Building a board game collection can be expensive! Most board games can be upwards of $50, and some of the popular ones are closer to $100 or more. That’s a lot of money to build up a board game collection if you are just starting out in the hobby, a student, or simply on a budget.
But never fear, there are quite a variety of cheap board games that are available that are fun to play and pack a punch for their price.
I’ve made a list of the top 10 cheap board games for those on a budget. I’ve tried to keep lots of variety in the top 10 so that it covers lots of different player numbers and gameplay styles, and I’ve also put in a lot of honorable mentions to help provide you with more options to look at.
Best Cheap Board Games – Quick Comparison
|Rank||Name||# Players||Time||Complexity||Good For|
|#1||Ticket to Ride London||2-4||15 mins||Light||Best Overall|
|#2||Star Realms Frontiers||1-4||20-45 mins||Light||Best battle game|
Variety of gameplay styles
|#3||Sushi Go Party!||2-8||20 mins||Light||Approachable|
Good for large groups
1. Best Overall: Ticket to Ride London
Ticket to Ride London is a game for 2-4 players that is easy to learn and takes approximately 15 minutes to play.
In Ticket to Ride London, you collect cards to be able to lay down routes of buses between cities to score the most points. This game is the baby brother of Ticket to Ride, one of the most famous board games. It’s a smaller board and is a lot quicker to play, but I prefer it to the original game as it doesn’t drag on.
There are a few other express versions of Ticket to Ride that offer similar gameplay with only a slight difference in how you score bonus points. While London is my favorite if you find New York, San Francisco, or Amsterdam at a better price you should pick one of them up.
- Very approachable gameplay – good for new gamers
- A thematic game where you are placing down buses in London
- Very smooth gameplay
- Nice quick game
- Not a card game or tile-laying game (as a lot of budget games are)
- It may not be worth owning if you already have the full version of the game
- Can feel repetitive after playing a while
2. Best Battle Game: Star Realms Frontiers
Star Realms Frontiers is a game for 1-4 players that usually takes around half an hour to play and is pretty easy to learn.
In Star Realms, each player builds a deck of cards that has ships and bases, and they then have an epic space battle against each other (if you’ve ever played Magic the Gathering or Pokemon TCG it’s a bit like the gameplay of that without the expense of collecting cards).
Star Realms Frontiers is a stand-alone spin-off from the original deck of Star Realms (which means you can buy it without having the original). The original is great, but this deck can be played by up to 4 players instead of 2, and also has a cooperative and solo mode. Hence, I think it provides the greatest variety of gameplay for your money.
- Lots of modes to play in – 1v1, 4 players, solo and cooperative modes
- A fast-paced fighting game
- Fantastic space-themed artwork
- Well-balanced factions
- Lots of expansions are available (though unnecessary to play)
- The 1v1 mode is still a stronger game than involving more players or the solo or cooperative mode
- It’s not a heavy strategic game
3. Most Approachable: Sushi Go Party!
Sushi Go Party! is an easy game for 2-8 players that takes about 20 minutes to play.
In this game, you have hands of cards that you pass between players, and the point is to collect sets of sushi that all score in different ways (and to win you want to score the most points). It’s a very approachable game that plays well with different player counts, including larger groups that are generally difficult to cater for.
Sushi Go! is a slightly cheaper version of the game that provides the same gameplay, but Sushi Go Party! generally only costs a little more and has a whole bunch of different sushi types that makes the gameplay slightly different each time.
- Is a very approachable game that is good for new players
- A wide variety of sushi types makes each game different
- There is no downtime between turns as all players take a turn simultaneously
- Bright, colorful, and cute artwork
- Good for larger groups
- It’s slightly more set up and more expensive than Sushi Go!
- Pretty light strategically
- The game comes in a tin rather than a box
4. Best Team Game: Codenames
Codenames is a game for 2-8 players that is easy to teach and takes about 15 minutes.
In Codenames, you are split into 2 teams. Each team has a grid of cards with words on them and a clue-giver who has to make their team pick the right cards by giving the least number of clues. It’s a really fun and interactive game that involves a lot of teamwork.
There are a couple of other versions of this game worth considering that cost about the same, Codenames: Pictures if you regularly play with kids or people who can’t read, or Codenames: Duet if you regularly play with only 2 players.
- Good for larger groups
- Lots of lateral thinking
- Interactive game
- Easy rules
- Lots of fun
- Can fall flat if the groups don’t gel well together
- It requires enough people to form teams
5. Best Tile Laying: Kingdomino
Kingdomino is a game for 2-4 players that takes around 20 minutes and is quite a light game.
In this game, you are picking up tiles that you then use to build up your own little kingdom, where you get points based on how you’ve placed your tiles. It’s called Kingdomino because the tiles are a bit like dominos, where they have 2 colors on each side and you can only place them next to other tiles of the same color. Each turn you get to pick the tiles from the 4 or so tiles drawn out into the center, and the person who picks the best tile this round goes last in picking tiles for the next round.
This is a very light game and is suitable for non-gamers and children, or as a quick filler game. If you are looking for something complex that makes you think, then you may want to skip this one.
- Very approachable rules
- Quick gameplay
- Interactive tile picking without much take that
- It is satisfying to build your own little kingdom
- Can start to feel the same after a few games
- Not much strategy is involved
6. Best Filler: Love Letter
Love Letter is an easy game for 2-4 players that takes around 20 minutes to play.
Love Letter is a card game where you are a bunch of suitors trying to win the princess’s heart by sending her a love letter. Each round you play cards with special abilities (examples of abilities are trading cards with another player or making them discard their cards). Once the deck is empty, the player with the highest-ranked suitor wins the round, and you need to win a number of rounds to win overall.
It’s a light, fun interactive game with quite a lot of take that, deduction, and bluffing. While you are knocking people out, the rounds are so quick and easy that you’ll be playing again and competing in a couple of minutes.
- Great filler game
- Quick gameplay
- Lots of player interaction and take that (in a good way)
- Not very deep
- The artwork is fairly average
7. Best Cooperative: Forbidden Desert
Forbidden Desert is a game of medium complexity for 2-5 players that takes around 45 minutes.
In Forbidden Desert, you have a board made up of tiles that represent a desert, and the tiles are constantly shifting. You are a party of players, each with a different special ability, that needs to find all the pieces to rebuild their ship and escape the desert before you get overburdened by sand or die of thirst.
I love this game because it is so thematic. It gives you the stressful feeling of trying to escape from a desert, and you have to work together to escape. Overall it will give you many great nights of adventure for a very affordable price.
Forbidden Island is a pretty similar game but a bit simpler, so if you find it for a significantly better price then consider picking it up instead.
- Very thematic – it really feels like you are trying to escape a desert
- Great artwork and components
- Different abilities make playing different characters feel different
- The game comes in a tin rather than a box
- It can sometimes be difficult to win
- Can be prone to having a bossy player who tells everyone what to do
- Can be stressful
8. Best 2 Player: Patchwork
Patchwork is a game for 2 players that takes around 15-20 minutes to play and is pretty easy.
In this game, you are picking tiles to lay on a board and create your own patchwork quilt. It has a bit of an engine-building component to it, some of the tiles that you lay on your quilt will have buttons on them that let you earn more buttons at certain points in the game (buttons are the currency in the game), which in turn lets you buy better tiles in the future.
It’s quite a beautiful and relaxing game and is very satisfying in the end when you make a quilt that looks good.
- Plays well 2 players
- Beautiful looking game
- Simple rules and short gameplay
- Still has good strategic depth
- Interesting resourcing system
- Only 2 players
- It takes more table space than you’d expect
- It is hard if you are not good at spatial reasoning
9. Best Roll & Write: Railroad Ink Deep Blue
Railroad Ink is a game for 1-6 players that takes around half an hour to play and is pretty easy to learn. You can also stack more boxes of the game to support more players if you want to.
This is a Roll and Write game, where each player is given a sheet of paper, and you need to make a railroad that connects as many exits on your board as possible. The tracks that you are allowed to draw are based on the dice that are rolled each round for all the players to use.
I like this game because it feels like a bit of a puzzle. There are also quite a few other roll and write games such as Welcome To…, Cartographers, and That’s So Clever that are also pretty cheap.
- A great game for groups
- Easy rules and approachable gameplay
- A fun puzzle-like game
- It comes with dry-erase boards (as opposed to paper)
- It feels much the same each play
- Expansions just provide more of the same
10. Best Strategic: Targi
This is a game for 2 players that takes around an hour to play and is of medium complexity rules-wise but requires quite a bit of thinking and strategy.
In Targi, you are two opposing tribes who want to trade goods to get gold and be able to enlarge their families. You do this by placing meeples on a grid of cards that each have actions on them, and you then have to pay to do that action.
Like most Euro games, the point is to win the most victory points and there are many different paths you can take to victory. This is quite a deep and strategic game, more than most games you find at this price point.
- It is more strategic than most cheap games
- Lots of different paths to victory
- It plays very well for 2 players
- Only for 2 players
- Not great for new gamers, it’s unforgiving of bad decisions
- The theme is pretty light on
I wanted to include more games than usual in the honorable mentions. There are many people on a budget these days with the cost of living continuing to rise, and I wanted to make sure everyone has plenty of options for great games at budget prices.
You should also keep an eye out on websites such as Board Game Oracle, as while I’ve covered games that are under $25, this will let you monitor when bigger and more expensive games come on sale.
Here are a few more of my favorite cheap board games:
- Hive Pocket – Hive is a tile-laying game that is a bit like chess where you are playing 2 armies against each other, except the armies are bugs and there is a lot less strategy to learn than in chess.
- Hanabi – This is a card game where everyone can see your cards but you, and you need to work together to play all the cards sequentially.
- The Resistance Avalon – This is a social deduction game where one player is secretly trying to sabotage the other players. It’s got a great theme and gameplay and would be a great pick for a party game in a budget collection.
- Schotten Totten – Another two-player card game where you build poker-like hands to win certain stones. It is also called Battle Line which is the same game but rethemed.
- Arboretum – This is a card game for 2-4 players where you have to collect sets of cards to make beautiful gardens to score the most points.
- Citadels – This is a game for up to 8 players where you take on the roles of characters that each have special abilities, and each character wants to build the best combination of buildings.
- Ecosystem – This game is a bit like Sushi Go Party! But instead of building sets of sushi, you are building an ecosystem by placing a grid of cards in front of you, and each animal likes being near different things, which I find makes it quite a bit more strategic than Sushi Go Party!
- Monopoly Deal – Imagine if they took the essence of monopoly, made it a card game, and then somehow made it fun to play. Well, then you’ve got Monopoly Deal, and it can usually be found for very cheap in department stores.
- Just One – This is a party game where you work together to give clues to someone on the team to guess the correct word, but if two players give them the same clue, that clue is eliminated. It’s a light-hearted, cooperative party game.
A few other not strictly board game options:
- D&D Starter Set – D&D is often associated with being an expensive hobby, but it’s not. You can get started with the D&D Starter Set or the essentials kit for not much at all, and D&D will provide you and your gaming group with hours and hours of fun that is a bit different from a board game. Check out our article on getting started with D&D for free or cheap to learn more.
- BoardGameArena.com – This website lets you play tons of different board games online for free! Some games are premium, but even then, the price for a year is pretty cheap (and you only need the host to have a premium account for everyone else to be able to play a premium game). So, if you are on a budget and have a computer then this is a really good option.
Just because you are on a budget it doesn’t mean you should be limited in your board game collection.
There are a lot of options to play together, Forbidden Desert and Hanabi are fully cooperative, and Codenames lets you play in teams.
For some of the best traditional board games where you play against each other, you can’t go wrong with Ticket to Ride London and Sushi Go Party! Or Kingdomino.
And if you are in the mood for some adversarial take that Love Letter will scratch that itch, or if you want all-out fighting then Star Realms is a great option.
There are so many great options to start a board game collection on a budget, but a lot of them are on the lighter side, but if you are after something more strategic, then Hive and Targi are great options.
And don’t forget to keep an eye on sales, frequent your local board game cafe to try out games, and try out BoardGameArena.com to play games for free online.