The best board games for beginner players

Starting out in the world of board games can be daunting – but with these key board games, you should have a beginner blast.
best board games beginners beginner players

Choosing where to start with board games can be incredibly daunting. While many people grew up with games like Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit or Cluedo, the sheer depth of the modern tabletop catalogue far eclipses these experiences. There’s a massive world of board games out there – and you may need some guidance to get started.

To kick off your foray into board games as a beginner, the most important thing to know is that it doesn’t matter what kind of games you play. From card games, to social deduction games, to hour-long high fantasy tabletop journeys, there’s something out there for everyone.

If you have a few friends already into board games, it can be easy enough to get stuck in – otherwise, read on for some of our favourite beginner board games.

Disney Villainous

disney villainous halloween board games
Image: Disney

Players: 2-6

Disney Villainous is an excellent beginner board game for a number of reasons – primarily because it’s simple and easy to learn, but also because it’s very fetching, and it’ll likely appeal to nostalgic Disney fans. In this game, you and up to five other players will embody classic Disney villains – Jafar, Captain Hook, Queen of Hearts, Maleficent, Ursula, and Prince John – with nefarious goals backing their plans.

In rounds, players will deploy cards from a unique deck, all of which create effects on the battlefield, whether they summon heroes, allow you to advance locations, or allow you to complete your individual villain goals. The sense of competitiveness in the game is a bunch of fun, and being able to flex your ‘evil’ muscles is a thrill. As a first taste of the power board games can offer, Disney Villainous is hard to go past.


draftosaurus game
Image: Ankama

Players: 2-5

Draftosaurus is a colourful drafting board game where players compete to build out the most attractive dinosaur theme park. While there are plenty of board games out there with a similar theme – Dinosaur Island is an excellent alternative – this is the most accessible version. The game is based on light drafting, which means there are no complex cards or mechanics to throw around – it’s all about making swift choices based on your theme park and its restrictions.

Working within set rules, you’ll roll a die and work out what you can accomplish with your dinosaur meeples, and how to block other players from making better theme parks. It’s quick, great for players of all ages, and should get those mental muscles flexing with each dino placement.

What Next?

what next board games for beginners
Image: Big Potato Games

Players: 1-4

None of us really know what’s next – but you might get an idea with the hybrid card and board game, What Next? from Big Potato Games. In this narrative-based adventure game, you and up to three friends will play through a number of different stories, each with various choices to make along the way. Described as a ‘pick-your-path’ game, What Next? will send you on bizarre journeys containing everything from rampaging koalas to wild old ladies with giant rocket launchers.

No matter which path you choose, you’ll wind up on a weird ride with plenty of antics, which is what makes What Next? so charming. It’s essentially a group trip through odd, rollercoaster-like tales which unfold with each player action and group choice. Sit back, let the story play out, and see where it’ll lead you. With minimal complications, it’s very easy to dive into this game, and get a whole lot out of it.

Boss Monster

board games tabletop games for beginners
Image: Brotherwise Games

Players: 2-4

Boss Monster is a dungeon-crawling card-based game where players compete to build out the most dangerous dungeons possible. Each card in a player’s deck contains a range of obstacles – traps, monsters, and other items – all of which present as challenges for an enemy ‘Hero’ who must attempt to get through each trap and defeat the ‘boss monster’.

Read: The 8 best dungeon crawler board games for adventurers

While normally, the Hero would be the star of this game, each player instead has a villainous role, and must work towards claiming ten Hero Souls by laying the best traps in their dungeon, and protecting their boss monster. Should this monster take five wounds, they’re out of the game – so effective placement of cards is needed. This is another game that’s very easy to learn, with a complexity that ramps up as players understand more about the gameplay loop.

As a starter tabletop game, it’s a wonderful little treat.

Call of Cthulhu

call of cthulhu ttrpg
Image: Chaosium

Players: 1-5

Before we talk about Call of Cthulhu, a small caveat. Amongst a list of board games, this is not technically a board game – but you do play it on a tabletop, and there are board game elements that qualify it for a list like this. The crossover between board games and tabletop games is very real, and an interest in one can often lead to an interest in the other – so if you’re looking to enthral your friends in new tabletop worlds, look no further than Chaosium’s hectic, choose-your-own-adventure style narrative RPGs.

Read: On the solitude of playing board games solo

In Call of Cthulhu, players embody investigators working to save small towns from a variety of hideous beasts, with success or failure dependent on choice. Guiding by the narratives found in each Call of Cthulhu standalone tale – or the imaginations of a wily ‘Keeper’ – players can be led on grand journeys, all contained within a solid tabletop session.

Storytelling is at the heart of most tabletop and board games, and Call of Cthluhu is a great entry to the hobby. If monsters and madness aren’t your bag as a beginner player, then Chaosium’s other RPGs – like the fantasy-themed RuneQuest RPG or the Arthurian Pendragon RPG – are also great entry points, and feature similar storytelling mechanics.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

one night ultimate werewolf
Image: Bézier Games

Players: 3-10

One Night Ultimate Werewolf is a social deduction game that relies on having an enthusiastic player base to run smoothly – but if you bring it to a party, it’s likely even non-board game players will be enthralled. In this chat-based mystery, every player embodies a distinct role within a haunted village (based on token distribution). Some are standard villagers, while other roles will give players the power to ask questions or perform certain actions, with the ultimate goal being to hunt down and identify the evil ‘werewolves’ in your party group.

Each night, particular activities occur and some villagers may die in strange circumstances. As turns advance, it’ll be up to everyone ‘good’ in the group to work together to root out who the werewolves are – complicated by the fact that anyone may be lying.

Splendor: Marvel

marvel splendor board games beginners
Image: Leah J. Williams

Players: 2-4

Geek culture lovers will find it easy to get into board games because so many are based on popular franchises. Marvel, in particular, has a massive presence in the board games scene, via a number of standalone adaptations and reskins of popular games. Splendor: Marvel is a great example. This adaptation takes the classic gameplay of Splendor – a game all about acquiring gems to nab property and build out your wealth – and adds in a superhero twist.

In the Marvel version of Splendor, the goal is to recruit heroes and prevent Thanos from ending the world by nabbing every Infinity Stone. Players are able to pick and choose their heroes as they please, with characters from different colours and ranks needed to pick up each Infinity Stone and build out the game-ending Infinity Gauntlet. It’s a great adaptation of Splendor‘s breezy mechanics, it’s simple to learn, and it sports gorgeous artwork inspired by the Marvel Comics and films. If Marvel isn’t quite your thing, the original Splendor is also a great introduction to drafting games.

My City

my city board game
Image: Leah J. Williams

Players: 2-4

My City is a tile-laying game that’s largely based around relaxing, turn-based moves. In each round, players are required to place buildings on their player board, with the goal being to build a city with few ‘exposed’ tiles left over. Tessellation is key here, and this requires players to ruminate on the best strategy for creating their cities. Beyond this, there’s not much to My City. That means players are free to follow the game’s loose plot, place their chosen tiles, and unwind.

For a beginner board game, you want something that’s engaging, but not too complex. My City fulfils this criteria by allowing players the freedom of creativity within the bounds of its story. This is a game that can only be played through once – stickers change the boards as you progress – but it’s perfect for a simple multiplayer experience.

Azul: Summer Pavilion

azul summer pavilion
Image: Leah J. Williams

Players: 2-4

Azul: Summer Pavilion is a colourful tile collecting board game where players are tasked with completing a gorgeous mosaic by utilising strategy to claim the most board pieces on each of their turns. By claiming the right colours, players can build out the patterns on their player boards, create a unique artwork, and claim points based on their creativity. While the original Azul is often recommended, Summer Pavilion is a rare sequel that surpasses the original. The colours here are brighter and more inviting, and streamlined rules make it simpler to explain.

It doesn’t take long to learn how to play Azul: Summer Pavilion (or any game in the series), but it takes a lot longer to master – making it a great game to spend time with, as you perfect every little rule. There is a layer of competition in this game that may turn some players away, but if you’re in the mood for a bit of light jousting, Azul: Summer Pavilion is a great and balanced game for everyone – even beginners.

Dungeon Mayhem

dungeon mayhem d&d game beginners board games
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Players: 2-4

Dungeon Mayhem is a simple card game based on the world and lore of Dungeons & Dragons, and it basically functions as an adventure-in-a-box. Rather than making players learn all the rules and stipulations of classic Dungeons & Dragons gameplay, this title simplifies the entire experience into turn-based moves. As one of four characters, players will enter a magical dungeon, and attempt to use their unique attacks to carve a path through every obstacle.

Each card flip in Dungeon Mayhem introduces a brand new event for players, with individual characters able to deploy clever moves to overcome the challenges in their way – or fail miserably, depending on player choice. The short, simple nature of this game means your adventure can be extremely chaotic at times, but that’s what makes Dungeon Mayhem such a blast. Expect madness, and you’ll certainly get it.

5-Minute Dungeon

5 minute dungeon board games beginner
Image: Wiggles 3D

Players: 2-5

5-Minute Dungeon is a co-op adventure game that takes place over five minute rounds – making every player choice snappy and frantic. The goal here is to escape each dungeon in the game using rapid-fire teamwork to defeat monsters by using the right card at just the right time. Once every beast is defeated, a boss monster appears. Once they’re dispatched, a new cycle begins, until players romp their way through five unique dungeons.

The timed element adds a layer of panic to every game, but also a real sense of excitement. There’s an urgency to every move in this game, meaning players must act with purpose and conviction to win. Of course, you can also do away with the timer entirely, and just enjoy a pleasant and action-heavy romp through dungeons filled with hideous creatures of all kinds. Either way, it’s a total blast.

Last Message

last message
Image: IELLO

Players: 3-8

Last Message is a unique party board game that combines the skill of Pictionary with frantic crime solving as teams of players work to identify criminals by drawing them on mini-whiteboards. The only catch is their portrait can be erased by the criminal before the detectives can properly identify them.

Essentially, one player operates as the victim of a crime. They aren’t able to speak, but they can give clues in the form of 9×9 grid drawings. Another player operates as the criminal, and they can erase parts of the board, based on the instructions for the round. The remaining players must attempt to parse the clues given by the victim in order to identify the criminal pictured on the main game board.

This game is a fascinating adaptation of Pictionary with a Cluedo twist, and has extremely accessible mechanics. While it is fairly simple, the structure of this game means you can pass the player boards around, and keep the action fresh for everyone.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

betrayal at house on the hill
Image: Avalon Hill Games

Players: 3-6

Betrayal at House on the Hill is an adventure-exploration game that sees up to six players entering a haunted mansion in search of spooky mysteries. It’s a great game to introduce to beginner players because the theming is incredibly strong, and gameplay works smoothly and logically. While it can be complex to learn every rule, the basic gameplay of traipsing through a haunted house, which is slowly revealed by placed tiles, is very easy. In each room, players may uncover particular surprises, items, or events – and the further they travel, the more haunted the house gets.

In the later half of the game, players will trigger a scenario known as a ‘Haunt’. Once this happens, the game transforms to become a 1 vs. all battle against the forces of evil, as one player gives into the darkness and attempts to defeat every other character in the mansion. With dozens of possible Haunt scenarios, this is one board game you can grab and play over, and over, and over again.

Small World

best beginner board games
Image: Days of Wonder

Players: 2-5

Small World is a more complex game for adventurous beginners, and may prove to be a minor challenge to learn – but with its gorgeous game board, flashy characters and Risk-like gameplay, it’s not overly difficult to tackle. Forget the number of pieces in this setup, and the complicated-looking character sheets, and dive right in – it’s a lot simpler than it looks.

In this game, players control unique fantasy races who vie for control over various territories. Your job is, essentially, to conquer everything the eye can see, and forge a future for your chosen race. It’s a little bit Age of Empires and a little bit World of Warcraft (there is actually a WoW-themed spin-off as well), so anyone who enjoys strategy or turn-based games will find something to love here. A bit of time is needed to learn the ins and outs of this journey, but once you’ve got your special abilities down, you should have a blast with this conquest simulator.

Exit: The Game

dead man on the orient express
Image: Kosmos

Players: 1-4

The Exit: The Game series is perfect for players of all kinds, particularly those partial to a good escape room. These games are typically themed around one particular mystery – a murder, a disappearance, a trip through the snow, a stormy flight – and players are tasked with advancing through multiple puzzles in order to find an escape or solution. They’re best played in groups, so that multiple minds can work together, but even alone, the Exit games are great for beginners.

You will need some measure of brain power to knuckle your way through some of the presented mysteries, but all you really need to succeed is your curiosity, and a sense of adventure. You can grab any Exit game and have a blast with the right crowd, but Dead Man on the Orient Express is typically regarded as one of the best games of the entire franchise, thanks to its balance of mystery and puzzling. For anyone who loves detective work, or wants to try an at-home escape room kit, these games come highly recommended.

If you’re looking for more board game recommendations, check out the following GamesHub lists:

GamesHub has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content. GamesHub may earn a small percentage of commission for products purchased via affiliate links.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.