Playing board games is a great way to spend time with friends and family. It brings people together and promotes social interaction and teamwork. The satisfaction of outsmarting our opponents and winning the game is a joy.
There are many different board games available, each with its own unique gameplay and rules. The most common types include strategy, co-op, and role-playing games.
If we are new to the board game world and want to try a new hobby, or even if we’ve been playing board games for a while and want to start taking them more seriously, this article can help us decide which board game to try. This article will cover a few of these popular types of board games, so keep on reading.
How Many Types of Board Games Are There?
There are three main types of board games: abstract strategy board games, cooperative board games, and role-playing games. A board game can belong to any of these main genres and branch out to other types.
I’ll talk about the other types later in this article, but let’s focus on these three.
- First, we have abstract board games. These types require varying strategies and don’t necessarily follow a theme or storyline. The most common examples of abstract board games are Chess and party board games like Exploding Kittens (it’s also a card game, so that’s some fun cross-genre gaming).
- Cooperative board games have players working together to beat the competition. So, it’s either everyone wins, or everyone loses. The popular board game Pandemic is said to be one of the best co-op board games ever.
- Next, we have role-playing board games where the players assume a specific character, immerse themselves in a fictional world, and make moves based on what their character would most likely do. We also refer to this type of board game as TTRPG, which stands for Table Top Role Playing Games. A typical example is Dungeons and Dragons.
How Do You Categorize Board Games?
Board games tend to fit into one or more categories. Some simple ways of categorizing them include types of rules, mechanics, themes, settings, number of players, age range, how to win, and the game’s complexity.
Here are some simple ways people use to categorize board games.
Gameplay and mechanics
Does the game require cards or dice to do actions? How is the game played, and what are the other components of the game? These are a few game mechanics that can determine what kind of board game we have.
For example, a game that involves dice might be a roll–and–move or a roll–and–write type of board game.
Theme or setting
Games can be grouped depending on where the game’s setting is played. For example, we could end up in a fantasy world, or some games use actual locations and historical events. For example, several war board games fall into the history category of board games.
Number of players
Is it a solo game, a two-player game, or a group game? What do you know, there are three types of board games already!
Just like video games, there are some board games that certain age groups cannot play. It might depend on the elements of the game or how complicated the game is.
This is mainly for games with story-driven outcomes. A winning condition can be used to categorize games as well.
Let’s look at party games. Most party games are suited for all (or specified on the package) ages of gamers and have easy rules to understand.
When Did Board Games Genres Become a Thing?
Board Games existed back in ancient times. They were used in 5,000 BC because archeologists found a series of carved, painted stones resembling dice, making it the first gaming piece in history. However, the idea of formally categorizing games was an idea that came up in modern times.
I couldn’t find an exact date when these categories were made, but they became popular in the 20th century when board games were a big deal in almost every part of the world. Also, new games were coming out, and there was a need to put them into genres as a way to organize them.
Organizing them into specific genres also made it easy to market certain games because they knew exactly who their target audience was.
Being able to separate games into genres also makes finding them easier – and to be able to claim that they’re the #1 selling game in that genre. For this, we could probably look to online stores and sales as the beginning of at least well-advertised gaming genres.
What is the Most Popular Type of Board Game?
Pinpointing a particular board game as the most popular type is extremely difficult because the answer changes per region, country, culture, and individual preferences. Chess is the most bought and played board game of all time due to it being a classical game and a competitive sport.
Aside from Chess, Monopoly (which feels like it can go on forever) is also recorded as one of the most-bought board games in the United States. Throughout history, Hasbro has been releasing the same game in different designs and even updated the payment system in the game to become digitized.
Meanwhile, in recent years, games like Codenames have become popular party games, while Pandemic has become a fan-favorite co-op board game. Of course, we can’t forget Wizard’s Dungeons and Dragons as the most popular TTRPG in most of the world.
D&D is constantly talked about in several shows like Community and Stranger Things. There are even references to it in famous cartoons like South Park, Gravity Falls, and Dexter’s Laboratory.
What Are Some Different Types of Board Games?
Some board game types include party, solo, engine building, deck building, dexterity, worker placement, roll and write, roll and move, social deduction, and euro board games.
Party board games
Party Board Games are usually designed to be played by a group. The games are easy to learn and can be picked up right away. That also means one round of a party board game can end quickly. Codenames are a popular example of this type of board game.
Other examples are Exploding Kittens, Sushi Go, and Love Letter.
Solo board games
Solo board games or single-player board games are designed for only one player. Similar to co-op board games, where the enemy is the game itself, most solo games are designed for players to beat the game or at least survive it. Some games meant for groups also have a solo version, like Gloomhaven.
Engine-building board games
When we talk about engine building, it usually refers to a mechanic where players need to improve and manage different resources. Usually, they are pitted against one another, and the one who can improve their “engine” the furthest will be declared the winner.
This is the base explanation of the mechanics involved.
Deck-building board games
These are board games that deal with cards. Usually, the first set is dealt with, and players need to do specific actions to acquire more cards. Getting stronger cards would make it easier for players to win a game. If you’re interested in this type of game, check out Dominion, Magic the Gathering, or Pokémon.
Dexterity board games
Some board games require a few physical skills and grace. For example, have you ever heard of the board game called Jenga? That’s a great example of a dexterity game right there.
In these types of board games, players usually need to use their hands or other body parts to manipulate pieces to move in a certain way. The game “Twister” could probably fit this category and be a party game, too.
Worker placement board games
Worker placement board games require players to use workers, represented by certain pieces in the board, to claim areas and do actions to progress the game. Workers usually are used for trading or even building settlements or improving lands.
Roll and write
In this board game, players use dice to determine their actions on their turn. Their actions are then marked or “written down.” Examples of these types of games are Yahtzee and Qwixx.
Roll and move
In addition, “roll and move” refer to games where players roll dice. But unlike roll and write, the dice only determine the number of spaces a player can move. Games like Monopoly and The Game of Life fall into this category.
Social deduction board games
Have you ever played Mafia or Among Us? While those aren’t exactly board games, they are social deduction types of games. Now the board game variant works similarly.
Players are assigned roles and must determine the other players’ roles, motivations, and actions. If you enjoy playing Among Us online, try playing board games like Werewolf or Deception: Murder in Hong Kong.
Eurogames, also known as German-style board games, are a type of game that originated in Europe, particularly Germany. They typically feature simple rules, short playing times, and an emphasis on strategy over luck.
Eurogames usually have a theme, but it is often not central to the gameplay, and the mechanics are generally more important than the theme.
There are many other types of board games, but these are common types we will find or hear about when we enter a board game group or a board game café.
What Are The Top 10 Board Games?
The Top 10 Board Games may change depending on the audience surveyed or the year. The top 10 games could also vary if it’s within a specific genre vs. in general.
Aside from Monopoly and Chess, these are the top ten best tabletop games for 2023 according to a recent Dicebreaker survey. Disagree with their survey? We’d love to hear what your top 10 favorite games are! Use our contact us page to let us know your thoughts.
The game is an asymmetric game that features different factions with unique abilities and playstyles. In this game, players play as different woodland creatures fighting to control the forest.
Betrayal at House on the Hill: Third Edition
Do you like mystery and horror? You should try a game of Betrayal at the House on the Hill. One of your comrades might turn against you.
This game is about attracting birds back to their natural habitat. With beautiful art and gameplay, it quickly became popular over the years.
While Jenga has become a fan favorite, Team3 Pink/Green is becoming a popular dexterity game over the years. The game is chaotic as it involves flinging some objects around.
Many people describe this board game as a tabletop version of a fighting video game. Each character in the game has its own deck of abilities, and players use it to overpower their opponent.
Libertalia: Winds of Galecrest
This is an old game, but it was problematic because of racial misrepresentation. So, the updated game eliminated all those issues and kept the core gameplay mechanics. Players are all pirates attempting to snatch the best loot in the game.
Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
Do you think you can solve mysteries faster than the World’s Greatest Detective? Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective invites players to do just that. There’ll be a lot of false clues on your journey, so it’s up to you to make the correct choice that will solve the mystery.
Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition
Players get to control one of seventeen different species, and there are several ways to win this game. They can win the galaxy peacefully or force other species and planets into submission.
Twilight Imperium takes a long time to finish and is a good choice if you have a consistent board game group.
Descent: Legends of the Dark
If you are familiar with Descent, then try this reboot. The reboot offers a new companion app that guides the players through their adventure. It’s a great choice if we love the original Descent or other similar dungeon-crawler board games.
The game has become a fan favorite in recent years despite it being considered pretty young. The game is set in World War II at the Battle of Stalingrad, a historical turning point in the actual war when the Nazi German forces clashed against Soviet Russia.
Our Top 10 Favorite Board Games
Our family has our own list of favorite games. Here they are, as determined by surveying our whole family. This list is accurate as of publication, and it’s bound to change over time.
- Exploding Kittens
- Ticket to Ride
- Settlers of Catan
- Among Us (or Mafia)
- Trekking the National Parks
- No, thank you, Evil (it’s like a D&D lite for small children)
- Connect 4
Disagree with our list? We’d love to hear what your top 10 favorite games are! Use our contact us page to let us know your thoughts.
Key Takeaways & Next Steps
There are a lot of genres of games. Knowing each isn’t as important – unless you’re a game maker or game marketing guru. Then, knowing them all perfectly will be vital to your job (and so you can sell more games).
However, if you’re a gaming aficionado or enjoy games, you don’t have to know them all inside and out. Discussing them is great – especially when looking for new game recommendations from friends. But if you get a term wrong? Don’t stress. And if someone around you gets a term wrong? Don’t tease them too much.
Let’s all help each other become better gamers and enjoy a game together. And we can learn the right terminology along the way at our own pace.
Meantime, let’s go play a fun game. Which one will you play next? I’m going to go set up a round of Settlers. It’s less ideal with only 2 players, so maybe I can get another kid on board with playing. Here are some recently written articles you may enjoy.
- Can You Play Catan With 3 Players? Tips to Have Fun & Win!
- How Long Does Ticket To Ride Take? Timing Ticket To Ride Games
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as gamers.
- Attia, P. (2020, July 24). The Full History of Board Games. From 5000 BC to now | by Peter Attia. Medium. https://medium.com/@peterattia/the-full-history-of-board-games-5e622811ce89
- Best Board Games 2023: What to Buy and Play Right Now. (2023, January 6). Dicebreaker. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://www.dicebreaker.com/topics/board-games/best-games/best-board-games-2023
- Lee, J. (2022, November 14). The Most Popular Types of Board Games: Board Game Genres, Explained. What Nerd. https://whatnerd.com/board-game-genres-explained/
- T., M. (2021, February 20). What types of board games are there? Defining Board Game Categories. Tabletop Bellhop. https://tabletopbellhop.com/gaming-advice/board-game-types/
- Wikipedia contributors. (2023, January 14). Board game. Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Board_game