The 15 Best Board Games for College Kids in 2021

These options are clever, challenging, and engaging

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The next time you send your college kid a care package, toss in a board game along with those extra socks and packs of ramen. Not only are they a great excuse to take a break from a screen, but they're also a natural way to encourage socializing.

Kids and young adults in this age group can tackle mentally challenging games, but it can be tricky to find themes that appeal to them (hint: pop culture tie-ins can help!). Board games are also a great way to get your teenager talking: in between rounds on family game night, you might find them feeling relaxed enough to share a few details about what's going on in their lives. For extra insight on board games, we also consulted toy expert Amanda Gummer of The Genius of Play to help narrow down our search.

Here, a list of board games guaranteed to please young adults, college kids, and any crowd of 20-somethings.

Our Top Picks
Devious people come together to find out who the werewolf is to avoid casualties.
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Catan is a classic strategy game that will never go out of style.
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A more mature twist on the hilarious combination of telephone and Pictionary.
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This beautifully illustrated board game has rival wolf packs competing to become The Alpha.
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In this challenging game, guess who came first to win.
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Try to figure out all of the mystery spies with just one-word clues.
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You don't even need to have watched the movie to enjoy this challenging board game, which can be played with 3-5 players.
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A fun play on the classic, this special edition game features locations and themes inspired by Marvel's Black Panther.
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A beloved game for the 20-something crowd that's hilarious, easy-to-learn, and quickly draws a crowd.
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There's a nice mix of questions, so no one will feel excluded from the fun, and the content will appeal to a range of ages.
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Stellar Factory Werewolf: A Party Game for Devious People

Stellar Factory Werewolf: A Party Game for Devious People

Number of Players: 7-35 | Duration: 15-90 minutes | Recommended Age: 12 years and up

What We Like
  • Suitable for large parties

  • Portable

  • Easy setup

What We Don't Like
  • Need a lot of people to play

When searching for the perfect party game that everyone at your gathering can play together, look to Werewolf, which can accommodate up to 35 players in one round. In this take on the classic card game Mafia, each player gets a character card and must keep their identity a secret. The game moderator then instructs everyone to close their eyes except for the werewolf, who chooses a player to "kill." Then, through lies and deceit, the rest of the characters must come together to determine who the werewolf is, before any other casualties occur.

Catan Strategy Board Game: 5th Edition

Settlers of Catan 5th Edition Board Game

Number of Players: 3-6 | Duration: 60-90 minutes | Recommended Age: 10 years and up

What We Like
  • Easy to replay

  • Many opportunities for player interaction

  • Anniversary edition offers a new, sleek design

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers reported missing pieces in their set

This classic strategy game will never go out of style and is equally fun for adults and kids over 10 years old. Players attempt to trade, build, and settle on the island of Catan in order to build their civilization and earn victory points. With a completely variable board, the possibilities for replay are endless and for a completely new experience, add on an expansion pack for new trials, elements, and ways to play. This game prioritizes player interaction, so it's perfect for family game nights or birthday parties.

Telestrations After Dark Adult Party Game

Telestrations After Dark Adult Party Game

Number of Players: 4-8 | Duration: 15 minutes | Recommended Age: 17 years and up

What We Like
  • Easy to grasp direction

  • Minimal equipment needed

  • Hilarity sure to ensue

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers preferred the original version

The iconic combination of telephone and Pictionary get an adult upgrade with Telestrations After Dark. The rules are simple: One player draws what they see, and the next guesses what they saw for a hilarious repeating cycle each turn. Now, the 100 prompts are specifically designed for players aged 17 and older for a more mature, but still outrageous time. For even more ways to play, snag an expansion pack that has different themes suitable for the whole family.

Bicycle The Alpha

Bicycle The Alpha

Number of Players: 3-6 | Duration: 45 minutes | Recommended Age: 10 years and up

What We Like
  • Beautiful and accurate illustrations

  • Fast-paced

  • Lots of opportunity for player interaction

What We Don't Like
  • Found to be more fun with larger groups

Lead your wolf pack to claim territory, search for food, and hunt prey in this light strategy game from Bicycle. Players send their packs to various regions with the ultimate goal of becoming The Alpha. When encountering a rival pack, you can choose to fight or share, but only one pack will come out on top. One of the coolest touches of this game is the highly detailed illustrations done by a park ranger in an effort to be extremely accurate to wolves in nature. Thus, even when not in use, The Alpha makes a beautiful addition to any game collection.

Buffalo Games Chronology

Buffalo Games Chronology

Number of Players: 2-8 | Duration: 20 minutes | Recommended Age: 14 years and up

What We Like
  • Learn something new while playing

  • Simple instructions

  • Easily portable

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers found the game more educational than enjoyable

See if you can accurately build your own timeline with random historical events like the invention of mayonnaise, or the Gettysburg Address to claim victory in Buffalo Games' Chronology. Each player draws a card and tries to decide where that event fits within the timeline of their other cards. If they are correct, they keep the card and their timeline grows. The first timelines of 10 cards wins in this portable and historical card game.

Number of Players: 2-8 | Duration: 15 minutes | Recommended Age: 10 years and up

What We Like
  • Simple instructions

  • Suitable for large and small groups

  • Quick gameplay

What We Don't Like
  • Can grow repetitive after multiple gameplays

This top secret word game is a perfect choice for game nights as two rival teams compete to determine the identities of 25 agents known only by codenames. Two spymasters give one-word clues that could point to multiple words on the board while teammates try to guess words of the right color, while avoiding those on the opposite team. This game is quick, so you can play multiple rounds with different teams in one night and get a new high-energy experience each time.

Prospero Hall The Shining Board Game

The Shining

Number of Players: 3-5 | Duration: 45-60 minutes | Recommended Age: 17 years and up

What We Like
  • Recognizable theme

  • Two different play modes

  • Comes with Room 237 keychain that can be repurposed

What We Don't Like
  • Rules can seem complex at first

The beauty of this board game is that you don't even need to have seen the iconic horror movie to have fun playing it (of course, if you have watched the movie recently, it will be even more satisfying.) The design is refreshingly retro (down to the room 237 keychain), and teens will enjoy working together to survive the long winter months at the Overlook Hotel. To do so, they'll have to visit certain locations, perform specific actions, and, of course, avoid becoming corrupted by those pesky supernatural forces that took down Jack Nicholson in the film.

Monopoly: Black Panther Edition

Monopoly: Black Panther Edition

Number of Players: 2-6 | Duration: 20-180 minutes | Recommended Age: 8 years and up

What We Like
  • Recognizable characters

  • Classic gameplay

  • Perfect gift for any Marvel fan

What We Don't Like
  • Some reviewers reported missing pieces

Grown weary of the classic Monopoly set? This version has the same rules and basic concepts, but with the exception of the original finger-pointing "Go to Jail" policeman, the design has gotten a Black-Panther–themed refresh. The tokens include a mask, helmet, blade, gauntlet, and spear, and Marvel fans will recognize movie locations such as the Warrior Falls' challenge pool and the Hall of Kings. The Chance and Community Chest cards have been replaced with Kimoyo Beads and Herb cards, but they will still force you to complete actions like handing over money or going to jail. Players will need to make alliances as they build villages and establish strongholds, and the object of the game is to finish flush with cash after everyone else has gone bankrupt.

Mattel Games Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples

Number of Players: 4-10 | Duration: 30-75 minutes | Recommended Age: 12 years and up

What We Like
  • Great for large groups

  • Can add different decks for more ways to play

  • Easily replay-able

What We Don't Like
  • Some pop culture references are more suitable to older players

Apples to Apples is so beloved by the teen and 20-somethings–many families use it as the gold standard by which they judge all other board games. In this dorm-pleaser, players are dealt seven nouns—places, faces, or pop culture icons—and compete to pair them with an adjective card supplied by a highly subjective judge, who awards points based on entertainment value. The result is a hilarious, easy-to-learn game that quickly draws a crowd.

University Games Smart Ass

Smart Ass

Number of Players: 2-6 | Duration: 15-30 minutes | Recommended Age: 12 years and up

What We Like
  • Suitable for various ages

  • Fast paced

  • Great option for quick gameplay

What We Don't Like
  • Can end quicker than desired

For a trivia game that's fast-paced, fun, and educational, look no further than Smart Ass. This easy-to-follow game features four categories of cards (What Am I, Where Am I, Who Am I, and Hard Ass), and each card contains a clue that players must answer before anyone else. However, you don't have to wait your turn to yell out the answer! Whoever answers the question first can roll the dice and advance on the board. Rounds progress until someone lands on "The End" space. There's a nice mix of questions, so no one will feel excluded from the fun, and the content will appeal to a wide range of ages.

Jax Jumbo Sequence Game - Tube Edition

Jax Jumbo Sequence Game - Tube Edition

Number of Players: 2-12 | Duration: 30 minutes | Recommended Age: 7 years and up

What We Like
  • Convenient storage tube

  • Easy to clean mat

  • Suitable for large groups

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to flatten vinyl mat

If your kid loved playing Sequence when they were younger, they will likely realize that it's a game with serious staying power. This version comes in a tube, so it's easy to store, and the large, cushioned board game mat can be used either on a table or the floor. The mat is made from vinyl, so it's also easy to wipe down in case of spills during game night. Sequence mixes elements of dominoes and card games like rummy and poker, and the point is to create rows of five chips (called sequences) while blocking your fellow players and removing their pieces.

Half Truth: The Trivia Game That Makes You Feel Smart

Half Truth: The Trivia Game That Makes You Feel Smart

Number of Players: 2-6 | Duration: 45 minutes | Recommended Age: 12 years and up

Unlike other trivia games where participants are expected to come up with a single answer spontaneously—which means you're out of luck if you know nothing about the particular subject—Half Truth is a more accessible option because each card offers a multiple choice question with six possible answers. Then, each person places bets on which answers are right, racking up points when they guess correctly. The game was created by Ken Jennings, who became famous for his 74-game winning streak on Jeopardy and knows a thing or two about the world of trivia.

Bob Ross: The Art of Chill Board Game

Bob Ross: The Art of Chill Board Game

Number of Players: 2-4 | Duration: 30 minutes | Recommended Age: 12 years and up

What We Like
  • Nostalgic design

  • Includes postcards of Bob Ross paintings

  • No direct conflict between players to fit the chill theme

What We Don't Like
  • Instructions can be difficult to follow

Fans of the late and beloved artist and TV personality will love the chance to paint their own Happy Little Trees, Fluffy Clouds, and Almighty Mountains as they move through the game trying to rack up "chill points." Bob Ross is featured as a character who pops up on certain sides of the dice. When you "roll a Bob"—as a player, your goal is to try and finish the painting before he does—and strategizing is required as you complete actions such as using certain colors, adding paint to the palette, washing it off, or filling in parts of the picture.

Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Outer Rim

Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Outer Rim

Number of Players: 1-4 | Duration: 3-4 hours | Recommended Age: 14 years and up

What We Like
  • Perfect for Star Wars fans

  • Ideal for long gameplay

  • Fast-paced despite long duration

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to grasp at first

The roles of this immersive game include eight iconic Star Wars scoundrel characters such as Boba Fett, Han Solo, Jyn Erso, and Doctor Aphra. Players will be expected to build their own new story as they deliver cargo, capture bounty, and travel across the outer rim of the galaxy. They'll need to avoid warring factions and, of course, their fellow players as they gather tokens and try to become the most famous outlaw in space. "Intuitive and easy to pick up... I genuinely felt like a true Outer Rim occupant doing whatever it took to get by," said one happy user.

Gen42 Hive

Gen42 Hive

Number of Players: 2 | Duration: 10-15 minutes | Recommended Age: 9 years and up

What We Like
  • Expansion packs available

  • Ideal for two players

  • Pieces are sturdy, detailed, and easy to clean

What We Don't Like
  • Can be difficult to remember all of the rules at first

Affordable and portable, Hive is a two-person strategy game that's reminiscent of chess (one reviewer called it "chess for the impatient"), with the hexagonal-shaped tiles modeled after insects such as beetles and ants. And like chess, there are specific rules governing the movement of the different pieces—ants guard the perimeter, grasshoppers can jump, and beetles are permitted to climb onto other pieces. The goal is to surround your opponent's queen bee on all seven sides by other bugs. As you work to do so, you'll need to keep an eye on your opponent's reserve pieces while you plan your next move.

What to Look for When Buying Board Games

Game Type

"Generally, luck and chance-based games work great because they're fast paced," Gummer says. But if you're ever in doubt, opt for classics like Scrabble or Charades, as most players already know the rules to these games, saving time for more play.

Duration of Game Play

Board games are often one of the main events at college board games, and Gummer says that games that last around 15 minutes are likely to work best these events, because you can quickly switch to another game or play multiple rounds. But if you're planning to stay up all night with a group of friends, longer games like Fantasy Flight can fit the bill.

Portability

Some board games are easily folded up and fit into a smaller box, but others aren't as easy to tote around. And, keep in mind that if a game takes a while to set up, it could be a pain to have to take it on the go.

Why Trust The Spruce?

This article was written 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, expert-focused articles, and more. Additional reporting was done by Katie Pittman, who has more than five years of experience in lifestyle and digital media and is an expert writer for MyDomaine.

Updated by
Katherine Pittman
Katherine Pittman, writer and editor
Katherine Pittman is a lifestyle writer and editor and home expert at The Spruce. She has worked in the lifestyle, fashion, and beauty space for over five years.
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