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Types of Board Games

Whether you’re a board game enthusiast looking for fun new games to play or a budding board game designer searching for inspiration, there are thousands of board games out there waiting for you to discover them.

At first glance, understanding the different types of board games can seem overwhelming. The differences between, say, a social deduction game and a bluffing game, can be pretty mild, and it’s easy to get one genre mixed up with another.

Making things even more confusing is the fact that many of the best board games combine two, three or more types to create an exciting fusion of genres.

If you’re looking for fun new board games to play and want to find something similar to what you already enjoy, our detailed list of 39 types of board games below will help you understand what’s out there and make it easier to add new games to your collection.

And if you’re a board game creator, studying the different types of games that are available can help you to find ideas for your board game and hone its mechanics to create something fun and engaging. 

A note for game designers: The type of board game you choose can have a big impact on its design complexity and manufacturing cost. If you’d like to find out more about the best types of games for first-time creators, feel free to contact us. 

 

39 Types of Board Games

Below, we’ve listed 39 board game categories, from simple card and dice games to some of the most complex board games on the market.

For each game type, we’ve explained what makes it so much fun, as well as what you’ll need to keep in mind if you’re planning to design a game of this type yourself. 

Card Games

Card games are exactly what they sound like — games that involve using a deck of cards to play with other people (or sometimes, just yourself). These games test your future planning skills and sometimes require you to trick your friends.

Classic card games include poker, bridge and spades, as well as more modern card games like Magic: The Gathering and Pokémon. Almost all board games make use of cards, although not all board games that involve cards should be considered card games.

If you want to design your own card game, you’ll need to think hard about the specific design of your cards. They’ll need to be fun and encourage lots of interaction and smart play.

Dice Games

Dice games are all about randomness. Since these games are played with dice, you only have a limited degree of control over what’s going to happen to you. Luck plays a big part in this type of game, and no two games will be the same, even if you stick to a consistent strategy.

There’s often some math involved in dice games, as most games of this type have techniques that you can use to minimize any disadvantages and swing the odds in your favor.

Popular dice games include Ludo and Yahtzee. Many of the most well-known board games also make heavy use of dice for randomness, such as Risk and Catan. 

If you want to design your own dice game, you’ll need to focus on achieving a balance between unpredictability — which the dice will deliver naturally — and giving the game enough structure to prevent it from becoming too heavily based on luck. 

Economic Games

Economic games are all about managing resources and making smart decisions about how you spend or invest your money. You need to think ahead in these games and make sure you have enough resources to put yourself in a strong position.

The most well-known economic game is Monopoly, which lets you put your ultra-capitalist hat on and build a property empire. Many other popular board games, such as Power Grid and Catan, are also built around economic principles.

If you want to design your own economic game, you’ll need to create mechanics that encourage players to plan for the future, trade and compete over resources to gain an advantage. 

Bluffing Games

Bluffing games are all about tricking your opponents into thinking something that may — or may not — be accurate. These games are all about fooling people, usually without letting them know that they’ve been fooled.

The most famous bluffing game is poker, which pits you against several other players to fight for a pot. Other bluffing games include Sheriff of Nottingham, in which players hide forbidden goods and attempt to evade detection, and The Resistance, which involves faking identities.

If you want to design a bluffing game, you’ll need to think about how to make secret information and deception a key part of the gameplay.

Farming Games

Farming games let you pretend you’re a farmer, all without dirty hands or sunburn. They usually revolve around building a farm, growing crops and raising livestock, generally with a turn-based design. 

Popular farming games include Caverna and Agricola. Many other games mix farming elements with other types of gameplay.

If you want to design a farming game, you’ll need to think about game mechanics that emulate real-life farming, all while keeping players involved and invested in the gameplay. 

Abstract Strategy Games

Abstract strategy games test your strategic thinking. These games are brain-benders that tend to have little in the way of themes or narrative, but combine clear rules with deep and complex gameplay that pushes your brain to its limit.

The most famous abstract strategy game is chess, which has been played around the world for more than 1,400 years. Other strategic board games, such as Go, Azul and even Connect Four, can all be considered abstract games in one form or another. 

If you want to design an abstract strategy game, you’ll need to focus on creating deep strategic options from relatively simple rules. It’s also essential to eliminate any luck component from the game’s mechanics. 

Murder Mystery Games

Murder mystery board games combine the thrill of detective novels with elements of deduction, suspense and a healthy, or perhaps unhealthy, dose of paranoia. Games of this type are about discovering clues and using them to piece together a crime, usually a murder.

The most well-known murder mystery game is Clue, which was developed in the 1940s. Newer murder mystery board games include Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, Mysterium and Letters from Whitechapel.

If you want to design a murder mystery game, you’ll need to create a captivating storyline and pair it with clever, thought-provoking clues that keep players motivated to continue. 

Children’s Games

Children’s games are designed for kids. They’re usually straightforward enough for very young children to learn in a short period of time, and tend to combine bright colors with fun, engaging settings.

Popular children’s board games include Mouse Trap, Animal Upon Animal, My First Stone Age, Dinosaur Escape and Candy Land. 

If you want to design a children’s game, focus on making it simple, engaging and fun. It’s better to avoid using game mechanics that require lots of time to learn, as these may be off-putting for younger kids. 

To create a game that appeals to parents as well as kids, try to sneak some educational content into the game, whether it’s math, strategic thinking or vocabulary.

Educational Board Games

Educational games are designed to make learning new ideas, concepts and topics fun. They’re typically children’s games that focus on specific subjects and skills, although some educational games are also designed for adults.

Popular educational games include The Magic Labyrinth, which tests players’ memory, as well as Brain Quest, which combines learning with a roll-and-move design and custom rules based on the age of the players. 

If you want to design an educational game, you’ll need to focus on achieving a balance of fun and learning to keep players engaged and interested. 

Maze & Labyrinth Games

Maze and labyrinth games are all about successfully navigating through complex paths. They test your spatial awareness and problem-solving skills, often while adding in design elements from other types of board games.

Fun maze and labyrinth games include Labyrinth and The aMAZEing Labyrinth. Tsuro is also one of many games from other categories that involves maze-like elements, which are mixed with abstract strategy.

If you want to design a maze or labyrinth game, you’ll need to focus on developing a board or path that’s dynamic, challenging and capable of changing as the game progresses. 

City Building Games

City building games let you take control of a city as mayor, all without the boring meetings and tiring political campaign. Games of this type are all about building and managing your city while making smart planning decisions.

Popular city building games include The Capitals, Suburbia and Citadels. Many of the world’s most popular board games, like Catan, also combine city building elements with other types of gameplay.

If you want to design a city building game, you’ll need to focus on game mechanics that involve urban planning and resource management, allowing your players to feel like they’re developing their very own city.

Engine Building Games

Engine building games are all about designing and creating an “engine” or system that produces better results as the game progresses. Most players start the game with simple abilities and add to these over the course of each round. 

Popular engine building games include Wingspan, Splendor and Terraforming Mars. Many other games from different genres also include engine building elements.

If you want to design an engine building game, you’ll need to focus on gameplay elements that let players really build and improve on their systems over time, making each move important.

Deduction Games

Deduction games are all about figuring out what’s going on — or in some cases, something that has already happened — using clues that are given to you, either by the board game itself or by your fellow players. 

Some deduction games are referred to as social deduction games. These involve players trying to uncover each other’s identities, usually with one “good” and “bad” team.

Classic deduction games include Clue, which mixes deduction with a murder mystery setting, as well as Codenames, which pits teams against each other to spot agents using one-word clues. 

Popular social deduction games include Werewolf, Secret Hitler and The Resistance, which are designed to make paranoia and uncertainty part of game night. 

If you want to design a deduction game, you’ll need to focus on mechanics that let your players use logical reasoning to uncover information and find solutions, either on their own or as part of a team. 

Memory Games

Memory games are, as the name suggests, all about memorizing certain facts, figures and other information. This type of board game tests your ability to recall sequences, locations or specific items. 

Classic memory games include Memory and Simon, which involves memorizing and repeating a simple sequence of lights and sounds. Modern board games, like The Magic Labyrinth, also use players’ memory as a major gameplay mechanic.

If you want to design a memory game, you’ll need to focus on challenging players to remember and recall information, all without bombarding them with too much information at once. 

Civilization Building Games

Civilization building games let you build your own empire from scratch. They combine elements from other board game genres by requiring you to think about long-term strategy, good resource management, and sometimes even warfare against your opponents.

The most popular civilization building games include Through the Ages, Twilight Imperium and Civilization. Many board games from other genres also make strong use of civilization building gameplay mechanics and elements.

If you want to design a civilization building game, focus on mechanics that let players grow and evolve their societies by making smart decisions, managing their resources and interacting with their fellow players.

Trivia Games

Trivia games are all about testing your knowledge. These games test your ability to recall facts, often in a diverse range of different categories. Many trivia games make use of a simple design that revolves around a deck of cards with questions. 

You’ve probably played Trivial Pursuit or Jeopardy before, both of which are classic trivia games that have been around for decades. Modern trivia games include Wits & Wagers, which adds a fun betting element that’s great for parties.

If you want to design a trivia game, remember that you’ll need a bank of interesting questions to keep your players engaged. You’ll also need to decide whether to specialize in a certain topic or go broad and use a range of categories to keep the game fun for everyone. 

Drafting Games

Drafting games are about choosing the best options from a pool. They combine strategy, quick decision making, and outguessing your opponents, forcing you to make snap decisions on the fly in order to come out ahead.

Popular drafting games include 7 Wonders, Citadels, Sushi Go. Popular card games like Magic: The Gathering can also be played as drafting games.

If you want to design a drafting game, you’ll need to give your cards a set of desirable qualities and players a method for taking turns to choose them.

Storytelling Games

Storytelling games invite you and your fellow players to weave a tale. They often involve a mix of creativity, improvisation, and sometimes even put your acting skills to the test in front of your friends.

Popular storytelling board games include Fallout: The Board Game, The Adventures of Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective. 

If you want to design a storytelling game, you’ll need to focus on crafting game mechanics that inspire players to be creative and weave a narrative throughout the game. 

Negotiation Board Games

Negotiation games put you in full deal-making mode, requiring you to trade, bargain and act as a diplomat with your fellow players. Coming out ahead in this type of game tests your ability to persuade others, as well as your math and long-term planning skills.

A classic negotiation game is Diplomacy, which involves negotiating with your opponents to get ahead as one of Europe’s Great Powers. Other extremely popular board games, like Catan and Monopoly, also involve lots of negotiation.

If you want to design a negotiation game, you’ll need to create opportunities for players to work together and bargain, as well as mechanics that make sure deals between players have a large impact on the game. 

Dungeon Crawler Board Games

Dungeon crawler games are all about adventure and teamwork. You and your fellow players will explore a dark dungeon filled with monsters and treasure, often as part of a longer-term story or campaign.

The most well-known dungeon crawler tabletop game is Dungeons & Dragons, which has been published since the 1970s. Other great dungeon crawler tabletop games include Gloomhaven, Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate and Descent. 

If you want to design a dungeon crawler board game, you’ll need to focus on achieving a mix of interesting monsters, engaging gameplay, a fun story and plenty of loot for players to acquire on their journey. 

Eurogames (German-Style Board Games)

Eurogames, or German-style board games, prioritize strategy over luck and usually avoid direct conflict between players. Board games of this type are often rich in mechanics and have a clear theme, with players working throughout the game to score victory points. 

Popular Eurogames include Catan, Carcassonne, Power Grid and Ticket to Ride. These games often have multiple paths to victory, creating a variety of gameplay situations for players. 

If you want to design a Eurogame, you’ll need to focus on developing deep strategic mechanics that keep the game engaging. You’ll also want to limit the role that luck plays in the outcome of the game. 

Finally, you’ll want to make sure that all players are always involved in the game, even if they’re not in the lead. 

Word Games

Word games involve playing with language. They test your vocabulary, creative thinking skills, spelling and your ability to quickly come up with words, phrases or sentences on your feet.

Classic games that involve vocabulary and wordplay include Scrabble and Boggle. There are also lots of modern games that include word gaming elements, such as Codenames, Decrypto and Bananagrams. 

If you want to design a word game, you’ll need to think of creative ways to challenge players on their language skills, as well as their ability to think on the fly. 

Math-Based Board Games

Math-based board games put your number skills to the test. They usually involve a mix of math skills like calculation and problem solving, as well as luck in the form of specific cards, dice rolls and other sources of randomness.

Popular math games include Prime Club and Math Fluxx. Many other board games and abstract strategy games become a lot easier if you can apply math to their core mechanics.

If you want to design a math game, you’ll need to focus on crafting puzzles and challenges that involve mathematical concepts, all while making sure the game feels more like a fun experience than a math exam.

Collectible Games

Collectible games involve collecting and trading certain game elements, usually cards. They’re built around strategy, collection building, and often a large dose of luck. These games are often referred to as collectible card games, or CCGs.

Popular collectible games include Magic: The Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokémon, which are all built around collecting and using cards. Others include KeyForge and online collectible games, such as Hearthstone. 

If you want to design a collectible game, you’ll need to build a large set of game elements and game mechanics that reward players who focus on collecting and trading.

Racing Games

Racing games combine speed and strategy. They’re about racing against your opponents to a finish line, either in a car, a train or another type of vehicle. Often, a mix of strategy and luck is required to get you to the finish line ahead of other players. 

Classic racing board games include Formula D, Downforce and Rallyman: GT. Many games in other genres also include racing elements to keep gameplay dynamic and exciting. 

If you want to design a racing game, you’ll need to create a track or course, then couple it with game mechanics that replicate the thrill and speed of a real race while keeping players invested in the outcome of your game. 

Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are all about solving creative problems. They test your ability to think creatively, logically and laterally to find solutions to challenging puzzles.

Some puzzle games are highly straightforward, such as jigsaw puzzles, while others combine puzzles with a specific theme, such as sewing a quilt or solving a mystery.

Popular puzzle games include Calico, Patchwork and Azul. Many of these games mix classic puzzles with other gameplay elements.

If you want to design a puzzle game, you’ll need to focus on creating intriguing problems that can be solved in multiple ways. The best puzzle games blend challenges and variety to keep players engaged again and again. 

Dexterity Board Games

Dexterity games test your motor skills and hand-eye coordination. They often involve physical challenges like stacking pieces or flipping cards, rewarding careful movements and punishing clumsy mistakes from players. 

Classic examples of dexterity games include Operation and Jenga. Modern dexterity games include Tokyo Highway, which involves carefully placing roads and pillars, and Flick ‘em Up!, which combines dexterity with a Wild West theme. 

If you want to design a dexterity game, you’ll need to include physical elements that test your players’ precision, balance or reaction time, all while keeping your game fun and engaging. 

Travel Board Games

Travel board games are compact and designed for quick play, making them perfect for taking with you while you’re on the road. These games often have simplified rules and smaller game components that are easy to pack.

Many popular games are sold in travel versions — for example, compact versions of chess and checkers have been around for years. 

If you want to design a travel game, you’ll need to focus on making your existing board game more portable. This could mean downsizing the pieces and game board, switching to a slightly different format or making other changes to make playing on the go easier.

Hidden Traitor Games

Hidden traitor games hide a secret enemy (or sometimes, several enemies) within your group, then force you to either identify the enemies and avoid their influence or trick other players into thinking you’re a good guy.

Many traitor games revolve around deduction and bluffing, using mechanics from multiple types of board games and combining them to create a fun gameplay experience.

Popular hidden traitor games include Mafia, Werewolf and The Resistance: Avalon. If you like hidden traitor games, you’ll also like modern favorites like Secret Hitler and Betrayal at House on the Hill.

If you want to design a hidden traitor game, you’ll need to focus on creating mechanics for the secret players to conspire against the “good” guys, as well as a way for players to interact and uncover the traitors.

Adult & Mature Games

Adult and mature games are designed exclusively for grown-up players. They usually involve more complex rules, deeper themes and mature subject matter than children’s games, with a healthy dose of things like violence, mystery or sexual humor.

Popular adult games include Cards Against Humanity and Codenames: Deep Undercover, an adults-only spin on the popular party game Codenames. 

If you want to design an adult game, focus on creating content that’s engaging for older, more mature players, whether this is through mature themes, risqué humor or more complex game mechanics that test players’ abilities.

Real-Time Games

Real-time games are all about thinking on your feet and making quick decisions. They usually involve playing against a timer, forcing players to make fast choices under pressure. In some games, players take their turns simultaneously, creating a fast-paced, chaotic environment.

Popular real-time games include Space Alert, Captain Sonar and Galaxy Trucker. Many of the world’s most popular games also incorporate real-time thinking — for example, speed chess is all about making smart, strategic moves while the clock is ticking. 

If you want to design a real-time game, you’ll need to design mechanics that encourage quick thinking, as well as a way to keep time that adds pressure and suspense without making your players feel overly stressed. 

Deck Building Games

Deck building games involve creating your personal deck of cards while you play. Games like this require a combination of strategic thinking, adaptability and the ability to quickly manage your resources as you play. 

Popular deck building games include Dominion, Lost Ruins of Arnak, Thunderstone Quest and Paperback, which combines deck building with word games.

If you want to design a deck building game, you’ll need to create a set of cards that players can gain, improve and use strategically over the course of each game. 

RPG Board Games

RPG board games mix the character development and narrative of classic role-playing games with the mechanics of a board game. They’re about stepping into another character, fun world building and an exciting story.

Favorite RPG board games include Gloomhaven, Mice And Mystics, Mage Knight and Sword and Sorcery. 

If you want to design an RPG board game, you’ll need to focus on crafting a compelling story, designing engaging characters and developing game mechanics that let your players control their adventure. 

Legacy Board Games

Legacy board games change based on the decisions you make, with the story and gameplay moving in different directions depending on your choices. Playing the game a certain way can impact future games, creating a personalized experience.

Popular legacy games include Gloomhaven and Pandemic Legacy. The first legacy game to introduce this term to the gaming public was Risk Legacy, which added a legacy spin to Risk, the classic strategy game.

If you want to design a legacy game, you’ll need to focus on developing gameplay mechanics that evolve over the course of several games, as well as a storyline that changes based on the decisions made by your players. 

Worker Placement Board Games

Worker placement games are all about taking action. More specifically, you place “workers” on the game board — or similar tokens, in some games — and use them to trigger specific actions, like collecting resources or completing tasks. 

Popular worker placement games include Lords of Waterdeep, Agricola, A Feast for Odin and Stone Age. 

If you want to design a worker placement game, you’ll need to create a variety of actions that each player can choose from for their workers, as well as engaging gameplay mechanics for placing and retrieving workers from the game board. 

Train Games

Train games are all about building and managing railway routes. They combine elements from many other game types, forcing you to use strategy, future planning and your economics skills to gain an advantage over other players.

Popular train games include Ticket to Ride, Railways of the World, Colt Express, Age of Steam and TransAmerica.

If you want to design a train board game, you’ll need to focus on simulating real route planning and resource management, all while mixing in a competitive element to keep players engaged.

War Games

War games are all about simulating battles, either fictional or historical. They combine strategy, tactics and — in lots of cases — a dash of luck with an interesting setting that might range from World War II to a fictional battle for Mars. 

There are plenty of classic war games out there, including Risk and Axis & Allies. More modern war games include War of the Ring: Second Edition, Twilight Struggle, Root, Paths of Glory and Maria.

If you want to design a war game, you’ll need to create fun, engaging board game mechanics to simulate combat and strategic decision-making, as well as a great setting that draws players in and makes them feel like they’re really there on the battlefield. 

Miniature Games

Miniature games use detailed miniature models to represent characters or units. Games of this type combine tactics and strategy with collecting and artistry, since most miniatures need to be painted by the player.

Of all board game types, miniature games can be some of the most complex to produce, since building a successful game requires creating lots of different models. 

Arguably the most famous miniature game of all time is Warhammer 40,000. Other well-known miniature games include Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures and BattleTech. Many other games use miniatures as part of their gameplay mechanics, even if they aren’t strictly miniature games.

If you want to design a miniature game, you’ll need to focus on creating interesting miniatures, as well as gameplay mechanics that put them to use in an engaging, fun way.

Party Games

Party games are designed to be fun, spontaneous and often a little wild, with a focus on larger groups of players. These games tend to combine humor, creativity and social interaction to get players talking, acting and cracking jokes. 

Classic party games include Charades and Pictionary. A lot of modern board games are also designed with parties in mind, like Codenames, Telestrations, Time’s Up and Snake Oil. 

If you want to design a party game, you’ll need to focus on making it spontaneous and fun. Try to avoid any complex mechanics and instead focus on creating a game that’s fast to learn and built with interaction between players in mind. 

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