For me, some of the best board games are also some of the most enduring. Forget the new board games that are being released to correspond with the latest television shows or movies, give me the classics any day! This list features some of my favorite board games, though some favorite games without boards have been omitted – such as Yahtzee, Scattergories and Memory. Check out this list of the best board games for ideas on what to add to your collection.
Best Board Games – Monopoly
The grandaddy of all board games, this was originally conceived during the Great Depression. For decades, this has been one of the most popular board games in the world. According to game company Hasbro, who currently hold the distribution license for Monopoly in the United States, the game is sold in over 100 countries and has versions in more than 40 languages. Monopoly boasts several specialized versions, devoted to movies, popular television shows or local areas.
Best Board Games – Chess
This is the game of kings – literally. Chess originated in India and later traveled to Europe, where it evolved into the game we know today around the 1400s. Long known as a nerd’s game, being good at chess often gets you seen as being highly intelligent. In the 18th century, an automaton known as the Mechanical Turk (or simply “The Turk”) was touted as being better than man at the classic board game. The machine was reported to have beaten notable people of the time such as Benjamin Franklin. The catch? The machine wasn’t winning at all, but the chess player tucked inside it was – controlling the movements of The Turk’s mechanized arm.
Best Board Games – Scrabble
If you’re a vocabulary freak, this may be the best board game for you. Scrabble success relies on your ability to craft words out of random letters – bonus points if they’re rarely-used letters like X and Q! Like Monopoly, this million-dollar board game idea also originated from the time of the Great Depression. The game’s creator is reported to have studied the front page of the New York Times to help determine how often each letter of the alphabet was used. Back in April 2010, die-hard Scrabble fans went into a frenzy at the prospect of a new game (called Scrabble Trickster) which will allow the use of proper nouns. What the UK newspaper who broke the story neglected to mention was that this new version will only be released in the United Kingdom and will not replace the “standard” Scrabble board game or affect its rules.
Best Board Games – Trivial Pursuit
This classic trivia board game tests your knowledge in a variety of subjects – such as geography, science and sports. Several alternate versions of Trivial Pursuit have been produced since its late-’70s inception, including a Millenium edition and Disney editions. Some of these alternate versions also include different topics than the traditional “Genus” version of the game. Regardless of the version, the rules remain the same – collect wedges (or “pie pieces”) of each trivia category’s color first to win. Trivial Pursuit lends itself very well to team and group play, unlike many games that can only be played by a finite number of people at once. This is also a good way to play the game with children, who might not understand the answers or references otherwise.
Best Board Games – LIFE
LIFE is more than a century old, having been invented in 1860 by Milton Bradley himself. Also called “The Game of Life” today, the original game was called “The Checkered Game of Life.” The original board was also much different from the game board played on today, instead resembling a checkerboard. The Checkered Game of Life also didn’t make use of dice today’s LIFE’s spinner to determine movement, instead using an unusual top called a teetotum. After the game’s original release, it was reimagined a century later – which is the rough version of the game we know and love today. Upon its 1960 re-release, the game was heavily endorsed by television personality Art Linkletter, who appeared on the game’s $100,000 bills.
Best Board Games – Operation
Buzz! Since the mid-sixties, Operation has been teaching kids how to extract bits of plastic from surgical cavities with tweezers. That’s wholesome, right? Operation is based on a so-called wire loop game, in which twisted wire forms a closed circuit when touched with a piece of metal. When the circuit is closed, the electric current can emit noise or light, and does both in Operation. If you miss with the tweezers while trying to remove one of your patient Cavity Sam’s ailments (such as the Broken Heart or Charley Horse), his clownish nose will light up in bright red and a loud buzzing noise will emit from the game. Successful surgery equals great pay for the good doctor, so whoever performs the most accurate extractions wins!
Best Board Games – Clue
Clue originates from the United Kingdom, where it’s known by its original name – Cluedo. The popular murder mystery board game was originally named Murder!, but had its name changed when the Waddingtons game company picked it up. The name Cluedo is a mixture of the words “clue” and “ludo” – ludo being the name of another board game, which most closely resembles Sorry! or Parcheesi. In North America, the game’s host and victim is known as Mr. Boddy. In other parts of the world, including the game’s native UK, he’s referred to as Dr. Black. This name seems to make more sense, as the guests are also named for colors (Miss White, Colonel Mustard, etc.). Clue has had video games devoted to it since the days of the Commodore 64, and has also had its own feature film.
Best Board Games – Candy Land
A big hit with the toddler crowd, Candy Land takes Jack and Jill through Candy Land to find the lost King Kandy. This is a popular game among very small children due to the lack of reading skills needed. The cards used to move in Candy Land contain only pictures and colors, making it easy for kids to understand without the help of adults. In recent years, the game has undergone a few changes – changing Queen Frostine to Princess Frostine, and Princess Lolly to just Lolly, for example. The Grimace-like Plumpy creature has been removed from some versions of Candy Land completely, being replaced by a gingerbread tree known as Mamma Gingertree. In 2009, Universal Pictures announced the intentions to make a Candy Land movie, but no production or release details have been leaked since.
Best Board Games – Chutes and Ladders
Chutes and Ladders is another popular board game designed for young children. Built on a board of 100 squares in a 10×10 grid, the random gameplay makes it unpredictable. Like Clue (or Cluedo, depending on where you’re from), Chutes and Ladders is a regional name. Outside of North America, the game is better known as Snakes and Ladders. This too originated from an Indian game, and made its way through the United Kingdom before being released in the United States.
The game is also an example of a mathematical process called a Markov chain, used to determine probability. The Markov chain occurs in a situation where a next step is only influenced by the current step. For example: if a goldfish swimming in a bowl can go either left, right, or forward at any given time, that represents a Markov chain. The goldfish’s memory is too short to remember whether which way it swam last, and with equal choices has an equal chance of swimming in any of the possible directions. Pretty heavy stuff for a board game, huh?
Best Board Games – Sorry!
Sorry! is a simple racing and strategy board game, loosely based on the Indian board game pachisi (known as Parcheesi to North American players). Both Sorry! and pachisi are played with a game board known as a cross and circle, and require players to get all their pieces around the board and into their home base first. Sorry! Makes things a little more interesting using the slide squares on the board, which can be used to propel one’s own pieces forward or knock an enemy out of whack. Like many other current board games, Sorry! has had licensed versions devoted to popular cartoons – such as SpongeBob and Simpsons editions.
What do you think are the best board games? If it’s not featured here, what is your favorite board game?