Move Over Monopoly – Play These 27 Outstanding Table Top/Board Games Instead!

Board games have evolved from the standard Parker Brother’s favorites like Monopoly and Clue. One of the things my boyfriend and I like to do is get together with our friends every week to play table top or board games. A lot of the games we play and love we discovered by watching Will Wheaton’s YouTube series Table Top where he and his friends play a demo of the game for viewers. Some of these games were already favorites from back in high school and some were completely new to us. For any gift giving celebration these games will be fun for you and your family and friends. Here’s what we recommend:

Every Man for Himself/Traitor Games:

 

  1. The Settlers of Catan This game was first introduced to me by one of my high school friends. If you can play Monopoly, you can play Settlers. This game is styled so that the layout of the board changes every time you play. There are several setups given in the how-to manual provided which will ensure greater fairness in initial games. This constant renewal is one of the reasons we love it so much. The strategy involved in play is another reason we love it. Even after years of playing it’s still fun to collect resources, build roads and settlements, and work to collect ten (10) victory points. Game play can be long, but everyone is engaged because even when it seems hopeless you can shoot ahead and trounce the leaders.  It’s all in the roll of the dice! There are many expansions and while I can’t claim to have played them all I love the Seafarers Expansion with ships and pirates.

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  1. Lords Of VegasThis game was an instant hit. We saw it, bought it, and waited to play it because it looked complicated. But it isn’t. You and your friends will try to be the biggest cheese in Vegas and to do it you’re going to build, sprawl, remodel, re-organize, gamble, and trade your way to the top. It’s best to be a card shark and watch which of the five (5) casino colors have been called because there’s only nine (9) each and you want to be the owner of the color most likely to be pulled. Sabotage is the name of the game. If you got money, spend it. Or gamble (but beware if you lose, your money goes to your opponent’s pockets). We bought the UP! Expansion for this game because our weekly game nights usually consist of six (6) or more friends. Competition is fierce. When you can’t sprawl you create skyscrapers and soar. This feature definitely allows for more players but it’s trickier to manage and costs more per play option. Still unsure? You know you want to be a casino boss, don’t lie.

Lords of Vegas

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  1. MunchkinI can’t describe adequately the glee in my friend’s face when he introduced this game to me in college. This is one cute game with cards that give players, genders, opponents, and owners of the game cheats to get ahead (although my boyfriend and I prefer to eschew these cheats to be fair to our friends or provide ways for our friends to join in on the cheats.) The goal of the game is to be first (if not always the only) person to reach Level 10 by slaying monsters, selling off treasures, and snagging covetous leveling cards. It can be long or short game play, but is generally on the longer side. You’re going to have a lot of fun with this game and want the expansions. Each one is full of goodies and a complete set wouldn’t be remiss!

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  1. Small WorldThis is not the Walt Disney ride where everyone from every culture sings together. In this game, you are meant to conquer your opponents over and over. You can play as humans, elves, ghouls, sorcerers, trolls, and more. Play time is limited to ten (10) rounds, one turn each round. When your current race is not strong to expand you put it in decline and start fresh the next round. The person with the most coins at the end wins! Depending on how many players you have you might want to buy the Small World expansion for six (6) players. This game is also available as a video game. My boyfriend likes to play it and try out the new races and attributes.

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  1. TalismanMy boyfriend and I started playing this game on his Razor when we took a trip last year. It was challenging to play at times because we couldn’t figure out how to initiate counter spells to stop spells being played by computer opponents. But it was a lot of fun so we grabbed the table top version when we got home. In this D&D style game, your goal is to get to the center of the board (you should be pretty beefed up on stats before you do the final push) and put on the Crown of Command that will allow you to cast board-wide spells on all of your opponents to kill them off. It’s not mean, merely practical. There can only be one winner and one ruler of the world after all. Expect to spend a few hours on this game.

talisman

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  1. TsuroThis is a party favorite. Our friends like to end game nights playing a few rounds of Tsuro. It’s quick and generally speaking over between ten (10) and fifteen (15) minutes. You are a dragon having a nice flight around the board, until all of a sudden you realize how little space you have to do those loop-de-loops you love. It’s a game of avoidance until you and your dragon opponents must cross paths. If you fall off the board, you’re out. Or if you run into the direct path of another dragon you’re both out. Great game for young children too because it involves pattern recognition, strategy (thinking ahead up to three turns), and is easy to play.

Tsuro

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  1. ArchipelagoThis is an advance civilization game and not for the faint of heart. There are lots of pieces, team objectives, individual secret objectives, team vs board, player vs player, and more. You bid each round to see who decides play order which can involve much bribing once that person is decided. If your first time playing is anything like ours you will proceed at a snail’s pace as you work through each phase of play. It helps to have a friend teach you everything! Or maybe just this video…

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  1. King of TokyoTokyo has been invaded by a lot of very large monsters over the years, but now they’re back and each one wants to dominate and rule the streets of Tokyo. Compete with other monsters in this fast-pace dice game. If you are in Tokyo your hits land on all players, but all players on their turns attack just you. Will you stay and tough it out or escape to the suburbs to heal up? First player to twenty (20) victory points wins or last player standing – whichever comes first. I don’t know about you, but my friends and I have never reached twenty (20) victory points. It’s usually last monster standing with us. Maybe we’re too impatient for control of Tokyo?

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  1. QwirkleDo you love Scrabble? Or Sudoku? This game combines the best of both. It’s great for all ages and is challenging and fun. A Qwirkle is either six (6) shapes of one (1) color or (1) color and all six (6) shapes. Stack titles next to each other like dominos to create patterns. Unlike Scrabble, Qwirkle is great for young players because it’s based on pattern-recognition as opposed to spelling. Games are quick and usually over less than one (1) hour.

Qwirkle

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  1. Lords of WaterdeepThis is one of my boyfriend’s favorite games. Instead of playing a mercenary completing missions, you are the lord setting missions and arranging their resources for completion. Game time is limited to eight (8) rounds of play, but each round consists of multiple turns. The Scoundrels of Skullport Expansion lets you gain more resources and gain them quicker, but the catch is you show how corrupt you are. Corruption is detrimental unless you’re a lord that thrives on it. So while this is an every man for himself game style, you’re all benefitted by working to keep corruption at bay.

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No Sabotage or Games that Discourage Sabotage:

 

  1. Ticket To Ride Are you ready to be a railroad baron? The original board game is a map of the United States featuring tracks for train routes connecting major and minor cities. Your goal is to make the most points building your railway empire. Points are scored by completed routes (careful if you don’t complete them you lose points), longest consecutive train route, and length of train segments. I think this is a great game for kids to learn the U.S. It’s also great at encouraging fair/nice play because every round you get one action and one action only. Do you use it to thwart an opponent or to help yourself win? Because there’s so many ways to connect routes, a thwarting move is more likely to hurt you than your opponent. Game play is fairly quick on this one – so why not play it again? I recently gave this game to my brother and his family and they loved it. My nephew is younger than the recommended age for playing and he had a grand time. I heartily recommend the 1910 Expansion as you get more routes and the extra bonus points for most completed tickets. My wish after all this fun playing the game? Even more routes and perhaps a changeable board, but while we wait for future expansions regarding this map Days of Wonder has created other maps featuring Europe, Asia, and other individual countries. You can also get this game for your phone or computer and play against family, friends, and strangers. My boyfriend and I played this way a lot when he was overseas working. It was fun and quick. If you’re like me you’re going to love the automated scoring.

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  1. AlhambraDo you want to build a snowman dream home? Alhambra is a Spanish game where you build a grand palace with many beautiful architectural features like arcades, towers, gardens, fountains, chambers, etc. Each turn you must decide if you’re going to buy a feature from the market for your home or pick-up money for future purchases. If you can buy a feature for the exact price you can get another turn. Each feature is worth a certain amount of points and points are distributed by who has the most in each category.  Many features have walled edges and the longest wall in your home will earn you points – so try to enclose your whole home! Building the wall is probably my favorite part of the game because it’s a challenging puzzle to work out but it can give you the extra points you need to win the game. There’s no way to sabotage in this game which is nice. Play changes each time because you get different pieces, but also scoring rounds are fluid and are hidden amongst the money pile. My boyfriend and I bought the Alhambra Big Box expansion set, but we haven’t played any of them yet as we’re still getting a lot of enjoyment out of the base game. We’ll get to them soon, but until then the choice is yours – expansions or no expansions?

Alhambra

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  1. CarcassonneThis is another favorite from high school/college. I like to think of this game as a face-up memory game, but you’re not matching apples to apples and cows to cows. Instead, you build a big puzzle and score points by completing certain types of developments like roads and cities. The board changes every time you play because pieces match in multiple ways. The more creative you can be the better! This is a great game for adults and kids to play alike and is a relaxing game with little chance for sabotage, although it is possible. House rules can make it easier or harder to do. Game play is short, but each expansion will add time to round out the length of play. Carcassonne was first introduced to me with expansions already in play. I did not learn it in the original form and so I recommend buying the Big Box Expansion set to get the most expansions possible.

Carcassonne

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  1. Takenoko Board GameThis is the cutest game ever. Each player tries to score points by completing gardener, panda, or emperor goal cards. They all have competing missions. The panda wants to eat bamboo. The gardener wants to grow it. The emperor wants pleasing surroundings. There isn’t a built-in way to sabotage opponents, if it happens it is purely incidental due to the secrecy of goal cards. Game play is on the shorter side – we usually finish within one (1) hour. I fully recommend for kids and adults of all ages.

Takenoko

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Everybody Works Together/Cooperative Games:

 

  1. Forbidden IslandYou and your friends team up in this game to find lost treasures on a sinking island. It’s being submerged at a rapid pace. It’s like the lost city of Atlantis and soon to be gone forever. Can you locate the treasures and get off the island in time or will you be a part of its watery grave? Each member of the team gets a special function that they can do or do better than anybody else playing. You’re encouraged to talk through each of your moves before committing to any decision. The layout of the island changes every time which is great for re-playability. Overall a relatively easy game, good for kids. Make it more difficult by raising the initial starting-level of the water.

forbidden island

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  1. Forbidden DesertFrom the makers of Forbidden Island comes Forbidden Desert. On your way to or from the island your flying ship crash lands into a desert. You risk dehydration and being buried forever by a sand storm. Hurry to locate the missing pieces of your ship and get on out of there stat! Like Forbidden Island, you’re meant to talk out each move and coordinate with your fellow players. It’s a more challenging game than Forbidden Island and the board is more likely to beat you.

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  1. Betrayal At House On The Hill – I am going to recommend this game for teens and adults. It’s more on the “scary” side and deals with many themes from horror movies. So if you don’t like horror films don’t play this game. You and your fellow friends have been invited to figure out what is happening at the house on the hill. Weird things are going on and as you explore the house you stumble upon omens, events, and each other. What you don’t know yet is that someone in your party tricked you all to go into the house. But who? Nobody knows until the haunt happens. Then it’s one player versus everybody else. Haunts can be anything from aliens, vampires, werewolves, possession, demons – and those are the ones we’ve played. There’s so many more as the haunt depends on where a haunt die roll fails and the most recent omen pulled from the stack. But not only can you replay and have a different haunt each time, but the house changes every time you play too. Not your 1990’s Scooby Doo mystery.

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  1. The Resistance – Are you a spy or a rebel? Only the spies know. It’s up to the rebels to ferret-out the spies before they fail to overthrow the government. This game needs a minimum of five (5) players to play. It is mostly a mind game with much talking and strategy involved. The more you talk and double-speak the more fun it is. Generally speaking the spies win, or at least they do with my group of friends. My favorite time playing this game was when I was a spy and managed to trick my boyfriend and one of his longtime friends into believing the other one was a spy. When the mission failed the one not chosen for the round was triumphant and the other confused. What had happened? Both were shocked on the reveal of the spy. It was great. Another time was when my cousin single-handedly convinced my aunt and uncle I was a spy when it was he and our grandma (she wasn’t up to full speed, she thought she was a rebel). That was pretty amazing to watch. He’s super devious. Game play is usually quick although there are parameters built into the game to make it last longer. It depends on how much you trust your fellow players and their decision-making.

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  1. Castle PanicYou and your friends are stalwartly defending your castle against an invasion of orcs, trolls, and goblins. Command archers, knights, and swordsman into the heat of battle. You must protect your walls and towers at all costs. When the dust finally settles will you be victorious or conquered? It’s a fun, strategic game that requires the whole party to think ahead several moves. Each person on their turn can trade one card with any other player and if you plan it wrong you’re going to have an unstoppable onslaught on your hands. As for me, I have the darnedest luck of drawing all the enemy kings in a row. If you do that, pray it’s at the beginning of the game when everyone has a lot of cards to use to defeat the strong attacks.

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  1. Castle RavenloftThis is a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) styled game. Choose your characters and beginning stats and enter the castle to complete the mission. The game comes with multiple scenarios and really cool looking figurines. I love the dragon! Game play is long – expect several hours of fun! Order a pizza or two to keep everybody’s strength up.

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Card Games:

 

  1. Fluxx This is a card game where the rules of the game are constantly changing. Even the winning conditions change frequently. You’ve got to be on your toes and you’ve got to read your cards. Your hand consists of cards that can help you win or backstab opponents. For instance, you might have Keepers, Creepers, Actions, Rule Changes, and Goals. Variations I’ve played – Oz Fluxx, Star Fluxx, and Zombie Fluxx. All are fun and all provide lively game play, so pick any theme that sparks your interest. Each game is different but average play time is around twenty (20) minutes.

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  1. Phase 10 A high school favorite, we played this during exams. There are ten (10) goals to complete and each goal is different and progressively harder to achieve. Each player strives to be the first to complete their current goal and end the round to prevent others from finishing along with them. The first to leap ahead is not always guaranteed to win the game, but every win helps!

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  1. GloomThis macabre game is like playing with relatives of the Adams Family. The goal of the game is to make your family members as miserable as possible before killing them off, while making your opponents happy – because making others happy is the worst thing you can do to them. You can play this game without the story-telling element, but then you’d take out half the fun. Listen as your friends try to spin a web of misery and intersperse your story with theirs! It’s delightfully wicked.

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  1. DixitIf you’ve played Apples to Apples or Pictionary, you’ll love Dixit. Gorgeous fantastical images on oversized cards are the heart of the game. You and your friends will try to give clues to your cards and discover who played what. If you’re too obvious you don’t get any points and if you’re too obscure you don’t get any then either. You have to find that perfect balance. We enjoyed the card game so much we bought two expansions to bulk up our base game and give everybody more options. We like to play with house rules to allow more cards and more turn over between hands so that everyone has a lot of options to pick from.

Dixit

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  1. BANGIn this Wild West card game there are four character types – Sheriff, Deputy Sheriff, Outlaw, and Renegade. Each character has a separate goal to determine if they win the game or not. Who you are is dealt out at the beginning of the game and is a secret from other players, except for the Sheriff who reveals his card. When he dies the game is over, or whenever the Renegade and Outlaws are all dead. If the Sheriff wins, it doesn’t matter if the Deputies are dead, they also win. Fun, fast, and a little reminiscent of Resistance.

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  1. Once Upon A TimeA great game for every parent who has had their kids ask for them to tell them an original story at bedtime. Using cards with actions, locations, characters, and even secret hidden endings, get together with your friends to tell a new never before heard fairytale. It’s even good for those who have a horrible time coming up with stories, though it might take some practice. Great for readers of all ages.

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  1. Smash UpAnswer that age old question – who would win in battle zombies or pirates? Robots or ninjas? Wait! Better yet, why don’t we smash-up and see if Zombie Pirates would beat Robot Ninjas? You and you’re friends will create the oddest smash-up’s in your battle for ultimate victory. Conquer bases, earn points, and gloating privileges. Which combinations are dynamite and which ones are duds? The card game has relatively quick game play. We usually go a few games when we play before calling it quits. We even bought this expansion and one more expansion for this game in order to have crazier and wilder smash-up’s.

smash up

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More pictures of the games being played as we play them on Thursday game nights!

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4 Comments

  1. what a great list! Thanks 🙂 will share

  2. Sandra Scholes

    Excellent list – remember Castle Ravenloft well!

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