Which are the Top 10 Most Popular Board Games in 2021?

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While following the crowd is not always the preferred path, it’s often beneficial to see which way the trends are going. I take a look at Which are the Top 10 Most Popular Board Games in 2021?

Introduction to Top 10 Most Popular Board Games in 2021

If you’re new to the hobby and don’t know where to begin, the most popular titles are a good starting point. The following list is summarized after the BGG’s most popular games, brought to you in simple words, that even non-gamers will understand. And if you don’t – just ask in the comments and I’ll be glad to elaborate.

Knowing the most popular board games (and perhaps playing some of them), you’ll have a decent base knowledge of board gaming and a good platform on which to build. I mean, those games are so popular for a reason, right?

While I wouldn’t necessarily mark them as essential, you can’t miss with most of them – especially since most of them do a very good job at introducing certain game mechanics (like deck-building, tile-placement, etc.), that you’ll meet so often in board-gaming. For a new player, I’d be careful about purchasing Agricola and Terraforming Mars since they’re a bit heavier.

Table of Contents

RankImageTitle (click & jump-to)TagsPrice
10.Puerto Ricocolonial, action-drafting$$
9.Agricola Revised Edition Board Game Review FeatureAgricolafarming, worker-placement$$
8.Terraforming Mars Board Game Review feature imageTerraforming Marssci-fi, engine building, card-drafting$$$
7.Codenamesparty, hidden information, deduction$$
6.Ticket to Ridetrains, set-collecting$$
5.Dominiondeck-building$
4.7 Wondersancient civilizations, card-drafting$$
3.Catancolonization, resource-management$$
2.carcassonne board game boxCarcassonnetile-placement$
1.Pandemiccooperative, action points$$$
If you click on an affiliate link, it will take you to the Amazon store. If you then buy something, I will earn a commission – I am a member of the Amazon Associates program, as well as some others.

Honorable Mentions Places 20-11

20. Dixit is a game about telling a story in pictures. It’s an action-reaction type of party board game.

19. Azul, an abstract tile-laying game. You can read more about it in my Best Abstract Board Games article, where it came out on top.

18. Love Letter is a small card game where you’re trying to pass a love letter to a princess. Simple rules, cute art, and quick gameplay. Read my full Love Letter review.

17. Power Grid. Published in 2004, this one is a modern classic and a template eurogame for many games to go. It’s about building an electrical grid and supply cities.

16. Scythe is a mid-heavy strategy game, set in a 1920’s diesel-punk alternate history. Exceptional art, great components, solid and engaging mechanics all make this game one of the essentials. Read the full Scythe review.

15. In King of Tokyo, each player plays as a giant monster (think of Godzilla). Destroy the city or other monsters, the choice is yours.

14. Ticket to Ride: Europe is a reimplementation of the original formula – read more about it below. It features a map of Europe and introduces a few new game mechanics.

13. Splendor is probably the most typical game when introducing players to engine-building. It’s about resource/set collection and it’s set in Renaissance Europe, although the theme is a bit pasted on. Read the full Splendor review here.

12. 7 Wonders: Duel is a two-player variant of its big brother (see below). Set in the ancient world, card drafting and set-collecting are a foundation for a very strategic game. You build your city economically, commercially, scientifically, and militaristic, while also keeping an eye on your opponent, who is trying to do the same. Read the full 7 Wonders: Duel review here.

11. Small World is an entry-level strategy game. Fantasy races (there’s a whole plethora of them and there are numerous expansions available) are battling each other for land and there can only be one winner. Read the full Small World review here.


10. Puerto Rico

Published2002
DesignerAndreas Seyfarth
Playing time90-150 minutes
Players2-5, best with 4
Complexitymedium
Most Popular Board Games Puerto Rico Box
Image from riograndegames.com

Theme and Objectives

Puerto Rico takes players back to colonial times to (you guessed it) the island of Puerto Rico. You play as governors to-be, building plantations, growing crops, erecting buildings, and shipping goods back to Europe.

Buildings and shipped goods bring you victory points, which is how you win the game and become the governor.

How to play?

What makes Puerto Rico special, is the action-drafting system. Each round, players select roles from those available, making appropriate actions. The player who chooses a role gets a discount at it, then all others can also perform that role.

  • Builder allows you to build a building, worth victory points. If the building is manned it has an ability that can be used in play.
  • Captain. Ship goods back to Europe for victory points.
  • Craftsman. Produce goods from (manned) plantations.
  • Mayor: Man plantations and buildings with colonists.
  • Prospector. Gain income.
  • Settler: Build plantations.
  • Trader: Sell goods for money.

If a role is unused, it gets a doubloon bonus, making it more lucrative in subsequent rounds. The starting player token is passed on in the next rounds, allowing the next player to choose a role first.

The game ends when one of the players fills up all the places for buildings on his board, or the supply runs out of colonists/victory points.

Most Popular Board Games Puerto Rico Board
Image from flickr

Puerto Rico Features

  • Easy to learn and play, feels like a more advanced Catan.
  • A lot of possible strategies and paths to victory.
  • Low random factor allows highly methodical play, but also makes analysis-paralysis possible.

Buying guide

There are a couple of minor expansions available that add new buildings, but frankly, they are not a necessary purchase. The base game is all you need, maybe if you find the Deluxe Edition for a reasonable price.


9. Agricola

Published2007
DesignerUwe Rosenberg
Playing time30 minutes per player
Players1-5, best with 3-4
Complexitymedium-heavy
Most Popular Board Games Agricola Box

Theme and Objectives

In Agricola, each player plays as an owner of a 17th-century farm. You build and renovate your house, plow fields, and herd animals. But most importantly, your goal is to feed your family and survive.

Agricola, while technically an optimization puzzle, also allows you to do things your way. Do you want a big family with a lot of children? Focus on grain, vegetables? Or perhaps ditch that all together and just breed sheep, lots of sheep.

Even if you don’t play competitively, there’s a lot of fun and enjoyment to be had from managing your farm and moving animeeples around.

How to play?

Worker-placement is the main mechanic in Agricola. That means each round you’ll have several workers available (you can increase this by having children), which you place on various spaces on the board. Actions like gathering resources, playing cards from your hand, adding animals, building fences and stables, even having children are then performed.

To add diversity, you’ll receive a hand of cards for each game. These represent professions and improvements that you can play during the game and greatly influence how you approach a game.

In the end, everything you do is scored. A modern house, animals, and a well-fed family will yield you a lot of victory points, while hungry bellies will give negative points.

Most Popular Board Games Agricola Board
Image from lookout-spiele.de

Agricola Features

  • A complex strategy game, allowing many paths to victory,
  • very thematic,
  • a brutal learning curve for beginners,
  • a lot of replay value, still going strong after over a decade.

Buying guide

If you’re looking to get Agricola, definitely search for the Revised Edition, with streamlined rules and cute animeeples. The Family Edition lacks replay value and will not please a more demanding crowd, but for occasional carefree farming, it’s fine.

There’s also the excellent two-player version, Agricola: All Creatures Big and Small, which focuses on animal breeding, but it’s out of print. If you stumble upon a second-hand copy, I suggest getting it.


8. Terraforming Mars

Published2016
DesignerJacob Fryxelius
Playing time120 minutes
Players1-5, best with 3
Complexitymedium
Most Popular Board Games Terraforming Mars Title

Theme and Objectives

In the 25th century, colonizing Mars has become the next big thing. But to make the Red Planet habitable, it has to be terraformed. Oxygen levels and temperature have to be increased. The surface must be filled with oceans, forests, and eventually cities.

Even though the project is sponsored by the World Government, different corporations see Mars as a great opportunity to profit and expand. You play as one such corporation. You compete with others in contribution to terraforming and other infrastructural and scientific advancements.

How to play?

Your chosen corporation begins with a budget. You can spend your money on any of the standard projects that change the surface of the planet or enhance your corporation: plant greenery, place oceans or cities, build power plants that increase heat production, and so on.

Each of these improvements increases the terraforming rating (giving you more income in the future) or your “engine” – the efficiency at which your corporation produces energy, heat, or greenery. This allows you to build improvement “for free” later on.

But having only standard projects would make the game pretty repetitive. What makes Terraforming Mars an immersive space game, are project cards. These are powerful special projects, but also expensive. If you choose carefully, they can really boost your engine – or can be just a drain if you reserve more cards that you can actually build.

The game ends when the planet is fully terraformed and points are added up. You can increase those if you completed some of the Milestones and Awards during the game.

Most Popular Board Games Terraforming Mars Digital Edition
Game begins with Mars an empty canvas (image from the excellent digital adaptation).

Terraforming Mars Features

  • An immersive theme, especially the sci-fi project cards.
  • A lot of options and paths to victory.
  • Superb single-player mode

Buying guide

Terraforming Mars has received a series of excellent expansions, that only enhance the already great gameplay. Check my full Terraforming Mars review for the complete list and description. Get the base game first. It’s your choice what to get next, but the Prelude expansion is a very popular choice.


7. Codenames

Published2015
DesignerVlaada Chvatil
Playing time15 minutes
Players2-8, best with 6 or 8
Complexitylight
Most Popular Board Games Codenames Title
Image from czechgames.com

Theme and Objectives

Codenames is a spy-vs-spy game of hidden information. You are trying to guess the names of other teams’ agents that are somewhere among the 25 codenames on the board.

How to play?

Players are split into two equal teams and one of the players per team is named the Spymaster. The two spymasters have a secret Key – a map revealing all the secret identities of the spies on the table.

On his turn, the spymaster gives one-word hints to his team, trying to hint at as many codenames with it. The team can then debate the meaning of the hint. Of, course the rival team should take note of that – those are the agents they must avoid.

After the debate, a team must point out at least one codename (and can stop guessing after that at anytime).

  • If they hit the right agent, it gets covered with their marker and they get another guess.
  • If they hit an innocent bystander, their turn ends.
  • If they hit an agent of another team, it gets covered with another team’s marker and their turn ends.
  • If they hit the assassin, they lose immediately.

The game ends when all of the agents of one team have been revealed.

Most Popular Board Games Codenames Overview
Image from czechgames.com

Codenames Features

  • Simple, light, and quick to play.
  • Great for social interaction and deduction.
  • A lot of replay value, but it needs a higher player count.

Buying guide

After its success, numerous variants have been released. There is the Pictures version (great for non-English speakers), an adult version, a two-player version, as well as Disney, Marvel, Simpsons, Blizzard, and Harry Potter versions.

Thematic editions are cool and all are worth buying. But you only need one, since all play pretty much the same. Two player edition plays very well, too. Or just go old-school and get the original version.


6. Ticket to Ride

Published2004
DesignerAlan R. Moon
Playing time30-60 minutes
Players2-5, best with 4
Complexitylight-medium
Most Popular Board Games Ticket to Ride Box
Image from daysofwonder.com

Theme and Objectives

The industrial revolution is in full swing and it’s up to you (and other players) to connect the cities with rails. You gain points for successful connections and also for the length of your trains. Who will have the largest network?

How to play?

Ticket to Ride is a prime example of a well-designed, easy-to-get-into board game. Each turn, you will either collect train cards (these come in various colors) or you’ll play cards of the same color to place them on a railroad of that color.

It’s this simple set-collecting that has made the franchise so popular. But there’s depth too. When to play your cards is probably the biggest decision. Keep collecting and risk that someone else takes your route or play it safe and place your train now?

You must also take into account objectives – cards that give extra points if you connect specific cities and you’ll get a game that anyone can play, yet it still has something to think about.

Most Popular Board Games Ticket to Ride USA Board
Image from daysofwonder.com

Ticket to Ride Features

  • Easy-going theme and gameplay.
  • Great for introducing new players to board gaming.
  • While the USA map is considered classic, there are plenty of editions to satisfy different tastes.

Buying guide

Ticket to Ride has become a big franchise over the years:

  • Ticket to Ride (USA); 2004
  • Ticket to Ride: Europe; 2005
  • Ticket to Ride: Märklin; 2006
  • Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries; 2007
  • Ticket to Ride: Deutschland; 2012
  • Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails World; 2016
  • Ticket to Ride: Rails & Sails Great Lakes; 2016
  • Expansions and map collections are available for many of the above titles.
  • Standalone Spin-offs like The Card Game, First Journey, London, and New York.

But my favorite remains the original USA edition.


5. Dominion

Published2008
DesignerDonald X. Vaccarino
Playing time30 minutes
Players2-4, best with 3
Complexitylight-medium
Most Popular Board Games Dominion Box
Image from riograndegames.com

Theme and Objectives

Dominion puts you in the shoes of a freshly crowned monarch, who decides not to rest on the laurels of his parents, but to expand his land, develop the economy and bring his dominion to the next century. Err, build up his deck of cards so that it produces the most victory points.

Although the cards come with beautiful illustrations and thematic names, the theme is not the strongest point in Dominion. It feels pasted on and does not contribute to the gameplay. But …

How to play?

Dominion is what made deck-building a game. Sure, you could build your deck in collectible card games, but that happened before you played a game. In Dominion, deck-building is THE game.

Each player starts the game with 10 cards. They are roughly divided into action (enhance other actions or have the abilities on their own), currency (used to buy new cards), and victory points cards (that’s how you win).

Turns fly by quickly by playing the cards from your hands, buying new, and discarding unwanted. The gameplay is straightforward, players pick it up swiftly, and it runs smoothly.

All the different actions take a bit to understand (roughly 500 cards are in the base game), but it’s not a big problem. You learn them as you play.

The meta revolves around balancing the three different card types – you need some to be efficient during the game, while you need others at the end to score the maximum amount of points. This allows for many different possible strategies and with short playtime, the game encourages experimenting.

Most Popular Board Games Dominion Components
Image from riograndegames.com

Dominion Features

  • The first (and still one of the best) deck builders.
  • Quick and accessible gameplay.
  • A lot of cards and a lot of options.
  • The theme is a bit bland.

Buying guide

Dominion has received plenty of expansions, but you don’t need them all. You’re good to go with the base game (Second edition) and you can add an expansion or two later.


4. 7 Wonders

Published2010
DesignerAntoine Bauza
Playing time30 minutes
Players3-7, best with 4-5
Complexitylight-medium
Most Popular Board Games 7 Wonders Box
Image from 7wonders.net

Theme and Objectives

The Pyramids, Hanging Gardens, Statue of Zeus, Colossus, Temple of Artemis, Great Lighthouse, and the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus were the most prominent monuments of the ancient world.

Now is your chance to re-live that era. Develop your civilization, gather resources, build ever-advanced buildings, and finally construct one of the Wonders.

How to play?

7 Wonders is a card-drafting tableau-building board game.

Each player receives several cards each era. You take one card and place it in front of you. The remaining cards are passed on to your neighbor and you repeat the process until only one card is left in your hand (which is discarded).

The whole process then repeats two more times (Era II and III) with stronger sets of cards. Between eras, military might is checked and victory points are given out. After era III, final scores are added together and the winner is declared.

There are several types of cards, like resource cards, military, commercial, scientific and cultural buildings, that you stack in front of you. Many of them require resources or other prerequisites to be built (sometimes you can build for free if you have a prerequisite building).

7 Wonders of the World

That’s more prominent in later eras, where the buildings are increasingly more expensive, but also give out better rewards. This is especially true for wonders, ultimate buildings, that can really turn the tide of the game.

To be able to afford those late-game buildings, you must build-up your engine wisely. Choosing the right cards (and at the same time denying them to your opponents) is crucial and you’ll often want to go the other way. If your neighbor is going for military, there might not be enough military cards left and you’ll be better off specializing in commerce, for example.

The average game lasts around 30 minutes (maybe a little more) and this is almost independent of the player count. Players take their turns simultaneously and the game scales really well from 3 and up to 7 players, without too much extra playing time.

Most Popular Board Games 7 Wonders Components
Image from 7wonders.net

7 Wonders Features

  • Simple drafting mechanics ensure fast gameplay.
  • Card variety ensures a lot of civ-building options.
  • Scales great from 3-7 players.

Buying guide

7 Wonders has received 5 expansions (not counting fan-made):

  • 7 Wonders: Leaders (2011)
  • 7 Wonders: Cities (2012)
  • 7 Wonders: Wonder Pack (2013)
  • 7 Wonders: Babel (2014)
  • 7 Wonders: Armada (2018)

The lackluster 2-player game has been addressed in 7 Wonders Duel, a standalone title with different draft mechanics. It’s arguably one of the best 2-player board games and I mentioned it above in the honorable mentions.

Moreover, in 2020 the revised second edition of 7 Wonders was published. It comes with all sorts of minor tweaks that improve quality of life. The base gameplay remains the same (ok, the 2-player mode is removed), of course.

This is the version I suggest getting and you can add the expansions later if you so desire.


3. Catan

Published1995
DesignerKlaus Teuber
Playing time60-120 minutes
Players3-4, best with 4
Complexitylight-medium
Most Popular Board Games Catan Box
Image from catan.com

Theme and Objectives

The now-legendary game from 1995, which helped to kickstart the modern hobby, re-visits the theme of colonization. You land on a virgin island, with your settlers ready to exploit it. Build villages, roads, cities, and armies.

Your goal is to be better than your neighbors. But they are friendly, so there’s no direct military battles, only trading and competing for land.

How to play?

The hexes that form the map, each produce a different resource. You’ve got wood, clay, sheep, ore, and grain. To get a resource, you need to have a settlement on the border of the hex, when the number of that hex is rolled on the dice.

You can trade your resources with other players or the bank, and build new infrastructure: villages, roads, cities. Building new infrastructure requires resources – and the circle is complete.

What resources to focus on, which spots to start on, where to spread out, and who to trade with are some of the strategical questions you’ll ask yourself during the game.

Most Popular Board Games Catan Board
My version is one of earlier editions.

Catan Features

  • A great mix of accessibility, strategic depth, and a random factor.
  • Trading between players is very enjoyable.
  • Evergreen theme.

Buying guide

Unsurprisingly for such a successful series, there are a lot of variants and expansions available. You can get into the Star Trek universe, visit the Incas, Romans, or Egyptians. But I believe you should start with the original game (whichever printing is now current) and later perhaps add an expansion or two (Seafarers and Cities & Knights are a good way to start).


2. Carcassonne

Published2000
DesignerKlaus-Jürgen Wrede
Playing time30-45 minutes
Players2-5, best with 2
Complexitylight-medium
Most Popular Board Games carcassonne board game box

Theme and Objectives

The medieval city of Carcassonne lies in a picturesque piece of France. It’s surrounded by fields, crisscrossed with roads and monasteries.

The game uses this template to create a similar world. You draw square tiles and place them next to the existing ones so that the features on them match. Features can be scored by strategically placing your people (meeples) on them.

How to play?

Each turn you draw a random tile and place it anywhere on the map. As said, the features must match, so you won’t have unlimited options. Usually, you’ll try to add to the feature you already have a meeple on, scoring more points.

After you place your tile, you have the option to place your meeple on a feature on that tile. You can place them on a city, road, monastery, or fields. Your meeples are limited, so there lies the strategic part. You get them back when a feature is completed, except for the farmers on the fields, which are long-term investments and only scored at the game end.

When the tiles run out, the game ends and the player with the highest score is the winner.

Most Popular Board Games carcassonne board game tiles

Carcassonne Features

  • Simple rules make this a favorite for families and non-gamers.
  • The finished landscape looks great on the table.
  • Expansions are sort of must-have.

Buying guide

Unfortunately, the base game alone offers limited replay value, but there are more than enough expansions available. Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders are pretty much mandatory – I suggest you go for one of the Big Boxes that contains the base game along with a couple of expansions.

There are also reskins (Safari, Star Wars, and Amazonas for example), but unless you’re a fan of that theme, stick with the original Carcassone. Reskins lack long-term replay value since expansions don’t really work with them.


1. Pandemic

Published2008
DesignerMatt Leacock
Playing time45 minutes
Players1-4, best with 4
Complexitylight-medium
Most Popular Board Games Pandemic Box
Image from asmodee.com

Theme and Objectives

Not one, but four deadly diseases are threatening to overcome humanity. Can you and your team of various occupations keep the hotspots in check and develop the cures at the same time?

How to play?

On your turn, you can take 4 actions. Your options are:

  • move,
  • treat diseases,
  • build a research station,
  • cure a disease (certain conditions must be met for this one),
  • or share knowledge (cards).

After your turn, you draw two new cards. Cards are used to travel faster or cure diseases if you have a completed set of them.

Then the infection phase starts. You draw cards from the infection deck, infecting more cities (adding cubes to them). If a city already has 3 cubes, an outbreak occurs, infecting all nearby cities.

Players win if they manage to cure all four diseases or lose if there are too many outbreaks, they run out of cubes or cards. This results in a very tense co-op experience, where you’re constantly on the brink of losing. Players must use their special abilities wisely and work together.

Most Popular Board Games Pandemic Board Overview
Image from flickr

Pandemic Features

  • Current theme.
  • Solid action-points mechanics.
  • Great cooperative experience.
  • Some issues with “quarterbacking” (players instructing others what to do).

Buying guide

After the original game, the Pandemic franchise has grown a lot. There are more thematic editions like Pandemic: Iberia, Fall of Rome, Reign of Cthulhu, or Rising Tide, to name a few. There’s also a simplified dice game, Pandemic: The Cure.

But the crown goes to the Pandemic Legacy series. A story-driven campaign system depends on your decisions, and comes with a lot of twists and surprises is one of the more unforgettable tabletop experiences.

Three seasons are out so far, with each trying out something new and also building upon the former. I suggest you start with Season One and go from there.

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