Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
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, 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.
Here, a list of board games guaranteed to please young adults, college kids, and 20- somethings, and also wow the dorm crowd.
Prospero Hall The Shining Board Game
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. The rules are a bit complex, but some reviewers had luck watching YouTube videos for extra help. The game is designed for three to five players, and each game takes about an hour to finish once everyone understands the basic guidelines.
Monopoly: Black Panther Edition
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 is so beloved by the teen and 20-something crowd, 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
For a trivia game that's fast-paced, fun, and educational, look no further than Smart Ass. This board game requires two to six players and boasts simple instructions. There are 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
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. It can be played with as many as 12 people, and moves quickly once everyone understands the rules.
Half Truth: The Trivia Game That Makes You Feel Smart
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. The game can be played with two to six people, and 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. Each round takes about 45 minutes, and players are guaranteed to come away learning new things about a wide variety of topics.
Bob Ross: The Art of Chill Board Game
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. As one reviewer raved, "Loved this game! The game play is a really cool combination to me of Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan...but about art supplies and painting." The game can be played with two to four players and each round takes about 30 minutes.
Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars: Outer Rim
This immersive game can be played solo or with a group of up to four people, but make sure you have time on your hands since one round can last between two and three hours. The roles 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 reviewer.
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. "This is maybe the most fun, abstract strategy game I've ever played," said one customer, while another gave especially high praise calling it, "The best tabletop game since chess was invented." Shoppers also loved the "sturdy, chunky" tiles, which are made of Bakelite and are decorated with colorful, detailed line drawings.