We find ourselves in the middle of a board game renaissance. What was once a hobby relegated to the dusty racks at the back of friendly local game stores has gone mainstream. Even big box retailers have taken the plunge, dedicating more shelf space than ever before to dozens of titles that simply didn’t exist even five years ago. But the same churn that has brought so many extraordinary games to market has also made it hard to know where to begin.
You can’t buy every hot new title that shows up on Kickstarter, and even if you did there’s only so much shelf space. That’s where Polygon’s Essentials List can help.
Just as we have done for PC and console gaming, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of the very best modern board games. This is not an aspirational list filled with out-of-print classics or hard-to-find titles. Everything here is still in print and available for a fair price. We’ve done our best to hit all the major genres as well, from hardcore strategy games to lighter family fare. So dive in, and let us know your thoughts — and recommendations — in the comments below.
Polygon Essentials is a collection of persistently updated lists of the best of the best games for each platform — from the hardware’s launch to its end of production — as well as the best entertainment across virtually every medium. For folks new to a platform, think of this as a starter kit. For long-term fans, consider it a list of what to play or watch next. We’ll be updating these lists often, with entries listed in reverse chronological order. To see a collection of other titles we recommend that might not have made the Essentials lists, check out Polygon Recommends.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon
Azul is a great game to keep around for chill game nights. This tile-laying game brings the history of decor to life. It is said that King Manuel I of Portugal was so inspired by the beauty the Alhambra Palace in southern Spain that he brought the tile decor back to his own palace. As a player, you’ll be similarly inspired to draw and design patterns of colored tiles to display around your palace (aka your game board). Specific patterns and complete sets earn you points, but wasting tiles can set you back. Once all the tiles are gone, the player with the most points wins.
Azul’s simple rules, straightforward turns, and endless strategy make it a fan favorite. Players of all ages enjoy the pattern building, plus it’s easy to hold a conversation and keep the game going. —Sarah Johnson
- 21% off
Prices taken at time of publishing.
• 2-4 players, ages 8+
• Playtime: 30-45 minutes
• Game type: Abstract, family
• Category: Tile placement, pattern building
• Similar games: Patchwork