As much as video games tend to dominate the gaming conversation, tabletop gaming is equally full of life. From traditional board games to games that require days to finish, tabletop gaming has a seemingly endless array of choices. It’s true that some of these games have something of a learning curve but taking the time to understand them really pays off. Check out this list of the best tabletop games you can play today.
It seems hilariously coincidental that a tabletop game called “Pandemic” is a top choice but it’s been around far longer than our current health crisis. This game requires 2-4 players and is essentially a game where players are trying to hold off the spread of a super-disease. As you progress throughout the game, you receive unique abilities that can help save the world. Each decision has its own set of potential consequences even as there are no right or wrong ways to play. When you are done with Pandemic, you can jump over to Pandemic: Legacy that builds on the original gameplay all while requiring significantly more time to play.
2. Ticket to Ride
When it comes to game titles that have helped define today’s tabletop gaming era, few are as well known as Ticket to Ride. The learning curve is relatively easy and each round lasts around an hour or so. Your mission is to establish train routes across the country with certain routes and lines earning more points than others. Victory has many routes but only a finite number of tracks to choose from so your strategy is everything. With a learning curve that should only take 2-5 players around fifteen minutes or so to pick up, it’s a great way to find some family time in the evening.
Catan is unquestionably a staple name in the tabletop gaming world. The gist of the game has you collecting resource cards, building settlements and roads while working toward building cities. Because the land you choose won’t have every resource you need, communication and trade with cities around you is critical. Play sessions last around ninety minutes or so which makes it easy to play multiple rounds in a single sitting. Thanks to its popularity, Catan is also full of extensions taking the game well beyond its original roots.
If you are a fan of alternate history scenarios Scythe is a look at a 1920s European alternate history. Players control one of five different “factions”, each of which is vying for control over land. This “engine-building” game asks players to achieve optional hidden objectives all while building up a system that continuously grows resources. The goal is to build up an economy while battling for territory and trading resources. Each game should last around two hours and even with a medium level of difficulty, developers recommend it for ages 14 and up.
5. Betrayal at House on the Hill
Admittedly a game for adults based on the horror theme, Betrayal at House on the Hill tests your mettle as a horror movie character. This title finds you playing as one of six horror movie tropes. Drawing tiles as you enter a room, you will find events to complete or items to help bring you step closer to making it out alive. As the game progresses, a “haunt” activates as one player becomes the “traitor”. Its now a race against the clock to see which player is the traitor. B-movie horror cliches notwithstanding, adult gamers should be able to complete one round in about an hour. With multiple routes available, replayability is outstanding.
Anyone looking for a tabletop game will immerse you right from the start. Change is everywhere as the gameplay offers storylines that can quickly branch in any direction. Something of a “choose your own adventure” tabletop game, each decision a player makes influences the rest of the game. With more than 100 different scenarios available, each game is different than the last. Fantasy-themed games are plentiful but Gloomhaven definitely stands a head above thanks to its incredible combat scenarios and need to work together with other players to succeed.
An excellent and quick game to play with friends, Codenames offers a simple premise that’s very immersive. Twenty code codeword cards are placed onto a table and with players divided into two teams, the “spymaster” takes over to help uncover the secret agents’ identity. What sounds simple quickly becomes a game of strategy and a wrong answer can spell instant victory for the other team. Straightforward rules make it accessible to tabletop gamers of all experience levels and with a multitude of expansion packs available, there is a ton of replayability.
8. Star Wars: Outer Rim
Star Wars is everywhere and it was only a matter of time before a tabletop game showed up. While Star Wars: Outer Rim isn’t the first tabletop entry in the series, it’s arguably best-in-class. Set in the original trilogy era (thankfully), you play the role of bounty hunter, smuggler or scoundrel as you travel between worlds. While many games have you playing for victory, Outer Rim wants you to achieve fame as you build your own legend. Have you ever wanted to track down the millennium falcon while playing as Han Solo while trying to outmaneuver Boba Fett? The game can run long but with so much nostalgia at work, the longer you play, the more you find yourself completely immersed in one of the most classic movie trilogies of all time.
Trying to sum up the best tabletop titles is a mission in and of itself. There are just so many titles that deserve special recognition and that’s before you get into family favorites like Risk, Monopoly, Yahtzee, etc. That games like Mysterium, Tokaido and Carcassonne were not mentioned in this list doesn’t mean they aren’t worth playing. Of course, to enjoy a truly great tabletop game, you need to learn how to play.