I LOVE playing games – board games, people games, talking games, guessing games. AND I find it is one of the best ways to connect with people.

People always ask me what the best board games are for different scenarios. For example:

  • What game is best for connecting new friends?
  • Do you know of any good learning games I can play with my kids?
  • What are the best strategy games?

I wanted to come up with a big list of my favorite games that you can play broken down by category. However, I only listed my top three for each category, just my favorites! Enjoy!

The Best Games for New Friends

These games will help you get to know new people better. If you have a group of people you are trying to bond with, these games will be easy to play without having to know each other well.

#1: Would You Rather

This game is a great conversation starter and playing it is super easy:

  1. Get together with two or more people.
  2. Take turns drawing cards that ask random, bizarre and silly Would You Rather...questions.
  3. Have fun trying to guess who would rather do what. Whoever is the best at guessing what other people would do wins.

#2: Taboo

Taboo is kind of like a fast-paced, verbal version of charades. To play, you need enough people to divide into two teams with two or more people each. Once you’re on teams, you pick a card from the deck that says a word or phrase and you try getting your team to guess what it is. The challenge is you are under a strict time limit and can’t give any obvious clues. Whichever team guesses the most words correctly wins.

#3: Bowl of Nouns

This one requires nothing but some pads of paper and pens. Here is what you do:

  • Have everyone write a noun on a piece of paper and fold it in half. Then they drop it in the bowl at the center of the table. Then split everyone into two or three teams.
  • Round #1: Teams take turns pulling out a card and explaining what it is without saying the word (like Taboo). Count up how many words each team gets.
  • Round #2: Same bowl, same nouns, same teams. This time it is charades. Each team has to act out the card for their team members –it’s kind of a game of memory in this way. Count up how many each team gets.
  • Round #3: This last one is the hardest and it’s when each team has to think of one word to trigger or remind their team of the word. Count up how many each team gets.
  • Highest total wins!

The Best Games for Old Friends

Do you have a group of old friends or family and you want to try out something new? These games are great for old friends to share new laughs.

#1: Code Names

Get together 2-8 of your friends to bring out your inner spies with this fun and challenging word game.

When you play the game you’ll divide into two teams, and on each team one person is chosen to be the spymaster who knows the secret identities of 25 secret agents, aka words on the table.

The rest of people only know each secret agent’s code name, so the spymaster has to give them clues to help them guess their team’s spies, while avoiding the other team’s.

Whichever team finds all of their spies first wins.

#2: Mafia

This game can be a little bit confusing at first, but is loads of fun for people who like mystery games.

It is best when played with eight or more people, who get divided into innocents and mafia members. A moderator then leads the group through a series of steps to decide who kills and who is killed.

#3: Apples to Apples

This is an easy game that can be played with three or more people and is great for sparking conversations. Every person is given a handful of cards with random things, from famous people to places to foods and everything in between. People take turns choosing a category card and everyone else has to put down a card that fits. The person whose turn it is then reads the cards aloud and chooses the one they think best fits the category.

The Best Learning Games

Want to get your brain going? Want to learn something new? Here are some fun games that will also get you thinking:

#1: Predictably Irrational

Have you ever wondered why people do the things they do? In this game, designed by behavioral economist Dan Ariely, you and your friends can take turns guessing what decisions people will make in unique situations.  After everyone’s guessed, you’ll discover which of your friends knows the most random facts about human nature and learn the fascinating science behind the correct answers.

#2: Quantum

If you and your friends are interested in space and exploration, than this strategy game is a great fit for you.

Quantum is designed for two to four players, who are each fleet commanders trying to conquer space. Your goal throughout the game is expanding your fleet and damaging the other players so you can take over the universe.

#3: Smart Ass

Find out who the smart ass in your family and/or group of friends really is with this fun trivia game.

Unlike many games where you’re required to take turns, this game lets you yell out the answer as soon as you think of it, making the game perfect for those who love fast-paced competition.

The Best Niche Games

There are some awesome niche games. Be sure to search your favorite TV show, movie or hobby to see if you can find a niche game. Otherwise, here are some of my favorites:

#1: Game of Thrones

This game is your opportunity to become the ruler of Westeros. Over the course of ten rounds, you and two to five of your friends will use your power cards and negotiating abilities to conquer land across the map. Whoever takes over the most strongholds and areas with castles wins.  

#2: Clue Harry Potter Game

This is the classic mystery game Clue set in the world of Hogwarts.

Get together with two to five of your friends to each become one of the main characters. Then, see who can solve the mystery of the missing student.

#3: Star Wars Battleship

This two-player game is great to play with a fellow Star Wars fan who likes strategy games. Like the original version, you’ll battle head-to-head with your opponent to guess where their battleships are located and shoot them down before they get to yours.

Whoever has the last ship standing wins.

Best Games for Big Groups

Do you have a huge family? Or a bridal party that needs something to do while getting ready? These games are perfect for big groups:

#1: Spoons

All you need to play this game is a pack of cards with no jokers and one less spoon than the number of people participating.

Here’s how to play:

  1. Set out the spoons in a circle in the middle of the table and give everyone four cards.
  2. The dealer then takes a card from the top of the deck and places it face-down to his left.
  3. Every other player will follow by placing one card from their hand to their left while the last player places their card in the discard pile.
  4. Pick up the cards and pass them around until someone gets four of a kind. Once they do, they grab a spoon and everyone follows suit.
  5. If you fail to grab a spoon, you earn a letter of the word ‘Spoon’.
  6. Repeat until  someone spells out the entire word and loses.

#2: Cranium

This one is perfect for goofy groups of four or more who love creative challenges. With 600+ cards, Cranium provides a great source of entertainment as players are prompted to act, draw, sculpt, play word games and engage in other fun activities.

#3: Cards Against Humanity

Known as “the party game for horrible people,” this is the R-rated version of Apples to Apples. Like that game, everyone puts down cards that they think fits each round’s topic and whoever’s cards gets chosen the most, wins. However, unlike Apples to Apples, your cards are politically un-correct, risque and often offensive.

If you’re with a group of people who all have a healthy sense of humor, this game is sure to bring lots of laughs.

Best Games for Pairs

Just you and your partner want to play a game? Or you and a new friend? Cool! Here are my top three:

#1: Settlers of Catan

This fast-paced strategy game puts you head-to-head with your partner to see who can build the most successful settlements using the resources you’re given.

One of the best parts about this game is that it gives you the opportunity to trade between players, making it a highly interactive experience.

#2: Hive

A board game without a board, this bug-themed game is “crawling with possibilities.” Instead of playing on a board, you’ll use your pieces to build a hive as you try capturing the other player’s queen bee while protecting your own.

#3: Pandemic

Whether you win or lose, you’ll do it together in this apocalyptic-themed game. Rather than competing against each other, you and your partner have to work together to play to your assigned character’s strengths and find a cure to the diseases that threaten to wipe out humanity.

Best Classic Games

Want some nostalgia in your life? These games are super fun with kids, but might be just as fun with adults to reminisce about the good ol’ times.

#1: Candyland

This adorable game is perfect for when you have one to three close friends over and want to relax with an easy activity.

Make it even more fun by sharing some of the candy featured in the game.

#2: Chutes and Ladders

This simple game is sure to bring back memories not just of playing the game itself, but also of going down slides on the playground and climbing up things.

#3: Monopoly

With so many different themes to choose from, it’s easy to find a version of Monopoly that fits your interests.

Since this game can last for as long as you want, it’s a great option for days when you just want to spend some quality time with your friends and/or family.

Best Games to Get You Moving

Tired of sitting down? Want to get up and moving around? These games might get your heart rate pumping:

#1: Twister

See how flexible your friends are with this challenging game. The best part about this game is that it’s just as entertaining to watch your friends struggle to stretch in weird directions as it is to play the game yourself.

#2: Rollick

If you love Charades, then this game is for you. Full of random, silly words and phrases for you and your team to act out, this game is guaranteed to spark laughter.

A major perk of this game is that it works with an unlimited number of people, so you can get everyone involved in the fun.

#3: Reverse Charades

Like Rollick, Reverse Charades is — you guessed it — another version of Charades. In this game teams must act out fun words and phrases for a single person on their team, who is given sixty seconds to figure it out.

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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