There are more than enough board games for adults to sink a (Battle)ship, and we're spoilt for choice these days. This isn't an industry dominated by Monopoly or Scrabble anymore; it's awash with fresh ideas that will keep you playing for months.
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To point you in the right direction, we've been busy rounding up recommendations that everyone should have in their collection of board games for adults. That list ranges from puzzlers to dungeon-delving adventures, so there should be something here to suit everyone.
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Board games for adults - top 10
Betrayal at House on the Hill lets you star in your own horror movie. There's no way to tell if you're the hero of this story or one of its victims, though; over 50 distinct scenarios are on offer, and you never know what you'll end up with. That makes it the most replayable board games for adults on this list. In fact, we still haven't seen everything after years of exploring its haunted mansion setting.
In terms of gameplay, Betrayal oozes tension. Players lay down room tiles at random as they make their way through the house, and this means that the board is an unknown quantity every time. You can't be sure what's waiting for you on the other side of each door, either - you'll trigger events and 'Omens' as you make your way through the dusty halls. Stumble upon enough Omens and a mission will begin, turning the house (or your allies) against everyone else.
The aim is simple: survive. Maybe a horrendous beast wakes up in the basement, eager to feast on your flesh. Perhaps a teammate wishes to sacrifice you all to some dark entity. A giant bird could swoop down and carry the house away, forcing you to search for a parachute (seriously, things can get wild). This is why Betrayal at House on the Hill is one of the most enduring board games for adults - it's not perfect, but it's crammed with enough cool ideas to help smooth over any issues.
Once you're done with the original version, you can also shake things up with the Widow's Walk expansion to enhance your game, an upgrade kit, a Baldur's Gate spin-off, or a 'Legacy' edition that adds consequences to each game, creating a long-term story that's entirely your own. No matter which one you pick, they make an already great game even better.
- Read more: Betrayal at House on the Hill review
Even though the store is long dead, this party favorite isn't going anywhere. Fast-paced and straightforward, Blockbuster: The Game should be your go-to choice in terms of board games for adults and get-togethers. And don't worry, knowing loads about cinema isn't a requirement. At a basic level, this is a cross between Articulate! and charades.
What you will need are your wits. Things kick off with a head-to-head round, and two players are handed a category like "movies with a shootout". They then take it turns to yell out an example. Fail to come up with a response in 15 seconds and you'll lose.
That's when the real game begins. The winner draws six cards and acts out, quotes, or describes three of them for their team, and the remaining three cards are left for the loser. Because everyone likes an opportunity to be mean, they'll probably wind up being the toughest ones. It’s deliciously evil.
The game's VHS theming makes things even better. The box apes an old-school cassette case, while the cards are designed to look like tapes. Even the board itself is steeped in nostalgia; it's modelled after a Blockbuster car park, complete with that iconic sign. However, this doesn't mean it's stuck in the past. More than a few of the movies it references are recent, and there's now an expansion (Blockbuster Returns) featuring films from the last 10 years. Both deserve a place on your shelf.
- Read more: Blockbuster: The Game review
Azul is downright beautiful, and its mechanics are just as enchanting. For those who prefer more relaxed experiences, we'd highly recommend this one - it's among the best puzzle board games for adults by a long shot.
Your aim is to place tiles on the board that will score you points. In fact, a good description would be a color-based crossword. And while you'll get better results if you manage to complete sets in this chilled-out pastime, you've still got to be careful nonetheless; 'wasting' tiles on random formations can lower your score.
That leads to a lot of manoeuvring and good-natured competition in an effort to outdo your opponents. Because of this, Azul is more of a personal puzzle game than a head-to-head challenge (as such, it's a great board game for 2 players if you fancy something low-key). Much like Ticket to Ride, there's a joy in lining up tiles to make patterns or completing the perfect set.
Basically, it's a winner for lazy Sunday afternoons. Because it's not too expensive, Azul is also a great gift for a loved one that adores puzzles.
Easy to get your head around but tricky to beat, Pandemic pits you against an outbreak of coughs and sneezes across the world (and by that I mean "horrendous diseases"). Because victory hinges on your team’s ability to communicate, prioritize threats, and stay cool under pressure, it's amongst the best cooperative board games ever made. And considering everything going on right now, beating the outbreak is more than a little cathartic.
Besides keeping illnesses under control, Pandemic challenges you to develop a cure for each disease by collecting five cards of a certain color. Easy, right? Guess again. New infections drop onto the board at the end of every turn, and if more than three gather in a single location, they’ll start spreading to neighboring cities.
Worse still, the number of infections that are deployed goes up every few turns. This can result in a domino effect of disastrous, oh-God-someone-do-something proportions. Do you focus on making a cure or should you keep those disease levels down? That's just one of the many crises you’ll need to overcome in what has become a king of board games for adults.
This white-knuckle decision-making is where Pandemic shines. It's not just a superb strategy game; it's one of the most enjoyable co-op experiences out there. Because you can increase the level of challenge through expansions or the Pandemic: Legacy series (where the consequences of your actions carry from one game to another), it's one with serious longevity as well.
- Read more: Pandemic board game review
Wingspan is a surprise favorite when it comes to board games for adults; besides being the winner of the well-respected Spiel des Jahres award, it's popular enough that some cheeky retailers charged triple its list price when it went out of print a few years ago. That tells you a lot about its quality.
So, what's it about? As you might have guessed from the name, Wingspan puts birds front and center. Indeed, your aim is to attract the biggest variety to your preserve. You'll do this through clever engine building mechanics that are present in many of the best board games - you use cards to get food and eggs, allowing you to find even more cards and birds. It's an addictive, satisfying loop.
The whole process is quick and painless, too; it's completed in a breezy four turns. Still, that doesn't mean you can't stop and smell the roses. Which you'll want to, by the way. The card artwork is gorgeous and the playing pieces (which include a birdbox dice tray) are clever. Even the boards you play on are stunning - their vivid wash of color really draws the eye.
That's why Wingspan is ideal as a chill-out game. The lack of direct competition and a focus on attracting beautiful wildlife turns it into a relaxing, zen-like experience that you'll enjoy regardless of whether you win or lose.
Brewing whiskey in a Scottish kingdom might not be your first suggestion when it comes to a great tabletop theme. But trust us - Isle of Skye is one of the most enjoyable board games for adults you'll find.
Although this one is a straightforward trading game, it's far from dull. Isle of Skye is defined by land-grabs, savvy haggling, and a journey from clan chieftain to king, so there's plenty to get your teeth into. Plus, its rugged northern theme is a breath of fresh air.
You start by adding new territory to your realm with a variety of resources, ranging from boats and highland cows to lochs. Your goal? Gather as many of a certain type as possible. And because that particular item is randomised, each game is slightly different. Replayability is always a big plus in our books, so Isle of Skye hits all the right notes where we're concerned.
The way new land tiles are distributed is where things get really interesting, though. You'll earn money depending on how much whiskey you've produced, and that allows you to set a price on the tiles you want to place. If someone fancies that tile, they've got to pay you. But if nobody's fussed, you have to pay up instead. It's a cool idea with a lot at stake, and one that quickly gets its claws into you.
If you want a deep roleplaying experience where your actions have consequences, nothing can beat Gloomhaven. It's easily one of the top board games for adults, and the franchise has only grown in popularity since its 2017 debut. In fact, it's now getting a sequel (Frosthaven) and has had a clear influence on everything from the Divinity: Original Sin board game to Bardsung.
That's because it's arguably the most engrossing entry on this list. Players take control of adventurers who quest in and around the eponymous city, and they'll plunder dungeons or defeat monsters in a grand, branching story that can take months to complete.
Seriously, we're not kidding about longevity. Gloomhaven comes in an enormous box full to the brim with components and secret elements that you'll open as your journey progresses. Better still, it doesn't rely on random dice rolls to resolve combat. It's meaningful and memorable as a result - especially when you add character progression systems. In short? If you want a persistent RPG without the effort needed for the best Dungeons and Dragons books, this is the perfect choice.
There's even a cheaper option for those who'd rather dip in a toe before taking the plunge; you can now opt for the more accessible Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion instead. That one offers the same great gameplay on a smaller scale, so it serves as a good introduction to what has become a beloved series.
If you loved the Redwall novels when growing up, Root should definitely be on your radar. It's an asymmetric strategy game featuring bucolic woodland creatures eager to take over the forest, and that includes everything from mice villagers to raccoon adventurers. When combined with eye-catching artwork, it's a delight from the start.
Just don't be fooled by those friendly designs. This is a layered experience with plenty of depth. As an example, all factions come with their own mechanics and goals for victory. That puts Root amongst the best tactical board games for adults.
Even though it's a lot to take in at first (the rules need some getting used to), your patience will be rewarded. Interplay between factions like the Marquise de Cat - which aims to put down rebellion - and the Eyrie's bird nobility provides plenty to explore.
Additionally, this is a game that encourages players to think creatively. It's an example of what makes modern board gaming so special, to be honest; although it's not for everyone, Root is the poster-child of what this hobby is capable of.
Fans of Cards Against Humanity, pay attention: this NSFW alternative will definitely be your jam. As one of the best card games for adults, this entry from the creators of Cyanide and Happiness is comfortably the funniest suggestion on this list. And while it's an 18+ product with a (very) dark sense of humor, it never feels vindictive like some of the competition.
Easy to learn and genuinely hilarious, this is the sort of game you'll be playing in no time. The structure is dead simple: players must fill in the blanks with a silly response. The twist? You'll be using artwork instead of words. More specifically, you have to complete a randomly-selected cartoon strip using a card from your hand. The most amusing choice wins a point.
Luckily, finding something that'll crack up your opponents isn't hard. Most cards have a laugh-out-loud quality to them, and they're all kinds of ridiculous. Maybe your character will escape an awkward conversation by flying away with the power of their fart. Or perhaps they'll eat the other person whole. There are plenty of options to choose from, and that means Joking Hazard won't lose its novelty any time soon.
Just remember, this isn't a family friendly game. It earns its mature label, and then some - play it with parents at your peril.
Catan whisks you back to the days of settling a frontier; there's an uninhabited island to claim and kingdoms to build on it. Your job? Civilise this wild expanse with towns, roads, and trade.
You'll need to keep your wits about you when deciding where to put down roots, though. The landscape is different each time you play, and this means you'll have to pay close attention to where you settle. That's because resources are driven by probability and dice rolls - certain locations will yield goods more often, so everyone ends up racing to claim the 'best' spots. Choosing wisely can make or break your chances of winning; foresight and intuition are rewarded.
Being able to sweet-talk your rivals is essential, too. It's inevitable that you won't get all the materials you need right away, so you'll have to trade with other players to advance your plans. What follows is an intriguing balancing act. Swapping resources could help you in the short-term, but it may bring your opponent one step closer to victory as well. This leaves us with something fantastic for those who love tactical board games for adults.
Sure, Catan is somewhat reliant on chance. But there's plenty of strategy to go along with it, not to mention unorthodox ways of winning (such as creating the largest army) and tricksy robbers that'll steal your opponents' items. And with so many versions of the game out there - including a ton of expansions, Star Trek and Game of Thrones-themed sets, a spinoff called Catan: Starfarers, and a handsome 25th Anniversary Edition - there are cool alternatives to try if you ever get bored of the original.
Best of the rest
In terms of board games for adults that deserved their mature rating, Scrawl takes the cake. A filthy-minded road trip through the weirder parts of your brain, it's a delight at parties.
Scrawl is best described as a cross between Telephone and Pictionary; you get a ridiculous prompt card and have to draw what it tells you, be it "photocopying your balls" or "licking people's shoes". Your doodle then gets passed with no explanation to the person beside you, and they've got to write down what they think it is. After that, the player beside them draws whatever it is their neighbour's written, and so on.
Inevitably, it won't end well. Which is good news for us - the results are hysterical. Your original picture will get bent so far out of shape that it becomes unrecognisable. This leads to no end of in-jokes for you and your friends, making it a superb ice-breaker.
That's Scrawl in a nutshell - funny and memorable. In fact, the game's closest relatives would be Cards Against Humanity or Joking Hazard due to the fact that it thrives on the same dark humor. Essentially, it's very NSFW and utterly brilliant.
- Read more: Scrawl board game review
You aren't just proving that you're a sporting know-it-all with ESPN Trivia Night; you'll be showing off your dexterity as well. Yup, sitting back and letting your answers do the talking isn't gonna cut it here.
As you may have guessed, this isn't one of your average board games for adults - although it pits two teams against each other with questions on everything from the NHL Stanley Cup to players, getting something wrong allows you to take on a mini challenge that could win your team the point. Because these task you with snapping a ball or puck into a scoring area, it's a fun test of your skills. It lets those that aren't a font of ESPN knowledge shine, too.
It also allows chaos to reign, so this is definitely a good choice for parties. With teammates screaming answers and arguing over whether someone's flick earned a point or not, it'll give you memories to spare and plenty to laugh about.
A wide variety of cards means that you won't find yourself repeating questions all that often, either. That gives ESPN Trivia Night longevity. It isn't just for the next season; this one's for keeps.
- Read more: ESPN Trivia Night review
If friends or family are descending upon your home en-masse, Articulate! is the perfect choice to keep them busy. A team-based trivia game with questions drawn from nature, pop-culture, and beyond, it can be played with over 20 people - or as few as four.
What's more, it's easy to pick up. Players take turns to describe words from a category, and their team has to guess as many of them as they can within 30 seconds. This advances your marker across the board, and the first team to reach the finish line wins. Throw in wildcard rounds where anyone can answer or spaces that allow you to rush ahead and you'll start to understand why this is one of those board games for families that's been going strong for decades (since 1992, to be precise).
Those questions aren't obscure, either. Everyone stands a chance of earning points for their team, no matter who they are or what interests they've got. Unlike so many alternatives, you don't need to be a font of random knowledge to get ahead.
That means Articulate! is ideal for parties, Christmas gatherings, and everything in-between. It's an essential purchase and a fair choice in terms of excellent board games for adults.
More board game guides
Want more suggestions? Looking for something specific? Don't forget to check out our range of other board game guides. No matter whether you're hunting down a beloved classic or something for your children, we've got you covered.
- Essential board games: Everyone should have these in their collection.
- Top card games: Must-have games for travelling or parties.
- Best classic board games: Revisit old favorites like Monopoly or Clue.
- Best co-op board games: Why not work together?
- Family board games: Choose from a wealth of family-friendly options.
- Board games for kids: Get the little ones involved.