Board games can take you on grand adventures to strange worlds, dungeons filled with beasts, and puzzling realms filled with tiny little clues. But sometimes, you don’t want a grand adventure – all you want is to sit back in an idyllic world, kick up your feet, and spend time just relaxing. If that’s you, read on for a list of the most calming board games you can spend an afternoon with.
Whether you’re looking to lounge around with deers, otters, and bears, or just looking for a light puzzle game to get those smaller gears working, there are plenty of brilliant, relaxing board games currently available. They’ll take you on walks through parks, familiar surrounds, and even let you spend mindful minutes looking after arrays of pot plants.
Here are a few of our favourite relaxing board games, perfect for quieter afternoons.
- See My City on Amazon.
My City is a lightweight tile placement legacy game perfect for multiple sessions between two or more players. The ultimate goal of this experience is to develop a town while simultaneously following rules set out in episodic ‘chapters’ of the story. These determine building placements, occasionally add in new tiles, and allow players to create more ambitious towns.
While up to four players are technically competing to make the most coherent and rule-following towns on individual player boards, the actual gameplay itself doesn’t rely on competition – rather, it’s more about taking your time, easing into gameplay, and choosing where to place your next building. You can certainly lord your victory over other players if you wish, but that’s not the real crux of the game. Sit back, take your foot off the pedal, and enjoy a more calming board games experience with My City.
Azul: Summer Pavilion
Azul: Summer Pavilion is a light-hearted and brightly-coloured Azul adaptation that takes the primary mechanics of this classic puzzle game, and flips them around. While competition is possible, as in My City, Summer Pavilion is best played as a slower, more thoughtful tile-laying experience. During your turn, you have simple goals – collect a number of coloured tiles from a central arena, and place them on your individual player board to form star-shaped patterns.
You can also block other players (definitely not relaxing) or spend your time creating pretty artworks, care-free about the final score outcome. The real joy of Azul is in seeing your individual mosaics coming together. It’s a game best played with that beauty in mind. If you’re looking for similar experiences, the original Azul is just as fun, as is the recently-released Master Chocolatier version.
- See Meadow on Amazon.
Meadow is one of the most peaceful and relaxing board games on the modern market. In this delightful nature-themed board game, you’re essentially playing the role of a person going on a nice walk, and seeing a variety of nice things – bugs, plants, and animals all illustrated in a lovely, painterly style on collectible cards. On your turn, you’ll choose which cards to draft to your hand, eventually allowing you to create a small menagerie of gorgeous beasts.
You can play this game alone or with friends, with the primary gameplay revolving around nabbing the most valuable cards for your deck by fulfilling select criteria. While there is technically a winner at the end of the journey, it’s also very easy to play Meadow as a quiet, gorgeous tabletop adventure where every new card flip brings welcome sights.
- See Parks on Amazon.
Parks is another nature-themed board games experience perfect for a quiet afternoon. In this adventure, you’re traversing an American national park, keeping an eye out for various wildlife (depicted on gorgeous, sunset-hued cards) and collecting memories from all the places you visit. Each trip will take you under an hour, making this the perfect board game to whip out when you’ve got a free afternoon, and you’re looking for a brain cleanse.
You’ll find prettier cards, and more varied wildlife as you travel with your chosen companions (or alone) on a walk to remember. As you travel, you’ll also be able to experience new seasons within the game, with each bringing new pathways and memories to unlock. This is one of the most gorgeous new board games on the market – and should leave a lasting impression on every player.
- See Canvas on Amazon.
Speaking of gorgeous board games, it’s hard to go past Canvas if you’re looking for a wholesome, cosy, and relaxing experience. In this lightly competitive art game, your task is to create the most beautiful, criteria-fulfilling artworks by layering transparent cards on top of each other to form a more complex image. Cards you collect as you play include lone figures, absurdist imagery, cityscapes, fruits, and other items – each of which can be stacked to form unique art.
While the game is technically about facing off against other players, this is a game that’s still very enjoyable without pressure. It’s best to play Canvas at your own pace, discovering new cards and forging artworks that adhere to your own fancy. There’s real joy in watching how these images come together, and that joy should never be forgotten, even in the spirit of competition.
- See Kanagawa on Amazon.
Kanagawa, like Parks and Meadow, spotlights a gorgeous walk through nature as players explore a Japanese-themed landscape and restore beauty to the world by ‘painting’ its splendour. Similar to Canvas, this board game experience allows you to appreciate the world by focussing on the artistic subject matter – plants, animals, characters, and traditional buildings. Create the perfect print that celebrates this world and its many seasons, and you’ll succeed in your overall lesson-learning goals.
There is an element of chance in victory, however, as players are essentially tasked with choosing whether to take cards from set rows, or hold off in the hopes of finding greater success down the line. With a balance between risk and reward in this card draft, you never know how a round of Kanagawa will pan out – but even if you lose, you’ll still have a great time looking at each gorgeously painted card.
- See Cascadia on Amazon.
Cascadia is very similar to Parks in its approach to nature, with some key twists along the way – largely, its focus on animals over humans. In Parks, you’re essentially taking a walk through nature and observing everything you see. In Cascadia, you’re guiding and reshaping nature by creating new habitats populated by complimentary animals, each of which should occupy an appropriate environment.
Each player in this adventure will slowly and meticulously build out their own individual terrains, making decisions about where best to place adjacent tiles and how to arrange animals for the most harmonious setting. Each placed creature will score points based on set rules, allowing players to forge more powerful ecosystems as they encounter new creatures, and contend with fresh demands. Lay off the competitive aspect, and you’ve got a calming, colourful, nature-filled adventure perfect for relaxing with.
The Gardens is a familiar and warm-feeling game that takes place solely within the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney – a landscape that many will likely have travelled before. If you’re keen to repeat the exercise in tabletop form, you’re in for a colourful and gorgeously-illustrated treat. In this game, you are essentially walking through the iconic Royal Botanic Garden, placing cards to represent monuments, and then monitoring how people feel about their time in the gardens. Earning happiness is key – and this requires placing more features, including flower beds, pots, trees, and decorations to liven up the atmosphere.
The player who squeezes the most positive visitor reactions from their gardens is the one who technically wins – but really, everyone who plays is a winner, given how gorgeous the experience is. You might not be able to visit Sydney right now if you’re abroad, but playing through The Gardens will take you close enough, on a relaxing journey.
- See Verdant on Amazon.
Verdant is one of the newest games on this list, having just landed in stores following a successful Kickstarter campaign. While you might not be aware of it yet, it’s well worth checking out, with its houseplant-themed gameplay feeling absolutely perfect following the sting of global pandemic-induced lockdowns. During this time, many of us got into gardening, with pot plants providing the perfect relief for low-light apartments and sadder times. In colourful tabletop form, you can now create more positive memories amongst these delightful plants, with Verdant allowing you to create your own thriving garden.
The ultimate goal of the game is to create the cosiest space possible by arranging houseplants in the ideal order. You’re given specific criteria – light requirements, enough care – and then you’ll set off to create your chosen space, placing various tokens to help the growth of your plants, and of your happiness. As in other cosy board games, the ‘win’ state is fairly loose, allowing you to spend your time with the game expressing your creativity and relaxing, rather than competing.
If you’re looking for more board game adventures to explore, check out our other guides:
- The best board games to play solo
- The best board games to play in co-op with friends
- The best board games to play at a party
- The best puzzle-based board games
- The best spooky board games to play on Halloween
- The 8 best dungeon crawler board games for adventurers
- The best story-based adventure board games
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