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These 23 tabletop games rarely collect dust in our house because we reach for them again and again – and we’ve done so for many years. These are our absolute favourites, so we hope you find some inspiration in this list for your own game night. But first things first, what are we counting as a tabletop game?

What is a tabletop game?

A tabletop game includes board games, card games, dice games, miniature wargames, tile-based games and any other type of game that’s typically played on a flat surface, such as a table or board.

Many of our favourite tabletop games have a good balance of luck and strategy (hence the name of our blog). But we also have some favourites that are either purely luck-based or 100% strategy-based.

If you want to give your brain a bit of a workout while enjoying some quality time with your other half, friends or family (away from technology), then we hope you find something you like from this list of our favourite tabletop games.

Our Favourite Classic Board Games

top pick for classic board games
Monopoly board game

Monopoly

Monopoly, the game of buying and building on property and making everyone else bankrupt, is a classic for a reason. It’s one of the best-selling board games of all time and has the perfect balance of luck and strategy needed to win.

What We Like:

  • Collecting and winning money is enjoyable
  • Watching other players squirm is funny
  • Avoiding bankruptcy is exciting
  • It has a good balance of luck and strategy

What We Don’t Like:

  • It’s a long game so you need to commit hours to it on game night

Monopoly

Monopoly board game

Number of Players: 2-8 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Both

Monopoly, first patented in 1935 and now one of the best-selling board games of all time, likely needs little introduction. But just in case. To win the game, you need to escape bankruptcy, ideally forcing everyone else into being bankrupt through buying and building on properties dotted around the board, which you can collect rent on. Notice the properties get infinitely more expensive as you move around the board.

Where does luck come into it?

You never know what number you or anyone else is going to get when rolling the dice to move. Even if you build hotels on the most expensive spaces on the board, you can only collect rent if someone actually lands on your property. Also, there are “Chance” and “Community Chest” cards, which you or someone else may pick up during the game. These could be anything from “Won lottery; collect $100” to “Major flood; pay $50 per hotel owned.” And you never know what’s going to come up next.

Where does strategy come into it?

At times, you’ll need to strategically decide whether to buy a property or auction it off and when and where to build houses and hotels. Keep an eye on where people are landing more often and focus on building on those rather than just the expensive properties.

Why is Monopoly one of our favourite classic board games?

Monopoly is a classic for a reason and it’s got a good balance of luck and strategy. It’s enjoyable when things are going in your favour and you’re collecting money left, right and centre. It’s fun to watch the other players squirming when they have to pay large amounts of rent to you. And it’s exciting even when things aren’t going your way and you need to decide what your next move is. We also like that there are different versions of Monopoly – from different cities and themes like The Simpsons or Star Wars to variations like Monopoly Stock Exchange and Monopoly Deal. Perfect for collectors!

Simpsons Monopoly board game

Cluedo (aka Clue)

Cluedo board game

Number of Players: 2-6 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Strategy

Cluedo (or Clue in the US), invented in 1943 by a British board game designer, also needs little introduction. There’s even a movie based on the game! Your mission is simple: be the first player to work out who murdered Mr Boddy, in which room and with what weapon. Along the way, you can ask questions from your fellow players to help you solve the mystery. Listen closely to what’s being asked, but beware! Some players might try to trick you with the questions they ask. This game is more of a strategy-based game than anything else.

Where does strategy come into it?

Given the aim of the game is to solve a murder mystery, we’re classing Cluedo as a purely strategy-based game. Other than the occasional lucky roll of the dice, winning Cluedo is all down to you and the questions you ask your fellow players. Likewise, to prevent the other players from figuring out the mystery before you, you’ll also need to carefully consider the answers you give to your fellow players’ questions. All in all, Cluedo is a lot of fun and there are plenty of tactics that you can use to improve your chances of winning the game.

Why is Cluedo one of our favourite classic board games?

Just like Monopoly, Cluedo is a classic for a reason. It’s a lot of fun to try and solve the mystery of who murdered Mr Boddy. Essentially, you can be a Detective for the evening. And because you’re essentially in a race against your fellow players as to who’s going to work out the mystery first, a game of Cluedo is often thrilling and exciting. On top of that, it’s also enjoyable to be cunning in response to the other players’ questions to prevent them from solving the murder mystery before you. Because of all this, Cluedo (or Clue) often makes its way into our game night sessions.

BONUS: Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone – Mystery at Hogwarts

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Mystery at Hogwarts board game

Number of Players: 2-6 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Strategy

If you like Cluedo (and Harry Potter), then you might also enjoy the board game: Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone: Mystery at Hogwarts. Just like in Cluedo, you need to solve a mystery faster than the other players. The difference here is you need to work out which Professor caught which culprit casting which spell on which victim by asking the other players questions. During the game, you might pick up cards that will help you see other players’ cards or uncover shortcuts to help you move around the board faster. There’s also the ‘Peeves the Poltergeist’ playing piece that helps you block other players from entering rooms or going up staircases. Please note this game is now out of print, but you can sometimes find secondhand copies online.

Pay Day

Pay Day board game

Number of Players: 2-6 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Luck

Created in 1974 by Parker Brothers (now a subsidiary of Hasbro), Pay Day is a fun and fast-paced board game that’s been a part of my game collection since the ’90s. The board itself has 31 spaces (to indicate a day of the month) and each of them has a different action associated with them. One day, you might try your hand at winning the lottery against the other players while you might have to pay for a ski holiday or grocery shopping on another day. Along the way, you can also buy and sell properties. The aim of the game (just like Monopoly) is to be the richest player at the end.

Why is Pay Day a luck-based game?

Unlike Monopoly, there’s zero strategy involved with how much money you win or lose in Pay Day. It’s all based on what space you land on and which property cards you pick up (and whether you manage to sell them before the end of the game). During the game, you might also land on a space with a postbox on it, which will indicate how many “letter cards” you need to pick up. With these, you might end up paying bills or you may be lucky enough to collect money from other players.

Why do we love Pay Day?

Even though most of our favourite games have a good balance of luck and strategy, we always make an exception for Pay Day because of how fast-paced and thrilling it is. The fact that you’ll often win and lose money in quick succession means the game is also relatively indicative of everyday life (albeit you’ll likely end up richer in the game than in real life). Also, call us old-fashioned, but we can’t get enough of roll and move games. There’s just something so inherently classic and nostalgic about them.

Game of Life

Game of Life board game

Number of Players: 2-6 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Luck

Speaking of games resembling real life, this is most true of Game of Life – another classic. The aim of the game is simple: be the richest player once you reach retirement at the end of the game. Along the way, you’ll land on spaces that are either good news or bad news, such as winning the lottery versus paying for house repairs. While the game we all know and recognise today was first launched in 1960 by Milton Bradley (now Hasbro), surprisingly, there’s an earlier version of the game, which dates back to as early as 1860. It was called “The Checkered Game of Life” and you were able to collect points for each “good” space you landed on between “Infancy” and “Happy Old Age”.

Why is Game of Life a luck-based game?

Similarly to Pay Day, there’s practically zero strategy involved with how rich you are at the end of the Game of Life. It depends entirely on whether you land on “good” or “bad” spaces throughout the game and what the value is of the “Life” tokens you’ll also collect as you work your way around the board. Also, at the start of the game, you’ll blindly draw cards to indicate what your job is, how much your salary is worth and how much your house (and its insurance costs).

Why is Game of Life one of our favourite board games?

In some ways, Game of Life and Pay Day are fairly similar, so we love them for many of the same reasons. Game of Life is also relatively fast-paced and it’s thrilling not knowing what’s going to happen next. It’s also fun to find out what “Life” tokens you’ve picked up during the game. Who wouldn’t want to find out they’d authored a best-selling book or won the Nobel Peace Prize during their lifetime?

Scrabble

Scrabble board game

Number of Players: 2-4 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Both

Like many of the classic board games we’ve mentioned so far, the popular word game, Scrabble needs little introduction. It was first invented in 1931 and the aim of the game is simple: amass the most points via the words you’re able to make on the board. Each player has seven letter tiles each and each word you make needs to connect to another on the board. Along the way, you can score double and triple points for either the whole word or individual letters. Placing a “Z” on a triple word or triple letter square is one of the best feelings!

Where does luck come into Scrabble?

Although Scrabble is primarily a strategy-based game, there’s a dose of luck involved because you don’t know what letters you’re going to pick up and when. Or what words your fellow players are going to put down and where.

Where does strategy play its part?

To amass the most points in Scrabble, you need to be strategic about what words you play and where. For example, you wouldn’t want to place a word too close to a double or triple word square if it means your fellow players can score a whole heap of points against you. Winning a game of Scrabble is also not necessarily about who plays the longest or most interesting word. Playing “Zoo” on a triple word square easily beats a word like “Geese” or “Roaming”.

Why is Scrabble one of our favourites?

I’ve always had an interest in words, which is probably why I’m a full-time blogger. So, being able to score points based on what words I can create, is my idea of a good time. I also like that it challenges my brain. Ahem, I fully admit to being a nerd, by the way. I’m proud of it! As for my husband, Scott, he finds Scrabble interesting because you never know what words are going to come out each time.

Our Favourite Modern Board Games

top pick for Modern board games
Pandemic Epidemic card

Pandemic

Pandemic is a thrilling cooperative board game. To win, you need to work as a team to stop the spread of infection and find a cure for four types of disease. While there’s a dose of luck involved, this game is highly strategic and challenging. It’s designed for 2-4 players (or 2-4 teams), aged 8 and up.

What We Like:

  • The cooperative gameplay makes a nice change
  • Highly strategic, challenging and thrilling

What We Don’t Like:

  • It’s a tad expensive (unless you get it on offer)

Pandemic

Pandemic board game

Number of Players: 2-4 | Difficulty: Hard | Luck or Strategy: Both

Even though Pandemic was only launched in 2008 (by Z-Man Games), there are already several versions of the game. That suggests just how popular this relatively modern game is, and having now played it ourselves, we can totally understand why. Pandemic is a thrilling cooperative board game. To win, you need to work as a team to stop the spread of infection and find a cure for four types of disease. While there’s a dose of luck involved, this game is highly strategic and challenging.

How does luck play a part in the Pandemic game?

When you first set up the game, everyone draws a random card to be given a role in the game. There are 7 in total: Scientist, Researcher, Medic, Dispatcher, Operations Expert, Contingency Planner and Quarantine Specialist. Naturally, some roles are more beneficial than others. The Scientist, Medic and Researcher roles are some of the strongest ones. If you play the game with these, you’re much more likely to win against the board than if these roles aren’t chosen. Also, part of each player’s turn involves picking up cards, which either help or hinder you as a team.

Where does strategy come into it?

To prevent infection from spreading too quickly and causing a pandemic, you need to work strategically – as a team. As mentioned above, each of you will have a different role to perform throughout the game. By playing to each character’s strengths, you’ll be much more likely to find the cures. This requires careful thought and good communication with each other to work out what your strategy should be as you play.

Why is Pandemic one of our favourite modern board games?

A couple of our friends introduced Pandemic to us on a recent game night and we were instantly hooked. We actually played it twice in one night because we were beaten by the board very quickly the first time around. We managed to find the cures in plenty of time on the second go, though. Being a cooperative game meant it was a nice change from the usual “Take That” games we play together. We also found it fast-paced and exciting thanks to the element of luck involved.

Ticket to Ride USA

Ticket to Ride Original board game

Number of Players: 2-5 | Difficulty: Medium | Luck or Strategy: Both

Ticket to Ride is another relatively modern board game that now takes pride of place in our collection. The original version was launched in 2004 by Days of Wonder. Similarly to Pandemic, there are now several versions of Ticket to Ride, as well as various expansion packs. To win, you need to amass the most points, which you can do by placing trains on the board and completing routes between destinations. You can also gain extra points by having the longest connected train on the board, such as if you successfully join Los Angeles to Montreal or Miami.

What makes Ticket to Ride a luck and strategy board game?

We think Ticket to Ride has the perfect balance of luck and strategy, which is just one of the reasons why we like it so much. The luck element is dictated by two main things:

  • What routes you get at the start of or during the game
  • Which coloured cards pop up and when (you’ll always want a “Wildcard” to appear!)

As for the strategy element, you need to make careful decisions throughout the game, such as:

  • Which routes you’ll try to complete
  • Which direction you’re going (especially if another player blocks you)
  • When you should block other players from completing their routes
  • When (or if!) you should pick up more route tickets during the game

Why do we love Ticket to Ride?

Firstly, it’s travel-themed. As avid travellers (hence why we also have a travel blog), we love that we can combine our love of travel and tabletop games with this one. Of course, the balance of luck and strategy elements keeps the game challenging and exciting.

BONUS: Ticket to Ride Europe

Number of Players: 2-5 | Difficulty: Medium | Luck or Strategy: Both

As I mentioned earlier, there are now several versions of Ticket to Ride. We have the Europe edition and love it for the same reasons as the original. However, we also enjoy the slightly more challenging parts of this version thanks to new concepts of ferries and tunnels. Ferries are included in some of the routes on the board and they require special “Wildcards” for you to be able to head in that direction. While tunnels mean you can piggyback off someone else’s route if you’re blocked (and they can do the same to you!)

RELATED: Beware Of Counterfeit Ticket To Ride Board Games!

Taboo

Taboo board game

Number of Players: 4+ (teams) | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Both

While Taboo is slightly older than the other modern board games on our list, it was only launched in 1989, so it’s not yet a classic. At least compared to iconic games like Monopoly and Scrabble. This easy and fun game involves working in teams. You’ll have to give each other clues about what word you have on your card and they need to guess as many of the words you’re describing within the time limit. But you can’t say any of the “Taboo” words or you’ll get buzzed by the other team. The first team to reach the end of the board (thanks to guessing more words correctly) wins!

Where do luck and strategy play their part in Taboo?

While this game is primarily strategy-based (you have to think quickly and speak coherently so your team can guess the words correctly), luck also plays its part in what words you pick up and whether they’re ones you can accurately describe.

Why do we love the game of Taboo?

Taboo is a fun, fast-paced, word game. Based on everything we’ve already said about our favourite tabletop games, need we say more? Probably not.

Our Favourite Lesser-Known Board Games

top pick for lesser-known board games
Midnight Party board game

Midnight Party

Midnight Party is a thrilling luck-based game where you need to escape the ghost by jumping into rooms dotted around the board. Otherwise, you’ll lose points. The winner is the person who has the highest score (even if it’s negative) after three rounds.

What We Like:

  • Easy to learn and set up
  • It’s exciting and fast-paced thanks to the luck element

What We Don’t Like:

  • It’s now sadly out of print, so you can only buy secondhand copies (if you’re lucky!)

Midnight Party

Midnight Party board game

Number of Players: 2-8 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Luck

Midnight Party, sometimes also called Hugo or Escape from the Hidden Castle, was published in 1989 and is now sadly out of print. But, given it’s one of our favourite games (and we’ve since convinced our friends to include it in game nights), we just had to include it in this list. It’s a simple and easy-to-learn game where you must avoid getting caught by the ghost by escaping into rooms dotted around the board. But as you might expect, there are caveats:

  • Only one person is allowed in each room at a time
  • You must roll the exact number to enter a room
  • Some rooms give you extra points – and some take them away
  • When the ghost icon on the dice comes up, Hugo (the ghost) moves forward three spaces
  • You lose points every time you’re caught

Why is Midnight Party a luck-based game?

Other than deciding where to place your playing pieces at the start of each round, this game is almost purely luck-based. Whether you escape the ghost or not is decided by a roll of the dice every single time. Thrilling!

Why do we love Midnight Party?

Midnight Party is one of our favourites mainly because of the luck element. It’s exciting and fast-paced because you never know when the ghost is going to move forward and whether you’re going to get the number you need to escape into a room. And with multiple people rolling the dice? You’d better watch out!

Diamond Hunt

Diamond Hunt board game

Number of Players: 2-6 | Difficulty: Easy | Luck or Strategy: Both

Diamond Hunt is another of our favourite board games from the ’80s; now also out of print. Originally released in 1983, Diamond Hunt is a simple, yet thrilling game. The idea is simple: you need to find the ‘African Star’ diamond before anyone else and get back to your starting point to win. However, along the way, you might be robbed by bandits or receive penalties making you skip turns or move forward by just one space at a time.

Where does luck come into Diamond Hunt?

Almost everything that happens in Diamond Hunt is decided by two things: the roll of the dice and what’s under each tile you turn over. You can only turn over a tile if you land on it and roll a 4, 5 or 6 on your next turn. While you might find jewels or the elusive ‘African Star’ diamond, you might also uncover blank spaces or bandits.

Where does strategy come into it?

While Diamond Hunt is mostly a luck-based game, there’s a tiny dose of strategy involved. For example, will you try to reach certain “bonus” spaces before anyone else? These could earn you extra money, which you can spend on boats and planes to move around the board faster.

Why do we love Diamond Hunt?

Diamond Hunt is a simple and easy-to-learn game without any complicated rules. The fact that you don’t know what’s under each tile makes the game exciting. And it can sometimes be fairly fast-paced (especially if several of you are playing). It makes a fun filler game during longer game night sessions.

Our Favourite Card Games

While we’re on the subject of our favourite games, we also love playing card games. Here are a few of our favourites and the reasons why:

  • S*%thead: This is probably our favourite regular card game (and not just because of its name). Various “magic” cards help you get rid of your cards faster, but there are also “hidden” cards at the end of the game. This one has the perfect balance of luck and strategy.
  • Blackjack (the “real” version): Similar to Uno where certain cards are “action cards”. Watch out for the black Jacks that make you pick up 5 cards!
  • Rummy: A game of luck and strategy where you need to make “sets” in your hand. But you never know what cards are going to come up next!
  • Cribbage: Where math and card games kind of collide! You score points based on certain “sets” you have in your hand. The player to reach 121 points the fastest, wins.
  • Dobble: This commercial card game is a bit like “Snap!” where you need to match icons the fastest to win. We have the Harry Potter version, which means we can randomly shout “Crookshanks!” and “Dumbledore!” as loud as we like.
  • No thanks! This is another simple commercial card game, but a fun one. You need to score the lowest amount of points to win, which is decided by the numbered cards you’ll pick up and how many counters you’ll “steal” from other players. This one is both luck and strategy rolled into one!
  • Exploding Kittens: Another simple yet fun commercial game. The idea of this one is to avoid getting “blown up” by an Exploding Kitten card. You have various action cards to help you.

RELATED: Exploding Kittens Review – Is It Fun For Adults?

Exploding Kittens action cards

Other Tabletop Games We Love

Finally, there are several other tabletop games we love that don’t fall into either board games or card games.

  • Dominoes: No, not the pizza. Although we like that too! There are various games you can play with Dominoes, but our favourite is probably “Blind Dominoes”.
  • Perudo aka Liar Dice: This game is a lot of fun on game night! Essentially, it’s Poker but with dice you first keep hidden then pass around the group. Along the way, you have to declare what Poker hand you have (e.g. Full House, 4 of a Kind, etc). It’s up to the other players to decide whether you’re telling the truth or not.
  • Epic Escapes: We first played this trio of “at-home escape rooms” during lockdown and it was so much fun! A lot of cool stuff comes in the box to help you make your own escape room at home including a dictionary safe, UV lights, decoders and more.

BONUS: Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes

Although Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes is technically a video game, you need to have a copy of the codebook in front of you to play it. So we’ve included it in our list as a bonus suggestion. As a team of two, you must work together to defuse the bomb before it explodes. By communicating with each other, you must decode certain puzzles and riddles to defuse the bomb… against a 5-minute timer. It’s a lot of fun! Check it out >>

Over to you now…

Now you know what our favourite tabletop games are, what are some of yours? We’re always looking for game night inspiration, so drop us some recommendations in the comments below…

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