So this isn’t your traditional top ten list (to be honest, I had a rough time coming up with a headline), but still something I wanted to put together. When it’s time to choose what to play for game night, the first step is to figure out how many players you have. Once you have that magic number, it’s time to decide which game to play. A lot of times this can be an easy decision. If you just got a new game or you are setting up a game night to get a specific game to the table, then the decision is pretty much made. However, if you are not leaning towards any particular game, then that decision can be a little harder. This is especially true if you are the one that has to prep and read the rulebook.
I created this top ten list to act as a great starting point for anyone looking for a new game to try or having decision troubles. Many people have either a regular game night or know how many people they usually have to play games. This can give anyone a good jumping off point to use when looking for a new title or just choosing one from their large collection.
I also am trying to make sure I choose games that play great at that particular player count. For example, Battlestar Galactica can play up to 6, but I don’t think that is it’s optimal player count (5 players for the base game). All games should play great at their chosen level.
Finally, this list will probably change over time. These are my current crop of favorites, but that can change a lot depending on what I play, what gets released and which games I just get tired of. But in the end, these should all be great options to try. So after all that, here are my Top Games for Each Player Count:
1 Player – Friday (review)
There were a surprising number of games that can be played solo. I had more trouble picking a winner at this player count then I expected. In the end, Friday get the top spot for the best single player game. I like Friday because it’s easy to learn, plays quickly and presents a pretty good challenge. These are all bonuses in a solo game. I rarely want to play a tabletop game for 2+ hours by myself and If I’m going to dedicate that much time, I’ll most likely just play a video game. But for a quick board gaming fix, Friday fits the bill. The game is hard to win, but not so complex that I can’t watch a Bears game while I play through it.
Other Great Options: Mage Knight, Space Hulk: Death Angel
2 Players – Android: Netrunner (review)
This was probably the easiest choice for me on the list. Netrunner was one of my favorite games that came out last year and is still holding my attention. The game boasts some fantastic, asymmetrical game play and a ton of stellar artwork. Once you get past the game’s learning curve and steep rulebook, you are left with a game that’s both a ton of fun and full of replay value. A large number of data packs (expansions) have also been released if you want to get into customization and deck building. If you haven’t tried it yet, Netrunner is absolutely worth given a shot when there are only 2 of you.
3 Players – Viticulture (review)
This game was an easy choice for a player count that can be hard to find a good game for. For most games, the uneven number can have 2 players ganging up on one until they are taken out. This is rarely fun for the 3rd player. However, I have found Viticulture plays excellent at three and is also my favorite number to play that game at. As a worker placement game, running the game with three gives you plenty of options on your turn, yet will still have competition for the most prized workers spots. It also adds in the bonus spots to your strategic options. An easy to learn game with a fresh theme, I really enjoy selling wine in Viticulture…especially with an odd number of players.
Other great options: Le Havre, Sentinels of the Multiverse, Pandemic
4 Players – The Settlers of Catan (review)
Ok, I’ll freely admit, choosing a 4 player game is next to impossible. Four players seems to be the magic number for just about every board game out there. How do you choose one to represent the best of everything. Short answer: You can’t. Really. There are just so many themes, styles and different games at 4 that it’s impossible to choose a “best”. I think any of the options listed here could have easily taken the stop spot.
So I chose a game that has always worked well across the spectrum for us. The Settles of Catan should be familiar to just about everyone by now. I choose this one because it’s very accessible. You can play it with your regular gaming group and also with your family at Christmas time. The rules allow for a lot of player interaction and game play can be as casual or cutthroat as you like. The other reason it chose it was because of all the many Catan options are there. Between all the expansions (Cities and Knights, Seafarers, etc…) and the new themes and spin offs (Trails to Rails, Star Trek Catan, Starfarers), there is something for just about everyone to enjoy. If you have 4 players, you could do a whole lot worse than a Catan game. I’ll also point out quickly that the main critique of the game (the random die rolls) can be changed by getting a copy of the event cards. If you hate the Catan dice, they are worth checking out.
Other Great Options: Suburbia, Legends of Andor, Dominion, Chaos in the Old World, Blood Bowl: Team Manager, Pandemic, Civilization: The Board Game, Galaxy Trucker
5 Players – Sentinels of the Multiverse (review)
Much like 4 players, there are a lot of games that play fantastic with 5. My long standing favorite has been Sentinels of the Multiverse. I love it because of its fantastic theme (who doesn’t want to be a super hero?) and how easy it is to teach the rules. Play a card, use a power, draw a card. So simple and yet each hero feels very unique. I also love how teamwork is a must in the game. It’s especially fun when you get 5 players who work well together as hero’s powers can buff each other, increasing everyone’s potential. That’s one of the reasons I love playing it with 5. Even though the villains are harder, a coordinated team is a force to be reckoned with. If you haven’t tried it, Sentinels of the Multiverse should be on your radar, it’s one of the better cooperative games out there. Sentinels of the Multiverse has me buying every expansion they put out and they all actually get played!
Other Great Games: Space Alert, Battlestar Galactica, Risk: Legacy, Terra Mystica, Puerto Rico, The Manhattan Project, Lords of Waterdeep, Intrigue, Descent: 2nd Edition
6 Players – Zombicide (review)
I’ll be the first to admit, Zombicide isn’t perfect. The game first debuted with a somewhat buggy rule book. But once the fixed version came out, I really loved playing Zombicide. There are no shortage of Zombie themed games and, for me, Zombicide stands near the top of the pile. When I play a zombie game, I mostly just want to slay a whole lot of the undead. The miniatures look fantastic in Zombicide and the game play is very smooth. Turns go by quickly, team work is a must and sacrifices will probably be made. I’ve won more than one scenario posthumously and still had a great time. When you want to take down a horde of the undead with a chain saw or a pair of desert eagles, look no further than Zombicide. Since the game doesn’t really punish players for having more people, 6 players is really the optimum number of players as you have the most help fighting off the hordes.
Other Great Options: Rex: Final Days of the Empire, City of Horror, Betrayal at House on the Hill
7 Players – 7 Wonders (review)
For me, this was an obvious choice. 7 Wonders already stands as one of my favorite tabletop games and it plays perfectly with 7 players. I actually really like playing with this number even though I rarely get to. Not only because it doesn’t add any additional play time, but because you only ever get to see your hand of cards once. In smaller games, you’ll get a second bite at the apple once hands start reappearing in front of you. With a 7 player game, you only ever see those cards a single time, so you have some hard decisions to make each turn and have to keep your strategy flexible. Even though I rarely win 7 Wonders, it’s quick play time, variable strategy and just overall fun keeps me coming back for more and more.
Other Great Choices: Shadows Over Camelot, Bang!, Wits and Wagers, Jungle Speed
8 Players – Tsuro
This was another hard one. There are a surprisingly high number of games that both play decently with 8 and are a good amount of fun. I ended up choosing Tsuro because I really plays the best at 8 players. When you have that high of a player count, it can be hard to keep people’s interest during the long time between their turns. With Tsuso, turns go by quickly and so do games. As players get eliminated , the game will progress faster and faster, insuring people don’t have to watch from the sidelines too long. The game is short and easy enough that you can get a few plays completed quickly. I also like the abstract nature of the game and how easy it is to teach. With 8 players, it helps to have everyone able to learn the rules and get playing quickly.
Other Great Choices: Elder Sign, Fortune And Glory: The Cliffhanger Game, Arkham Horror, The Resistance: Avalon, Memoir ’44: Operation Overlord, Pitch Car
9 Players – Cards Against Humanity
When you start getting above 8 into player count, your options become rather slim. It’s hard to both balance a game at this level, and keep a player’s attention when not their turn. So now you are looking more into the party game genre, which is OK. I’ve actually played Cards Against Humanity with this many players and it’s still just as fun as with fewer people. The game is both easy to learn and sure to evoke a lot of laughter, making it perfect to play for those large gatherings with a lot of beer. The game is not for those easily offended, but almost always makes for a great time. Cards Against Humanity is not a game I’m going to want to play over and over again, but most games at this high of player count won’t be. With 8 players, it’s more about the social experience then the tactical strategy.
Other Great Options: The Resistance: Avalon, Dixit: Odyssey, Saboteur, We Didn’t Playtest This At All
10 Players – Formula D
When I had to choose a 10 player game, Formula D was my first thought. To be fair, Formula D plays really well at a lot of player counts. At 10 players, it’s almost a different game (but still a good one). With 10 people, there will be a whole lot more positioning, caution and crashing involved in the game. But that’s what makes it fun. It can almost feel like a real Formula 1 race (ok, maybe NASCAR with the crashing). I’ve only ever gotten to try it once at this player count, but when we did, we enjoyed the hell out of it. Even players that got knocked out halfway through the race still had a good time and enjoyed watching the finish. So while I wouldn’t want to only every play Formula D at this player count, if you have 10 people and are looking for something besides a party game, this is a great option to try. Bonus, you can even play as teams to reduce the amount of chaos some.
Other Great Options: Zombie Dice, Martian Dice, Telestrations
I’m sure I might get a healthily dose of disagreement for my choices here, but I was expecting that. I think you could have easily subsisted any of my “other great choices” for the one I chose and still come out ahead. I hope this helps you choose a game for your next game night and if you haven’t tried one of these, I’d recommend putting them out on your game table and seeing how it goes. You might be surprised.
Did I miss something or do you disagree with my choice? Let me know in the comments below.