When sitting down to play a fun board game with friends, often the last thing you want is to sit for an hour poring over instructions, or teaching newbies how to play. The best games for relaxed hangouts are ones that you can start playing right away.
The mechanics of the games on this list are simple, clear and easy to condense enough so that gameplay can start right away. The most important thing is to have fun - these games preserve the mood and allow you to focus on your friends, not on complicated point systems or confusing boards. Play on without the trouble, with these entertaining games.
This is a simple game - players use pawns to move along paths. Try to drive other player's pawns off the board by pushing them. The goal is to be the last person left on the board. Paths are created by laying tiles out on each turn, then moving all pawns to the end of the path available to them. If you collide with another player's pawn, or if you are pushed to the edge of the board, you are out.
That's pretty much all you need to know to start playing the game. Make sure every player has a hand of three cards, and when the deck runs out, grab the dragon token to reserve your spot as first to pull when the deck is replenished. This is a fun strategy game as time is spent getting good at it, not understanding it - it's simple yet tricky.
Dixit is a hugely popular game, a very low-key party game with no shouting or heavy competition. The true goal of the game, if one is being honest, is to look at pretty pieces of art and tell little stories with your friends. In Dixit, players hold hands of cards with works of art pictured on them.
On your turn as the storyteller, give a clue to a card in your hand and place it on the table, face-down. All other players choose a fitting card from their hand, and add it to the pile. The cards are shuffled then revealed, and the table votes on which card they feel is most likely the storyteller's. That's basically the game, so you can start playing right away and let your creativity run free.
8 Ticket to Ride
This game has a big board and might look a little complicated at first, but that makes it so much more rewarding when you are able to start your game, as soon as you've gotten the basic mechanics down. Each player has their own color of train, and tries to complete journeys.
The journeys are written on cards in your hand, and the board represents a map with pathways between points, that you require corresponding cards to occupy, which are color-coded. Start trying to complete your journeys and rack up points, performing better than the other players to win. With a premise this simple, it's easy to get going on your strategies and game skills right away.
Lanterns is a soothing, no-frills game that is still very beautiful to look at and play. The tiles represent lanterns in different colors. Players lay down tiles from their hands, forming a design by matching sides with like colors, similar to numbers in dominos.
The matches win cards in those colors and when you have enough, you can dedicate sets of 4 of a kind, 3 pairs or 1 of each color, to win points. The highest-scoring player wins. It's easy to learn this game or teach it, as the first couple of tiles can be laid down before anyone is going to score - so gameplay can start right in the middle of the explanation.
Go is one of the simplest games, but will entertain you for hours with its addictive strategy demands and soothing mechanics. The game is for 2 players. The board is a grid of lines, and each player chooses either black or white tokens.
The idea is to place your tokens on intersections, attempting to surround blank squares with entirely your own color. You can also similarly surround your opponent's tokens, therefore capturing them and taking them prisoner. At the end of the game, points are earned for prisoners, as well as territories (surrounded squares). To make things easier, try a demo with a smaller section of the board first.
5 Cat Crimes
Since this game works as more of a puzzle or a brain teaser, there isn't too much to understand before diving right in - perfect for a silly game like this, where the objective is purely to have fun. The mechanics are simple.
Players draw a challenge card, which features a crime committed by one of the cats available. Place the different cats around the board in accordance with the puzzle on the card, following the clues to decide where each cat was situated at the time of the crime. Once that is finished, it will be apparent which cat was right at the scene of the crime. Name the cat who is the culprit to win. This is a great game for slower play, as it's similar to mulling over a riddle or doing a jigsaw puzzle.
4 Junk Art
When games have a basic idea linked to childhood play, it makes the instructions much simpler. In Junk Art, you are trying to build the biggest tower from your blocks. To be a little more detailed, the game comes with differently shaped plastic pieces, placed in a pile. Players have cards in their hands depicting the different shapes. On a turn, a player chooses two cards from their hand to give to their neighbour.
The neighbour then chooses one card to keep and one card to use. The one they use determines which piece they will draw and add to their ever-growing tower built out of pieces. If a piece falls, it can't be replaced, and the person with the tallest work of art at the end of the game wins. Pretty easy - and pretty fun.
3 Happy Salmon
This game is silly, very fast-paced and a lot of fun for all ages. In the game, each player holds a hand of cards, with different actions depicted on the cards, such as "High 5", "Pound It", "Happy Salmon" and "Switcheroo.
All at once, on each round, all players call out the action on their top card. If you match with another player, do the action together and you both get to toss your top card. The first player to go all the way through their cards wins. The only time you need to spend with your instruction manual for this game is to make sure everyone knows all the actions, then you can start playing.
Similar in some ways to Tsuro, this is a simple game in terms of mechanics, but difficult to win. Players move gems along pathways, attempting to exit the gameboard. The goal is to get the gems to exit at your own gateways, marked by tokens in your color.
The pathways are created by laying down tiles with lines on them and following the lines with the gems. All gems are up for grabs to all players in this game - the specification is only in the color of the exits. Once there are no gems on the board, points are tallied and different gems are worth different points - 3 for blue, 2 for green and 1 for yellow. This is an easy game to learn, but the strategy is more interesting as all players can move all gems, as opposed to you having your own tokens.
1 Smash Up
In Smash Up, cards are available in different factions, such as robot ninjas and zombie pirates. Players earn victory points by placing their cards on bases, aiming for 15 points to win. Individual player decks are made up of two factions each, smashed together, and hands are drawn from these.
On a turn, a player will choose a minion and an action to lay down. Once the required number for a base is met, points are tallied and awarded. It's quite easy to explain and a lot of fun to play this game, as it feels more complicated than it is, and features exciting artwork. The factions make up silly fantasy teams, keeping the mood playful.
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