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Homsar: Oh no! You shanked my Jengaship!
Strong Sad: I shanked your Jengaship? We're playing Connect Four!
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Tabletop games of skill and chance, often featuring custom-designed components made from wood, plastic, or cardboard and art design specifically tailored to facilitate the ease and/or enjoyment of gameplay. When they're depicted in fiction, they are commonly used to either illustrate the participating characters' culture or intelligence (or dispositions otherwise), or are a worldbuilding or plot tool. There is a great variety in board games' mechanics, visual presentation, and theming, but those seen in fiction are typically either one of a few popular mass-produced titles or games which bear a strong resemblance to those titles.

As a brief overview, there are five general categories of board games:

  • Abstracts like Chess or Go, which focus on minimalism and have a penchant for elegance through simplicity in their designs.
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  • American-Style Games (sometimes called "Ameritrash", though such a term's use is contentious among the genre's fans), which prioritize creating epic narratives and dramatic moments while you play. Many Adventure Board Games fall into this category as well, at least regarding the focus on laying the groundwork to tell an immersive story.
  • Eurogames, which often revolve around a skill-based challenge of maximizing points (often called "Victory Points", where whoever earns the most wins the game) within the limitations and restrictions of the ruleset.
  • Family Games, which prize accessible designs that involve and engage players as much as possible. One of the most popular of these is Settlers of Catan. Germany has a long history of producing high-quality titles in this genre and this type of game is sometimes called a "German-Style Game" as a result.
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  • Wargames, which typically feature maps full of troops duking it out at varying levels of realism.

It should be said that despite geographical descriptors like "American," "German," and "Euro," these types of board games aren't always made in or are exclusive to the regions their names reference - games put out in the mid-to-late 1900s by publishers like the American-based 3M and Avalon Hill, for example, reached international audiences for many years, and several game designers have made a name creating several games which each lie in different design philosophies, or even featuring multiple styles at once in a single game.

The complexity and scope of board games vary wildly. To list a few examples, titles can range from a lighthearted party game with little in the way of thematic backdrop or artwork, to a cooperative Lovecraftian card game where you win by preventing an Ancient One's awakening, to a game where players are pre-industrial farmers who deal with the logistical challenges that come with building a farmstead, sowing fields, raising livestock, and growing their families. Likewise, board games' duration can be anywhere from a few minutes to months (The Campaign for North Africa, as one of the most extreme examples, has a listed playtime of 1,500 hours); however, most fall in the range of 30-90 minutes.

There is a thriving hobby community surrounding board games. While board gaming has had a healthy hobbyist- and family-centered industry in Europe for decades, 1995's Settlers of Catan popularized it in the United States and many European publishers have since established global distribution channels for foreign markets. Catan in particular has sold over 22 million copies worldwide as of 2015, a volume comparable to the sales numbers of the most popular video game released on the Nintendo SNES, Super Mario World. The board game database site BoardGameGeek has hundreds of thousands of members. Board game conferences and conventions also have had a long history, with events like Gen Con in Indiana and Spiel in Essen, Germany drawing tens of thousands of attendees each year. Many review and podcast series give news on upcoming games and rate review copies sent to them by publishers; some of the most popular include The Dice Tower Network and Paul & Quinn's Shut Up and Sit Down.

Wil Wheaton has promoted the board game hobby with his web series Tabletop, where he and several "geek celebrities" play a variety of board games. Additionally, webcomics like Dork Tower and Going OverBoard detail the lives and adventures of board gamers.

Board games have seen several digital implementations over the years. While several publishers like Asmodee and Stonemaier Games have developed or outsourced their own official forks, there are also websites like Yucata.de, TableTopia, and BoardGameArena, which feature free-to-play online implementations of games in several languages, programmed and updated by community members.


Eras of board-games include:

    open/close all folders 

    Ancient 
  • Backgammon: Possibly the most ancient game in existence that is still widely played, though waning in popularity; the goal is to move your pieces into your own "home board" while doing everything possible to stop or outrun your opponent. Many of the higher-quality kits have boards that close and latch like a briefcase (with handle) for easy transport.
  • Checkers (also known as Draughts in some areas): The archetypical game of casual minds; e.g., young children and leisurely seniors. While definitely a simpler game than chess, checkers may be treated as if it were barely above the level of tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses). Extra bathos points for a character using a chess set and board to play checkers. Almost invariably, one character will be looking supremely confident until the other player reaches out and click-click-click-click-click takes most of their pieces in a single move, often with a smug "King me!" at the end when they make it to the last row (even though they made backwards jumps that would be illegal if the piece were not already a king.
  • Unless it's Russian Draughts, where men attack both forward and back, and kings move much like chess bishops, just like in Polish Draughts (the most commonly played variant worldwide, which in contrast to the Russian variant is played on a 10x10 board, and almost certainly did not originate from Poland).
    • Note that in real life checkers or draughts is an easier game than chess for beginning players and computers, but about as hard as chess for seasoned players, who in both games see an average of two valid moves in every situation. When played blind, 10x10 checkers variants are even harder to play than chess, because there are more pieces, and they're all the same.
  • Also, Chinese checkers is neither checkers nor Chinese — it's more of a race to move your army from one point on the board (usually in the shape of a Star of David) to the other. It's a derivative of a 19th century American game called Halma.
  • Chess: The supreme Western test of intellect. The Spock, The Professor and cunning villains will all play this superbly, because Smart People Play Chess. Show them a game in progress, and they will confidently announce, 'Mate in three/five/seventeen.' In practice, even the world's best professional chess players would not be able to consistently do this well. (Spock, at least, has the excuse that he's an alien.) Sometimes, as in House and Robert A. Heinlein's Sixth Column, it's just a bluff. Chess, in turn, comes from the Persian Shatranj (below), which in turn came from the Indian Chaturanga.
    • Arimaa: A chess variant involving animals attempting to shove each other into pits.
    • Hnefatafl "King's Table": Scandinavian chess known at least from IV century A.D. — that is, Vikings played this. Mentioned in the Eddas and sagas both as a noteworthy skill and used for Chess Motifs: in Fridthjof's saga the King's man came with a war-related request to Fridthof and Bjorn who played the game, and they answered in game strategy terms, looking at the board. (Also notable as the inspiration for "Thud" in the Discworld book by that name.)
    • Janggi: Korean Chess.
    • Makruk Thai Chess, with short-assize pawns (i.e. starting on the third rank) that promote on the sixth, Bishops that move like Silver Generals in Shogi, etc.
    • Shatranj Persian chess, and the direct ancestor to western chess. As pointed out above, Shatranj is the root of the western branch of the Chaturanga family, which originated in India.
    • Shōgi: The Japanese variant of chess. Typically used in anime as an excuse for old men to sit on porches of rice-paper houses, above the stone lanterns and The Thing That Goes "Doink", and discuss in slow grunts the vagaries of life. It's also notable for the "drop rule", in which captured pieces can be put back into action by the owner's opponent.
    • Sittuyin: Burmese Chess, where moves 1-8 are devoted to mustering your forces.
    • Xiangqi: Chinese Chess. Two housebound Generals send Chess-like armies after each other. The name literally means "elephant game", and it was what happened when chaturanga went east from India.
  • Go: The supreme Eastern test of intellect. The aura of inscrutable Asian wisdom doesn't hurt either, though in reality playing either game at world championship level is equally difficult. And then, in the other direction, there's... (see the Shōgi entry.)
  • Hangman: Guess the word or phrase letter by letter. Each time you guess wrong adds a new piece to the gibbet, noose, and hanged man. This game, of course is the spiritual ancestor of Wheel of Fortune.
  • Mahjong: The quintessential East Asian gambling game, where 4 players try to form 14-tile hands by drawing and discarding a tile per turn, in a manner vaguely similar to gin rummy. It could be considered the Eastern analogue to poker, being part luck and part skill and having many variants and House Rules. Commonly (but not always) played for cash stakes, converting points to money, although more recent trends have seen a shift towards playing for sport and bragging rights, especially with the Japanese Riichi variant. Not to be confused with Shanghai, which is a matching game played (usually on a computer) with an enormous pile of mahjong tiles.
  • Mancala: A family of "sowing games" where stones are distributed around a circuit of cups, frequently capturing the contents of the cup opposite where the sowing stops. It seemingly originated somewhere in east Africa and is fairly popular in the USA and parts of Europe. Some of the most recognized variants are Kalah (created in the US), Bohnenspiel (German-Persian), and Awari (Ghanaian).
  • Pachisi (and relations like Ludo, Parcheesi, and Sorry): A series of games, originally from India, that involves racing pieces around a track and trying to be the first to get all of them to a home space.
  • Senet: The oldest known board game, dating as far back as predynastic Egypt. The rules aren't known with any certainty, but approximate reconstructions exist.
  • Snakes and Ladders (aka Chutes and Ladders): A kid's game, originally from India meant to teach moral lessons. Good deeds get you a ladder to the top of the board, bad deeds get you dragged down by a snake.
  • Tic-Tac-Toe (also known as Noughts and Crosses): First player to get three in a row wins.

    18th Century 
  • Cribbage: A rare combination of a traditional card game and a board game, players advance pegs on a peg board to race to the end of a track based on rounds of card play. Utterly incomprehensible to the uninitiated, but undeniably popular.

    19th Century 
  • Game of Life: America's first popular parlor game. A much more girlier pretty in pink version was also released (as The Game of Life: High School Edition).
  • Reversi (including the commercialized Othello): A vaguely Go-like game where surrounded pieces change color instead of being captured. Reversi can be very difficult to keep track of, since one piece placement can drastically alter the entire board, at least on traditional boards — computer-based versions take care of this on their own. Reversi variations have appeared in some Party Game series, including Point Blank, Mario Party, and WarioWare, with the caveat that a player must win a minigame to claim a square.

    20th Century 
  • 13 Dead End Drive: Two players conspire to make their character inherit a vast fortune while luring other characters into deadly traps.
  • 18XX: A variety of games on building railroads in the 1800s, with emphasis on designing quick routes and manipulating the stock market.
  • Abalone: A curious combination of Chinese checkers and sumo wrestling. Hails from France.
  • Advanced Squad Leader: A WWII war game.
  • Arkham Horror: A story based game based on the roleplaying game Call of Cthulhu.
  • Atmosfear (aka Nightmare): Players attempt to confront their fears while collecting "Keystones" then returning to the start.
  • The Awful Green Things From Outer Space: Two players depict the eponymous Things' attempt to devour the crew of the starship Znutar.
  • Axis & Allies (aka Axis & Allies Classic): A turn-based game where players take the role of various nations during World War II.
  • Battleship: Naval warfare game originally created for pencil and paper play, but successfully adapted into a commercial form by Milton Bradley. If characters are seen playing this, it usually indicates they've had way too much idle time to kill. Due to the deeply embedded memories of MB's marketing campaigns, nobody ever is depicted destroying a cruiser or carrier, but within 3 turns one player will finally announce "You sank my battleship!" This is more often than not done ironically, or with a lampshade on it, at least recently. It received a loose (and rather unsuccessful) film adaption in 2012.
  • Bingo: Gambling for old people, at least in North America.
  • Boggle: Players have a moderate time limit to divine as many words as possible from a 4x4 grid of lettered cubes. Larger variants came up in later years, such as the 5x5 Big Boggle (some versions including a "challenge cube" with lesser-used letters) and Master Boggle, and the 6x6 Super Big Boggle which features a two-letter cube and one with unusable "blocks" on three of its sides.
  • Candy Land: The stock example of a childish game. Children are enthralled by the colorful world, while anyone over the age of 10 will only play in order to spend time with someone under the age of 10. This treatment is very much Truth in Television: Candy Land is totally unaffected by any player choice (so the youngest player has an equal chance to win), but the flow of the game is not at all suitable for gambling.
  • Connect Four: A vertical checkers game that requires you to put four checkers in a row. It bears significant similarities to tic-tac-toe, and in turn may have been an inspiration for Tetris.
  • Cosmic Encounter Each player takes on the role of one (or sometimes more) alien races attempting establish colonies on the others' planets. Each player has a different power that lets him/her circumvent a game rule.
  • Cluedo (aka Clue in America): A popular party game in which the players attempt to solve a murder by guessing the perpetrator, the location of the crime, and the murder weapon ("Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick!"). The game inspired a comedy film in the '80s starring Tim Curry and several other stars of the era. (There is also an inversion/parody of the game called Kill Doctor Lucky. It is exactly what you imagine it is, but with more backstabbing and frequent random failures.)
  • Cranium: A game involving the players trying to get around a board by employing skills like sculpting, drawing, charades, trivia, rebuses, and so on. A bit of a "something for everyone" kind of game that has spawned and entire series of expansions and spinoffs.
  • The Creature That Ate Sheboygan
  • The Dark Tower: An '80s fantasy game where you lead your warlord to build an army and conquer the Dark Tower.
  • Diplomacy: A game of diplomacy, war, and treachery for up to seven players. Players move their armies and fleets in simultaneous turns, with hidden written orders. You may end the game with fewer friends than you had at the start, as There Can Be Only One ruler of Europe, while the rest can enjoy having ornate daggers jammed into their backs.
  • Empire Builder: The original member of the Crayon Rail family, the main family of railroad games that are not 18XX games.
  • Formula D: A tabletop game about vehicular racing with many complicated rules, thankfully, the game is divided into basic and advanced.
  • Game Of The Generals
  • Ghosts: A two-player game taking place on a 6-by-6 grid representing a haunted castle, each player has eight ghosts, with four of them being good and four of them being evil. If one player gets all the opponent's good ghosts, s/he wins. If one player gets all the opponent's evil ghosts, s/he loses.
  • Girl Talk: A classic game of Truth or Dare that is aimed at girls who play it at sleepovers.
    • Girl Talk Date Line
    • Girl Talk Secret Diary
    • Girl Talk (1995)
    • Girl Talk Bratz Edition
    • Girl Talk Hannah Montana Edition
    • Girl Talk One Direction Edition
    • Girl Talk Twister
    • Girl Talk Jenga
    • Girl Talk Pink Edition
    • Girl Talk That's So Raven Edition
    • Girl Talk Dare Confetti
    • Girl Talk Sassy Stix
    • Girl Talk: The CD-ROM Game of Truth or Dare
  • HeroQuest: A dungeon exploration game that bears some relationship to the Warhammer world. Warhammer Quest was the successor game to this.
  • Isaac Asimov's Robots: A VHS Game created in 1988, as an adaptation of The Caves of Steel where the players participate in The Summation at the end.
  • Jenga: As mentioned in the page quote, Jenga isn't exactly a board game per se; it's a game where you try to deconstruct a stack of wooden or plastic rods without it falling over. It was created by an African-raised Brit, and the name is Swahili (and trademarked by Hasbro). A similar version of it was released and made just for girls (known as the official name of Jenga: Girl Talk Edition).
  • Lupin III is a semi-cooperative game based on the adult cartoon of Lupin the 3rd (as much as the family-friendly cartoon movie before it, The Castle of Cagliostro, in which he rescues a beautiful young princess from a evil count) and his gang, Gentleman Thieves, attempting to steal a treasure protected by Zenigata, an Implacable Man with an army of policemen to support him. Fujiko, the lone woman on the team, makes the game more interesting as she may betray her fellow thieves at any point.
  • Mastermind: Guess the code of the other guy, using the clues he or she gives you from wrong guesses.
  • Monopoly (originally The Landlord's Game): A game for the whole family (so long as the whole family understands real estate, mortgages, land development, and math of at least a fifth grade level). Expect lots of squabbling, convenient luck and complicated trades, often extending outside the game. A pretty in pink version was also available for girls (Monopoly Pink Boutique Edition), as well as a slightly-reworked Mario Party-esque version (Monopoly Gamer).
  • Mouse Trap: Popular game for kids in which the objective is to build a Rube Goldberg Device to trap your opponent's mice.
  • Mystery Date: Get the cards for the outfit that matches which date shows up at the door.
  • Operation: Removing various punny pathologies from a patient who reacts to mistakes and slips of the hand with a buzzing red nose.
  • The Republic of Rome
  • Risk (originally La Conquête du Monde): A game for two to six players, featuring a full world map and hundreds of tiny pieces representing armies, in which the goal is to take over the world. This game often takes several hours to play out. A common strategy is to take over Australia as quickly as possible, since it's the hardest continent to attack. In Risk, every player tends to suffer from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, as alliances between players are made and broken on a whim.
  • Scotland Yard: A eurogame where up to six police officers must work together to track down the criminal Mister X (controlled by a seventh player) through a map of London.
  • Scrabble: A game for people who know lots of words and how to spell them. Having a big vocabulary is a plus, but actually knowing the definition isn't important to the game so long as it is an actual word. The Magic Poker Equation applies here. The winner always has just the right letters for a long, high-scoring, but recognisable word, and there's somewhere on the board that it'll fit. They rarely resort to kind of obscure words common in professional Scrabble: aa, cwm, etui. (Although one can occasionally expect Calvin and Hobbes-esque arguments over the legitimacy of such words as "kwyjibo," "jozxyqk", "zqfmgb", or "quone") Further, even though short words are common in professional Scrabble, anyone who plays a word less than four letters will be seen as a dummy. Another common Scrabble trope is when people playing the game all have and play words relating to the situation. 2 different versions were released in which they are made just for girls who know lots of words and how to spell them (such as star, beach, sandals, flower, shoes and pink) (Scrabble Justice Collector's Edition and Scrabble Limited Too Collector's Edition). While this game was also adapted into a 1980s game show with Chuck Woolery as host, the format was plenty different (solving words to riddle-type clues)—But it did work well enough to become one of the longest-running game shows based upon a board game, at six yearsnote .
  • Settlers of Catan: The original Euro Game. Players exploit the resources of an island to see who builds the most powerful colony. Memetic for the Innocent Innuendo involved in trading wood for sheep.
  • Space Hulk: A team of space marines fight aliens in an abandoned space-ship, from the Warhammer 40,000 franchise.
  • Stratego: War board game where red and blue pieces go into battle blindly, with the goal of capturing the other team's flag. As the name might imply, there is a fair bit of strategy involved.
  • Talisman: A fantasy RPG-themed board game originally published by Games Workshop.
  • Trivial Pursuit: A combination of luck and knowledge. Entire books have detailed not only strategies for choosing categories and both asking and answering questions, but also the game's inaccuracies and ambiguities.
  • Twister: Well, yes, there's a board, and yes, it's a game, although the players are the pieces. The aim of the game is to contort the players into shapes that don't collapse into a people pile. Or at least that's the ostensible aim; in practice the point is more to create embarrassing juxtapositions of body parts. It's sometimes used as a punchline for jokes, especially involving teenagers and an Over Protective Dad (or Ultra Cool Mom), suggesting that they are not playing so much as using the game as an excuse to feel each other up. 2 different versions were made towards girls (known to the world as Twister Girl Talk Edition and Twister Pink Edition).
  • Victory in the Pacific: A two player historically-based wargame of the World War II Pacific Theater.
  • Yahtzee (aka Yatzie): Where players roll five dice, trying to get as many matching numbers as possible. If they succeed in getting all five to match they get a "Yahtzee" and a large point bonus. Bonuses are also awarded for poker hand-esque combinations, such as a pair of twos and three threes making a full house. Another variation of Yahtzee was also released as it was made only for girls (known as Yahtzee Pink Edition).

    21st Century 
  • 7 Wonders: A card-based board game in which the goal is to make your city better than the other players', by building structures, winning wars, and researching science. It has received several Expansion Packs and a two-player spinoff 7 Wonders Duel.
  • Agricola: A farming-themed game.
  • American Girls Collection
    • American Girl 300 Wishes Game
  • Assassinorum: Execution Force: A board game from the Warhammer 40,000, where Imperial Assassins attempt to kill a Chaos Sorcerer before he opens a gate to a demon-dimension.
  • BattleCON
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill
  • The Captain Is Dead: A cooperative game about the crew of your favorite science fiction TV show trying to survive an attack from hostile aliens.
  • Carcassonne: A Euro Game in which players compete to control and complete cities, roads and fields. Famous for having over 20 Expansions which add everything from simple things like extra tiles to entirely new game mechanics and pieces.
  • Darklight: Memento Mori: A cooperative fantasy dungeon crawler inspired by Dark Souls.
  • Deep Madness: A cooperative Adventure Board Game with Cyberpunk, Survival Horror, and Cthulhu Mythos elements, set in a monster-infested deep sea mining facility.
  • Doomtroopers: Siege of the Citadel, which is a greatly simplified board game set in the Mutant Chronicles universe. You lead elite Doomtroopers from the various Megacorporations to destroy various alien beasts including the centaur-like Ezaghoul.
  • Dungeon Saga
  • Flash Point: Fire Rescue: A cooperative game about firefighters struggling to save as many people as they can from a burning building.
  • Fleets: The Pleiad Conflict
  • Forbidden Desert: A cooperative game about adventurers trying to survive the heat and sand of the desert long enough to find the pieces of legendary flying machine and escape.
  • Frag
  • Gloomhaven
  • Herd Your Horses
  • Icehouse: A boardless board game played with pyramidal pieces pointing at each other. Something like a cross between Go and vector arithmetic; more than four hundred games using the pyramidal pieces are listed on this site.
  • JoJo Siwa
  • Mage Knight: A boardgame version of the Mage Knight miniature game. Play as a powerful Mage Knight and complete scenario objectives with the help of magic, military units and a few artifacts.
  • Memoir '44: A World War II strategy game for 2 played on a hex grid map, notably for having a lot of expansions and for the Operation Overlord set of expansions bumping it to 8 players and recreating some of the largest battles of the period.
  • Mice and Mystics: Play as heroic mice, fighting vermin, stopping to hear the plot of the story, and ultimately saving the realm.
  • Mistborn House War: A board game with some elements of roleplay based on the universe of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy written by Brandon Sanderson.
  • Mysterium (aka Tajemnicze Domostwo)
  • Oath
  • The Others (2015)
  • Pandemic: A daring team of researchers and doctors out to stop the eponymous disaster.
  • Power Grid: The players compete to provide electricity to the largest number of cities, bidding on access rights, power plants, and fuel supplies.
  • Red Dragon Inn: A board/card game where adventurers cheat each other out of loot.
  • Rise Of The Kage
  • Root
  • Salvage Hidden Treasures: A small indie game where player scour the seas in search for valuable treasures.
  • Shadows over Camelot: The players are Knights of the Round Table defending (or secretly betraying) Camelot.
  • SHASN
  • Small World: A Risk-like world conquest game with fantasy flavor and an emphasis on individual racial powers in combat over dice rolling.
  • Spirit Island: A cooperative game that flips the colonization and civilization themes of many Euro Game titles on its head - players are angry magical spirits trying to drive off invading settlers.
  • Stardew Valley: A cooperative game based on the popular farming video game of the same name.
  • Terraforming Mars: The players are corporations competing to receive the most credit and prestige for their contribution to the terraforming of Mars.
  • Through The Ages: A civilization-building game.
  • Ticket to Ride: Family game in which you build railroads. Published by Days of Wonder.
  • A Touch of Evil: Similar to Arkham Horror, but with a Gothic Horror theme and minus the soul-crushing difficulty.
  • Trogdor!! The Board Game: A spin-off of Homestar Runner, players team up to help Trogdor the Burninator devastate the land of Peasantry in this cooperative game.
  • Twilight Imperium: An incredibly in-depth Doorstopper of a board game with a space opera theme that incorporates not just war strategy, but politics and trade as well. Combat is treated as a means to an end rather than always being a path to victory in itself. Games can last several hours.
  • Twilight Struggle: A two-player, card-driven Cold War strategy game built around a mechanic of crisis aversion; it's notable for being a war game that doesn't involve any actual combat (save abstracted military coups).
  • Wrath of the Old Dog
  • Zombicide: A game of fighting back against a zombie apocalypse. There's also a medieval fantasy version called Zombicide: Black Plague.


Alternative Title(s): Board Game

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