Best board games: must-play tabletop titles

best board games: the box of Ticket to Ride, with a steam train on it
(Image credit: Future/Days of Wonder)

We’ve got the best board games for you right here. There are so many board games and each year sees a slew of new releases, but the classics are forever – we have the ten board games you should definitely know. Of course when we say classics we don’t want to alert you to the existence of Monopoly or Operation – but we do think anyone interested in board games should at least give Catan a go (it’s also on our list of best free web games to play)

As you will see on this list, board games don’t always have to be about war, and they don’t all have a steep learning curve either. Instead, the games on our list are for everyone, whether you enjoy long board gaming nights or prefer a quicker game.

 Sometimes it just feels good to play something at a table with no screens, and with so many board games to choose from, let us be your guide to some absolutely unmissable ones. If you only want to play with your house mate or partner, we also have a list of the best board games for two players.

Best board games

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best board games: miniature trains on a Ticket to Ride board next to the game box

(Image credit: Days of Wonder)

Ticket To Ride

All aboard this detailed train journey

Reasons to buy

+
Detailed set pieces
+
Excellent for playing with friends

Reasons to avoid

-
Very specifically catered to train fans

It’s time to go on a great rail adventure! But don’t worry, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home for this trip. Ticket to Ride is easy to pick up and fun for the whole family. The aim of the game is to collect various types of train cars in order to claim railway routes across the country – or continent. The original edition is set in North America, but there’s other versions set in different world regions to choose from, such as Europe.

The game's tension comes when you have to decide whether to expand your rail empire or add more train cars to your collection – while you’re building your collection, your competitor may be claiming all the most valuable routes. Ticket to Ride may be simple but it packs in hours of fun, just as the best board games should.

best board games: A stack of Herd Mentality cards next to a soft toy cow

(Image credit: Big Potato Games)

Herd Mentality

Don't be another sheep in the flock

Reasons to buy

+
Quick to learn the rules
+
Fun for large groups
+
Good ice breaker

Reasons to avoid

-
Questions get pretty zany

Hands down the best party game ever created, Herd Mentality is guaranteed to have you in stitches. It’s straightforward and can be learned in minutes, making it a fabulous game to play with families, or any time you don’t fancy wasting time scrutinizing a rulebook.

Herd Mentality is essentially a quiz game, but with a major twist. Instead of trying to guess the correct answer to a series of opinionated questions, you’re challenged to write down what the majority of people around you think the correct answer is. It’s no use swatting up on your general knowledge beforehand, or diving into a pocket encyclopedia for an advantage. The game tests your understanding of your fellow players as you try to fit in with the herd.

What really makes it is the game’s ludicrously wacky questions: what’s your favorite finger? Which of Jesus’s miracles do you wish you could perform? Name a vegetable beginning with the letter C. Things can get out of hand pretty quickly as you desperately try to predict the other players’ answers. Very light-hearted and quick to play, Herd Mentality is a game that just keeps on giving.

best board games: The Sushi Go Party box and cards

(Image credit: Gamewright)

Sushi Go Party!

Something fishy's going on

Reasons to buy

+
 Adorable artwork
+
Great for large groups
+
More in-depth than the card only version

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be a bit complicated

If you can’t find the time to dine out at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, Sushi Go Party is the next best thing. Take your seat at the allegorical table, study the menu, and pick up a pair of chopsticks, as you try to nab the most valuable dishes before your opponents.

Sushi Go Party is a super speedy card-drafting game. Rounds are simple and games can be completed in as little as 15 minutes. Each player starts with a set of cards hidden in their hand, with each one showing some form of sushi. Nigiri, sashimi, maki rolls – you’ll find it all here. But you don’t want it all; you want the most valuable, and must try to combine sushi to form score-boosting sets.

Unfortunately, the sushi doesn’t stay put. Mimicking a conveyor belt, each hand of cards rotates around the table, as players pass around their cards while choosing which they want to keep for themselves. The trick is to try and remember what cards are coming your way, so you can stack big point-scoring sets. Or, if you’re feeling particularly devilish, steal the card that your neighbor desperately needs for yourself, leaving them hungry.

Sushi Go Party is one of the best board games for families. Its fast pace means there’s no boring downtime, and the card-switching system makes sure everyone’s involved. A treat as fun as its sushi looks tasty. 

best board games: a Carcassonne board with yellow and red wooden figurines on it

(Image credit: Oliver Foerstner / Shutterstock.com)

Carcassonne

Zut alors!

Reasons to buy

+
Like Risk but less complicated
+
Loads of bits and pieces to get into
+
Great for beginners

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for those who don't like strategy games

Carcassonne is a great entry-level game for people who are bored of endless Monopoly games, and want something a little more thoughtful but not too complex. There’s a reason it’s considered a classic, after all.

In Carcassonne you take turns drawing tiles to expand an ever-growing map, while earning as many points from the locations as possible. that may sound a bit dry, but Carcassone has options to randomise the map you play on each time, thanks to the board consisting of tiles. there are also expansion options and different themes available if simple landowning sounds boring to you.

 It’s really easy to learn but every time you play you work out new strategies and ways to win – or, more realistically, ways to screw over your competition.

best board games: Box, cards, and pieces of Undaunted: Normandy

(Image credit: Osprey)

Undaunted: Normandy

World War II from the eyes of the villagers

Reasons to buy

+
Refreshing take on a stale genre
+
Expansions available

Reasons to avoid

-
Some might grow weary of all these war strat games

World War II board games are ten a penny, but none are quite as effortlessly captivating as Undaunted: Normandy. Combining light deck-building with squad-focused tactics, it’s a simple but effective take on what is usually a dry, complex genre – and one of the best two-player board games to boot.

You and your belligerent partner will take the role of the US and German forces, skirmishing for control of gallic fields and villages. You’ll use an action deck to issue commands to your troops, moving them into enemy lines to capture objectives across modular maps, and fend off opposing forces. Scenario objectives are varied and units diverse, but the game really shines through its sleek, on-the-go deck optimization, as you reinforce your squad with more units while avoiding the troublesome fog of war.

Better yet, Undaunted: Normandy is not a complex game. Its slim rulebook and pre-generated scenarios will have you playing in minutes. Between its tactical scope, soft visual palette, and precise dollop of luck, this board game will have even the most historical- and strategy-averse tabletoppers coming back for more.

Once you’re done skirmishing across the fields of northern France, check out Undaunted: North Africa to add vehicles into the mix. Or, pick up the Undaunted: Reinforcements expansion for a four-player and solo mode.

best board games: an Articulate game board and box

(Image credit: Tomy)

Articulate

One for the loquacious gamers

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to play
+
Competitive
+
Great ice breaker

Reasons to avoid

-
Dyslexics and those who struggle with word association will probably have a bad time

Easily one of the best board games you can buy for families, Articulate is a true trivia classic that is pretty accessible for all ages since it covers a broad range of subjects. These include Word, Action and Nature, although you don't need to know loads about those topics to win. Instead, the game is all about communicating with your teammates to guide them to choose the correct words.

The premise is pretty simple. Players get a card with words on it. Then they must describe one (or all) of the words without saying the word itself or what it sounds like or rhymes with. 

What we like about Articulate is it can be played with as few as four players but then works with 20 or more as well. That means it's a great idea for big gatherings or if you're hosting a Zoom party with lots of family members and colleagues. 

Best board games: The board and game pieces of Root laid out on top of each other

(Image credit: Leder Games)

Root

Dig deep and don't let the idyllic woodland setting disarm you

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely detailed gameplay
+
Play as a member of a specific team
+
Great for longer game sessions

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for those who are after a quick match

If you’re after a crunchy strategy board game, look no further than Root. What might appear to be a cutesy game of woodland critters is actually a vicious wargame of territorial conquest and conniving betrayals. You’ll be fighting tooth and claw for control of the forest floor.

Root isn’t your standard strategy fare, but an asymmetric board game. A very, very asymmetric board game at that. Each of its four factions – the Woodland Alliance, the Eyrie, Marquise de Cat, and the Vagabond – are controlled through unique turn actions and face distinct win conditions. 

The game’s rulebook is long and dense, demanding a lot of first-time players. But if you can spare the time to learn Root’s strategic depth, you’ll find a game that offers endless replayability as one of the best board games around. Between its distinct faction playstyles and open-ended strategy system, you’ll find something new each time you play.

best board games: a hexagonal Catan board with figures and cards next to it

(Image credit: Catan Studio)

Catan

This wouldn't be a board game guide without it

Reasons to buy

+
Multiple ways to win
+
Detailed world-building
+
Great for families

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for the casual player

Can I trade wood for sheep, please? Catan (officially called Settlers of Catan) is one of the very best board games of all time, and it adorns millions of tabletop collections across the world. It’s simple to get your head around – you want as many resources as possible to build as much as you can, and therefore score points – plus it’s somehow highly tactical at the same time as you rush to claim resources before the other players. 

If you’re looking for a stepping stone game between a more traditional board game like Monopoly or Cluedo to something a bit more specialist, Catan is that perfect transition. 

Catan will appeal to those who like a longer game, and it's also more enjoyable in a bigger group, so it's not for impatient players. it is however a very strategic game with a lot of variety from session to session.

best board games: the King of Tokyo board and figures

(Image credit: IELLO)

King Of Tokyo

Lovecraftian monsters find their footing in the Far East

Reasons to buy

+
King Kong fans will love this
+
New take on monster horror
+
Eye-catching, silly fun

Reasons to avoid

-
Appeals mainly to the monster fans

You might think you’re the biggest, baddest giant monster around, but so do all your friends. King of Tokyo puts you in the shoes/feet/tentacles of a colossal beast rampaging around a metropolis, growing stronger as you fend off both your monster friends and pesky humans fighting back with tanks and planes. 

The goal is to simply destroy as much of a metropolis and cause as much rampage as possible, but you need to carefully consider your actions. Your monster may need healing, investing in its skills may cause more damage. It's not a complicated setup, but lots of fun, especially in bigger groups.

It’s a delightfully silly game with bright colors, easy-to-learn gameplay, and a cast of inventive monsters straight from the 1950s Sci-Fi B-movie backlog. Simply one of the best board games out there for kaiju fans.

best board games - box image for the Pandemic board game, depiction a male paramedic, a female scientist in a lab coat, a man in a shirt and tie and a black man with a hard hat and a walkie-talkie

(Image credit: Z-Man Games)

Pandemic

If this one cuts a bit close to home, sorry

Reasons to buy

+
Topical fun
+
Gameplay influenced by real-world epidemiological science
+
Built on teamwork, great for groups

Reasons to avoid

-
Might feel a bit tasteless considering current events

We know this one is a bit tongue-in-cheek given the global health climate, but Pandemic has always been considered one of the best board games when it comes to applying strategy to an imagined scenario.

In Pandemic, you play as a disease-fighting specialist on a mission to stop the spread of several virulent diseases which have broken out simultaneously all over the globe. You need to band together to fight the diseases in global hotspots while also researching the cure, lest governments fall to the increased pressure on healthcsre systems.

There are lots of versions available, as well as expansion packs, including one where you must engineer a virus to wipe out humanity. What better thing to do on the heels of an actual pandemic than to play a game about a pandemic? Ironic humor at its finest.

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Callum Bains
Gaming News Writer

Callum is TechRadar Gaming’s News Writer. You’ll find him whipping up stories about all the latest happenings in the gaming world, as well as penning the odd feature and review. Before coming to TechRadar, he wrote freelance for various sites, including Clash, The Telegraph, and Gamesindustry.biz, and worked as a Staff Writer at Wargamer. Strategy games and RPGs are his bread and butter, but he’ll eat anything that spins a captivating narrative. He also loves tabletop games, and will happily chew your ear off about TTRPGs and board games. 

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