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When it comes to entertaining at home, board games tend to be one of the most underrated activities that keep large parties engaged.
We researched the best party board games, considering the number and age of the players, time commitment, and difficulty level of each. Our favorite pick is Settlers of Catan: Family Edition. The strategy-based game is challenging, fun, and has a high replay value.
Here are the best party board games.
Best Overall: Catan Studio Settlers of Catan: Family Edition
Quicker setup than original
Not as extensive as the original
What do buyers say? 89% of 500+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.
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 a color-coded settlement, road, and city pieces, and earns “victory points” as they build various structures. The first player to 10 points wins the game. The game relies on tactical thinking and decision-making, and while it is competitive, it ends up pitting players against the game rather than each other.
Users love the more family-friendly version of the classic game but note that it is definitely not as extensive as the original. Still, there are plenty of opportunities to replay this pick and try out different strategies and methods.
Best for Large Groups : Czech Games Codenames
Fun spy theme
Helps with vocabulary and word association
Multiple ways to play
Not as enjoyable with two players
One of the most popular board games today is Codenames. Described as a “social word game,” Codenames receives ample praise for its unique, easy-to-pick-up gameplay. You can play Codenames with any number of people, easily accommodating large groups by breaking into teams. To play, the two teams race to identify their “agents” with the help of one-word clues from the team’s “Spymaster.”
Best Icebreaker: Z-Man Games Pandemic
Great way to get to know players
Interesting and engaging premise
Can be difficult to grasp at first
This high-stakes board game is a great icebreaker and requires 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 because each player has a special ability to help cure the pandemic. Part of the fun is developing a strategy as a team and deliberating amongst each other to figure out what the best approach is and how to best utilize everyone's special abilities.
Best for Adults : All Things Equal Adult Loaded Questions
Great for getting to know each other
Card/board game hybrid
Some topics may be inappropriate for young players
Get any party started with a board game designed to answer loaded questions. This card/board game hybrid challenges adults to answer hilarious questions while one player picks their favorite and tries to match the players to their answers, making for hours of eye-opening fun.
Beware that many of the topics discussed in these questions are not suitable for children or for those who get offended easily. But, this game will look completely different depending on the group playing, making for a high replay value.
Best Murder-Mystery: Hasbro Clue
High replay value
Suitable for various ages
Teaches deduction and critical thinking
Not the highest quality pieces
Clue is the classic “who done it” detective game that’s sure to entertain a wide variety. The objective is for players to solve who was murdered, where they were murdered, and with what weapon.
The answers remain in a confidential folder while players move room to room in a mansion and are dealt character, location, and weapon cards. These cards are then used to make an accusation against other characters to uncover clues about who the killer is, the scene of the crime, and the weapon. Through deductive reasoning, players attempt to solve the mystery by guessing all three correctly to win.
Best for Teens : Repos Production Concept
Easy to teach and learn
Requires critical thinking
Some reviewers can do without the scoring system
Sleepovers for teens or late nights in a college dorm room require a fun and challenging party game that challenges critical thinking while still being simple to learn. Concept is just that. The interactive guessing game challenges players to decode icons on the game board to discover their true meaning.
Players work in teams and earn points as they discover words and phrases, but you can also forego the scoring system and simply test your communication and deduction skills.
Best for Kids: Days of Wonder Ticket to Ride: First Journey Board Game
Easy to learn
Still strategy based
Engaging for kids
May be difficult for little ones to hold all the cards required
Similar to the adult version, First Journey requires critical thinking and strategy, but this board is an updated map with simplified game rules to accommodate younger players.
Players race to collect train cards, claim routes, and try to connect cities coast-to-coast before their fellow players do. The game ends when one player claims the Golden Ticket by completing six tickets. It’s a game that encourages long-term planning and careful monitoring of your progress and the progress of those around you. Games last about 30 minutes and are easy enough to understand, but it's engaging and challenging enough to keep kiddos interested.
Best for Families: Hasbro Gaming Monopoly Classic Game
Teaches basics of money
Perfect for the whole family
Not exactly the same as the original version
This slightly updated edition of Monopoly has the same premise as the original—race to purchase property and amass more than your opponents. Players still have the opportunity to purchase property and charge one another rent, and the game ends when you own enough properties to bankrupt your opponents.
This version includes a few new upgrades, though. For example, the addition of Monopoly Cards (these cards are replacing Chance and Community Chance Cards) which are essentially the same but the new "Location spots" allow you to pay to move to any space on the board. And, for those who remember getting stuck with the less-than-exciting thimble, shoe, or wheelbarrow tokens, this version features a few new tokens (a Rubber Ducky, T-Rex, and Penguin). This highly competitive, family-friendly game can take several hours to complete and can be played with two to six players.
Best Two-Player: Gen42 Hive
High-quality board and pieces
Easy to learn
Not all expansions included
When hosting a party, it’s fun to have games that can act as an icebreaker for two people that aren't well acquainted. Hive is a great two-player game that’s simple to learn but also involves some strategy. It's similar to chess, but instead of knights, bishops, and rooks, the pieces are garden insects.
Each player controls an army of bugs—ants, spiders, grasshoppers, and more—that are tasked with protecting their Queen Bee. Like chess, each piece has its own distinct movement style and players have two choices per turn: They can either play a tile from their supply or move an existing tile on the board. The goal of the game is for one player to surround the opposing Queen and prevent her from making a move. Overall, Hive is a fun game that requires both strategy and critical thinking.
Best Competitive: Stonemaier Games Scythe Board Game
Fun and competitive
High replay value
May be too difficult for casual players
Scythe is a great alternative for Settlers of Catan fans looking to switch it up. Scythe is a game set in a 1920s dystopian city known as “The Factory." Each player assumes the role of fallen leaders of different nation-states with hidden objectives, all vying for territory by attempting to enlist new recruits, collect resources, build infrastructure, and add villagers. Players begin with different resources, their choice of several abilities, and a hidden goal.
To play the game, players draw from encounter cards and combat cards to move. In the end, the score is determined by a player’s global achievements, and the game ends after a player completes six specific objectives. This is a game of strategy, so those who enjoy the narrative aspect of Catan will find Scythe to be a refreshing yet slightly familiar game.
What to Look for in a Party Board Game
Number of Players
Since nobody wants to sit on the sidelines, it's important to find a game that can accommodate everyone. Some games can be played with as few as two players while others are better with a large crowd. When picking your game, double-check the size of the party you’re hosting as well as the age of your attendees. Having several different games on hand is always a good idea, too.
Type of Players
Before you select the perfect game, think about your pool of players and consider their age and comprehensive levels. As a general rule of thumb, look to the age requirements on the box. More times than not, that will let you know whether a game is family-friendly or adult-approved.
Level of Competition
Some games have higher stakes than others. Think about if you really want to challenge your guests or if you just want them to have a good time. Some games may combine both aspects, but in general, those that require strategy and knowledge will fire up the competitive stakes the most.
Anyone who has ever played Monopoly or Settlers of Catan knows it can take the entire night to complete one game. However, you can complete a round of Clue in no time. Before you select a game, consider whether this is the main event or a clever way to pass the time.
When did party board games become popular?
There's a reason why board games are a staple of entertaining and leisure time. Research suggests that the first iteration of board games was born over 5,000 years ago in what is now southeast Turkey. However, the board games we know and love today started to become popular during the 19th and 20th centuries. During the early 1900s, activist Elizabeth Magie created the Landlord's Game, which would eventually become Monopoly.
How should I introduce board games at a party?
Board games are a great way to break the ice—especially when the rest of your guests don't know each other. Once your visitors have arrived, pull out a bunch of games and ask the party if they have any preferences. (A great way to transition the conversation is to say, "Dinner will be ready in about an hour. Want to play a quick game?")
Where should I buy party board games?
The good news is that you can buy a great party board game just about anywhere. While online retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart are treasure troves for endless fun, smaller toy stores will also have their fair share of board games.
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 startups. Additional reporting was done by Julia Fields, a lifestyle writer for The Spruce covering all things surrounding toys, gifts, and the holidays. She's also covered similar topics in other roles, including toy reviews, product roundups, interviews with experts, and more.