If you haven’t played a board game in a while, you’re probably thinking “Board games? Like Monopoly?” That’s a classic for sure, but the indie board game scene has gotten so popular over the last decade that some cult favorites can be found at Target. There’s even an entire convention dedicated to those who create and enjoy them. Board and card games are cool, yo.
Whether you’ve been collecting indies for a while or are wondering where to start, this list will help. Try your local comic shop or Amazon to pick a few up that appeal to you, invite some people over, and make some popcorn.
Originally released in Germany in 1995, Catan eventually made its way to the U.S. and broke major ground for indie board games, paving a path for hundreds that followed. Gameplay involves collecting resources to build settlements while avoiding thieves. Catan is so wildly popular that it has spawned four expansions, four spin-offs, a card game, and even video game adaptions. It’s also a simple game to learn, which likely lent to its tremendous popularity in America.
One of the best-known games of the “eurowave” board game movement of the early 2000s, Ticket To Ride is very simple: It’s the early 1900s and you have been challenged by your fellow railroad barons to see as many cities by rail as you possibly can in seven days. If you emerge victorious, you’ll win one million dollars. Made for 2- 5 players, the game has a lovely sense of nostalgia as well as being wonderfully easy to play. Many different versions have been made since the release of the original that allow you to travel across many countries, so if you have a favorite vacation spot, it just might be playable!
Before Cards Against Humanity took the indie card game scene by storm, there was a little game called Apples to Apples which is a whole lot like it. It was popular until the Cards Against Humanity folks thought in 2011, “Hey, why don’t we make a dirty version?” The rest, as you likely know, is history. You have probably already played this game at someone’s party, but in case you haven’t, it’s a great icebreaker—as long as your guests have a slightly depraved sense of humor. If you want to play with kids, Apples to Apples is still a good pick. (You can check out other great board games for families here.)
Made by the same people behind Magic: The Gathering, Betrayal at House on the Hill is a perfect board game to whip out for Halloween or any time you want to play something spooky. The premise: You and fellow explorers set out to explore a haunted house that is randomly generated each time you play. Once the house’s haunted souls surge forth, you must figure out which of your party has crossed over to the dark side and find a way to survive.
An expansion is due out for the game this fall that includes 50 new haunts just in time for cooler weather. For 3-6 players, Betrayal at House on the Hill has remarkable replay value and is just plain fun.
Since Fluxx was launched in 1998, the tiny game company has grown a majorly lucrative series that is one of the best-known in indie card game circles. Based on an ever-changing card dynamic, Fluxx is never the same game twice, which makes it wildly replayable and very popular. Today it’s available in six languages and many themes, including Zombie Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, and Cartoon Network Fluxx.
Originally released in 2007, the first Pandemic game pits up to four players up against the outbreak of four dangerous diseases that are spreading fast. You and other specialists must work together to stop them before they wipe out humanity. Fun and fast paced, Pandemic has spawned three expansions as well as a brand-new version called Legacy. Whether you choose to start with the originals or try out the Legacy version, Pandemic is easy to pick up, exciting, and moves quickly, making it a worthy addition to your gaming shelf.
Bang! was originally created by Italian designers dV Games in 2002. A simple card game, it put players in the roles of outlaws, deputies, a sheriff, and renegades in the Wild West. Its popularity has endured through six official expansions, a standalone game called Bang! The Duel, and five fan-made expansions. With people still playing 14 years after its release, Bang! has staying power and is a perfect choice when you’re feeling feisty.
Created by Richard Garfield, the famous designer that brought Magic: The Gathering to life, King of Tokyo is a fun title for 2-6 players that can be played in 30 minutes or less. As you can guess from the box, players get to take on the roles of famous giant monsters stomping their way through Japan. Utilizing both colorful cards and a board, King of Tokyo is easy to play for those new to games, but still challenging enough for veterans.
An elegant, beautiful board game, Tokaido takes you on a journey down Japan’s beautiful Silk Road with the goal of having the most interesting and varied experience. More of a relaxing play than a competitive one, Tokaido is a great title to pull out if you want to show off a game that’s a bit different. Designer Antoine Bauza is known for other games such as 7 Wonders and Hanabi, also indie classics.