Remarkably, traditional board games are thriving even as electronic games become more and more sophisticated. Today's board games are better and more diverse than ever, with games suitable for everyone from players who just want to relax and laugh to those who seek deep strategic challenges. Here are my picks for the best board games published from 2000 through 2009.
What do you think were the best board games of the 2000s?
01 of 20
Puerto Rico (2002)
For 3 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Andreas Seyfarth, published by Rio Grande Games.
Players compete to run successful plantations, growing corn, coffee, sugar, tobacco, and indigo. On each turn, players choose from several roles (such as the mayor, builder, or captain), and each role gives them different abilities. The goal is to use these abilities to construct buildings and ship goods efficiently, becoming the player to earn the most victory points. Puerto Rico won the 2002 Deutscher Spiele Preis, the 2002 International Gamers Award for Multi-Player Strategy Game, and a 2002 Meeples Choice Award. It was also my pick as the best board game of 2002. The card game version, San Juan, is also excellent.
02 of 20
For 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up. Designed by Alan R. Moon, published by Days of Wonder.
Building railroads across the United States and Canada is the goal in the original Ticket to Ride, as players both develop their own plans and disrupt the plans of others. This is an absolutely top-notch game with broad appeal, playing in less than an hour and providing a lot of depth without being complicated. Players must make a variety of strategic and tactical choices, giving it considerable replay value. A number of expansions and sequels (and a card game) are available with new maps and creative new twists in the gameplay. Ticket to Ride won the 2004 Spiel des Jahres, and it was my pick as the best board game of 2004.
03 of 20
For 2 or more players (best with 2 to 4 players), ages 8 and up. Designed by Stephen Baker, Rob Daviau, and Craig Van Ness, published by Milton Bradley / Wizards of the Coast / Hasbro.
HeroScape's subtitle is "The Battle of All Time" and it certainly is. Everything about this game is well done. If you're at all interested in the theme (battles involving warriors from different time periods), I strongly recommend that you try HeroScape. The fun starts by setting up your battlefield: the interlocking terrain pieces can be assembled in any number of combinations. Players then draft armies -- choosing from robots, airborne troops, samurai, and more -- and do battle. HeroScape was my pick as the #2 board game of 2004.
04 of 20
For 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Matt Leacock, published by Z-Man Games.
Pandemic is an addictively fun board game in which all the players work together to eradicate four diseases. Each player is given a different role, such as the Scientist (who can cure diseases more easily) and the Operations Specialist (who can build research stations). Playing against the game system, they must travel the world to contain infections while developing the cures. If the players don't find all four cures in time (e.g. before there are eight outbreaks), they all lose. Various levels of difficulty are available. Pandemic was named the 2008 Family Game of the Year by Games magazine. It was also my pick as the best board game of 2008.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
05 of 20
Age of Steam (2002) / Steam (2009)
For 3 to 6 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Martin Wallace, published by Warfrog / Winsome Games / Eagle Games (Age of Steam), Mayfair Games (Steam).
The eastern U.S. is the scene of this fabulous railroad-building game. Players try to develop efficient and productive rail lines, adding a track to the board and delivering goods while their opponents are doing the same. The balancing act is a difficult one: borrowing money at the best times, reaching the best-paying goods before your opponents, and upgrading locomotives are just a few challenges. Age of Steam was streamlined and released on Steam in 2009. Age of Steam won a 2003 International Gamers Award, a 2002 Meeples Choice Award, and it ranks high on my list of the best train games.
06 of 20
For 2 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Christian Leonhard and Jason Matthews, published by Z-Man Games.
This is the best political game I've played. The players take on the roles of John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in the 1960 election, trying to win enough electoral votes to claim victory. 1960: The Making of the President is full of tough decisions. It captures many of the emotions in a hard-fought campaign, with swings of euphoria and depression, as well as the tactics and strategy needed to win in the Electoral College. A second game co-designed by Matthews, Twilight Struggle, set in the Cold War, also deserves to be mentioned. 1960 won a 2008 International Gamers Award, and it was my pick as the best board game of 2007.
07 of 20
For 2 players or teams, ages 10 and up. Designed by Richard Borg, published by Fantasy Flight Games / Days of Wonder.
BattleLore puts players in control of armies that mesh history and fantasy on a battlefield in medieval Europe, using a card-based system like Memoir '44. The BattleLore characters include wizards, clerics, warriors, and monstrous creatures. The basic game system was also used in Borg's Commands and Colors and Battle Cry. The battles take place on a variety of terrain and landmarks as players fight to capture the enemy's banners in a series of adventures. BattleLore was my pick as the best board game of 2006. Memoir '44, which won a 2004 International Gamers Award, was my pick as the #4 board game of 2004.
08 of 20
For 2 to 5 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Klaus-Jürgen Wrede, published by Rio Grande Games.
Players place a total of 72 tiles to develop an area of France in this game, placing their eight meeples (wooden, people-shaped pawns) on the roads, cities, cloisters, and fields. The game is a model of simplicity: a player's turn is simply to draw a tile and then place it on the table, adjacent to a previously played tile. They then have the option of placing a meeple on the board. At that point, any completed feature (city, road, etc.) is scored. Meeples score based on the quality of the areas where they are placed. Carcassonne won the 2001 Spiel des Jahres, the 2001 Deutscher Spiele Preis, and a 2000 Meeples Choice Award.Continue to 9 of 20 below.
09 of 20
For 3 to 21 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Dominic Crapuchettes, Satish Pillalamarri, and Nate Heasley, published by North Star Games.
If you've stopped playing trivia games because there's someone in your group who always wins, consider giving Wits & Wagers a try. Every question can be answered numerically (e.g. "In dollars, how much was each extra paid to run across the beach and scream in the movie Jaws?"), and players all answer secretly. Those answers are then sorted onto the casino-style board, and players bet on which one they think is correct. The winning bets are paid according to the odds, and play continues. Wits and Wagers ranks high on my lists of the best trivia games and the best games for family gatherings.
10 of 20
Power Grid (2004)
For 2 to 6 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Friedemann Friese, published by Rio Grande Games.
Players compete to supply as many cities as possible with power, making often tense choices. For example, as you buy power plants, you simultaneously make more efficient plants available to all players. Raw materials like coal and uranium are also necessities, unless you rely on solar and wind power. Power Grid is a fairly heavy strategy game, and it is highly acclaimed. The base game comes with maps of the U.S. and Germany. Expansions are available with a variety of new maps. Power Grid won a 2004 Meeples Choice Award, and it was my pick as the #6 board game of 2004. It also ranks high on my list of the best economic games.
11 of 20
For 1 to 4 players, ages 6 and up. Designed by Bernard Tavitian, published by Educational Insights.
This family-friendly abstract strategy game never ceases to win fans when I play it with a new group. Everyone starts with the same set of Tetris-like pieces, which will be placed on the board throughout the game. Players start by putting one piece in the corner of the board closest to themselves. On each subsequent turn, they add a piece -- but that piece must touch one, and only one, corner of a piece they had previously played. Before long, all four players will be competing for the quickly evaporating real estate on the board. At the end, the player with the fewest remaining pieces is the winner.
12 of 20
Descent: Journeys in the Dark (2005)
For 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Kevin Wilson, published by Fantasy Flight Games.
In Descent, one player is the Overlord while the others are adventurers searching a dungeon, fighting monsters and recovering treasures. The adventurers must work well together to navigate the maze-like dungeon and defeat the sometimes overwhelming forces of evil. Each game involves playing a single scenario, and the modular board makes it easy to create new scenarios. The scenarios already published by Fantasy Flight Games and Descent's many fans make it easy to enjoy game after game of Descent. Numerous expansions have been published since the original game was released.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
13 of 20
For 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Bruce Glassco, published by Avalon Hill / Hasbro.
Betrayal at House on the Hill is just great fun to play. Players explore a haunted house which is revealed during the game. Each player is a specific character; each character has specific strengths and weaknesses. Initially, they all work together. But at some point in the game, one of the characters betrays the rest of the group (no one knows who will do it in advance), and at the end of the game, either the traitor or the innocents win. Betrayal at House on the Hill was my pick as the #3 board game of 2004. A new edition was released in 2010.
14 of 20
For 1 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by Uwe Rosenberg, published by Z-Man Games / Lookout Games.
The users of BoardGameGeek.com rate Agricola as the best game of all-time. Designed by the creator of Bohnanza, a delightful bean-farming card game, Agricola also has a farming theme -- but it is a much deeper and more strategic offering. At the start of the game, each player has a spouse, a shack and not much else. From there, everyone tries to build a successful farm through the game's 14 turns and six harvests. Agricola won the 2008 Deutscher Spiele Preis, a 2008 International Gamers Award, a 2008 Golden Geek Award, and a 2007 Meeples Choice Award. It was my pick as the #3 board game of 2007.
15 of 20
Battlestar Galactica (2008)
For 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Corey Konieczka, published by Fantasy Flight Games.
Based on the SyFy Channel television series of the same name, Battlestar Galactica is a semi-cooperative board game. Each player takes the role of a character from the show (10 characters are available) as they work together to save humanity. Among the obstacles players will face are enemy ships, robot invaders, and dwindling resources. Further complicating things, greatly, is the fact that one or more characters in every game are secretly enemy Cylons. Battlestar Galactica was my pick as the #3 board game of 2008.
16 of 20
For 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up. Designed by William Attia, published by Rio Grande Games / Ystari Games.
Players must manage money, allocate workers, construct buildings, collect resources, build the castle and collect victory points to earn a victory in Caylus. Money's always too tight, and there are never enough resources to do everything you want to. Plus, the other players tend to place their workers where you wanted to place yours. Caylus is full of tense decisions; it's a strategy game masterpiece. Caylus won the 2006 Deutscher Spiele Preis, a 2006 International Gamers Award, and a 2005 Meeples Choice Award. It was my pick as the #2 board game of 2005.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
17 of 20
For 3 to 7 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Serge Laget and Bruno Cathala, published by Days of Wonder.
Shadows Over Camelot is a cooperative game, but it begins with each player being dealt a "loyalty" card. That means that it's possible (but not certain) that one player will be a traitor. The traitor wins if everyone else loses; otherwise, the players win collectively. On each turn, you must first help the forces of evil before you can work to complete a quest. Depending on the outcome of these actions, white or black swords may be added to the board. At the end of the game, the traitor wins if there are not more white swords than black. Shadows Over Camelot was my pick as the best board game of 2005.
18 of 20
War of the Ring (2004)
For 2 to 4 players (best with 2 players), ages 12 and up. Designed by Roberto Di Meglio, Marco Maggi, and Francesco Nepitello, published by Fantasy Flight Games.
In this epic (three-hour) wargame set in the Lord of the Rings universe, one player takes control of the Free Peoples while the other controls the Shadow Armies. It is possible to win a military victory, but the Free Peoples are really focused on the efforts of the Fellowship of the Ring to reach Mount Doom and destroy the One Ring. The Free Peoples must also balance protecting the Ringbearer with the need to defend against the Shadow Armies. This is a wonderful, tension-filled game. War of the Ring won a 2005 International Gamers Award.
19 of 20
For 2 to 20 players (best with 4 to 6 players), ages 12 and up. Designed by Dave Long and Craig Kinzer, published by Screenlife / Mattel.
Scene It? was the first game to successfully incorporate a DVD into gameplay, paving the way for an entire genre. Using the included DVD, players answer a series of movie trivia questions to advance along the track on the game board. The various types of questions take good advantage of the visual nature of watching a DVD. Numerous Scene It? games have been published since the original, including editions based on Disney, ESPN, Harry Potter, James Bond, Seinfeld, Star Trek, Turner Classic Movies, and more. Scene It? earned a spot on my list of the 50 most significant games since 1800.
20 of 20
I'm the Boss (2003)
For 3 to 6 players, ages 10 and up. Designed by Sid Sackson, published by Face 2 Face Games.
I'm the Boss is a great game of wheeling and dealing. As players move around the board, they try to put together deals -- but need help from their opponents to do so. Adding to the joyful chaos of this deal-making frenzy is the fact that those opponents not being included in the deal may be able to send would-be deal-makers out of town, or even take over control of the deal by playing an "I'm the Boss" card. Great fun, as long as it's not taken too seriously. I'm the Boss was my pick as the best board game of 2003, and it is on my list of the Top 10 Must-Have Games and my list of the best negotiation games.