It can be easy to get stuck in an entertainment rut. After working all day, we get tired, but we want to keep our brains active without just wasting away on computer screens or the TV. This is the perfect time to break out those board games and sharpen up your competitive edge.
My husband and I really enjoy playing board games. He’s got full shelves dedicated in our apartment to mini-figures that travel with him to game nights, conventions, and more. I’m more of a casual, spend-time-with-friends kind of player — but I still appreciate a good strategic competition. So together, we’ve racked up a pretty impressive collection and knowledge of games. Here are some of our favorite casual and strategy games that you might want to check out if you’re ready for a new endeavor at home, plus some bonus ones you can play with friends online.
Keep it casual
If you’re looking for a fun and simple night with your roommates or family, you can’t lose with these simple, quick-to-learn games.
Hey, that’s my fish!
2-4 players, 15 minutes
You’re a penguin living on an iceberg, and your goal is simple: collect as many fish as you can before the ice melts — and before the other penguins beat you to it! A cute, easy-to-learn game that kids and adults will enjoy.
2-5 players, 30-45 minutes
Exploding Kittens is a fast-paced card game that’s like a grown-up, cat-infested version of Uno. Enjoy the silly illustrations and the quick back-and-forth between explosions, blocks, goats, and more!
You’ve Got Crabs
4+ players in even numbers, 15-30 minutes
You and a teammate are plotting against the other teams to try to get a full hand of the same kind of card. Once you do, you’ve got to secretly indicate to your teammate that your mission is complete — but don’t let someone else catch you! Each time your partner yells, “You’ve got crabs!” and you’ve got a full hand, you score by “catching” a crab — but if you get caught or misinterpret a signal, you lose one. Whoever ends up with the most crabs wins!
Celebrity (aka Lunchbox)
4-12 players, 30 minutes; could be played virtually
It’s like charades, but in a round of three with simple rules. Everyone writes down a celebrity (or, to make it more fun, any person, place, or thing) and cards are put in a bowl. During the first round, you can use as many words as you need to make everyone guess your celebrity. In round two, you get one word to describe the person, with the same set of cards. Round three is traditional charades, again with the same set of cards.
5-8 players, 30 minutes
Like Pictionary meets Telephone. Everyone draws a picture to represent the word they’re given, then passes their notepad to the left. The next person needs to figure out what the original artist was trying to draw, and find another way to represent it in drawing. This goes on until the last player before you receives your book, and they’ve got to guess what the original word was.
Any secret role game
There are all kinds of games in this realm, and they’re all amazing. The goal: figure out everyone else’s identity while protecting your own — and achieve your (secret) team’s goal. A few of my favorites in this area: One Night Werewolf, Secret Hitler, Resistance, Mafia.
If you’re searching for some strategy
Maybe you’re ready to challenge yourself and really dig into a board game. These are options for you — and many have a single-player version, too.
1-5 players, 30-60 minutes per player
Settle in for the night, but be ready to have a great time. You’re a farmer, working to stead your land. You’ve got to make choices to get the resources you need to get your farm up and working — and feed your family. The player who most successfully accomplishes this by way of points (given for things like the number and kind of animals and food you have on your farm) wins.
2-4 players, 45 minutes
Players work together to try to stop the spread of four diseases across the world. Each player has a special role with skills that let them uniquely serve in the response. You’re fighting against time, and against cards that ramp up the disease’s spread. If you “cure” each virus before seven outbreaks occur, everyone wins.
2-4 players, 30 minutes
You’re a gem collector, trying to get only the best jewels, which you can then turn in for cards — all to create patterns of “prestige.” Get the most wealth from your jewels and your cards, and you’ll run the town!
1-5 players, 2 hours (less for one player)
It’s the year 2040, and your corporation has been tasked with settling the land on Mars to make it habitable. In a somewhat competitive, somewhat cooperative structure, all players are working toward the same goal — making the oxygen levels, temperature, and water quality suitable for human life — but you want to be the one who does the most work. Your role is to produce, finish projects, and develop the land in ways that make life on Mars sustainable.
Ticket to Ride
2-5 players, 45 minutes
If you’re not quite sure about strategy games, but are looking for something a little more challenging, this is a good option. Ticket to Ride comes in all kinds of versions, from a traditional U.S. board to Europe to a “Sails and Rails” game that combines trains and ships. You’re tasked with creating a railway to get from one city to another, and you’ve got to do it before someone else blocks your path. Get bonus points for having the longest train path across the board from start to finish.
Bridge the distance
If you’re living alone, or missing your regular gaming crew, you can still hang out with them. There are plenty of virtual game options — from the strategic to the fun.
Agricola has a great app version in the app store (or there’s a slightly clunkier, but free version here).
A free browser version of One Night Werewolf. Get on a video chat, create a party room on your phones, and let the secret werewolf hunt begin!
Probably the most popular strategy game, Catan Classic lets you play the game remotely — and at a much smaller price tag than the board game. Play with friends or against a computer, and you’ll be ready for the next in-person game in no time.
This one combines video chat with games, so no need for a second device. The app lets you play trivia, a drawing game, and a version of Heads Up while getting some face time with your loved ones.
Probably the jackpot of online games — it includes a series of versions of party games to play with your friends. Do everything from writing jokes together to guessing who said what about themselves. Just have someone download the game and share their screen while you’re all chatting, and use your phone to play.