Choosing where to start with board games can be incredibly daunting. While many people grew up with Monopoly, Risk, Trivial Pursuit or Cluedo, the sheer depth of the modern tabletop catalogue is genuinely overwhelming. There are still plenty of great ‘beginner’ board games to be found between big box adventures and head-scratching puzzlers, however.
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 started – otherwise, it’s perfectly alright to pick up a title from your local shop and get started on your own. You can play any way you like – but if you’re looking for some pointers to get you started, read on.
These are ten of the best board games for beginners.
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf
- Splendor: Marvel
- My City
- Azul: Summer Pavilion
- Dungeon Mayhem
- 5-Minute Dungeon
- Last Message
- Betrayal at House on the Hill
- Small World
- Exit: The Game – Dead Man on the Orient Express
One Night Ultimate Werewolf
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. The rules here are easy to understand and a little bit harder to master but it’s great fun at a party, and perfect for board game beginners.
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 for yourself. 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, making it great for any fans of the franchise.
If Marvel isn’t quite your thing, the original Splendor is also a great introduction to drafting games, and features similarly stunning artwork.
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 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 is a colourful tile collecting board game where players are tasked with completing a gorgeous mosaic by utilising strategy to claim the most ‘glass’ 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 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, however, 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 is a co-op adventure game that takes place over five minute rounds – making every player choice snappy, sharp 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 does add 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 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. There’s a couple of moving parts in this game that require some explanation, but the basic mechanics are easy enough for everyone to understand.
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. There’s only limited time to do so – and players will need to be sharp with their guesses, lest the criminal win the round.
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 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. There’s 50 possible scenarios in the base game, and an additional 50 in the game’s Widow’s Walk expansion, meaning this is one board game you can grab and play over, and over, and over again.
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
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:
- The best story-based adventure board games
- The best tabletop games to bring out at a party
- The best co-op board games for two players
- The best solo board games for single players
- The best puzzle board games to play solo or with friends
- The most relaxing board games for quiet afternoons
- The 8 best dungeon crawler board games for adventurers
- The best spooky board games to play this Halloween
- The most anticipated board games of 2023
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