What Board Games Should You Be Playing?

A guide to perfect entry level and advanced options.

By Timothy Malcolm May 4, 2020

Classics like Ticket to Ride and Qwirkle make for fantastic game nights. Just add wine.

You've read every book. You've burned up so much Netflix that you've now re-watched every episode of Laguna Beach. Twice. You've caught up on every episode of "Song Exploder." And no, you don't want to hear the name C____e B____n ever again.

Now what? 

May I interest you in a board game? I enjoy a good board game, like all the time, and if you ask anyone who's ever played against me, I can be ... uh ... really ... uh ... competitive. But that's neither here nor there. In this Time of COVID-19, when being in quarantine is the only life to live, we need to be good to one another, and that can mean a fun board game night.

"It's nice to play games that are not super competitive but more 'Okay, that was fun, but let's play again!" says Sanford Bledsoe, co-owner of cafe and gaming hub Coral Sword, which is offering takeout coffee and light bites, though the games are off limits right now. 

We asked Bledsoe to help us put together a guide for the board-game curious—whether you rarely or never play board games or you're a regular looking for a new challenge, we have some choices for you. And yes, you can always break out Monopoly, Scrabble, Chutes and Ladders, or The Game of Life, but this list focuses on current-day hits.

For the Newbies

These are some of the most well known board games out there, easy-to-digest modern-day classics that offer fun for at least two players.

"In the board industry we refer to those as gateway games," explains Bledsoe, who says less than an hour is the right playing time for a game like this. "If you're playing a game longer than an hour and you're not really into that game, you're not gonna have fun."

These games are primarily about strategy, whether building a railroad network across America (Ticket), developing civilization and/or kingdom (Settlers, Kingdomino), or ... uhh ... eradicating a virus that is spreading globally (Pandemic). Okay, we understand if you might avoid Pandemic, but it is arguably the greatest game of the modern era. 

Ditch the Board

Card games, tile games, and domino-like games are great ways to pass the time with varying levels of strategy involved. For example, someone thinking a few steps ahead will do well in Quirkle, where you lay down series of tiles while trying to also block opponents' attempts. But You've Got Crabs?

"You're all crab fishermen (in teams of two) and trying to accumulate ... four of the same type of crab," says Bledsoe about this card game from the minds behind the popular Exploding Kittens. To win, once you get your foursome, you have to get your partner to scream "YOU'VE GOT CRABS," but without telling them. That means a secret signal, but if an opponent catches it and screams "YOU'VE GOT CRABS" instead, you lose.

Sushi Go! is about curating the best sushi meal, while The Isle of Cats seems bleak (your job is so save felines from the evil Lord Vesh), but the immersive game includes some world-exploring and good old-fashioned competition.

Get Involved

Some games just take some time. Twilight Struggle, essentially a re-playing of the Cold War and as good as modern board games get, can take a few hours. Then there's Root, a 2018 game that might take up to 90 minutes or so. Here, you play in a world ruled by Cats (it's a common theme in board games), waging war against other factions.

"Its a really beautiful game area," Bledsoe says. "A lot of these games, they come out and blow up." If you don't get in early, you may have to wait a little while to get another edition.

Go Online

Or you can play online against other players, including your friends from their homes. Board Game Arena is the best place for virtual board game playing; create a membership, and you can host a private room for you and friends to play any number of hot titles. 

The website is strict about vulgarity (if you want to dish out the hurt, do so on another messaging service), but it's a great way to see and interact with friends during this time.

"There are so many games on there," Bledsoe says. "Me and my cousins, we play every other day there and it's a lot of fun. A great way to kill time."

Just be nice to cats.

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