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Board games on red background
No party is complete without at least one (but preferably all) of these
Hasbro, Funko Games, Czech Games Edition, Greater Than Games

You’ll Never Be Bored with These Board Games

PLUS: Game recs from my pal and Peter Pan Goes Wrong co-star, Stephen James Anthony!

Neil Patrick Harris is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wondercade. In his spare time he also acts — fairly well, too, as his Tony and Emmy Awards can attest.

August 4, 2023 1:55 pm

I know a thing or two about board games. I mean, I’ve even made my own (which is meant to be played on your own). Even in our modern age of virtual reality, mobile gaming and digital dreamscapes, the tactile appeal of tabletop games endures. These games gather loved ones around a table and make magical memories, so I wanted to gather a bunch of my absolute favorites to share with you…whether you’re as obsessed with strategizing and rolling dice and moving tokens as I am (I call the top hat if we’re playing Monopoly!), or if you only play a board game once in a blue moon.

Also, I am always on the lookout for new games. If your favorite isn’t included here, please, let me know! Email me your favorite board or card game at nph@wondercade.com. I’ll share some of your recs on our Wondercade Instagram.

Games Perfect for Everyone!

Board games on red background
No party is complete without at least one (but preferably all) of these
Hasbro, Funko Games, Czech Games Edition, Greater Than Games

This first batch of recreational recommendations we’ve got cooked up for you are games easily accessible to everyone — ones that anyone can play, despite age or skill level. In fact, you may have already played some of these before. For example, a personal favorite of mine: Clue! (Known by its original name Cluedo in its native U.K. and elsewhere.) Earlier this year, the iconic murder mystery that challenges your powers of deductive reasoning was released with a fresh makeover (Mr. Green is Mayor Green! Mrs. Peacock is Solicitor Peacock!). And there are new cards that add a psychological layer (“choose the guiltiest-looking player to reveal one card from their hand”).

If whodunnits aren’t your thing, consider another updated version of another classic: Cranium, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. There are 800 new questions, a re-designed board and countless opportunities for you to test all four areas of your game-playing brain: trivia, performing, art and wordplay. (Speaking of wordplay…there’s a Wordle board game now. Just FYI.)

Another great pick is Codenames, which pits two teams of spies against one another, each trying to contact their agents, while avoiding crossing paths with the deadly assassin (pro tip: avoid said deadly assassin). You’ll decipher codenames that align in a grid, which make this game feel like Battleship-meets-James Bond-meets-word association. Finally, if you’re like me, and you’re a child of the 1980s, you’ll dig Lazer Ryderz: a “racing game” (which sports a raving retro neon VHS design motif) where you build your own track and use numbers and strategy to propel your hero to the finish line.

Something a Bit More Serious

Board games on red background
Games for true playas
WS Game Company, Monikers, R&R Games

Maybe you’re jonesing for something a bit more substantial than “pick up and play,” and have a couple hours to devote to a single game? I got you, boo. My first rec is yet another reimagined classic, Monopoly Luxury Edition. We all know how long Monopoly can take, so it’s not for everyone — especially this version, which is very expensive. But! If you’re a keen gamer or a keen collector, go for it! (This game is about capitalism anyway, so maybe it’s appropriate to drop some dime?) Besides, it’s seriously gorg: beautiful wood with plated die-cast tokens and a just sumptuous and beautiful vintage look.

Speaking of eye candy, you might like Wavelength, whose box art I medium-key want a print of to hang on the wall of my game room. The whole aesthetic is quite Atomic Age; this game tries to see if you’re on the same…wait for it…wavelength as your teammates. Get players to guess clues that fall on a spectrum: maybe you’re trying to get them to guess something that’s hot (say, coffee, for instance), but not as hot as the sun. (Then again, what is? Besides David, anyway. *sizzle sound effect*) Another rec for dedicated deducers: Hanabi, the Japanese word for “fireworks,” where you work with your fellow players to build a spectacular pyrotechnic display by matching cards in each other’s hands. The twist: you can see everybody’s cards except your own, so deduction is your friend if you want the fireworks festival to be fierce.

For Seasoned Board Gamers

Board games on red background
Options for hardcore gamers — novices need not apply (but are encouraged to!)
BakaFire, Z-Man Games, Greater Than Games, Cephalofair Games

This last batch is for hardcore board game enthusiasts. (Well, anyone is encouraged to try these out; just be ready to devote lots of time and brainpower!) There’s Tragedy Looper, a game with an anime aesthetic that makes you travel back in time (or loop, if you will) to avoid, well, tragedy. (See what I did there?) There’s lots of logic and deduction involved: one player is the “mastermind” that knows all the bad things that are going to happen, and everyone else figures out what they need to do to prevent that. For a comic book flare, pick up Sentinels of the Multiverse. It plops you in an MCU-like world where each player picks a superhero persona from the Sentinel comic book series (which actually is published by Marvel). Expansion packs abound, FYI. Then, finally, there’s Gloomhaven: it’s a high-fantasy adventure that takes place on the edge of civilization filled with ne’er-do-wells and scary humanoids. You’re a mercenary tasked to keep monsters at bay. If you like Dungeons & Dragons and want something super tactical, super involved, super escapist…glob onto some Gloomhaven.

BONUS! Game recs from my pal and Peter Pan Goes Wrong co-star, Stephen James Anthony!

People sitting around table playing board game
Peter Pan may have Gone Wrong, but this game of Unlock with Fred Gray and Greg Tannahill sure didn’t
Stephen James Anthony

Starring in Peter Pan Goes Wrong in April was an absolute blast. The show was genius and the cast and crew were some of the best folks I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. My castmate Stephen James Anthony and I frequently played games together backstage — like I said above, games bring folks together! He graciously agreed to extend his game recs to you, dear Wondercader. -NPH

When I meet folks who tell me that the singular game that graces their table is Monopoly, I feel an intense urge to clutch them and proclaim, “but there are so many more games out there, friend!” Luckily for me, Neil was not amongst the uninitiated. During his spell with our show, we managed to fill our time backstage with a slew of great games. Here are just a couple you should check out:

For folks who usually don’t play games: Just One
This nifty little party game is so simple you can teach it to just about anyone (including game averse relatives). Instead of competing, everyone is working together to guess words using only single word clues. It’s a delight.

For a posh game to enjoy with a glass of wine: Modern Art
This auction game has players take on the role of world famous museums, bidding on the latest art to hit the market.

For an escape room in a box: The Unlock series
Neil and I had a blast with our cast mates solving a circus caper in a chapter from this excellent series. Each box has three missions and can be reset and passed on to other friends upon completion.

For a light social game: Love Letter
This slender card game has players attempting to deliver a dispatch as royal courtiers. It’s another breeze to teach and you can play with almost any size of group.

For an evening of tense teamwork: The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine
This magnificent card game has players working together to complete trick-taking missions on an intergalactic voyage. If you grew up playing games like hearts or euchre…you’ll be able to jump right in!

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