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Homsar: Oh no! You shanked my Jengaship!
Strong Sad: I shanked your Jengaship? We're playing Connect Four!

Classic tabletop games of skill and chance, often used in fiction to illuminate characters' personalities. There are many board games, but a few popular ones are often the ones you will see in fiction. Often, they will have an in-world Brand X equivalent. In the last decade, piecepacks have become popular as a means of devising new board games.

For a brief overview, there are four general categories of board games: Abstracts like chess; Party Games, which have a penchant for randomness and fun over hard strategy; Wargames, which typically feature maps full of troops duking it out at varying levels of realism, and Euro Games, which focus on gaining victory points through economic competition over game resources rather than direct combat (the most famous of these is "The Settlers of Catan" - the Germans have a particular love of these and they can sometimes be called "German Games"). A fifth category not well known outside of Boardgaming circles is "Ameritrash" which focuses on the theme of the game and aggressive gameplay which mixes strategy and luck. (Named as a contrast to Eurogames which are perceived as very skill-based). It should be said that Ameritrash Games aren't always made in or are exclusive to America - games such as the Avalon Hill line of board games for many years reached international audiences but were cut from the shortlist of games to preserve in print because of Hasbro's Money, Dear Boy. Many games float among these categories.


Some board games - especially of the war variety - are so complicated they become the trope Guide Dang It! in that they are near impossible to play without the rule book in hand. Many review series and podcast series help gamers to understand new games and rate them, series like Tom Vasel's The Dice Tower and Paul & Quinn's Shut up and Sit Down

Since the 90s there's been a major revival of boardgames, and sites like boardgamegeek have many hundreds of thousands of members. Not to mention game conferences like Spiel (in Essen, Germany), which draws 150,000 people each year. Also, recent board games have been colored pink hoping more girls would buy them. In addition, the board game cafe, a social business that encourages playing such games, are a growing business class.

Wil Wheaton has been promoting the board game hobby with his web series, Table Top, where he and several 'geek celebrities' play a variety of board games. Additionally, webcomics like Dork Tower and Going OverBoard detail the adventures of your average Board Game Geeks.


A Massive Multiplayer Crossover homage to board games lies here. Also, a weird online game with lots of board games can be found at Boardgame Online.

Eras of board-games include:

    open/close all folders 

  • 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 Shogi entry much lower.)
  • 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 
  • 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 And 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Mousetrap: 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.
  • 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).
  • 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 

Alternative Title(s): Board Game