What are the best trivia board games for a brain-stretching quiz night? For many years, Hasbro’s Trivial Pursuit has been the undisputed king of quizzing – but these days, it has a lot of brilliant rivals for the crown. We’ve played a ton of quiz board games in our time, and this guide profiles our all-time top choices we think you should play.
Tabletop aficionados with nerdy collections full of the best board games may sometimes look down their noses at a humble quiz game, but they’re foolish to do so. Trivia board games don’t offer the intricate mechanics of a strategy board game; the deep storytelling of an RPG board game; or the bewildering longevity of legacy board games that go on for month.
But what they do offer is a magical, magnetic ease of play, and an unnatural ability to spark competitiveness like nothing else in the world – it’s fun to test your memory and knowledge against your pals’.
And tabletop designers have found a ton of ways to put a fresh spin on the formula – from interesting themes, to extra strategic mechanics, to clever tweaks that level the playing field for those who normally struggle with the genre have a fighting chance.
The best trivia board games are:
- Wits & Wagers
- Shot in the Dark
- The Game of Wolf
- I Should Have Known That
- Smart Ass
- Trivial Pursuit: Master Edition
In recent years, so many people have rediscovered their enjoyment of quizzes while looking for online lockdown activities. If you were among them, now’s the time to put your upgraded trivia skills to the test.
1. Wits & Wagers
A party game of two halves – in Wits & Wagers you’re not entirely dependent on your ‘wits’. In fact, you can still succeed without any general knowledge at all, provided you make the right ‘wagers’.
The questions here are outlandish enough that everyone is likely to be relying on educated guesses much of the time – especially since all answers are numerical, so the closest wins. The interesting part is that, before a correct answer is revealed, players get to see each other’s answers. They then have a chance to bet, using poker-style chips, on who they think has won. Sure, you get some chips for a correct answer – but there are greater rewards up for grabs for savvy gamblers.
In Wits & Wagers, you don’t have to be the most knowledgeable in the room, you just have to know who is – judge your friends’ areas of interest, or make blind guesstimations and hope fate smiles on you. All this makes Wits & Wagers a kinder trivia game for the uninitiated, and it also avoids the elimination drawback of many gambling games; players get to keep two chips regardless of how their betting goes.
2. Shot in the Dark
It’s the worst feeling when a quiz category comes up that’s a massive blind spot for you. Everyone else starts merrily scribbling away as you make desperate guess after desperate guess, debating sneaking off to the loo when it’s time to mark answers. In Shot in the Dark, that’s a total non-issue: guessing is the order of the day.
Designed to give the trivia-less an equal chance, Shot in the Dark asks questions like “what was the population in 1AD?” – carefully crafted so that no one will know the answer, but everyone can have fun taking a stab at it. This might seem like a gimmick that would get old fast, but – because the questions are well-designed and often ridiculous, and the answers surprising and often amusing – it actually has considerable staying power. It also comes in a compact, pocketable box, perfect for taking to the pub or a friend’s house – perhaps that friend who keeps kicking your ass at quiz games…
The board game version of a BBC TV quiz show that’s been popular in the UK for over a decade, Pointless is all about answering trivia questions correctly, while also trying to find the most obscure answers possible.
Each potential answer to questions like “Name a word ending in -eek” has an associated point value, based on the number of people who managed to blurt it out when 100 were asked the same thing. Well-known solutions will lie in the 80s or 90s, and you’ll need seriously niche knowledge to hit single digits, or to find one of the elusive ‘pointless’ answers from which the game takes its name.
The board game is a very faithful recreation, with four rounds lifted from the game show, and an optional app that simulates the Pointless countdown.
It even comes with a plastic trophy, so for some silly fun you can lean into it and have your own little quiz show experience. More importantly, the gameplay of Pointless works in the living room or pub just as well as it does in a TV studio (hence the series’ lasting popularity).
4. The Game of Wolf
There are two kinds of trivia fan: the pack member who prefers working with a team, and the lone wolf who wants to showboat and display their individual knowledge. This quiz game of rapidly changing loyalties caters to both.
In The Game of Wolf, on your turn, you’ll first view the topic for that round. You then decide, based on which of the players you think will be the best asset, on a pack member to join you in answering those questions. The unpicked players will form the opposing team, and you’ll need to best them to score points. However, you can also double your score for the round by going it alone and taking on everyone at once with your superior trivia skills.
More so than straight trivia knowledge, this game rewards understanding the strengths of everyone at the table. You might know a lot about baseball players, but if Jimmy McSportsfan is in your game group, can you really risk leaving them out of your pack?
One advantage of The Game of Wolf compared to Trivial Pursuit is that the trivia topics are extremely varied, ranging from Birds of Prey to Beyoncé. That means everyone should have a chance to shine, but no one will be able to go it alone every time.
The party quiz game Linkee is all about building connections. Each card holds four trivia questions, the answers to each of which will be related in some way. Getting those answers right isn’t important, though; finding the link between them is all that’s needed to win the card. These cards each have a letter on the back, and the first person or team to have enough to spell out the word ‘Linkee’ is crowned the champion.
One thing that adds a level of strategy to Linkee is that you only get one guess per card, and can make it at any time, as the four questions are read out one by one.
Do you wait until all four are revealed, to make sure you’re right about that link – or take a risk and shout your answer out early, in order to grab a vital letter? You can trade duplicate letters in order to remove an opponent’s card, too – so hi-jinx and rivalries naturally develop as the game goes on.
As with many games where you’re racing to be first, Linkee is perfect for families. It’s quick and can be picked up by new players in seconds, so it also makes for an ideal ice-breaker or a starter game for a board game night.
History; it’s a funny thing, eh? Just one thing after another, or so they say. In Timeline, players strive to slot their own event cards – each depicting a famous historical event – into a shared timeline. This history-em-up has you competing to be the first to deplete your hand by correctly guessing the order of events and where your cards fit in.
Timeline has surprising depth for such a simple concept. Because the timeline gets more and more cluttered as the game goes on, turns become increasingly trickier, which means finding the right order to play your cards is vital for success. This is based not just on your own history knowledge, but also on the cards your opponents are laying, and therefore the parts of the timeline that are the busiest.
Almost all trivia games have a bit of a replayability issue, and Timeline is no exception. Play a few times and you’ll naturally become familiar with many of the dates which might catch a newbie out. However, if you can overlook that, Timeline is a hit. It comes in a handily portable tin, and there are multiple variations to breathe some new life in, focusing on different topics, from famous inventions to cinema history.
7. I Should Have Known That
Full of easy questions designed to make you kick yourself, I Should Have Known That is another trivia game for people who aren’t trivia aficionados.
Almost all the questions are common knowledge: stuff like “Is a penguin a bird?” – so, while playing, you can’t avoid the notion (tauntingly reflected by the front of the box) that you really should have all the answers.
In keeping with the theme, you’re never rewarded points for correct guesses. Instead, points are subtracted for getting it wrong. These penalties differ, and, when you get a big minus score, it feels hilariously like your quiz board game is judging you.
Some questions are definitely trickier than others, so I Should Have Known That is great at making you paranoid, second guessing yourself, wondering if an obvious answer is a trap. A slight criticism: it’s clearly designed for a US audience. If you’re not from the States, there are a few questions that will likely fall flat, but it’s easy enough to skip past these.
Just how long is a monkey’s tail? That’s the kind of hard-hitting question you’ll be pondering in Fauna, a must-have for animal lovers looking to put their zoology knowledge to the test.
Each round, players try to size up one of 360 animal species, placing cubes on a game board depicting a world map, to make guesses on everything from weight to habitat. Cubes can’t be placed in the same spot as someone else’s – so you’ve got to prioritise the answers you feel most strongly about, before someone poaches your spot.
Educational, colourful, and well-designed, Fauna is an excellent quiz game for kids. Both the board and the animal cards are beautifully illustrated, and it has a less competitive feel than most of the games on this list, serving as wholesome family fun.
If you were around in the late ’90s / early ’00s, there’s a good chance you’ve played Cranium. Citing itself as “the game for your whole brain”, Cranium pitches itself as more than just a mere trivia game – you’ll also need to do impressions, unscramble words, or even sculpt some art out of clay.
The aim of Cranium is for your team to reach ‘Cranium Central’ and complete the final task you find there. But here’s the catch – you can’t move until your team successfully completes the activity on a card drawn for your turn.
You also can’t enter Cranium Central until you hold one card from each of the four different decks, meaning you’ll have to complete activities of all types before the game is over.
There’s so much more to the 90s board game Cranium than mere quiz questions that the trivia aspect of the game starts to look a little dry compared to the whistling and clay creation portions of the evening. If you’re after a questions-heavy night of quizzing, Cranium may not be the quiz board game for you – but if you’re happy with some quiz-lite gaming, there’s few games quite as colourful as Cranium.
10. Smart Ass
You know you’re in good quizzing hands when a quiz game is made by a trivia show host. Such is the case with Smart Ass, created by ex-Wheel-of-Fortune host Rob Elliot.
The trivia cards in Smart Ass are a little different to what you’d find in a Trivial Pursuit box. Rather than answering a specific question in the sports category, you might draw from the ‘Who Am I?’ category. The card you draw will have a series of clues rather than questions, and these clues gradually get easier until you reach the answer at the bottom.
Everyone is competing to be the first person to shout the correct answer – though beware, because a wrong answer stops your guesses altogether. You might be able to guess from “I was born in 1930”, but when you hear “I was the first man on the moon”, you’ll definitely know the answer – Neil Armstrong.
11. Trivial Pursuit: Master Edition
Okay, so right about now some of you will be looking back up at the title of this article and frowning into your screens – but listen, we couldn’t really have a best trivia board games list without properly honouring the great-granddaddy of the genre, could we?
There’s a reason Trivial Pursuit has stood the test of time: it’s a familiar, reliable quiz game classic. Sometimes you take someone to a sumptuous buffet and they just want to eat beans on toast.
If that’s you, and after seeing everything else that’s out there you’re hankering for some tried and true Trivial Pursuit, you at least ought to play the best possible version.
Out of all the myriad Trivial Pursuit variants (there are so many, oh my) our pick for best in show is the Master Edition. With a larger number of questions, a refined but familiar design, and the addition of a timer, it keeps enough the same, while being an all-round improvement on the classic version.