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The best board games to play in 2024

The up-to-date 2024 list of the best board games of all time, from classics like Carcassonne to modern stars like Ark Nova and Frosthaven.

Best board games guide - Wargamer photo showing several board game boxes on a table at the Network N office, including Blood on the Clocktower, 7 Wonders, Sushi Go, Root, and Carcassonne - with Lego in the background

What are the best board games to play in 2024? It’s a hot topic – new board games are dropping daily, and there’s never been more choice. Whether you’re new to tabletop games, or have a fully stocked library, picking your next game is a weighty decision. Fortunately, we’ve played hundreds and test new ones every week – so we’ve created this guide to recommend you the very best board games available.

Whether you’re after fun board games for party time; an epic strategy board game to whip out on marathon board game weekends; lightweight kids board games for the family night; or a social deduction game to play with mates over drinks, you’ll find it all here.

Gloomhaven

Probably the most important new board game of the last ten years.

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Gloomhaven specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 14+
Game type Adventure / RPG
Theme Fantasy
Play time 1-2 hours per scenario
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴🔴⭕
Publisher Cephalofair
Released in 2017
List price $164.99
Reasons to buy
  • Ingenious card-driven combat
  • Wonderfully immersive theme
  • Huge amount of content
  • Cheaper than Frosthaven
Reasons to avoid
  • Frosthaven is the same, but better
  • Still expensive considering Frosthaven is now available

Until recently, Gloomhaven was quite literally ranked the best board game ever by online board game fans. Few board games manage to capture the same level of undisputed reverence this one has since its initial release in 2017. Even fewer manage to acquire such a surrounding mythos so quickly or maintain audience captivation and critical respect for so long after their release. It’s difficult to overstate this heavyweight RPG board game‘s sheer impact on our hobby.

In Gloomhaven, you’ll take on the role of an ambitious adventurer, journeying across the titular city and its surrounding fantastical land, with a party of fellow players. Cleave your way through dank dungeons, dense with bandits, monsters, and other horrors, while you journey through the game’s branching narrative campaign. The world is flavorsome and persistent, allowing you and your buddies to lose yourselves in its adventure.

Components from Gloomhaven, one of the best board games

While you’ll be well served with brilliant world-building and plentiful opportunities for roleplay if you want them, the game’s beating heart is the tactical combat that drives each 1-2 hour long scenario. Which, fortunately, is brilliant.

Players use decks of combat cards specific to their chosen Gloomhaven classes to manage attacks and movement across modular hex boards, leveling up their characters to unlock new abilities, and leveraging unique powers to cooperatively end whatever foe stands before them.

In a nice twist, you’ll change characters several times throughout a complete campaign, retiring one adventurer once their personal quest is done, and immediately unlocking a new class with which to continue your expedition, armed with a totally new set of abilities and specialties.

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But the game truly shines in its impressive level of refinement. Every scenario, every action, and every class feels purposefully designed and complete. The game can be hard, but not unfairly punishing; rewarding but never anticlimactic. There’s a reason people haven’t stopped talking about it for the last four years.

If this entry hasn’t convinced you to enter the dungeons, maybe a full Gloomhaven review will. Sure, we’ve our gripes with the box design, but the content inside really shines.

Frosthaven

The biggest board game gets bigger.

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Frosthaven specifications:
Players 1-4
Recommended age 14+
Game type Adventure / RPG
Theme Fantasy
Play time 1-2 hours per scenario
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴🔴⭕
Publisher Cephalofair
Released in 2023
List price $295
Reasons to buy
  • The best RPG board game there is
  • Magnificent world-building and adventure
  • Even more content than Gloomhaven
Reasons to avoid
  • Fantastically expensive
  • Not worth it without a regular group

We weren’t 100% sure about adding Frosthaven to this list. Cephalofair’s long awaited Gloomhaven sequel has only just had its second wave of printing; it’s not super easy to get your hands on; and, currently on sale at $295 (£250) it’s stretching our “reasonably affordable” requirement to breaking point. We should wait.

There’s just this one problem, though: it’s really, really, extremely good.

Best board games guide - Wargamer image showing the board, standees and minis from the Frosthaven board game in play

Frosthaven somehow manages to improve on all of its predecessor’s infamous accessibility issues without diluting its super-challenging, endlessly satisfying core gameplay loop.

In fact, we’d say it represents a step up in overall difficulty, and there’s still tons of admin and record-keeping you’ll have to do – especially with all the extra campaign content and new character classes for you to chew through.

But believe us: you’ll find it easier to get the hang of than Gloomhaven, thanks to vastly improved instructions, cleverly thought out initial start-up guidance, and included component storage. It’s an outstanding example of a sequel building on the original’s strengths, patching up its weaknesses, and staking out new territory, all at once.

Best board games guide - Wargamer image showing the campaign board from the Frosthaven board game, laid on a red felt tabletop

Besides the stacks of new abilities, mechanics, narratives, and gameplay avenues baked into those new Frosthaven classes and the massive campaign you’ll be leading them through, this game’s main divergence from Gloomhaven is in the titular settlement.

Instead of returning to a bustling city between quests, your home base is an isolated village in the world’s frozen North – and, instead of resting on your laurels at the bar or buying new armored trousers, you’re tasked with helping repair and upgrade its buildings (which in turn unlocks new skills, upgrades, and equipment for your party).

Best board games guide - Cephalofair Frosthaven board game artwork showing the Banner Spear character fighting an Algox enemy

Add in new systems for item crafting, alchemy, and more – and you’ve got a big-box RPG board game that’s just like Gloomhaven, but a bit better in more or less every way – and might just be the best board game ever made.

For a full deep dive into the icy depths, check out our full Frosthaven review by Mollie Russell.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

The best co-op horror board game.

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Betrayal at House on the Hill specifications:
Players 3-6
Recommended age 12+
Game type Adventure
Theme Horror
Play time 1-2 hours
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher Avalon Hill
Released in 2022
List price $55.99
Reasons to buy
  • Good balance of accessibility and co-op strategy
  • Loads of content to provide value for money
  • New 2022 edition is an all-round upgrade
Reasons to avoid
  • Some of the new haunts are a bit rubbish
  • Vaguely worded rules can be confusing

This is a co-op exploration game with a twist. Players spend the first half of Betrayal collecting gear, uncovering rooms, and finding strange and spooky curios, which all lead up to ‘the Haunt’ – when a traitor is revealed, and the terrifying twist of tonight’s game is revealed. These events could be anything from a haunted amulet possessing a player to a cult ritual taking place within its walls.

The third edition of Betrayal at House on the Hill was released in August 2022. It has the same fun, B-movie horror feel as past versions, and the same variety of scenarios. However, it improves on many elements of the game, from a more gorgeous aesthetic to more consistent mechanics, to better components.

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It seems creator Avalon Hill (these days owned by Hasbro) has paid attention to things that bothered fans and taken action, turning the third edition of the title into one of the best board games of the year, and earning it a seat in our guide to the best horror board games available.

With 50 different haunts in the game’s latest iteration (and more coming in expansions), you’ll be able to get plenty of plays out of this title. Though a few scenarios are clunkers, the majority will provide a barrel of laughs, scares (or both). Horror fans will also get a definite kick out of how the game plays with popular genre tropes.

Read our Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition review to find out more.

The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine

In space, no-one can hear you meta-gaming.

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The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine specifications:
Players 3-5
Recommended age 10+
Game type Adventure
Theme Sci-Fi
Play time 15 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Kosmos
Released in 2019
List price $14.95
Reasons to buy
  • Limited player communication is genius
  • Games are quick, yet tense and exciting
Reasons to avoid
  • Lack of table talk is a turn-off for some
  • Some of the 50 missions are fiendishly hard

What would the search for a mysterious ninth planet sitting at the edge of our solar system look like? It might be filled with daring escapades, technological marvels, and intrepid explorers. But if it’s anything like the cooperative, trick-taking card game The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine, it would be exciting enough.

In The Crew, every player is dealt an assortment of numbered cards spanning five suits. In each round, players take turns placing cards in the center of the table. Whoever plays the highest card of the appropriate suit, wins that round (or trick, if we’re using the correct lingo).

But, as this is a cooperative game, you can’t just go claiming any trick you want. Each player will be given specific tasks to complete, demanding they win tricks that contain particular cards. You might have to win a trick containing blue 5, while another player must win green 8. The game is all about the right players winning the right tricks at the right time.

Astronaut art from The Crew: Quest for Planet Nine, one of the best board games

Simple, so far, but the game’s real buzz comes from its restrictions: you can’t communicate with your fellow players. At all. Only once per game can you use a communications token to indicate the value and specificity of a single card in your hand? The rest of the time, you’ll be relying on card play to send hints to your compatriots, hoping their minds are sufficiently attuned to pick up your psychic signals.

And it’s this silence that makes The Crew so tensely enjoyable. Try to get into the head of your friends, and guess what they’re trying to tell you. Keep counting cards to assess whether you should grab your objective card now or later. Restricted information games always make for hilarious mishaps, but the Crew’s amazingly simple core concept and rapid-fire rounds make them all the sweeter.

Ark Nova

Planet Zoo: The Board Game? Yes please.

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Ark Nova specifications:
Players 1-4
Recommended age 14+
Game type Strategy
Theme Animals
Play time 2-3 hours
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴🔴⭕
Publisher Feuerland Games
Released in 2021
List price $74.95
Reasons to buy
  • Deep, challenging, rewarding strategy
  • Authentic exploration of the zoo theme
  • Vast amount of content and replayability
Reasons to avoid
  • Slightly high luck factor can be frustrating at times
  • At 2 hours minimum, it’s a long haul
  • Constant hard decisions get exhausting in a long session

While it’s not the prettiest board game featuring animals, Ark Nova is perhaps the best. On the light side of eurogames, but more complex than most games with such a friendly theme, Ark Nova tasks you with building a zoo – setting up enclosures and filling them with beasties to rock up points.

When you’ve mastered bird keeping in Wingspan, Ark Nova will be waiting for you. It’s full of interesting decision-making at every step, which really lends itself to the theme – as you play you really feel like you’re constructing something. And there are all sorts of different roads you can go down, the customization both helping to create a sense of ownership over your fine zoological establishment and also boosting the game’s replay value.

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While it has its naysayers, who critique it for a slight overreliance on luck, Ark Nova makes up for these foibles by being just plain fun. There’s a lot of hype behind this board game. Released by Feuerland Spiele in April this year, it swiftly rocketed up to the fourth-best game on BoardGameGeek, with thousands of fans pouring in high ratings. An aquatic expansion looks to make a splash in 2023.

For a more in depth look at both Ark Nova and the real world zoo industry, check out staff writer Tim Linward’s Ark Nova review.

The Quacks of Quedlinburg

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb!

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The Quacks of Quedlinburg specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 10+
Game type Family fun
Theme Medieval
Play time 45 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Schmidt Spiele
Released in 2018
List price $39.99
Reasons to buy
  • A stunning blend of luck and light strategy
  • Delightful comic theme brings it to life
  • Simple, forgiving design is perfect for families
Reasons to avoid
  • High randomness can feel unfair

Let’s clear one thing up straight away: this isn’t a game about ducks, but fraudulent doctors. In The Quacks of Quedlinburg, players compete to brew the most valuable potion through fraught, push-your-luck bag-building mechanics. Randomly draw chips from a bag to add to your swirling cauldron, hoping for the most valuable picks that will increase the score of your brew. But fill your pot too quickly, and it might explode, leaving you with nothing to peddle at the market.

While this exquisite family board game plays out across nine rounds, ‘fortune teller’ cards impose special rules that disrupt play, and certain chips give you additional actions.

Choose carefully when to add chips to your potion, and when to put them back in your bag – always trying to bolster your chances of drawing a high-scoring option, and remove pernicious ‘cherry bombs’ that might explode your concoction. Keep track of what chips you’re drawing, and pay attention to the bursting seams of your pot.

Cauldron board from Quacks of Quedlinburg, one of the best board games

The Quacks of Quedlinburg excels because of its near-perfect player information. Each player creates a set bag of chips, allowing you to keep track of your odds, and plan accordingly. With limited available actions on any one turn, and no overly demanding strategic depth, it’s a perfect family board game when you’re looking for something that will push your tabletop experience – but not drown you in mechanical detail.

Check out our Quacks of Quedlinburg review if you want to find out more.

Root

Total War: Winnie the Pooh edition.

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Root specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 10+
Game type Wargame
Theme Fantasy / Animals
Play time 60 – 90 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher Leder Games
Released in 2018
List price $60.00
Reasons to buy
  • Brilliant, original theme you can’t help but love
  • Superbly designed asymmetric factions add variety and depth
  • Art and components are sublime
Reasons to avoid
  • Despite straightforward core rules, factions take time to learn and early games will be slow

The best demonstration that deep strategy board games don’t need to rely upon historical realism, Root captures all the complexities and excitement of authentic wargames in a charming woodland theme. You’ll take command of a faction of cute critters in a bloodthirsty fight for forest domination.

The game has one standout feature: balanced asymmetrical gameplay. Its four factions are totally distinct, not only possessing different playstyles, but bespoke mechanics, turn operations, point-scoring, and win conditions.

Marquise de Cat has you amass resources to fuel your growing army, and manage area expansion; the Eyrie focuses on sporadic territory capture, demanding you refine its action economy; the Woodland Alliance fight through guerilla strikes, forcing you to plan and prepare critical moments of attack; while the Vagabond isn’t a faction at all, but a lone raccoon ruffian that must backstab their way to victory.

Root, one of the best board games, set up for play

Four disparate factions may appear overwhelming (and that’s before we’ve even mentioned the expansions), but it also means that you only have to learn one faction to play a competitive game of unexpected turns, and surprising machinations.

Rather than heaping tons of esoteric rules upon every player to foster open-ended decision-making, Root splits the load four ways. Your understanding of your chosen faction’s qualities will improve with each new match, and, just when you think you’ve exhausted its strategic depth, there are three practically brand-new factions open for exploration. YouTube channel 3 Minute Board Games sums it up well here:

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Root excels at taking the complexities of wargames, and making them accessible to more casual tabletop-goers. Actions are intuitively presented, systems are visually understandable, and its charming woodland aesthetic is more inviting than the umpteenth World War Two game. For the best strategy experience, choose Root – and, for a deeper dive, check out our Root Digital Edition review.

Monikers

Like that scene in Inglourious Basterds, but with fewer guns.

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Monikers specifications:
Players 4-16+
Recommended age 17+
Game type Party game
Theme Famous people
Play time 30-60 minutes
Complexity 🔴⭕⭕⭕⭕
Publisher CMYK
Released in 2015
List price $29.99
Reasons to buy
  • Clever design and card info makes a classic party game better and easier
  • Card quality and overall presentation is splendid
Reasons to avoid
  • Quite expensive for a game you can play for free with a little more effort

You might know Monikers by its other, license-free parlor game name, Celebrity. Players take turns describing and imitating famous people of history, cultural importance, or another noteworthy acclaim while trying to get their teammates to guess the name of whichever star they’re emulating.

Essentially charades with a defined format, the game plays out in three, progressively harder rounds. In the first, you can use words to describe your designated person; in the second, you can provide only a one-word clue; and in the third, you can say nothing at all, instead resorting to rabid gesticulation. It means games of Monikers descend into silly mishaps and hilarious physical antics while keeping things fresh.

But why bother with Monikers when you could just as easily write some names on scraps of paper and toss them in a hat? Because this marvelous boxed game streamlines and formalizes the whole process for optimal fun.

Aside from handing you hundreds of ready-made cards with applicable figures, each comes with a handy description of the person, so no one’s forced to imitate a person they’ve never heard of. Also, at the start of each game, players will individually select which cards are used in the match, letting the group tailor the game to their preference. Like the best party games, it’s inclusive of everyone and removes all moments of downtime.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

The original social deduction game.

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One Night Ultimate Werewolf specifications:
Players 3-10
Recommended age 8+
Game type Social deduction
Theme Murder mystery / Horror
Play time 10 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Bezier Games
Released in 2014
List price $24.99
Reasons to buy
  • Genuinely improves on OG Werewolf
  • Clever design packs lots of game into 10 minutes
Reasons to avoid
  • Simple gameplay can get samey
  • Easier to suss out than bigger social deduction games

One Night Ultimate Werewolf uses the core formula of imposter games – a group of players must collectively figure out which among them are traitors – and condenses it into a bitesize, fifteen-minute, nail-biting match. Players are randomly assigned hidden roles, but a couple of them won’t be the harmless villagers others take them to be. Rather, they’re werewolves that must be rooted out of town.

The game is split into two phases. During the Night, players take turns performing the actions of their specific role. The werewolves reveal themselves to each other, the seer can peek at another’s role card, the troublemaker swap two players’ cards without them realizing, the robber steals another’s role, and the drunk takes on a brand new identity.

But it’s in the daytime that things heat up, as players convince each other they are not the werewolf. Navigate all the hidden card-switching of the night to identify the real threat, or the werewolves will win by morning’s end.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf, one of the best board games

Discussions are tense, and persuasion is not guaranteed. You might struggle to convince your fellow players that you’re not the hairy menace they think you are, only to later find someone switched your card, and you were the werewolf without even realizing it.

With no player elimination and just one round of gameplay, no players are left sitting on the sidelines. Speed of play, mixed with shifting hidden information. makes it a great party game, for those times when you want to angrily accuse your friends of being bloodthirsty lycanthropes.

To fully immerse yourself in the fear, thrills, and suspicion, read our full One Night Ultimate Werewolf review, by Wargamer’s resident villager-eating cryptid Mollie Russell.

Blood on the Clocktower

Werewolf, but bigger, better, and prettier.

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Blood on the Clocktower specifications:
Players 5-20
Recommended age 15+
Game type Social deduction
Theme Murder mystery / Horror
Play time 1-2 hours
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher The Pandemonium Institute
Released in 2022
List price $145
Reasons to buy
  • Giving every player a unique power keeps everyone invested (even after death)
  • Box and components are unreasonably fancy
  • The ultimate board game for social deduction mega-fans
Reasons to avoid
  • Wildly expensive compared to other games in the same genre
  • Very long playtime compared to similar games
  • Needs at least 8-10 people for it to really sing

If you like social deduction games with more meat on their bones, we can’t recommend Blood on the Clocktower enough. This beefy box expands on the genre, marrying cheeky bluffing antics with complex mechanics in a way that’ll please casual party game lovers and fans of brain-warping strategy board games. It’s a lot pricier than other social deduction games on the market, but there really is nothing else like it out there.

The core rules are essentially the same as any other hidden role game. One person among the players is a demon who kills innocent villagers in a ‘night phase’ where everyone has their eyes shut. They and their minions win the game if they can cull the majority of good players, while the noble players win if they can execute the demon before their numbers deplete.

Here’s how Blood on the Clocktower takes that formula and makes it even better. Firstly, everyone in town has a unique power which can help (or hinder) efforts to solve the mystery. This means no one is left twiddling their thumbs, and all players (even the storyteller who organizes and facilitates gameplay) have plenty to mull over. Different combinations of roles give the game endless replayability.

Secondly, when you die in this game, you can keep playing. Most social deduction games get boring fast if you’re killed on the first night, but murdered villagers can still speak, vote, and help their team.

All these features are packaged in a luxury box which helps set the grim, Gothic tone of the game. We recommend playing with a tense background soundtrack, and relishing in the reveal as everyone learns what really happened once the game is over. 

Codenames

Word association – with a twist.

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Codenames specifications:
Players 2-8
Recommended age 14+
Game type Word association
Theme Secret agents
Play time 15-30 minutes
Complexity 🔴⭕⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Czech Games Edition
Released in 2015
List price $24.99
Reasons to buy
  • Super easy to learn
  • Consistently fun with all kinds of groups and ages
  • Relatively cheap
Reasons to avoid
  • Rules around ‘legal’ clue giving can get sticky
  • Can start to grind if players have very different levels of general knowledge

A word association game that encourages buckets of creative play, Codenames casts you as a secret agent, attempting to communicate to your partner the location of compromised field agents through that historic staple of spycraft: single-word clues. Split into two teams, the designated Spymasters from each side take turns providing clues to their teammates, trying to indicate which of the cards laid out on the table in front of them represent the locations of their compatriots.

Cards are arranged in a grid, and each is labeled with a single codeword. Spymasters know under which cards lie their field agents, which are neutral civilians, and which covers the deadly assassin, that, if revealed, would cause an instant loss.

But the race is on. You’ll need to hint at multiple cards with a single clue, linking them together through whatever tenuous secret connections you can muster if you’re to uncover all your agents before the opposing team. Provide too specific a clue, and the enemy team will beat you to the punch. Stay too vague in your hinting, and you risk being misinterpreted. If you prefer to learn visually, here’s The Rules Girl’s summary:

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Codenames is easy to pick up, and the fundamental concept of word association is intuitive to new players. But its scope for silliness quickly spirals, as you overreach your clue-making in daring plays that might result in catastrophe – or sheer brilliance.

For your full espionage training regime – and some very fishy tactics advice – dig into our Codenames review, confidentially compiled by Special Agent Tim Linward.

Undaunted: Normandy

The WW2 board game we keep coming back to.

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Undaunted: Normandy specifications:
Players 2
Recommended age 14+
Game type Wargame
Theme WW2
Play time 45-60 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Osprey Games
Released in 2019
List price $48.00
Reasons to buy
  • Proper wargaming strategy with simple, accessible rules
  • Lots of well designed scenarios included
  • Gorgeous art
Reasons to avoid
  • Grind-y stalemate situations can happen occasionally
  • Lacks the mechanical and historical detail of hardcore wargames

With all the tactical depth of a wargame, served in the fast-flowing mechanics of a deck-builder, Undaunted: Normandy is a cut above the raft of WW2 games available. One player takes the role of the Germans, and the other the Americans, as both lead squads of infantrymen across a modular board, attacking enemy forces and securing objectives to fulfill the specific win conditions of each scenario.

Rather than using miniatures and dice-rolling, Undaunted hands you an action deck to operate your squads of riflemen, machine gunners, commanders, and more. Each round, you’ll draw four cards with which to command your forces. But as you take new territory, obsolete ‘fog of war cards’ will fill up your deck, impinging your chances of a good draw. And as you engage the enemy, casualties will mount, encouraging you to reinforce your troops with new cards from your supply and pick off enemies to dwindle their forces. You can get a feel for it in this video by How It’s Played:

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Simultaneous deck optimization and tactical squad maneuverings make for tense skirmishes, where the balance of battle can quickly be upset, and the merits of forward planning versus immediate assaults are always shifting. Mix in well-constructed scenarios that foster specific strategies, but encourage creative plays, and you have a game that’s not only barrels of fun to play but one that’s eminently replayable, too.

Undaunted might have the look of a dumbed-down wargame, but don’t be deceived by its colorful illustrations. While combat systems, such as range, cover, and weapon specializations are simplified, their fundamental tactical relevance is retained. This is a wargame that’s brilliant because of its streamlined design, not in spite of it.

For more, read our Undaunted: Normandy review.

Plus, if you want more battles to fight, it’s now got two excellent expansions: Undaunted: North Africa, and Undaunted: Reinforcements (not to mention the latest standalone entry, Undaunted: Stalingrad).

Jaipur

The very essence of push-your-luck games.

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Jaipur specifications:
Players 2
Recommended age 12+
Game type Economy
Theme Historical
Play time 30 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Space Cowboys
Released in 2009
List price $24.99
Reasons to buy
  • Some of the best push-your-luck play in the biz
  • Super-quick matches make it a perfect ‘warm-up’ game
  • Card, token, and box art is charming
Reasons to avoid
  • High reliance on luck of the draw can be frustrating at times
  • Clearup and reset takes a smidge too long for such a short game

Simple to set up and easy to play, don’t let Jaipur’s jolly artwork lure you into a false sense of security. Behind its colorful cards lies one of the best 2-player board games of push-your-luck trading. Buy, exchange, and sell goods to raise an investment portfolio, and earn the praise of the Maharaja.

Like the stockbrokers of today, players only have two options available to them on any turn: buy or sell. Pick up and exchange cards to increase the assets of your hand, or take all of the point-scoring camels, if you fancy them as a more profitable avenue. But be sure to sell all your stock on later turns, transferring your winnings into dosh. The player with more money by the game’s end is declared victorious.

But, like all financial institutions, the market isn’t stable. The value of goods decreases as the game progresses, prompting you to unload your hand as quickly as possible. But, since you get bonus rewards for selling multiple goods of the same type at once, you’re also encouraged to wait, stack goods, and try to fetch a higher total price.

The push-pull duality of buying or selling, waiting or acting, creates a perpetual rhythm to the game. A paucity of turn operations makes it decidedly straightforward, but its contradictory incentivization of greed and miserliness makes for fraught decision-making – and a perfect board game for couples. Check out our Jaipur board game review to find out more.

Santorini

Oddly like Chess, but with pretty towers and teeny god minis.

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Santorini specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 8+
Game type Building / abstract
Theme Mythology
Play time 20 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Roxley Games
Released in 2016
List price $34.99
Reasons to buy
  • 3D board is visually yummy and evokes the theme perfectly
  • Easy to pick up, with incredibly simple rules
  • Perfect information makes for satisfying chess-like gameplay
Reasons to avoid
  • No chance or catchup mechanics – so playing someone of a different skill level kinda sucks

A holiday to the real Greek island would probably make for a more romantic escape, but when you’re locked indoors, the Santorini board game is a fantastic option. This head-to-head 3D puzzler is super simple and calls upon all the tactical nous you’re willing to give it. The best couples’ board game around, it’s a great pick if you’re looking for a light game that’s constantly engaging.

Each player controls a pair of jolly laborers. Move them around the small gridded board, and build glimmering white towers, one block at a time. But this is no architectural picnic. The first player to build a three-story tower, and stand atop their creation will be crowned the winner. Place a dome over any completed tower to prevent your opponent from reaching its summit, forcing them to start all over again.

Santorini’s visual gameplay makes it perfect for anyone new to board games, or unaccustomed to the usual tropes of the hobby. Plus, straightforward rules make it a blast for couples who don’t fancy spending their evening reading a rulebook.

After you’ve played a few matches, try using the included ‘god cards’ to spice up the game. Each player takes a card and is granted a special ability, such as a new way of moving their workers, or a construction advantage. With nearly 30 cards to choose from, the game will be different every time you play.

Mage Knight

A tactical skirmish game perfect for solo play.

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Mage Knight specifications:
Players 1-5
Recommended age 10+
Game type Deck-builder
Theme Fantasy
Play time 1-4 hours
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher WizKids
Released in 2000
List price $79.99
Reasons to buy
  • Maybe the best single player board game ever
  • Extremely satisfying action systems
  • Oodles of super-replayable content
Reasons to avoid
  • Some rules interactions can be headache-inducing
  • Properly learning and getting into it takes a huge time investment

You won’t always have an enthusiastic group of friends around to satiate your board game needs. Sometimes, you’ll have to venture to the tabletop alone. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for B-tier titles. There’s a raft of fantastic single-player board games aimed at solo players, and the best among them is Mage Knight.

A tactical deck-builder, Mage Knight has you combine an array of spells, attacks, and maneuvers into an action deck, before throwing you down a dark dungeon. Play cards to defeat enemies, and combine their effects in glorious volleys. Optimization is the name of the game, as you prioritize speed and precision in each encounter.

Although it can be brutal and unforgiving, nothing about Mage Knight ever feels cheap. Its rules are meticulously crafted, and the synergies between its action cards are refined. Be prepared to keep that rulebook handy, though. With a plethora of abilities and modifiers, its systems can be a little thorny. But when you’ve mastered it, you’ve got a real treat on your hands.

Even better, Mage Knight can be played with up to four players. So, once you’ve mastered the game, take it around to a friend’s place for some dungeon-crawling fun. But we think the game is at its best when played solo: giving you all the time you need to scrutinize the many actions at your disposal.

Sushi Go Party!

Do not eat the cards.

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Sushi Go Party! specifications:
Players 2-8
Recommended age 8+
Game type Party
Theme Food
Play time 20 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Gamewright
Released in 2016
List price $21.99
Reasons to buy
  • Sushi theme and art are pure kawaii
  • Among the best pure drafting games ever
  • Party edition adds lots of extra content
Reasons to avoid
  • Cards aren’t super durable long-term
  • Deep, round-cornered tin doesn’t store well with boxed games

Take a seat at a vibrant sushi restaurant, and choose the most delectable items on the menu. But be quick. The other patrons are fast to order, and they might snap up the tastiest treats before you can fill your plate. If you can grab the best sushi set, you’ll come away as the winner, with all the wasabi-smothered edamame you could hope for.

Sushi Go Party! is a board game of constant energy. On each turn, every player picks a piece of sushi from their hand to keep for themselves, before simultaneously revealing their choice, and passing their leftovers to their neighboring player, ready for the next pickings. You’ll be looking to collect specific sushi, and complete pre-determined sets for a high score. Maybe you’ll want to nab some quick points with a nigiri or hold out for three sashimi to secure a windfall.

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With cards passed around the table each turn, you’ll need to keep track of what sushi is still available. You’d hate to start collecting tempura, only to find the player opposite has taken the last one available. Keep your eyes on your opponents’ plates, too, and be ready to nick whatever item they’re after.

While the original was fantastic, Sushi Go Party! adds even more content to the mix. More cards, with more actions, and even more menu combinations keep things fresh every time you play. Plus, its artwork is gorgeously cute. Who knew that a smiling dumpling could look so good?

Kingdomino

A perfect first board game for your kids.

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Kingdomino specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 8+
Game type Strategy
Theme Medieval
Play time 15-20 minutes
Complexity 🔴⭕⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Blue Orange
Released in 2016
List price $19.99
Reasons to buy
  • Equally fun for kids and adults (honestly)
  • Joyful, bright art style lifts the mood
  • Compact, simple, and cheap
Reasons to avoid
  • 5×5 kingdom size limit can be tricky to explain to younger kids
  • High randomness factor is a turn-off for some

Despite what the price tags of some board games might suggest, the tabletop hobby isn’t only for adults. In fact, there’s an enormous supply of fantastic board games for children, well extending beyond the dull dice rolling of monotonous Monopoly. And Kingdomino is the best kids’ board game of them all, combining simple tile placement with hedge-your-bets point-scoring.

On your turn, you’ll pick up a double-sided domino tile, and match one of its ends to a territory type in your personal medieval kingdom. Keep adding tiles to create a five-by-five grid, while trying to grab as many point-scoring crown tiles along the way, and creating the neatest realm of them all.

But it’s not all greedy point-grabbing. On each turn, the player with the fewest points in their kingdom goes first, incentivizing you to rein in your expansion, so as to get first pick next time.

A game of Kingdomino, one of the best board games

You’ll be balancing this short-term gain against long-term reward while trying to scupper your opponents. Pick the tiles that will expand your kingdom, while denying your friends the vital piece they need to complete their grid. Maybe you’ll be super competitive, and sacrifice your own growth for the sake of completely stalling your opponents’.

Kingdomino’s intuitive, visual gameplay makes it a treat for younger players, who can enjoy arranging tiles into the best patterns. But it also leaves room for older kids, encouraging forethought and planning, as well as a (friendly) competitive element. A must for all kids keen on board games, as well as parents who want a game that will keep their children entertained again, and again. For yet more praise for this stellar game, check out Tim Linward’s Kingdomino review.

Carcassonne

Accessible, beautiful, brilliant, and hugely influential.

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Carcassonne specifications:
Players 2-5
Recommended age 8+
Game type Strategy
Theme Medieval
Play time 30-90 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Hans im Glück
Released in 2000
List price $34.99
Reasons to buy
  • A landmark in modern board game history
  • Remains a great ‘gateway game’ for new players
  • Tons of expansions to try
Reasons to avoid
  • Mechanics feel dated and limiting in 2024
  • Experienced gamers won’t find much depth or variety

A true classic board gameCarcassonne remains a staple of any collection. For over 20 years, board gaming enthusiasts have been playing this charming tile game, and building their own medieval French kingdoms across the tabletop. It’s straightforward, fairly quick, and does a grand job of introducing you to many elements you’ll find in other games, making it a fantastic pick if you’re new to the board gaming hobby.

In Carcassonne, you’ll take turns connecting square tiles together in the middle of the table. These aren’t just any tiles, though. They’re illustrated with segments of roads, fields, and castles that must be correctly joined together to create a coherent picture. All the while, you’ll also be placing down ‘meeples’ to claim various areas of the board for yourself.

Think that castle is shaping up to be a big one? Stick your meeple on it to score big points when it’s completed. Fancy nabbing that long road your opponent has just built? Whack down a couple of meeples to muscle them out.

Part of what makes Carcassonne such a fun board game is its brilliant visual and physical gameplay. Being able to see the game come to life as you play, and chart the course of the gorgeous medieval world in front of you keeps even the most impatient of players engaged. Plus, it scales well for different player counts – it works for five players, and it’s a great board game for couples

For an in-depth look at how Carcassonne ranks, check out Mollie Russell’s full Carcassonne review.

Wingspan

A bird-lover’s paradise.

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Wingspan specifications:
Players 1-5
Recommended age 10+
Game type Strategy
Theme Animals (er, Birds)
Play time 40-70 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher Stonemaier Games
Released in 2019
List price $65.00
Reasons to buy
  • Phenomenal production, art, and components
  • Simple, slick, addictive gameplay
  • You love dem tweetie birbs
Reasons to avoid
  • Low player interaction means multiplayer games drag
  • Luck-of-the-draw can occasionally ruin you
  • Ornithophobes need not apply

A board game so famous it had a guest spot in a soap operaWingspan is firmly nested in many ‘best board game’ lists. It’s one part gorgeous ornithology encyclopedia and one part crunchy engine-builder. This means it’s a game you could easily put in front of your most seasoned board game group and your most inexperienced family members.

In Wingspan, three to five players become bird enthusiasts aiming to attract more beautiful (and powerful birds). You do this by drawing and playing different bird cards, rolling dice to collect food, and laying eggs.

The aim is to create the most powerful chain of birds over four rounds, as well as score extra victory points through various end-of-round goals. Eggs, food on cards, cards tucked away, and bonus cards all contribute, so there’s plenty to think about if you want to win. Board Game Nation’s video has a visual run-through:

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Of course, you could always just sit back and enjoy the beautiful bird art and neat trivia instead. Check out Matt Bassil‘s full Wingspan review for more details. And here’s the lowdown on every Wingspan expansion.

Disney Villainous

Baddies really do have the most fun.

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Disney Villainous specifications:
Players 2-6
Recommended age 10+
Game type Strategy
Theme Fantasy (Disney)
Play time 40-60 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Ravensburger
Released in 2018
List price $39.99
Reasons to buy
  • Engaging yet simple strategy
  • Excellent implementation of the Disney theme
  • Villains play satisfyingly differently
Reasons to avoid
  • Younger kids may struggle with the Fate mechanic
  • Non Disney fans will miss out on a lot of value

Licensed board games often end up disappointing hardcore board game lovers, but Disney Villainous is a gem for newcomers and veterans alike. However, you’ll probably need to be a big Disney fan to make the most of this game.

In Disney Villainous, each player controls six iconic Disney villains. You’ll have your own unique win condition to fulfill, and doing so means moving your villains around the board and playing items, effects, and allies from the Villain cards in your hand.

Whether you’re trying to defeat Peter Pan at the Jolly Roger or collect 20 power tokens, you’ll need to keep a close eye on your opponents’ progress as well as your own. After all, only one villain can be the top dog. This is a relatively short game, but it’s one that’ll keep you on edge as you and your friends begin gleefully sabotaging each other’s success.

For a deeper dive into what makes this title so evilly good, check out Matt Bassil’s full Disney Villainous review.

For those who’ve already got the base box, Ravensburger makes a number of standalone Villainous expansions. If you want to find the best version, or one with a particular character, try our Disney Villainous expansion guide.

Azul

A beautiful, stellar tile-laying strategy game.

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Azul specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 10+
Game type Puzzle / Strategy
Theme Art / Historical
Play time 30-45 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher Plan B Games
Released in 2017
List price $39.99
Reasons to buy
  • Colorful tiles both look and feel heavenly
  • Quick to learn and play
  • Drafting play is vicious fun once you know what you’re doing
Reasons to avoid
  • Seems like a cozy, creative game – but it isn’t
  • Strategy is a bit simplistic compared to its sequels

Azul might be the most eye-soothing strategy board game we’ve ever played. While there’s plenty of in-game planning to wrap your brain around, the thoughtful gameplay and gorgeously tactile tiles mean Azul very much deserves its 2018 Spiel des Jahres win.

Players are tasked with creating grand mosaics for the King of Portugal. On your turn, you pick up all of a specific tile type found on one of five ‘factory’ spaces in the center of the table. Then you decide which horizontal line on your personal game board to place them on. There are limits to where you can place tiles, as well as penalties for grabbing more tiles than you have room for, so you’ll need to plan your mosaics carefully.

Fundamentally, Azul is an excellent, crafty, drafting strategy game dressed up in extraordinarily pretty aesthetics – for a deeper dive into it, check out our editor Alex Evans‘ full Azul board game review.

A board from Azul, one of the best board games

We’ve played a fair few of Azul’s spin-off games by now, but the original remains our firm favorite. If we had to pick a second favorite, though, we’d recommend 2022’s Azul: Queen’s Garden.

Here you’ll be drafting and building regal hexagonal gardens, scoring points for your choice of flora and fauna as well as tile colors. This keeps the exciting tile-drafting gameplay of Azul but mixes things up with new tile-laying and scoring systems, adding a zesty pinch of extra complexity into the mix.

7 Wonders

We heard you liked Age of Empires…

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7 Wonders specifications:
Players 3-7
Recommended age 10+
Game type Strategy
Theme Historical
Play time 30-40 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴⭕⭕
Publisher Repos Production
Released in 2010
List price $47.99
Reasons to buy
  • Lots of different ways to win
  • Lovely art and high quality cards make the ancient history theme pop
  • Fits civilization building into a short playtime
Reasons to avoid
  • Random luck of the draw dilutes the civ-building theme a bit
  • Mechanics are too light to lend the theme much weight
  • Drafting gets even less predictable at high player counts

7 Wonders is an incredibly polished drafting game. We’ve never seen a game more perfectly capture the idea of ‘easy to learn, hard to master’.

The core concept is this: everyone has their own wonder of the world to build, and they’ve got three ages to construct the greatest monument known to man. Each player has their own civilization board that grants them a unique starting resource, as well as different rewards for constructing stages of their wonder.

At the start of an age, everyone is dealt a handful of cards. Choose one to build, add to your wonder, or burn for free money. Then pass the rest to your neighbor. Play continues like this until everyone has two cards left, one of which they keep, and the other they discard. Then the next age can begin. Here’s the publisher’s own video walkthrough:

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There’s oodles of strategy to munch on here. While building your wonder brings many benefits, you’ll score big points by constructing powerful buildings or an army of the same type of building. Make sure you never lose sight of what your neighbors are up to, either – the card in your hand might not mean much to you, but passing it could hand them victory.

7 Wonders is a careful and clever game with an incredibly low barrier to entry – and, once you’ve mastered the main game, there’s a whole stable of expansions and spin-offs to try! To get a taste, read our reviews of 7 Wonders Architects and 7 Wonders Edifice.

Brass: Birmingham

Victorian industrialism, without the smog and child labor!

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Brass: Birmingham specifications:
Players 2-4
Recommended age 14+
Game type Strategy / Economy
Theme Historical / Victorian
Play time 1-2 hours
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴🔴⭕
Publisher Roxley Games
Released in 2018
List price $79.99
Reasons to buy
  • Theme and mechanics support each other perfectly
  • Multiple economic systems give loads of strategy choices
  • Presentation and components are beautiful
  • Clever design choices make it easy to read the board state
Reasons to avoid
  • Lots of complex rules systems make it tough to learn
  • Huge decision space means it’s often hard to know what’s best to do
  • Sooty 1800s industrial theme won’t appeal to everyone

The tabletop forum BoardGameGeek has decreed that Brass: Birmingham is the greatest board game of all time. And while the popular vote isn’t everything, this historical strategy game does at least deserve a place on the list. 

You’ll play as entrepreneurs earning money during the British Industrial Revolution. Your goal is to score the most victory points possible, and you’ll do this by building industrial empires, expanding rail and canal networks, selling manufactured goods, and carefully managing loans to guarantee further growth.

This is a complex, crunchy game of strategy, and only the most meticulous resource management will win the day. Every choice you make has impact, and you’ll need to weigh the consequences a move has for your competitors as well as yourself. 

Brass: Birmingham offers enough plates to spin that your brain is constantly whirring like a cog in a well-oiled machine. And if you’re the kind of player who enjoys a few hours of agonizing over the perfect play, this is an unmissable experience.

Terra Mystica

Even magical fantasy empires need good government.

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Terra Mystica specifications:
Players 2-5
Recommended age 12+
Game type Strategy
Theme Fantasy
Play time 2 hours
Complexity 🔴🔴🔴🔴⭕
Publisher Feuerland Games
Released in 2012
List price $59.97
Reasons to buy
  • One of the best modern, heavyweight eurogames
  • Deep, enthralling fantasy theme
  • Hugely satisfying, challenging strategic play
Reasons to avoid
  • Seriously complicated rules take time to learn, and forever to master
  • Zero luck factor means fun is tied to skill and experience levels

Terra Mystica is a sprawling strategy game that shows what wonderful things the Eurogame genre is capable of. It’s a game with zero reliance on luck – victory is entirely reliant on the clever choices of players. 

Terra Mystica puts players in charge of one of several grand fantasy nations. Each turn, you’ll work to expand your sovereignty. Ruling a nation is no easy feat, and you’ll have a huge number of resources to manage. 

Constructing and upgrading buildings gives you more people, money, and abilities to work with. Expanding your lands by terraforming new spaces, paying to advance your shipping track, and furthering your progress with a religious cult all help you collect victory points. 

You have multiple resources to collect and spend in Terra Mystica, and you’ll need to succeed in all areas of the game to guarantee victory. Every decision counts – even deciding when to do nothing and pass your turn.

This is another complex board game that takes multiple hours to complete. But heavy investment begets great rewards – and Terra Mystica deserves to be recognized as a classic of modern board gaming. 

Dixit

Take a little vacation in your imagination.

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Dixit specifications:
Players 3-8
Recommended age 8+
Game type Storytelling
Theme Abstract / Fantasy
Play time 30 minutes
Complexity 🔴⭕⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Libellud
Released in 2008
List price $33.99
Reasons to buy
  • Maybe the world’s most laid back board game
  • Dreamlike artworks are mesmerizing
  • Perfect creative story-time game for kids
Reasons to avoid
  • Very shallow on strategy
  • Vague, subjective scoring gets frustrating in some groups
  • Core experience can get boring quickly for some folks

Sometimes, simplicity is best. Simple board games can be just as elegant and beautiful as their crunchier counterparts. And Dixit is a fantastic example of this. Its premise revolves around beautifully illustrated cards and using minimal words to describe them.

Each round, one player becomes the storyteller. They choose a card from their hand, then state a sentence aloud that they think represents the card they’ve chosen. Everyone else then chooses a card from their own hand they think also matches the sentence, and they pass this to the storyteller in secret. 

The storyteller shuffles all the cards and reveals them, and the other players must secretly guess which card is the storyteller’s original card. Players win points by guessing the correct card and by fooling others into choosing their decoy card. The storyteller also scores when the players choose the correct card – but if everyone gets it right or wrong, they won’t score at all.

Dixit is as cryptic as it is colorful. It’s also incredibly easy to pick up, and a game lasts a friendly 30 minutes. This is a snappy delight of a game that’s suitable for board game fans of all ages.

Parks

Our #1 favorite cozy board game.

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Parks specifications:
Players 1-5
Recommended age 10+
Game type Strategy
Theme Travel / Nature
Play time 30-60 minutes
Complexity 🔴🔴⭕⭕⭕
Publisher Keymaster Games
Released in 2019
List price $49.99
Reasons to buy
  • Outstanding art and production values overall
  • Uniquely cozy, low-pressure play, without being tame
  • The most perfect box design of any board game we’ve played
Reasons to avoid
  • Rules are simple, but you need to learn a fair bit up front
  • Some strategic options feel a bit tacked-on
  • Plays poorly at high player counts due to overcrowding

The unutterably gorgeous 2019 creation of designer Henry Audubon and studio Keymaster Games, Parks earns its spot on this list for a bunch of reasons – but, above all, because it’s probably our all-time favorite ‘cozy board game’.

Best board games guide - Wargamer original Parks photo showing the game setup on a red tabletop including park cards, weather tokens, hikers, and more.

Lots of board games provide wonderful, optimistic escapism from your daily grind, through their lively theme and implementation. Lots of board games draw you into their world by means of an ingeniously realized aesthetic, stunning, original art, and satisfying, high quality components.

Lots of board games win an extra level of approval from experienced gamers by being packaged so efficiently and thoughtfully that they’re literally a joy just to take out and put away again.

Best board games guide - Wargamer original Parks photo showing the board, open box, token trays, and cards.

Very few board games do all three of those things at once – but the magnificent Parks does. In a nippy, uncomplicated 30-60 minute game, you and your two adorable little colored wooden hikers will explore a variety of the USA’s national parks – each represented by its own tarot-size card with spectacular art – and earn victory points for every park you visit.

Gameplay wise, it’s really simple – you’ll play through four rounds (seasons) in which your hikers traverse a hiking ‘trail’, randomly constructed from a selection of tiles, from one end to the other.

Along the way – depending on the type of tile your hiker steps on – you’ll scoop up cute little wooden ‘weather’ tokens which are the game’s currency, save them up, and spend them on your chosen Park card, from a central supply of three. Some cost lots of tokens, and pay out high VP; others are cheaper and pay less.

Best board games guide - Wargamer original Parks photo showing a close up of three Park cards in the game setup

On top of that, there are a few extra layers to add tactical spice: you each have a secret Personal Bonus card that’ll grant extra VP at the end of the game if you complete it; you can roll up extra VP by visiting Photo Opportunity spaces and collecting snaps; you can invest weather tokens in Gear and Canteen cards early on to boost your tokens or actions throughout the game, and so on. There are enough different strategic levers to pull to keep things fresh for a long time.

But the basic attraction here isn’t the mechanics – it’s the aesthetics and general feel of Parks that make it such a winner. Give it a try, and you’ll see what we mean. We bet you’ll come out of it feeling more relaxed (and also really wanting a vacation to a national park, obviously).

Best board games guide - Wargamer photo showing Azul supply dishes with tiles on them

Now, this guide may be the absolute cream of the crop, but there’s a very wide world of board games out there, and we’re on a mission to profile the top-tier choices of every single genre, scale, and type.

Check out our lists of the very best WW2 board games and other war board games – or for a scare, sample the best horror board games.