It’s fun to play around with words. We’ve all played Scrabble so many times that this classic word game has lost some of its luster, so we don’t blame you for seeking out alternatives. Whether you’re after brain teasing anagram puzzles, or guessing games that stretch your vocabulary we’ve gathered the very best word board games for you here.
We’ve got tile games that have you stringing words together, and titles that feel more like trivia board games with the way they’ll have you wracking your brain. Some of our word board game recommendations are games like Scrabble, others are doing their own thing, but all are great fun. Most are on the light side and make great games for families or kids board games too.
Best social deduction word board game
Werewords takes the framework of well-known social deduction game Werewolf and blends it with the word-guessing game 20 questions. On the face of it, that seems about as sound a mashup as Twister and Monopoly or Jenga and juggling, but in practice it works remarkably well.
Werwords is a party game where players try to deduce a secret word by asking Yes or No questions. The twist is that the traitorous Werewolf player already knows the word and must time waste, trick, and mislead the group to prevent them from finding the answer.
And then, just like in Werewolf, there’s a Seer who also knows the word and can try to help out. If the word is guessed correctly, the Werewolf can still win by identifying the Seer, and if not, the Seer can win by finding the Werewolf, so you’ve gotta be sneaky.
This is one of those social deduction games where there’s lots of opportunity for deceptive play, but there’s not too much pressure on the traitors. Since the guessing game is tricky all by itself, it’s the Seer who has the hardest time, trying to herd cats and get the rest of the team to the correct word.
The scrabble killer word board game
Once you’ve played Bananagrams, don’t blame us if you never touch Scrabble again. It’s basically speed Scrabble, where the aim is to use all your letters up, not place some nonsensical non-word like ‘Qi’ on a triple word square, then wait 15 minutes for your turn to come around again.
In Bananagrams, everyone has their own separate collection of letters to deal with, and the aim is to connect them all together in a crossword or Scrabble-type grid. It’s a race against time, as once one player’s grid is complete, everyone must take a new tile from the center. Once they’re all gone, the first person to use their letters up wins.
What works well about Bananagrams is the urgency it creates. You feel you’re falling behind as one player forces you to draw tile after tile, but at the end of the day, it’s usually possible to catch up, or sneak in from behind to claim the win. We love the way your grid isn’t set in stone – you can move things around, swap words and letters out, or even mash the whole thing up and start again, as you choose.
Bananagrams is truly intuitive and takes minutes to play, which can make it really addictive. It’s a fantastic family board game, and you’ll always be clamoring for just one more game.
Best team-based word board game
Codenames is a word-guessing game about drawing connections between seemingly unrelated words. Two opposing spymasters assess the same grid of word cards, laid out like a minefield, and just as dangerous. On each of their turns, the spymasters must try to get their team to choose the correct words by saying just one word (one that’s not on the board) to connect them, and the number of words you want them to guess.
However, you need to choose your linking word carefully. Because if your team chooses neutral ‘innocent bystander’ words, your turn ends. If they choose one of the other team’s words, your turn ends and you just gave your opponents a vital lead. And if they choose the ‘assassin word’, you immediately lose the game.
Sometimes it’ll be easy. You can say ‘Animal 2’ to link octopus and ostrich. Other times you’ll make a desperate reach, hoping against hope that your teammates’ brains make the same bizarre connections yours did. You’re forced to keep quiet as your team makes illogical leaps, or silently scream when you realize there’s a (sideways, but no more far-fetched than what you actually wanted them to guess) link to the assassin word.
The best thing about Codenames is it’s just as fun being on the guessing side as it is being the spymaster. For a less stressful, more cerebral spin on the same idea, Wavelength is a game that requires similar mind reading powers, and choosing exactly the right word to lead your team where you want them to go.
Poetry for Neanderthals
Best family word board game
This is a game where you talk with words that have just one sound, and your team must guess what’s on your card. That’s a successful description of Poetry for Neanderthals following Poetry for Neanderthals’ rules.
This word game is basically charades, but you can talk. However, you can only use words with one syllable, which makes even fairly easy concepts nightmarishly tricky to describe. It’s a really fun family game – and, an element kids will enjoy – comes with a blow-up club to bonk the describer with when they break the rules.
The only problem with Poetry for Neanderthals that I’ve found is that one in five people seem to have a really hard time identifying the number of syllables in words. But that’s alright, as long as they are a good sport and don’t mind getting thwacked with an inflatable club.
Best co-op word board game
One of those word games that demands some second-guessing, in Just One, everyone is trying to help one person guess a secret word. You each get to write a one word clue, but the problem is: duplicate clues get deleted.
So, if you’re too obvious, if the word was giraffe and you choose ‘tall’ or ‘animal’, you might end up with a situation where the guesser needs to land on their word with just ‘African’ and ‘yellow’ to help them out.
It’s a really, really simple co-op board game, and a great family game to break out when you want something light-hearted and wholesome that won’t start any bickering. The perfect board game for Christmas, in other words!
Now we’ve armed you with some suggestions to pull out next time Scrabble gets brought up. For alternatives to other classic board games, check out the best games like chess. And for general recommendations, we’ve got some great picks for the best board games ever.