With the year 2021 fast approaching, and an everso technology-driven age continuing to grow and unfold right before our very eyes, it makes sense that most of us have left games like Monopoly, Scrabble, and Battleship to sit and collect dust in the hallway closet (but oh boy, did I just take a sweet trip down memory lane reading those names), and have since cashed in on their digital alternatives, video games.
Although the majority of gamers nowadays get their gaming fix from the screen, there still lies in the deep, dark depths of hell, an intimidatingly vast group of demons and devils who indulge in (dare I say it) board games. Gasp! Cover the children’s eyes! Plug the innocent’s ears! Did he just say… board games?! More like bored games, because they’re so boring! Haha, am I right? High five! Yes, I just said board games. No, they’re not bored games. No, you’re not right. And no, you don’t get a high five—you get a flying kick to the stomach.
Since the beginning of time—okay, more like circa 3500 BC when the very first board game Senet was conceived in Egypt—gamers from far and wide have gathered together with their friends and families to sit down, relax (or not, in the case of our #9 pick Agricola), and get at each other’s throats over a nice, fun board game. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and no, board games aren’t only for baby boomers or anyone with a technological inadequacy. In fact, the r/boardgames subreddit touts an astounding 2.2 million boardgamers that vary in age, background, and level of technological inadequacy (love you, grandma).
Akin to our rapidly evolving technology, board games have come a long way as well. From strategy to design to theme, board games have improved significantly on all sides of the die since our ancient Egyptian friend Senet. And that’s why we’ve created this list of the 10 best board games, suggested by Reddit. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it, shall we?
Coming in at #1 is the 2007 co-op phenomenon Pandemic, a game where players must come together to ward off outbreaks of disease and eventually find a cure for the illnesses in order to win. Characterized by a different and refreshing cooperative style of play, gripping design, and an intriguing premise, Pandemic invites friendly competition and is great fun for kids and adults alike.
Pandemic allows you to choose from 5 different and equally interesting characters: Dispatcher, Operations Expert, Scientist, Medic, and Researcher. Each character has a different role and different set of skills, so every single player is an imperative piece of this disgusting, disease-infested puzzle you must work together to solve. This game is also great in that you can make up to four actions a turn. Actions include discarding and passing cards to another player, removing disease cubes from your city, and moving cities altogether. Pandemic is certainly a game packed with player involvement.
A game that boasts multiple awards and an astounding 6 million games sold, Ticket to Ride is a fantastically fast-paced train expedition in which players can obtain an abundance of different train cars that catalyze their journey to world domination—or more modestly (and accurately) put: enable them to acquire railways from around the world and link them together. Released in 2004, this game is incredibly well-designed, simple and easy to learn, and has super short turns so you’re bound to never be bored.
Ticket to Ride brags an astounding 225 colored train cars, 144 illustrated cards, and an exciting game of blind competition with the aspect of Destination Tickets that’ll make your ToR play-through a boardgaming experience you’ll never forget.
Dominion, first published in 2008, is all about obtaining as much land as possible, all the while fending off enemies with similar intent. With monarchs like yourself after every last bit of unclaimed land, it’s a race to see who can obtain the most. A game that is often regarded as the most comprehensive of the deck-builders, Dominion is another simple and easy to learn game that still has lots of depth, not to mention a cheaper price tag than a lot of other deck-builders as well.
With 500 different cards to potentially draw, Dominion gives players a lot to work with inside of a jam-packed 4-phase turn system where a lot goes on (actions, buyings, drawings, etc.)
If you’re a fan of Elon Musk and his intentions of getting the U.S. to Mars, Terraforming Mars is the perfect opportunity for you to live out your dreams of accompanying Musk and turning Mars from inhabitable to something reminiscent of our home sweet home, Earth. No, sadly Elon Musk is not a part of the game, but the rest of what I said remains true! With an extremely visually appealing board and a ton of different cards with various different functions, this 2016 game requires you to gain as many victory points through terraforming and advancing the planet and solar system in order to be, well, victorious.
An interesting aspect of Terraforming Mars is the controlling of global parameters. By raising the global parameters (temperature, oxygen, and ocean) within the game, you raise your terraform rating, which increases your income and overall score. And on top of that you have fascinating and cool tiles (ocean, greenery, city, and special) that reward you with specific placement bonuses that’ll help you on your journey to becoming the year 2400 version of Elon Musk!
7 Wonders, published in 2010, is a fast-playing card drafting game marked by ancient civilizations and a playthrough of 3 different successive time periods. Considered to be one of the best pure draft games, this heavy-strategy game has won over 30 awards and is still regarded as one of the best board games ever created. With seven different types of age cards, and seven different ways of achieving victory points, the fittingly titled 7 Wonders is anything but a shallow and easy game. Comparing military might at the end of each of the 3 ages with your two neighboring cities, showcasing your strength and competition as a whole is very prevalent in this “wonder” of a game.
A rebirth and reconfiguration of the Friedemann Friese game Funkenschlalg, Power Grid aims to retain aspects of past successful board games such as McMulti and The Princes of Florence with prominent and prosperous features like the volatile commodities market of MM and the intense auction round of TPOF. Booting the crayon part out of the original, this widely accessible 2004 game has incredibly strong mechanics, a great market/demand system, and a fixation for strategy opposed to chance.
A game that’s goal of obtaining the most power plants and powering the most cities seems very simple, Power Grid is anything but that with players being required to engage in buying power plants and resources, building cities, and fiddling with bureaucracy and the power plant market.
As odd and zany as the Disneyland joyride with that song some of us know all too well, Small World may not have those creepy mechanical, dancing and singing dolls that can undoubtedly single-handedly ruin a childhood (speaking from experience here), but it does have a wild variety of a cast with characters ranging from dwarves to giants, orcs to wizards, and the strangest of them all, humans. Small World is an extremely good gateway game because of its accessibility and straightforward mechanics, but a great game in general because of its stunning visuals and high variability—I’m talking 14 different races and a whopping 20 special powers to choose from.
Reminiscent of its preceding list-neighbor Small World for its silly and zany nature and shared beautiful art, Cosmic Encounter, originally published way back in 1977, also brags high variety, shared victories, and a captivatingly humorous theme and premise. With a plethora of paths to victory, this space-based oldie-but-a-goodie strategy board game invites a whole lot of fun as much as it does competition in the great, gargantuan galaxy as you and your alien allies (or enemies) must negotiate trade deals, establish colonies, and/or attack each other’s home planets.
Remember way back when in the intro to this list I stated that Agricola was the exception to relaxing while playing a good old board game? Well, that’s because this game is not for the faint of heart. A highly replayable, satisfaction-inducing game published by Lookout Games in 2007, Agricola will finally give you an appreciation for that one ancestor who had little to nothing but a husband/wife. This game is a difficult and at times stressful farming game where your goal is to collect resources, accomplish work, and ultimately build up your farm/house to become the biggest and best in the game. With twists and turns and every solution to a problem causing another potentially completely different problem, you’re always on your toes in Agricola.
And here we are at #10, and what better way to end such a great list than with the indisputable grandaddy gateway board game of them all, Catan. Set apart by its great negotiation and probability-based strategy, this 1995-published German board game has sold over 18 million copies, and has remained a staple in the world of board games since its initial release. Catan is very easy to learn and has lots of player interaction which is why it’s such a great introduction to board games.
The winner of Catan being the first one to gain 10 victory points, you’d be smart to wonder how you’re supposed to achieve such points. There are three ways to gain victory points in Catan: building settlements (1 point each) and cities (2 points each), having the longest road or largest army (both 2 points each), and lastly from Development Cards (up to 5 points).
And there you have it! Hopefully after running through this list, you’ve gained a greater sense of appreciation for the fun you can have while playing board games. But what about the mental health benefits that go hand in hand with rolling some dice; picking a card; and strategizing, scheming, and problem-solving with or against people you love (or hate, I guess)?
Besides the obvious fact that sitting down to play a board game ironically distracts you from the monstrous distraction that is your cell phone and any other of the thousands of technological devices you may have, board games contain a large amount of benefits for you to reap. These games can serve as natural stress reducers and consequently lower blood pressure; playing them increases brain function; they strengthen relationships; and they significantly magnify creativity.
Not only are you improving your mental health by playing board games, but you’re having enormous amounts of fun while doing so. I can’t think of many other indoor activities that function like that, so what are you waiting for? Get out there, go get yourself a copy of Pandemic, 7 Wonders, Catan, or any of the other games on this list that spark your interest and dive head first into the wonderful world of boardgaming.