Board games for boring old people
November 26, 2015 12:44 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy some board games for my parents to keep at their house, to play by themselves or with their adult kids or young grandkids, but I don't know anything about new games that might be out, and would love some recommendations. Specifics within.

I think the only games they currently have are Scrabble and Jenga. I'm looking for games that are:
- For two or more players (nothing that's only for 2 people).
- Enjoyable for adults, but not "mature;" it would be great if kids could play with help, but not necessary. They wouldn't appreciate CAH or anything else with crass humor.
- Fairly easy/quick to learn.
- Reasonable game length, about an hour would be perfect.
- Not trivia-based or "intellectual."
- Not based on a niche interest. They're basically only interested in church, the stock market, and the local football team.
- Fun and interesting.

I know there are a ton of awesome newer games out, so please help me pick some!
posted by Safiya to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (37 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
My all-time favorite game for this situation is Ingenious. It's fun with two, three, or four players. You can even play it solitaire. There are only a couple of rules. Scoring each move is the only part that takes a little bit of practice.
posted by isthmus at 12:48 PM on November 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I recommend Ticket To Ride Europe as a first euro style game over Settlers. It plays in an hour and my old stodgy parents enjoy it as well as kids as young as seven. The Europe map is harder to do really badly at than the US map.

Ubongo Extreme and Dimension are intellectual in that they involve figuring out placement puzzles, but I've had good luck tossing out the scoring part of the games while playing with non gamers and everyone had a fairly good time.

If they don't take themselves too seriously and don't mind pointing fake guns at each other, Cash and Guns tends to be a big hit.

Pandemic and Forbidden Desert or Island tend to be big hits with casual players and are cooperative so it doesn't cause fights.
posted by Candleman at 12:59 PM on November 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Carcassonne is my favorite game. It's easy and quick to learn. And it's not too long to play. And it makes such a pretty board to look at.

Ticket to Ride is also a good one.
posted by ilovewinter at 1:10 PM on November 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

Word Thief! It's like cutthroat Scrabble played with cards. For 3-5 players.
posted by tomboko at 1:13 PM on November 26, 2015

King of Tokyo
7 Wonders
posted by backwards guitar at 1:16 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Settlers of Catan
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:23 PM on November 26, 2015

I came to suggest Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. Both are very easy to learn, broadly appealing, and are pretty re-playable.
posted by synecdoche at 1:24 PM on November 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Survive! Easy to learn, lots of fun.
posted by fimbulvetr at 1:43 PM on November 26, 2015

Best answer: I too came in to suggest Ticket to Ride and King of Tokyo. My 70 year-old parents do not do games but they happily play these with their children and guests.

If you anticipate biggish groups, Telestrations works best with 6+ people and is very fun and low-key/low-stakes; it's a drawing game but the worse you are at it the more fun it is. The party version I think gives enough materials for 12 people.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:03 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not new, but all generations of my family like Sorry (make sure you buy the original/classic version - they released a new version a few years ago that was not as fun).

Other old-ish but fun games:
Connect 4
Apples to Apples
posted by melissasaurus at 2:19 PM on November 26, 2015

posted by Ftsqg at 2:23 PM on November 26, 2015

Adding: one eyed jack. You'd have to make it, but one of our faves

posted by Ftsqg at 2:26 PM on November 26, 2015

Be careful about King of Tokyo -- you want a game where you don't lose players partway through. Pandemic is a very well-balanced cooperative game. Catan/Carcassonne/TTR are pretty standard suggestions. Splendor is a good game, Small World is a great easy game.

Dominion is a build-your-own-deck game that might be a little too dependent on knowing the cards.
posted by jeather at 2:36 PM on November 26, 2015

Carcassonne. You can leave out the rules for farmers while you're learning, or if you're playing with kids.
posted by robcorr at 3:01 PM on November 26, 2015

Ticket To Ride
Settlers of Catan

That's in order of excitement รท complexity

If you really like complex board games yourself, check out Puerto Rico (though I wouldn't recommend it for the family based on the above criteria.)
posted by carlodio at 3:09 PM on November 26, 2015

Blockus is pretty fun. it does require strategy though.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 4:20 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to invest some time, you can see a lot of really new games being played by B-list (or C-list) celebs on Tabletop, an online channel hosted by Wil Wheaton. A lot of the games listed above are there so you can see what they really are like and how they play.

Unfortunately, most modern games play better with more people. Games that work well with only two people are relatively rare.

Qwirkle might be a good choice. (As long as your parents are not color blind. Wheaton's stepson Nolan Kopp is colorblind and has trouble telling the tiles apart sometimes. I gather that two of the colors look nearly the same to him.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:01 PM on November 26, 2015

We played Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne with my in-laws and my newly discovered aunt-in-law. (My father-in-law was adopted, so every so often he meets a new relative.) Ticket to Ride was the crowd-pleaser; I think that because it's more traditional than Carcassonne, it's easier for new players to sort out what their strategy ought to be.

My sense is that Pandemic and Settlers are both much more fun if your first several play-throughs are with people who know what they're doing and can streamline the setup. People who are really into Euro games think Settlers is old hat, but I've only played it a handful of times and wouldn't be comfortable teaching it to someone who wasn't already nerdy about games.
posted by yarntheory at 5:39 PM on November 26, 2015

Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Games are quick (maybe too quick, we easily get two games in an hour with two experienced players); plays well with 2,3 or 4 players (and each plays different, 2 vs 3 or 4 are almost different games); fast to learn (one play through and new players know the gameplay); and while it is fantasy themed it is very broadly fantasy themed (the races are all super generic fantasy races).
posted by Mitheral at 6:19 PM on November 26, 2015


... isn't really considered a board game, is it? Just cards on the tabletop. If suchlike are also okay let me recommend Loonacy (or the new Retro Loonacy variant). It's kind of like War, but more interesting.
posted by Rash at 6:39 PM on November 26, 2015

Settlers of Catan is all the rage in my intellectual college town, where a fair bunch of older people live as well. I've never seen a mixed crowd where people aren't into it, and its magical appeal is that it has the potential to "end friendships" through how deep you get into it. Ohh, I want to play a game right now...
posted by yueliang at 6:54 PM on November 26, 2015

If you know any hyper-competitive people, Takenoko is a nice choice because it's somewhat hard to make it adversarial--nobody can really gang up or shut out another person. I suppose once you've played it enough you could predict/guess at the goals of other people, but that'd take a while.

I also like Small World, and Jaipur is a nice card game for exactly two people.
posted by that girl at 8:09 PM on November 26, 2015

Boggle! It's like Scrabble for people with short attention spans.
posted by BinGregory at 8:25 PM on November 26, 2015

Tsuro is quick to pick up and an easy concept, although games are shorter than you're looking for.

Splendour has some strategy but not too much, and works for a big age range. Again, maybe shorter than you want.

I worry that longer games like Pandemic are hard to learn if you've never played that kind of game before.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:08 PM on November 26, 2015

We love a dominoes game called Mexican Train. You could play with regular dominoes I suppose but it's nice if you buy the actual game set.
posted by vignettist at 10:03 PM on November 26, 2015

I'm a big fan these days of simple social games for groups. Spyfall is a terrific game all about bluffing your way through questions. Skull is a very simple bluffing game which can actually be replicated with a deck of cards. However, both of these do require more than 2 people.

Blokus is very simple to understand and plays 4.
For Sale is a very simple auction game that plays very quickly, is straightforward to learn and replayable.
Love Letter is another quick card game, basically a guessing game which is nice and simple.

For slightly more complex games, carcassone is excellent. Be warned though, it is possible to play that game in an incredibly cut throat manner, but if you don't tell people about that, they'll probably naturally play it in the laid back fun way.

King of Tokyo/New York is basically yahtzee with giant monsters, so could be well liked.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:30 AM on November 27, 2015

Are card games okay? Love Letter and Sushi Go are both easy to learn and fun with two players. Sushi Go is particularly nice to have around when kids visit.

I'm normally not very patient when it comes to learning new games, but I found Suburbia to be quite fun after a bit of practice.
posted by neushoorn at 2:42 AM on November 27, 2015

Exploding Kittens!. It's easy to get the hang of and was surprisingly fun when I tried it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:54 AM on November 27, 2015

Also came to recommend Qwirkle and Exploding Kittens (there is a similar card game called Poo - there are monkeys involved).

Concept is a combination of a board game and Charades, very easy to pick up, even for younger kids.

If dice games are your thing, I strongly recommend Roll For It. Takes about 20 minutes for a round, depending on the number of players.
posted by Aunt Slappy at 7:13 AM on November 27, 2015

Best answer: Hanabi is a light, crowd-pleasing cooperative card game that creates some really fun interactions. The whole concept is that everyone's got a hand of cards that they're holding backwards, meaning they can see everyone's cards except their own, and they're trying to help each other complete a puzzle of sorts by communicating with each other in a limited fashion. It's completely accessible and all-ages.

Bohnanza is a wonderful little card game all about set collection and trading with other players. This is another good table interaction game, as people try to wheel and deal and promise future favors, etc. Plays in a very reasonable amount of time.

Paperback is a very fun card-based word game, 2-5 players, which melds word creation from a set of letters (like Scrabble) with some more modern game concepts. It's very accessible to less experienced players, and plays in 45 minutes to an hour.

Augustus (a.k.a. Rise of Augustus) is quite nice for 2 to 6 players. As crazy as it sounds, it's literally Roman-themed Bingo, but made interesting with the addition of modern mechanics that provide player agency. The english rulebook is a little iffy though (it is clearly a translation, and suffers from it a bit).

Sushi Go! has been a big hit in various groups, and it plays very well for less experienced gamers. It's 2-5 players, though realistically I think the 2 player variant doesn't work as well.

If you go the Ticket To Ride route, I would actually suggest the Switzerland / India map pack (requires also one of the base games, either TTR or TTR: Europe). The Switzerland map is 2-3 players only, and in my opinion is a much better low player count experience than any of the base games. You'd still also have the base game you paired it with, plus the India map, if you wanted to play a higher player counts.

I would add my voice behind King of Tokyo, though there is the concern about player elimination. I would not recommend King of New York, because it's basically King of Tokyo tweaked (not so successfully) to appeal to a more hardcore competition loving audience, and the additions feel like they just make things more fiddly than a game of that weight is worth.

Guillotine is a fun game for 2 to 5 players, though the theme may be off-putting. The art is cartoonish, but it is after all a game about beheading people during the French Revolution.

Stone Age would be my go-to for a worker placement game for a audience wanting games tending towards lighter and moderate length. It is very accessible but nonetheless reasonably deep, and provides a variety of different strategic options.
posted by tocts at 7:21 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like Love Letters a lot, but the print on those cards is teeny and the contrast is low. It's not a game for middle-aged eyes (at least not my middle-aged eyes, which admittedly are worse than the average middle-aged eyes).
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:40 AM on November 27, 2015

You say no niche games, but what if it was one of the niches they enjoy? There are a couple of great stock market-ish games.

Airlines Europe would probably be my vote - you buy and sell shares in airlines. Plays 2-5, games run just about an hour, I've played it with kids with very minor issues (12 and 10). Same designer as Ticket to Ride too, although Ticket to Ride is simpler. That doesn't mean that Airlines Europe is complicated, and you can tell the games share a designer, but Airlines Europe feels like there's more meat to it.

Acquire is the gold standard of stock market games. Games tend to lean towards 90 minutes, but it plays a good range of players, and there is a two-player variant that I haven't tried yet.
posted by chillin411 at 10:29 AM on November 27, 2015

Killing Dr. Lucky!

Super fun and meets all of your criteria.
posted by mirabelle at 8:26 PM on November 27, 2015

Not a board game, but everyone I've played Bananagrams with loves it.
posted by ontheradio at 8:43 PM on November 27, 2015

Takenoko is great - it's like Candy Land but not boring. Sorry using the "adult" rules where you hold the cards in your hand is very cut-throat but it doesn't take long to play. Ticket to Ride: Europe is great for 2-3 players if you get the 1912 add on and play with the "Big Cities" set of cards. They replace the usual destination cards with a smaller number of longer routes.
posted by fiercekitten at 8:23 AM on November 29, 2015

This post on the blue might be useful.
posted by robcorr at 7:07 PM on November 29, 2015

Iota is a great game that plays kind of like a cross between Set and Dominoes. It has simple rules and scoring, and a game can be played in 30-40 minutes (which can be shortened by halving the deck). For younger kids, you can ditch the scoring and just play it as a set-building game. It also comes in an adorable tiny tin container that's easy to carry in a purse or pocket.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:08 AM on December 2, 2015

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