Have you ever spent your day inside reading? Obviously, yes. Have you ever spent your day inside board gaming? No? You should try some of these bookish board game pairings! Yes? You should still try one of these board game pairings! There is something here from board gaming newbies to those who already own a bookshelf (or two) of board games.
How this works: find your favorite genre or two and check out the recommendations underneath. I’ve included a variety of games that range from short to long gameplay, simple to complex, strategic or party game. These games are all also highly ranked on Board Game Geek’s overall rankings.
Perfect for hard sci-fi lovers, Terraforming Mars incorporates several aspects of the science and technology needed to colonize Mars. You are a corporation with specific powers that allow you to raise the temperature, increase atmospheric oxygen levels, and build cities, greenery, and oceans on Mars. Bonus: The currency pieces are very satisfyingly metallic gold, silver, and bronze.
The artwork (there’s a lot) in this card-based game is the cherry on top. This military sci-fi game pits you against other players to develop and expand your empire. What I especially love are the multiple expansions in two different story arcs, so it almost feels like you are reading a trilogy with a spin-off series. (But the game is already great standalone.) Bonus: This game travels very easily if you take the cards and chits out of the box.
Build various wonders found in ancient civilizations. Beautiful artwork makes these wonders come alive. Bonus: The two-player version (pictured) is even better than the regular four-player version. I highly recommend this if you are looking to primarily play with one other person. The expansion to 7 Wonders Duel is also definitely worth splurging on as it expands your strategic toolkit.
Ideal for history buffs who want to realistically live the stress and tension of the Cold War. Twilight Struggle is guaranteed to be 2-3 hours of paranoia as you play USA vs. USSR to see who can dominate the world. I’ve learned some history myself playing the game because the events on the cards are accurate (maybe not timeline-wise in gameplay, though). Bonus: This game held the #1 spot on Board Game Geek’s rankings for the longest period of time.
Become a railroad mogul as you build tracks across the USA. (Also comes in editions including Europe, Africa, India, etc.) It takes 15 minutes to learn but is still full of strategy. Bonus: This game seems most readily available in stores compared to the other games on this list if you are looking for something to play last-minute.
Navigate a haunted house with your friends. Be careful, because at some point, one of your friends will betray you, and you will have to fight for your life to get out! Bonus: If you really like Betrayal, I recommend trying Eldritch Horror, which has the same mechanisms but on a global scale.
The perfect party game! Two factions of secret agents are pitted against each other but must avoid civilians and assassins. Great for those who are creative or have a good vocabulary. Bonus: Codenames Pictures works as both a standalone game and one that can be integrated in with the original Codenames. I personally think the original is much better, but this can help if you have some very visual players in your game group.
This is a survival board game set in a devil-filled forest where Shadows, creatures of the night; Hunters, humans who try to destroy supernatural creatures; and Neutrals, plain civilians fight each other to survive. Shadow Hunters is a card-based game where you are hiding your identity from others until you can determine who they are from their motives. Bonus: You can play this with up to 8 players.
An easy way to find out who are the best liars and schemers in your friend group. Villagers with different jobs must figure out who become werewolves at night – the only catch being no one really knows who the others are. Using your different powers granted by your role, you must figure out who the werewolves are and kill them within a few minutes. A great fast-paced party game. Bonus: There’s an app that works as the narrator for this game so that everyone can play.
If you are already a serious gamer and fantasy lover, Gloomhaven may be for you. It sits at the top of Board Game Geek’s overall games rating and is notoriously known not to fit on a regular bookshelf. It is a choose-your-own-adventure style game as you wander a fantasy world. Bonus: Players don’t all have to be present to play, which is especially helpful with the length of the game, which usually requires multiple sittings to complete.
I really enjoyed becoming a tree species in this game. As you grow, you can shade other trees and disperse to higher quality soil. As an ecologist, I thought the competition and resource dynamics in the game were pretty spot on, too! Bonus: The 3D-part of this game is really fun and helps with game play. The various imaginary tree species are gorgeously done.
Fun and competitive, Dominant Species covers the challenges of evolutionary biology. Each player will become one of six major animal classes—mammal, reptile, bird, amphibian, arachnid, or insect. At first, each group is balanced in relation to one another. But that won’t last: It is indeed “survival of the fittest” before the ice age arrives. Bonus: Play the game Evolution or Evolution: Climate if you want to make gameplay relevant to climate change.
Have your own bookish board game recommendations? Post them in the comments, and don’t miss our roundup of games for word nerds!