No matter whether you're planning games night or organising a family get-together, you'll find the best board games here. That includes brand-new releases like Jaws or the Disney Villainous expansions, not to mention old favourites. You'll also notice a few offers that'll save you money along the way. This is a relief, obviously; wonderful though it is, tabletop gaming can get expensive even if you're only grabbing the best card games.
But where do you even start? There's almost too much choice, regardless of whether you're hunting down board games for adults or board games for kids. That's where we come in. Our team of experts have made recommendations that they think represent the very best board games - they're intriguing, fun, easy to understand, and deeply replayable.
Best board games
Perfect team strategy
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, life-threatening disease"). Victory hinges on your team’s ability to communicate, prioritise threats, plan, and stay cool under pressure.
Your goal is simple. Besides keeping outbreaks under control, you must develop a cure for each disease by collecting five cards of a certain colour. 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 neighbouring cities. Worse still, the number of infections that are deployed goes up with each epidemic. 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, and this white-knuckle decision-making is where Pandemic shines.
The best all-ages board game
Ticket to Ride is one of the most accessible board games you can buy. However, that doesn’t make it easy or repetitive.
The basic idea is that you score points by creating train routes across the country, and the winner is the person who finishes the game with the highest score. You get extra points for fulfilling specific routes, which you draw cards for at the start of the game, and having the longest continual route at the end of the play. And while Ticket to Ride is a calm, family-friendly game, there’s a deep undercurrent of strategy: do you try to claim a route for yourself or block one for an opponent? How do you best use your trains? Do you aim for your longest routes first and risk not completing them, or try to get a bunch of shorter ones to score fast points? There’s plenty to think about.
While the train pieces are quite basic little plastic counters, the rest of the game is delightfully made, with the board itself a particular highlight. You can choose from a large number of variants, depending on what country you want to play in, so while the main edition is North America, there’s a popular European version too. If you’re looking for a game simple enough to play with family, which also offers satisfying tactical depth and a minor lesson in geography, too, Ticket to Ride is essential.
The most replayable board game
There's nothing quite like taking part in your own horror movie. Betrayal at House on the Hill casts you as one of six tropes (creepy little girl with a doll? check) before setting everyone loose in a mansion that's revealed a room by room. Unfortunately, something's waiting for you all inside. And as you've probably guessed, it's not too pleasant.
Because of this, Betrayal's gameplay is dripping with tension. Each player lays down room tiles drawn at random as they explore the house, resulting in a unique setting each time. You never know what you'll find through the next door, either - your journey triggers creepy events, calamities, and 'Omens' as you go. Find enough Omens, and a full-blown horror scenario will kick in. This is where things get properly tense; one of 50 missions is chosen, and the house turns on its inhabitants with swift, often bizarre savagery. Perhaps a serial killer strides through the door, eager to hunt you one by one. Maybe a monstrous creature awakens in the basement, or the house starts sinking into a swamp. Regardless, you'll need to work as a team if you want to get out of there alive. Well, most of you will need to work as a team. You see, one player may be revealed as a traitor at this point. They have special rules of their own, and the majority of them boil down to murdering everyone else, which is enough to get them taken off the Christmas card list, to be honest.
Tile placement at its very best
Carcassonne is regarded as a classic for a good reason. Even though it's now available on a ton of digital platforms, there’s something special about playing the game in its original, physical format. Seriously, you can't beat the feeling of dropping a tile in exactly the right place to complete a city and earn points.
Created in 2000 and named after a walled medieval town on the European continent, the board is created as you play. While everyone fills out a section of Southern France using tiles drawn at random, cleverly placing meeples - little wooden people - earns you points for each completed city, road and connected field (so long as your piece controls that section, anyway). The challenge? Having a strategy in mind while placing your pieces. While we'll admit that there is some "luck of the draw" in the tiles you choose, placing a piece to steal control of a settlement from under an opponent's nose requires long-term tactical thinking. As a result, Carcassonne is one of those rare games that’s easy to pick up but genuinely tough to master. If you've not given it a go yet, we'd suggest remedying that as soon as possible.
1500s France not your bag? You can also pick up versions of Carcassonne set all over the world. There are alternatives focusing on the Amazon, the Wild West Gold Rush, and even a safari - and that's to say nothing of the game's nine expansions.
Never has a board game been more on-brand than Villainous; it delights in making you as mean as possible. It's also surprisingly tactical. There's a lot of unexpected depth here, and it takes skill to come out on top in this battle of dastardly backstabbing. Gorgeous artwork and beautiful playing pieces are the icing on this very, very appealing cake. It's a pain to explain for the first time but trust us: you'll be hooked once you've got it.
Based on classic Disney movies, both old and new (ish), Villainous casts you as a famous baddie looking to get their own way. Maleficent must place a curse on each area of the board, Jafar needs to get his hands on the lamp, Ursula wants Triton's trident, and so on. But that's not the coolest part. In an inspired twist, each villain has unique abilities inspired by their personality from the films. As an example, King John's got underhand methods of sponging yet more money from his foes. These skills come in very handy when trying to undermine other players - for added spice, you're also attempting to scupper your opponents' plans while working toward your own. You can drop pesky heroes like Ariel on top of them to block some of their moves, for instance. This makes the game a whole lot more devious; good strategy is needed to do so while furthering your own goals.
Happily, there's plenty more where that came from - Villainous has got two expansions on the horizon that add more beloved characters to the fun, ranging from Scar to Hades.
The best strategy board game
Looks can be deceiving, and nowhere is that clearer than in Root. Despite the cute and inviting art style, this is a hardcore asymmetric strategy game that was one of the most talked-about releases of its time. It's still worth your time now despite that high price tag, too.
Much like the Redwall novels, each player commands a tribe of animals and must fight for their place in the clearings of a forest. The base game gives you control of four factions, including the 'Marquise de Cat' that must cement their rule by putting down the rebellion, feudal birds who operate via espionage, and the Woodland Alliance, an insurgency of 'peasant' animals (mice and hedgehogs) that are trying to win their freedom. There's even an adventuring racoon who sneaks around the board attempting to complete their own objective. It's earnest and entirely adorable.
There may be something of a learning curve with this one, yes. But Root encourages you to think creatively, dream up wild strategies, and master one of its unique races. It gives you an awful lot of value for your money as a result.
The best skirmish board game
Starfighters darting through space in a dogfight to the death are some of the best bits in any Star Wars movie, and this game lets you take the flight stick yourself. As Han Solo so eloquently put it, "yeeee-hooo - you're all clear, kid. Now let's blow this thing and go home".
There are different versions of the X-Wing game set throughout Star Wars history, but the core set goes back to basics - the original trilogy, more specifically. And although it'll be familiar to Games Workshop fans because each ship has a 'points' value, X-Wing's novel FlightPath system helps it stand out; players make their moves in secret, then reveal them all at once. This means you'll have to plan, second-guess what your opponents will do, and react accordingly. It's relatively quick as well, making X-Wing a great alternative to tabletop wargames like Warhammer 40K if you're wary of the time commitment they demand.
That's largely because you can scale any conflict up or down to suit you. Want a small skirmish you can finish in less than half an hour? That's no problem. Would you prefer a massive pitched battle between cruisers and Star Destroyers? X-Wing can handle that, too.