Not too serious, not too silly board games
January 21, 2013 2:54 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some board game suggestions. The target audience would never have the patience for serious German-style strategy games like Settlers of Catan. On the other hand, party games like Cranium or Apples to Apples or Cards Against Humanity are too freewheeling and silly for them. What are some games that fall into that sweet spot between serious and silly? Examples could be Rapidough, Pictionary, Balderdash. I haven't played it but I think Ticket to Ride might also fit in here.
posted by dontjumplarry to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (52 answers total) 90 users marked this as a favorite
posted by grouse at 2:55 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Taboo is pretty timeless.
posted by cecic at 2:56 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Small World
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:56 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

How many players do you have in mind?
posted by msmanners at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2013

My son was given Blokus for Christmas, and it got played with *a lot* by the grownups in the house. Games are over in 25-30 minutes, so it's not a huge time suck, and it's sort of tetris-y.
posted by ambrosia at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Wise and Otherwise is one of my favorites. Like a funnier version of Balderdash.
posted by picklebird at 2:58 PM on January 21, 2013

Response by poster: msmanners: I guess anywhere from 2 to 6 players.
posted by dontjumplarry at 2:58 PM on January 21, 2013

Ticket to Ride is great, but get the 1918 expansion too.

Dixit is similar to Apples to Apples to me.

Time's up (or just fake Time's Up with pencil and paper and a big bowl!) is great for when you have more than the 6-8 people of conventional games.
posted by cmm at 3:00 PM on January 21, 2013

Thirding Dixit, although it is only for 3 - 6 players.
posted by scooterdog at 3:01 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that Ticket to Ride is what you want. I'd second Dixit as well because it's mechanically similar to many party games, but more intriguing rather than silly.
posted by smorange at 3:01 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have any goals besides folks just hanging out and having a good time? Does the game need to be easy to learn? Long or short? I have friends who will often bring a new game or three to a party and we all enjoyed Tsuro. It's not super hard to learn but there is some strategy. Best with 2-4 players and a game is short but it's easy and enjoyable to play over and over.
posted by jessamyn at 3:04 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Survive! Escape from Atlantis is silly and very luck-based but also has an element of strategy. Probably one of my favorite games to play when I'm looking for something more light and interactive with other players.
posted by muddgirl at 3:04 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Scattergories because the serious people can give serious answers that are still unique enough to score points and the silly people can give silly answers that are unique and score points.
posted by missjenny at 3:09 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wits and Wagers
posted by rakaidan at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

If you've got $80 to drop, the Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures is simple and fast-moving and might fit that niche, providing people like Star Wars. Figuring out movement is done simultaneously, so there is less time spent waiting for other people to do things. I say $80 because the game only comes with 3 ships, and you'll want more than that, and the add-on ships are... overpriced.
posted by anonymisc at 3:20 PM on January 21, 2013

I second Scattergories. You can play with 2+ players and a variety of ages. Games move quick and there is the fun of voting if an answer is legitimate.
posted by Coffee Bean at 3:29 PM on January 21, 2013

Quiddler seems to be a hit if people don't mind word games. People always seem to end up helping each other make the best points possible with their hand, so it is friendlier than it seems.
posted by ansate at 3:30 PM on January 21, 2013

Illuminati. The play is surprisingly fun and complex, but it's also a hoot.

The idea is to build a conspiracy. Each player starts as one of the Illuminati, each of which has a different victory condition. For instance, the Gnomes of Zurich win if they accumulate a certain amount of money. Each illuminati has a special power, too. (Other Illuminati are things like the UFOs, the Discordian society, the Servants of Cthulhu, the Bermuda Triangle...)

The game is played with cards, and it's a board game in the sense that as you play you create a board out of cards, connecting them together. This involves groups like Cycle Gangs, the KGB, Moonies, Comic Book Stores, Democrats, each of which has its own card, which describes what it can do for you. They get strung together into a big network, yielding money and power and influence. You can attack the network belonging to other players.

It's easy to learn, but the play can be very interesting.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:31 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Lost Cities (the board game, NOT the card game). Major winner in my circle of casual gamers, but there's enough there for serious gamers to have fun too.
posted by arcticwoman at 3:36 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by rmd1023 at 3:51 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

I enjoy Ticket to Ride, but it falls more into the serious category for me - there's definitely a heavy strategy element and not much of the whimsy of games like Dixit or Balderdash beyond the fact that you're playing with little train pieces. If the strategy part is OK, but all the rules and regs for games like Powergrid and Settlers are what doesn't work for you, then Ticket to Ride is probably ok since its' much simpler. The Europe version is pretty good too, and may not be quite as cutthroat as the US one can be.
posted by LionIndex at 4:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Seconding Transamerica as midway between strategy and silliness.
posted by brilliantine at 4:09 PM on January 21, 2013

Came in to fourth Dixit, but I can also note that the "Dixit Odyssey" version supports up to 12 players.
posted by xueexueg at 4:19 PM on January 21, 2013

My family liked Wits and Wagers, too. It doesn't require any unusual skill to have fun, but also isn't particularly luck based. The content is serious but the rules are simple (especially since you can pare them down to the really basic answer and bet rules and skip things like paying double on certain wagers). Everyone plays at once, not too much waiting.
posted by anaelith at 4:19 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by obscure simpsons reference at 4:32 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hoity Toity

More generally, check out The Dice Tower for insightful reviews of literally hundreds of boardgames.
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 4:45 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm in a Looney kind of mood, so… Aquarius, maybe? Simple-to-learn rules, visually appealing, reasonably quick play.

Maybe Chrononauts.

If Apples to Apples/Cards Against Humanity are too silly and freewheeling, probably not Fluxx.
posted by Lexica at 4:45 PM on January 21, 2013

The Resistance: Avalon! It's a half-hour game of deception and logic. Each person is secretly either a loyal servant of Arthur or a minion of Mordred (spy). The good guys want to go on successful quests; the spies want to sneak themselves onto the quests and sabotage them. One good guy (Merlin) knows who the spies are, but if the spies can figure out who Merlin is they can steal the win.

It sucked in a ton of my family and friends over the holidays. I'm really not so much into social games rather than strategic games, but I really enjoy the logical side of this one.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 5:20 PM on January 21, 2013

I just got this game a few months ago, it's very simple and can be either wacky or complicated and thoughtful (or all of those things) depending on the players: Fitz It. The manufacturer's description: What comes in a box, fits inside a blender, and is bound to make you laugh? "Fitz It" - the party game where all the fun is all in the description. Name an object that fits the attributes on your cards and then play them to the grid. The more cards you play, the more you score. Use your creativity and you're fit to win.
posted by chowflap at 5:39 PM on January 21, 2013

Consider Munchkin - silly but structured.

Also maybe Pandemic, which is a German-style strategy game BUT is cooperative, so everyone can kind of proceed with a sketchy sense of the rules and you all figure it out together. I've definitely played games of Pandemic where we realized near the end that we'd been doing something or other totally wrong, but because nobody wins in the traditional sense, there was kind of a collective shrug rather than a bunch of relitigating the game's results.
posted by town of cats at 6:03 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pandemic. It's a co-op board game for 2-4 players, where the players are doctors and scientists racing around the world to manage disease outbreaks while trying to discover vaccines. I have the rules explanation down to about 15 minutes, and a game takes about an hour to play. I've found that it hits exactly the spot you're looking for: something more than just a party game (Cards against Humanity, Telephone Pictionary, etc) but not something too serious or long (Space Alert, Arkham Horror, etc). Plus, co-op games are always a fun change.

You might also try Ra, an ancient Egypt themed auction game for 2-5 players. The rules are pretty simple, and whenever it's someone's turn they only have 2-3 actions to choose from. That means the game moves quickly: nobody has to hold up the game for everyone else by planning out their next few moves.

Of the games that you and others mentioned above, I can second Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne, they'll work well. They're both strategic, but the rules can be explained quickly and a game shouldn't take more than 45 minutes. Wits and Wagers is a great trivia game too, where close guesses count for more than Trivial Pursuit-style facts that you either know or don't.

Time's Up is one of my favourite party games, but might be too silly for your group. 7 Wonders is great, but might be too close to Settlers of Catan in terms of complexity. Lost Cities is good, but is only for two players.
posted by Fully Completely at 6:17 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pit is a great game of commodities trading. I like to play with anywhere from 5-8 people. It's quick - each round takes less than 5 minutes and everyone is yelling and frantically trading cards all simultaneously. I always use this game as an ice-breaker with non-gamers.
posted by msmanners at 6:20 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Tsuro is great in that its rules are ridiculously simple, and it's fast enough that you can play it several times in a row.

Guillotine is another quick game that's well suited to large groups.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:19 PM on January 21, 2013

With respect, I think a lot of these suggestions are more on the Catan side of things than you're looking for. It sounds like you want a party game (the category that both Balderdash and Apples to Apples fall into), just one that is less freewheeling than Apples to Apples. Games like Ticket to Ride or Carcassonne are great, but are getting more into the strategy game category - these are great gateway games, though, if you want to test what your group might like.

Party games-
25 Words or Less
Things in a Box
Catch Phrase
Wise and Otherwise
Time's Up
Wits and Wagers

Some other semi-party games -
Quiddler - sort of like a card game version of Scrabble

Strategic games with VERY simple rules -
Coloretto (card game)

A tiny bit more complicated rules, good gateway games, still simpler than Catan:
Ticket to Ride
Bohnanza (card game)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:23 PM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another category you could think about would be action/dexterity games like Jenga, Suspend or Pitchcar. Those can be fun for the right crowd.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:34 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Recently had great (medium-sized group) fun with Kaleidos.
posted by progosk at 11:59 PM on January 21, 2013

Munchkin. Lots of add-in sets available too!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:47 AM on January 22, 2013

Sorry - Munchkin is a role-playing card game... and it can be both complicated and quite funny. It's a spoof, as such. =) Potion of Idiotic Bravery, Curse! Duck of Doom, Giant boogers... but you know, still strategic.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:50 AM on January 22, 2013

I would just add to the recommendations for "Ticket To Ride". Rules that are simple, but involved enough to be interesting; a game that doesn't go on too long; a nice mix of luck and skill; all-round fun to play.
posted by Decani at 2:17 AM on January 22, 2013

I like Guillotine a lot for a silly-ish game with a bit of strategy. It's quick and easy enough to learn.

I think Chrononauts can also be a good game to play that's lighthearted without being too loose, like Fluxx can get.

Hare and Tortoise is another game that can support up to six and works well at being simple but allowing strategy if you want it.
posted by that girl at 3:55 AM on January 22, 2013

Werewolf is free! If you have a group of 9 or more, incredibly fun. Not technically a board game, but played around a table, fast-moving, and frequently hilarious and suspenseful in equal turns.
posted by Shepherd at 4:17 AM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anomia, introduced to me via metafilter, probably fits this bill. It's a card game like apples to apples, but the fast paced nature of the game, some changing rules keep it more serious. This game is only going to be silly if you play with silly people. But it is serious, unadulterated fun.
posted by clockbound at 6:55 AM on January 22, 2013

I really like playing Set. Bonus for a party is that you can wander in and out of the game without affecting it much (or at all if you're not keeping track of points). Spot It! is also fun, but rather less brain power needed. (It is also a great game if you have any kids at the party, as it is equally hard for kids and adults to play, which is rare in a game.)
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:59 AM on January 22, 2013

Wordy Word (from Marbles) plays like somewhere pictionary and taboo. How long you take determines how long the other team has to guess so it keeps the pace fairly fast. It works really well with 6 people. It's fits into the not silly not serious niche really well.

Seconding Blokus, especially with a smaller group (3-4 people).

Set... I really love as a two-person game, but I think it may be more a love-it or hate-it type of game.
posted by ejaned8 at 9:25 AM on January 22, 2013

Resistance and Pandemic are both fun.

I also really like King of Tokyo. You play a monster trying to beat up other monsters and score the most points, while becoming King of Tokyo. It's a short, somewhat silly game that has a lot of replayability to it due to the amount of cards / power-ups / different strategies you can use.
posted by sauril at 10:00 AM on January 22, 2013

You can try Bang! which is pretty straightforward and will at least entertain them for a game or two.
posted by spiderskull at 11:27 AM on January 22, 2013

Nthing Ticket to Ride, Dixit, Wits and Wagers, and Pandemic, though most of these are only playable with at least three people.


Galaxy Trucker
posted by eleanor_of_aquitaine at 12:56 PM on January 22, 2013

Two of my favorites are Citadels and Colossal Arena. Both are light and great group games.
posted by Recca at 8:09 PM on January 22, 2013

I have to jump on the Citadels bandwagon - it's a great little game.

Especially if you like the look of abject horror on your opponent's face as you (quite literally) stab them in the back to keep them from winning.
posted by Tevin at 8:40 AM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding Qwirkle and Qwirkle Cubes. They are strategy games, but the game play is fairly quick, and you can hold a conversation at the same time. And you don't have to remember if you have enough brick or if your colonists are about to revolt.

I love Transamerica - I think of it as Ticket to Ride Lite.
posted by hsoltz at 7:28 AM on January 25, 2013

posted by mmmarilyn at 7:58 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely Munchkin! It's a little bit daunting when you first unfold the rule sheet but don't worry, it's a game best learned while playing. Top game in our home.

Another great one I'm not sure was mentioned here: Castle Panic. So much fun, really quick to learn, and cooperative.
posted by MamaMaurina at 6:49 PM on January 26, 2013

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