Board games for people who hate board games

April 6 | Guest post by Rachael
Cluedo
Does this photo fill you with dread? No fear, here are some games that won't make your anxious… (Photo by: timmy2wheelsCC BY 2.0

My fiancé is a board game geek — we have over 100 board games! The problem is that I'm not such a big fan, and am also a massive sore loser (we both are!). It's something we talk about a lot, because he loves board games so much (and goes to a gaming club twice a week) but when he wants to play at home, I'm never really interested. So he has to try and find games that I will like, so we can play at home.

Here are the board games we play… these are board games for people, like me, who don't especially like board games.

Carcasonne:

This one is my all-time favorite — I generally love tile and dice games.

Zombie Dice:

Since this is a dice game, it's really just pure luck. Basically, you're a zombie trying to eat as many brains as you can (you need 13 to win).

Okko:

Okay, so I haven't played this yet. We just got it, but it looks super awesome! It's a two-player miniatures game about samurais and ninjas.

Takenoko:

This one is a super-cute game that's pretty good with two players. Most importantly, it's got a panda in it. You HAVE to check it out, I love it.

Tsuro:

Another one of my favorite games! You're a dragon flying around, and you place tiles and move according to the line on the tile. You can crash or fall off the board, but basically you have to try and last the longest.

Guillotine:

This is a card game that comes with its own cardboard guillotine! You try and collect as many high-ranking French nobles as you can. This one we sometimes take to the pub and play there.

Fluxx:

This one is super-awesome. There's so many themed versions as well, which is really cool. It's a card game, but the rules are constantly changing, and is really good for two players. It's great because it can all change so quickly — the other person might be about to win, then you play a card and suddenly you're on top.

Ticket To Ride:

This is a fantastic game that involves a little strategery. The Europe board is the best one. It can get a little competitive and I tend to pout in the game — but it's so fantastic that I don't even care.

Things:

This one is great with larger groups of people, and it's hilarious! (Just make sure you play with funny friends.)

There's probably tons more that I could suggest, but those are definitely some of my favorites. Now I'd love to know your favorite board games for people who hate board games!

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  1. My husband is also a boardgame/role playing/war gaming geek. The game that won me over was Mice and Mystics. https://www.amazon.com/Mice-and-Mystics-Board-Game/dp/B009TNOF9G

    It's a co-operative game in which you play a group of characters who have been turned into mice by magic and are on a mission to save the kingdom from an evil enchantress. It's really good fun and it tells a great little story.

    2 agree
  2. If you're not generally into board games, it's worth looking into cooperative games like Forbidden Island and Pandemic.

    You're all on the same side against the game, so it's a different feeling to playing competitively against each other (especially if you play for board game geeks – nothing sucks the fun out like losing repeatedly because one person knows the quirks of the game better).

    13 agree
    • Thank you! These are exactly the kinds of games I'm always looking for! My husband is a huge video gamer, but we have a lot of friends who are into board games and I have the same problem with both board and video games- I'm a very competitive sore loser who hates to be singled out. So in the past I've just stayed away from games because nothing is fun enough for me to justify feeling angry and embarrassed about a stupid game, but PvE games are just my style!

      1 agrees
    • OMG my husband got Pandemic as a gift or something and loved it so much he bought all the expansions, and he never shuts up about Pandemic, and I won't even play with him anymore because I'm so tired of it! Hahaha.

    • Based on this recommendation, I got Forbidden Island for my son and I yesterday and… HE LOVES IT OMG. We've been big into cooperative games for a while (cuz wow my kid is a sore loser), but had been playing more little kid games like Lost Puppies… but Forbidden Island is a step up for us and super fun!

      1 agrees
      • Forbidden Desert is also fun (you build a steampunk flying machine) but it's not quite the utter perfection that Forbidden Island is. Like, against almost any other game, brilliant, but it's only 95% as good as Forbidden Island.

        (annoyingly, we've lost a tile when moving, and there's no real way to sub a different tile in)

  3. I totally second collaborative games, if you’ve never played this sort it’s real eye opener!

    I used to be totally anti- board games for two reasons, firstly I had been bored to tears by long games of monopoly as a child and so assumed all games were like this and then when I did try a few games with friends I seemed to be really slow at picking up the rules and frequently got totally left behind. I am generally not competitive, by which I mean I like to play to see if I can make my plans work more than for the joy of winning and if I’ve been able to do that a bit I don’t mind if I am not the ultimate winner but what I don’t like, and what no one likes, is losing when you are totally totally outclassed and you’ve barely got a chance to really play. Unfortunately if you are the last person to have learnt the game (frequent role of gaming newbie) this happens to you a lot. Gaming is about learning, something we get rusty about as adults.

    However, the good news is that the more you play the quicker you pick up and learn new games. Even better is when you learn a new game with a group and are no longer the one who is behind. Even, even, better is when the game you are learning as a group is a collaborative game. Because with this sort of game you all work together to beat the game, each turn is collaborative and discussed by all players so the learning phase is very quick and mutual. My all time favourite collaborative game that I’ve used to turn many a non-gamer (yes, I’m a pusher now) is Pandemic:

    https://www.amazon.com/Z-Man-Games-ZMG-71100-Pandemic/dp/B00A2HD40E

    I totally love the combo of luck and strategy required and the way that the game differs each time depending on what player roles have been randomly selected which changes what special abilities the group has and makes it either easier or harder to beat the game and save the world!
    A similar game is Shadows Over Camelot where instead of being Scientists rushing all over the world trying to cure constantly outbreaking diseases you are Knights of the Round Table going on quests and dealing with constantly invading Picts and Saxons.

    https://www.amazon.com/Days-of-Wonder-DOW-7401/dp/0975277383

    If this all sounds a bit too harmonious then there is bio-terrorist extension for Pandemic and a Traitor role in Shadows over Camelot to shake thing up a bit …

    2 agree
    • Have you fallen into Pandemic Legacy yet? It's incredible, and entirely worth the money even though you're limited in how many times you can play it, and oh dear god did it start getting tense as we're neared the end. I am chomping at the bit for the sequel.

      1 agrees
  4. Carcassone is a house favorite here as are some of the others.
    I regularly play Catan adding the Knights extension with a group in my neighborhood.

    My 11 year old son plays those games and is particularly good playing the the games below….

    Another house fave is Splendor which can play 2-4 people and is easy to learn and quick to play. In fact, it can be so quick that we added house rules to make it more difficult and last longer.
    https://www.amazon.com/Asmodee-SCSPL01-Splendor-Board-Game/dp/B00IZEUFIA

    Other games we play regularly is Machi Koro
    https://www.amazon.com/IDW-Games-665IDW-Machi-Koro/dp/1631400924/

    Rise of Augustus
    https://www.amazon.com/Rise-of-Augustus-Board-Game/dp/B00BLYLJ8G

    Istanbul
    https://www.amazon.com/Alderac-Entertainment-Group-5809-Istanbul/dp/B00IVF4UK2/

    …and 5 Tribes. This one is more complex, but worth it.
    https://www.amazon.com/Days-of-Wonder-DOW-8401/dp/B00L6JDRE0/

    1 agrees
  5. I am a board game person, but after our son was born my husband became obsessed with them. He wanted an activity we could do at home that could also include other people.

    In the 2.5 years since Nicholas's birth we've added well over 100 games to our collection(plus a daughter to the family). He backs kickstarters, orders large amount of games when they go on sale(he is very good about not spending too much), he built a table top for our dining room table, and he even created an IOS App dedicated to board games, because he didn't like what was available in the App store.

    Like I said, I am a board game person, but I, like you am a sore looser. Well, not a sore looser, but a sore player when I find the game has mechanisms that I find unfair, which are leading to my loss(So, yeah, sore looser). The thing is, after we finish the game, I realize it isn't the game's fault, it's that I wasn't paying enough attention to the rules at the outset. Because of this, my husband knows he has to introduce games slowly to me.

    When I love a game, I LOOOOOOVE it. I can play Dominion all day long, and never tire. But, my husband needs more variety. I'm glad he has a weekly board game group to help with this. And, when we have people over for board game nights, we play things that aren't too heavy and long.

    Also, I've found that my sore "looserness" goes away with larger groups. Many of these board games say they are for 2 players, but really you need 4 to really enjoy them.

    I would also say that cooperative games are the best answer to being a sore looser, as you are all fighting for the same thing.

    So, Pandemic, Eldrirch Horror, Mansions of Madness, Sherlock Holmes, Forbidden Desert/Island, and Hanabi are ones I've enjoyed.

    However, I will say that many of the cooperative games can get frustrating, because they developer makes it REALLY hard to win, and I get annoyed at times.

    Some of the games I love that aren't cooperative in nature, and you may or may not are: Tokaido, The Castles of Mad King Ludwig, Splendor, Star Realms, Dominion, Love Letters (I like the Adventure Time version), Jaipur, Dixit, and Five Tribes.

    I hope you can find even more games that you like!

  6. Came here to second the recommendation for Pandemic. Also the Legendary games are great deck building co-ops (Marvel Legendary, if you're into superheros or Legendary Encounters, if you're into Aliens). Another one we play a lot with family is Tokaido. It's sort of like a Japanese version of the game of Life; super chill, and a lot of fun with pretty art.

  7. I 100% second Flux as a great game for non-game people. My husband isn't a game person but I've gotten him into a few due to monthly game nights with both my brother and with friends. I have 2 additions for the list:

    Pit: It is an old stock market style game that we all rolled our eyes at when Mom gifted it for Christmas. Turns out it is quick, loud, and hysterical. Easy to play and oddly addicting. Good with 3-6 people, we've tried it with 8 and the game goes on a lot longer.

    Betrayal at House on the Hill: It is a B rated horror movie brought to life in a board game. Husband loves it because he loves bad horror movies but it is collective similarly to Pandemic.

    3 agree
    • We love Betrayal at House on the Hill. It's one that we've gotten some of our friends into that are not big game people, and it's now requested to be brought to parties etc.

      We also really like Catacombs which involves flicking a little wooden disk at monsters.

      Mysterium is also a really fun game if you've got a small group. It's sort of a combination of Dixit and Clue. One player is a ghost and all the other players are psychics. The ghost is trying to communicate with the psychics through a series of image cards the details of its murder and isn't allowed to talk to the other players at all. It's partially competitive and partially cooperative.

      • Mysterium is the best! I recently planned a Mysterium-themed dinner party, complete with dry ice, lots of candles, Ouija board, and tarot card decorations, and everyone (gamers and non-gamers alike) loved it.

      • Mysterium is a lot of fun, but be prepared that the first one it will take a lot of patience to set up and figure out. The 2nd time was a blast though!

  8. Thanks for the awesome suggestions! My husband and I actually had a board game themed wedding!

    I'll add in my vote on cooperative games. They're my favorite as well. Marbles the Brain store has a great selection of unique games, and they've even got a recent shelf space at some target stores in the board game aisle. It's worth going to an actual marbles store if you can (they tend to only be in big cities unfortunately) because they have games out for you to test drive.

    About that ticket to ride pouting. I once had to take a month-long break from TTR because my husband intentionally blocked me, causing me to lose (he stole the one-car spot by Nashville). I was so mad at him because I don't play that game to harm others, I play it to test if I can accomplish my goals. He didn't need this space, he just stole it soley because I couldn't have it!

    Here's a picture of our board game display: https://instagram.com/p/BAfHl2Lo5ZY/

    1 agrees
  9. Two games I love: Wits & Wagers (a group trivia game where you bet on who has the closest answer, all answers are numerical) and Munchkin (a character-building game that speaks to more D&D lite crowds). Neither takes a lot of expertise, both require strategy, and my (admittedly very nerdy) husband and I have a TON of fun playing these with our very non-nerdy friends/family.

    1 agrees
  10. Terror in Meeple City (formerly known as Rampage) is a lot of fun for board gamers and non-board gamers alike. Setup and rules take a little bit of time, but it pays off once you get going. You play as a monster attempting to destroy a city by jumping on buildings, throwing cars, etc. We've played it with people of the "Monopoly ruined board games for me for life" persuasion, and even they had a good time. Fair warning, though, pieces do tend to go everywhere.

  11. BOARD GAMES YAAAY!!!

    So many good recs here! One I haven't seen mentioned yet that's popular in my grad school department is Hanabi. It's like cooperative solitaire in that the group is trying to build up piles of cards from 1 to 5, but the twist is that you can't see what cards you have in your hand, so you're all relying on each other for success. Since it's a deck game it's cheaper than some board games and very light weight.

    I also can't imagine my boyfriend's mom caring about the rules for Catan, but after I brought it over once or twice she is now obsessed with a game called Qwirkle. It's like scrabble in that you have a hand of tiles that you take turns laying down in rows, but it's all colors and shapes. Easy enough for children or drunk friends.

    Also – has anyone else played noncompetitive Carcassonne? In my house, we sometimes just take turns putting the tiles down in the most aesthetically pleasing way for a meditative and satisfying bonding experience, lol.

  12. I generally dislike board games (I don't like the process of "set everything up, explain the rules, play a trial round to make sure people understand" and keeping track of things, or embarrassing myself a la Cranium, etc– I wish fewer of my friends were Board Game People) but I love Guillotine, and Munchkin is along those same lines. There's a Sushi one that's sort of a card collecting one, whose name I totally can't remember, and that one can be pretty cool too once you get the hang of it. We have had some fun times with Hedbanz and Quelf, although those delve dangerously close to the "let's embarrass ourselves" category so if you don't like that genre you may want to pass on those.

    I also enjoy adult-i-fying games I enjoyed as a child, such as "Baby-Sitters Against Humanity" (combining the Baby-Sitters Club game with Cards Against Humanity– "who did Mary Anne go to the dance with? The Swedish Tempur-pedic Sleep System" etc) or "Uncle Wiggily Drinking Game" which is pretty self-explanatory.

    • It's "Sushi Go!" and I second the recommendation. It's a favorite among my husband's family, none of whom (besides us) are board game geeks. It's also super-cute!

      1 agrees
  13. My boyfriend and I really love playing board games, but like a lot of you guys, he tends to be a sore loser. Since Oregon legalized weed, I've found it really helps him take the edge off and enjoy games even when he's losing (which is a lot, since he's playing me :)).

    Also, we've really gotten into Seven Wonders of the World lately because it's really difficult to tell who's winning, so no one can complain about losing!

    1 agrees
  14. Oh boy am I so there for this discussion. I second all of the recs for coop games when playing with sore losers. Another coop game I haven't seen listed here yet is XCOM: The Board Game. It's based on the video games, and boy is it hard, but super fun. You're basically trying to save the world from the alien attack. It uses a phone app to coordinate the alien attack, and there are multiple types of aliens and types of attack patterns. You can also change the difficulty level through the app. We tend to lose this game way more than we win it, but that just makes the victories so much sweeter.

    I also find team-based games good for countering the sore loser effect. I often feel much better about losing if I don't feel unfairly targeted. This is where games like The Last Night on Earth (zombie game where you play in teams of zombies vs. heroes.), The Phantom Society (haunted hotel game where you play ghosts vs. hunters), or The Resistance (you play a group of rebel fighters with government spies amongst you. The spies try to fail missions without being caught. I like this version of those secret identity games because no one technically gets eliminated. Are you a Werewolf, and Mafia are also fun, but once you're killed you just have to wait for the game to end.)

    Another game that counters that "unfairly targeted" effect is Cosmic Encounter. Everyone plays a different alien trying to make colonies in everyone else's home planets. However, the person you attack each round is determined randomly. There's an element of alliances that allow you to help other people during their turns either attack or defend, so you also don't just get bored waiting for your turn. You have to be careful about long term alliances though, because you don't control who you attack, and you might be forced to attack your ally. There's definitely some strategy to it, but not so much that you'll lose the game if you mess up a few times. Also everyone gets to play a different alien that has special abilities and those always throw wrenches in everyone's plans.

    Lastly, we have an unspoken house rule about targeting up. It's always okay to take down the person in first place. If you're in first, you go for your greatest threat. It's never cool to target the person in last place.

  15. For those of you that have never watched TableTop on YouTube, it is part of the Geek and Sundry Channel and they play a lot of these games. TableTop is hosted by Wil Wheaton and various nerdy friends and it's actually them playing the game, not just talking about it. The winner gets their name written on a cheerleading trophy with the piece of tape (winner keeps the tape, not the trophy), so it's always played in fun which is totally enjoyable. Watching always lets me preview the game and since a lot of the time friends have never played, it's nice to see how easy it is to learn. PLUS, Wil usually gives a quick run down of the game in the beginning of the episode.

    2 agree

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