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Board games have enjoyed a bit of a renaissance these past few years. When you were a kid, you probably played Parcheesi, Clue, Sorry, or Checkers to pass the time. As an adult, you might enjoy brain games or outdoor games. (Check out our article on brain games here, or our recommendations for outdoor games here!)
Those games are great – don’t get us wrong – but there are way better options out there nowadays. Board games have grown up in a big way. Best of all, they’re probably the best way to spend an entertaining, highly engaging evening indoors. If you potluck a bunch of side dishes with your friends, a board game can be the cheapest good time in the world. The initial investment for the game may seem steep, but remember you’ll spend way more going out to a bar!
These are some of the best 5 player board games. However, in a world where popular board games for adults are multiplying, think of them as a starting point. There are a lot of great games out there, from Game of Thrones-themed Monopoly to Dominion, that can occupy weekends away and nights in.
For the purposes of this list, we consider an ideal board game to be one that combines a dice game, a card game, and a board. Non-board games like Cards Against Humanity and Bananagrams are also a lot of fun, and they’re often quicker than involved board games. Check them out as cheap alternate plays!
- Settlers of Catan
- Ticket To Ride
- Betrayal At House On The Hill
- Other Great Tabletop Games
Settlers of Catan
You may already be familiar with Settlers of Catan. It’s an engaging island colonization game that involves economics, military strategy, luck, and planning. Not only is it easy to learn, but it’s fun for groups, too! In order to accommodate five players, you’ll need to use expansion packs. However, for this game, that’s completely worthwhile!
History Of The Game
Catan was one of the first tabletop games for adults to make a big splash. In 1995, German game inventer Klaus Teuber published the first version of this game in Germany. Its popularity skyrocketed, quickly growing beyond the borders of Germany. By 2015, it was available in 30 languages and had sold 22 million copies worldwide.
How To Play
The object of Catan is to make it to ten points before anybody else. You can gain those points by building roads, settlements, and cities. To do that, you’ll need to use resources that you can get by drawing cards based on the board locations where you’ve set your pieces. There’s even a military presence: a “robber.” Robbers look like chess pawns. You can move your game’s robber into other players’ territories to steal from them, stop them from getting resources, and generally mess up their strategy.
Games of Catan can last for a while, depending on how good the players are. When you play, it’s a good idea to make alliances and trade with other players. It’s a competitive game, but you’ll need to cooperate, too!
Catan is fairly easy to learn, although it can help to start with someone who already knows the game. Even middle-schoolers can grasp the concepts, although most of the people who enjoy this game are adults. The basic module of Catan is built for four players, but there’s an excellent expansion pack that lets up to six people play at once.
There are multiple expansion packs for Catan that vary the conditions of the game. Want to play with the added challenge of a barbarian invasion? There’s an expansion pack for that! How about pirates and an added fishing economy? That’s a thing, too.
There’s also a Catan app where you can practice playing. The app, called Catan Universe, is free, which means that it’s also an ad experience. If you get really serious, there’s a broader paid feature.
You need to own the base game already to enjoy these variations, but considering the hours of low-cost fun you’ll have after your initial investment, we think it’s worth it. Plus, these games are ideal for collective holiday gifts and presents for graduates. They may not be as cheap as some of our other recommendations, but if you’ve taken our savings advice, you may have a little extra change to throw at a present. Plus, think of how much use those games will get in your grad’s dorm!
Ticket To Ride
If you’re into cutthroat, fast-paced gameplay that’s easy to learn, then Ticket To Ride is a great game for you! The point of the game is to claim railway lines that stretch across the country. The original Ticket To Ride was based on the U.S., but since then, there have been many variations focusing on India, Germany, greater Asia, and more.
History Of The Game
Published in 2004 by Days of Wonder, Ticket To Ride follows on the tradition of German-style board games by focusing on complex strategy, abstract game pieces, and indirect player interaction. That means that you won’t out and out attack your fellow players in the course of this game. Instead, you’ll strategize to improve your situation until you crowd out your competitors!
Ticket To Ride is a multiple award-winner, having landed the Origins Award for Best Board Game of 2004, the 2005 Diana Jones Award, and the 2004 Spiel Des Jahres. It’s literally a winner that almost everybody loves, casual players and game critics alike.
How To Play
Ticket To Ride allows players to occupy train tracks with their pieces so that they can get from one place on a map to another. However, their destinations are all secret! The key is to block other players, hoping that they’re not bluffing about their own destinations while making sure that you can build an unbroken line of railroad cars to where you want to be.
In order to place game pieces, you need to draw and play cards in order. There are no dice in this game, and it’s effortless to pick up. If you want to play a game in mixed child and adult company, Ticket To Ride is a great game to choose.
You win the game when you get your line of train cars to your ultimate destination. Be careful, though! Any city to which your competitors build a line of their own might be a winner…for them.
The key to doing well in the game is often in knowing the board! Each new setting involves a new strategy for eating up as much track as possible. Like Catan, this board game also involves a card component and has lots of little pieces. However, learning it is much simpler.
There are quite a few expansion packs available for Ticket To Ride. Generally, they focus on changing up the map. Building a smart strategy in Ticket To Ride depends strongly on the geography of the board. Playing in a new country, like India or England, can transform this basic but highly addictive game into a whole new scenario.
There’s also an electronic version of Ticket To Ride that you can play by yourself. Maybe you want to hone your skills in preparation for the next game night! Be aware, however, that the digital version isn’t free. Basic access will cost you about $10, and expansions to other maps will cost about $2 apiece.
For an involved board game, Ticket To Ride has a fairly average price. The basic board game costs about $43. Expansion packs, including one just for kids, range in price. It’s worth noting that Ticket To Ride is sometimes included in bundles with Catan since both are popular party games. Bought together, the two games start at $92.
Betrayal At House On The Hill
Here’s a game that’s ideal for horror movie fans. If you haven’t heard of Betrayal at House On The Hill, then prepare to be wowed by the sheer scope and flexibility of this hauntingly fun game.
History Of The Game
The board game publisher Avalon Hill released this game in 2004. That same year, it won a Gamer’s Choice Award for Best Board Game. As soon as you start playing it, you’ll know where its inspiration comes from. References to classic horror movies like The Mummy and Dracula abound.
How To Play
Betrayal At House On The Hill is actually several games in one. In the first phase, players roll and move character pieces to open rooms in a haunted mansion. They encounter hazards around every corner, from bottomless pits to eerie phantoms. Every obstacle challenges their strength and sanity. Finally, a cue in the game triggers one of the players to turn traitor…and try and kill all the rest! The traitor receives supernatural power that makes them much more powerful than the other players, so the remaining “good guys” have to band together to defeat them.
Each betrayal is different and based on randomized factors. If you played Betrayal At House On The Hill thirty times, you might play thirty completely different scenarios. There is also an expansion pack, Widow’s Walk, that opens up a new floor replete with new twists in an already dizzying game.
This game tends to be quite expensive. The basic board generally runs about $30 at Target. That’s not counting the expansion, Widow’s Walk. However, consider what you’re getting for that amount of money. You won’t soon get sick of Betrayal At House On The Hill.
It’s worthwhile to mention that this game has a learning curve. If you’re used to board games, or if you’ve ever played a tabletop role-playing game, then you might take well to this one. However, if you haven’t, it’s best to read the instructions carefully and maybe find someone with experience to walk you through your first journey through the House on the Hill.
Be aware that this game really isn’t for kids. We’re quite serious about this. While Ticket To Ride and Catan might be accessible to older children, Betrayal will absolutely give young kids nightmares. If they’re too young for horror movies, they’re not old enough to play Betrayal with the grown-ups.
Do you like backstabbing? Monster killing? Ridiculous, fantasy-inspired puns? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then Munchkin is for you!
History Of The Game
The name “munchkin” derives from a term used in fantasy role-playing circles for an immature player. Typically, a munchkin feels that they’ve won when their player is as outrageously armed and armored as possible. This often becomes an issue because being armed to the teeth doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to win the game!
Steve Jackson, the creator of Munchkin, made it as a spoof on games like Dungeons and Dragons. In 2001, it won the Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game. However, the board is a critical component of Munchkin as well!
How To Play
To play Munchkin, you’ll need three to six people. Players start their tokens at Level 0 on the game board. Then, they take turns drawing cards for equipment, such as weapons; characteristics, such as profession; and spells. They’ll also draw cards for monsters, whom they’ll have to fight. As players defeat monsters, they progress through the levels of the board – AKA the dungeon – toward the final goal: Level 10!
The key is to get to Level 10 first. That means that you’d better use some of those noxious spells and pointy swords on the other players! Alternatively, you can play in a cooperative manner and help your fellow players defeat their monsters using your resources.
There are more expansions and variations to Munchkins than you can shake a singing sword at. These include holiday-themed packs, packs lampooning hipsters, and packs that include dinosaurs, aliens, and Cowthulhu, a take on H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic interdimensional demon god. You can find a full list of them here.
This means a few things. First, Munchkin never needs to get old. There’s no shortage of new cards and hilarity. Second, expansion packs are an unlimited resource for group gifts. If you know someone has Munchkin, then you already know what you’re getting them for the holidays. Finally, Munchkin can become an addiction. Consider yourself warned.
A copy of the basic Munchkin game costs as little as $15. You can usually find it in comic book shops and bookstores, too. Expansions will be additional, and if you have a lot of people playing, you might want to buy an extra deck of cards and additional playing pieces. Despite that, it’s easy to pile on players. In fact, the more people playing Munchkin, the more fun you’ll have! Add that to the very affordable price, and you’ve got yourself a winner of a game.
The nice thing about this game, aside from the fact that it’s completely hilarious, is that the rules are malleable. The clear, humorously illustrated instructions make it very plain that you can change them as you’d like. It’s very adaptable to your circumstances and quite easy to understand. While Munchkin is fairly basic in terms of engineering, the possible combinations of skills, silly equipment, and backstabbing opportunities make for an uproarious game every time. Some of the game’s references to goofy fantasy tropes can get a little racy, but usually in a nudge-nudge way that will go right over kids’ heads. Feel free to invite your pre-teens in for this one. It’s nearly a perfect party game.
If you’d rather play together rather than against each other, then Pandemic is the game for you. It’s also based on a frighteningly current and realistic premise: a worldwide disease event that threatens to wipe us all out!
History Of The Game
Pandemic was created in 2008 by Matt Leacock and published by Z-Man Games. Leacock also created the games Pandemic: Legacy (as you might expect,) Forbidden Desert, and Forbidden Island. This game has become one of the most successful cooperative games in history!
How To Play
The premise of Pandemic is that disease has broken out in four places worldwide. You can play as one member of a team of experts, including a medic, a researcher, and a dispatcher. The aim of the game is to discover the cure to each of the four diseases before they wipe out the human species. The only way to do this is through the combined effort of all the players.
To make this game playable by five people, you’ll need to buy an expansion pack. These include Pandemic: On The Brink, Pandemic: In The Lab, and Pandemic: State Of Emergency. They all change the game in a few ways, not just adding a fifth player, but adding a new role to play.
There’s also Pandemic: Legacy, a continuation of Pandemic: Legacy adds a storyline to the game – it’s full name is Pandemic: Legacy, Season 1 – and fleshes out the premise a little bit. If you like Pandemic, odds are good that you’ll like Legacy too!
As tabletop games go, Pandemic is relatively affordable. You can get the basic version for about $21 from Blinq, and the expansion packs run for about $23 from Target. That’s around $50 for a 5-person board game, which isn’t that bad when you consider the cost of going out instead.
Other Great Tabletop Games
There are many more tabletop board games to try! While a board game addiction can get expensive, it’s almost always cheaper than going out for a beer, to the movies, or a show. After all, a board game is a one-time investment which keeps giving! If you liked these games, also try these.
- Terra Mystica: Build buildings, cast spells, and compete against your friends with this game’s innovative power points system.
- Mansions of Madness: Ideal for fans of H.P. Lovecraft! One player takes the role of the keeper while the other four try to solve the mysteries of the game.
- Mechs vs. Minions: While it’s only for a maximum of four players, this cooperative game is great for small teams.
- Lords of Waterdeep: Based on Dungeons & Dragons, this game casts the players as rulers vying for political advantage.
- Star Realms: This science-fiction game, which is primarily card-based, lets you decimate your enemies.
- Burgle Bros: Cooperatively plan and execute the perfect heist in this game! While it’s ideally for four people, teaming up can be valuable here too.
- 7 Wonders: This highly acclaimed game focuses on building the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Try these fantastic tabletop games at your next group gathering! They’re fun, ultimately inexpensive, and build great relationships.