Board games for adults - here are the ones you need in 2022

113 16/07/2022

Good board games for adults prove that this isn't a tedious pastime dominated by old-timers like Monopoly anymore. Rather, it's crammed with new ideas that'll keep you coming back to the table for months - there's enough choice to sink a (Battle)ship.

That's why our experts have put their heads together to bring you recommendations on must-have board games for adults. No matter whether you're looking for strategy epics, dungeon-delving adventures, or puzzles you can tackle at your own pace, you'll find something to suit you below. In our opinion, these are some of the best board games ever made.

Reasons to buy

+Vivid, changeable setting+Creative scenarios+Very replayable

Reasons to avoid

-Potential for uneven games

Betrayal at House on the Hill lets you star in your own horror movie, but there's no way to tell if you're the hero of this story or a victim until it's much too late. That makes it one of the most replayable board games for adults on this list. In fact, we still haven't seen everything after years of braving those dusty halls.

Basically, you're stepping into the unknown. Because players lay down room tiles at random as they make their way through this haunted house, the board is a mystery every time you open the box. It's impossible to tell what's waiting on the other side of a door, too; you'll trigger random, creepy events as you explore. Stumble across enough of them and a mission will begin, turning the house (or your allies) against you. Maybe a monster wakes up in the basement, eager to feast on your flesh. Perhaps a teammate tries to sacrifice you in exchange for eternal youth. Either way, your aim is simple: survive. The result oozes tension, and even though there are similarities to rivals like Mansions of Madness, we'd say Betrayal is more accessible on the whole. It's weirder, too. We once had to fight over parachutes when a giant bird picked up the house and flew it into the air, for example.

That's why Betrayal at House on the Hill has endured for so long. Despite having its share of issues, the game is crammed with enough cool ideas to smooth over any cracks (particularly if you grab the Widow's Walk expansion or 'Legacy' spin-off). That makes it a great choice regardless of whether you're looking for Halloween board games or something spooky to spice up game night. Like we said in our review, Betrayal has "more than earned its spot in the board game hall of fame".

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2. Pandemic

The best co-op board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2 - 4Ages: 10+Difficulty: HardLasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+Perfect team strategy+Incredible sense of tension+Challenging gameplay

Reasons to avoid

-Occasionally unfair

Easy to get your head around but tricky to beat, the Pandemic board game pits you against an outbreak of coughs and sneezes (by which I mean 'horrendous disease') across the world. Because victory hinges on your team’s ability to communicate, prioritize threats, and stay cool under pressure, it's amongst the best cooperative board games ever made. We've yet to find anything that can match it.

Besides keeping illnesses under control, Pandemic challenges you to develop a cure for each one by collecting cards of a certain color. 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 neighboring cities. This can result in a domino effect of disastrous, oh-God-someone-do-something proportions. Do you focus on making the cure or should you keep those disease levels down? This white-knuckle decision-making is where Pandemic shines, and it's just one of the many crises you’ll need to overcome in what has become a king amongst board games for adults. Other tabletop staples like Catan are great, but they don't hold a candle to this.

There's scope to branch out once you've mastered the original version, too. Besides increasing the level of challenge through numerous expansions, you can also pivot to the (excellent) Pandemic World of Warcraft spin-off if you'd prefer something fantasy-themed. There's even a Pandemic: Legacy series where the consequences of your actions carry from one game to another. That makes it a franchise with plenty to get your teeth into.

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3. Wingspan

The most relaxing board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2 - 4Ages: 10+Difficulty: ModerateLasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+Very zen+Fun even if you lose+Beautiful artwork

Reasons to avoid

-Tough to reverse your fortunes

Wingspan is a surprise favorite when it comes to adult board games. Besides being the winner of the well-respected Spiel des Jahres award, it's popular enough that some cheeky retailers charged triple its list price when it went out of print a few years ago. That tells you more than enough about its quality.

As you might have guessed from the name, this one puts birds front and center. Indeed, your aim is to attract the biggest variety to your preserve. You'll do this through clever engine-building mechanics that can be found in many of the top board games for adults; dice are used to get food or eggs that attract birds, and these often feature abilities which let you amass even more resources and birds. It's a satisfying loop.

The artwork is just as good. With a vivid wash of painterly color, it's downright stunning. That's why Wingspan is ideal as a chill-out game (actually, it's our go-to if loved ones ask for recommendations). The lack of direct competition and a focus on attracting wildlife turns it into a relaxing, zen-like experience that you'll enjoy regardless of whether you win or lose.

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4. Blockbuster

The best party board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 4 - 8Ages: 14+Difficulty: ModerateLasts: 20 mins

Reasons to buy

+Fast-paced+Accessible and easy to explain+Awesome theming

Reasons to avoid

-Anxiety-inducing

The store may be long dead, but this party favorite isn't going anywhere. Fast-paced and straightforward, Blockbuster should be your first choice if you need party board games for adults. And don't worry, knowing loads about cinema isn't a requirement. At a basic level, this has more in common with charades than a quiz.

Board games for adults - here are the ones you need in 2022

What you will need are your wits. Things kick off with a head-to-head round where two players have to yell out an example from categories like "superhero movies", but they don't have long. Fail to come up with a response in 15 seconds and you lose. The result is suitably frantic, and it's a fun spectator sport too. We once witnessed a five-minute grudge match where neither side gave in, and this battle has become near-legendary amongst our friends.

Anyway, that's when the real game begins. The winner draws six cards, and they have to act out, quote, or describe three of them for their team. The remaining three are left for the loser. Naturally, they're probably the toughest ones. It’s a wicked idea in every sense of the word and always goes down well at get-togethers (particularly if you throw in the expansion, Blockbuster Returns). So far as we're concerned, it's one the best party board games out there.

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5. Jaipur

The best card game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2Ages: 10+Difficulty: EasyLasts: 30 mins

Reasons to buy

+Easy to learn+Moreish gameplay+Mechanics are a clever balancing-act

Reasons to avoid

-Two players only

This superb board game for adults became a favorite of ours after just a couple of matches. Accessible yet deceptively clever, Jaipur has a hidden depth with room for finding your own strategy amidst its fast-paced gameplay.

Challenging you to become the maharajah's personal trader by amassing the greatest fortune, you collect cards before trying to sell them off at the highest price. How you do that is your choice, though. Is it better to get rid of low-value items quickly and win through death-by-a-million-cuts, or should you go after a bigger payout by chasing stock that can only be sold in bulk? There isn't a right answer, and that gives Jaipur immense replayability.

Its focus on staying flexible is another feather in the game's cap - the faster you sell an item, the more points you'll earn. What we're left with is a masterful balancing act of waiting for your chance while trying to beat your opponent to the punch. It makes Jaipur one of the best card games we've ever gotten our hands on.

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6. Disney Villainous

The best 2-player board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2 - 6Ages: 10+Difficulty: ModerateLasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+Tactical and deep+Gorgeous artwork+Mechanics based on characters

Reasons to avoid

-Hard to explain

Ever wonder what would happen if the bad guys won? Disney Villainous encourages you to find out with barely-concealed glee. That's because your aim is to give a classic ne'er-do-well their happy ending, all while screwing over anyone that tries to stop you.

Don't be fooled into thinking this is a board game for kids, though. Villainous is surprisingly tactical thanks to characters with their own objectives, playstyles, and cards. That gives each one a unique flavor, resulting in a complexity that's as absorbing as it is satisfying. Particularly if you start to mix in the excellent Disney Villainous expansions. These add-ons are interchangeable with the original game, so combining them leads to match-ups that encourage all-new strategies.

It's a great choice if you're hunting down board games for two players, too. While it can accommodate up to six people, we'd argue that Villainous is better when tackled in pairs; it becomes a chess-like battle of wits rather than a scramble to make headway in full, more chaotic matches.

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7. Gloomhaven

The best adventure board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 1 - 4Ages: 14+Difficulty: ModerateLasts: 60+ mins

Reasons to buy

+Ridiculously deep+Lasting consequences+Combat isn't random

Reasons to avoid

-Overwhelming in scope

Powered by unique combat and a setting that's reminiscent of The Witcher, Gloomhaven is the fantasy adventure of your dreams. Branching storylines and a kingdom influenced by your decisions produce an experience you can lose yourself in for months.

No, really. Alongside a map you'll permanently alter with stickers earned by journeying across the land, Gloomhaven includes secret mechanics that are unlocked over time, a meaty combat system relying on strategy instead of dice rolls, alternate missions aplenty, and morally gray choices to keep you on your toes. Decisions can and will have consequences, so tread carefully.

If you're anything like us, that'll be enough to get you hyped by itself; there's a childlike sense of wonder powering Gloomhaven. Crammed from top to bottom with magic, it leads to watercooler stories that'll more than justify your excitement. That makes Gloomhaven a good choice for fans of sprawling video game RPGs or the best Dungeons and Dragons books.

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8. Root

The best strategy board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2 - 4Ages: 10+Difficulty: HardLasts: 90 mins

Reasons to buy

+Wide range of strategies+Iconic art-style+Encourages creative thinking

Reasons to avoid

-Rules take some getting used to

If you loved the Redwall novels when growing up, Root should be on your radar. It's an asymmetric strategy game featuring bucolic woodland creatures eager to take over the forest, and that includes everything from mice villagers to sword-wielding raccoon adventurers. When combined with eye-catching artwork, it's a delight from the start.

Just don't be fooled by those friendly designs. This is a layered experience with plenty of depth. As an example, all factions come with their own mechanics and goals for victory. That puts Root amongst the best tactical adult board games.

Even though it's a lot to take in (the rules need some getting used to), your patience will be rewarded. Interplay between factions provides plenty to explore, and this is a game that encourages players to think creatively. It's an example of what makes modern board gaming so special, to be honest; although it's not for everyone, Root is the poster-child of what this hobby is capable of.

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9. Azul

The best puzzle board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2 - 4Ages: 8+Difficulty: ModerateSetup: 5 minsLasts: 40 mins

Reasons to buy

+Thoughtful+Calming+Absolutely gorgeous

Reasons to avoid

-Potential for bickering

Azul is downright beautiful, and its mechanics are just as enchanting. For those who prefer more relaxed tabletop experiences, we'd highly recommend this one - it's amongst the best puzzle board games for adults by a long shot.

Your aim is nice and simple: place tiles on the board and score points. In fact, a good description would be 'color-based crossword'. You've still got to take care, though. While you'll get better results if you manage to complete sets in this chilled-out pastime, wasting tiles on random formations can lower your score.

That leads to a lot of manoeuvring and good-natured competition in an effort to outdo your opponents. Because of this, Azul is more of a personal puzzle game than a head-to-head challenge (which makes it a great 2-player board game if you fancy something low-key). Much like Ticket to Ride, there's a joy in lining up tiles to make patterns or completing the perfect set.

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10. Scythe

The best civilisation-building board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 1 - 5Ages: 14+Difficulty: HardLasts: 115 mins

Reasons to buy

+Incredible world-building+Doesn't rely on chance+Use any strategy

Reasons to avoid

-There's a lot to get your head around

The mashup of mechs-and-farming in Jakub Roszalski's art fires up the imagination in a big way, and it's now spilled onto the tabletop. Set on an alternate 1920s Earth, Scythe is a place where farm-animals and peasants coexist with hulking dieselpunk mechs. Well, we say coexist; everyone in this world is jostling for power, so you'll need to keep your wits about you if you want to get by.

Scythe takes a leaf from the book of the Civilization franchise; it's every bit as interested in building and expanding your economy as it is engaging in battles. More specifically, you can win the game without ever firing a shot. Or you can claim victory by blasting your foes to smithereens (whatever works for you, really). This kind of sandbox gameplay makes it all the more appealing.

As we mentioned earlier, the game's visuals are also stunning. Artwork depicting the juxtaposition of rural life vs oily, smoking war-bots is breath-taking, and the models are similarly iconic. It's one of the most creatively-charged (and popular) board games for adults on this list, and the mechanics are more than good enough to match.

Adult board games - honorable mentions

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11. Catan

The best classic board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 3 - 4Ages: 10+Difficulty: HardLasts: 90 mins

Reasons to buy

+Tactical, yet accessible+Haggling and deal-making+Lots of ways to win

Reasons to avoid

-Can be frustrating

Catan whisks you back to the days of settling wild frontiers. There's an uninhabited island to claim and kingdoms to build on it, so trading and expanding your civilization is top priority.

However, you'll need to keep your wits about you when deciding where to put down roots. The landscape is different each time you play, and this means you'll have to pay close attention to where you settle. That's because resources are driven by probability and dice rolls - certain locations yield goods more often, so everyone ends up racing to claim the 'best' spots. Choosing wisely can make or break your chances of winning, and that means foresight is rewarded.

Being able to sweet-talk your rivals is essential, too. It's inevitable that you won't get all the materials you need right away, so you'll have to trade with other players to advance your plans. What follows is an intriguing balancing act. Swapping resources could help you in the short-term, but it may bring your opponent one step closer to victory as well. This leaves us with something fantastic for those who love tactical board games for adults. It really is one of the best classic board games around.

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12. Isle of Skye

The best trading board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 2 - 5Ages: 14+Difficulty: ModerateLasts: 60 mins

Reasons to buy

+Plenty of strategy+Random objectives+Unique theme

Reasons to avoid

-A bit niche

Brewing whiskey in a far-flung Scottish kingdom might not be your first suggestion when it comes to a great tabletop theme. But trust us when we say that Isle of Skye is one of the most enjoyable adult board games you'll find on any shelf.

Although this is a straightforward trading game, it's far from dull. Isle of Skye is defined by land-grabs, savvy haggling, and a journey from clan chieftain to king, so there's plenty to keep you invested. Plus, its rugged northern theme is a breath of fresh air.

The way new tiles are distributed is where things get really interesting, though. You'll earn money depending on how much whiskey you've produced, and that allows you to set a price on the tiles you want to place. If someone fancies it for their own collection, they've got to pay you. But if nobody's fussed, you have to pay up instead. It's a cool idea with a lot at stake, and one that quickly gets its claws into you.

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13. Cosmic Encounter

The best board game for negotiators

Specifications

Players: 3 - 5Ages: 12+Difficulty: HardLasts: 120 mins

Reasons to buy

+Mix of action and diplomacy+Emphasis on negotiation+Variety of unique playstyles

Reasons to avoid

-Not like traditional games

Even though Cosmic Encounter has been kicking around since the 1970s, it's lost none of its edge. This is a sci-fi classic that's charmed audiences with its unusual gameplay for decades, and it's rarely been matched. If you're a fan of negotiating your way out of sticky situations in board games for adults, this will be your jam.

On the face of it, everyone's goal is the same; set up five colonies on rival planets. That's where any common ground ends, though. Players will take command of one of 50 possible alien species, and they all boast unique abilities that upend the rules in creative ways. Some can only win battles if they lose the fight first. Others are able to reverse card numbers so 17 becomes 71. Yet more can sneak a look at someone else's cards. In other words, expect the unexpected - and be ready to counter it.

As with so many board games for adults, there are more than a few bonus packs with which to expand Cosmic Encounters too. You can add everything from the unknowable creatures of Cosmic Incursion to unexpected partnerships in Cosmic Alliance, bringing spice to the experience if it's starting to go stale.

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14. Scrawl

The best drawing board game for adults

Specifications

Players: 4 - 8Ages: 17+Difficulty: EasyLasts: 30 mins

Reasons to buy

+Legitimately funny+The perfect ice-breaker+Card prompts have lots of potential

Reasons to avoid

-Could do with a timer

In terms of adult board games that deserve their mature rating, Scrawl takes the cake. A filthy-minded road trip through the weirder parts of your brain, it's a delight at parties that's best described as a cross between Telephone and Pictionary. To begin with, you get a ridiculous prompt card and have to draw what it tells you (be it "photocopying your balls" or "licking people's shoes"). Your doodle then gets passed with no explanation to the person beside you, and they've got to write down what they think it is. After that, the player beside them draws whatever it is their neighbour's written, and so on.

Inevitably, it won't end well. Which is good news for us - the results are hysterical. Your original picture will get bent so far out of shape that it becomes unrecognisable. This leads to no end of in-jokes for you and your friends, making it a superb ice-breaker.

That's Scrawl in a nutshell - funny and memorable. In fact, the game's closest relative would be Cards Against Humanity due to the fact that it thrives on the same dark humor. Essentially, it's NSFW and utterly brilliant.

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15. Joking Hazard

A silly but fun card game for adults

Specifications

Players: 3 - 10Ages: 18+Difficulty: EasyTime to play: 30 mins

Reasons to buy

+Hilarious+Opportunity for bizarre stories+Great cartoons

Reasons to avoid

-Definitely an 18+ game

Fans of Cards Against Humanity, pay attention: this alternative will definitely be your jam. As a game from the creators of Cyanide and Happiness, Joking Hazard is comfortably the funniest suggestion on this list. And while it's an 18+ product with a (very) dark sense of humor, it never feels vindictive like some of the competition.

Easy to learn and genuinely hilarious, this is the sort of game you'll be playing in no time. The structure is dead simple: players must fill in the blanks with a silly response. The twist? You'll be using artwork instead of words. More specifically, you have to complete a randomly-selected cartoon strip using a card from your hand. The most amusing choice wins a point.

Luckily, finding something that'll crack up your opponents isn't hard. Most cards have a laugh-out-loud quality to them, and they're all kinds of ridiculous. Maybe your character will escape an awkward conversation by flying away with the power of their farts. Or perhaps they'll eat the other person whole. There are plenty of options to choose from, and that means Joking Hazard won't lose its novelty any time soon.

Board games for adults - FAQ

What is the most fun board game for adults?

Although it's pretty subjective, it's possible to narrow things down by asking yourself what sort of board game for adults you want. Do you need something for a party with friends? Blockbuster is our go-to recommendation. Are you keen to try something more in depth? Consider Disney Villainous.

To help you find what you're looking for as quickly and easily as possible, we've honed in on a few categories below.

- Most fun party board game: Blockbuster (app. $20 at Amazon)
- Most fun card game for adults: Exploding Kittens (app. $20 at Amazon)
- Most fun 2-player board game: Disney Villainous (app. $40 at Amazon)
- Most fun team board game for adults: Pandemic (app. $45 at Amazon)
- Most fun strategy board game for adults: Root (app. $70 at Amazon)

What is the number one board game for adults?

The answer to this question will vary from person to person, but we'd say it's the horror-based Betrayal at House on the Hill (available for roughly $45) thanks to engrossing, memorable gameplay that you can return to time and again. Pandemic (retailing at around $45) comes in a close second due to it being one of the best team-based experiences you can have on game night.

All the same, we've heard a lot of good things about Terraforming Mars. Even though it's a few years old, this game about colonising the red planet is still topping charts all over the place (you can pick it up for $60+ from the likes of Amazon). Similarly, the dungeon-crawling Gloomhaven is eternally popular despite costing anywhere up to $140 - it's a fantastic fantasy adventure if you have the time and budget for it.

What is the most popular board game for adults now?

If we're talking pure sales, the gong is likely to go to something like Exploding Kittens (which is cheap and cheerful at $20) or Cards Against Humanity (it can currently be found for $25 at Amazon). A quick browse of Amazon's top sellers' list featured the pair prominently, so it seems as if folks can't get enough of these particular board games for adults.

How does GamesRadar+ test board games?

Because our team has tried every game on this list, we only feature recommendations that our writers truly believe in. This is the result of multiple playtests with a variety of players, not to mention extensive hands-on time. For more information, check out our guide on how we test board games and tabletop RPGs at GamesRadar+.


Want something more adventurous? If you're keen to go beyond the top board games, you can find out how to play D&D online with our dedicated guide. You can also see what other pen-and-paper quests are available by browsing the best tabletop RPGs. Hoping to find some present inspiration, on the other hand? Be sure to look at these gifts for gamers.

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