If You Hate Long, Complicated Rule Books, These Simple Board Games Are The Move

Board games are a great way to pass a rainy afternoon or even a raucous night drinking with friends. But sometimes overly complicated games can slow down the fun. That's why the best simple board games are a reliable crowd-pleaser.

But what makes a game not just simple but fun, too? And how do you know it meets that criteria before playing? Obviously, this is largely subjective, but reading reviews can be a great tool to get the gist of what a game is like.

When doing my research, I scoured Amazon carefully, sifting through dozens of games and reading hundreds of reviews. For the final selections, I looked for options that met the following criteria:

  1. Fun: A large majority of reviewers said they had a great time playing them. (Special consideration for phrases such as "hilarious and intoxicating" or "rolling with laughter.")
  2. Simple: Generally speaking, customers agreed they were easy to learn and didn't require lots of time reading instructions.
  3. Fast: They could be played in a reasonable amount of time (i.e. you don't have to commit to a six-hour Friday night).
  4. Engaging: They provided some degree of challenge. (Super complicated games are no fun but neither are the ones that are too easy).

To accommodate a wide variety of ages and interests, I included a combination of classics and modern inventions, keeping in mind all occasions from wild drinking parties to mellow family gatherings. Check out my list below of the best simple board games.


The Best Overall: Scrabble Game

Ages: 8 and up

Number of players: 2 to 4

What's great about it: Scrabble is a classic for a reason. The long-running board game is simple to play, requiring almost no directions, yet there's still plenty of strategy involved. It can be enjoyed by a wide range of age groups, and it's affordable, too. If you've been living under a rock for 80 years and don't know the rules, you basically draw letters out of a bag and then attempt to make words out of them on the board, with each letter scoring you a certain number of points. Reviewers say the pieces in this set are durable and the board is solid, so it's sure to last for many years.

What fans say: "Love Scrabble! We were playing with a travel set and it's so much nicer to have larger letters, a larger board. I love that this set comes with a bag to hold the letter tiles. [With the] version I had as a kid, we were constantly losing tiles and having to make our own lol."


The Runner-Up: Bananagrams

Ages: 7 and up

Number of players: 1 to 8

What's great about it: This hugely popular board game is amazing because it's one of the few games you can have just as much fun playing with your reserved Uncle as you do with your closest friends. Similar to Scrabble but with the addition of speed, you play by racing your competitors to build crossword-style grids, hoping to be the one to get rid of your letters first. With more than 2,300 reviews, it's well-liked and, as a bonus, can be played alone like Solitaire, too.

What fans say: "Winning a close-fought game (like most of them) is immensely satisfying. There are also variants that are suitable for solitaire, longer play, and also less intense play. And its small size (can fit in a purse) makes it easy for toting to the restaurant for a few games while waiting for food. There is no board to play on, all you need is a flat surface. There is no advantage to knowing complex words with weird letter combos or every 2-letter word permutation (like in Scrabble), so this results in a very level playing field for mixed company of all ages. Highly, highly recommended."


The Best Drinking Game: Beer Run Drinking Strategy Board Game

Ages: 21 and up

Number of players: Up to 8

What's great about it: For those of you who like to add grown-up beverages to your game-play, this is one of the best board games for adults. Essentially a drinking game about drinking, Beer Run has players competing to collect beer tokens and bring them back to the "party" before anyone else. You can play with just one friend, or in a group of up to eight people. It's painfully simple to learn and guaranteed to produce laughs. Just remember to drink responsibly.

What fans say: "What a great drinking game! Great way to get the party started as you try to get all your booze 'back to the party'. It's a well constructed game and requires some strategy to make it through the labyrinth of obstacles to win."


The Best For Kids: Candy Land Board Game

Ages: 3 and up

Number of players: 2 to 4

What's great about it: With a lovable premise that has players wandering through peppermint forests and lollipop palaces, it's no wonder why this game has remained one of the best board games for kids for decades. It's easy to learn and designed for children up to age six (but several reviewers wrote that their older kids like it, too). There are more than 1,200 reviews on Amazon — many of which noted that the pieces are fairly durable, which is especially important when you're playing with kids.

What fans say: "I bought this one because the youngest member of the family had nothing to do when at the house. The older kids were using up all the bandwidth and comfortable seating. The two of us broke out Candy Land and started playing. Next thing you know the older kids start reminiscing and want to play. Peace reigns throughout the Candy Land and I get my chair back!"


The Best Family Game: Imhotep Builder of Egypt Board Game

Ages: 10 and up

Number of players: 2 to 4

What's great about it: There are some games that are fun for kids to play on their own but boring for you; others are either too hard or not appropriate for kids. This one, however, is a fun family board game that all parties will enjoy. Meant for anyone age 10 and older, reviewers say the Egyptian-themed board game is exceptionally fun given how simple it is. Although you're essentially just moving blocks around a board, trying to build a civilization, there's a lot of strategy involved. On top of that, the board and the pieces are beautifully designed.

What fans say: "I like this game because it's simple to learn but difficult to master. Gameplay is really elegant with only one main game mechanic."


The Best For Big Groups: Speed Charades Party Game

Ages: 13 and up

Number of players: 6 and up

What's great about it: If you have a large group of people to amuse, this twist on classic charades is an incredibly fun board game to play with friends. It's simple and straightforward: like the original, you just act out words and phrases. However, this one moves faster and both teams go at the same time. Also, you have a deck of cards to guide you. All ages can play (there aren't any dirty words in the decks), and it's hilarious to watch as a spectator, too.

What fans say: "If you’re looking for a great game for a group, a party, or a game night - this is it! It’s perfect for people who like charades and even those that don’t. Since teams are competing at the same time, it eliminates any fear of being thrust into the unwanted spotlight ... It was simple to learn and worked great for our group. This game will definitely be a game night favorite from now on."


The Best Quick Game: Eight-Minute Empire

Ages: 12 and up

Number of players: 2 to 5

What's great about it: Perfect for when you don't have a lot of time on your hands, this quick board game can be played in under 20 minutes. It's simple to learn and play, yet it still requires a good amount of strategy. With a deck of cards that each player takes turns drawing, it's an area-control game where the goal is to build and expand your empire. Just note that, contrary to the name, not every game will be able to be completed in eight minutes. Still, it moves fast and is lots of fun.

What fans say: Fun and quick to play, even if the name is a lie. Maybe Eighteen Minute Empire. Quick set-up, short set of rules that are easy to explain to new players. Requires you to think fast and make smart decisions about army placement, resource gathering, and gold rationing, because the game is over quickly. Fun even with only 2 players. Kids can learn and compete with adults."


The Most Unique: Exit: The Game - A Family-Friendly Home Escape Room Experience

Ages: 12 and up

Number of players: 1 to 4

What's great about it: One of the most unique board games out there, this innovative game allows you to convert your home into a live "escape room," using cards and a secret decoder disc. You must solve riddles and break codes to escape, trying to get out before the clock is up. There are several different experiences to choose from, including "Forbidden Castle, "Abandoned Cabin," and "Polar Station." The one drawback is that you can only play each game once because you tear the pieces up as you go. That said, for $11, it's not a bad way to spend a Friday night. One word of caution: be careful reading the reviews because some people have included spoilers!

What fans say: "The instructions were easy to follow. The game was very challenging and entertaining. The clues were pretty helpful. The game content was very similar to an actual escape room. We’ll likely buy another Exit game soon."

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