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When it comes to entertaining at home, board games are one of the most underrated activities—especially for parties. No matter the number of people, age, interest, or even level of familiarity amongst one another, there’s a board game that’s perfect for livening up any gathering. From family- and kid-friendly games to options better suited for adults, there's something for everyone on this list.
Here, the best party board games that you can buy.
Best Overall: Catan Studio Settlers of 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 a 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. It 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 at least 8 years old, but pairing younger players with older ones works well, too.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Czech Games Codenames
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, and it’s easy to pick up by players 10 and older. To play, the two teams race to identify their “agents” with the help of one-word clues from the team’s “Spymaster.”
Codenames is called “deceptively awesome” by reviewers, who love that it’s easy to learn, lots of fun, and great for groups. If you only pick up one board game for your next party, make it Codenames.
Best for Adults: Days of Wonder Ticket To Ride
Ticket to Ride was awarded the International Gamer's Award in 2005. The game is a cross-country adventure from Germany that requires critical thinking and strategy. This version is better for adults as the rules are slightly more complex. The goal of the game is to build train tracks across North America, and players who build the longest train and claim the most tracks from one major city to another are awarded points.
Reviewers love that there are multiple different strategies, so each game feels unique and exciting. Games last about 30 minutes so you'll have enough time to play several rounds in one night. It’s also a great choice for those who love strategy games but may not have the patience or understanding of a more advanced game like “Risk." It also comes in a variety of age levels and themes to accommodate different crowds.
Best for Kids: Days of Wonder Ticket to Ride: First Journey Board Game
First Journey is the junior version of the original board game, “Ticket to Ride." 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 Icebreaker: Z-Man Games Pandemic
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. Each game lasts about 45 minutes and is great for groups of two to four players.
Best for Families: Hasbro Gaming Monopoly Classic Game
Looking for a classic game that the whole family can enjoy? 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 brand 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 eight players.
Best Two-Player: Gen42 Hive
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 castles, 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
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.
Best Murder-Mystery: Hasbro Clue
It’s often old-school favorites that wind up as a common go-to. So it’s no surprise that when it comes to murder-mystery, Clue is the classic “who done it” detective game that’s sure to entertain a wide variety. Perfect for 2-6 players, 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.
Type There are all sorts of party games, from quiet ones perfect for sitting around a table to action-oriented options that‘ll have everyone on their feet. When picking which type you want, consider how much space you’ll have to play as well as who you’ll be playing with.
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.
Number of players 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-size games on hand is always a good idea, too.