ByJay Ricciardi, writer at
Former Senior Editor of Now Loading.
Jay Ricciardi

If I play King's Cup or Cards Against Humanity one more time, I might lose my goddamn mind. For whatever reason, most board games often get a bad rap as party games because they are often rule dense, large, last too long, and don't let people get to know each other or socialize. Not many people are having fun on hour number four of Risk or Monopoly. This is the exact reason why games like Cards Against Humanity have become so popular. Many people just want a game that is light on the rules, compact, gets people talking, has short rounds, and is easy to jump into.

But even can get old! And there are so many other great games worth paying that are also easy to learn, social, won't take all night to play, and are fun, even for non-gamers.

This list will include a diverse number of players and game times.

1. One Night Ultimate Werewolf

[Credit: Bezier Games]
[Credit: Bezier Games]

If you ever played the classic camp games Mafia or Werewolf, you'll take to One Night Ultimate Werewolf like a fish to water. This is a quick, small, easy-to-teach game where each player will be randomly assigned a secret identity card at the beginning of the game: villager or werewolf. The villagers each have special abilities and objectives that will come into play through the course of the "night." You'll all have to question each other to figure out who the werewolves are, while the werewolves will try to sow mistrust and make the villagers turn on each other.

One of the best parts of Ultimate Werewolf is the fact that it comes with a free smartphone app that includes a narrator and audio directions to tell you exactly what to do and when. There's no need to explain all the rules yourself, the app does the work for you.

takes seconds to set up and start playing and is a fantastic party game for non-gamers. No two games are alike, and each round is only about 10–15 minutes long, making a fun, bite-sized addition to your evening. Plus, there are now plenty of robust expansions to keep the game fresh over time without breaking the bank.

2. Coup

[Credit: PopNerdTV]
[Credit: PopNerdTV]
  • Players: 3–6 (up to 10 with Reformation expansion)
  • Time to Play: 5–15 minutes per game
  • Cost: $7.59 on Amazon

Coup is a fast-paced bluffing game where each player starts with two roles. You might be a Duke, a Captain, an Assassin, a Contessa or an Ambassador — each can take actions and reactions that affect other players and roles. But you're encouraged to lie about your role, of course. And you'll need to bluff in order to earn funds so you can overthrow your friends.

One of the most appealing parts of is how few parts it has and how easy it is to explain. All you need is the deck of 15 cards and the coins it comes with (or about 30 pennies, honestly). It might not have the app that Ultimate Werewolf has, but it's still super simple and easy to jump into with zero knowledge. It's also one of the rare games that can shine with as few as three players.

3. Pandemic Legacy

[Credit: Z-Man Games]
[Credit: Z-Man Games]
  • Players: 2–4
  • Time to Play: 1–2 hours per session
  • Cost: $45 on Amazon

If you're looking for something much meatier than the other games on this list that you can play over the course of many sessions, Pandemic Legacy could be the game for you.

Based on the award-winning Pandemic board game, Legacy puts you and your squad in charge of cooperatively staving off disease outbreaks throughout the world. The unique thing about Legacy is that the results of the game will carry over and alter the game for future sessions. If you win or lose, if a city falls, if a disease mutates, then those results all have a permanent impact on the game itself. At the end of each play session, you'll be putting stickers on the board, using sharpies on cards or ripping some cards in half, and giving the new permanent abilities and flaws to the characters you play as.

The game will also instruct you to periodically open sealed black boxes that will alter the game, whether you like it or not. These boxes will add new characters and cards, new mutations, new mechanics — and there's a fun element to see what a new "episode" of the "season" will bring you. is an excellent game to play with the same small group over and over again (like a recurring double date). It's also fun to play with a rotating cast of friends so one group deals with the consequences of the last group's session.

Note: The blue and red versions of Pandemic Legacy are identical inside. The colors are just there so can run more than one game at the same time.

4. Sushi Go!

[Credit: Gamewright]
[Credit: Gamewright]

Holy freaking crap, this game is adorable. In Sushi Go!, your goal is to assemble the best possible meal — and all the food is cute. That's the entire game. Each card represents a different element in a sushi meal and points are awarded based on combinations of cards. Tempura is best in pairs, more dumplings is always a good thing, nigiri is obviously better with a little wasabi, you need just the right amount of pudding desert, etc, etc.

operates with a drafting mechanic, where each player will pick one card from a pile and then pass the pile to the next player — allowing for some sneaky sushi strategy. Only, instead of drafting to build a deck, you're drafting a plate of food with faces. Construct a plate, earn points, and remember to eat real food before playing or else you'll just get hungry.

5. Settlers Of Catan

[Credit: David Richeson]
[Credit: David Richeson]
  • Players: 3–4 (up to 6 with expansion)
  • Time to Play: 1–2 hours per game
  • Cost: $29.75 on Amazon

Yeah, you probably saw this coming. Settlers of Catan is loved, and for good reason: It's easy to learn, complicated enough to be rewarding, and is a great gateway board game to introduce Monopoly or Risk players to the wider world of tabletop gaming. In , you and your friends will assume control over various plots of land on a hex-based island. You'll then trade the resources these plots produce (sheep, bricks, lumber, etc) in order to advance specific goals and earn a set number of points.

The game is tame enough for kids to play and easy enough for adults to get sloshed with. If you haven't tried Catan, you really should give it a go. And if you're a little sick of Catan, you can always try picking up one of the many expansions to add new mechanics and change up the map.

6. Codenames

[Credit: Czech Games Edition]
[Credit: Czech Games Edition]
  • Players: 4–8
  • Time to Play: 10–20 minutes per game
  • Cost: $15 on Amazon

Codenames is a team-based code game that rewards creative thinking and wordplay. Think of Codenames like a more intricate version of Taboo and you're on the right track. Each of the two teams will have a spymaster who is trying to get their teammates to guess which words (the code names of secret agents) on a 5x5 matrix of cards belong to the blue or red team.

The twist? Each turn, the spymaster can only say one word and one number of cards that word applies to. For example, based on the clue "Ocean 4," the blue spymaster's team can then guess up to four words on the matrix somehow related to the ocean. Those words might be things like "shrimp," "blue" and "net." But, if they guess wrong, you might give the other team points instead.

Codenames is a fun way to challenge your friends to think in new ways and encourages competitive cleverness. It's also short enough that you can change spymasters and switch up the teams after every short round. Since the matrix of words is deck-based and changes every game, you'll get a ton of mileage out of . Bonus.

7. Spyfall

[Credit: Cryptozoic Entertainment]
[Credit: Cryptozoic Entertainment]
  • Players: 3–8
  • Time to Play: 15–20 minutes per round
  • Cost: $16 on Amazon

Social games that force people to talk to each other always make for fantastic party fodder, and Spyfall fits the bill with a certain panache and a goofy art style. At the beginning of each round, one of the 25 tiny decks of cards will be handed out, depicting one of 25 secret locations. Among this small deck is a Spy card as well as specific roles appropriate to the location (a lifeguard or a child at a beach; a commander or a cook on a submarine). Over the course of a several-minute round, each player will question each other; the Spy will try to figure out what the location is, and the other players will try to figure out who the Spy is.

When everyone is suspect, and no one wants to give away too much information, a simple question like, "How did you get to work today?" carries a lot of weight. If you answer too truthfully, you might give the Spy a big clue; if you're too cagey, you might be suspected of being the Spy. With short rounds, you can play as much as you'd like. Plus, because everyone is forced to interact, provides a great opportunity to break the ice and get some of your shy friends chatting and accusing each other of being filthy moles.

This Is The Tip Of The Iceberg

Don't get me wrong, games like Cards Against Humanity are great. I am over the moon that they exist. But don't limit yourself to just one or two of the most popular games. There are a ton of excellent and that are affordable, just as fun, and at least as engaging. If I missed your favorites (and I know I left a few popular ones out), add them to the comments below!


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