9 great board games: from the tactically tough to the outrageously silly, board games for all ages
There’s a time and place for the board game classics: Monopoly, Chess, Trivial Pursuit. But there’s nothing like a new board game discovery to reinvigorate an otherwise ordinary night in
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We surveyed our editorial team to see what their favourite go-to board games were. The results are delightful: a mixture of espionage, virtual travel, medieval world building, and W.H.O. role-playing.
Here, then, are 9 fabulous board games you and your household should try.
(If you are seeking time away from your housemates, may we suggest a jigsaw to help entertain you from our guide to 22 greats?)
Pandemic - The Game
Yes, this is on the nose. We’ve all had our fill of pandemics. But consider, if you’ve watched in dismay at who has been handling our UK pandemic response (Barnard Castle to check your eyesight, anyone?), here, you have the chance to try and solve the situation yourself.
With multiple viruses breaking out simultaneously across the globe, you are a disease-fighting specialist. Your mission: control the hotspots, while researching cures for the individual plagues.
What’s great about Pandemic is that you need to collaborate with your fellow players to succeed. Here, you won’t end up in some purgatorial deadlock while you watch two other people clearly on the road to victory: either you all work together to solve the crisis, or you all lose. Everybody takes their own role within the team (Operations Expert? Scientist?)
You may be well and truly fatigued from the real pandemic, but this board game version is an oddly cathartic iteration: here, intelligence and team-work wins.
For: 2-4 players, ages 8+. Average play time 45 minutes.
Qwirkle is a lovely game to play if you’ve younger members of your household seeking to partake. You are all given a series of wooden blocks, with six different shapes in six different colours. Place a block down - the next player has to place a block with a matching attribute next to it.
The game ends when the draw bag is depleted and one player plays all of his remaining blocks, earning a six point bonus. It sounds simple, but it’s a wonderful way of engaging younger minds in pattern recognition - without them ever suspecting they’re learning.
For: 2-4 players, age 5+. Average play time: 30 minutes.
This is a fast, furious word association card game that sees a spymaster trying to work out where the other players - the ‘spies’ - are in the field. Some of you will be innocent bystanders, some will be assassins.
The rules take a moment to pick up, gameplay is fun and straightforward, and it’s all over quickly enough that no one will get frustrated.
For: 2-8 players, age 14+. Average play time 45 minutes.
Just the two of you? You’re likely to find Hive a curiously addictive board game. We say board - but this is board-less. You each have a share of pieces depicting different insects.
Pieces are played, and this becomes the board field. Your goal is to completely surround your opponents’ queen - which will have to be played at some point. Think of it as chess without the convoluted game play and more bugs.
For: 2 players, age 9+. Average play time 20 minutes
If you love world-building games online, you’ll adore Carcassonne, where you set about building a settleship in medieval southern France.
Take a tile, continue the landscape already on the board: roads must continue roads, castles must continue castles; you cannot cut off a feature, unless you utilise a meeple - which you have a limited number of.
Finishing a feature scores wins you points. Tactical world-building: it’s fiendishly enthralling, and takes next to no time to learn (a lifetime to master).
For: 2-8 players, age 7+. Average play time: 30-45 minutes.
Ticket to Ride
Elegantly simple, Ticket to Ride can be learned in under 15 minutes. Each player collects cards, representing train cars. Use these to claim railway routes in North America. The longer your route, the higher your score. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but that’s the start.
"The rules are simple enough to write on a train ticket – each turn you either draw more cards, claim a route, or get additional Destination Tickets," says Ticket to Ride author, Alan R. Moon. "The tension comes from being forced to balance greed
What’s glorious about Ticket to Ride - apart from learning about the American north in a unique way - is that while the rules are straightforward to learn, the game itself is cunning enough to keep you challenged for years to come. It’s fabulous for ‘levelling up’ -the cleverer you become, the more intricate the game becomes.
For: 2-5 players, age 8+. Average play time: 30-60 minutes.
Obama Llama is one of those infectiously silly games that will have the family roaring with laughter. It’s a charades game - with a twist.
The 500 cards contain rhyming charades, so you may find yourself acting out ‘King Kong playing ping pong’ or a ‘pot noodle marrying a poodle.’ It’s gloriously daft and genuinely funny.
For: 2-4 players, age 12+. Average play time: 30-45 minutes.
Bowie Bingo Game
Bingo halls are closed - but if you want to bring the fun of the game into the household, this Bowie inflected version does so in fabulous disco style.
Here, we love it for its egalitarian nature - a six year old can win bingo as easily as a sixty year old . With 8 double-sided (and randomised) bingo cards, 48 tokens, and 150 counters, all bursting with Bowie references, this game is perfect to play with friends, family and flatmates alike.
For: 3 to 8 players, age 6+. Average play time: 45 minutes.
Lamentably, there’s no David Bowie to be found in this beloved 80s board game - but that doesn’t mean it’s not packed with family fun. Formerly known as The aMAZEing Labyrinth, the original Labyrinth game has spun off into a line of Labyrinth games, but we fancy the original. A game board has a set of fixed tiles, while remaining tiles slide in and out of rows during game play.
Game play involves moving around the labyrinth in search of treasure, as your teammates alter the board (and you do too) in an effort to out-fox each other.
Easy to learn, and great for building puzzle-solving skills, Labyrinth is ideal for a game to play with your children - but still challenging as an adult.
For: ages 8+. Average game time: 20 minutes.