There are plenty of board games out there for larger groups, but finding a game suitable for three people can be a little more challenging. Sure, many of the boxes say "for 2+ players" but that doesn't mean they're necessarily riveting for a trio. Yet, the best 3-player board games actually feel like they were designed specifically for this smaller group size and are outrageously fun.
When shopping for a three-player-friendly game, the most important thing to look for is how the gameplay will be affected if you're playing with an uneven group number, because sometimes it will change dramatically when the competition is more triangular than head-to-head. Of course, this can be somewhat hard to determine while shopping online. That's why all of the games featured below have been vetted by Reddit gamers and Amazon reviewers alike, earning high marks for being especially great, even best played, with three players.
Whether you prefer a fast-paced game that's done in less than 30 minutes or a complex strategy game that can last hours, there's guaranteed to be an option here that will keep boredom at bay. The best part: Several of these games cost less than $25, so you might want to load up on more than one.
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1. A Competitive Tile Game With A Cult Following
Backed by more than 2,500 Amazon reviews, this Azul board game is a fan favorite for its ever-changing game play. The premise of the game — claiming and rearranging tiles — is simple yet each game builds in complexity. And in terms of it being suited for three players, one Reddit user noted, "The draft is better at three players in my opinion." Plus, it's the 2018 winner of the prestigious board game award, the Spiel des Jahres.
A helpful review: "Great strategy game. Very nice components, easy set up, plays quickly. Plays well as a two-player game, but really well as a three-player game. Simple rule set, but with more play it becomes apparent that it can be a very deep strategic game."
2. A Classic Game That Word Geeks *Love*
This classic word game has been around for decades and yet it still feels fresh, in part because every game is different depending on the tiles you get — and how much wine you may or not be drinking while playing! For the uninitiated, the premise is to build words off of the existing words on the board, with different letters varying in their desirability. It's a fantastic game for two, three, or four players, and the deluxe edition features a board that keeps the tiles in place, and the board can be rotated so each player gets the best view.
A helpful review: "One of my favorite games. This addition has the rotation assist with a turntable. Plastic squares keep letters in place. Fun for all ages."
3. An Award-Winning Game That's Infinitely Re-Playable
Admittedly, this game from Fantasy Flight Games is a little pricey, but it's a worthy investment since it will be one game you reach for time and time again. The premise of this abstract game, designed by game guru Reiner Knizia, is to strategically place colored tiles on the hexagonal board and to block other people's tiles. One reviewer called it "a twist on Blockus and dominoes." It's designed for up to four players, but the intrigue doesn't really change if you're playing with just three players, just the area of the board that's in use.
A helpful review: "This is a very elegant little game. Its rules are few and very simple, and so it's easy to teach and play. But the game has a fair amount of depth to it, and good replay value. There's enough meat to it that serious gamers won't mind playing it, and it's straightforward enough that non-gamers or very casual gamers will learn it with ease and enjoy playing it. [...]"
4. A Long-Playing Game For Those Looking For A Truly Immersive Experience
If you're ready to hunker down and get into something, then Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization is your game (expect it to take several hours). As the name implies, it's a civilization-building game, with one reviewer noting that it has a "nice interaction among various game components: population, resources, military, buildings, events." It's designed for two to four players, but it topped several Redditors list for being an especially great three player game.
A helpful review: "We know it's a long game - my first full play through (3 players) lasted over six hours - but the time flew by and I can't wait to play again. Once you absorb the rules you find them to all be logical and I know that my second take will go more smoothly. [...] All three players had fun throughout, bolstered perhaps by the fact that we couldn't tell until the very end who was going to come out on top (me!)."
5. A "Choose Your Own Adventure" Style Game
For a gateway into Euro-style gaming, you're not going to find a better pick than Above and Below. It has a "Choose Your Own Adventure" premise that's really interactive, and as one reviewer noted, "You just want to explore more." It's designed for two to four players, but since it's not a directly competitive game, it's perfect for three players. One reviewer commented: "I honestly can't see it losing anything by using three or four players instead of two."
A helpful review: "This game has been liked by everyone that's played it and it has a lot of strategies you can take. When you explore the cave you get random encounters from the "encounter book." You have to make decisions and then roll to see if you succeed or not. It's reminiscent to a dungeons and dragons style encounter - BUT WAY more simple and quicker.Once you learn the rules the game plays about 45 mins for two people, add a little for more players. [...]"
6. The Best Collaborative Game
If your group of three tends to get a little too cutthroat, a collaborative game like Forbidden Island might be just what you need. Instead of trying to beat an opponent, this game requires that you work together as a team to accomplish a common goal: collecting treasure before the island sinks. It's a quick game designed to last about 30 minutes. Anywhere from two to four players can play, but it might be especially fun with three players, with one reviewer noting, "With three, you can adjust the the difficulty to make it a better playing experience." The fast-paced strategy game comes backed by more than 3,700 Amazon reviews, and if you end up falling in love with it, there are two more games in the Forbidden family to extend the game-playing fun: Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky.
A helpful review: "I like simple board and card games. I don't get into the strategy and long-games like Catan and others. But this one I liked. It took a while to understand the rules, there are a lot. But I love playing collaboratively (and not competitively) and the game itself is different each time. Highly recommend for those of you who want to get into more complicated games but aren't sure where to start. Graphics and pieces are pretty, strategy is challenging but not difficult, and you don't have to spend 2 hours playing 1 game. You can finish a game in 30 minutes with 2-3 players, maybe a bit more with more players."
7. A Strategy Game That's Quick To Learn & Play
For card sharks and strategy game lovers alike, Sequence is the perfect hybrid game to pass the night away. It combines cards and chips — and a nice mix of offense and defense. It's designed for two to 12 players, with larger even numbers lending themselves to teams, but for playing as a threesome, it's every man for themselves. Although it's worth noting that with three, some reviewers mentioned that the board does get full. That said, fans love this game for being easy to pick up, without having to labor over instructions.
A helpful review: "I really enjoy this game. It's a rather simple game that's based on strategy and little luck. It requires very little set up and you can typically get through a game in less than 30 minutes (with three players). Sometimes, it's nice to have a simple game on hand that doesn't take a lot of setup, I find these the easiest to play during the week or with friends that aren't that into board games (more complex games don't hold their interest). I Highly recommend it!"
8. A Game Similar To Settlers Of Catan But Faster
For Settlers of Catan fans who like the premise but think the game can feel never-ending, you need to explore 7 Wonders. It's a civilization-building game but with a historical context (players must build one of the seven cities of the ancient world) and the box promises that one game takes 30 minutes. It's designed for three to seven players, and it's a fan favorite on Reddit, with one user commenting, "I love 7 Wonders at all player counts, but it is strategically deepest at 3."
A helpful review: "So far, our favorite game has been Settlers of Catan. I think 7 Wonders has given us a new favorite. [...] We liked the fact that 7 Wonders moved at a faster pace (though we still spent an hour on it), and that it was easy to learn the basics so new players could join in without feeling overwhelmed or greatly disadvantaged. In fact the first new player we introduced captured the second to highest score. The interaction among players is good, and positive (no cutthroat offensives). [...]"
9. The Most Bang For Your Buck: An Affordable Game With 5 Different Ways To Play
It's true that Spot It! is technically more of a card game than a board game, but since it has a 4.8-star rating after more than 5,000 reviews on Amazon, it was too good not to include. And since it comes with five different ways to play — for less than $15 — you're getting a lot of entertainment for your money. As the name implies, the main goal is to spot two matching objects faster than your competitors, so it's a game of focus, observation, and quick reflexes. Anywhere from two to eight people can play, but fans love playing it with smaller groups to avoid confusion (especially if younger children are playing). It's also a super portable game since it all packs up into a little tin.
A helpful review: "[...]there are several different ways to play the game, but we've only played two different ways. It can be played one-on-one, or it can involve several players. The beauty of it is that it takes little time to play; a game can be completed in under two minutes. But, beware, it can suck you in, and you'll want to keep playing. [...]"
10. A Nostalgic Game That's Great For All Ages
For many people, Sorry! is a game that evokes strong childhood memories, whether you loved it or thought it was downright ruthless. But playing it as an adult means you can lean into that ruthlessness and have a blast. That said, it's a simple enough game to play with young children too (it's designed for kids ages six and up), and some of the rules have been modified in this version to make it slightly easier. While it can accommodate anywhere from two to four players, three is really the sweet spot since game play can drag on with all the pawns in play. One note: This newer version of the game comes with three pawns per player versus the older version that came with four (a point of contention for some).
A helpful review: "This is memory flash back, from when I was a child. So playing with my kids is a joyful experience. I plan on having "game night" once or twice a week, with this and many other games."