Many people will automatically think of children when they hear the words “board games.” Well, why not? In our digital age, they are great ways for kids and adults to spend quality time together as a family. But putting board games in one box like that ignores the fact that most of them are hard, deep, and definitely made for adults.
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So, whether you like 2-player board games, board games for parties, or even board games you can play by yourself, here are our picks for the best board games for adults to make you think and start interesting conversations.
10 Best Board Games for Adults in 2023
One of the most popular and fun games of the last few years is the best place to start this list. The wingspan is often sold as a board game for the whole family, but it’s actually too hard and complicated for kids. It’s perfect for adults, though, because it combines tactics and strategy with a winning theme as you try to get birds to come to a nature reserve. Different birds need different foods and places to live, but all of them will help your ecosystem grow. This ecosystem acts like a kind of engine, making it possible to play with bigger and more beautiful birds.
2. Brian Boru
The title of Brian was a famous king of medieval Ireland. This interesting trick-taking game is based on his efforts to unite the island through military, social, and economic power. After choosing their cards, players compete in “tricks” to take control of towns on a map of Ireland. Losing cards give players important resources that they can use to get married, help the church, or fight off Viking invaders. If you don’t keep all of these things in balance, you could lose the game, and other players will try to steal your tricks or beat you on one of the game’s supporting tracks. Check out our review of Brian Boru to learn more about it.
3. Spirit Island
Spirit Island is not like most cooperative board games that are great for families. One thing about it is that it’s hard and deep, and when your team wins, you feel like you did something smart. For another, it has a theme of anti-colonialism that makes you think. Players take on the roles of elemental gods and work together to stop a colonizer from taking over. To win, you need to use your native worshippers and your elemental powers to come up with a way to predict the invaders’ path and send them back into the sea.
4. Dune: Imperium
Dune was one of the biggest movies of 2021, and it just so happens that it has a lot of board games based on it. Dune: Imperium is one of them. In this game, players act as nobles in the Dune universe and build their own decks of cards that show their resources, power, and people. These can then be played to board spaces to plot with other factions or fight on the planet’s surface, or they can be kept for an extra effect on a “reveal” turn. It’s a strong and spicy mix that forces players to keep making changes to their decks and strategies as the story goes on. See our review of Dune: Imperium for more.
5. Terraforming Mars
If you don’t like any of the other games on this list, Terraforming Mars’ mix of different types of games might be what you need. In order to settle Mars before your opponents, you’ll have to manage your hands, gather resources, and play your position on the planet’s surface. All of these things work together to make a complete package.
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Best of all, for a game like this, they help make you feel like people are really settling the red planet, dusty inch by dusty inch. The different card deals and powers of the corporations make each game feel different and prevent there from being a surefire way to win.
Many gamers and critics put Gloomhaven at the top of their “best of” lists because it is such a great mix of story and strategy. You’ll guide a group of characters who are always changing through a long storyline, giving them new gear and skills as they meet new people and go through new situations. Exploration and battles happen through a challenging, tight tactical engine that is driven by cards that can be used more than once. If you aren’t careful, you could fail or die at any time. If the original’s length and price put you off, the shorter prequel Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion will still give you most of the same fun.
7. Mind MGMT
You may not have heard of the comic series on which this is based, which is about psychic spies, but that won’t stop you from enjoying how well it combines strategy and surrealism. One player, the recruiter, moves around in secret on a map that can’t be seen.
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The recruiter tries to visit enough recruiting locations to win. The other players work as a team and have a limited number of actions to try to figure out where the recruiter is going and what they are trying to do so they can catch them. Every time you play Mind MGMT, it’s a fun new puzzle of bluffing and guessing. It’s made even more interesting by a series of closed boxes that hold extra game pieces you can open and add whenever you want. Read our full review of Mind MGMT to learn more.
From the cover art, you might think this is a game for kids about cute animals in the woods. In fact, it’s a fascinating and deep look at what power means to different people and groups in society. In the game, there are four groups: the traditionalist birds, the industrialized cats, the oppressed woodland people, and the Vagabond, who is on his own. Each side has its own rules and goals to bring to this very different game. You’ll use troops and cards to build up your resources, fight, and move toward your goals. And if the layered strategic puzzle isn’t enough to make you think, you can talk about the game’s model’s political and philosophical effects afterward.
Worker placement is a common part of mid-weight and heavy-weight games. In this type of game, you have a limited number of pieces to place on the board. As part of its time-traveling theme, Anachrony takes it to the next level by letting you “borrow” workers and resources from your future turns. If you don’t pay back your loans when it’s your turn, you can expect bad things to happen. On top of the usual business of juggling the resources you need to climb one of the game’s paths, this makes the game feel new, complex and challenging while also bringing to mind a classic science fiction theme.
10. King of Tokyo
Everyone enjoys watching a good kaiju battle. If that sounds like a sentence you may have uttered, this game is for you. You get to experience life in Japan’s largest and most exciting city from the perspective of huge monsters battling for power. This is an excellent game that you and your loved ones will enjoy playing over and over again, especially if you are a fan of Godzilla, King Kong, and its contemporaries.