It’s no secret that playing board games is a fun and rewarding way to spend time with family and friends. They are engaging and entertaining and can even teach kids (and grown-ups) important skills. What’s more, there are endless game titles to choose from. Oh… so… many… games…. And that can be… well… overwhelming 🤔.
Choice overload, overchoice, choice paralysis, is when an overabundance of options causes anxiety and the fear of making the “wrong” choice. If you’ve ever shopped for board games and faced “the wall,” or have found yourself endlessly scrolling an online shop, chances are you’ve felt this apprehension 😰.
But, not to fear, because we’re here to help! If you’re thinking of dipping your toes into the world of tabletop gaming, check out our list of 7 Essentials. These award-winning games have wide appeal, with shorter play times, and modern themes. They have captured the hearts and minds of fans, with their imaginative worlds and stories. But make no mistake—these aren’t your grandma’s games (although she’d probably love them too 😉).
Ages: 7+ / Players: 2-5 / Play Time: 45-60 min
Carcassonne (the game that introduced the world to “meeple“) is the perfect introduction to the modern world of board games. With its simple rules, a game of Carcassonne is a bit like competitive puzzle building. It is one of the first tile-laying games and definitely the most successful. Since its launch, publisher, Z-Man Games has released dozens of expansions and different ways to play, including My First Carcassonne, adapted for kids as young as four, introducing them to the basics of strategic thinking and tactics.
Ages: 10+ / Players: 3-4 / Play Time: 60-120 min
For many people, CATAN is synonymous with modern gaming. Featuring elements like resource collection, trading, involvement during other players’ turns, and no player elimination, CATAN has arguably been responsible for showing people the possibilities of what gaming could be. It’s a fun game to play and is a great way to introduce new players to the hobby. What’s more, CATAN comes in multiple versions, including a junior version, for kids aged six+. With its modified play style CATAN Junior introduces younger players to this now-iconic brand.
Ages: 8+ / Players: 3-8 / Play Time: 30-45 min
Dixit is a classic, simple, lighthearted game of storytelling and guesswork. A beautiful game based on surreal-like art, imagination and communication, this unique title taps into your creative side and forces you to think about how you share your ideas. Dixit also features several expansions as well as the recently released standalone title Stella—Dixit Universe, a new take on this highly accessible line.
Ages: 8+ / Players: 2-4 / Play Time: 45-60 min
In 2008, Z-Man Games published a new title, developed by Matt Leacock, that tasked players to team up as an elite disease control unit. Together, they used their character’s special abilities to find the cures and eradicate four deadly diseases that had spread across the globe. Now, 13 years later, the award-winning game has sold over 5 million copies worldwide! And it’s easy to understand why! Simple to learn and teach, and with adjustable levels of difficulty, Pandemic makes a perfect introduction to cooperative games. In the last decade or so of giving players the hope that teamwork can overcome any challenge, Pandemic has grown into an entire universe of expansions, spin-offs, and more!
Ages: 8+ / Players: 2-5 / Play Time: 45-60 min
With over 8 million games sold, the Ticket to Ride series is one of the most popular modern board game series ever launched. Released in 2004, this beautifully illustrated title has players embark on a cross-country train adventure, where they compete to claim railway routes connecting cities in various countries around the world. The game is simple-to-learn, fun-to-play, and keeps players engaged by requiring continuous strategic thinking and a dose of opportunism. But, despite keeping players on their toes, Ticket to Ride won’t overwhelm the uninitiated, one of the reasons it appeals to both new and seasoned players, and why it is often referred to as a “gateway game.” Since its initial launch, publisher, Days of Wonder, has released several editions and variations of the game, including Ticket to Ride—First Journey, with simplified rules, perfect for younger players.
Ages: 10+ / Players: 1-6 / Play Time: 45-60 min
Over the past couple of decades, the escape room phenomenon has become a popular form of entertainment among teens and young adults, due to its ability to immerse players in strange and exotic settings, while challenging both the intellect and coordination. But, did you know that you can also enjoy the escape room experience from the comfort of your own home? Unlock! by game publisher Space Cowboys, features a series of cooperative games, each of which, via an app and a single deck of cards, engages the same critical thinking parts of your brain as an escape room. Recreate the excitement and adventure, by exploring scenes, combining objects, solving riddles, and cracking codes, all around your favourite table. Since the launch of the Unlock! line, more than a dozen versions have been released, including one for kids, aged 6+!
Ages: 10+ / Players: 3-7 / Play Time: 30-45 min
With close to 2 million copies sold around the world and more than 30 international awards, 7 Wonders is a definite must-have modern board game. Perfect for both beginners and experienced players, this epic civilization-building game, has you lead one of the seven great cities of the ancient world. Leave your mark on the history of civilization by building an architectural marvel to transcend the ages! And 7 Wonders boasts several versions and expansions, offering players new challenges.
You can’t go wrong with any of the above options, which have proven themselves among players around the world. If you’re still not sure what to try, click here to find a retailer near you. Their individualized in-person or online service is sure to help you find something the whole family will enjoy!