Most of us have memories from our childhood that involve spending time around a game board, hoping to outmaneuver our opponents. And depending on the game, it could get a bit heated. You might be surprised to find that many of the most iconic board games were invented during the early 19th century. For a taste of nostalgia, these are some of the most popular board games of all time.
Even if you’re not the best chess player, you probably at least enjoyed playing with the game pieces. Chess is the oldest game on this list with contested origins that place it as early as the second century BC or the sixth century AD. If you know absolutely nothing about the game, chess is about strategy, and the goal is to protect your king. While the king can take only baby steps in deliberate directions, the queen can literally dominate the board and move in any direction she pleases. For serious players, just hearing the phrase “checkmate” is enough to end a game. But even if you’re not the next Bobby Fischer, you can still enjoy a friendly game or two.
If spelling and vocabulary aren’t your things, then Scrabble is a difficult game to play. In addition to knowing how to spell, Scrabble is also a strategy-based board game. First, you’re given letters at random—which can be your undoing if your vocabulary is limited. To rack up points and sweep your opponent, you need to place those difficult 8-point (J and X) and 10-point letters (Q and Z) on colored squares to multiply their value. Even though Scrabble was invented in 1938, its popularity is so strong that it continues to inspire obvious knock-off versions like Words with Friends.
Of all the games on this list, Monopoly is probably the only one that causes fights (again, we emphasize probably). Created in 1935, this is also one of the few games at which most people don’t play according to the rules. Players often create their own rules ranging from financial windfalls when you land on Free Parking to a double payout if you land on Go. Plus, with an average gameplay time of one to four hours, no one really finishes the game. You just get tired and stop playing. This real-estate tycoon game tests your wits and business acumen while also serving as an example of the ills of unchecked capitalism at the Wharton School of Business.
Colonel Mustard in the kitchen with the candlestick. In terms of play time, Clue (known as Cluedo in the United Kingdom) is a reasonable one-hour game. The somewhat morbid game tests your detective skills as you try to determine who murdered poor Mr. Boddy in a mansion. But compared to some of the other games on this list, Clue is so popular that the 1949 board game spawned spin-off games, books, a film, and a musical.
If you love trivia night at your local bar (or this website!), know that they got the idea from a game that tests your knowledge on somewhat useless facts. Trivial Pursuit was invented in 1979 in Canada. The goal is to move around the board by answering questions across a variety of color-coded categories. The winner is the person who’s able to fill his or her game piece wheel with one color wedge from every question category.
Of all the games on this list, Pictionary is probably the most age-friendly. Since the game centers on being able to draw whatever is listed on the card you pull, anyone old enough to draw can play. Pictionary is basically charades with drawing and was invented in 1985. But it’s still not the youngest game on this list.
Maybe you prefer military games that are about strategy and trying to take over the world. If that sounds appealing, then Risk is a war game with an extremely long runtime that fits the bill. Depending on your strategies and the abilities of your opponents, playing Risk can take anywhere from one to eight hours. The game was invented in 1957 but continues to be very popular. In fact, it’s considered the inspiration for the next game on this list.
The Settlers of Catan
Successful board games are those that don’t have predictable outcomes. Who would want to play a game in which it was obvious who would win after the first few turns? The Settlers of Catan was invented in 1995 in Germany and follows settlers as they try to establish roots, build wealth through amassing and trading resources, and be first to reach 10 points to win. The game is one of the shorter options with average gameplay of one to two hours.
You sank my battleship! Even though Battleship was officially released in 1967, the game has its origins from the World War II era when it was played with paper and pencil. As you would imagine, the goal of this two-player game is to guess the exact location of your opponent’s battleship and sink it. The player who eliminates all of his or her opponent’s ships is the winner. Battleship continues to be wildly popular. It even spawned a feature film adaptation in 2012 with Rihanna and Liam Neeson, which was considerably less popular.