The 50 Best Board Games of All Time

15 November 2020
The 50 Best Board Games of All Time

The History of Board Games

Board games have been played in nearly all societies' cultures throughout human history. There are many different styles and genres. Games can be based on strategy, chance, or a combination of the two and, usually, have a goal that players try to achieve before their opponent(s). I grew up in America, with many popular board games, before video games were prevalent in every home.

As the United States gradually embraced urban living in the 19th century, more abundant leisure time and a significant rise in income became available to the middle class. The American household then became the epicenter of entertainment. Young children were encouraged to play board games that aided in developing literacy competence and provided moral guidance.

Many things have been deemed obsolete, yet the humble board game is still in play today. Additionally, many that have been around for literally thousands of years can now be played on your smartphone. It is truly an amazing time to be alive. Here are the top ten board games of all time, in my opinion of course.

1. Chess

Chess requires two players and is purely a strategy board game played on a chessboard, a checkered tiled board with sixty-four squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. It is one of the world's most ancient and popular games, played by millions of people all across the globe. There is no sure certainty, but chess is believed to have originated in India, 280–550 C during the time period of the Gupta Empire.

For me personally, chess is the only game that comes to mind that emphasizes strategy with such simplicity. With just 64 squares it simulates two opposing nations that wage war on each other battling until there is a lone king cornered, and must concede defeat. What I absolutely love most about this game is that it is a true test of strategy and intelligence. It has zero elements of chance or luck.

In this day and age, you can easily find instructions on the internet, but chess rarely came with any instruction manual. To learn, one must be taught by someone, who had to learn from someone, so on and so forth. I think that's particularity cool, a tradition that links the past to the present day.

2. Stratego

The modern game of Stratego, the one that is Napoleon-themed, was originally produced in the Netherlands by a company named Jumbo, and was acquired by Milton Bradley for distribution in the states in 1963.

Stratego is a strategy based game for two opposing players on a 10 by 10 board. Each player commands 40 pieces representing individual soldiers and officers in their army. The goal of the game is to discover and capture the opponent's flag, or to capture so many enemy units that your opponent can't make any more moves.

Players aren't able to see each other's ranks, so discovery and misinformation are important factors to the game. The game is easy to learn and play, a lot of replay value, and my nephews seem to love this game. Yet another great board game by Hasbro.

3. Monopoly

In 1933, a board game called "Monopoly" was created. The game is named after the economic term of monopoly, the domination of an entire market by a single company or entity. It was created and sold by Parker Brothers.

There's generally no middle ground when it comes to Monopoly, either you're going to love it or hate it. Hate it or love it, Monopoly seemingly has been timeless in its goal, whether to entertain or simply pass the time. Everyone has Monopoly memories. Everyone's been pushed to the edge by a frustratingly long game.

It definitely feels like the best game on Earth when everyone's nearly bankrupt and you're holding premium real estate. Monopoly has certainly evolved and changed over the years. It is a redesigned interpretation of an earlier game by political activist Elizabeth J. Magie Phillips in 1903. At the time, the game was called "The Landlord's Game." Here are a few interesting and little-known facts about Monopoly:

  • Parker Brothers initially rejected the game in 1933, citing numerous fundamental playing flaws.
  • The longest game of Monopoly ever played was over 1600 hours long.
  • In Cuba, Fidel Castro ascended to power and ordered all sets in Cuba destroyed.
  • The three most-landed-on squares are “GO,” the B&O Railroad, and Illinois Ave.
  • During World War II, there was a special version of Monopoly for prisoners held by the Nazis. The game included maps, real money, and other items to aid in escape.
  • The total sum of currency in a standard Monopoly bank is $15,140

4. Risk

Another game produced by Parker Brothers, Risk is a strategic turn-based game for two to six people. The standard version of this game is played on a board depicting a political and territorial map of Earth, which contains six continents with 42 territories. Players roll a dice and control armies to attempt to take over other players' territories.

Risk is ideal for people who enjoy the idea of world domination. I discovered Risk when my friends were playing it at school, I patiently sat and watched until I got the gist of the game. After a few games that I actually played well, I was hooked. I immediately got my own set and it is by far, one of the best board games I own and still play to date. It's odd playing with people you're close to, because it never fails, someone always ends up betraying someone, but honestly, that was part of its charm.

5. The Settlers of Catan

In Settlers Of Catan, players are in the role of settlers; each player tries to build and gain holdings while acquiring and trading for needed resources. As an individual player's settlement increases in size, they earn points. The Player that reaches the set number of points wins.

My favorite aspect of the game is the board is variable, so not every game will be the same, great for the replay factor. It is quite popular in the US where it has been called "the board game of our time" by The Washington Post. If you've never played Settlers of Catan, give it a whirl, I'm sure you'll be itching to play after you finish your maiden game.

6. Scrabble

The word game Scrabble consists of two to four players who score points by placing tiles, each tile bears a single letter onto a game board which is a 15×15 grid of cells. The objective of this game was to put letters together, build words, accumulate the most words and out-score the other players. The game encouraged many repeat players to improve their vocabulary base and overall literary skills.

I remember playing Scrabble with my cousins and always getting frustrated over the insane amount of vowels they were divinely blessed with. But, it has brought my family and friends many hours of fun and improved our spelling and vocabulary substantially. Definitely one of my all-time favorite board games.

7. Battleship

Battleship is essentially a guessing game consisting of two players. It was published by numerous companies as a pad-and-pencil game in the early 1930s, and in 1967 was finally released as a board game by Milton Bradley. Additionally, Battleship was among one of the earliest board games to be developed into a video game.

Before the actual game begins, each of the two players strategically and secretly arranges their ships will be on the play grid. Every ship occupies a set number of consecutive squares, arranged either vertically or horizontally. The type of ship will determine the number of squares it will receive relative to the grid.

Just a few weeks ago I observed some kids playing it, and it reminded me of my own childhood. Got this for my nephew. He didn't know anything about it. Now, he loves it. We play every time I visit my sister's house.

8. Clue

Clue is an exciting murder mystery game designed for three to six players, created by Anthony Pratt from Birmingham, England. It is currently published by Hasbro. The goal of the game is to figure out who murdered the game's victim, "Mr. Boddy". You must also determine where and what weapon was used in said murder.

I remember playing this game when I was growing up and how much fun it was. While there are newer versions of Clue available today, I very much prefer the original version of Clue. The 'murder weapons' are all made of quality material as well as the board and cards. I would definitely recommend this product to anyone who loves to solve a good mystery.

9. Dominion

A lesser-known title that I played consistently was Dominion, developed by Rio Grande Games. It accommodates two to four players. You play as royalty, a monarch that is the sole ruler of a small benevolent kingdom. You must quickly gain as much of the surrounding unclaimed land as possible. You can hire minions, build, upgrade your castle, to defend yourself and to conquer.

The game begins with each opposing player possessing an identical ten-card deck. As the game starts, a group of ten special action cards are selected from the 25 categories in the bin. The rules outline specific selections for scenario play or you can design your own layout. There aren't any moderators or bankers. Every player starts equally with access to the exact same cards.

The best part of playing Dominion is every game will be limited to about 30–40 minutes. So, if you're a fan of quickie board games and have a taste for conquest, you might really enjoy Dominion as I do.

Ticket to Ride, Best Board Game of 2004!

10. Ticket to Ride

Ticket To Ride is a railway-themed board game designed by Alan R. Moon and developed by Days Of Wonder in 2004. Every player receives 45 train cars in one color, and places a matching token of that color on a scoring track. A large board is placed in the middle of the table, with a map of America imposed upon it.