Our favorite board games

20 March 2018

Today is the last day to take my survey! I’ve heard from more than 200 of you already (so wonderful!), but if you haven’t answered the questions and entered the giveaway yet, now is your chance!

I’d like to propose to you one of those quintessential defining divides, like morning v. evening people or pessimists v. optimists: are you a board game person?

I fall squarely into the board game camp, and it has both shaped my character and been a siren song leading me to some of my most precious friendships over the years. To me, board game people are good people: they like having fun, they’re smart, they’re patient, they’re cooperative, they know how to win and lose, and they like spending time with people. Those are totally unbiased opinions, of course :)

Unsurprisingly, I believe board games can be a great tool for building a healthy and vibrant family culture — they certainly were in both my family and John’s family! I’ve collected a long string of favorites stretching from childhood to college to parenthood, and I’d love to swap recommendations…

Note: card games are totally included under this activity umbrella!

Second note: apparently I don’t have a lot of photos involving board games to share. Not sure what I’m doing in this photo but judging by the pile of pennies in the center I believe Marget and I are ready to play 31 :)

In elementary school, my family’s favorite games included:

Boggle (I have literally never heard of anyone else playing this game but our word-loving family LOVED it, even though my Dad would crush us all, always.)
Scattergories (a perennial favorite to this day!)
Tripoley (another one I haven’t heard of many people playing, but so fun!)

We had a whole subset of games we played just at the Island, and these included Parcheesi, Oh P’Shaw, Mahjong, and Hi-Ho Cherry-O (which we liked mostly because it involved tiny cherries and buckets).

I was incredibly lucky to have friends in high school who also loved playing games (one of the first things John and I bonded over!). We almost exclusively played Cranium (as demonstrated above by John and our friend Dan!), but there were some poker nights and Taboo matches mixed in.

Games have led us to some of our best friends later in life, including Nancy and Will. Fun fact: I got the courage to email Nancy and suggest a game night after reading about her love for Settlers of Catan on her blog back in 2010!! More recently, we knew our neighborhood friends Katie and Scott were, like, the real-deal type of friends instead of just acquaintances when they introduced us to a new-to-us game that became a family hit, Codenames!

These days, some of our favorites include Celebrity (called Fish Bowl by some people), Seven Wonders, Werewords, Settlers, Scattergories, Mexican Train, 99, and Codenames. We’ll take any chance we can get to play with our favorite people, even if it means putting our kids to sleep at each other’s houses for a few uninterrupted hours! :)

Hopefully I’ll be able to write a post in a few years sharing some of the games we’ve started indoctrinating June with playing with June… in the meantime, I’d love to hear any of your favorites, if you’re a board game person, too! :)

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March 20, 2018 8:37 am

This is one of my favorite posts, Emily! My husband and I also fall squarely into the board games camp, and have made so many good friends (especially neighbors) that way. As I was reading, I was so excited to comment to tell you about Codenames – so while I’m mildly disappointed I cannot get credit for that recommendation ;) – I’m thrilled you love it and play with Katie and Scott. We also highly recommend Ticket to Ride and Monopoly Deal (a fast and fun card game version). We’ll have to learn to play Celebrity and 99. Thank you for the great recommendations with childhood nostalgia thrown in, too!

Bethany Howe
March 20, 2018 8:56 am

I love board games! Whenever our family gets together for a holiday, we always wind up playing one or two. I have fond memories of my extended family visiting in the summer (we lived at the beach) and playing card games all week. Some favorites include:

Monopoly- fun fact: when I first brought my husband Matt home to meet my extended family, we got into a very intense (and long) game of Monopoly. It was just Matt and my aunt left in the game, and she turned to him and said, “How long do you want this to go on?!” And he said, “Until I have all your money.” HA!
Settlers of Catan
Pandemic – this game is AWESOME if you have people who are not very competitive, or like to work as a team.

March 20, 2018 8:58 am

I was never much of a board games person because I was self conscious of not being “good enough” to play a game, but my husband LOVES games. I’ve been learning to get over my insecurities so that we can enjoy playing together. Some of my current favourites include Scrabble, Codenames, the Oregon Trail card game, and Timeline. We’ve also enjoyed playing Ticket To Ride, Sushi Go!, and SpaceTeam.

Kelly Strawberry
March 20, 2018 9:57 am

My husband is a big gamer. I enjoy them, but I’m (intentionally) not very competitive. I don’t want to let myself get worked up over a game, ha! We go through phases, so sometimes we’ll go a couple months playing games and then there’s a dry spell. I’m excited to try some of your recommendations!

March 20, 2018 10:15 am

Love this! Another fave of ours (among the many you covered above!) is Linkee!

Sarah S
March 20, 2018 10:35 am
Reply to  Kelly

Oh my goodness, I just got Linkee and it is SO FUN!

Sarah S
March 20, 2018 10:34 am

Codenames is definitely my all-time favorite! Another go-to currently is Anomia, its hilarious! When we want to play good crowd games we play Fish Bowl and Telephone Pictionary since they only require paper and pens. We also keep Dutch Blitz, Pit, and Phase 10, and Euchre(this one is played with a regular deck of cards) on regular rotation for card games. Growing up my family always played a game called Spite & Malice with a couple of decks of cards (I recently learned its sold as an actual game called Skip-bo…but Spite & Malice just sounds way more fun) Also, a total random one is Bob Ross: The Art of Chill, which my husband won at his office White Elephant this past Christmas but is honestly a great game. I’m interested in checking out some of your recommendations too.

Yikes, clearly you can see I am also a game person, I just have so many ideas to share!

Nichole W
March 20, 2018 10:49 am

Settlers of Catan is my all time favorite. My stepbrother taught me how to play in college, before it became really popular. One night I walked into my neighbors apartment where the guys were starting a game of Settlers and asked if I could join, which they thought was so weird. I guess they didn’t think girls would like the game??

Every summer we play a game with my husband’s family called Secret Hitler. Yes, I know it sounds strange, but the cousin that introduced us to it is working on her PhD in political science, with an emphasis on dictators, so it fits! There’s another version we’ve played called Resistance, but the game basically makes you question who you can trust the whole time!

I’m definitely going to make a list of all of the recommendations on here for new games!

March 20, 2018 11:45 am

This is such a fun post! Dillon and I are most definitely board game people. Our favorite games are Fish Bowl (or Celebrity), Happy Pigs (it sounds and looks so silly but is a strategic business-minded game at it’s core!), Dutch Blitz, and most recently Monopoly Deal. I love all the classics, too, and enjoy learning new games with friends as an icebreaker and bonding activity! :)

March 20, 2018 11:49 am

Thanks for these fun suggestions! My son is about to turn 3 and I’m excited to introduce him to some games so his Amazon wishlist is full of them right now – Hi Ho Cherrio, Candy Land, and Chutes & Ladders. I’m excited to jump back in to some of my childhood favorites! Also just ordered Codenames & Sequence for the grown-ups because we’re in need of something different for our evening entertainment. Fun topic!

March 20, 2018 11:52 am

So excited to try some of your favorites! My family is firmly in the camp of board game lovers. Rummikub and Spoons are favorites of ours as well, in addition to Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and a card game I learned in law school in Mississippi called Shanghai (similar to Phase 10 but played with regular cards).

March 20, 2018 4:18 pm

Oooo! I love this, and thanks for all the suggestions in your post! There are several I’ll have to investigate! My husband and I love to play games, but it’s sometimes tough to find good play-with-only-two-players games. A few that we love (all these are good for two or more):

Quirkle (I think this is probably our favorite)
Blockus (I’ve literally never beat my hubs at this game, so I’ve been boycotting it, but… it’s a fun one, even when you lose, I guess)

We got the European Ticket to Ride for Christmas, and we can’t figure out (by “cant figure out”, what I really mean is “don’t have the patience to figure out”) the instructions. Clearly, we need to invite over some friends who’ve already played it so they can show us!

March 20, 2018 6:34 pm

I LOVE Boggle! Maybe one of my favorite games of all time. And Rory and Paris play it a lot in “Gilmore Girls,” which I love :)

My family is obsessed with a card game called Nertz, which is basically like group Solitaire on speed. (This is roughly how we play: https://www.pagat.com/patience/nerts.html) One of my older cousins taught my extended family how to play about 20 years ago and it’s now our family’s go-to game. We get CRAZY competitive!

Christian Howell
March 20, 2018 9:50 pm

Love Boggle!!! I used to play it with my grandmother all the time and have such sweet memories from it. We loved to play Connect Four with my Grandaddy. Growing up, I also loved playing the North Carolina game which was like Trivial Pursuit with an NC theme. Nowadays, my husband and I love to play Contract Rummy with his family and anyone we can teach it to! Fun post!!

March 21, 2018 8:15 am

My husband’s family has always played Boggle and after about 8 years of playing with them I’m finally competitive! Woohoo! I still come in dead last in Blockus, and find it not enjoyable to play for that reason – reading an above comment in which someone else shared the same feeling made my day!

A surprisingly fun game which was gifted to us at our wedding is Battle Sheep, which can be deceptively difficult but since it’s quick you can play many rounds and try lots of strategies. We have also played a lot of Sequence with my family lately. My grandma has dementia and has a hard time remembering the rules of a game while playing, Sequence is easy to explain each round and if she makes moves that don’t make sense it doesn’t set the game off course for the other teams.

Most favorite board games were mentioned, but some really great card based games are Quiddler, Set, and Phase 10.

March 21, 2018 8:48 am

I LOVE board and card games. We played macala all the time when I was growing up! It was definitely one of my favorites. My husband had never even heard of it somehow, so I went out and bought it and now we play it all the time. We also really love phase 10 (it’s a great and easy game we play a lot with new friends, it’s not complicated so it’s easy to play and chat at the same time), and of course, scrabble :)

March 21, 2018 8:53 am

Also, if you are ever in Asheville, they have a board game bar(?) called Well Played you can go to that is surprisingly fun! I’m not really sure if it’s considered a bar, they mostly have snacks, but they have SO MANY games you can try and a person who knows all of the games they have and can give recommendations based on what you like (and knows all of the rules for all of the games by memory, which is a feat in itself!). We went once because there was bad weather and ended up spending all afternoon there, even after the weather cleared up!

Erin K
March 21, 2018 12:03 pm

We LOVE board games. One of our favorite wedding gifts was a collection of board games for 2. A new favorite game: El Dorado!!

Wendy Lassiter
March 21, 2018 2:39 pm

We like Quelf. It’s hilarious and involves everyone and isn’t competitive. I usually feel like I have to play a game about 10 times before I’m good enough to compete and I really just don’t care if I win or not. My kids on the other hand are very competitive. My son lost in Monopoly to his wife and he has refused to play again with her…maybe ever. haha. Some other card games we like are Set and Quiddler and a fun game for all ages is always Catch Phrase.

March 21, 2018 4:30 pm

Ticket to Ride has been our favorite board game lately!

March 21, 2018 5:04 pm

I’m not much of a board game person, I prefer celebrity, mafia and games like that. However I recently found some games I LOVE to play with my 3 year old. The brand is Peaceable Kingdom and you can buy them at Target. A lot of them are focused on teamwork and age appropriate skills. And they are also fun!

March 21, 2018 7:33 pm

My husband and I LOVE board games!! Some of our favorites are are Sushi Go!, Ticket to Ride, Bob Ross (yes, it’s actually fun!!), Werewolf, Bang!, Settlers of Catan, and a new favorite: Killer Bunnies!

March 22, 2018 1:00 pm

My very favorite game for groups of adults to play is Party Playoff (made by Cranium!). It’s set up like bracket and for each thing to move forward, the group has to come to a consensus based on a card you draw each time. It’s fun because everyone is involved at every part of it, and the discussion(/arguments) that come out of it are hilarious.

Here it is on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cranium-Party-Playoff/dp/B0022EMVOK

March 22, 2018 6:36 pm

Oh my I LOVE games of all kinds! My husband and I have been on a Farkle kick lately. It’s a dice game and I love that you can play with just two people or as many as you’d like. I also love a good ole fashioned Monopoly or game of Life!

March 22, 2018 11:04 pm

Such a fun post! We love: Ticket to Ride, Blokus, Nertz (card game), Yahtzee, and Payday (a kids game, but sort of fun if you like finances! You can find retro versions of it!).

Victoria B
March 23, 2018 8:33 am

I love board games! Yet another reason I know we would be friends in real life! I can define the stages of my life by what card game I was into at the time (spit, war, euchre, spades, gin rummy). Some you mentioned are my favorites and I will need to check out any I don’t know here and in the comments! My favorites also include Pandemic, Ticket To Ride, Sushi Go, Zombie Dice (quick and easy to learn and play), and Suspend.

March 23, 2018 10:26 pm

My husband’s family loves to play Rummikub (oh the brotherly arguments that ensue!), Mexican Train, and Five Crowns (a card game). When we lived in the same state as his family we’d spend every Sunday night at his parents’ house for dinner and then a few rounds of a game. The three brothers would get to argue over who the superior gamer was, we’d catch up about our week, and just enjoy some family time. Those memories are so special and I miss those visits dearly!

March 26, 2018 8:55 am

If the post wasn’t already good enough, the comments section is a great trove of board game fun too! My family played some of the board games you mentioned growing up, and we still play Settlers of Catan often when we get together, but we were way more into card games. Double, triple, quadruple, or quintuple solitaire were, and still are, where we excelled (some games I have to play standing up because there is so much quick movement!). We also LOVE the card game “Up the River”, so much so that we played over our two rows of seats on a plane ride across the Atlantic! I absolutely agree that board games and card games can be such fun family (or friend) bonding time, and can create wonderful memories.