Board games for adults show how fun this can be as a hobby. Forget about dusty old games like Monopoly.
These days, the shelves are groaning under the weight of everything from epic strategy games to party games that will keep you coming back to the table month after month.
You could even say that there are so many options that they could sink a (Battle)ship…
Our experts have put together a list of their favorite board games for adults to give you an idea of what should be at the top of your list.
You’ll find something here that fits your mood, whether you want a fantasy adventure or a game to test your brain.
Because we’ve played every game on this list, you can be sure that we really do think these are some of the best board games in general and that you should add them to your collection.
As a way to save you money along the way, we’ve also used our software that finds the best deals to find you the best deal on adult board games.
15. Betrayal at House on the Hill
How long do you think you could stay alive in a scary movie?
You can find out in Betrayal at House on the Hill. Unfortunately, you don’t know if you’re the hero or the victim of this story until it’s too late, which makes it one of the most replayable board games for adults on this list.
Even though we’ve been going through those dusty rooms for months, we still haven’t seen everything.
Players explore the house one room at a time, taking on the roles of horror stereotypes like the jock or the scary preteen.
These people have been drawn here for unknown reasons. But since you’ll be putting room tiles down at random, you can’t know what’s on the other side of a door.
All you know for sure is that a secret mission is about to start, which will turn the house or your friends against you.
Maybe a monster from the basement wakes up and wants to eat your meat. Someone on your team might try to kill you so they can stay young forever. No matter what, your goal is simple: to stay alive.
The result is full of drama, and even though it has some similarities to rivals like Mansions of Madness, Betrayal at House on the Hill is easier to understand overall. It’s also stranger.
For example, we once had to fight off a ghost shark that was filling the house one room at a time. There are problems here and there, that’s true. Still, this game has enough cool ideas to make up for most of its problems.
The store has been gone for a long time, but the game it sparked is still around. Blockbuster is a fast-paced, easy-to-understand board game for adults that should be your first choice.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to know everything there is to know about movies. This is really more like a game of charades than a quiz.
You will need to use your head. The game starts with a head-to-head round where two players have to shout out an example from a category like “superhero movies.” They only have 15 seconds, though, so if they can’t come up with an answer they lose.
This leads to a crazy, but fun, mess, and it’s also surprisingly fun to watch. For example, we once saw a five-minute fight where neither side gave up. This fight has become almost famous among our friends.
The real game starts at that point. The winner draws six cards and has to act out, quote, or explain three of them for their team.
The winner gets the last three cards. (These are, of course, probably the hardest ones.) If you get enough cards, you’ll win.
It’s a great idea in every way, and it always goes over well at parties. Because everyone responds differently to the card questions, you won’t get bored either. Unlike a quiz, you can’t ‘learn’ the answers.
One of the most famous and interesting games of the last few years is the best place to start this list. Wingspan is often marketed as a family board game, but it’s actually too hard and complicated for kids.
It’s great for adults, though, because it combines tactics and strategy with a winning theme as you try to bring birds to a nature reserve.
Different birds need different foods and places to live, but all of them will help your ecosystem grow. This ecosystem acts like a kind of engine, making it possible for you to play with bigger and more beautiful birds.
12. Spirit Island
Spirit Island is not like most joint board games that are great for families. One thing about it is that it’s hard and deep, and when your team wins, you feel like you did something smart.
For another, it has a theme of anti-colonialism that makes you think.
Players take on the parts of elemental gods and work together to stop a colonizer from taking over.
To win, you need to use your native worshippers and your elemental skills to come up with a way to predict the invaders’ path and send them back into the sea.
In Pandemic, you try to stop a horrible disease from spreading around the world by coughing and sneezing. The game is easy to learn but hard to win.
It’s one of the best cooperative board games ever made because winning depends on how well your team can talk to each other, rank risks, and keep their cool when things get tough. In fact, in all the years we’ve been writing about board games, we haven’t found anything that comes close.
In Pandemic, you also have to keep diseases under control and try to find a fix for each one by collecting cards of a certain color. Simple, right? Try again.
At the end of every turn, a new infection is added to the board, and if there are more than three of them in one place, they will start to spread to the towns nearby. This can cause a chain of bad things to happen that will make you say, “Oh, God, someone do something!”
Do you try to find a fix, or do you try to keep the number of people with the disease down?
Pandemic is at its best when you have to make decisions like this, and it’s just one of the many problems you’ll have to solve in what has become the king of board games for adults. Catan and other old games are great, but they can’t compare to this.
Once you’ve learned the original, you can also try something new. You can also switch to the (excellent) Pandemic World of Warcraft spin-off if you’d rather play a fantasy-themed game. The game’s many additions make it more difficult.
There is even a Legacy series where what you do in one game affects what happens in the next, so there is a lot to do in this title.
10. Disney Villainous
Have you ever thought about what would happen if the bad guys won?
With barely-hidden joy, Disney Villainous tells you to find out. Your goal is to give a standard bad guy a happy ending while beating up anyone who tries to stop you.
Don’t think for a second that this is a board game for kids. Characters with their own goals, play styles, and cards make Villainous surprisingly strategic. That makes each one taste different, which gives them a complexity that is both interesting and rewarding.
Especially if you add the great Disney Villainous additions to the mix. These add-ons can be used with the original game, so when you put them together, you can come up with new ways to play.
It’s also a great choice if you want a board game for two people. Villainous can be played by up to six people, but we think it’s best when just two people play.
It becomes a fight of wits, like chess, instead of a chaotic scramble to get anywhere in full games.
9. Brian Boru
The title of Brian was a famous king of medieval Ireland. This interesting trick-taking game is based on his efforts to unite the island through military, social, and economic power.
After choosing their cards, players compete in “tricks” to take control of towns on a map of Ireland.
Losing cards gives players important resources that they can use to get married, help the church, or fight off Viking attackers.
If you don’t keep all of these things in balance, you could lose the game, and other players will try to steal your tricks or beat you on one of the game’s supporting tracks.
8. Dune: Imperium
Dune was one of the biggest movies of 2021, and it just so happens that it has a lot of board games that are based on it.
Dune: Imperium is one of them. In this game, players take on the roles of nobles in the Dune world and build their own decks of cards that show their resources, power, and people.
Then, these can be played to spaces on the board to plot with other groups or fight on the planet’s surface, or they can be kept for an extra effect on a “reveal” turn.
It’s a strong and spicy mix that forces players to keep making changes to their decks and plans as the story progresses. Read our review of Dune: Imperium to learn more.
Many gamers and reviewers put Gloomhaven at the top of their “best of” lists because it is such a great mix of story and strategy.
You’ll guide a group of characters who are always changing through a long storyline, giving them new gear and skills as they meet new people and go through new situations.
Exploration and battles happen through a difficult, tight tactical engine that is driven by cards that can be used more than once. If you aren’t careful, you could fail or die at any time.
If the original’s length and price put you off, the shorter prequel Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion will still give you most of the same fun.
6. Terraforming Mars
Gloomhaven is the fantasy journey of your dreams. It has unique combat and a setting that reminds you of The Witcher.
You can get lost for months in a quest with multiple stories and a kingdom that changes based on what you do.
Not at all.
Along with a map that you can change forever by putting stickers on it as you travel across the land, Gloomhaven has secret mechanics that you can unlock over time, a meaty combat system that doesn’t use dice rolls but instead relies on strategy, a lot of different missions, and morally gray choices to keep you on your toes.
The choices you make can and will have effects, so be careful.
If you’re anything like me, that will be enough to get you excited. Jaws of the Lion is driven by a childish sense of wonder.
It’s full of magic from top to bottom, and you can tell stories around the water cooler that will more than make up for your excitement.
It’s also a great choice if you love Dungeons and Dragons books because it’s similar to the best board RPGs.
If you liked the Redwall books when you were younger, you should look into Root. It’s an asymmetric strategy game with cute animals from the forest, like mice villagers and sword-wielding raccoon explorers, who want to take over the forest. When paired with interesting artwork, it’s fun from the start.
Even though the designs look friendly, you shouldn’t think it will be a walk in the park. This is a complicated, multilayered experience with a lot of depth.
As an example, each group has its own rules for how to win and its own goals. Root is one of the best strategic board games for adults, and it gets better the more you play.
Even though there is a lot to learn and the rules take some getting used to, you will be paid for your patience.
There is a lot to discover in how the factions interact with each other, and the game challenges players to think creatively.
It’s a good example of what makes current board games so special. Root is a great example of what this hobby can do, even if it’s not for everyone.
4. Mind MGMT
You may not have heard of the comic series on which this is based, which is about psychic spies, but that won’t stop you from loving how well it combines strategy and surrealism.
One person, the recruiter, moves around in secret on a map that can’t be seen.
The recruiter tries to visit enough recruiting locations to win. The other players work as a team and have a limited number of actions to try to figure out where the recruiter is going and what they are trying to do so they can catch them.
Every time you play Mind MGMT, it’s a fun new puzzle of bluffing and guessing. It’s made even more interesting by a series of closed boxes that hold extra game pieces you can open and add whenever you want. Read our full review of Mind MGMT to learn more.
Azul is gorgeous, and the way it works is just as beautiful. This is one of the best puzzle board games for adults and would be a great choice for people who like more laid-back gaming experiences.
Your goal is easy to understand: put tiles on the board to get points. In fact, ‘color-based puzzle’ is a good way to describe it.
But you still need to be careful. In this relaxing game, your score will go up if you can finish sets, but it will go down if you waste tiles on random formations.
That makes for a lot of movement and friendly competition as people try to beat each other.
Azul is more of a personal puzzle game than a head-to-head battle because of this, which makes it a great choice if you want to do something low-key.
Like in Ticket to Ride, it’s fun to put tiles in the right order to make patterns or finish a set.
Worker placement is a popular part of mid-weight and heavy-weight games. In this type of game, you have a limited number of pieces to place on the board.
As part of its time-traveling theme, Anachrony takes it to the next level by letting you “borrow” workers and materials from your future turns.
If you don’t pay back your loans when it’s your turn, you can expect bad things to happen.
On top of the usual business of juggling the resources you need to climb one of the game’s paths, this makes the game feel new, complicated, and challenging while also bringing to mind a classic science fiction theme.
The Alien movies did well because they excelled at creating a tense and terrifying atmosphere. Nemesis manages to do the same thing thanks to its noise mechanic.
Any major move requires players to roll for noise, and if they’re unlucky, they may be heard by an alien. There are also multiple avenues for victory, so you can change plans if things start looking dire.