Best board games 2024: Must-haves to play with friends and family

It's been a long, long time since the best board games were limited to Monopoly or Risk. There are options to suit almost any mood these days, and the list of must-haves keeps on growing. Looking for a new party favorite your friends will love? Want an adventure for games night, or a strategy epic you can really get your teeth into? It's not an exaggeration to say that there are board games for everyone.

Because there's almost too much choice, our experts have rounded up a list of what they think are the best board games overall. Ranging from modern trendsetters to old-school classics, our team would argue that these entries deserve to be in every collection. Because this list is updated every month, you'll always find new board games to fall in love with too. Unsure of what you want in the first place? No problem. Take a look at our tips on how to choose board games.

Curious about how we choose the board games to feature here, on the other hand? That's fair enough. We don't select games based on their user reviews via sites like Amazon; our dedicated tabletop team writes about, tests, and reviews board games each week. That means we won't ever recommend something we don't truly believe in. As we mention in the how we test section further down the page, we've been hands-on with every single one of these entries. In other words? If it doesn't truly feel like one of the best board games, it's not getting on the list.

Curated by
Benjamin Abbott, Tabletop & Merch Editor at GamesRadar
Curated by
Benjamin Abbott

Benjamin's covered the best board games professionally for more than five years, but has been playing them ever since he was old enough to roll dice. He's currently digging into the adorable Mycelia (a game about mushroom people collecting dew).

Recent updates

April 10, 2024: This guide has been updated with extra suggestions based on games we've been enjoying recently, including the brand-new Star Wars Unlimited card game that has fans buzzing and the Wild West-themed 3000 Scoundrels.

Best board games: Quick list

Want to dive right in? Here's a whistle-stop tour of the best board games according to our experts.

Best board games: For adults

Betrayal at House on the Hill cards, box, tokens, board, and models on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)
One of the best board games overall

Specifications

Players: 3 - 6
Ages: 12+
Game type: Team/co-op
Genre: Horror
Complexity: Moderate
Lasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Vivid, unpredictable setting
+
Creative scenarios
+
Very replayable

Reasons to avoid

-
Occasional confusion over rules
-
Some missions aren't so well balanced
Buy it if:

You want something with a little more depth: Even though it's accessible, Betrayal has more meat on the bone in terms of strategy than rivals. It's a decent step up from classic family games in terms of narrative, too.

You love adventure games: If you're a fan of games that emphasize exploration and storytelling, it doesn't get much better than this. Discovering new rooms is a cornerstone of Betrayal, and the plot is inseparable from its mechanics.

Don't buy it if:

You want something easy and breezy: Looking for a simple party game that'll only last 20 minutes or so? This ain't it, chief. Despite being accessible on the whole, it's still far more complex than classics such as Clue.

You don't like randomness: This game relies on randomly-drawn board tiles and cards that'll dictate what happens next. If this kind of unpredictability doesn't appeal, Betrayal probably isn't for you.

What you need to know: Ever wonder how long you'd last in a horror movie? Betrayal at House on the Hill lets you find out. Setting players loose in a haunted mansion that's quite literally out to get them, it's drenched with tension. It's also unpredictable enough that you're never sure what's going to happen next. Sure, not all of the scenarios are created equal. But if you're hunting down something more mature in terms of both narrative and gameplay, this is one of the top board games for adults.

How it works: Your aim here is simple - make it out of the mansion alive after completing one of 50 missions. That isn't to say it's predictable, though. Betrayal isn't set up like traditional board games, and that's part of its appeal. Your character has been drawn to the house for mysterious reasons (they're following a friend who's gone missing or received an invitation from parties unknown, for example), and it's revealed turn by turn as you try to solve that case. However, each room is selected at random when you enter it. The items or events encountered within are randomized as well. In other words? There's no way of telling what lurks behind those doors. 

The only thing you do know is that one of the game's scenarios will eventually begin, dictated by the rooms and items you've drawn. This mission turns your allies - or the mansion itself - against you. Seeing as both sides are given secret objectives to follow, the result is an anxious yet exhilarating race against time.

If you're new to the franchise, buckle up; this might become a favorite

Benjamin Abbott, Tabletop & Merch Editor

Gameplay: This game's deadly twist on guess-who keeps you coming back for more. Which player is going to be unmasked as a traitor? And what will their mission be? With several-dozen imaginative scenarios under its belt, the novelty won't wear off anytime soon. Actually, we've still not seen everything these dusty halls have to offer despite having played for years. That puts Betrayal one step ahead of more formulaic (though still excellent) rivals like Mansions of Madness, and it ensures you'll have a blast even if you've played an older version of the game. (To see how previous instalments stack up against the current one, check out our guide to Betrayal at House on the Hill 3rd edition vs 2nd edition.)

Yes, there's a learning curve. Its scenarios aren't always the most well-balanced either, and a few mission rules could be clearer. But on the whole, you'll have enough fun that those niggles won't matter. This is perfect for game night with your grown-up friends (this most definitely isn't for kids).

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
Betrayal's blend of storytelling and exploration leave a real impression. It's accessible yet deep, and fast-paced in spite of being strategic. Thanks to a schlocky horror theme, it's a must-have if you're searching for good <a href="/halloween-board-games-for-everyone/" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Halloween board games too. In short, it's more than earned its place on our list of the best board games. A couple of expansions (starring a werewolf or revolving around <a href="/santas-coming-to-town-to-murder-you-in-new-betrayal-at-house-on-the-hill-expansion/" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">twisted Christmas tales) should keep that magic alive for even longer, too.

Read more: <a href="/betrayal-at-house-on-the-hill-3rd-edition-review" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Betrayal at House on the Hill review

More recommendations for adults

Why you can trust GamesRadar+ Our experts review games, movies and tech over countless hours, so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about our reviews policy.

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Best board games: Co-op

Pandemic board, cards, and tokens on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
Teamwork makes the dream work

Specifications

Players: 2 - 4
Ages: 10+
Game type: Team/co-op
Genre: Contemporary
Complexity: Moderate
Lasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Perfect team strategy
+
Tense, gripping gameplay
+
A welcome challenge

Reasons to avoid

-
Occasionally unfair
-
Theme is a bit on the nose nowadays
Buy it if:

You want a gripping team game: Battling each other for supremacy can be exhausting, especially if the people you're playing with are competitive. That makes this co-op challenge a breath of fresh air. You win or lose together, and good communication is essential.

You're looking for a challenge: This game doesn't take any prisoners, and that makes it all the more enthralling. You'll find yourself pushed to the brink as you wrestle with its clever mechanics.

Don't buy it if:

You don't like pressure: Tensions run high in Pandemic (you are saving the world, after all), so anyone that doesn't like pressure in games won't enjoy it.

You want something easy: Want to avoid raising your blood pressure? It's probably better to stay away from this one - part of the fun in Pandemic is that it forces you to strategize on the fly.

What you need to know: The odds are against you from the start in Pandemic, but that's the beauty of it. This team-based epic is never less than thrilling, and it doesn't feel hopeless either. Despite being tasked with curing a clutch of super-diseases, good communication (not to mention the ability to think on your feet) will see you through. Want satisfying cooperative board games for your collection? This should be at the top of the pile.

How it works: You're racing against the clock in Pandemic - you've got to contain and cure four deadly diseases that are sweeping across the globe. Naturally, this is far from a walk in the park. For starters, new infections (represented by dinky, colored cubes) are placed on random cities each turn. If enough cases gather in one place, they'll spill into neighboring areas in a devastating domino effect. To make matters worse, the number of infections deployed each turn increases over the course of the game. Spin your wheels and you'll get overwhelmed.

This leaves you with a difficult choice: research a cure by collecting cards (at which point the game stops placing infections for that particular disease), or remove infections at a local level so you can keep things under control.

A psychological shot of espresso

Benjamin Abbott, Tabletop & Merch Editor

Gameplay: Pandemic's balance of risk and reward keeps it at the top spot as one of the best board games overall. Is it better to keep disease levels down so that they don't spread from city to city in the short term, or should you play the long game and go all-in on developing cures? There's no right answer.

More importantly, that question will keep you on the edge of your seat. We've rarely seen our group more invested than here, and the need to constantly change your battleplan on the fly means that communication is vital - a must-have for co-op games. And it's true that all this is a bit stressful. But it's also gripping. As we mentioned in our review, such white-knuckle decision-making "shows off everything tabletop gaming is capable of."

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
There's a good reason why Pandemic has been on shelves for a couple of decades now - its blend of challenge and elation when you win makes it a classic. While there are countless versions to choose from now, we're still partial to this original game due to how elegant it is. Absolutely nothing is wasted in terms of mechanics and design.

Sure, its theme hits closer to home nowadays. But there's something cathartic about giving a pandemic the boot… even if it's only in this tabletop world of tokens and cards.

Read more: <a href="/pandemic-board-game-review" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Pandemic board game review

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Best board games: 2-player

The Maleficent mover, board, and cards from Disney Villainous on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future)
Sometimes, it's good to be bad

Specifications

Players: 2 - 6
Ages: 10+
Game type: Strategy
Genre: Fantasy
Complexity: High
Lasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Satisfyingly tactical
+
Fantastic artwork and design
+
Clever mechanics based on characters

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard to explain
-
Can be confusing
Buy it if:

You're looking for a game you can play together long-term:  Because each character comes with their own unique strategy, strengths, and weaknesses, this is the sort of game that benefits from repeat play over a long period of time.

You're a big Disney fan: Villainous is a love-letter to Disney films both new and old, so anyone that adores the House of Mouse will find plenty to appreciate here.

Don't buy it if:

You're expecting something for kids: Despite being based on family-friendly movies of our childhood, Villainous is a competitive strategy game with oodles of depth. It's not a good fit for young children as a result due to the patience it requires.

You don't have patience for complex rules: Villainous takes a hot minute to get your head around, and if you aren't willing to invest time in learning how it works, you won't enjoy the experience.

What you need to know: Never has a game been more on-brand than Villainous. It delights in letting you be as mean as possible, and you're encouraged to scupper a foe's plans in search of your character's happy ending. You see, this isn't a cash-in for kids; it's ruthless, surprisingly tactical, and deliciously wicked. 

If you ask us, that intricacy makes Villainous better when played head-to-head. While duking it out with lots of other people is fun, reducing the head-count makes things less chaotic and gives you more time to strategize. It's a great choice in terms of must-have board games for 2 players.

How it works: As the name would suggest, Villainous revolves around classic baddies getting their way - Jafar wants to control Genie, Prince John is trying to amass a fortune, and so on. Think of it like a 'what if' scenario, where the antagonists finally get their way.

What follows is a nostalgic romp through classic Disney films, reimagined here with original artwork. There's complexity hidden beneath all those gorgeous paintings, though. You'll navigate a personal board in search of allies, effects, or items that can help you complete your unique objective, and because each character has their own play-style, the experience is surprisingly deep. (As our review points out, "there's so much to get your teeth into.") What's more, you can delay your rivals by sending heroes to harass them. Seeing as these do-gooders block certain actions or introduce obstacles until they're removed, it adds a whole new dimension to proceedings.

What if the bad guys triumphed for once? And wouldn't that be more fun? As it turns out, yes. Yes it would

Benjamin Abbott, Tabletop & Merch Editor

Once you've gotten your head around your villain's special rules, you'll be cooking with gas. Despite being complex, Villainous is a masterclass in how to make a compelling, endlessly replayable strategy game. Genuine skill is rewarded here; coming out on top isn't due to luck, and knowing when to use certain abilities (or saddle your opponent with a well-timed hero) is essential.

It's a similar story when you're taking on different villains as well… particularly if you throw Disney Villainous expansions into the mix. These add-ons encourage you to adopt all-new strategies, and they're a good way of injecting life back into the game if you think you've mastered it.

Speaking of alternate characters, it's always a treat to dig through their decks. Villainous is downright beautiful; every illustration has been made with the utmost care stunning, and each mover is a work of art in its own right. Seriously, this is one of the best-looking board games out there.

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
If you can get to grips with the game's rules, you'll discover one of the most rewarding picks on this list. Disney Villainous sings in every respect that counts; it feels fresh each time you play, and different match-ups encourage all-new strategies to keep you on your toes.

It's also the quintessential example of 'the more you put in, the more you get out.' Dedicate some time to learning how Villainous ticks and you'll end up with a much richer experience - this is definitely a game that improves with repeat sessions, largely because that's the best way to uncover each characters' nuances.

Read more: <a href="/disney-villainous-board-game-review/" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Disney Villainous review

More 2-player recommendations

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Best card game

Jaipur box, cards, and tokens laid out on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)

4. Jaipur

The master of "just one more"

Specifications

Players: 2
Ages: 10+
Game type: Strategy
Genre: Historical
Complexity: Low
Lasts: 30 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to learn
+
Moreish gameplay
+
Compelling push-your-luck mechanics

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't add more players
-
Not tremendously deep
Buy it if:

You want something very replayable: Because there are so many different strategies you can make use of (and each session offers unique opportunities), you can play Jaipur multiple times and have a different experience each round.

You want a good travel game: Seeing as it doesn't take up much room in use or when packed away, Jaipur is the ideal game to take with you on the go.

Don't buy it if:

You want a multiplayer game: Unfortunately, Jaipur is limited to two players only. That means you're out of luck if you want to play as a group, or with multiple people.

You want a complex strategy game: Although this game has more than enough strategic back and forth, it's not the most tactical option.

What you need to know: Unusual, accessible, and delightfully compelling, Jaipur deserves to be in everyone's collection. Actually, we'd argue that it's one of the best card games ever made. After encountering it years ago at the suggestion of a board game cafe barista, we've been recommending it to anyone who'll listen ever since - it's got enough strategy to keep you invested after repeat matches, but isn't going to bog you down. It's also a fantastic travel companion because it doesn't take up much room in use or packed away.

How it works: Casting you as one of two traders in the eponymous city of Jaipur, your challenge is to earn an invite to the maharaja's court by being the best businessperson in all the land. How you do that is up to you though, and there's plenty of room to experiment.

You'll spend your turn either 'buying' (e.g. taking) a goods card from the table or selling sets of cards you've collected. The more you sell, the more points you get, and some wares - like silver or gold items - are worth more than others. But be warned: goods decrease in value as more are sold, so you can't wait too long to shift your stock.

Will keep you coming back over and over, eager to play 'just one more time'

Gameplay: Is it better to buy and trade cheap items as fast as possible? Or should you collect expensive goods for a bigger payday? There isn't a 'correct' way to go about things in Jaipur, and that flexibility helps the game stand out.

It also provides an engaging tug of war between both players. Seeing as wares decrease in value as more are sold, your opponent could beat you to the punch if you don't cash your cards in quickly enough. This delicate balancing act will keep you coming back over and over, eager to play 'just one more time.'

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
There are few games in our collection that we come back to over and over again, but Jaipur is one of them. Its mechanics are elegant yet engrossing, and even though fans of strategy may find it a little light, that makes it easy to pick up.

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Best board games: Role playing

The scenario book, map, models, and box of Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)

5. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion

An essential adventure for fantasy fans

Specifications

Players: 1 - 4
Ages: 14+
Game type: Adventure
Genre: Fantasy
Complexity: High
Lasts: 60+ mins

Reasons to buy

+
Deep, but accessible
+
Lasting consequences
+
Combat isn't random

Reasons to avoid

-
Lightweight compared to original Gloomhaven...
-
... but still quite dense
Buy it if:

You want an epic adventure game: Seeing as you'll be embarking on grand adventures and crawling through dungeons each session, Jaws of the Lion will hit the spot if you're in the mood for some swords and sorcery. Plus, the fact that you level up your characters over time should scratch that RPG itch too.

You want your choices to matter: Because your decisions are carried over from session to session, what you do really does matter. The world feels much more alive and infinitely more memorable than most other games on your shelf as a result.

Don't buy it if:

You want something simple: Despite being a lot more accessible than standard Gloomhaven (it was pitched as an easier way into the game), Jaws of the Lion is still a lot denser than a lot of board games. Keep that in mind before hitting the checkout.

You're expecting it to be as deep as standard Gloomhaven: The original Gloomhaven (not to mention its sequel, Frosthaven) defines 'sprawling fantasy epic.' Indeed, it'll take you months to finish. Even though Jaws of the Lion has plenty of depth, it's nowhere near as big. If you're expecting it to be on par with its predecessor, you'll be disappointed.

What you need to know: If you have a soft spot for fantasy and love nothing more than poring over ye-olde maps while dreaming of adventure, Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion should be on your radar. This dungeon-crawling epic taps into all that with branching storylines more commonly seen in the best tabletop RPGs, and it makes skilful use of 'Legacy' mechanics where the consequences of your actions carry across from one session to the next.

How it works: Jaws of the Lion casts you as a mercenary looking for work in the grungy metropolis of Gloomhaven (imagine the world of The Witcher and you won't be far off). As is only right for fantasy RPGs, said 'work' involves swords and/or sorcery. These jobs lead you through a grand narrative where your choices matter, so tread carefully - decisions can, and will, have consequences.

While all that sounds intense, the game has been designed with accessibility in mind. Unlike the full Gloomhaven or its sequel, Frosthaven, this one is smaller in scale and drip-feeds everything you need to know piece by piece. That includes a novel combat system which gets rid of random dice rolls. Rather than leaving success up to luck, all of your movement or attack actions are divvied up onto cards instead. The challenge lies in deciding which ones to use - and when.

Gameplay: Few board games can match the sense of agency in OG Gloomhaven, and it's no different for Jaws of the Lion. Along with upgrades for your character that'll provide a more personal connection with them, battles being so skill-based makes victory all the sweeter - your clever tactics saw you through, not luck of the dice. And while there is still a steep learning curve, it's far less intimidating than its predecessors.

A great place to start regardless of whether you intend to tackle other entries in the series or just want a taste of adventure

It's also worth persevering with. Honestly, there's nothing quite like the combat of this series. Trying to figure out the best combination of actions to use at any one time is a compelling mini-game in itself, and juggling your limited resources (you'll lose cards as you progress) makes for a challenging puzzle. Seeing as you'll have to balance helping your allies with hunting loot that can improve your hero, there's also a sizzling unease to keep you on the edge of your seat. Can your friends be trusted in a pinch, or are they more interested in helping themselves?

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
Seeing as it's more accessible than the original Gloomhaven (and much less expensive), this is a great place to start regardless of whether you intend to tackle other entries in the series or just want a taste of adventure. Yes, it's more complex than many other board games. But it's also a whole lot better.

More RPG recommendations

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Best board games: Classic

Cosmic Encounter box, cards, tokens, and playing pieces on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)

6. Cosmic Encounter

Bargain your way into conquering the cosmos

Specifications

Players: 3 - 5
Ages: 12+
Game type: Strategy
Genre: Sci-fi
Complexity: Moderate
Lasts: 120 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Mix of action and diplomacy
+
Easy to learn, but with lots of fun quirks
+
Variety of unique playstyles

Reasons to avoid

-
Not like traditional games
-
Can be hard to understand at first
Buy it if:

You want something a little different: Cosmic Encounter takes one look at 'normal' rules, shrugs, and decides to go in the opposite direction. Part of the fun is that its playable species break the game's own mechanics.

You love games with talking and bluffing: Diplomacy is a crucial pillar of Cosmic Encounter, so it's a great fit for anyone that likes negotiation, deception, or bluffing games. Trying to convince other players to join your cause can mean the difference between winning an encounter and losing. It's also a good way of deceiving rivals by turning 'alliances' into an ambush…

Don't buy it if:

You want something simple: Because it rips up the rules (in a manner of speaking, anyway) and offers lots of unique options, Cosmic Encounter may not be your speed if you want something really straightforward.

You don't like lots of talking: There are no two ways about it - Cosmic Encounter is a 'talky' game. If the idea of having to negotiate each round is a turn-off for you, best steer clear.

What you need to know: This sci-fi favorite was first published in 1977 and has been through numerous editions since then, but all of them have something in common - they're brilliant. Few classic board games have aged as well as this; its blend of strategy and quick-talking was peerless at the time, not to mention now. In truth, we bet it'll still be going strong in another 40 years.

How it works: Cosmic Encounter likes to break its own rules. It's like a pedantic teenager that does the opposite of what you ask; this is a fiercely creative game.

Each player takes the reins of an alien race, and their aim is to establish colonies on planets owned by rivals. They can do so through force (by playing a larger number from the cards in their hand) or negotiation. But the process isn't as simple as it sounds. To begin with, every 'encounter' allows players to make alliances that can tip the balance in their favor. What's more, all species have a special power that breaks the game's own rules in some novel way. Examples include winning by losing or reversing attack card numbers so 17 becomes 71.

Cosmic Encounter is clever enough to run rings around its peers

Gameplay: All those special powers make the game delightfully unpredictable. Seeing as 51 alien species are included in the base set, there's almost always something new to see, learn, or overcome. You never get a chance to rest on your laurels as a result, and different matchups require different strategies. Simply put, it's energizing.

Like many of the best board games, Cosmic Encounter creaks beneath the weight of expansion packs as well. More than half a dozen add-ons are available if you want to shake things up, so there's plenty to keep you busy here should you grow tired of the base game.

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
Monopoly and Risk may be better known, but this classic board game is arguably more praiseworthy. It's just as absorbing now as it was in the '70s, and few can match its slightly depraved creativity. Cosmic Encounter is clever enough to run rings around its peers, so it comes highly recommended a full 46-ish years after it hit shelves.

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Best board games: Strategy

Root box, board, tokens, and cards on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)
Tiny tactics

Specifications

Players: 2 - 4
Ages: 10+
Game type: Strategy
Genre: Fantasy
Complexity: High
Lasts: 90 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Wide range of strategies
+
Iconic art-style
+
Encourages creative thinking

Reasons to avoid

-
Rules take some getting used to
-
Needs repeat play to shine
Buy it if:

You love deep strategy games: Root may look cute and cuddly, but it's ruthless. The tactics on display here are some of the industry's best, and because each faction has its own rules and objectives, there's plenty to get your teeth into.

You want something you can really get your teeth into: This is the sort of game that gets better after repeat sessions - you'll only truly grasp what your faction can do after using them a few times. In short, the more you play, the better your matches will be.

Don't buy it if:

You're turned off by dense rules: There's no way to sugarcoat this - the rules of Root are intimidating. Due to each faction having its own mechanics on top of an already-complex system, you'll need to spend time swotting up on how to play before you place your first meeple on the board. Naturally, that won't appeal to everyone.

You can't commit to multiple playthroughs: Root is at its best when you can return to it over and over, so anyone that isn't able to do so will have more luck with other games. 

What you need to know: Looks can be deceiving, and Root is the perfect example. Despite an inviting art-style, this is about as hardcore a strategy game as it gets. Alright, so the action takes place in a quiet woodland realm. All is not well beneath those trees, though. The animals living there want to kick the stuffing out of each other, and you'll need to hatch schemes that'll put your faction on top.

How it works: Much like the Redwall novels, each player commands a tribe of anthropomorphic creatures that must fight to control the forest's clearings (in practical terms, that means collecting 30 'Victory Points'). The base game gives you control of four factions: the 'Marquise de Cat' that must cement their rule by putting down rebellion, feudal birds who operate via espionage, an insurgency of 'peasant' animals (mice and hedgehogs) called the Woodland Alliance, and an adventuring racoon who sneaks around the board. Each one has its own unique playstyle, and although that's a lot to take in, it encourages you to think creatively and dream up wild strategies.

Fortunately, the nuts and bolts of battle are much more straightforward. Players simply roll dice and compare results to see how a fight turns out, with more meeples being able to deal greater damage. That allows you to get a sense of how combat will turn out just by looking at the pieces you've got on the board. Throw crafting and special abilities into the mix (found on a deck of special cards that you'll draw on throughout the game) for a heady tactical cocktail.

Gameplay: First things first - be aware that there is a learning curve here. While our review called it "the most accessible complex wargame," Root is still a complicated beast that requires some investment. That effort is worthwhile, though. Persevere and you'll discover one of the best strategy board games out there; it's a poster-child for everything this hobby is capable of.

Gleefully cribs the best ideas from the last few decades of wargame development

Jonathan Bolding, contributor

We've never seen two games go the same way, for instance. Each factions' quirks (and the cards that can influence them) provide a wealth of options each turn, and while this is overwhelming at first, such flexibility makes Root truly compelling in the long-term. It's very replayable. 

Similarly, the simplicity of its combat isn't a drawback. The fact that meeples can only move into spaces their faction controls (or where they have a numerical advantage) allows clever generals to squeeze opponents into a corner. Well-timed bonuses also add texture to this elegant yet rich system.

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
So long as you're happy to do a little homework in terms of its mechanics, you'll find that Root has a lot to offer. It's essential for strategy fans thanks to spotless asymmetric gameplay, and being able to boost the experience with a number of expansions keeps that spark alive.

Read more: <a href="/root-board-game-review" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Root review

More strategy recommendations

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Best board games - for families

Ticket to Ride tokens, cards, and tins from the Ticket to Ride 15th Anniversary set, laid out on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)
Even if you don't win, it's still a blast

Specifications

Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 8+
Game type: Strategy
Genre: Historical
Complexity: Low
Lasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Broad appeal
+
Extremely replayable
+
Chilled out

Reasons to avoid

-
You'll eventually learn the routes
-
Dry theme
Buy it if:

You want something easy but fun: Looking for a game that's accessible and light-hearted, but not boring? Ticket to Ride will fit the bill nicely. Despite being easy to understand, there's still enough strategy here to keep you interested.

The people you're playing with aren't board gamers: The wonderful thing about Ticket to Ride is the fact that it's so accessible. Even if your opponents have never played anything more exotic than Monopoly, they'll still be able to get involved easily enough.

Don't buy it if:

You want something that'll challenge you: Even though there are tactics on display in Ticket to Ride, it's not going to stretch you. This is a fairly laid-back experience overall.

You'll be playing it a lot: Ticket to Ride can get a little tired if you overdo it. It got us through lockdown during the pandemic via virtual matches with family, but eventually we learned all the routes and the game lost its shine. This one's best played every now and then instead so the novelty doesn't wear off.

What you need to know: Ticket to Ride is one of the most laid-back entries on this list, and that makes it the perfect choice if you want board games for families that aren't going to start a civil war around the table. Thoughtful and relaxing, it's a delight for all ages.

How it works: Picture the scene - it's the early 1900s, top hats are in, and trains are still of the steam variety. In this quaint landscape of frilly frocks and tail-coats, you've got to plot railway routes from one city to another. Whoever builds the longest line (and connects the most cities) wins.

Sounds easy so far, right? And it is; you couldn't call Ticket to Ride an overly competitive game. Nonetheless, it is possible to ruin each others' day along the way. If you can guess where someone's trying to go, you can cut off their route by building there instead, thus denying them those valuable points.

Gameplay: OK, so the railway theme may not light your world on fire. But there's an undercurrent of strategy holding everything together here, allowing it to hit the perfect balance of being family-friendly without losing any tactical complexity. That makes Ticket to Ride one of the best board games even if its players haven't ventured beyond Scrabble.

Thoughtful, easy-going, and thoroughly chilled out

Benjamin Abbott, Tabletop & Merch Editor

It's not overly aggressive, either. Unlike so many entries on this list, there's less emphasis on screwing each other over. Although it's frustrating when a rival claims a route you were going for, there's usually an alternative with which you can salvage all that time and effort. As such, this is an option we're more than happy to break out if things can get heated on game night. Like our review mentions, it's "the perfect option for newcomers and tabletop veterans alike."

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
Looking for an easy-going game for post-Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner lulls? This is a great choice. It's both accessible and pleasantly low-key, letting players of all skill-levels tackle the challenge at their own pace.

Read more: <a href="/ticket-to-ride-review/" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Ticket to Ride review

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Best board games: For kids

Sushi Go! cards and tin laid out on a wooden table

(Image credit: Future / Benjamin Abbott)

9. Sushi Go!

A must-have for at home or on the go

Specifications

Players: 2 - 5
Ages: 8+
Game type: Party
Genre: Fantasy
Complexity: Low
Lasts: 15 mins

Reasons to buy

+
Fast-paced
+
Easy to learn
+
Really darn cute

Reasons to avoid

-
Emphasis on chance
-
Young children may struggle
Buy it if:

You want something quick and easy: Seeing as matches rarely last longer than 15 minutes, Sushi Go occupies the sweet spot in terms of a kid's attention span. Its gameplay is blissfully simple too, so you won't spend most of that time explaining how it all works.

You want something portable: Sushi Go comes in a handy little tin and doesn't take up much room in use, so it's ideal for slinging in a backpack for days out or when you're on vacation.

Don't buy it if:

Your kids hate math: Because you have to understand basic math to work through Sushi Go, it won't be a good fit for very young children or those who are practically allergic to sums.

You want a game for very young kids: Most will be able to get a grip on Sushi Go without much fuss, but younger children may struggle to think ahead enough. It relies on a basic understanding of math as well, so keep that in mind before buying for very small members of the family. 

What you need to know: This light-hearted game is perfect if you want something quick but fun; it's got the secret sauce of being fast-paced with easy-to-understand rules. More specifically, you can learn and complete it in under 15 minutes. That means you won't mind playing round after round (which is always handy when it comes to board games for kids), especially because Sushi Go's gameplay is so moreish.

How it works: Sushi Go is different every time you pick it up. It works in a very similar way to Exploding Kittens, with players taking a card and passing the rest on… except here you need to build a selection of dishes that earn points over the course of three rounds. Whoever racks up the biggest score wins. 

Some of these cards are worth a lot right away, others provide multipliers, and yet more require you to collect a set for bigger payouts.This means that there are multiple approaches you can take on your path to victory. (Just don't forgot about Puddings, which are only scored at the end of the game and may tip your score over the edge.)

Gameplay: The elevator pitch for Sushi Go is simple, but don't think it's shallow as a result. Because you'll be looking through your hand of cards before passing it to the next player (and can obviously tell what others have picked), smart cookies can sabotage their rivals by taking the cards someone else needs. It's delightfully devilish, and most will pick it up quickly.

A quickfire gem that won't get boring any time soon

The game's rapid-fire nature makes it a winner with little ones that don't have much patience, too. Matches don't take long and are easy to set up, so you can happily run an encore without much trouble. 

Not that this is only for kids, of course. It'll be a hit with all ages, and is a great warm-up game before moving on to something with more depth. 

Should you buy it?

🏆 GamesRadar+ verdict
Sushi Go is a quickfire gem that won't get boring any time soon. It's light, breezy, and charming enough to turn you into an instant fan. Plus, the fact that it doesn't have a board makes it a great travel option for gamers on the go.

Read more: <a href="/ticket-to-ride-review/" data-link-merchant="gamesradar.com"">Ticket to Ride review

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How we test the best board games

A hand places a token in a Star Wars board game, next to a pair of dinosaur tokens on a board

(Image credit: Future)
  • Every board game is played multiple times
  • Our sessions include a variety of players
  • We consider longevity, build-quality, value, and plain old fun

In terms of our process, the GamesRadar+ team tests the board games we recommend in buying guides like this one repeatedly and to a high standard. That means we can get a better sense of what it's really like to play across a variety of situations via hands-on experience.

Basically? Anything on this list has had to jump through plenty of hoops first. To begin with, and as explained in our wider 'how we test' guide, we'll spend as much time learning, playing, and living with each board game as possible before reviewing or including it in this guide. Besides helping us judge wherever it's actually fun or not, that procedure gives us a better idea of a game's longevity. It also allows us to work out how (or if) the experience differs when played with varying numbers of people. We can then provide better advice on which board games will suit you and your needs.

If we haven't played it half to death and don't still love it, it's not getting in

Our testing sessions aren't just about determining whether something is enjoyable or not, though. We focus on component quality, art, and value for money too. In addition, how does it compare to what came before? Will it draw you into the story it's telling (if there is one), or does it provide a twist on established conventions? These are all elements we consider when testing products. After all, it has to be special if it wants a chance of getting onto a list of the best board games.

In a nutshell, any board games you see here have been tested, re-tested, and tested again with a variety of players to make sure they hold up. If we haven't played it half to death and don't still love it, it's not getting in. This list should only be for the crème de la crème, after all. We'll never recommend a board game we wouldn't be happy buying ourselves.

For a deeper dive into how we review products, you can find out more in this feature describing how we test board games and tabletop RPGs.

How to choose the best board games

A scene from the Monster Hunter World: Iceborne game, alongside tokens from Jaipur

(Image credit: Benjamin Abbott)
  • Think about who you're buying for
  • Consider how much time you have to give per session
  • Work out what you enjoy already

Unsure about what you're looking for, or wondering where you should start when it comes to the best board games? Don't worry, that's totally fair. There's a lot of choice, and that can be more than a little overwhelming. 

If you want to narrow things down and find a board game that suits you, ask yourself the following questions:

❓ Who are you buying for?
Firstly, it'll really help to think about the people you'll be playing with. Are you trying to find a game to play with your family? You probably don't want anything too complicated, so entry-level titles like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne, or Catan will do the trick. Are you trying to find a more in-depth game to play with your friends, on the other hand? Go in the opposite direction - avoid family-focused products and consider 'hobby' games like Betrayal at House on the Hill, Disney Villainous, or Pandemic instead.

🕐 How much time are you willing to spend?
Thinking about how much you want to spend - both in terms of time and money - will help narrow things down tremendously. If you're low on spare time and want something straightforward enough that you won't spend ages swotting up on rules, don't bother with the likes of Gloomhaven. Get more lighthearted family games instead.

👨‍👩‍👦 How many players will there be?
It sounds obvious, but giving some thought to the number of people that'll be sitting around the table with you is crucial. Some games can only be played with two people, while others require a bigger crowd. 

🎲 What games do you like already?
If you're a fan of a particular style of game, trying to find something like it is a good way forward. Enjoy the easy-going nature of Herd Mentality? Pick up Color Brain next. Are you a fan of the high-fantasy HeroQuest? Try Frosthaven, or Descent: Legends of the Dark.

Best board games: FAQ

Pawns, tokens, and cards on the Pandemic board, beside a board with Azul tokens laid on it

(Image credit: Future)

What is the #1 board game?

- Chess wins in terms of sales (3m every year)
- For ratings, Brass: Birmingham or Gloomhaven are winners
- Games with 'Legacy' mechanics are always popular


There are a couple of answers to this question, and the one you get depends on your criteria. In terms of sales, the #1 board game would absolutely have to be chess. By latest count, it shifts roughly 3 million units each and every year. That dwarfs anything else on shelves right now, and it's not even a competition.

As you might expect, Monopoly comes next. Over the course of its lifetime (around 80-odd years), it's been able to sell well over 200 million copies. Few board games can say the same thing.

However, what about the #1 board game so far as ratings go? That's an entirely different kettle of fish. We have our own opinions and would probably point you in the direction of a modern classic like Pandemic, but the tremendously popular BoardGameGeek forums (which are usually a decent barometer of quality) argue for something else. Brass: Birmingham is the most popular game on the site by a few points, and it enjoys a very high average rating on the whole. Folks clearly enjoy this strategy game of buying and selling goods during the industrial revolution...

'Legacy' mechanics seem to be a common feature for many of the top board games according to users

This is followed by Pandemic Legacy: Season 1, an adaptation of the classic team game where your actions have consequences that carry over from session to session. Actually, those 'legacy' mechanics seem to be a common feature for many of the top board games according to users; fantasy dungeon-crawler Gloomhaven comes in third, for example, and that one sees you working your way through an ever-evolving story.

Naturally, all this is pretty fluid and changes regularly. For instance, the recently-announced Undaunted 2200: Callisto has everyone talking right now. This futuristic spin on the classic wargame (which focused on WW2 conflicts before, as seen in Undaunted: Battle of Britain) asks you to choose between blue-collar miners and the mega-corporations that are trying to snuff out their rebellion. It looks set to shake up the formula with that sci-fi setting, a lunar battlefield, and the addition of new units like mechs.

In much the same way, another title that's turning heads is Apiary. Because this is a game from the publisher of Wingspan about space bees, that's probably not surprising.

So, what do we think? In the opinion of the GamesRadar+ team, we believe it depends on the kind of game you're looking for - the answer varies based on whether you'd like a co-op experience, strategy, or something else entirely. As luck would have it, we've listed what we think are the best board games in each category on this very page...

What is the most interesting board game?

- Gloomhaven is a frontrunner due to its many fascinating systems
- Twilight Imperium's complex strategy is definitely interesting
- Betrayal at House on the Hill is always evolving

The answer to this sort of question comes down to personal preference, and it depends on how much time you're willing to invest in a board game too. Those who prefer lighter, family-friendly games may not get along with in-depth strategies, for example.

So far as we're concerned, games like Gloomhaven (which often feature customizable characters or branching storylines that react to your choices) would come up trumps in terms of being 'the most interesting.' Although they're complicated, they keep you busy for months on end with consequences that follow you from session to session. Oh, and they allow you to take ownership of things in a way few competitors do.

Betrayal at House on the Hill and Disney Villainous follow close behind in our estimations, though. That sort of 'hobby' board game is very replayable, and gets better every time as you learn its quirks. More layered gameplay also provides a satisfying challenge.

They're very accessible but hide hidden depth

So far as interesting games for more casual players go, we'd vote for something like Pandemic. This co-op race against time has many moving parts to test your mettle, but its rules aren't complex. Catan and Carcassonne are much the same; they're very accessible but hide hidden depth. 

What is the most popular board game in 2024?

- Hero Realms Dungeons is highly anticipated
- A new Star Wars card game is launching soon
- Chess has 3 million sales each year

Now that a new year is upon us, the field is open for something to swoop in and steal the spotlight. We have a suspicion that Star Wars: Unlimited (a trading card game due this March) will probably clean up, followed by the hugely successful Kickstarter project Hero Realms Dungeons. The Wingspan creator's new board game, Mycelia, should turn heads as well thanks to its designer's reputation. Plus, those video game adaptations (such as Dead Cells and Apex: Legends) may be ones to watch.

However, that's all hypothetical. In the here and now, classics like Jenga and Connect 4 consistently come up trumps according to Amazon's best-sellers list. Modern favorites such as Codenames, Ticket to Ride, and Azul also dominate the charts.

While it's not definitive, this is a pretty decent temperature check nonetheless. Seeing as it's one of the biggest and most popular retailers on the planet, Amazon can give a good indication of what's hot right now. Yes, it's true that this doesn't account for what customers thought of the game after they played it, but still - it's a starting point.

As for what we think, we'd argue that Disney Lorcana was the standout of last year and will probably continue its streak in 2024. It's enjoyed a runaway critical and commercial success since launching a few months ago, and we went so far as to argue that Disney Lorcana is the trading card game we need right now.

Disney Lorcana

(Image credit: Benjamin Abbott)

Equally, Frosthaven earns our "something we think is really awesome" vote. This RPG sequel to Gloomhaven takes the original game and improves upon it in almost every way, resulting in an incredibly immersive experience. As we mentioned in our Frosthaven first impressions guide, it's both refreshing and enticing.

Still, we can't talk about all this without addressing the elephant/rook/queen in the room - chess. This ancient game of patience and tactics has been popular for as long as anyone can remember, and that's is borne out in terms of sales. More specifically, chess tends to sell 3 million units each year. 2023 won't have been much different, so it was clearly a winner over the last 12 months.

Should you wait until Black Friday to buy board games?

  • It depends on whether you want hobby or family games
  • Record lows for expensive board games like Gloomhaven...
  • ...But family-friendly games enjoy discounts all year round

Even though the year's biggest sale is better known for reductions on tech like laptops and TVs, it does offer some decent board game deals as well. Everything from family classics to modern favorites are included in these price cuts, and many of them hit record lows.

However, whether you should strike depends on what you want. While many of the best board games enjoy big discounts during Black Friday (Pandemic is a good example, as is Ticket to Ride), they often get solid reductions all year 'round. Meanwhile, more expensive 'hobby' games like Mansions of Madness never drop much in cost until the Black Friday board game deals. As a case in point, the enormous RPG adventure Gloomhaven hasn't ever been cheaper than it was during Black Friday 2021. Similarly, sci-fi conquest game Twilight Imperium hit its lowest ever price a few days later. More recently, co-op board games such as Spirit Island dropped to record lows in 2023's sale. 

If you're hoping to buy Nemesis, Root, or one of the other big-box titles, yes - it's worth waiting until November

In essence, whether you should wait hinges on what you're looking for. If you're hoping to buy Nemesis, Root, or one of the other big-box titles, yes - it's worth waiting until November. Chances are, they'll be furnished with all-time low prices for Black Friday. When it comes to family-friendly board games, though, you don't gain much from holding fire. They don't always get record savings during the sale, so you're better off grabbing them as soon as you see a decent sticker price no matter the time of year.

Wondering how can you tell if a board game discount is worthwhile? Checking with comparison sites like CamelCamelCamel is always a solid bet. These can tell you when the best board games were at their cheapest, their price history, and when they historically get reductions. We've used this software for years, and it's how we bring you intel on on the most tempting deals.


Eager for more recommendations? If you want something to play at your next game night, definitely check out the best party board games. As for something more adventurous, don't miss these Dungeons and Dragons books.

Benjamin Abbott
Tabletop & Merch Editor

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to the latest Lego news. I've been writing about games in one form or another since 2012, and can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.