I frequently get asked for board game recommendations from friends and family. So, I decided to whip up a Top 10 List of the games I frequently suggest. This is my 2020 edition, and includes a mix of newer and older games. There are over 100,000 different board games out there according to Board Game Geek. So, my Top 10 list obviously leaves out a plethora of fantastic games. Most of the games on the list are easy to learn and teach. The last two games on the list ramp up the difficulty a bit. As you become a more experienced gamer, you may want some stronger games to test your mettle.
#1 – Best Gateway Game – “Ticket to Ride”
Ticket to Ride was released in 2004, and then won the prestigious “Spiel des Jahres Award” (Game of the year). Ticket to Ride is usually the first game I recommend to anyone just starting to get into board games. This should really replace Monopoly in every gamer’s collection. Ticket to Ride has sold millions of copies worldwide.
Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which players collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America! The rules are simple, and Ticket to Ride has a beautiful design that makes it easy for anyone to play and have fun.
The original base game has players connecting routes between cities in North America. There have been numerous spin-offs, and expansions, that you can purchase to enhance your gaming experience. You can get maps of Europe, Germany, Asia, India, Africa, France, Japan and more. The game is fun, and can help gamers learn a bit more about geography as well.
Ticket to Ride is for 2 to 5 players, ages 8+. Ticket to Ride “First Journey” can be played with children ages 6+.
#2 – Best Racing Game – “Downforce”
I think all households need a good racing game, and Downforce is my favorite. The board is nearly 2 ft. x 3 ft., and the game looks great on the table.
Downforce is a racing game for 2 to 6 players, Ages 8+. Players first bid to own at least one of the six cars in the race. Then, they play cards from their hand to speed the race cars around the track. However, most cards will also move their opponents’ cars. So figuring out just the right time to play a card is the key to victory.
During the race, players will make secret bets on who they think will win the race. Players can gamble on themselves or bet on their opponents. Whoever has the most money at the end of the race wins the game.
This game is easy to teach, and fun to play. One of the cool things about this game is that you can actually win this game, even if your car comes in last place. It all depends on your betting & racing strategy.
The base game comes with a reversible board with 2 racetracks. Two expansions have been produced, giving players a total of 6 tracks to race on. The two new expansions are Wild Ride and Danger Circuit.
You can even replace the race cars with Monopoly Mario Kart racers if you want to pimp your ride. We wrote an article about how to do this a while back.
#3 – Best Drafting Game – “Bunny Kingdom”
Bunny Kingdom might look like a cutesy kids game, but don’t let the bunny theme fool you. This game is not really a children’s game. Bunny Kingdom is pure joy fun for teens and adults. Bunny Kingdom is for 2-4 players, and is recommended for gamers aged 14 & up.
Bunny Kingdom skillfully combines card drafting and territory control. In a 4-player game, you will be dealt 10 cards. Each player examines their hand and selects two cards of their choosing and places them on the table in front of them. The remainder of the hand is passed to the player on your right. You then play your 2 cards (and maybe take over a territory on the board). You will then receive 8 cards from the player on your left. You will draft 2 cards again, and pass to your right. You continue to do this until all cards have been drafted and played. Bunny Kingdom is played over 4 rounds, and the game takes about 45 minutes to play.
Some of the cards will allow you to control an area on the board. Some cards will let you build bunny towers. Some cards will let you harvest the land for special resources. And some cards will reward you with hidden bonus points at the end of the game. At the end of the game, the board will be filled with bunnies, towers, and special resources.
Bunny Kingdom can get a little “mathy” during final scoring, and that is the reason I believe that the age recommendation is for 14+. I think younger kids would still enjoy this game, especially if they’re good at basic math.
The game is brilliant. Our family has played this game so many times that our cards are worn out. I wish I would have sleeved my Bunny Kingdom cards from the outset. 😉
#4 – Best Roll & Write Game – “Welcome To … Your Perfect Home”
Welcome To … Your Perfect Home is essentially a “Roll and Write game”. Think of Roll and Write games as new and improved versions of Yahtzee. Actually Welcome To is a “Flip and Write game”, but most gamers consider both styles essentially the same gaming category.
Everyone is given a blank suburban development map with 3 streets on it. During the course of the game, players will build houses on different lots on the street.
Three cards are flipped over, and all players have to pick one of the numbered cards, and build that house on one of their streets. They do this by simply writing the number on an open lot. The houses can be numbered from 0 to 17 and have to be built in sequential order (from left to right). You can adorn your houses with pools and fences. And you can add parks to the streets to amplify your neighborhood’s value.
The game is easy to teach and fun to play. This is a great game because you can play “Welcome To” with an unlimited number of players. This game also plays well remotely over Zoom, Google Meet, Facebook Portal, etc. Games only take about 25 minutes to play. Recommended age is 10+.
Everyone should own a good Roll & Write game. Roll & Write games usually travel well, and are ideal for rainy vacation days.
#5 – Best Co-op Game – “The Crew (The Quest for Planet Nine)”
Every Family needs a Co-op Game in their collection, and I’m throwing my weight behind The Crew. It’s like a classic Trick-Taking game – with a twist. Instead of battling against other players at the table, you are all working together to complete missions. Oh, and did I mention that you are not allowed to talk to each other about your hands?
Your group has to take on and complete 50 missions from the Mission Log. A typical Mission might be something like, Jim has to win the Pink 5, and Sally has to win the Green 7, and Paul has to win Blue 5. Missions only take 5 – 10 minutes. If you fail a mission, you try again. When you complete a mission, you can move on to the next mission.
Missions start off easy, and get increasingly more difficult. The game eases players in nicely. This is a game you can play over several days, weeks or months in order to complete all 50 missions.
This game was released in North America in 2020. This is an easy game to teach, and an easy game to learn. But mastering this game requires thought and skill. The Crew is only like $15, and travels well. The crew is for 3 to 5 players, ages 10+.
#6 – Best Dice Game – “Space Base”
Space Base is a dice-chucking game – with some engine building to boot! On your turn, you roll 2 six-sided dice, claim rewards, and buy space ships to add to your “space base”. On your opponents turns, you will harvest rewards on their rolls as well. This is what makes Space Base so good … There is no down time in Space Base! Something is happening on every dice roll, no matter who’s turn it is.
Every number on your space base offers different rewards. After a dice roll, you can take your rewards for each individual die or for the sum of the dice. For example, if you roll a 5 and a 6, you could claim rewards for the “5 sector” and the “6 sector” cards on your board, or you could claim the reward of only the “11 sector” card on your board. The higher numbers, 7-12, usually give you increasingly better rewards.
You will earn money on your turns, and on your opponents turns. At the end of each of your turns, you will be able to buy a spaceship for you base from the Shipyard.
Space Base is for 2 to 5 players, ages 8 & up. In the later stages of the game, all players will have large space bases, and they will start going for victory points instead of money.
This is an easy game to teach, and fun for players of all ages. Highly recommended.
#7 – Best Party Game – “Hive Mind”
Hive Mind is a fantastic game to break out around when you have a larger group – like a holiday gathering. The box says for 3-12 players, but I’ve played this with 12+ players, and it still works wonderfully. Families, kids, & large party groups can play. Questions are based on life experiences rather than knowledge, inspiring laughs and funny conversations.
Hive Mind is super-easy to teach and learn. The goal of this game is to try to think like everyone else at the table by having a “hive mind”. Instead of there being one winner like most games, there is just one loser who eventually gets squeezed out of the hive for not thinking enough like everyone else.
Gameplay is simple:
Ask a Question – Draw a card and choose a question to read aloud.
Answer the Question – Everyone has two minutes to write down responses to the question.
Compare Answers – Score points for your answers and for how many people match your response.
Stay in the Hive! – Move towards the hive exit if you score poorly. Avoid being the first out to win!
This is a game that is fun for all ages. Children can be playing right along side grandma.
#8 – Best Deck Building Game – “Clank!”
Clank! is a competitive deck-building game featuring a large game board. Clank! is somewhat of a dungeon-crawl for 2 to 4 players, ages 12+. The goal of the game is to delve into the dungeon, steal an artifact and some loot, and get out before the dragon roasts you. The term “Clank!” is used in the game to represent the noise you might make while sneaking around the dungeon. Every time you clank, you increase your odds of getting discovered and attacked by the dragon living in the dungeon.
Every player starts with the exact same 10 card deck. On your turn, you will draw 5 cards, and play those 5 cards from your hand. Your cards allow you to: move, fight monsters and buy more cards. The cards you buy will help you fine tune your deck towards your play style. Eventually, everyone will have a different style of deck. You can slowly and quietly sneak around, or you can rush down quickly making lots of clank along the way. You can push your luck trying to get the better artifacts deeper down in the dungeon, or you can play it safe and get a less valuable artifact and get out unscathed.
This is a great game to introduce deck building games to new players. Clank! is fairly easy to teach and learn. There are no difficult rules here to learn. The game board is two-sided, thus offering different dungeons to dive into. There are also several expansions you can add for even more maps including: Mummy’s Curse; Sunken Treasures; and Expeditions.
#9 – Best Engine Building Game – “Wingspan”
Wingspan has taken the board game world by storm. As of May 2020, there are over 430,000 copies in circulation. And the game was just released in 2019! Who have thought a game about attracting birds to a wildlife preserve would be so popular?
Wingspan is a stunningly beautiful board game. The bird cards are artistic, attractive, and informative. You build a birdfeeder dice tower, and then use it for gameplay. The food tokens and eggs are delightful. But Wingspan is not just another pretty face. Wingspan is a wonderful, medium-weight, card-driven, engine-building board game!
Players are bird enthusiasts: researchers, bird-watchers, ornithologists, and collectors seeking to discover and attract the best birds to their aviaries.
Players will collect food from the birdfeeder (fruit, fish, worms, rats, and grains), and use the food to attract various birds to their aviary. There are 170 unique bird cards in the base game – All North American birds. Over the course of the game, you will attract more and more birds to your aviary. The birds will actually work together as an engine to make it easier to fill your empire.
Each bird extends a chain of powerful combinations in one of your habitats (actions). These habitats focus on several key aspects of growth:
- Gain food tokens via custom dice in a birdfeeder dice tower.
- Lay eggs using egg miniatures in a variety of colors
- Draw from hundreds of unique bird cards and play them
The winner is the player with the most points accumulated from birds, bonus cards, end-of-round goals, eggs, cached food, and tucked birds.
Wingspan is for 2-5 players, ages 10 & up. This isn’t a beginners game. This is a medium weight game that will take a “learning game” from most players to comprehend, but it’s worth it. Wingspan retails for about $55. It sells out quite often, but also restocks quite often. Don’t overpay for it.
There is also a European expansion available that adds over 80 more birds to the game!
#10 – Best ‘Dudes on a Map’ Game – “Scythe”
I think everyone needs a big, sprawling, epic game – a game that you can plan a Saturday afternoon around. For me as a teenager – that was Risk. Board games have come a long way since I was a kid. These days, I think Scythe fits the bill much better. Scythe is an area control, engine-building game, with a lot of miniatures to fill the table. There is some combat, but not as much as you might expect from a game with a large, hexagonal board.
Scythe takes place in an alternate period of history. The time frame is 1920’s Europa. The artwork is fantastic. The character mini’s look awesome, and, you can control armored mechs. In Scythe, each player represents a character attempting to make their faction the richest and most powerful in Eastern Europa.
Players conquer territory, enlist new recruits, reap resources, gain villagers, build structures, and activate monstrous mechs. Each player begins the game with different resources (strength, victory points, movement capabilities, and popularity), their choice of several faction-specific abilities, and a hidden goal. Every part of Scythe has an aspect of engine-building to it.
This is the “meatiest” game on our list. Scythe is not a beginners game. The game is for 1-5 players, ages 14 & up, and it takes about 2 hours to play. This is a game with hundreds of components, including: miniatures, cards, coins, player mats, etc. Scythe looks fantastic when it’s all decked out on the table.
Scythe won the Golden Geek award in 2016 from BoardGameGeek for Board Game of the Year. Scythe also won the Origins award in 2016 board game of the year. You owe it to yourself to at least research this game, and see if it is something you might like for your home collection.