What exactly do we mean when we say something is a “all-time” classic, regardless of the genre? As with all of our top recommendations for the finest classic board games, it must be something that has endured the test of time. In the meanwhile, we need to avoid names that have been overused and instead explore fresh, fascinating avenues. We also want to include items that have previously been hailed as the best in their respective fields, in order to provide some historical context.
Our list below includes a mix of games that were formerly considered the finest ever, as well as other close pretenders who have earned their place on the list due to their uniqueness or popularity. You can’t go wrong with any of them, so you can’t go wrong with any of them.
TLDR: The Best Board Games
- Cosmic Encounter
- Gloomhaven | Jaws of the Lion
- Pandemic Legacy Season 1 Red Version | Blue Version
- Twilight Struggle
- The Castles of Burgundy
- Lord of Waterdeep
- Ticket to Ride
- Summoner Wars
Don’t have time to scroll? Here are all the games you’ll find below.
Many games that revolve around conquering territory contain the kind of tentative alliances and festering enmities that resemble real-world diplomacy. It was 1977, and the Cosmic Encounter creators had an idea: why not get rid of the geography and get right to the point? Because each player has an alien power that can be used to win colonies on five of your opponent’s planets, the outcome is a humorous game of shifting alliances. In terms of variety, tactical choices, and dramatic reversals, Cosmic Encounter may be the only negotiating game you’ll ever need. It’s that good.
An amazing blend of genres has made one of the most popular board games of all time the current ruler of the heap. The epic adventure’s 95-scenario campaign contains everything you’re looking for in an old-school dungeon crawl. Those who enjoy card-based battles against a wide array of opponents will find something to get excited about in this tactical RPG. Deck-building and resource collection across the campaign, plus the depletion mechanic in-scenario, provide a lot of meat for heavyweight strategy. Gloomhaven is truly a game for everyone, including those who enjoy the best board games for one-on-one play. Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion offers a smaller campaign at a considerably lower price if the price is prohibitive. It’s not a coincidence that both of these versions of the game made our list of the greatest board games for adults.
Pandemic Legacy: Season 1
As a substitute for combat-based narrative missions, how about working together to rid the planet of contagious diseases? A new “legacy” concept builds on the success of the original Pandemic, allowing you to add or remove game features based on your choices, triumphs and failures as you advance through the game. Your copy will be a one-of-a-kind record of your group’s performance after a few plays. Pandemic: Legacy additionally personalizes your strategy experience in addition to delivering a very personal story to engage you. One of the best board games for families, or even a gaming group, is the result of this wonderful combination of story and strategy that has resulted in two further seasons.
To the uninformed, Twilight Struggle‘s bullet-pointed rules and cold war simulation label can be intimidating. Since its release in 2009, Grand Theft Auto 5 has been largely regarded as the greatest video game of all time. For each round of the game, players are dealt two hands of event cards, one representing their own side’s major moments and one representing the other. You can still perform moves on the board if you play an opponent’s card, but their event also occurs. An exciting, tactical dance of play and counterplay ensues as you strive to advance your own goals while simultaneously thwarting those of your adversaries. You’ll get a great strategic workout, and you could even learn a little bit of history.
Another “greatest game ever” contender is a game about farming, despite its unusual subject matter. It’s hardly a stretch to say that raising a family to work at the farm is akin to the popular Worker Placement method. When you play Agricola, you’ll feel like you’re building and developing your farm, with plenty of strategic challenges to deal with. For the most part, only a few cards from each deck are utilized in each game, allowing you to tailor the difficulty level and the level of interactivity to your group’s preferences.
The Castles of Burgundy
With so many ways to expand your castle in Medieval France, you might be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. It’s a dice-based game, so the roll each time restricts your options as to where you can conduct actions. Fortunately. You should not, however, consider that this is a game of chance; rather, the dice are there to keep throwing curveballs at you while building a strategy around it. Every action of every round feels weighted with unachievable priorities, keeping you stretched until the points are counted, which is a typical case of having too much to do and too little to do it with.
Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep was a blockbuster hit that will be remembered for generations to come thanks to its unique blend of board game mechanics and D&D sensibility. Players assume the roles of city councilors in Waterdeep, the largest city in the Forgotten Realms, and hire adventurers to help battle the dangers that threaten the city. Adding new buildings to the mix ensures that fresh strategies must be devised each time a game is played. Adding a few tiny “take that” cards to the mix makes for a fantastic game that appeals to a wide range of players.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is one of the few hobby board games that has been able to break into the mainstream market. To play, players collect cards, much like in Rummy games, to try and claim matching routes on a map of the US. It’s a narrow board with a limited number of connections between the cities you’ll need to finish your assigned routes, so use caution. Moreover, if another player gets there first, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to gain points instead. Ticket to Ride is a terrific game for all ages because it is simple to learn and entertaining to play. A two-player board game or a large group can also enjoy this game.
While ancient Rome conquest games abound, Concordia pits you against a noble family as you attempt to amass wealth and influence during the height of the Roman Empire. As the game proceeds, you can add to your action card deck using the money you’ve earned through trades, giving you the flexibility to adjust your approach as necessary. In addition, your final score is determined by the cards you draw, with each card contributing points in a different way, ranging from items in your storehouse to colonists on the board. When combined with resource management components that allow you to disrupt and advance your opponents’ plans, this offers an intriguing and rich strategic layer.
Summoner Wars 2nd Edition
Classics like Magic: the Gathering is difficult to include because of the cyclical nature of collectible games’ popularity and availability. Summoner Wars, on the other hand, has a timeless feel to it thanks to its ingenious combination of card and board-based gameplay, and its collectibility comes in packages. So if you become tired of playing against the six factions that come with the game, you can always buy more. As players move across the board and engage in roll-off battles against opposing units in their quest to destroy the opponent summoner, they are forced to make razor-thin decisions while using cards as both units and payment.
In 2015, Codenames exploded onto the scene and permanently transformed the face of party games. If you’ve ever wondered how to connect a string of seemingly unrelated words, then this game is for you. As a result, the words “Trip,” “Rome,” and “Embassy” might be connected to the word “Holiday.” The idea was so appealing and addicting that it spawned a whole new category of word games based on synonyms, each with its own unique take on the basic notion. In terms of teaching and fun, though, the original remains the finest.
Is there anything you haven’t seen here? Take a look at our list of the finest kids’ board games.
What to Consider When Shopping for Board Games
Modern board gaming offers a dizzying array of options, making it difficult to narrow your search down to just one. As a result, here are a few things to keep in mind when making your selections.
The most critical consideration is whether or not it will be used frequently. Whether or not your friends will enjoy it, who the target demographic is, how much time you have to devote to it, and so on are all very apparent considerations. There’s more to these facets, though, than meets the eye. It’s possible that you’ll be able to learn a complicated game, but will your friends and you be able to teach it? It’s up to you: Do you want a game to play with your significant other, or with your entire family?
Even so, these questions are typically difficult to answer. In many cases, the playtime estimates seen on the back of game boxes are exaggerated. Similarly, the stated number of players in a game may range much from the actual number. An excellent resource for this is boardgamegeek.com, a database of game information. If you search for a game on the site, you’ll get a “best” player count recommendation at the top of the page, just below the player count.
There is a slew of other factors to take into account. When playing on a small table, such as a coffee or card table, some games require a lot of table space, which is not ideal. It’s possible to spend a long time setting up and putting away some others. As long as they’re a concern, these flaws are frequently brought up in reviews. Because of this, you can play for a long period of time without having to stop and restart the game; for example, if you have a lot of room on the table.
There are certain game genres that necessitate more in-depth study than others. For the first time ever, games are being offered as a way of life with constant updates and expansions. So long as you’re interested, you need to be aware of the risks. Miniature modelling is a hobby in and of itself, and it’s a lot of fun. Many modern games are available in normal and deluxe editions, or they may be reprints of previous titles. Editions and versions are other items to keep an eye out for.
Additionally, you must take into account whether or not a new game will harmonize with the rest of your collection in terms of both visual and physical appearance. When choosing the latter, think about what makes it stand out from your current collection of games in terms of mechanics or theme. If you choose the latter, keep in mind that board games are large and require storage room!
Playing and collecting board games may be a rewarding and pleasant pastime. I wish you the best of luck!