The 7 Best Board Games for Adults in 2021

Break out one of these picks for a competitive night of fun

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Skip the Netflix marathon—instead, give your eyes a rest from screen time and bust out the board games. There’s nothing more old-school than spending an afternoon indoors battling it out over good, clean fun. And, lucky for you, games have come a long way since your childhood—there are plenty of complex, creative, and funny games to play with your family and friends.

Whether you're hosting a dinner party, or simply enjoying a relaxing night in with your loved ones, board games are a sure-fire way to stir up your competitive side. We rounded up some of the best board games around that are challenging and engaging for just about any at-home gathering or your next date night

Here, the best board games for adults that you'll want on hand at home.

Our Top Picks
Strategy and tactical thinking are the most important qualities to have when playing this beloved game of civilization building.
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The master edition of this classic game pumps up the competition with 3,000 questions on new topics like pop culture and technology.
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With rounds of just fifteen minutes, this strategy game asks players to build the most beautiful (and high-scoring) quilt.
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The hardest part of this game isn't the game itself, but the levels of strategy, deduction, and deception involved.
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Best Cooperative:
Z-Man Games Pandemic at Amazon
Great for up to four players, this game relies on creative problem solving and teamwork to help protect the world from outbreak.
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A remix on the well-loved original, it includes fun details like Gold Dragons-themed currency and Iron Throne cards.
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This visually pleasing game is engaging but also fairly slow paced, allowing for more conversation and less competition.
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Best Overall: Catan Studio Settlers of Catan: Family Edition

catan-family-edition

Settlers of Catan has been translated into over 30 different languages, so it’s safe to say this one appeals to a range of audiences. This adventure-based board game requires players to battle it out to collect resources and build the biggest settlements on the island of Catan. The board is made up of 19 hexagonal tiles that are arranged randomly at the beginning of each game—making sure that no two games are ever the same.

Each player gets color-coded settlement, road, and city pieces, and earns “victory points” as they build various structures. The first player to ten points wins the game, which relies on tactical thinking and decision making. While it is competitive, it ends up pitting players against the game rather than each other. The manufacturer suggests players be 8 years of age, but we think teaming younger players with older ones works well, too.

Best Trivia: Hasbro Gaming Trivial Pursuit

Hasbro Gaming Trivial Pursuit

Sometimes the classic games are the best games, and Trivial Pursuit is a party game that’s stood the test of time, since it covers an array of interesting topics like geography, history, art, alliteration, science, sports, and leisure. It’s accessible to teens, adults, and older players alike—though all generations definitely won't know all of the answers.

The objective of the game is for players to progress around the board by answering trivia questions correctly and earning wedges. The Master Edition includes over 3,000 challenging questions on new topics like entertainment, pop culture, and modern technology. Manufacturer suggests players be ages 16 and up and up to six players can play at once, with the option of creating teams to accommodate larger groups.

Best Two-Player: Mayfair Games Patchwork Board Game

Mayfair Games Patchwork Board Game

Patchwork is a great game for creatives. Players are tasked with designing a beautiful quilt out of interesting textile tiles. It’s a two-player game that’s interesting and short enough to keep players engaged and having fun. The game challenges players to strategically collect pieces, but not all pieces fit together.

The rules are simple and each round takes about 15 minutes with each round typically being close in competition. It’s not an overly competitive game, so it’s nice for couples and anyone who doesn't want to get their heart rate up playing a board game. It’s also a visually appealing board game, which makes it nice to have out on display or keep out at a large party as an activity for small groups to do.

Best Strategy: Indie Boards and Cards The Resistance

Indie Boards and Cards The Resistance

Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of The Resistance, it’s a fast-paced board game that relies on strategic thinking. This game pits friends against one another as everyone is forced to scheme and lie to further their progress. The game has a total of five rounds, and in each round, a player becomes the leader and sends players on a mission. If a mission fails, then someone on the team is forced to become a Corporate Spy and routing out these spies is the objective of the game.

It’s a game of strategy, deduction, and good ol’ deception. Each round takes less than thirty minutes. Game plays up to ten, and this one is definitely a “the more the merrier” game to keep tensions high. The game is simple, but the real game is not the game itself, it’s up to the players to be strategic to develop their own secret identity and attempt to suss out the fellow spies through social deduction. 

Best Cooperative: Z-Man Games Pandemic

Z-Man Games' Pandemic

This high-stakes board game requires a healthy degree of prioritization, communication, teamwork, and creative problem solving. Everyone gets the chance to participate as all players win or lose together in their battle to protect against a worldwide outbreak.

Despite the game’s challenging premise, it’s easy for players to get engaged as each player has a special ability to help cure the pandemic. Part of the fun of this game is developing a strategy as a team and deliberating among each other to figure out what the best approach is and how to best utilize their special abilities making it also great for teambuilding. For instance, should you tackle one strain of disease before moving on to the next or do you attempt to contain an outbreak first? Each game lasts about 45 minutes and is great for groups of 2-4 players.

"The captivating storyline drew us in and sparked intense emotions." —Sarah Vanbuskirk, Product Tester

Best Competitive: USAOPOLY Monopoly Game of Thrones Board Game

USAOPOLY Monopoly Game of Thrones Board Game

Monopoly is a classic, highly competitive game that can take anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to complete and accommodates groups as small as two and as large as eight or more, depending if you want to team up. Monopoly’s Game of Thrones edition is entirely customized, but the premise is similar to the original—race to conquer the board, develop properties, and bankrupt your opponents. However, players can choose from GOT themed tokens including, a Dragon Egg, the Three-Eyed Raven, a White Walker, a Direwolf, the Crown and The Iron Throne.

The game ends when a player owns enough properties to bankrupt opponents. This version includes GOT locations, and replaces traditional hotels and houses with villages. Instead of Chance & Community Chest Cards, there are The Iron Throne Cards and Valar Morghulis and the iconic Monopoly money is replaced with Gold Dragons Themed currency.

Best Icebreaker: Plan B Azul Board Game

Azul Board Game

A good icebreaker is fast-paced and easy to learn. That’s why we like Azul. It’s a short, engaging game that requires some strategy. The objective of the game is to place tiles on the board and score points, and completion of specific sets are more valuable than others.

This is a good icebreaker because it’s a game that’s more of a puzzle, or color-themed crossword, than a head-to-head challenge. The relaxing nature of the game offers players the opportunity to focus on an activity while also engaging in conversation. It’s less about being competitive and more about pattern making.

There is a max of four players per game, and because each round moves quickly, you can also create teams by rotating to accommodate larger groups. The design of the game is also visually pleasing which makes it a great gift for friends and family.

What to Look for in a Board Game For Adults

Strategy

Many board games for adults have more sophisticated rules, but that doesn’t mean they have to be so complicated it makes you want to quit before you even begin playing. Opt for games that are both easy to understand and quick to explain (so you don't spend half of the night reading the rules) but still require some serious strategy skills. All the options above fit into both categories: easy to explain and challenging to play.

Number of Players

Games that can accommodate both two players and many players are ideal. While family-friendly games may be designed for more players so all the kids can get involved, many board games for adults are meant to be fun and competitive with as few as two players. Of course, there are party-style games that are great for a crowd, but if it’s just you and a friend playing, choose one of the options built to challenge groups of two.

Humor

Who doesn't love to laugh and let loose? Thankfully, many adult board games include an aspect of humor and wit. Unlike games for kids that may play on silly humor or outrageous outcomes, the humor of a board game for adults is usually developed with a more mature audience in mind—one that can appreciate irony or agonize over embarrassment. Look for a game that's aligned with your humor, and you'll be much more likely to play often.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written and researched by Meredith Hurd, who focuses on digital marketing and copywriting for wellness brands and tech start-ups. Additional research was done by Megan McCarty, a writer for The Spruce and MyDomaine with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.

Updated by
Megan McCarty
Megan McCarty
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er, with over 13 years of experience in both print and digital media. She regularly contributes to design-focused outlets such as MyDomaine, Architectural Digest, Domino, House & Home, and Hunker.
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