Help us play together
April 2, 2017 11:38 PM   Subscribe

My daughter is turning 12 this month and we have been browsing the board game store but find the choice too overwhelming. Can you help us find a game that 3 people can play together?

My daughter is at the stage where she enjoys spending time with me (her mum) and my partner, and we have been thinking about things we can do together cheaply, rather than just watch movies. She brought up the idea of a board game but it turns out it's way more complicated than I expected.

What we are looking for:
- 3 players (but can accommodate more)
- no longer than an hour gameplay
- game ends after one session, not ongoing
- rules not too complicated (ie could be explained to a guest easily)
- cooperation preferred over competitive, but not essential

Essentially we are looking for a fun starter board game for three people.
posted by Youremyworld to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (44 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Forbidden Island is a fun, cooperative, easy-to-learn game that I think would be perfect. It meets all of your requirements. Here is the episode of Tabletop where they play it.
posted by Threeve at 11:45 PM on April 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Came here to suggest Forbidden Island, saw it was already suggested. If you enjoy it, there's a sequel game -- Forbidden Desert.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:50 PM on April 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ticket to Ride and probably Carcassonne would both be in that category as well. Also Kill Doctor Lucky, if you don't mind murdering someone with your daughter.
posted by mark k at 11:55 PM on April 2, 2017 [7 favorites]

Sushi Go. Seriously fun, not too difficult to learn either the rules or the basic strategies, so your kid won't be outplayed by the adults in the room at every turn. The art is charming and the games play fast.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:57 PM on April 2, 2017 [9 favorites]

Hanabi, Dixit, 7 Wonders, Betrayal at House on the Hill if you don't mind spooky and the game mechanics meaning one player (or multiple) will betray others, Dominion, Settlers of Catan
posted by azalea_chant at 12:04 AM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you enjoy storytelling, Once Upon a Time does this.
posted by bonehead at 12:04 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sushi Go and Ticket to Ride are awesome and would be great fun with your daughter, seconding those. King of Tokyo also meets all of your parameters except cooperative, and it is really interesting, smart and silly. I spent two weeks playing it with a 12 and 14 year old on rainy afternoons a few summers ago; we have all the games listed above and a million more and they kept coming back to it.

If you want something even simpler but still interesting, maybe try Qwirkle.
posted by charmedimsure at 12:27 AM on April 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

7 Wonders is an excellent, easy to learn, casual game, but I think it plays best with 4+, I wouldn't really recommend it for 3 players.
posted by Nerd of the North at 1:27 AM on April 3, 2017

Machi Koro
posted by backwards guitar at 1:51 AM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

A cardgame my three-person family loves is Set, and Rush Hour is a boardgame we play cooperatively.
posted by stinker at 2:26 AM on April 3, 2017

Hanabi perhaps? Cooperative, simple to play, difficult to master. Also, Pandemic is the more difficult version of Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert.
posted by eloeth-starr at 3:01 AM on April 3, 2017

Kind of old fashioned, but what about Sorry!
posted by frumiousb at 3:07 AM on April 3, 2017

Castle Panic is a game we've had a lot of fun with as a family. It's co-op, players against the board, suited for 10+ and up
posted by ZureaL at 3:15 AM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Loony Quest
posted by katrielalex at 4:16 AM on April 3, 2017

Pandemic is a fun cooperative game, and would be doable for a 12-year old. There are options for increasing or decreasing the difficulty, plus some fun expansions that you could buy down the road.
posted by rossination at 4:20 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Munchkin is that perfect and delicious blend of evil, strategic, adorable, and low-barrier to entry... I think it would be a big hit.
posted by a good beginning at 4:35 AM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Splendor is good for 3 players but can also be played with 2. It's relatively quick (15-20min?) and the "coins" have the same heft as poker chips so as a tactile person I find that a nice bonus.

Dominion is another card-based game (2-4 players) that takes a bit longer to set up and to play, but has more variety built in. This was the first board game I learned as an adult and got totally hooked. If you are easily distracted and find paying attention to directions/rulebooks a bore, I'd suggest finding someone (the store employees? a game cafe?) who can walk you through a game first. A precocious 9 year old has beaten me at this game.

Lost Cities is 2 player only, but is the most easily explained and might be a nice option for when you have guests?

These are all competitive games, not cooperative.

I would suggest not getting 7 Wonders, I think it's too complex for people who haven't been playing board games for a while.
posted by spamandkimchi at 4:38 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Go for Sushi Go Party. It includes Sushi Go but allows for increasing complexity. My kids love it.
posted by Ftsqg at 4:43 AM on April 3, 2017

Knitwit is my latest go-to.
posted by postel's law at 4:51 AM on April 3, 2017

Seconding Ticket To Ride, Set, Dixit, and Forbidden Island. My one warning about Set is that some people's brains just seem built for Set and others seem built against it. If you have one of either in your house, it's less fun. But it's small and inexpensive. In our house we also like Robo Rally, which is competitive but chaotic enough that it can be played purely for giggles.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:04 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't see "King of Tokyo" mentioned, but it's quickly become a favorite around our house.
posted by jferg at 5:09 AM on April 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

On the Ticket to Ride front, I'd recommend the Nordic Countries edition if you're going to be regularly playing with 2 or 3 players. The USA edition can easily turn into train solitaire if each players' routes are in a different region of the board.

Plus you get to bone up on Scandinavian geography!
posted by hwyengr at 5:51 AM on April 3, 2017

Ticket to Ride is a fine game, but if you guys are just starting out into the board game world, let me suggest Transamerica. It's got a train theme but is less directly competitive than Ticket to Ride. Additionally, it takes zero setup time and the rules are very simple.

I would give a recommendation against Munchkin, since the cards can be quite complicated and it encourages attacks on other players. Plus, I just don't think the game is very fun.

Bohnanza and Zooloretto are two other fun games that are not rules heavy and friendly. However, they're not quite as good with 3 players.
posted by demiurge at 6:05 AM on April 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

We love both Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert, but in practice we play Desert way, way more -- something about the dynamic works better, and seems to "land" better with non-gaming people.

We're hooked on a German card game called 6 Nimmit, which is CRAZY fun and pretty fast, plus easy to play with others. It's got an unusual dynamic: you play until someone loses. Everyone else is not-loser, which I guess is "winner."

Add my vote to Sushi Go.

I have never played a game of Splendor that took less than 45-60 minutes, but I love it.

And, yes, TTR is awesome. I may never get my wife a better gift than the 10th anniversary edition of said, which was a birthday present 2 or 3 years ago. It's huge and gorgeous.
posted by uberchet at 6:27 AM on April 3, 2017

Sorry!'s a classic for a reason. With 3 players it leaves a neutral zone to fight in/over...
posted by sexyrobot at 7:34 AM on April 3, 2017

The 10 Days In... series is great for kids that age, with a slight rule change: kids get to rearrange their racks whenever they want, rather than being stuck in the initial order.
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 AM on April 3, 2017

Lanterns is a game that plays less than 30 min and easily accommodates 3 players. It's not particularly competitive.

Tokaido can take longer than an hour, but there's a lot more going on than most quick-play games. It's not hard to learn, except for how to score those darned souvenirs. It looks pretty and has a couple of add-ons if you get tired of the base game.

Smash-up is easy to learn and interesting to play, but it can be super competitive. All the sets can be played together, so that allows for some interesting interactions. I'm a believer in taking sets randomly, but your opinion may vary.

Smallworld takes it up a notch for complexity but it plays well with 3+ players since the board scales to allow more players. Once you've played it 2 or 3 times you'll totally get it and there are lots of videos to help set-up the first few times. There's tons of add-ons for this one as well.

Some of these have iPad versions so you can try them out before committing to a purchase.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:58 AM on April 3, 2017

I'll second Castle Panic, and also suggest "Kill Doctor Lucky".
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:12 AM on April 3, 2017

posted by SisterHavana at 8:23 AM on April 3, 2017

Seconding Scrabble.

And adding an enthusiastic recommendation for Exploding Kittens, even though it's a card game. Every single person I've introduced it to has loved it. The rules feel a tiny bit counter-intuitive at first - everyone I've played it with goes through a period of unconsicously trying to get rid of all their cards at first, since most other card games work that way, but it's actually a slight disadvantage for this game. There's also an initial period of "wait, what does this card do again when I play it?" so I recommend keeping the rules handy to consult at first. But those are the only hurdles to "getting" the rules I've seen people have.

And it is a REALLY quick game - I think the longest game I've played went on for about a half hour. A single deck will do you fine for three people - and if you really get into it and want to have mammoth games, you can simply get a couple other decks and combine them into a mega-deck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on April 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Can attest that Tsuro: The Game of the Path is a fun game for three+ people and is reasonably simple. Any of the many varieties of Fluxx (they're all basically the same game, with varying fun themes) are also fun with three and the rules are, well, what the cards say they are, no explanation required).
posted by General Malaise at 8:54 AM on April 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

For cooperative play I really really love Space Alert which is a real time cooperative game with variable difficulty.
The goal is to defend a spaceship against oncoming threats (provided by an app or a cd player). It can get quite intense, but starts off quite simple and has a fabulously written manual and introduction guide.
(Though I'd probably go Forbidden Desert/Island or pandemic as introductory games)

Have a look at the site for board game reviews which are more accessible that BoardGameGeek, also sortable by category (i.e. Cooperative or Conflict Free or New-Hamer friendly)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:23 AM on April 3, 2017

I came in to mention Exploding Kittens too. Two caveats - I think the rules might be a bit difficult for guests to grasp quickly, and we find games usually go on for about forty minutes to an hour, rather than less than half an hour as Empress mentions.
posted by paduasoy at 10:21 AM on April 3, 2017

Pandemic: The Cure is the dice-based version of Pandemic. It's a bit stripped down, easier set up and easier to understand the game play. Games also go quicker than the full game version. And dice!
posted by ewok_academy at 10:45 AM on April 3, 2017

If the idea of scrabble is of interest, I would suggest Paperback. It can be competitive, but there are rules for co-op play as well. It also teaches some deck-building which might help if you play other games together in the future.

I would also nth the Pandemic recs
posted by Laura in Canada at 11:11 AM on April 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Tsuro is quick to play, good with three people, easy to explain for guests (it usually takes one round or less for even non-gamers to grasp), and fun. My dad does not like board games, and avoids playing them as much as possible, but will happily play multiple rounds of Tsuro in a row with me and my mom, and we both really enjoy board games.
Its pretty much become my go-to game for visiting.
posted by sandraregina at 11:25 AM on April 3, 2017

Nobody ever lost by starting with Sushi Go and Forbidden Island. They're deservedly classics and insidious gateways to buying larger shelves and nicer tables and being acutely aware of the precise location of Essen and knowing who Antoine Bauza is.

Burgle Bros shines with three players. It's co-op, and light / easy to learn and play but tense ('you set off the motion scanner to lure the guard, then run through the secret panel to hide, while you drop the donut in the guard's path to slow him down; I'll get the chihuahua through the service ducts to the second floor...'). The two-floor mission can be played in under an hour. Random tile placement plus random guard movement plus lots of different player characters equals a lot of replayability.

7 Wonders is tricky to get your head around - unless you've played Sushi Go first, which introduces you to collecting different sets and the 'keep a card, pass your hand on, get somebody else's hand, repeat' mechanic. After that, 7 Wonders is 'oh, these are the sets, and these are the three courses, and we're just comparing pudding (ie fighting wars) between rounds instead of at the end.' Neither game is co-operative, but a winner isn't clear until the very end, and you've usually built something nice anyway so you have a sense of accomplishment. It's pretty non-confrontational.

Camel Up won a prestigious German board game prize, is a lot of fun, and scales well / is easy to teach if you have people over.

Above and Below is a very unusual game that sees you recruiting people to help you explore and build a village above the ground and below the ground. It has gorgeous Miyazaki-esque artwork and a paragraph book that sees each player enjoying very different challenges and adventures.

Instead of one game that last an hour, you could also get a few smaller games. Love Letter, Deep Sea Adventure and Ligretto are a lot of fun, quick to learn, and lend themselves to 'one more round, or something else?' commitment-free game sessions. If you find you like the 'push your luck bwawaahaaa your greed now has you drowning outside the submarine' mechanic of Deep Sea Adventure, then Incan Gold does a similar thing but with spooky mummies and fire traps.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 6:02 PM on April 3, 2017

Ooh, get the Pyramid Arcade from Looney Labs! 22 different game in one box you can play with the pieces there. I know Color wheel is cooperative, and there are tons for 3 players.
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:59 PM on April 3, 2017

N'thing Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert. I also prefer cooperative games and really enjoy these two.

Apples to Apples is a card game (no board) which is competitive, not cooperative, but can be totally hilarious depending on who's playing, and how well the players know each other. Available as an app too, but I don't think an app would allow the creative rule-bending that makes the card game more fun.
posted by Quietgal at 8:04 PM on April 3, 2017

I also came in to say Sushi Go, and I seen it's been recommended several other times
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:41 AM on April 4, 2017

Vye! It's a beautiful game of creating and controlling kingdoms that is very easy to learn and play.
posted by canine epigram at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2017

My (not-quite) eleven year old daughter enjoys the Forbidden's, sushi go, tsuro, Carcassone, and Camel Up. Carcassone and Camel Up deserve a special mention because they can also be played with much younger children or without much thought, if someone is zoning out, without having any impact on the game for the others!

Even better are Love Letter and I Hate Zombies, which are quick and portable.

Ones that haven't been mentioned yet, but are worth your while are Escape from the Temple and Takenoko
posted by fizban at 12:32 AM on April 6, 2017

Thank you so much everyone, we have a long wish list now. All the suggestions are fantastic and I think Forbidden Island, Sushi Go, Quirkle and Ticket to Ride are the first ones we'll explore.

Marking Threeve as the best for the mention of Tabletop, which I have spent 3 days binge watching.
posted by Youremyworld at 4:48 PM on April 6, 2017

Spaceteam is a great new one! Just played it at board games night. It is cooperative, fast, and silly.
posted by azalea_chant at 12:50 AM on April 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older What is this old school kind of brushy font?   |   New Zealand Honeymoon logistics + Easter Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.