If you’re on this page, I assume you’re looking for a gift for a board game-loving teenager. If they don’t like board or card games, there won’t be anything helpful on this page! Alternatively, you might be a teenager yourself and looking for a game to suit you.
In either case, welcome, and I hope you find something that may point you in the right direction!
The best board games for teens is a complex list. It’s really dependent on what type of board game they like. I’ve put together a few ideas for you to draw inspiration from on this page.
I’ve spent a lot of time trawling through my games shelves, talking to my friends, and looking for ideas online. The suggestions I’ve come up with are based on what I genuinely feel will appeal to young people between 13 and 19 years of age. (They aren’t just the best-selling games, which is what you’ll find on most other blogs! Dig intended!)
You can get all of these on Amazon, as always. I suggest buying them new if you’re getting a gift. However, if they’re for your own use and you want to save money, look for reasonable-quality second-hand listings.
Now, let’s get started!
My Top Picks at a Glance
I’ve chosen ten games I’d consider great options for teenagers and written about them below.
Of those ten, here’s what I’d pick for specific personality types.
Best Board Game for an Extroverted Teen
The best board game for an extroverted teenager would probably be Santorini. Yes, you can only have three players, but watching a roomful of lads getting excited over it and bantering with each other is awesome.
Tsuro and Here to Slay would also work well because of the chaos aspect they bring.
Best Board Game for an Introverted Teen
If the teen you’re thinking of prefers to sit quietly with their friends while playing a board game, consider Settlers of Catan, Patchwork, or Carcassonne.
Although I haven’t listed them here, you might also consider cooperative board games. These include Exit games and the Forbidden franchise.
Pick the best games “for teens” is tricky. It’s such a broad category. Every teenager is, of course, different.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be using the following criteria:
- Engagement – teens are well known for their short attention spans. It’s easy to judge, but we were all there once! I have no problem playing a fascinating and intriguing game! There should be some strategy involved, but too much and they’ll shut down; too little and they won’t be interested.
- Variability – by ensuring things are different from round to round, teens are more likely to engage (see above). This also includes expansion options and how much you can vary the rules.
- Simplicity – I’m not calling teenagers simple in any way. However, in my experience, the average teen doesn’t want to play anything too complicated, or that takes a long time to set up. It should be easy to get out and also quick to put away. That won’t apply to everyone by any means.
Combining the three factors I mentioned above should provide the ultimate board game for the average teenager. Please remember that everyone’s different, though. If you’re buying a gift, tailor it to that person’s personality.
Best Board Games for Teenagers
In no particular order, here are some games I recommend checking out for teens.
As well as the factors I’ve mentioned above (which all these games meet the broad criteria for), I’ve also included each game’s number of players range. This might make a difference. If they’re a more sociable person, look at the higher numbers. If they prefer a quiet family game night with one or two friends, consider those tailored to fewer people.
Here we go!
2 to 8 players
Skyjo is a mix of the card game Golf with the elements of Uno (colorful cards in a draw-based format) and Yahtzee (risk vs. reward in the current move and in the long-term round). This is a harmless option, too: great for family game night.
You lay out 12 cards in front of you, turning over two. With each turn, you draw from the discard pile or the deck and replace one of your face-up or face-down cards with that one. You’re aiming for the lowest total at the end of the round. This happens when someone has turned over all their cards, at which point everyone else gets one last go.
I recommend Skyjo as one of the best games to play with teenagers because of its simplicity and quick speed. I’ve found it quite an addictive option, but once you get bored (as a teen inevitably will before too long), it’s easy to wrap up your round and end the game. In my experience, depending on who you’re playing with, these rounds typically last around five to ten minutes (including scoring).
2 to 4 players
Catan is best with four players. I’m sure you’re familiar with it – it’s one of the most popular board games.
In Catan, you must collect resources to build roads, settlements, and cities. It’s a game of statistics and chance, and getting things right at the start generally sets the course of the round. Expansions make the game broader and more engaging.
This game will work for some teenagers and won’t for others. It’s exciting and has reasonably basic strategies, but some might find it too long. However, I do like how variable it is (you can set the board up whichever way you like, to some extent). This might impact how willing a teen is to play it.
2 to 4 players
Dutch Blitz is another card game best summed up by ‘competitive PVP Solitaire’. If you’ve ever played what I know as Slam (but you might call Spit or Speed), it’s basically a more colorful version of that. Of course, if the teen you’re buying for prefers playing cards, that’s a great (and cheaper) alternative.
Assign each player one deck. They’ll then create three Post Piles by laying three cards side by side in front of them. Next, ten cards are placed on top of each other to the side of the post piles. This is the Blitz Pile. The rest of the cards are known as the Wood Pile. All the 1s go into the middle. This shared space will be used for discarding all your cards.
Move your cards from the Blitz Pile into either the Post Pile or the center of the table. Your Post Pile must go in descending order, alternating between ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ cards (like red and black in Solitaire). If you can’t go, take three cards from the top of your face-down Wood Pile and turn them over into the Blitz Pile (again, just like the proper way of playing Solitaire).
The aim of the game is to get rid of your Blitz Pile, at which point you shout, “Blitz!”
I’ve selected Dutch Blitz because it’s so easy to learn. Anyone with any Solitaire experience will pick it up within a round or two. It also brings a competitive-ish nature while maintaining family-friendly fun, so there will be fewer temper tantrums than in other board games.
2 to 5 players
Carcassonne is one of my favorite board games. It’s a map-building game where you claim, complete, and compete over cities, roads, monasteries, and gardens (and more, depending on the chosen expansions).
Carcassonne begins with the start tile. Players add tiles to the map piece by piece, matching up all the touching edges. They can choose whether to play a meeple on the city, road, cathedral or garden they’ve just placed. They can only do this if it isn’t already claimed by someone else.
There are always ways to leech in (I’m afraid that’s what I’m known for), meaning the game constantly evolves. However, it isn’t too fast-paced and leaves you with time to think about what to do next.
I recommend Carcassonne for teenagers who are more into board games. For one thing, the box is quite large, so keeping it might be seen as something of an important investment for them. It’s also great for teens because the difficulty and length are scalable and adaptable. This can be accomplished by choosing which rules to follow and which expansions to use.
Patchwork is one of the best board games if a teen likes to sit back and mindlessly play something in the evening. If they’re the kind of person who enjoys Tetris or watching ‘satisfying YouTube cleaning videos’, this is the one for them.
You play Patchwork by taking the quilt board and adding shapes and tiles to it. The in-game currency (buttons) becomes more readily available as you progress through the board, so planning ahead is vital. At the end of the round, the player with the most points (usually equivalent to the most complete quilt) wins.
Patchwork makes it onto my list for how relaxed it is. It might take a couple of attempts to learn how to play properly, but it’s a game that’s hard to get mad at. Keep your teen chill with this zen option.
We loved playing Santorini. Although the game is entirely different, it reminds me of a beginner’s step into Chess because of its forward-thinking requirements.
In Santorini, you aim to build a three-story tower and set one of your little people on top. With each move, you can travel one space (including diagonally), up a maximum of one level, and down as far as you like.
You build on a tower adjacent to (including diagonally) the square you move to. Of course, you can’t add anything to the spot your character is standing on. By capping off towers at the fourth story, you’ll be able to prevent your friends from having it easy.
In our experience, Santorini – without playing with any additional rules, that is – brings intriguing yet harmless competition. That makes it perfect for teenagers.
My only slight note of caution is that if all three players can play well, it usually ends up with one of them having to decide who wins based on their final move. That might flare some tempers.
2 to 4 players
We loved The Game of Life growing up. It’s a bit like Monopoly but infinitely better.
The objective of The Game of Life is to finish with the most money… which, when I think about it, isn’t teaching teens very good ethics or realistic expectations. But anyway – that’s what you need for this one.
It’s quite self-explanatory. Although there are many rules for different spots along the board (too many to list here), the instructions are easy to understand. Graduate, get married, have twins, get $100,000 in salary bonuses… it’s so realistic(!) – please note the sarcasm.
You’ll find The Game of Life suitable for all teenagers, provided they enjoy board games. It’s longer and should be more engaging than some others I’ve mentioned.
2 to 8 players
This list of the best board games for teens contains several tile-based options. Tsuro is another example.
Although it looks like it’s from Ancient China, Tsuro was trademarked in 1979 by WizKids and designed by Tom McMurchie. The aim is to be the last person on the board.
Each player places their marker on a starting spot around the board’s edge. They then place tiles that match the surrounding area. Their marker follows the relevant path.
If you go off the board, you’re out. This happens when you get somewhere near another player. You can’t voluntarily send yourself off unless there’s no alternative. You’re also out if you collide with another player on their path.
As may be evident from this explanation, Tsuro is best with lots of players. It’s chaos, to some degree, once a few tiles are down. But that, along with the quick game time, is why I think it’ll appeal to teens especially.
2 to 6 players
With expansions, we’ve played games that could have up to ten players. Yes.
I’ve said it before (to much mockery), and I’ll say it again: Here to Slay is my favorite game. It’s so good, and we’ve played for hours and hours on repeat on many occasions.
Here to Slay is a Kickstarter game. It’s sort of an upgrade on Unstable Unicorns. The objective is to collect a Hero from each class or slay three Monsters.
The overpowered abilities of most Heroes mean the game changes from turn to turn. The table can look completely different due to just one player’s go. More serious gamers prefer to avoid it because, tactically, it’s highly variable. The speed at which everything changes means any plans will be out the window (on repeat).
I hope teenagers will enjoy Here to Slay for this unpredictability. It’s great fun to play with friends. Also, the Heroes are so cute.
General Card Games
1 to X Players
This may be cheating, but I’ve included it because it’s a viable option. A good deck of cards costs only a few dollars and allows unlimited games of various types. Did you know there are 80,658,175,170,943,878,571,660,636,856,403,766,975,289,505,440,883,277,824,000,000,000,000 possible ways to order a standard 52-card deck? That’s a lot and means you can do pretty much anything with a simple deck.
I’d suggest the following games for teenagers, but ultimately the sky’s the limit:
- Up the River and Down Again
Simplicity and speed are the most appealing things to teenagers about playing card games. Most don’t last longer than 20 minutes. They’re also highly versatile and can be brought out in school, at home, in the park, on vacation, etc., without anyone batting an eyelid.
2 to 6 players
I’m hesitant to include this one because it won’t float some teens’ boats. Throw, Throw Burrito is a shameless adaption of the card game Spoons – but, in fairness, it’s better. Prepare for carnage and remove anything breakable in the house. I’m not even really joking.
To play Throw, Throw Burrito, you give each player 15 cards face-down. These stay on the table as their draw pile. The remaining cards are divided into two approximately equal face-down decks in the center. Place all the burrito bruises between these and put the burritos nearby in the middle.
You’re now ready. Everyone takes five cards from their draw pile as their starting hand.
Everyone plays simultaneously, taking a card from their draw pile. They then discard a card to the pile on their left (the next player’s draw pile). When you get three matching cards, place them face up on the table and draw three more to take your hand back up to five. If your opponent to your right is too slow, you can take from the central piles instead.
Burrito Battle, Burrito Duel, and Burrito War cards must also be placed in sets of three. When these are put down are when things really get crazy. In short, the first person to get hit with a burrito (depending on the specific card) gets a burrito bruise, worth -1 point at the end.
You play across two rounds. If someone wins both, they take the figurative trophy. Otherwise, there’s a standoff between the two players.
This is a very casual board game – I was going to say ‘relaxed’, but that’s not true! The rules are very ‘about’ and ‘that’ll do’ in nature, and throwing burritos around feeds the inner child in everybody. That’s what teens will enjoy about it.
Best Other Games for Teenagers
On Dice n Board, we tend to use the term ‘board game’ to refer to tabletop games (including card games). Because of this, I’ve included the list below as an ‘alternatives’ section.
Those included here are games you can pick up and play without needing to buy anything special. You’ll just need paper, pens, and a good sense of humor.
The Hat Game
The Hat Game is very simple. It involves simple memory techniques and light-hearted charades, but most teens I’ve played with have enjoyed it.
Everyone writes three to five names on a scrap of paper and adds them to a hat (or whatever you have lying around). The names can be anyone, real or unreal. Winston Churchill, Shrek, and people taking part come up all the time in our games.
You’ll split the group into two teams. People from each team take turns as the describer – you get 30 seconds to do this. The only rules? You can’t point, you can’t rhyme, you can’t spell it out, and you can’t use any part of the name in your description.
In the first round, you can use as many words as you like to describe the person on the piece of paper. You can only use one word in the second round, and the third is acting only. Each name correctly guessed by your team is put aside and counted up. This is your score.
After three rounds, the team with the highest score wins.
This is an excellent game for ensuing madness, perfect for a group of teens. I recently played with 20 people (10 per side). ‘Twas crazy.
All the board games developers selling Pictionary for $20 should be sternly told off like a teenager coming in late – “I’m not angry; I’m just disappointed.” Ouch.
You don’t need to buy the box for Pictionary. If you have one pen and a ream of paper, that’s all you need. A whiteboard or chalkboard would be even better.
Use a browser to suggest things to draw, pick up the pen, and get on it! Use a stopwatch on your phone to count how long it takes you across several turns, or you could play on a first-guess basis – whichever team guesses the image first gets the point.
Pictionary is brilliant for teens because it involves a lot of ear-drum-blasting shouting. The game is straightforward and can be played for hours on end.
I’ve played Things with teenagers on many occasions (and as a teen myself). It bears many similarities to The Hat Game.
Sit in a circle and pick one person to be the judge. They’ll choose a category for this round. It could be anything. For instance, ‘The most awkward way to get to school.’
Everyone else then writes their answer down and hands it to the judge. It can be obscure, interesting, unique, funny, or all of the above. It’s always best to encourage humor, though.
The judge reads them aloud (trying to keep a straight face). They’ll then read them one more time (and that’s it). The person to their left (clockwise) then chooses one of the answers and guesses who wrote it. Get it wrong, and it’s the next person’s go. Get it right, and you receive a point, and that person is out. They don’t get to guess.
The round ends when everyone has been guessed, or the remaining players can’t remember what answers are left.
At this point, the ‘judge’ moves to the following clockwise person, and the round starts again with a different category. I usually find it’s best to play around the circle so everyone has a go.
Tips Just for You
I’ve compiled a few games above that I either enjoyed playing as a teenager or think I would have if I’d known about them.
In the end, the most important tip is to know the teenager in question. Think about their personality, the things they enjoy, and get to know what they dislike. I’d even suggest writing everything you can think of down.
You can then use this information to get the best board game to suit them.
Another top thing to think about is the game’s theme. Sometimes, a terrible board game is made much better in someone’s eyes because it’s based on something they enjoy. Star Wars, Harry Potter, football, Avengers… whatever teens these days are into!
One last tip – if you’re buying a teen a board game, why not ask them what they like? It doesn’t have to be a guess! For instance, a keen gamer might want an expansion for something they already have.
You could show a teenager the list I’ve compiled above or look for other suggestions online. I’m sure they’ll point something out if it catches their eye!
Games You Should Avoid for Teenagers
Teenagers are notoriously difficult to buy for. In this article, I’ve compiled what I feel are some of the best board game options for this age range. However, it’s equally important that I tell you what to avoid.
Again, this article isn’t focused on the individual you’re thinking of (actually, it’s based on my personal recollections). Perhaps they enjoy playing one of the below games. With that said, most teenage board game players – enthusiasts or casual – will prefer to avoid the following.
- Monopoly – Yes, I don’t like Monopoly. I make no secret of that. It has only one strategy; if everyone follows it, the game draws to a pathetic stalemate with tears, tempers, and strops. Save your teen the emotional trauma, and opt for The Game of Life instead.
- Scrabble – I apologize if you enjoy playing Scrabble, but I can’t stand it – and working with words is literally my job. It’s probably the slowest game I’ve ever engaged in, with a glazed expression and my cheek firmly resting in the palm of my hand. You’ll lose a teen’s interest very quickly in most cases. There are quicker word games like Boggle you could consider instead.
- Risk – I love playing Risk, but that’s because I’m a history boffin. Most teens aren’t, and it’s not a strategy game (despite appearances), so I have to put it on the ‘avoid’ list.
- Diplomacy – I actually enjoy Diplomacy. It’s like Risk but much more detailed and much, much longer. It’s probably far too extended for most teens, although some will find it fun.
- Trivial Pursuit – I know some teens who enjoy this sort of game. But most questions in Trivial Pursuit are about a time long before they were born. It’s perfectly reasonable to lose focus.
- Yahtzee – Putting this great game on here makes me sad, but Yahtzee is for statistics lovers and statistics lovers only. I suspect the average teenager doesn’t fall into that category.
- Chutes (or Snakes) and Ladders – Please. It’s not even a game. There is no strategy at all; you just roll a die. Because it’s so dull, you haven’t got a chance of a teen enjoying it.
- Ticket to Ride – Here’s another one I loved but most probably wouldn’t. Ticket to Ride is an intriguing game to me, but a teenager will complain it’s too long halfway through.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What sort of board games are recommended for teens?
Answer: When you’re looking for a board game for a teenager, you want something engaging and easy to pick up and put down. Don’t expect it to occupy them all day – just look for something they’ll enjoy for up to an hour or so.
In the end, everyone’s different, though!
Check out some mentioned in the above list, such as Santorini, Carcassonne, Here to Slay, and generic playing card games.
Question: Is Monopoly a good game to play with teens?
Answer: It’s a good one to play with teens if they aren’t interested in board games or strategy and just want something to do absent-mindedly. If you have the option, I’d advise against Monopoly.
Instead, consider The Game of Life. It’s like Monopoly but much more enjoyable.
Question: What board game is best for a group of teens?
Answer: Perhaps your child is having a sleepover, or you’re hosting a group of young people at your home. In these cases, you want to look for board games that facilitate a buzzing atmosphere and create a lot of noise. However, they should also be easy to pick up and play – if the rules are too complicated, it’ll put some off.
Look at speaking- and describing-style games, such as Pictionary, Taboo, Articulate, The Hat Game, Things, etc. The latter two are free, provided you have paper and pens!
Buying anything for teenagers is a challenging task. But, with some careful thought, I’m sure you’ll find something that works.
Thanks for making it to the end of this article! I hope I’ve stimulated some lines of thought that might help you find the perfect gift.
It’s worth mentioning this one last time to round off: everybody is different. What one teenager likes, another might not. By personalizing your present (rather than simply getting the first suggested game on online lists like this), you’ll get the best one for them.