Board games are incredibly fun. Sometimes, though, they can be intimidating, especially for people contemplating getting into board games. But have no fear because we’ve found some excellent games that have simple instructions and are easy to play.
When you look at games that take a hot minute to set up and even longer to play, like Catan or any of the Villainous games, it’s understandable that you might think twice before jumping in. Are all board games this time-intensive and complicated? No! You just have to know what to look for or have awesome resources like us that do the research for you.
What to Look For in an Easy Board Game
An Environmental Game: Photosynthesis
Take a Trip: Trekking The National Parks
Tell Fun Stories: Dixit
Play As Mutant Monsters: King of Tokyo
Dominos, with a Twist: Kingdomino
Embrace the Renaissance: Splendor
Test Your Knowledge: Name 5
Fun For Everyone: Cranium
Build Egyptian Monuments: Imhotep
A Deck-Building Adventure: The Quest For El Dorado
When you’re looking at a giant wall full of board games at the store or scrolling through all the options on Amazon, it’s hard to know right away which board games are easy and which are more complex. Luckily, we’ve got a great list of 10 board games that are easy to learn and play. But if you want to look for yourself, you’ll need to skim the back of the box for the following:
- How Extensive the Directions Are: Some board games have directions that can fit on a single card or piece of paper. When the directions are this short, you’ve got a pretty simple game on your hands. More complicated games often have a hefty instruction manual with multiple pages explaining every possible scenario. When you’re looking for a game that’s easy to learn and easy to play, shorter directions are your friend.
- The Number of Moving Pieces: If it looks like a board game only has a board, player pieces, and a pack of cards, for example, it’s probably a fairly simple game. But if it has multiple decks of cards and additional board pieces besides player tokens, it might take a while to set up and even longer to learn how to play. That’s not true of all games, but usually, you’ll find that the more moving parts a board game has, the more complex it is.
- How Long the Game Takes to Play: Most board games will have a gameplay time estimate on the back of the box. It often looks like a clock and you’ll see a number somewhere near it, usually in 15-minute increments (15, 30, 60). Usually, the shorter a game estimates it’ll take to play, the easier it is. If you see a game say that it takes upwards of 60 minutes to complete a game, you know that it’s going to be a more complex game.
Photosynthesis lets you experience the tree cycle in a fun, innovative way. You take your trees through their entire life cycle, from a little seedling all the way to full bloom, earning light points as your trees grow and collect energy from the sun’s rays. To be the winner, you have to earn the most points.
You can play with two to four players at a time, and the game is recommended for ages eight and up. Each game takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete, depending on how many players you have.
Learning about a tree's life cycle sounds like it might be boring, but Photosynthesis gamifies it and makes it incredibly entertaining.
If you can’t get time off of work to go explore national parks in person, Trekking the National Parks is the next best thing. Fun fact: the game was created by a couple who traveled to every single national park.
On your turn, you can complete two actions: draw a Trek card, move your player token, claim a Park card, or occupy a Major Park. The goal of the game is to earn the most points, and you earn points by occupying a Major Park, claiming Park cards, and gathering a park’s colored stone as you traverse across the map.
Each game allows for two to five players (ages ten and up), and a game takes about 30 to 60 minutes to complete. If you’ve ever played Ticket to Ride, it has similarities to Trekking the National Parks, but this game is different enough that it’s a unique experience.
Trekking The National Parks
With Trekking the National Parks, enjoying nature and hiking trails has never been more fun.
Dixit is similar to Cards Against Humanity, where one player (the storyteller) draws a card and the other players play a card from their hand that best fits the storyteller’s card. However, the other players can’t see the storyteller’s card; instead, they have to choose a card based on a clue word the storyteller gives everyone.
All the cards are mixed together, including the storyteller’s card, and all the players secretly vote on which card they think is the storyteller’s card. Whichever player’s card is chosen as the storyteller’s card earns points. So you have to be good at giving clues to earn the most points!
Anyone eight and up can play, and although Dixit can be played with three players, it’s much more fun when you get closer to the max of eight players. Each game takes about 30 minutes to complete, so it’s easy to keep a long game going all night.
The number of fun, unique stories you can create in Dixit is endless.
King of Tokyo can have two to six players at a time, each of whom chooses a cool monster to play as. The monsters to choose from include Alienoid, Cyber Bunny, Gigazur, The King, Kraken, or Meka Dragon.
A full game takes about 30 minutes to complete, and anyone aged eight and up to play. Each turn, a player rolls the six custom dice and has the option to reroll some of them if they want, similar to the game Yahtzee. Throughout the game, you earn victory points from your dice roll or starting your turn in Tokyo. The first player to reach 20 victory points wins!
King of Tokyo
In King of Tokyo, you play as a monster who's trying to become, well, the King of Tokyo.
If you enjoy playing traditional dominos, you’ll love Kingdomino. The game plays out through drawing cards and placing tiles that connect, much like dominos connect to one another. Each tile has two sections, just like dominos.
When every player has a grid of at least five tiles by five tiles in front of them, the game is over and your points are calculated; whoever has the most points wins! Then, the game can start all over again. Each game only takes about 15 minutes, so it’s easy to play multiple rounds, and you can have two to four players (ages eight and up).
Kingdomino embraces everything great about dominos but transforms it into a fun card game.
Splendor is a wildly popular game, and for good reason! In it, you play as the leader of a merchant guild, investing in mines, recruiting artisans, and essentially building your own commercial empire.
When the game is set up, you’ll be looking at three decks of cards you can draw from, along with 17 other cards laid face up in a grid. Then, there are six different colored tokens to choose from throughout your game.
You choose tokens strategically to collect specific resources and ultimately attract the attention of nobles. An average playthrough takes about 30 minutes, and you can play with two to four players (ages 10 and up).
Splendor lets you play out your Renaissance dreams, vying for the attention of nobles in order to win the game.
If you want a fast-paced game that you can explain in probably two minutes, check out Name 5. The game has a small board, dice, a timer, and a deck of challenge cards that each have five colored categories.
On every turn, you or your team roll the dice and move your token on the board. If you land on a red space, the opposing player or team draws a challenge card and reads the Name 5 challenge in the card’s red space.
If the challenge is ‘Central American countries,’ you or your team would need to name five Central American countries in 30 seconds or less. Name five countries correctly, and you get to roll again; if you fail, it’s the other team’s turn.
You can play with two people, or with as many people as you want, divided up into two to four teams. Each game usually takes about 10 to 20 minutes to get through, and it’s recommended for anyone age 12 and up.
Name 5 presents you with a ton of fun categories where you have to name five of something in 30 seconds or less to progress!
There are four different-colored categories to show off your skills: Creative Cat (blue), Data Head (red), Star Performer (green), and Word Worm (yellow). Each colored category has unique challenges, including (but certainly not limited to) singing, humming, solving puzzles, sketching, and sculpting.
On your first turn, you choose one of the four categories, then your opponents draw a card from that category and read the challenge to you. If you choose a green Star Performer card, your challenge might be to hum a popular song or complete a song lyric. If you complete your challenge in time, you get to roll the custom die and move forward to whatever color you roll. On your next turn, you’ll have to complete a challenge based on the color category your player token is on.
The game comes with four decks of cards (one for each category), a custom die, some sculpting clay, a timer, four player tokens, a drawing pad, and the board. Anyone 16 or older can play, and each game takes about 30 minutes to finish. It’s recommended to have at least four players, though you can have more if you’re playing in teams.
From singing to sketching to puzzle solving, there's so much fun to be had in Cranium.
Imhotep takes you back to the old days of Egypt, building legendary monuments with stone blocks on ships from your quarry. Your opponents are trying to do the same, so there’s some healthy competition for stone resources as the game plays out.
There are more moving parts in this game than the others on our list, but it’s still fairly simple to play. When the game is first set up, the four building sites are displayed, there’s a quarry of available stone to collect from, and a drawn card tells you which four ships are available to sail that round.
You can choose one of four actions to help you towards victory on your turn. You can gather more stones of your color from the quarry, place a stone on a ship that hasn’t sailed yet, sail a ship to a site, or play a blue market card. Placing stone on ships and deciding when to sail those ships to building sites to unload stone has to be done strategically to earn the most points.
The game is played over six total rounds, each starting with a new drawn card telling you which four ships you can load up on that round. You can play with two to four players (ages 10 and up), and each game takes about 40 minutes to play.
Build Egyptian monuments with Imhotep, and compete with your opponents for stone resources along the way.
The Quest For El Dorado is a longer game that takes about 60 minutes to complete, but the instructions are incredibly easy to follow. Your mission? To search for the golden city of El Dorado by assembling an expedition and trekking through the jungles of South America.
When you start the game, you’ll construct a map with different terrains and blockades. You can create a custom map, or the game gives you quite a few maps to build as well. Each card you come across in the game helps you get across the map faster than your opponent, and you need to collect cards of a particular type to get you across the different landscapes: jungles, rivers, and villages.
To complete your mission, you accumulate cards as you play, planning well and stacking your deck with the right equipment and expert explorers to get you across the map. Moving across the board requires you to spend cards strategically so you can plan out the perfect route to El Dorado and get there before your opponent.
With over 100,000 possible layouts, the replayability value of this game is unmatched. Anyone over the age of 10 can play, and the game is perfect with two to four players.
The Quest For El Dorado
Search for the golden city of El Dorado by building your deck well, with the right equipment and experts.