20 board games to beat the rainy day blues

Spring is just around the corner! Where I live, this usually means we’re in store for some lovely days of sunshine interspersed with plenty of rain … and all that time indoors makes my whole family a bit antsy. And I don’t know how things are in your part of the world right now, but around here we’re preparing for some serious social distancing, and even I can’t read all day, every day.

When we tire of doing jigsaw puzzles on the coffee table, it’s time to pull out the board games. Several of my kids LOVE board games, though I confess, I prefer puzzles to games. Competition doesn’t exactly make this Enneagram Nine’s heart sing, and some board games are just…boring. (I’m looking at you, Monopoly.)  

However, I always say that there is a book for every reader; it’s just about finding the right one for you. Perhaps the same sentiment applies to board games? I asked the Modern Mrs. Darcy team for their suggestions, and it turns out that Brenna, our fearless What Should I Read Next producer, has a whole room in her house dedicated to board games! Her favorites are clearly marked below. 

If you’re interested in even more board game recommendations, check out episode 193 of What Should I Read Next, featuring self-professed mega-nerd Keren Form. Her book and board game recommendations are so much fun. 

I hope you recognize an old favorite or discover a new one here. Enjoy!

20 board games to combat cabin fever

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Scrabble. This is the same Scrabble we all know and love, but in a beautiful bookish edition. It would be so pretty on a bookshelf.

Catan. An award-winning board game that involves community-building, harvesting, and trading resources. There are many expansion packs available for this game, making it easy to customize for players of all levels.

Forbidden Island. Players join a team of fearless adventurers with a goal to capture four sacred treasures while traveling across the perilous ruins of a paradise island. Escape with your treasures before the watery abyss engulfs your team of explorers.

Ticket to Ride. Earn points by connecting North American cities and building train routes. Build your train empire by matching cards.

Castle Panic. This is my youngest son’s favorite game at the moment. The goal is to work together to guard your castle against monsters. Reviews describe this as a “great gateway game” and “perfect for less competitive players.”

Carcassonne. Similar to Settlers of Catan, players lay tiles down to build a community. Inspired by the French fortress of the same name, Carcassonne is a fun, medieval strategy game.

Sagrada. Perfect for artistic and strategic players, the goal of this game is to build a stained-glass masterpiece in the Sagrada Familia. Players select stained glass pieces after rolling the dice, and then carefully place the glass, paying attention to color, shade, and shape.

Splendor. Taking place during the European Renaissance, this game is all about extravagance and wealth. Noble players seek valuable gems via trade routes, negotiations, and strategy.

Pride and Prejudice: the Board Game. Test your knowledge of the beloved classic while stepping into its pages. Move the couples from the book (Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Bingley, etc.) across the board and collect tokens on their way to the Parish Church to marry and win the game. Mrs. Bennett would love this one.

Sherlock Holmes Consulting. A choose-your-own-adventure style board game. Solve mysteries with your map of London, casebook, and newspapers, plus your Sherlockian cunning and deduction skills. Work together with up to eight detectives.

Brenna’s Favorites, in her own words:

Mysterium. An award-winning French board game, it’s sort of a less-competitive Clue gone spooky…all but one person play a team of psychics who are trying to communicate with the victim of a murder, and one person plays the ghost. The ghost tries to silently communicate the who/what/where of their murder using cards with fanciful or abstract art. There are individual goals, but in the end everyone cooperates in order to win. It’s SUPER fun and even the shy person in a group might enjoy being the silent ghost.

Fox in the Forest. A two-person card game inspired by fairy tales and folklore. It works similarly to simple matching card games, like Ratscrew or Uno, but you are approached by fairy tale characters (a witch, a fox, a magic swan…) with special directions. You’re trying to win, but winning requires getting a MEDIUM amount of points…not greedy, not destitute. It would be easy to play with kids and make up a story that follows the cards drawn.

Photosynthesis. This board game has gorgeous art; your goal is to grow trees!!! If you like punching out little pieces (I think people either LOVE this or HATE this), it’s got a lot of them.

Mastermind. A two person deductive logic game that could be played silently (plane rides! car trips!). One person sets a secret “code” of colored pegs, and the other has 10 turns to correctly guess the code… their only clues are signals from the opponent when they guess a correct color in the wrong slot, or the correct color in the correct slot. Simple to learn, addictive to a certain kind of player (me).

Deception: Murder in Hong Kong. A murder mystery secret-roles game similar to Ultimate Werewolf. One player is secretly the murderer disguised as an investigator, another is the forensic scientist, and the rest are true investigators trying to find the murderer who is among them based on clues from the forensic scientist… it’s a LOT of fun, if you like games that let you accuse friends of horrible things (again, me).

Everdell. ESSENTIALLY A BOARD GAME VERSION OF THE REDWALL SERIES. It’s a dynamic tableau game; you play leaders of little animal cities who are non-aggressively competing to build prosperous communities by a game-year’s end. It’s so cute.  

Tsuro. A strategic path-finding board game. Gorgeous board, and simple to learn.

Sushi Go! A passing/matching card game with truly adorable sushi-themed cards. It’s styled like one of those sushi restaurants with the little conveyor belts, and you’re passing the cards around trying snag the ideal combination of dishes.

Escape Room: The Game. A home-friendly version of classic escape rooms, complete with timer and an app for thematic music. I’ve been to several real escape rooms, and this really did recreate a lot of the tension and puzzle-solving/clue-searching experience. You don’t have to hide clues around your house or anything. This can be played at a table with the game components plus a pad of paper and pencil.

Ex Libris! Basically the game designed for Modern Mrs. Darcy readers. You play LIBRARIANS, competing to build collections of rare books. It’s a super fun worker-placement game. Alphabetizing IS a factor.

What’s your favorite board game? How do you keep everyone entertained on a rainy day or when you’re suffering from cabin fever? I’d love to hear your recommendations in comments.

20 board games to beat the rainy day blues

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  1. Balise says:

    For a “tongue in cheek” recommendation – Pandemic, same designer as Forbidden Island, and players try to save the world against multiple strains of illnesses.

    For a more “heavy” gaming experience, I’m a huge fan of Terraforming Mars – players are corporations that aim at terraforming mars…. and make the most money doing so.

    • Kat says:

      Oh wow, I LOVE board games. I have a few of these and found a few new ones to try. My favorite board game is Arkham Horror. Fair warning, it is for older kids (12+) and is based on Lovecraftian horrors trying to destroy the world so it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is long and can be a bit tricky for beginners, but it is a cooperative game (players vs monsters) and really immersive and fun when you get into it!

  2. Christy McQueen says:

    Love all of these games! Anne, you were already my favorite bookish person but I love you even more for sharing board games! Next to reading, I love nothing more than to play games with the family. 🙂 Our family likes Survive, Escape from Atlantis, Escape- The Curse of the Temple and Lost Cities.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    My husband and I love Suburbia. Each player builds their own city using urban planning principles, and whoever designs the best one wins. My husband is competitive and I am not, but we both love this game.

  4. Pam says:

    Concept – it is a cooperation game where you are trying to make the other people guess your word by using clues (concepts) on the board. It is almost harder to explain than to play but a favorite of my son.

    Card based games – Loot (pirates), Unexpected Treasures, Quiddler (mix of Scrabble and Phase 10), Anomia (word game)

    Telestrations – mix of Telephone and Pictionary. Even got my dad, who only plays card games, to play it

    Rummikub – rummy with tiles

    Balloon Cup – fun 2 person game

    Tenzi- dice rolling game. Be sure to get the cards with topic ideas, too. We usually take turns even if some of the cards are competitive.

    Castles of Burgundy – for those who like Carcassonne and Settlers of Catan

  5. We’re big game lovers over here, and I’m thinking—since you’re not super competitive, there are games now that are cooperative. One that’s especially fitting for these times? Pandemic. Basically you’re all working together in different roles to try and beat the pandemic before it takes over the world. Could be a fun coronavirus party game, eh? 😉

    Another cooperative play game is Betrayal at House on the Hill. For a fun non-coop game, we’ve really liked Play Nine lately (especially as it’s shorter!).

  6. Ashley says:

    Thank you so much for these recommendations! We have a renewed love of jigsaw puzzles, thanks to you, and recently completed the beautiful cozy, bookish scene puzzle you suggested.
    One of our favorite games is 221B Baker Street, another Sherlock themed game where players solve one mystery per game while traveling the streets of Victorian London.

  7. Angie Maynes says:

    Love this list! The ones we have on it we live and so many fun new recommendations. My families current favorite game is Cover Your Assests. Super fun and good for the whole family. Sleeping Queens is also a family favorite and great for younger players too.

  8. Theresa says:

    We love sushi go. Our new favorite is Dixit. Also fun is skip bo and taco takeover though they are more card games than board games.

  9. Cecilia Wright says:

    We love board games. A few I would recommend; Eurorails or Empire Builder (both rail games), Fluxx, Give Me the Brain (this is zombie related but in a funny way) and if you can find it, Facts in Five (it was a 3M game). Have fun whatever you play

  10. Cynthia J Stubbs says:

    Time Stories is also a great game. This is a cooperative game set in different times in history. You learn a bit about history while working together to complete your assignment. Highly recommend.

  11. Michelle says:

    Great post, and comments! We’re huge (huge!) fans of Ticket to Ride. We also have Settlers of Catan, the two player card version of the more extensive game. Also Hive is a two player strategy tile game. It doesn’t take long and lends itself to rounds or someone else taking a turn. We are giving Pandemic a rest for now, although my guess is it’s going to get pulled out…it’s a good game.

  12. Holly says:

    Our family loves Dominion. It’s a deck building game and each time we play it’s different. My daughter (age 250 and I aren’t terribly competitive, so we have decided to eliminate any “attack” cards and leave them in the box.

    There are expansion packs so if you want to increase the variety, you have that option. Addictive!

  13. Denise says:

    We have many of the above mentioned games and we also like these as well: 7Wonders, Puerto Rico, and Codenames–these all favorites of our family.

  14. susie says:

    Wow, I expected you to list the old tried and true games: Monopoly, Risk, Sorry!, Parcheesi, The Game of Life, Yahtzee, Clue—these are the games we played growing up—but you listed 18 that I had not even heard of! Thank you, I’ll be checking them out! When I was a kid, all I ever asked for, for my birthday or Christmas, was “board games”! (oh, and a ring). One game we liked, that I have not seen anywhere, is a Bingo game, complete with the physical apparatus: a crank that threw up a ball into a bubble, with the letter/number (B5!) on it, and lots of Bingo cards. That was fun for hours for all 7 of us. Now we’re more into Trivial Pursuits and Jeopardy!

  15. Helen says:

    We love ticket to ride the various versions and of course pandemic but maybe won’t be playing that in the next few week trying to de stress. Some great suggestions

  16. Amy J says:

    Our favorite cooperative game is probably Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle. It’s a deck building game, and there are seven different levels (one for each book). It really nails the Harry Potter world, and my son is a huge fan.

    We also like “Bohnanza” (a very silly card game based on collecting beans of various sorts), Lost Cities (a two player card that’s a bit like a competitive version of solitaire where you’re trying to assemble runs of cards). I second “Sushi Go” (it’s so cute) and Forbidden Island. We’ve played “Potion Explosion” at our local game store and really enjoyed it – I may pick up a copy of it to aid in upcoming cabin fever.

    • Nicole says:

      We love Hogwarts Battle, too, and have also been enjoying the Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle – Defense Against the Dark Arts game. It’s a two person competitive deck building game. Chameleon is another family favorite where you are trying to provide clues for a word without allowing the chameleon to guess what the word is. Hard to explain but a lot of fun.

  17. Denise says:

    So I too HATE monopoly (never ending, painful game). However my son (age 9) loves it….so we found a happy compromise in the “Monopoly Deal” card game. It is the same premise (collect properties, etc.) but is much faster and more interesting play. And it’s way more portable than regular monopoly and less clean up!

    • Leslie says:

      We’ve had a Monopoly Card game for years, and it is so much fun to play! The properties, houses , & hotels are all cards, and sadly, I don’t think it is made any longer. We also have the Clue Card Game. Monopoly cards takes a much shorter time span, and you g kids can play too. We also enjoy Uno, Phase 10, Quiddich(I’m not fast enough to play that one, but I like watching it being played).

    • d says:

      If you’re ever willing to give Monopoly another try, use the actual rules. It makes the game a TON shorter and more enjoyable. Some common “house rules” mistakes:
      1. Free Parking: There is no payment for landing on Free Parking. All money paid for taxes, chance, and community chest, etc. goes to the bank.

      2. Property Auctions: People mistakenly ignore this rule! When a player lands on an unowned space, they may buy it from the bank. If they choose not to, it immediately goes up for auction amongst all the players. This means that properties are distributed after 3-4 times around the board, not 10+. In games with 3 or less players, you don’t have enough cash amongst you to buy up the board without this rule, lengthening the game. You can also use the auction to drive up the price on someone if they have 2 of the 3 properties needed for a monopoly, making them cash-poor and unable to develop the properties and charge super-high rents.

      3. Speaking of Rent: This game rewards players that build 3+ houses on their properties–look at how the rents jump up at this level! If you want a short game, build up to 3 houses as fast as you can to beat out the other players.

      4. Use Jail strategically: Once you have the properties claimed and traded, build on yours and hang out in Jail as much as possible while the other players tour the board and land on you. They still have to pay you, while you just sit tight for 3 turns. Watch out for the orange properties upon your release (see below).

      Other tips:
      -The board is 10 spaces corner to corner and railroad to railroad. Knowing this can help you move your playing piece faster.

      -Once you gain your first Monopoly, try mortgaging all your non-monopoly property to get cash to develop the monopoly you have to 3 houses, especially early in the game. There is no better way to win a 3-player game in 45 minutes.

      -A house rule to speed up play without compromising the spirit of the game: Don’t use $1 bills. Round everything up or down to the nearest $5. It takes a lot less time counting money and calculating fees.

      -Income tax: This space is a bugger and a time suck if you don’t know that a) you have to declare ON THE SPOT if you’re going to pay a flat $250 or 10% and b) it’s only worth calculating 10% if you have only gone around the board 1-3 times. If you’ve developed nearly any wealth in the game, $250 is cheaper and faster. (If you HAVEN’T developed any wealth yet, 10% is cheaper and easy to calculate if you remember how much money you had at the start of the game. . .I want to say you start with $1500 but am not totally sure.)

      -Oranges win the game in our house more than any other monopoly. I think it’s because they are relatively cheap to buy and develop, but with large payouts once you build 3+ houses AND they are in the strike zone of common dice rolls from Jail, being 6, 8, and 9 spaces from jail (7 from jail is community chest).

      Fair warning, the first time I played with these rules instead of my own house rules, I was out of the game so fast I cried. Using the real rules puts the teeth back in the game. Might want to place a box of Kleenex near by.

  18. Carol Auger says:

    We love Mexican Train. It’s a domino game, that my mother-in-law taught us and we spend hours play at our cabin and at her beach house. All ages, very fun!!

  19. Eva says:

    Big board game geek here! Love Ticket to Ride, all the editions (you can choose different countries and time periods for those of you not familiar). Dominion for its’ replay ability and I don’t think anyone has mentioned Qwirkle here. It is less expensive and more readily available and so much fun. The strategy changes a bit once players get to know the game. For a calming journey get Tokaido which is a pleasure to play and lastly Takenoko which has especially colourful and cute features that younger kids enjoy but still keep adults all in!

  20. Lori says:

    There are 2 I love. The Game of Life CLASSIC edition (I mean, you inherit a shrunken head collection!) and an old one called Careers. You go around the board choosing different careers to gain money, love or fame.

  21. Robin says:

    I love this! I hadn’t heard of many of these, so I need to stock up. I love mysteries, and there are some great choices here. Thanks for the post & a big special thank you to Brenna for her awesome suggestions.

  22. I don’t love board games, but we’ve gotten into them recently at my house, especially when the kids get stir crazy or need something besides screen time! My favorite choices are usually simple: Boggle, Mancala, and Shut the Box. I especially love Shut the Box–it’s so simple, but the kids are getting math practice and they love making up new rules for each round (giving them more math practice!).

    My 6-year-old really enjoys Catan Junior, and my 8-year old loves Hive–I’m still trying to master this one, but they actually have a club at her school for Hive. She’s getting better at these strategy games than I am! I haven’t heard of many of those on your list, but they sound like great options for more strategy-oriented games.

  23. Katelyn says:

    Such a delightful post!! Thank you for sharing – I love many of these! I first played Settlers of Catan in the basement of a hostel in Eisenach, Germany, the Deutschland Edition, About 9 years ago, and it opened my mind to a whole world of strategy board games! 🙂
    Other favorites from least commitment to most: Tokaido (it’s about the journey, not the destination); Power Grid (Catan-like with cities, money, and resources); and Agricola (who knew growing food and raising could get so complex). 🙂

  24. Cherie Jones says:

    We love the card game 5 Crowns, fun and a little bit addictive! For board games Sequence is a favourite as is an old one, Scotland Yard, which involves a map of London, public transport and trying to catch the bad guy! Lots of fun. I’ll be checking out others on the list.

  25. Byrd says:

    Kahuna is a great 2 person strategy game where you compete to take over tropical islands by building bridges.

    Hint on sushi go: you can play with a small child! They really can lay ANY card down each round. Tell them they won; if they catch on to that, adults can secretly compete for the least points and the child WILL win for real.

  26. Coreline says:

    Love, love, love this article. Thanks so much for all the recommendations, many have been added to my Amazon wishlist 🙂

  27. Mira Miller says:

    What great recommendations! Since I haven’t seen any recommendations for little kids (mine are currently 4 + 6), I’d like to share 2 of our favorites.

    Race to the Treasure (https://www.amazon.com/Peacable-Kingdom-Race-Treasure-Game/dp/B006S9MUPU) is great for kids even younger than mine currently. We got it at 2 and 4, and they could play! It’s cooperative and actually fun for adults (unlike Candyland!)

    Dungeon Mayhem (https://www.amazon.com/Dungeon-Mayhem-Dungeons-Dragons-Players/dp/B07GW2195F) says 8+, but it is very heavy on iconography to play so my kids have been able to play it for over a year. You are killing each other in the game, so that can be a bit difficult occasionally but my kids love the theme. They can truly play their own hand which doesn’t happen a lot with pre-readers.

  28. Karen Hiemstra says:

    We love Scrabble and have recently acquired Upwords, which is a fun variation. Sequences is also a really fun board game that requires a person to remain very alert to all possible plays. Thanks for the list–never heard of most of them. 🙂

  29. Nichole says:

    Smash Up is our favorite! It always feels new, as players choose different decks with different skills. Last time, I played with Wizard-Dinosaurs.

  30. Maci says:

    This list is absolutely fabulous. I clicked on every game and now I want them all!! Thank you so very much for this! I had no idea most of these games existed.

  31. Kathryn Schwartz says:

    When asked to play I thought it sounded stupid, but I have not laughed so much as when playing a card game called “Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza” (less than $10 most places).

  32. Darth Kittius says:

    Wow! My worlds collide! Books and Board Games are my true loves! You also must check out the games MARRYING MR. DARCY (quick, card based game where you are one of the sisters trying to attract your suitor to propose to you) and OBSESSION: PRIDE, INTRIGUE, AND PREJUDICE IN VICTORIAN ENGLAND (an economic based game, building your country estate to attract the most prestigious visitors). And I would be remiss without mentioning two of my all-time favorites: HARRY POTTER HOGWARTS BATTLE (a deck building game that goes through the 7 movies, very thematically) and DETECTIVE: A MODERN CRIME BOARD GAME (similar to Sherlock Homes Consulting Detective, but with a real history component that you’re using actual online real history sources to gain more information).

  33. Tara says:

    What about games for only two people? It is just my husband and I practicing social distancing at home, but many games just don’t do well with only two people.

    • Suzanne C says:

      Tara, we have the same problem at our house. I’ve found that card games are more likely to be for two people, so you might try some of those.
      Some of our favorites include 5 Crowns, Phase 10, Karma, Word Spiel, Kings in the Corner, and Skip-Bo. (We just got the ‘sequel’ to Uno, Dos, but haven’t tried it yet.) Farkle is a fun dice-rolling game in the spirit of Yahtzee, but played somewhat differently. And the domino game Mexican Train is fun, too, although it requires some space.

      • Tara says:

        We have train dominoes. I have only played it with larger groups, so I hadn’t considered using it with just two of us! Thanks for the suggestions!

  34. We were just introduced to Ticket to Ride after hearing about it everywhere from everyone and we liked it! We bought the short NYC version and my husband and I will play 4 quick games in less than 90 minutes after the kids are in bed. It’s perfect.

  35. Sarah Schneider says:

    Dixit and Dominion, were already mentioned above so I just wanted to add Scattegories, which is one of our favorite games. You have a letter and a set of categories, and you try to come up with something that starts with the letter for each category in a set time. Double points if it’s alliterative, but no points if someone else uses the same answer. It works with mixed age groups, too.
    Growing up we played alot of Sorry and Phase 10 on family vacations. I personally love Scrabble, but few people will play with me (my husband quit about a year into our marriage by declaring that it was a math game masquerading as and English game, and he, as an English major, wasn’t going to participate any more).

  36. Sarah Davis says:

    My husband and I love to play board games. We really like cooperative games because I’m not that competitive either. Our favorites are:
    – Pandemic (Legacy Season 1): Same premise of Pandemic but it is story building. The game tells you to rip up cards and put stickers down on the board. We chose to write everything down on a notepad so that we would be able to replay it. It is cooperative. It is your team vs the board and the board is difficult.
    – Dominion: One of our favorite non-cooperative games to play. We love it so much that we keep buying expansion packs.
    – Azul: Pretty game of tile building. We really like this game because it is a non-cooperative game that is not really competitive.
    – Coup: This is a quick card game all about deceit. The goal is to be the last person in the game.
    -Gloomhaven: Gloomhaven is like an rpg video game in a board game. It is a cooperative game. Everyone bands together as different characters to defeat monsters. As you play through scenarios, you get to reveal new characters, scenarios, and items to buy. It is an investment of both your time and money. If you don’t want to invest all of the time and energy but like the idea of it there is a new stand alone prequel that just came out called Gloomhaven: Jaws of the Lion.

  37. My husband and I love board games! We like Forbidden Island and Castle Panic. My husband’s favorite game is Marvel Legendary. Some of my favorites are Dominion, Lords of Waterdeep, and Champions of Midgard. Dragonwood is also a fun game you can play with kids! (8 and up)

  38. Janice says:

    We are a family of puzzle makers and game players, too!!!
    Some of our favorites over the years have been Scrabble, Boggle, Cathedral, Patchwork, Sequence, Rummicubes, and the card game, Wizards.

  39. Ruby Gayle says:

    These all games are just fantastic. I love to play board games with my cousins and i was looking for the new trending games. And after getting your blog, I got the new collection of Board games and i will definitely buy it.
    Thanks for sharing this amazing collection of all board games. Great job!

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