The Top Ten Board Games of All Time

Updated on January 14, 2018
Michael Kismet profile image

Michael is an author that enjoys writing about topics that remind him of his childhood. Like classic board games!

Best board games of all time
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 to 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.

Love to play Chess
Love to play Chess

#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.

Everyone plays monopoly wrong
Everyone plays monopoly wrong

#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 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 contain 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.

How to play Scrabble board game
How to play Scrabble board 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.

Dominion?

Have you played Dominion the board game?

See results

#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.

Thirty-six cities are there, each connected by one or two railroads. These lines are made up of one to six spaces, and are one of eight colors; red, yellow, black, purple, white, blue, brown, green and gray. The tickets deck is then shuffled, and three cards are dealt to each opposing player. Players may choose to discard one of these two cards, but must keep at least two of them.

Then the train cards are shuffled, and four cards are dealt to each opposing player. The remainder cards are shuffled and placed next to the board, then five of them are turned over and placed face-up next to the draw pile. The player who has traveled the most distance goes first, and then action continues clockwise around the table. This game won the Origins Award for Best Board Game in 2004, and it was well deserved, super fun and exciting game.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Michael Kismet

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      • profile image

        Dyanira 

        4 months ago

        I also play with my Grandma Hangman, card games too, and depwnds on my cousins board games arsenals. I also had Candyland, checkers, chinesse checkers, Parchessi, Trouble, Some based in toy characters or cartoon characters too. This brings me toons of good memories and ideas to got some more board games. To teach and play with my boys

      • profile image

        Johnygamer 

        4 months ago

        I found this small company called Adacio from Silicon Valley that has created a game called latice. We play it as a board game but their iOS app is actually also quite entertaining and helps us practice. It is simple to learn and has depth!

      • profile image

        Hazel 

        5 months ago

        I like this site, It helps me with my project

      • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

        Michael Kismet 

        6 months ago from Northern California

        I want to thank everyone for taking the time to share their opinions and insights on my list of classic board games. I've been getting many messages about including more modern board games, to which I have taken much to heart.

        It led me to consider changing the article's title to "The Top Ten Classic Board Games of All Time". Additionally, I am planning to write another article that highlights new and popular board games currently being played today.

        Again, thank you so much for all the feedback, I assure everyone it has not fallen on deaf ears!

      • profile image

        dunwich 

        6 months ago

        Hey, I wanted to suggest some modern alternatives that I consider to be more fun and accessible!

        Not saying they are better, but I personally enjoy them more. I feel that if you give them a try, you may like them too!

        1. If you like Chess, try "Onitama".

        Much easier to teach than chess, but with an arguably deeper strategy. Here there are only 5 possible moves that the pieces can take (originally grabbed from a deck of cards). Both players will use these 5 moves the rest of the game, but in a rotating fashion.

        2. If you like "Stratego", try "Confusion".

        It's basically reverse stratego where your opponent can see your pieces (and you see theirs) and try to figure out which piece is which, extremely fun to play.

        3. If you like "Monopoly", try "Chinatown".

        No player elimination, much shorter playtime (the game plays over a specific number of rounds, winner is whoever has the most money at the end). Has the perfect combination of luck and strategy, lots of buying and trading! Once you play Chinatown, you will never play Monopoly again.

        4. If you like "Risk", try "Smallworld".

        A fantasy themed game where the combinations of races are practically endless. The interesting thing is, you don't pick a race and get stuck with it, that race will eventually decline and you need to pick another one. Use their unique powers to conquer your opponents' territories (lower chance of player elimination than Risk, and also plays over a limited number of rounds).

        5. "Settlers of Catan" is a fine gateway game. If you like it, I think you'll enjoy "Honshu" and "Carcassone"!

        6. If you like "Scrabble", try "Werewords" or "Codenames".

        Maybe it's because English is my second language and most of my friends are from different countries, but I try to avoid word games. However, "Werewords" and "Codenames" are excellent choices where even non-native speakers have a good chance of winning and having fun!

        7. If you like "Battleship", try "Escape from the aliens in outer space" or "Captain Sonar".

        The first one is basically a team battleship with aliens and humans, but no one knows who the aliens and humans are. Eventually the roles are revealed as the game progresses, and the aliens try their best to hunt down the humans, who are running desperately towards the exit of the spaceship.

        Captain Sonar is played in two teams in real time. They try to move their submarine along a grid while also firing at the opponent. Awesome game.

        8. If you like "Clue", try "Mysterium" or "Deception: Murder in Hong Kong".

        Mysterium is a cooperative version of "Clue" where the players try to guess the place, weapon and killer. One player is the ghost sending them psychic "visions" as clues to help them out.

        Deception is kinda similar, except one person IS the murderer, and the rest of the players are trying to figure out who it is (while the murderer tries to throw them off so they'll accuse someone else).

        9. "Dominion" is also a fine gateway game =)

        10. "Ticket to ride" is also a modern classic. If you ever want something more complex, try out "Scythe"!

      • leahlefler profile image

        Leah Lefler 

        6 months ago from Western New York

        We love Ticket to Ride! It is one of the best new board games. I am planning on purchasing Settlers of Catan for next Christmas. We really like playing board games in the winter and I love the interaction we get from our kids - playing a traditional board game is a lot better for them than playing with electronics!

      • profile image

        Matt 

        11 months ago

        I've enjoyed most of these games immensely in the past. Fortunately websites like boardgamegeek and YouTube have helped me discover newer and much more enjoyable games to add to this list. If you like chess, monopoly, risk, scrabble and clue, you might be interested in The Dice Tower's new series "10 games better than" on YouTube. Tons of good games out there! Have fun!

      • profile image

        Mary Lynn larson 

        14 months ago

        Where may I find value of "kojak" game and "zigzag zag zoom".

      • sparkleyfinger profile image

        Lynsey Harte 

        2 years ago from Glasgow

        I have played about half of these games- the classics, you may call them. I am actually looking at growing my board game collection, so will be sure to check out some of the others you have mentioned.

      • HoverLock profile image

        Hannah Overlock 

        3 years ago from Maine

        This is a great list of games! Have you ever played 7 Wonders? It is similar to Settlers of Catan, but is more civilization-based.

      • profile image

        Ramita 

        3 years ago

        Taboo would be my first suggestion. It is loads of fun for paietrs and for adults. You can play in teams. I've played with as many as 20 or more people, and everyone was laughing and having a great time.Scattergories is another option. Again a lot of fun, fast paced, and entertaining.Trivial Pursuit is an interesting game, though might not get to be as entertaining for large groups as the previous two. For groups up to about 8 I think it is a fun game.Don't forget card games. They can be a good choice as well hearts, spades, bridge, rummy.

      • Country-Sunshine profile image

        Country Sunshine 

        3 years ago from Texas

        I always loved board games, especially Risk, Battleship and Scrabble. My friends & I played many a game of Monopoly, although I was never very good at it. Our favorite game was "Life".. .

        It's a shame that most kids now play games online instead of around a board. But that's a whole other story...

      • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

        Michael Kismet 

        3 years ago from Northern California

        Hello "Bensen" thank you for your input, Risk is my favorite conquer-based board game for sure, but I had to consider the masses of board game fanatics before my own board game proclivities.

      • bensen32 profile image

        Thomas Bensen 

        3 years ago from Round Lake Park

        I never heard of the last two but I would have to vote Risk as my favorite of all of them.

      • grand old lady profile image

        Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 

        3 years ago from Philippines

        Growing up in a family of six kids, board games were a common form of entertainment. We particularly liked Monopoly. You've added a lot of interesting info about this game. You forgot to add chutes and ladders. I liked that one a lot. My Mom liked Scrabble.

      • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

        Michael Kismet 

        4 years ago from Northern California

        Thank you Alicia for your input, maybe we can engage in some hot and sweaty, passionate bout of online Scrabble?! See what I did there? =)

      • Michael Kismet profile imageAUTHOR

        Michael Kismet 

        4 years ago from Northern California

        Paula!!

        It sounds like you had a very positive childhood, many aren't so lucky. Your dad sounds like a real stand up guy, I however grew up without a Father. Oh, that sounds like a good idea for a hub "How to grow up without a Father".

        Eureka! What an idea, see how you inspired me? I just changed my profile picture, it is highly inappropriate I think. Any picture with your nipples out is inappropriate, at the very least unprofessional.

        Yet I never proclaimed to be a professional writer, just an amateur, now my profile picture reflects that truth. =)

        M

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Board Games....ahhh, now there's a memorable blast from my past. My sister and I did a swell job of entertaining ourselves at home with board games. Clue was a favorite, followed closely by Scrabble. Our Dad taught us to play Chess, but that required seriousness and strategy.......really Dad, we're trying to have FUN here!

        Every once in a while, when my sister and I had been little Angels.....(well, OK.....on rare occasions)....our parents would suggest we play a board game as a family. Our Dad being the ultimate King of Comedy, the laughing became the important part, with the object of the game a secondary consideration.

        Those were the days. I recently asked 2 of my grandsons if they'd like to play Monopoly. That was the quietest and most stunned I had ever seen them. There they were, frozen in spot, staring at me like 2 deer in headlights. Easy as I am, I let them off the hook. "Nah, never mind boys, Gram was just kidding." They happily went back to their video game.

        Gosh Michael.....thanks for the walk down Memory Lane....even if it brought a tear to my eye......Up+++

      • AliciaSummers profile image

        Alicia Summers 

        4 years ago from Brooklyn, New York

        I also love playing scrabble when I was a kid and even until now. Most of the time, I play the game online through Facebook app. I just find it interesting playing scrabble and this is my most preferred game to play. By the way, I play scrabble both on a game board and online.

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