The Best Board Games

updated May 23, 2019
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We’re big fans of board games here at Apartment Therapy—what better way to spend a night in than with a competitive board game and wine? With the weather getting closer to winter every day and the holidays coming up (hello family time), it might be time to bulk up your board game staples and find some new ones to add to your arsenal. We rounded up our very favorites, from the seriously strategic to the more passive and casual, so you can have another excuse to skip the bars and stay indoors this winter.


An oldie but a goodie, this game is nostalgic (anyone else have childhood sleepovers come to mind?). One player puts on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones while another player reads a random phrase from a card. The person wearing the headphones has to guess what their teammate is saying before the minute is up or else they lose the card.

A long-time favorite, Taboo is perfect to play with the family or a group of friends. While not exactly a board game, it’s too classic to not include. One person picks a card with a word on it, and has to give clues to their team about what the word is without using any of the most obvious “taboo” descriptors. If you use a forbidden word or run out of time, you lose the point.

Perfect for large groups, Codenames has a simple premise but requires strategy and teamwork to win. Two rival spymasters know the secret identities of 25 agents, but their teammates know the agents only by their codenames. The teams compete to see who can make contact with all of their agents first, with spymasters giving one-word clues that can point to multiple words on the board.

From Germany comes this uniquely designed game made with kids in mind. The premise reads like a fairy tale: One player hunts the gnomes, who hide behind the trees, using a tea candle. When played in the dark, the candle casts deep shadows behind the trees, allowing the gnomes to be concealed. The objective for the hunter is to “freeze” all the gnomes (by catching them in the light). The objective for the gnomes is to all gather behind the same tree.


The most stereotypical board game for a date night in, Scrabble is so beloved for a reason. It requires a good deal of mental work and strategy, but isn’t quite as intense as some of the hardcore strategy games on this list. Real Scrabble fans will already have the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, so you can spend less time arguing over whether or not “OK” is a real word (it is).

If you and your significant other are more on the creative side, check out Above and Below, which combines town-building and story-telling for a uniquely fun game night. The object of the game is to build the best village, both above and below ground. Each player has a group of villagers, each with their own unique identity and skill set, and it’s up to you to decide how best to utilize them.

One of the more popular specialty board games, Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game in which each player competes to visit the most North American cities by rail in seven days. Players use the cards to build train cars that will enable them to travel along railroad routes—the longer the routes, the more points earned.

An interesting concept for a couples game, Fog of Love has you act out a romantic comedy by creating and playing two characters who meet, fall in love and have to make their relationship work. You’ll have to make compromises, deal with awkward situations and, eventually, decide whether or not you want to be a Heartbreaker. Surprising and fun, this is a good game to play if you like getting creative and making stories.


Inspired by a medieval French fortress of the same name, Carcassonne is a tile-laying game in which players fill in the countryside around the castle. The strategy here is in tile and follower placement—each follower role scores points differently, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. Points are gained by having followers on tile features as they’re completed, such as cities, roads, or monasteries.

If apocalyptic games are your thing, check out Pandemic, which has you and your team on the hunt for the cure to a deadly disease outbreak. Over the course of the game, players move between hotspots while treating diseases and setting up a network of stations that help them move more efficiently. Any scenario is possible, with challenges springing up unexpectedly that will require teamwork to overcome.

One of the most well-known strategic board games out there, Catan’s premise is to develop a new land by collecting resources that will allow you to build roads, settlements and cities. Resources are gained through trade and card collecting, and since the board changes each game you’re guaranteed a unique one each time.

A different kind of development game, 7 Wonders has each player be the leader of an ancient city. The goal is to cement your city’s legacy by gathering resources, developing commercial routes and establishing military supremacy. Strategy here is all long-term: The game is divided into three “ages” and whoever has the most points at the end wins.

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(Image credit: Taryn Williford)