Monopoly. Scrabble. Risk. Clue. Chess. These are some of the most popular and best-selling board games of all time, and chances are you’ve played most of them. These also tend to be the games that immediately enter into the consciousness of someone when you ask them to think of their favorite board game. For better or worse, they have become a part of the culture and symbols of the hobby the world over. But they are not without their wrinkles. Age has not been kind to them, and while some of them are still played in tournaments and for leisure, there is so much more available now that you would be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t try them out. If you like any or all of the games above, then these are for you.
#1. Ticket to Ride replaces Monopoly
Ticket to Ride is quickly becoming one of the most popular board games of the new era, and is supplanting, for many, Monopoly as the gold standard. It relies far less on luck, and not at all on dice rolling, but on a player’s own ability to carefully plan their actions and counter their opponent. Ticket to Ride is a set collection game where players claim train routes and connect two or more destinations together to earn points. There’s no money management or bidding, but players can block opponents, effectively monopolizing the routes and preventing them from accessing certain cities and completing their tickets.
Alternative Game: Power Grid
#2. Paperback replaces Scrabble
This fairly newcomer to the hobby is a deck builder where players compete to spell words and earn points in the form of money to spend on new letters. Check out my full review for more details, but in short, Paperback offers the same word-building concept of Scrabble with a far richer gameplay experience, more options when spelling words, and a much more visually pleasing presentation.
Alternative Game: Qwirkle
#3. Small World replaces Risk
Risk is an area control game with light combat that seems to go on forever. Small World is an area control game with light combat that has a round limit. Not only that, it has unique races and variable powers that can drastically change how the game is played every single time. This is a game that works exquisitely at all player counts – from 2 to 5 – and never outstays its welcome. Charming, tense, and deceptively deep. For my complete thoughts on the game, check out my review.
#4. Mysterium replaces Clue
Mysterium is a whodunit game where one player acts as the ghost and is attempting to communicate to the other players – the psychic investigators – the murderer, location, and weapon, but they must do so using only abstract clues in the form of cards, and they are not allowed to speak. Players have 7 rounds to correctly guess their own unique trio of evidence before the ghost must narrow it down to only one set.
Alternative Game: Fury of Dracula
#5. Onitama replaces Chess
If you like the level of depth and strategy that Chess provides, but feel too inadequate to play it, then Onimata is just for you. This takes the heft and extreme analytical anxiety out of the game and purifies it into a beautiful, brisk 2-player experience that has a small number of player “roles” that can completely change how each game is played.
Alternative Game: The Duke
Yahtzee is replaced by King of Tokyo and Bang! The Dice Game
Trivial Pursuit is replaced by Wits & Wagers
Battleship is replaced by Captain Sonar