If you are just getting into board games there are so many great games available, that it’s hard to know what games to pick up to start your collection. You want to have the right game available for different occasions or groups, and you don’t want to spend money on too many games that feel the same or cover the same genres.
We’ve put together a list of top 10 board games to start a collection with. Our criteria for selecting games were:
- Easy rules to learn
- Covers a variety of player counts (not all games, but as a collection)
- Covers different game mechanics
Note that unlike most of our lists, these games aren’t in any specific order, as we are putting together 10 games (and suggested alternatives if you want something different) that work well together and will give you a well-rounded collection to get you started.
1. Set Collection: Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is one of the most well-known board games, and for good reason. It’s a game for 2-5 people that takes about 45 – 60 minutes to play. It’s a nice easy game that is really accessible and is great to have in your collection as a game to introduce people new to gaming to board games.
In Ticket to Ride, there is a board with various coloured routes connecting them. Each turn, you can pick up cards with coloured trains on them or connect a route of coloured trains on the board if you have the necessary cards. You earn points by constructing routes between specific destinations.
There are quite a few versions of Ticket to Ride, my personal favourites are the original USA one, as it’s nice and simple but you can buy expansions for it if you play it a lot. I also really love the London version, which is a much tighter 10-15 minute game that still captures the original feel of Ticket to Ride.
Alternative choice: Takenoko is an alternative to Ticket to Ride. You must grow a garden and feed a panda in this game by collecting cards and placing bamboo on the board for the panda to eat. It reminds me of Ticket to Ride, but the theme is different (and very cute) and there’s more going on.
2. Tile Laying: Carcassonne
Carcassonne is a game for 2-5 players that takes about 30-45 minutes and is very light and easy to teach.
In Carcassonne, you are laying down tiles and putting little meeples (that’s the official name for the wooden little people you get in board games) on either a farm area, a road, a castle or a cloister in order to score points in different ways.
There is payer interaction and lots of “take that”, as when you put down your meeples you are wanting to have more meeples than other players in an area to score the points, and also you can put tiles down that mess up the other player’s plans.
I used to really not like this game as I found picking up a tile and putting it down too random, but then a friend introduced me to the 3 tile variant, where you hold 3 tiles in your hand and put one down, which adds a lot more tactics to the game.
Alternative choice: Kingdomino is another tile placing game where you bid for tiles to add to your own kingdom that is built using domino looking tiles. There’s a bit less take that than in Carcassonne, as you can try to take tiles that other players need but ultimately you are building your own area. I also think this game works better for two players than Carcassonne.
3. Deck Building: Dominion
Dominion is a deck-building game for 2-4 players that takes around 30 minutes and is fairly easy to learn. It’s probably the most well known and popular deck-building game, and while there are a lot of deck builders around these days this still holds its head high as one of the best.
In Dominion, you are a Monarch who wants to improve your kingdom. You do this by building a deck of cards that each has different abilities.
If you’ve never played a deck builder before, you each start with a small deck of cards that do certain actions, and you add to your deck by buying additional cards from the centre of the board to build up a deck that gives you a unique strategy and way of playing.
If you’ve ever played a collectible card game such as Pokemon or Magic the Gathering it’s a bit like the deck building aspects of that, except there’s no fighting in this game, rather the cards are used to build up your own kingdom.
There are tons of cards and expansions available (the most recent big box is a good purchase), so each time you play you are picking different sets of cards for the centre to buy from which results in a very different game and strategies being used.
Alternative choice: Aeons End is a cooperative deck builder where you are a party trying to protect a town from monsters. It’s fantasy-themed (it reminds me a bit of D&D), has a great solo mode and works really well for 2 players. If you like deck builders it’s actually a great pickup after Dominion, as it plays quite differently.
4. Cooperative:: Pandemic
Pandemic is a cooperative game for 2-4 players that takes around 45 minutes to play and is pretty easy to teach. Because it’s cooperative you are working together, which is a nice way to bond and also means it’s a bit easier on new players.
In Pandemic you are a team of experts trying to save the world from a global outbreak (this was released way before Covid-19 happened, but it’s very relatable). The board is a map of the world, and as time progresses more and more outbreaks of different diseases happen while you are trying to clear them out before they get out of control.
It’s a lot of fun and in my opinion, every gaming collection should have a good cooperative game, as sometimes you just aren’t in the mood to play against each other and want to work together.
Alternative choice: Forbidden Desert is by the same board game designer as Pandemic, and is very similar in the way it plays, but has a very different theme. In Forbidden Desert, you are a bunch of explorers that are trying to escape the desert, while the desert fills up with sand and you need to clear it out in order to be able to move through the board.
5. Pattern Matching: Azul
Azul is a simple game for 2-4 players (that works great at 2, 3 or 4 players) and takes around 30-45 minutes to play.
The premise of this game is that you are decorating the palace of the king with tiles, in order to be recognised as the best tile layer!
In Azul, you have a board with a tile pattern, and there are suppliers with pools of tiles that each player needs to pick from in order to fill up their board. But as you fill up your board you have fewer options for the tiles that you need to make the required patterns, and the other players will also take the tiles that you need because they’re jerks who also want to win, making your tile laying ambitions harder.
It’s a lot of thinking and a lot of player interaction (there’s quite a lot of “take that” in the game), and it’s one of my favourite games.
Alternative choice: If you want a pattern-matching game with a lot less player interaction and cute cats then you should try Calico. Or if making beautiful stained glass windows by rolling dice is more your thing, Sagrada is also a great choice for a new board game collection.
6. Drafting: 7 Wonders
7 Wonders is a game for 2-7 players, that takes around 30 minutes to play and has pretty approachable rules for a new player.
This game is a mix of drafting and city building mechanisms. Each player has a hand of cards, and each turn you pick a card to keep and play and then pass the cards on to the next player. You then use that card to build your civilisation, which gives you bonuses, upgrades and discounts as you progress.
The aim of the game is to build the best civilisation, so you can win in multiple different ways getting points from building, developing science, and developing military.
I like that this game has a lot of different ways to win, so you can use different strategies each time and it gives a lot of replayability.
Alternative choice: Sushi Go Party! is a much simpler set collection game, and doesn’t really have the building aspect that 7 Wonders does. In this game, you are collecting different types of sushi that score in different ways. 7 Wonders is a lot more deep and strategic, but this is a better choice if you have kids or non-gamers you will be regularly playing with or want a quick filler game.
7. Engine Building: Splendor
Splendor is a game for 2-4 players that takes around 20 minutes and is a very simple game to play (though I find because of the strategy it feels more complex than other games with such simple rules).
In this game, you are a merchant who wants to collect jewels to earn prestige points and gain favour from the nearby nobles. To be honest, the theme is really tacked on (though it looks nice), but it is still a brilliant game.
This is an engine-building game, you win by collecting cards that give you points, and certain cards make certain future cards less expensive so you can get more cards.
It is a super smooth game, it plays well and is very approachable for new gamers, while still having enough skill required to keep experienced gamers interested.
Alternative choice: Century: Golem Edition is a somewhat similar game to Splendor in it’s engine building aspect. It’s a slight step up in complexity and the amount of stuff going on. Like Splendor the theme is pretty tacked on (you are using gems to build golems) but the artwork and gems look amazing so it’s a flaw that’s easy to look past.
8. Worker Placement: Raiders of the North Sea
Raiders of the North Sea is a game for 2-4 players that takes 1 – 1.5 hours and has a medium complexity rating.
The premise of the game is that you are Vikings raiding settlements on the North Sea. You do this by placing workers in different places on the board to gain the associated benefits, and then get points for raiding settlements, gaining plunder, and impressing the Viking chieftain.
My favourite part about raiders is its smooth flow, it’s not too complicated and has all the text on the cards making it really easy to learn and play considering it is a slightly more complex game than the others on this list.
Alternative choice: Stone Age is another medium complexity, worker placement game that takes 1 – 1.5 hours. I think this is more approachable than Raiders and is also very thematic, but Raiders does have more replay value and in my gaming group it just gets to the table more.
9. Party: Just One
Just One is a very light party game for around 3-7 players, that takes about 20 minutes.
The premise of the game is very simple, as a team you are given 13 cards, and you take turns guessing the words on a card. All the other players have to write down a one word clue to try and help you guess, but if 2 players write down the same clue they are eliminated for that round and you don’t get that clue.
This makes the game hilarious as everyone is trying to give a good clue, but also a clue that no one else is giving, so you can get some really obscure combinations.
I love this game with friends and my family, it creates so many funny moments where everyone is laughing whether you’ve won or lost.
Alternative choice: Codenames is another super light party game for many players. In this one, you break up into 2 teams, and each team has a grid of words and the clue giver has to give them clues to guess the right words before the opponent does. It makes you think in a similar way to Just One, but requires more lateral thinking and is quite a bit more hectic.
10. Strategic: Santorini
Santorini is an abstract strategy game for 2-4 players but really works best with 2 players. It takes around 20 minutes to play, and while the rules are very easy to learn the strategy certainly makes you think a lot.
In Santorini, you are building buildings on a board and moving around, and you want to be the first player to get to the 3rd story of a building. There is a more advanced version included where you get god cards, which gives each player different abilities (eg. move double or take off a piece of a building) and gives the game a completely different strategy.
If you want something that you are against your opponent in a battle of the brains, this is it. This will make you think, and it’s one of the most satisfying and tactile experiences in gaming.
Alternative choice: Hive is a bit similar to chess but more approachable. It’s for 2 players and you each put out hexagonal tiles with different bugs that move in different ways, with the aim to trap the queen bee. I like Santorini more because it makes you think in a 3D space, but this also has wonderful chunky tiles and scratches the same kind of thinking itch.
There are lots of great games, but I’m trying to keep this to a list of games to begin your collection with, that you can add on to. A few other great games that you could add to this collection without overlapping too much in game mechanics or feel of the game are:
- King of Tokyo – King of Tokyo is a fighting game for 2-6 players where you can be characters such as robots, aliens or monsters and you fight for control of Tokyo. This game is like battle Yahtzee, you win by rolling certain combinations of dice. It’s a lot of chaotic silliness and is the perfect addition to a collection for a game that you don’t need to take too seriously.
- Wingspan – Wingspan is a new modern board game that is quickly becoming popular enough to be a classic. It’s an engine builder, and a slight step up in complexity from Splendor and also feels quite different to play. The theme of this game is beautiful, you are a bird enthusiast collecting birds in your wildlife park, and the birds give you food and eggs which build up your engine. The artwork is fantastic, you have little eggs and a birdfeeder dice tower, and it’s just an awesome game.
- Catan – This is one of the first modern board games and probably the game that is largely responsible for making modern board gaming popular. In this game, you earn victory points by using resources to build on an island that is made of hexagonal squares. It’s pretty old now, and many people have played it, but while there are now better options out there to get started with this is still a classic that should be in every collection.
- Resistance: Avalon – Every collection should probably have a social deduction game, and Resistance: Avalon is easy to teach and fun. Social deduction is not my favourite type of board game, but most people I game with love it and it’s easy to also pull in non-gamers to play.
- Love Letter – Everyone needs a quick filler card game, and this is one of the best. You are a bunch of suitors trying to get your love letter to the princess, and you have to knock other letters out of play using cards that have different abilities. It takes 2 minutes to learn, around 20 to play and is super light and fun.
There are so many great games to start a board game collection, and this list would provide you with a great variety of games to begin with, with games ranging in group sizes from 2 to 7 people, from party games to more strategic games, and covering a variety of different game mechanics.
They’re all pretty light on rules-wise, as if you only have a few games I think it’s important you are able to get people on board to play easily. That doesn’t mean they are simple games though, games such as 7 Wonders, Santorini, Raiders of the Lost Sea and Azul all have rules that are easy to understand but strategies that are difficult to master.
Also, you don’t have to go buy these all at once, as they can get expensive. Set a budget, and buy one or two when you have money. That way you can have time to give them a go, find out what you like, and adjust for what you think your collection is missing.
And if you want to find out more information about any of the board games listed above check out BoardGameGeek, they have a huge database of information on board games.