you covered!
The Board Games of the Last Decade We RAVE About
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 three 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 time period as when 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.
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.
Traveling forward in time a few thousand years, 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.
The story goes that Monopoly was invented in 1903 by a woman and game designer named Lizzie Magie. At that time, the game wasn’t called Monopoly at all, but The Landlord’s Game. 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 that 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 of 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 first in our ranking of the best board games pre-1920).
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, featuring 10 of the very best games of the last decade.
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:
- 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.
10 Best Board Games of the Last Decade
Pandemic Legacy Season 1 (2015)
Not only is Pandemic Legacy Season 1 the best board game of the last decade, it’s one of the best legacy-style board games of all-time, according to Bryan Truong, founder of Game Cows, one of the web’s leading board game blogs. “It wasn’t the first legacy-style game,” Truong tells RAVE Reviews in an email, but it did elevate the board game subgenre into the mainstream. “It kicked off a huge craze of customizable board games and revolutionized how we look at the lifespan of a game,” he says.
Like the classic version of the game, played with two to four players, a virus is on the loose. In a race against time, the story arc morphs over the course of a year, with new challenges, objectives, and rules. Events are triggered and strategies revealed as tools are unlocked and characters develop. “A legacy game reacts and evolves as you play it,” Truong explains. If your character dies, they remain dead. If players fail to save a city, it’s scratched off the board. “You literally alter the components of the game as you play by writing, adding stickers, or straight up destroying pieces,” Truong continues.
“It is one of the most unique tabletop experiences I’ve had,” Truong says, and game designers Matt Leacock and Rob Daviau took all the lessons learned from the classic Pandemic and its expansions, weaving them together with incredible storytelling and tense gameplay. The game is suitable for ages 14 and up.
- Unlike any tabletop board game many have played
- Can be played with two players
- Epic twists
- Easy to miss a rule
Winner of one of the most prestigious awards in the gaming industry, the KennerSpiel des Jahres, or Connoisseur’s Game of the Year, Stonemaier Games’ Wingspan is the next board game in our ranking. It comes recommended to us by Kristen Seikaly, founder of Cats and Dice, a website dedicated to all things tabletop gaming. In the engine-building game, for one to five players, new and exotic birds are attracted to the aviary in one of three habitats. All the while, players gain food to feed birds in their aviary so that the birds will lay eggs, all while drawing from 170 beautifully illustrated bird cards.
“This game about collecting birds from 2019 has enough depth to engage serious board gamers while also having a welcoming theme for newcomers,” Seikaly says. “I personally love discovering new things about birds, each and every game from the beautiful and in-depth bird cards central to the game.” Wingspan also ranks near the top-20 in Boardgamegeek Top 100 Board Games of all time, she says. For ages 14 and up.
- Teaches you about birds; educational
- Has a solo mode
- Beautifully made!
- Bit of a learning curve
- Instructions unclear in some parts
- Cardboard dice tower a little low quality
It could be said the next board game in our ranking, Azul, from 2017, is a gateway to modern board gaming. In the game, players make the best tile mosaic wall they can on their personal board. Tiles are claimed and arranged to score points, and extra points are awarded for collecting tiles of the same color or for creating particular patterns. Penalties come from taking tiles a player can’t use, and strategy comes from choosing tiles that will benefit you while also limiting your opponent’s options on their next turn.
With simple rules and varied gameplay, this game for two to four players starts slowly, but tension soon builds as the board game fills up. Eventually, play becomes cutthroat as opponents are forced to take tiles leading to a loss of points while mitigating point loss on your own board. To play the game well requires critical thinking and the ability to plan ahead. Most learn the game in one round, but it takes time to build an effective strategy.
“I enjoy trying to beat my high score every time while also completing as much of the mosaic as possible while also completing as much of the mosaic as possible to rack up bonus points,” says Kristen Seikaly, of the board game blog Cats and Dice. For ages 8 and up.
- Good Youtube videos to learn gameplay
- Easy setup
- Tiles well made, build quality high
- Pieces not quite as pretty as on the box
- Several reports of shipping with damage
- Black scorekeeper block should be heavier/magnetized
The next pick in our ranking of the best board games of the last decade is Codenames, our pick for best party game of the last decade. In gameplay, two rival spymasters hold crucial information: the identity of 25 agents, otherwise known only by their codename. Playing with cards and a timer, teams are assigned a color. They then compete to uncover the true identity of each secret agent through single word clues. Additional objectives include guessing words matching the team color while avoiding colors of opposing teams. Just don’t encounter the assassin!
As well as parties, fans of the game call it a great choice for family game night, and it’s appropriate for ages 14 and up. It stands ups well under repeat play and is a little bit different each time. A Disney version of the game is another popular choice. Otherwise, Codenames is a great party game for those who still want to think, says Seikaly from Cats and Dice.
“This game is a favorite of mine for people who don’t play a lot of games and for those who enjoy word games,” she says.
- Harry Potter version available, among others
- Enhances thinking skills/problem solving/language
- Gameplay always different
- Not recommend for ESL
- Too hard for some kids
- Not much to the game, for some
Modern Art (2019)
Rounding out the top five in our ranking of the best board games of the last decade is Modern Art. For three to five players, this game turns art auctions into a competition. Through five different kinds of auctions, players bargain for the best deal using cards with beautifully rendered art masterpieces and an auctioneer’s gavel. Through gameplay, artists’ works gain value as they’re bought and sold. But what might be valuable one season, may not be as valuable the next season; track the trends to win the game. After four rounds of auctions, the player who’s amassed the most wealth for their museum is the winner.
Experienced gamer Jill Sandy of the lifestyle blog Constant Delights recommends the game. What she likes most of all is the mix of trade and negotiation at the heart of the gameplay. “I’ve played this game many times,” she says. It starts slow, she says, but as the pace increases, players can easily swing outcomes in their favor. “The game is well thought out,” she says. The game is appropriate for ages 14 and up, and the fan-favorite wooden auction gavel is new in the 2019 updated edition.
- Oversized cards depicting real works of art
- Every game a little different
- Twists change the game flow
- Too complicated for some
- Ran a little long for some groups
- Auctions can get tedious
Election Night! (2019)
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, a uniquely numbered 12-sided dice system. For family play, the system makes challenging math facts easier to learn through well-conceived gameplay.
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.
- Family friendly
- Versatile game play
- Award winning
- Rules complicated for some
We Rate Dogs (2019)
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. It’s also our choice for best board game of the last decade for kids.
Suitable for up to six players ages 8 and up, this fun, fast-paced card game has players 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, one category die, winner’s circle board, first player card, and player tokens.
- Fast paced
- Good for kids
- Family friendly
- Slow play with six players
- Simple concept
Oh My God, Stacy! (2019)
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 every day 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.
- Fast-paced game play
- Homage to `80s teen films
- Not for kids under 14
- Needs a lot of players
Donner Dinner Party (2017)
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. If you play 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.
- Fun and casual
- Dark sense of humor
- Easy for beginners
- Not a lot of strategy
- Adult themes
- Similar to other games
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.” For 2–5 players, ages 8 and up.
- Easy to learn
- Expansion packs available
- Always changing
- Beware of counterfeits
- Not much strategy
- Simple concept
Best Board Game of the 1990s
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 players to take notes. The broad range of skills needed to win may be silly but are sure to lighten the mood of any group willing to take it on for an evening.
- Uses a variety of skills
- Fast paced
- Rambunctious play
- Not for introverts
- Production quality in recent editions reported
- Trivia questions difficult
Best Board Game of the 1980s
Trivial Pursuit (1981)
Up next in our ranking is Trivial Pursuit, the game by which true trivia buffs are born and our choice for the best board game of the 1980s.
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 as well as themed versions. And while general knowledge is required, memory and knowledge in specific subject matter is most often tested by repeated gameplay.
- Builds knowledge
- Simple gameplay
- Kids versions available
- Not much strategy
- Trivia too hard for some
- New versions too easy for some
Best Board Game of the 1970s
Connect Four (1974)
Connect Four, employing simple logic, deduction, and abstract strategy, is our pick for the best board game of the 1970s.
Game play begins after each player chooses a color side and one player launches 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.
- Good for kids
- Quick paced
- Simple concept
- No heavy strategy
- Not technical
- Sliding bar durability issues
Best Board Game of the 1960s
Limber up, because we’re about to talk about Twister, the classic game in which players themselves serve as the key board game.
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 the players’ 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.
- Very physically active
- Simple concept
- Good for all ages
- Requires physical mobility
- No strategy
- Close contact required
Best Board Game of the 1950s
Although Scrabble technically came out in 1949, it rocketed to popularity in the 1950s, and is commonly considered among the best board games of the decade. In this simple but absolutely classic board game, players use lettered tiles to form words, crossword style. The player that uses up all their letter tiles while spelling words that give them the highest point value wins the game.
Arrange your words strategically across squares assigned bonuses like “triple word score,” and you 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.
- Easy to learn
- Teaches vocabulary
- Fun to play
- Easy-to-lose pieces
Best Board Game of the 1940s
Since the 1940s, Clue has helped us all become detectives, as players gather information to successfully deduce who, where, and how a crime was committed.
A mansion is the setting for the board. 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 deducted 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.
- Teaches deductive reasoning
- Interactive gameplay
- Strong storytelling component
- Repeated play tedious for adults
- More players, more interesting
- Mild themes of violence
Best Board Game of the 1930s
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 that give your pawns additional strengths.
The jumping and sliding, elementary counting, and probability all keep players returning to say Sorry!
- New versions available
- Big nostalgia factor
- Teaches probability and counting
- Durability issues
- Missing pieces reported
- Classic dice “popper” eliminated
10 Best Board Games Pre-1920s
Monopoly is the most easily identifiable board game on the planet. 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 multplayer 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 American-style capitalism–for better or worse.
Players can land in jail, and when a full board rotation is completed, you’ll collect $200. Players use their money to buy property or for property ownership upgrades like the iconic greenhouses and red hotels, but if renovation 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.
- Teaches personal finance
- Tons of strategy
- Lots of versions available
- Long gameplay
- Some find rules complex
Yahtzee (19th century)
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. And although the game of Yahtzee itself was patented in the 1950s, it’s based on dice games that were played in Germany at least as far back as the 19th century.
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 13 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.
- Teaches probability
- Simple gameplay
- Not a lot of pieces
- Some kids lose interest
- No pencil in new versions
- Players get competitive
A classic parlor game that’s been around in one form or another since at least the 1850s, Bunco is played with dice and a bell. Players team up and roll the dice, the first round, rolling for ones, second round twos, and so on. The objective being to get the highest score.
If someone gets a Bunco, or all dice in the current same denomination, they ring the bell, and the round stops. Then, simply trade partners and do it all over again. Pretty simple, but with Bunco, that’s kind of the point. Or rather, the point is to be social, to laugh, engage, and get to know other people at the party.
This combination of easy-to-learn rules and social interaction have both contributed to Bunco being one of the most enduringly popular games in our ranking. You can play with up to 12 players, and modern Bunco sets come complete with everything you need to get started. Appropriate for ages 8 and up.
- Very social, good for ice breakers
- Fun aesthetic game design
- Simple to learn
- Dice not weighted
- Included pencils wear out quick
- No strategy
Go (4,000 BCE)
The ancient Chinese game of Go is up next in our list of the best board games pre-1920s. Some estimate the game has been played in one form or another for the past 4,000 years! Played with pieces called “stones,” some white and some black, the objective is to surround an opponent’s stones on all orthogonally adjacent points. Once surrounded, the piece is captured, not unlike chess, and at the end of the game, those who’ve captured the most stones win the game.
Most modern Go sets come complete with a board, bakelite game pieces, or stones, and bowls to keep the pieces organized. Go is limited to two players, meaning it’s not the best choice for parties, but it’s easy to learn and fun to play for all ages. Sets don’t tend to come with rules, but plenty of online tutorials are available to help you get started, and for serious players, Go clubs exist in many communities around the world.
- Few gaming components
- Easy to learn
- One of the world’s oldest games
- Not a lot of variety in game play
- Game sets common, vary in quality
- Not a lot of strategy
Checkers (3,000 BCE)
Another classic game in our ranking is Checkers, sometimes called Draughts. Played since approximately 3,000 BCE, opponents use light- and dark-colored pieces in alternating turns to move to any unoccupied adjacent square. If an opponent’s piece is adjacent, but the square one beyond that piece is free, that piece may be “jumped,” or captured. That piece is no longer in the game.
After advancing across the board diagonally forward and reaching the farthest edge of the board, that piece becomes a “king,” designated by an additional game piece being placed on top. That piece can now move and capture backwards. Uncrowned pieces are called “men.” At the end of play, the players with the most pieces captured from the opponent wins. Fun for up to two players, Checkers is a great starting point for teaching kids 8 and up about strategy. Lots of different game sets exist of varying quality and varying size.
- Easy to learn
- Good for children
- Lots of game sets available
- Too simple for some
- Game sets vary in quality
- Some set pieces can’t “king”
One of the most iconic games in history is the sixth pick in our ranking of the 10 best board games since the 1920s. Chess is an incredibly complex game that many spend years mastering, but gameplay is versatile enough for whole families to enjoy. It’s too much to go into all the details of how to play chess here, but on a checkered game board, pieces based on medieval warfare such as kings, queens, knights, and castles engage in combat.
Each piece is limited in how it moves across the board, and, like Checkers, the objective is to “jump” your opponents pieces while also strategically pinning the opposing king. The player who has done so has won the game, though simplified versions are also fun in which the player who takes the most opposing game pieces wins.
Chess sets are traditionally wooden, as are the game pieces, but these days many are made from plastic or also high-end metals like brass. Picking up an adequate chess set can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose. The two-player game is generally considered suitable for ages 6 and up, but advanced play takes time—and those who gain mastery start young.
- As easy or as hard as you choose
- Tons of strategy to learn
- Popular game played for centuries
- Only two players
- Too hard for some
- Some sets can be flimsy
Played in China since at least the 1600s, rules to the ancient game of mahjong vary widely. Most commonly, though, the game involves both skill and chance. Played with a little more than 140 tiles representing Chinese characters symbols, the game uses dice to dictate the direction of the four winds as players take turns discarding tiles and picking new ones from the “wall.” When a player builds a valid “hand” with Mahjong tiles, that player wins, similar to the Western card game rummy. Many play the game with an element of betting.
These days, Mahjong sets are available in all sorts of styles and made from all sorts of materials — such as wood and plastic — and include extra chips, dice, pushers, and betting chips. Most come with bags to keep all the pieces organized. Four-player Mahjong is the most common way to play the game, though three- and even two-player Mahjong variations exist with their own sets of rules. The game is recommended for ages 12 years and older.
- Lots of different ways to play the game
- Quality tiles in more expensive sets
- Some sets come with carrying cases
- Some sets don’t come with all pieces
- Sets vary in quality
- Takes a while to learn to play well
Like many ancient games that continue to be played today, the modern version of Dominoes got its start in China around the 1800s, though mentions of the game go all the way back to the 12th and 13th centuries. There are a few different ways to play Dominoes. One common way is to shuffle the tiles and place them face down. After the tiles are shuffled, each player draws a domino.
The order in which the dominoes are drawn can vary, but the most common order is left to right. Most often, the first player sets their domino of choice on the board, and the next player matches the marks on the open side, or the side with matching “pips.” There are also a few different ways to score the game, but most often the game is over when one player runs out of dominoes. The total number of pips on the remaining dominoes in the opponent’s hand are subtracted from their final score.
Modern Dominoes sets are made from all sorts of material like plastic and wood, and it’s most often played with between two and four players. The game can be as simple or as complicated as you choose. It’s fun to explore different rules and order of play, but the simplest versions of the game can be fun to play with children as young as 5.
- Lots of nostalgia
- Easy for children to learn
- Rules vary
- Set quality varies widely
- Not a lot of strategy
- Not challenging enough for many
Backgammon (3,000 BCE)
Backgammon has been played in some form or another for about the past 5,000 years, and like a lot of games that have been around a long time, gameplay and rules related to Backgammon vary somewhat. Most often, though, the game is played between two people with a board, dice in a cup, and 15 checkers of different colors. A backgammon board consists of 24 triangles, called points or pips, divided into quadrants split between the home board and outer board, as well as an opponent’s home board and outer board.
After the checkers or pieces are arranged in a certain order on the board. Dice rolls dictate how far a checker can be moved, and the basic objective is to get all of one’s own checkers to the home board and then off the board entirely. Gameplay is limited to two players. Backgammon sets are common and vary widely in quality. Most sets are portable, coming with nice felt-lined carrying cases that include everything you need to get started. Backgammon is good for both young and old, but the game is generally recommended for ages 14 and up.
- Most sets portable
- Some sets become family heirlooms
- Good for a broad age-range
- Limited number of players
- Set quality varies
- Too hard for some children
Uncle Wiggly (1916)
Based on a series of children’s books, Uncle Wiggly was first published by Milton Bradley in 1916. A racing game in the “Goose Game” style, there isn’t much strategy involved to play the game other than moving along the board from Uncle Wiggly’s Bungalow to Dr. Possum’s house based on the random draw of a card. To begin the game designed for two to four players, four game pieces are placed at Uncle Wiggly’s Bungalow. The first player draws a yellow card from the deck and follows the instructions on the card, moving forward.
Sometimes the card instructs a player to draw a red card, which can instruct the player to move forward or a certain number of spaces backward. When a player reaches Dr. Possum’s House, that player has won the game. Although there’s not much strategy, and the game may not remain interesting to adults for very long, Uncle Wiggly features classic design and is a great way to introduce children to the basic concept upon which many modern board games follow.
- Fun vintage design
- Easy to play
- Good for all ages
- Too simple for some
- Not much strategy
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 them? If not, will you have alternate activities ready to keep the little ones busy while the grownups play?
How many is too many? Basically, 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.
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 sandwiches
Game nights remind us of the comforts of home, and for many people, nothing says home like a grilled cheese sandwich. Prepare some grilled cheese sandwiches 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 of the Last Decade
To bring you the best board games of the last decade, we polled experienced gamers from some of the web’s leading game blogs as well as our own exhaustive research. If you’re on the clock and your turn is next, here’s a quick rundown of our findings, broken down into the following categories: best overall, best for parties, and best for kids.
Ranking first in the best overall board game of the last decade category is Pandemic Legacy Season 1 from 2015, which brought legacy-style board games to the mainstream. Unique to legacy-style games, the rules, strategy, even the game board itself changes as the game progresses, a little like a movie, as players race against time to save the world and themselves from a deadly virus. That game is ever-evolving, and one thing is for certain: It’s impossible to play Pandemic Legacy Season 1 the same way twice.
A great game for parties needs to be light on rules and heavy on social interaction — and most of all fun. We found that game with Codenames, also from 2015. In the game, undercover teams match wits with two rival spymasters to discover the real names and identities of 25 secret agents, using single-word clues. Codenames is heavy on teamplay and quick-witted action, but most of all, the game will provide just the right amount of fun, breaking the ice at your next party.
Kids need games that are fast-paced and easy to understand. After our own thorough research, and after consulting a variety of gaming experts, we settled on We Rate Dogs as the best board game of the last decade for kids. Rating cute dogs in competition at a dog show on six adorable categories, including floof, sass, “boopability,” zoom, ears, and wag, We Rate Dogs recreates the dog-show experience where every dog’s a winner.