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The best board games - find a new favorite in 2021

Included in this guide:

best board games
(Image credit: Z-Man Games, Ravensburger, Cephalofair Games, Catan Studio)

There's no shortage of choice when it comes to the best board games, so where should you start? 'Overwhelming' is an understatement.

That's where we come in. The GamesRadar+ team has spent years playing everything it can lay its collective hands on, so we've got plenty of suggestions to get you going on your quest for the best board games. Regardless of whether you're hunting down strategy epics, something for a party, or quieter alternatives you can play as a couple, you'll find them here.

To help save you money along the way, our price comparison software also digs out the cheapest deals on the internet. Those offers are updated regularly, so you can be sure that you're seeing the lowest prices available right now. Because sales season is now upon us, you shouldn't be have any trouble finding discounts.

Best board games for adults

Move over, Monopoly; the industry has grown way beyond those humble beginnings, and now it's awash with new ideas that will keep you playing for months. Want something to delight your friends on game night? These board games for adults will do the trick. In fact, we'd argue that they're some of the best board games ever made. 

best board games

(Image credit: Avalon Hill)

The best board game for adults overall

Reasons to buy
+Vivid, changeable setting+Creative scenarios+Very replayable
Reasons to avoid
-Potential for uneven games

Have you ever wondered how long you'd last as a horror movie character? Betrayal at House on the Hill lets you find out. Setting players loose in a mansion that's revealed room by room, something is waiting inside - and as you've probably guessed, it's not pleasant.

Betrayal's gameplay is drenched in tension as a result. You never know what's lurking beyond the next door, so players will need to work as a team if they want to get out of those hallways alive - especially because one of you might be a traitor in secret...

best board games

(Image credit: Z-Man Games)

The best co-op board game for adults

Reasons to buy
+Perfect team strategy+Tense+Challenging
Reasons to avoid
-Occasionally unfair

The odds are against you from the start in Pandemic, but that's the beauty of it. This co-op epic is never less than thrilling, and good communication (not to mention the ability to think on your feet) is your only hope of winning.

It never feels hopeless, though; despite players being tasked with holding back a clutch of super-diseases from spreading across the world, they're armed with unique abilities that can help them turn the tide. This injection of strategy helps Pandemic reach the top spot as one of the best board games overall.

best board games

(Image credit: Cephalofair Games)

The best adventure board game for adults

Reasons to buy
+Absurdly deep+Lasting consequences+Great combat
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

Powered by unique combat and a setting that's reminiscent of The Witcher, Gloomhaven is the fantasy adventure of your dreams. An engrossing RPG stuffed with branching storylines, miniatures, and a world that's influenced by your decisions, it's the sort of game you can lose yourself in for months. No, really - it'll take dozens of hours to complete.

Crucially, it also leans on 'Legacy' elements. That means it features secret gameplay mechanics that unlock over time, ensuring the game never becomes stale.

best board games

(Image credit: Stonemaier Games)

4. Wingspan

The most relaxing board game for adults

Reasons to buy
+Moreish +Beautiful art+Easy to learn
Reasons to avoid
-Tricky to master

As you might have guessed from the name, Wingspan puts birds front and center - your aim is to attract the biggest variety of feathered friends to your preserve. This isn't as dry as it might sound, though. Clever mechanics form a moreish, satisfying loop that'll keep you coming back to increase your score on the next go around. 

The lack of direct competition also turns it into a relaxing, zen-like experience. You don't need to worry about the competition undoing your hard work, and other players often benefit too if you play a special ability. That means you'll enjoy Wingspan regardless of whether you win or lose; it's just plain satisfying.

best board games

(Image credit: Big Potato Games)

The best adult board game for parties

Reasons to buy
+Fast-paced+Competitive+Accessible
Reasons to avoid
-Anxiety-inducing

Its namesake may be long gone, but Blockbuster: The Game is still the life of the party. This movie quiz is fast-paced and surprisingly brutal, but it's never unfair. In fact, it's the best board game for get-togethers by a mile. That's because you don't need to be a film buff to play - no in-depth knowledge is required.

It's a game that can support lots of players, too; so long as you've got two teams, it doesn't really matter how many people are involved. That makes it a good choice if you're unsure how many people you'll be entertaining for.

best board games

(Image credit: Leder Games)

The best strategy board game for adults

Reasons to buy
+Gorgeous artwork+Wide range of strategies+Unique factions
Reasons to avoid
-Complicated

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. Multiple factions with their own special rules - not to mention objectives - leave plenty to get your teeth into.

The action takes place in a quiet woodland realm, but all is not well beneath those trees; the animals that live there want to kick the stuffing out of each other, and you'll need to hatch schemes that'll put them on top.

Best family board games

Families have been arguing over board games for more than a century, and now there's enough choice to sink a (Battle)ship. Where should you start? We've got a few suggestions up our sleeve. No matter whether you want a quick distraction for a weekend get-together or something to do after Christmas dinner, these board games for families will hit the spot.

best board games

(Image credit: Days of Wonder)

The best board game for families overall

Reasons to buy
+Broad appeal+Extremely replayable+Chilled out
Reasons to avoid
-Dry theme

Ticket to Ride is one of the most laid-back board games on this list, and that makes it a great choice if you want something to play with your family. Thoughtful and relaxing, it's a delight for all ages. Sure, that railway theme may not light your world on fire. But there's an undercurrent of strategy holding everything together, allowing it to hit the perfect balance of being family-friendly without losing any tactical depth.

best board games

(Image credit: Catan Studio)

2. Catan

The best strategy board game for families

Reasons to buy
+Tactical+Lots of ways to win+Trading and deal-making
Reasons to avoid
-Can be frustrating

Catan whisks us back to the age of explorers; faced with an uninhabited island, players have to settle it before their opponents do. And because everyone's fighting to civilize the same frontier, clever manoeuvring is the order of the day. Foresight and good communication are rewarded too thanks to the island's limited resources, so this 1995 favorite is one of the best board games for players that want more of a challenge.

best board games

(Image credit: Repos Production)

3. 7 Wonders

The best trading board game for families

Reasons to buy
+Accessible+Great trade mechanics+Variety of strategies
Reasons to avoid
-Can drag

It may be set eons ago, but this board game isn't some dusty old relic. Your job is to help a legendary city like Athens achieve greatness through scientific discoveries, trade, military conquest, or by constructing one of the wonders of the ancient world. Because doing so requires cards from a shared pool, you'll need to keep an eye on what your opponents are doing to make sure they don't scupper your plans.

best board games

(Image credit: Drumond Park)

4. Articulate!

The best trivia board game for families

Reasons to buy
+Can have 20+ players+Questions don't go out of date+Fast-paced but accessible
Reasons to avoid
-Some won't like the pressure

If friends and family are descending upon you en-masse, Articulate! is the best board game to break out. Having appeared on shelves since 1992, this is a trivia classic that almost anyone can get involved with. Its long life isn't a mystery, either; the rules are straightforward and easy to get your head around. Plus, its broad range of subjects mean you don't need to be a font of obscure knowledge to win.

best board games

(Image credit: Plan B Games)

5. Azul

The best puzzle board game for families

Reasons to buy
+Thoughtful+Calming+Lovely art style
Reasons to avoid
-Potential for bickering

Azul is gorgeous to look at, and its gameplay is every bit as mesmerising. A good description for this one would be 'color-based crossword'; you have to line up tiles to make patterns or complete the perfect set. It's a soothing process that's more of a personal puzzle than a head-to-head challenge, and that puts it alongside the best board games if you're a fan of head-scratchers.

best board games

(Image credit: Z-Man Games)

6. Carcassonne

The best city-building board game for families

Reasons to buy
+Always different+Rewards long-term strategy+Satisfying
Reasons to avoid
-Luck of the draw

Inspired by a French city of the same name thanks to its sprawling medieval walls, Carcassonne's board is created as you go. Because you earn points for placing meeple - little wooden people - on completed towns, roads, and farms, you end up in a high-stakes tug of war to steal settlements from under an opponent's nose or keep them away from your investments. It's a must-have.

Best board games for children

Need board games for kids that'll delight your children but won't make you tear your hair out if you join in? Don't worry, we've got you covered. Regardless of whether you need something to take with you on the road or for an evening at home, you'll find the best board games for little ones and their grown-ups below. 

best board games

(Image credit: Iello)

1. King of Tokyo

The best board game for children overall

Reasons to buy
+Exciting dice battles+Social elements+Fun theme
Reasons to avoid
-Little strategy

King of Tokyo is a great choice for big and little monsters alike. Putting you in charge of tongue-in-cheek super-creatures that are based on classics like Godzilla, it's about stomping all over the city and getting points in the process. Fast-paced and full of character, it'll delight players of any age. Being able to play as a 'Space Penguin' also makes it a winner in our books.

best board games

(Image credit: Gamewright)

2. Sushi Go!

The best card game for children

Reasons to buy
+Fast-paced+Easy to learn+...difficult to master
Reasons to avoid
-Emphasis on chance

This bizarre little game is perfect if concentration is a problem; it's got the secret sauce of being fast-paced yet easy to understand. More specifically, it can be completed in under 15 minutes. That means you won't mind playing round after round, especially because Sushi Go's gameplay is so moreish. It's different every time you pick it up, too - you never know which cards you'll be able to choose from.

best board games

(Image credit: Zygomatic)

3. Spot It!

The best quick board game for children

Reasons to buy
+Short+Easy to understand+Suitable for all ages
Reasons to avoid
-Gets repetitive

You can usually tell how good a board game is when it's got lots of special editions, and Spot It! (or 'Dobble', if you're UK-based) passes that test with flying colors. As well as a classic version, alternatives featuring everything from Harry Potter to Star Wars are available. And because all of them can be completed within 10 minutes or so, they're an essential purchase if you have young children.

best board games

(Image credit: Funko)

The best strategy board game for children

Reasons to buy
+Smart and engaging+Strategic yet accessible+Lovely design
Reasons to avoid
-Duel mechanics need work

If your kids love Halloween, Disney's Haunted Mansion adaptation is a must-have that needs to be in your collection. Offering a good balance between spooky vibes and wholesome fun, this is a strategic ghost hunt that gives you plenty of reason to smile. The game oozes personality, too - it's a visual delight with inventive mechanics to match. 

best board games

(Image credit: Haba)

5. Rhino Hero

The best board game for children that don't like reading

Reasons to buy
+No reading+Simple+Light tactics
Reasons to avoid
-Can be annoying

What do you get if you throw Jenga and superheroes into a blender? Rhino Hero, that's what. A charming challenge of steady hands, this game challenges you to build a tower without it tumbling to the ground. And even though there are powerup cards to keep things interesting, Rhino Hero's simple rules that are light on text make it ideal for kids who don't like to read.

best board games

(Image credit: Scorpion Masque)

The best board game for older kids

Reasons to buy
+Evolves over time+Emphasis on teamwork+Sticker achievements
Reasons to avoid
-Components may not last

This game has a brilliant elevator pitch: the undead have invaded class, and you've got to fight them off unless you want endless detention with a zombie teacher. It's not far from something you'd find children playing in the schoolyard (right down to them using 'weapons' like toy lightsabers), and that makes it one of the best board games for younger players - especially because the gameplay changes over time.

Best 2-player board games

Short on willing victims to play with? Don't worry, we've got a few suggestions that'll get the ball rolling. These board games for 2 players are perfect no matter whether you're gearing up for date night, travel, or a competitive head-to-head. They aren't consolation prizes, either; we've been sure to include options that are actually better with fewer people around the table.

best board games

(Image credit: Ravensburger)

The best 2-player board game overall

Reasons to buy
+Tactical+Fantastic artwork+Clever mechanics
Reasons to avoid
-Hard to explain

Never has a game been more on-brand than Disney 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 baddie's happy ending. It's surprisingly tactical, too; there's plenty of unexpected depth beneath the surface, and you'll need skill to come out on top in this battle of backstabbing.

best board games

(Image credit: Space Cowboys)

2. Jaipur

The best 2-player card game

Reasons to buy
+Easy to learn+Moreish gameplay+Engrossing
Reasons to avoid
-Can't scale for more players

Unusual, accessible, and delightfully compelling, Jaipur deserves to be in everyone's collection and on any list of the best board games. Casting you as one of two traders in the eponymous city, 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; there's plenty of room to experiment.

Pandemic: Hot Zone - North America

(Image credit: Z-Man Games)

The best 2-player strategy board game

Reasons to buy
+Endlessly replayable+Tactical thinking+Scales well
Reasons to avoid
-Can feel unfair

Many have tried to topple Pandemic from its co-op throne, but it remains undefeated as one of the best board games around. Particularly because it's easier to get into now than ever; this bite-size version condenses things down but still leaves plenty of room to carve out your own strategies.

best board games

(Image credit: Space Cowboys)

4. Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

The best 2-player mystery board game

Reasons to buy
+Engaging mysteries+Immersive props+A race against time
Reasons to avoid
-Really hard

Despite having almost 40 years under its belt, Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective is still as good now as it was when it first hit shelves in the early 1980s. Laced with intrigue, crammed with immersive props, and providing enough challenge to inflate your ego if you win, this is the perfect choice for anyone that fancies themselves as an armchair detective. 

best board games

(Image credit: Ravensburger)

The best 2-player co-op board game

Reasons to buy
+Tough challenge+Charming art style+Snappy, clever gameplay
Reasons to avoid
-A little TOO hard

Although it's based on the 1993 Disney movie, Hocus Pocus: The Game isn't as light and breezy as it might appear at first glance. While it boasts a cute art-style, this is a real challenge thanks to inventive gameplay that forces you to approach things differently. It never feels unfair either; it's always easy to see where you went wrong and how to improve next time.

best board games

(Image credit: Bananagrams)

6. Bananagrams

The best 2-player word game

Reasons to buy
+Makes you think+Very portable+Tense and frantic
Reasons to avoid
-Luck of the draw

Looking for a board game you can take with you on the go? It doesn't get much better than Bananagrams. This is the ultimate crossword puzzle, and you've got to create connected words out of all your letter tiles before anyone else does. Frantic and cerebral, it gets your gray matter moving and never plays out the same way twice.

Best co-op board games

If competitiveness around the table is getting you down, the best cooperative board games should help. Providing challenges that can only be solved by working together, they emphasise teamwork over an every-man-for-himself scramble. Funnily enough, games night is much more fun when you're not trying to screw each other over... 

best board games

(Image credit: Ravensburger)

1. Horrified

The best co-op board game overall

Reasons to buy
+Tough choices+Classic monsters+Memorable objectives
Reasons to avoid
-Complicated at first

The best board games normally have you battling it out with other players, but Horrified is different. It challenges you to team up against some of the most beloved monsters of all time instead, and the whole thing creaks beneath the weight of nostalgia as a result. It doesn't rest on its laurels, though; this is a unique, memorable adventure in its own right with co-op gameplay to die for.

best board games

(Image credit: Lillebud / Asmodee)

2. Mysterium

The best mystery co-op board game

Reasons to buy
+Quirky idea+Painterly style+Surprisingly funny
Reasons to avoid
-Can get weird

Want to level up from Clue? Mysterium fits the bill nicely. A murder mystery where you've got to solve the crime before dawn, it has all the trappings of a classic; the 1920s setting, a creaky old mansion, and some Sherlock Holmes-style deduction. It's anything but predictable, though. You see, one of the players is dead… and they're trying to solve their own murder.

best board games

(Image credit: Z-Man Games)

3. Pandemic Legacy: Season Zero

The best co-op strategy board game

Reasons to buy
+Perfect team strategy+Lasting consequences+Excellent sense of tension
Reasons to avoid
-Overwhelming

If you're hunting down the ultimate co-op experience, Pandemic is a front-runner. Season Zero takes that even further; your actions carry over from one session to the next. Better still, a 1960s Cold War theme reinvigorates what is already one of the best board games - this version challenges you to stop Soviet spies and their bio-weapon.

best board games

(Image credit: AEG)

The best tower-defence co-op board game

Reasons to buy
+Loads of depth+A tough balancing act+Genuinely challenging
Reasons to avoid
-Steep learning curve

Redshirts are doomed in Star Trek, but they're your only hope when it comes to The Captain is Dead: Dangerous Planet. As the name would suggest, your team's commanding officer has bitten the dust, so you'll need to get your hands dirty with push-your-luck tower defence if you want to complete their mission. A horde of flesh-eating bugs is also on the way, so you'd better be ready by the time they arrive.

best board games

(Image credit: Ravensburger)

The best team-based co-op board game

Reasons to buy
+White-knuckle tension+Evenly balanced+Old-school design
Reasons to avoid
-Initially overwhelming

The Jaws board game turns you into a cold-blooded monster - a "perfect engine and eating machine", in fact. But you know what? When it's this fun, we're not complaining. Based on the classic 1975 movie, this adaptation casts you as the film's heroes or its peckish great white. The result is a tense and often brutal co-op experience that nails its inspiration's atmosphere.

best board games

(Image credit: Fantasy Flight)

The best horror co-op board game

Reasons to buy
+Unique mechanics+Race against time+Last-ditch effort feel
Reasons to avoid
-Complex

It's the end of the world, and transdimensional horrors like Cthulhu are about to arrive. Basically, we're screwed - and you've only got an hour to stop the apocalypse. This sense of impending doom raises the stakes for Arkham Horror, leading to 60 minutes of hail Marys and thrilling last-ditch plans. When combined with the clever mechanics that set Final Hour apart, it's the perfect example of nail-biting co-op action.


Want more recommendations for games night? Don't forget to check out the best party board games, the best card games, or the best classic board games. As for something a little more adventurous, be sure to drop in our our guides to the best tabletop RPGs and the best Dungeons and Dragons books.

Benjamin Abbott

As the site's Tabletop & Merch Editor, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to Lego buying guides. I've been writing about games in one form or another for almost a decade (with bylines ranging from Metro.co.uk to TechRadar) and joined the GamesRadar+ team in 2018. I can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.