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Monday, May 27, 2024

The Best Board Games for Parties and Large Groups (2023)

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Many of the best board games tend to be geared towards smaller groups of players, so what's one to do when you have a party or other gathering of fun-loving friends in higher numbers? Thankfully, board game and card game makers have not left these scenarios in the cold. If you know where to look, you can find some awesome tabletop experiences that cleanly and elegantly scale up to 10 or even more players, giving everyone something to partake in.

If you’re seeking a good board game to break out at your next gathering, these are the best board games for parties and large groups. You can also check out our list of the best family board games for something more specific.

TL;DR The Best Party Board Games

Don't want to read a bunch of words? These are our favorite board games for groups to play:

Wits and Wagers

Wits & WagersWits & Wagers

Do you enjoy trivia board games, but aren’t very good at them? If you answered yes, then Wits and Wagers is the game for you. It’s a trivia game, but instead of using your own answer, you bet on who got the right answer. So if a football question comes up and you have no idea how many Super Bowl rings Peyton Manning has, you can bet on your friend who is a huge football nerd. If they get the question right you earn a point. It’s that simple. Because you don’t need to be versed in every topic under the sun, Wits and Wagers is the most accessible trivia game around. There are three versions of the game, with the party and family games having easier questions than the standard version. The party game, as the name suggests, also accommodates more players. You’ll have no reason to go back to Trivial Pursuit after picking up Wits and Wagers.


Codenames Codenames

In this approximation of a spy thriller, players are split into two teams, with one player on each team assuming the role of “spymaster.” It’s the spymaster’s job to make their team name the codewords that will earn them points. In any given game, there are 25 available codewords arranged into a five-by five grid, and the spymaster must, without actually speaking the words, use a code phrase to describe what words belong their team. For example, if three of the words are “fence,” “tree” and “door,” the spymaster might say “wood, three” to indicate that three of the words might have to do with wood. Codenames depends heavily on the spymaster to think quickly, and poorly thought-out clues can lead to some hilarious arguments. If you tire of seeing the same codewords after a handful of plays, Codenames has seen severalexpansions and reimaginings since its 2015 release, which can add a great deal of replay value.

Time’s Up – Title Recall

Time's Up - Title RecallTime's Up – Title Recall

Like all the best party games, Times Up builds a neat twist into a very simple premise, in this case by combining the best bits of pop culture quizzes and charades. You start with a pool of 40 cards showing the titles of famous films, TV shows and songs which are used over three rounds of clues and guessing. In the first round, you can say anything other than the title on the card. In the second, your clue has to be one word. And in the third, it has to be a non-verbal pantomime. This escalating series of restrictions keeps delivering the most hilarious associations that only work because players have an idea of what’s already in the pool after the first round. A fascinating combination of trivia and free-association wordplay, and all fun, all the way.

Snake Oil

Snake OilSnake Oil

Cards Against Humanity has come to dominate store shelves and nearly every online party game recommendation list, but for my money Snake Oil is an infinitely better option. It sticks to a similar formula as CAH, but injects a healthy dose of player creativity. On the active player’s turn, they randomly draw a “customer” card. The other players then take turns pitching a product to that active player by combining two object cards from their hand. For example, if the active player draws the cheerleader card, other players must combine two cards in order to make an item that might appeal to a cheerleader. The sales pitches are the meat of the game, and it’s an absolute blast to watch your friends scramble to sell a “meat bicycle” or a “puppet helmet” to a caveman. In a perfect world, Snake Oil would replace Cards Against Humanity on every game shelf.

The Resistance: Avalon

The Resistance: AvalonThe Resistance: Avalon

The original The Resistance was a sci-fi bluffing game in which a pool of players had to discover and out rogue agents. The Resistance: Avalon shifts the action to King Arthur’s court and ups the ante with some new roles and rules to enjoy. Everyone gets a secret role and then loyal knights have to try and complete five quests while keeping Merlin alive. The Merlin player knows who is loyal and who is not, but can’t reveal this without also revealing who they are and painting a target on their back. There are various other named roles with special powers like Percival and Mordred, creating an incredible, escalating soup of paranoia in which players have to stew for twenty or so minutes. After which it’s almost irresistible to deal some new roles and do it all again.

Sushi Go Party!

Sushi Go PartySushi Go Party

Sushi Go! Is a simple, compact card drafting game released in 2013 that sold a huge number of copies. Because of its success, Gamewright was able to expand on the formula with Sushi Go Party!, a larger and more varied version of Sushi Go! The gameplay remains largely the same, with players choosing a card from their hand, playing it, and passing the rest to the player next to them. Party! includes several types of cards not in the standard version that mix up your strategy in different ways, and the variable setup means that every game will play out differently. As far as simple and quick party games go, it would be a mistake not to take a look at this one. It's also a great board game for kids of all ages.

Bang! The Dice Game

Bang! The Dice GameBang! The Dice Game

The original Bang! was long considered a party game go-to, but one of the major complaints was its length–it was too long for what it was. The dice game version fixes this in a big way, and is now the best version of Bang! you can play. Players are dealt secret roles, with the sheriff revealing themself at the start of the game. Everyone is also dealt a random character card that gives them a unique power. A turn consists of a player rolling five dice Yhatzee-style, then applying the effects to the table, but because nobody is sure of the others’ role, figuring out who to deal damage to and who to heal takes on the form of a logic puzzle. There are different victory conditions depending on your role: the sheriff wins if all the outlaws are defeated, the outlaws win if the sheriff is defeated, and so on. Because of Bang! The Dice Game’s easy ruleset and quick playtime, it’s a great game to play while waiting for the rest of the party to show up.


Telestrations Telestrations

This is a commercial version of a popular family of games that involve image-based Chinese whispers. You start with a card with a phrase on it and do a sketch to illustrate that phrase. You then pass that to the next player in line who guesses the phrase, writes it down and passes that on for the next player to draw. And so on, until the whole thing comes full circle and you marvel at the garbled nonsense that’s come back to you, and every step in between, complete with ridiculous drawings to delight and amuse. For real party animals, there’s a twelve player expansion pack available to make the chains of nonsense even longer.

Dixit Odyssey

Dixit OdysseyDixit Odyssey

In 2010, the original Dixit won the Spiel des Jahres, Germany’s coveted game of the year award. Since then, its unique approach to storytelling in games has been expanded on and reiterated nearly a dozen times. Despite all the new content in recent years, 2011’s Dixit Odyssey remains the best version of the game. The concept is simple: each turn one player is the storyteller, and uses a simple word or phrase to describe one of the cards in their hand. Then the other players choose a card from their own hand that they feel best fits the description the storyteller gave. The cards are shuffled and then revealed, and everyone attempts to choose which card was the storyteller’s, who gets points if people correctly guess their card. The rub is they get no points if nobody or everybody guesses their card, so it’s important to find a balance between vague and descriptive when describing the card. Dixit boasts surreal and beautiful artwork that makes the game a joy to experience and discuss, and the reliance on creativity will bring out the storyteller in even your most stubborn friends.


Wavelength Wavelength

Wavelength brings a new dimension to guessing games by getting players talking about their opinions rather than their trivia knowledge. Each round posits a pair of extremes, such as “straight” and “curvy”. Players take turns giving clues to their teams, which involves spinning a dial in secret to get a point somewhere between these two limits and then trying to come up with a hint to guide them to the right point. So for those clues, if the dial is showing two-thirds toward “straight” a good clue might be “hand-drawn line”. Not only is this a fun, fresh challenge every time but it’s subjective enough to be a real talking point for your party. With cooperative and competitive modes, Wavelength is a great pick across all tastes and ages.

One Night Ultimate Werewolf

One Night Ultimate WerewolfOne Night Ultimate Werewolf

The One Night franchise has become nearly synonymous with the term “party game,” and for good reason. It’s simple to learn, encourages a lot of player interaction, and plays in about 10 minutes. At the start of the game, each player is dealt a secret role, and it’s the goal of group to weed out who the werewolves are, unless of course you are a werewolf yourself. Each role has a special ability that help offer clues, such as the seer who can look at some of the roles, or the troublemaker who can switch roles with someone else. Because there’s no 100 percent way to know who is telling the truth, the game depends on your ability to read your friends’ tells. Each game is a chaotic flurry of accusations that will have the table in lively conversation during and after the game. If you want a good idea of what One Night Ultimate Werewolf has to offer, check out this video of a sample game. There are also several different flavors available, from vampires to aliens, if werewolves aren’t your cup of tea. Fair warning if you choose to pick this one up: friendships may be destroyed while playing this horror board game.

When I Dream

When I DreamWhen I Dream

Fall asleep and and heed the whims of the dream spirits in this team-based game of clues and storytelling. Every round, one player is appointed the “Dreamer,” and must wear a cloth mask over their eyes. Then, players take turns drawing a card from the dream deck and the “good spirits” attempt to describe the picture using only one word in an effort to get the Dreamer to guess it. The “bad spirits,” however, are able to throw off the Dreamer with inaccurate clues. There are also “tricksters” who can switch sides during a game. What makes When I Dream such a good party game is that it’s so easy to learn and a round is over quickly, giving players the chance to drop in or out whenever they want. This accessibility makes it one of the best options for larger gatherings.


Mysterium Mysterium

Communing with the dead may not be the first choice of activity when hosting a bangin’ party, but Mysterium proves that it’s one of the best ways to keep guests entertained. As mediums and paranormal investigators, it’s your job to uncover a decades-old murder mystery in a haunted house. The spirit that inhabits the house gives clues to each player in the form of dreams, which help to inform the specific weapon, suspect, and room related to the mystery. Think Clue, but much more abstract. One player, as the ghost, gives each player a card that relates somehow to their specific clues. The ghost in unable to speak, though, so the players are left to interpret the vague illustrations. There’s a ton to love about Mysterium, from its incredible art to debating the meaning depicted on the cards. The back-and-forth between the ghost and other players that takes place at the end of every game is an absolute delight that very few games can match. Who knew a seance could be so lively?


Monikers Monikers

In Monikers–a brand new take on the old Charades-like game Celebrity–you’ll act out a variety of goofy characters like Count Chocula, Drunk Jeff Goldblum, a dead horse, and literally hundreds more. Rounds get progressively more limiting as the game goes on–for example, words and gestures are legal in round one, but you can only use one word in round two, and round three takes away your ability to speak altogether. Because you’ll be using the same cards in every round, you’ll wind up making clever in-jokes with your group as you start to repeat cards. The subject choices pay homage to not only celebrities, but to modern viral memes and videos like David After Dentist and Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress. Shut Up and Sit Down put it quite bluntly in its review: “It’s the most you’ll laugh playing a game.” Truly, Monikers is the be-all-end-all of party games.


Decrypto Decrypto

In Decrypto, two teams attempt to work out a numeric code by interpreting clues given to them by an encryptor. At the start of a round, four words are randomly assigned to the numbers one through four, and the team’s chosen encryptor secretly draws a three-digit code. Their job is to make the rest of the team guess the code–in the proper order–by giving clues about the words associated with the numbers. It’s a bit like Codenames in that way, but the twist comes thanks to a clever “interception” mechanic that allows a team the opportunity to guess their opponents’ code. This means encryptors must be careful about giving out too much information about their code, making Decrypto a fascinating balancing act that does an admirable job of making players feel like actual spies.

Matt Thrower is a contributing freelance board game and video game writer for IGN. (Board, video, all sorts of games!)

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