This week, on Instagram stories, I’ve been working on organizing my garage and adding some cabinetry so that we can move our board games out there. It’s kind of an out-of-the-box storage system for board games, but it has worked well for us in past houses so we’re sticking with it! I got a flood of people asking “what are your top five board games?” and “what are your favorite board games for two players?”, so I figured it was high time I did an updated post with a few of our favorites!
We love game nights for at home dates because it’s a great way to connect and do something different that isn’t just sitting on the couch watching television. Game nights are kind of magic for allowing us to connect, laugh, and have the best night even if it’s just a random Tuesday.
Corey and I love to play board games and over the years we’ve amassed quite the collection. We’ve learned a ton about the kinds of games we like (and don’t like) and you’ll almost never find something as simple as Monopoly or Life on our table for game night.
So, let’s jump right into the recommendations – I opened up questions on Instagram and got questions on a variety of topics, so we’re going to cover a lot of ground today. Buckle up and get ready to hear all about the best board games we’ve got, with a special focus on the best two-player board games!
My Top 5 Board Games
Let’s start with the most asked question I got – what are my top board games? Picking a list of favorite games when you love as many as I do is hard, but I’ll do my best to narrow it down. All of these games could easily be repeated in other categories (like two player games or games for the kids), but I’ll do my best to not repeat games so you can get the widest variety of recommendations possible!
- Viticulture. Corey and I would both agree this is our favorite board game of all time. I’d consider it a “heavy” game (meaning, it requires a fair amount of strategy and takes 1-2 hours to play), and it’s one we pull out often for date night. In this game you’re working to build the best winery, and you have to hire and train a crew, harvest the grapes, and make (and age) the wine! It’s good for just two players or for more, and there are lots of expansions you can purchase which means you’re pretty much guaranteed to never get tired of it!
- Lords of Vegas (Sold out, will add a link when I can!). Think Monopoly but so much better. In this game, you play casino bosses trying to build out the Las Vegas strip – it’s all about getting the best lots, building the biggest casinos, and making wise trades when you can. This game can get really cutthroat in our house and has been known to cause a fight or two. What can I say? I’m a tad competitive.
- Tichu. This trick-taking game is so great for four players and is hiiiiigh on my list of favorites. This game is very similar to Spades or Hearts (or any other game that’s played in tricks), but way (WAY!) better. The first time you read the directions, you’ll be very confused and maybe a little frustrated. Just give it a shot anyways and you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly. My parents love this game and they don’t like to play complex games, so I promise it’s good for everyone once you wrap your head around the rules!
- Azul. In this game you’re working to collect tiles to fill in your board in a way that gives you the most possible points – it’s fast to learn but the strategy takes a lot of finesse and I never get tired of playing with it! It’s one that’s great for two players but is also fun if you have up to four!
- Machi Koro. I don’t generally recommend expansions for games until you’ve played a game a lot, but this is one that I’d highly recommend you start with the game PLUS the expansion because it makes the game a lot better. If you have a group (or a partner) that you know you can play with a lot, the Legacy version is also really fun, and is our preferred way to play these days. You build up tiny towns that. expand as you go, and with the Legacy version you can let your town grow even bigger and better over multiple plays!
Favorite two-player games
Many of the games I mentioned above are ones that can easily be played with two people (because that’s how we play games most often!), but here are a few more that are regulars for us on date night in our house (and, of course, most of these can also be played with more than two players as well!).
- Splendor. We reach for this game constantly on date night because it’s pretty quick to play but doesn’t feel overly simple or light. I usually dominate at this game, too, which doesn’t hurt!
- Suburbia. We first tried this game at a local board game bar and immediately purchased it because we had so much fun! It’s all about building a better suburban area than your opponent, using buildings and developments on hexagonal tiles. It’s fun and simple to learn – it’s one of my favorites out of all the tile-placement games we’ve tried. We play it often on date night and I love that it feels different from a lot of our other games but is still simple enough that we can chat and laugh a lot while we play!
- Wingspan. We’ve only played this one a few times because it’s newer to us, but we love it and always have a blast. It’s got so much really gorgeous artwork, and the theme of it is really unique!
- The Game. Corey and I played this card game so many times in a row and got so intense with it that we had to take a break for a while because it was causing some, um, issues for us. But, it’s only because it’s so intense and unique! This is a great game for two players because it’s a little easier with fewer people!
- 7 Wonders Duel. We haven’t played this one a ton yet but it’s a lot of fun and one that I want to bust out more often on our date nights! It’s incredibly highly rated and well-reviewed, which is always a great sign.
A few other games that are really well-reviewed for two players (but aren’t necessarily our personal favorites) are:
- Patchwork – it has a similar feel to Tetris, but you’re creating a quilt
- Civilization – based on a computer game, and is well-loved by many!
- Scythe – gameplay on this one is a littler faster paced than many other games of this style, but if you’ve played a lot of board games many of the mechanics will feel familiar!
- Fog of Love – we haven’t tried this one yet but it’s supposed to be really good, so it’s on my list of games to grab once we’ve got ours organized and can actually buy games again.
Board Games the Kids Can Play
Jackson is 7 and has gotten really into playing board games with us lately. We’re finally reaching the stage where he can handle some “adult” games and not strictly kid versions, which we’re loving. But, kid games aren’t all bad, so I’m including a couple of grown-up games that he can handle, along with a few kid versions of games that Corey and I really enjoy as well.
And, I’ll also include a few bonus games for even younger kids – because you don’t have to wait until they’re this big to start board games!
- Sushi Go. Jackson just recently got the hang of this game and we love playing it. It’s one we used to pull out all the time for date night, so it’s really fun to have Jackson join in on the fun. This is a really simple card game that is fast to learn, and I can’t even tell you how many people (kids and adults) that we’ve introduced it to so far.
- Sequence. This is another “adult” game that Jackson enjoys – his strategy still needs a little bit of work, but he always has fun and Corey and I never mind playing with him! It’s a quick game that requires only a couple of minutes to explain, which is a big win when you’re playing with kids! There’s a big grid with pictures of playing cards and your goal is to cover up a sequence of 5 by using playing cards you draw.
- Ticket to Ride: First Journey. Jackson would probably be able to handle the adult version of this game just fine, but we all really enjoy the kid version so it works well! This is a great game for introducing to people who haven’t played a lot of games before, and the kid version is honestly just as much fun as the real thing. We’ve got the United States version of the main game, but there’s also a Europe version if you want something different!
- Betrayal at Mystery Mansion. This is also a kid version of one of my favorites, and I’ll admit that Corey and I are often reluctant to play it with Jackson because it can drag on for quite a while. But, Jackson adores this game, and I really love that it introduces some more complex game strategies and features in a really accessible way for kids. Plus, who doesn’t love a good murder mystery Scooby Doo game?
- Carcassonne. This one is really simple to learn and great for kids, but still fun for the grownups too! This one is really easy to teach other players, which makes it a great candidate for nights when you’ve got friends over who want to try a new game!
A few more recommendations: Uno and Skip-Bo are classics, and Jackson is slowly starting to get the hang of Rummikub as well! As for the littles, Here Fishy Fishy and First Orchard are two favorites in our house for Grant – and I’ve got Dragon’s Breath on my list of games to try when he’s a tad older!
Big Game Night Games
It’s been a while since we’ve hosted a large game night for a group of friends (since, I don’t know, March of 2020?!), but we used to have a big monthly game night that was always a huge hit. It can be hard to find good games for 8+ players, but we’ve found a collection of really great games that are always crowd pleasers.
- Rabble. We’ve actually played this game with as few as four people and had the most fun, so this one is incredibly versatile. It’s really fast to learn, you’re guaranteed to spend a ton of time laughing, and the competition is real. You start by giving verbal clues for your words, then move to one-word clues, and finally you have to play charades. It’s silly and so much fun.
- Wavelength. We got this one right before the entire world shut down so we’ve only played it a couple of times in a group but it’s a blast. It’ll be easier for you the better you know everyone that you’re playing with, but it’s a ton of fun no matter who is in the group. It’s a really unique game that is sure to get everyone talking and get to know each other better!
- Ultimate Werewolf. I played this game all the time as a kid with regular deck of cards, and we called it Mafia! This game works best if you have someone in your group who loves to weave a good story and doesn’t mind being the center of attention. You’ll need someone to “guide” the game who isn’t technically playing and it’ll be more fun for everyone if they’re a good storyteller! Corey always takes this role on and has the entire group in stitches within minutes.
- Spyfall. This game is best if you have a group that isn’t afraid to get a little silly – timid players may not have as much fun! It’s only good for up to 8 people, so you’ll need a smaller group, but it’s a ton of fun and is played in a bunch of short rounds so you can make it as long or as short as you want. Each round has its own deck of cards that tell you what your location is, but one of you is a spy and doesn’t know where you are!
- Codenames. We looooove this game for a group, and it’s been a big win with 100% of the people we’ve played it with. It’s similar to Minesweeper in that you’re trying to get your teammates to guess words without accidentally having them guess the assassin card (which immediately ends the game). Codenames Duet is also a great option if you’re just playing with two players!
The best “heavy” board games
We don’t play big, heavy games quite as much as we used to because it can be hard to find the time these days, but there’s not much I love more than a big, strategy-heavy games that takes a few hours to get through! This category covers games that will take you more than an hour to play, and that require a lot of strategy. These are going to be best for people who have played a fair amount of lighter games first, but beginners could easily play any of them if you’re willing to go through the learning curve!
- Dead of Winter. I will never tire of playing this cooperative zombie-themed game, even though we’ve literally only won a handful of times out of the dozens of times we’ve played. It’s hard, but it’s so fun and unique! It has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get all of the intricacies, it’s so (so!) much fun.
- Caverna. You’re gonna need to set aside an entire night to play this one because it takes forever, but I think this is one of the best worker placement style games out there. You play a family living in a cave trying to build our your home. You have to practice resource management, gather animals like sheep and cows, and make sure everyone stays fed. We’ve played a ton of different games with this basic setup and strategy, but I think Caverna is by far the best and it’s my favorite to play when we want a really heavy, big game night!
- Euphoria. We bought this game because it’s by the same people who designed Viticulture, and it doesn’t disappoint! It’s a really fun, complex, strategy-heavy game and I love the theme (it’s set in a dystopian world where you play as different factions, which is my favorite kind of storyline). It’ll feel familiar if you’ve played other large worker-placement style games, but it has a really fresh spin!
- Agricola. This game is really similar to Caverna in style, strategy, and gameplay, but if you really love heavy games it’s worth it to have both! In this one, you play a farmer building up the best farm you can. Some of these style of games can also be played with just one player, which is great if you want a quiet night to yourself. Oh, and if you want to get a feel for the style of game without committing to 2+ hour gameplay, there’s a family edition that will give you a taste of it, with much shorter gameplay!
- Pandemic: Legacy. I’m including this one specifically because I think it’s far better than the regular game, in my opinion. Pandemic is a great cooperative game where you play scientists trying to stop the spread of a pandemic and is pretty simple to learn – the Legacy version adds in a lot of complexities and is really fun to play. Of course, it miiiiight be a little to soon for this one right now.
Other Board Game Recommendations
I’ve written a lot of posts about board games over the years! You’ll see some repeat games on these lists, but you’ll also find some that don’t appear in any of the lists above!