Are you looking for a new board game to play? Or inspiration for making your own? Either way, this list of board game types should help you.
Simply click on one of the board game types below to scroll straight to it.
The 20 popular board game types in this article are (in alphabetical order):
- Cooperative (Co-op)
- Deck Building
- Press Your Luck
- Print & Play
- Resource Management
- Role Playing Game (RPG)
- Tile Placement
- Trading Card Game (TCG)
- Worker Placement
While not all of the example games are “board games”, they are in the same genre. These are games that I see and play at board game conventions so I count them. Oh, and they are fun to play so what does it matter? Now onto the list!
Bluffing games give players hidden identities, or roles. They must use these secret roles to help them on their various missions. Generally, the more information a player gives up about their role, the better action they get to take. This is fun because it causes players to valuate high risk, high reward situations.
(Related: See my favorite bluffing games here)
2. Cooperative (Co-op)
Players unite against the game and either “win as a team” or “lose as a team”. The game’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) generally has it’s own turn where new information is revealed to players and “bad things” happen. In Pandemic, the AI reveals diseases and outbreaks across the world that require players to work together to cure before the world is overwhelmed.
Co-op games offer a unique challenge to game designers in that they must create a balanced AI. This is hard because of the large variety of skill level in players. Pandemic handles this by adding difficulty modes (easy, medium and hard).
3. Deck Building
These games start players off with a deck of cards (usually 10). Each turn, players use their cards to purchase better cards and add them to their deck. As you buy (build) your deck, it gets stronger because you have a better chance of drawing the cards you bought that are more powerful than your starting cards.
This game type was my favorite in 2012. I had learned Ascension at Gencon and fell in love with the idea so much that I decided I wanted to make my own deck building game.
When you play deduction games, you are given small amounts of known information. It is your job to use this information to deduce (narrow down) what you think the answer to the puzzle is.
In Codenames, players work in teams. One player is the clue giver while her teammates are the guessers. She gives single word clues that are to be used by her teammates to guess additional words. For example, she might say the word “red 3” to get her teammates to guess “apple”, “heart” and “lady bug”. It is a fun game of deduction that is also co-op.
These games involve eye hand coordination. Games in this genre are typically easier to design but more difficult to find the correct pieces to actually make the game. Especially if you plan on having customized pieces similar to Ants in the Pants.
A fun way to think of a dexterity game is to go to your local toy store and look for random small toys that you could mix together to make a dexterity game. This is different from regular game design in that you typically think of a game idea and THEN pick out the components. In this method, you pick out the components which lead you to thinking of a game.
This is my favorite of the board game types. Or at least one of them. Drafting games have players “draft” something (usually cards).
For example, in Treasure Hunter, each player gets a set of 9 cards. Then they take 1 of the 9 cards and pass the other 8 to the player to their left. This is done until all of the cards have been drafted. Then you compare each players hands and they get rewards based off of what they drafted. There are 5 rounds of drafting and comparing each others hands before you total up your score and see who won.
This board game type is really fun because it forces players to constantly reevaluate the importance of cards as the game is played out.
I remember not wanting to do homework as a kid. My parents were smart though and they realized I liked games. So they would buy me games that would help encourage me to learn new subjects. My favorite educational game as a child was Brain Quest. Thanks for tricking me into learning when I was younger mom and dad! It was fun and well worth it.
I am a strong believer in gamifying education for this reason. When kid’s are studying just to get a grade (or because they “have to”), they get bored easily. But when it is a game, they have a tendancy to go all in! Educational games is the way of the future. Now if we can only get schools to get behind this idea.
– Brain Quest
Wikipedia does a great job of explaining what a Euro game is. Basically, it is the style of game that Europeans tend to make. These games tend to have a lot of resource management and worker placement (see below) in them. This is one of the board game types that tend to have less variance (luck) and is more focused on skilled play.
Any game that’s primary function is to challenge your mind to remember things. As for a board game, this generally means a card matching game.
I played a lot of Simon Says and Bop It! as a kid. Though I wasn’t too great at them, they were a lot of fun. I liked them because they give my brain a workout similar to what running does to my body. After playing memory games for 20-30 minutes, my mind would feel tired for a while. But the more often I played the more focus I would have (and the less I would tell my mom I was bored).
This is usually a collectible game type. Players collect miniature characters, buildings and vehicles and then create their own game scenarios. The games are sold “by the character” or “by the squad”. Though you can also purchase starter packs to assemble your first army.
Each scenario will allow players to have a certain amount of points to spend on building an army of characters and/or vehicles. Once you have decided on which troops you will do battle with, the scenario begins. Most often times miniatures is a 2 player game, though you can create larger scenarios if you would like.
Note: I have not played either of the 2 games above, but my friends that do play miniatures a lot say these are two of the best. The miniatures game I got into several years ago was World of Warcraft miniatures (WoW minis), but they don’t make them anymore.
If you have a big group of people, then party games are typically what gets played. These games are designed to handle a lot of people and are easier for players to learn.
12. Press Your Luck
In this game type, there is a “tipping point”. Players will start out strong with multiple chances to collect as many points as they can. But the catch is, if they go past the tipping point (such as having their character die) then they lose all that they have gained.
When I was little, I would watch the show Press Your Luck on the Game Show Network. I had a blast waiting in anticipation to see if the contestents would win big or go past the tipping point and hit yet another Whammy!
Mike is working on a press your luck game now. We had a lot of fun testing it out last week.
This is another one of my favorite board game types because it forces me to improve my risk management skills. “Should I travel further into the goblin dungeon or head back to town to rest?”
As a game designer, I like thinking of this type of board game because it involves fun math problems. If you don’t have a solid math foundation behind the board game, then it is not going to feel as fun for the players. But if you do have a good foundation, then the high risk/reward situations will feel that much more fun for your players.
– Welcome to the Dungeon
13. Print & Play
A lot of times, game designers offer a “Print & Play” version of their board game. This is a PDF file that players can download to their computer and then print and play (usually for free).
I mainly wanted to tell you about this game type so that you knew it existed and how current game makers use this to show off their games.
For 2 years in a row, I played in a Formula D league that my friend hosted. It was quite a lot of fun. In general, a racing board game uses dice to control the movement of a players vehicle(s). Though I have seen some games (such as Sorry) use cards as a way to move.
The most unique way I have seen a racing board game handle movement is Snow Tails. Each player has a dog sled and the sled moves directions based off of how hard the dogs are pulling. This is a good example of thinking outside of the box.
15. Resource Management
In this game type, players are given limited amount of resources and then are required to plan out where they will spend those resources.
I like this game type because it teaches money management. And the best part, you don’t even know you are learning while you are playing because you are having fun!
I have the Ticket to Ride app and I play it on long road trips. It is a great example of a resource management board game because it requires you to carefully plan out how you will connect your trains across the map. The game encourages both short term and long term resource management and is a great game for all ages.
16. Role Playing Game (RPG)
You may hear of these as “tabletop games” or “tabletop role playing games”. In this game type, one player takes on the role of the “dungeon master” (the storyteller). The dungeon master is responsible for leading the other players through a unique story in a fantasy world. The other players make up characters and act (role play) as if they were that character in that world.
For example, when I played Pathfinder at Gencon this year, I took on the role of a Bard. So I did what I thought my character should do to help make our quest successful. This typically involved me playing some fun songs to help my friends characters become stronger. I even played a song on my IPhone in real life to cheer up the players themselves. It was a good time.
These games are made to tell a good story. While there is typically a “winner”, competition isn’t the focal point of game design.
When you make a board game like this, you are successful if the gameplay is fun and helps players be creative and imaginative. My family and I enjoyed playing StoryLine: Fairy Tales at Gencon this year.
While this is one of my personal least favorite game type to play, I still enjoy a board game in this genre from time to time. My preference of games tends to be ones with more problem solving. For example, I did not particularly like the gameplay in Betrayal at House on the Hill. However, I loved the storyline we played. In this board game, there are MANY stories, so each game is much different than the one before. That is great for playback value.
18. Tile Placement
Takenoko uses the placement of hex tiles to create a unique game each time you play. Players place these tiles throughout the game that builds a world filled with bamboo. The main character (a panda) is also moved around the tiles, eating the bamboo and scoring you points. This is a great example of a modern tile placement game type.
19. Trading Card Game (TCG)
This is the game type that got me really excited about games. I was about 8 when I played my first tcg (Magic the Gathering).
Cards are sold in “booster packs”, which contain around 8-12 cards. The cards in each pack have different rarity, meaning some are harder to get than others. Players collect these cards throughout their time playing by either purchasing more packs or winning them at events.
The tcg game type can be very expensive over the months/years of playing, but the communities can be very fun to be a part of. Though they can be equally not as fun if you are unfortunate enough to find a bad group.
20. Worker Placement
Not to get this confused with the “tile placement” game type (see above). A worker placement board game gives players “workers” that they must assign certain tasks.
I play the Agricola app when traveling. In this game, you start with a few workers on a farm. Your goal is to build the best farm. Players can accomplish this by assigning their workers to collect resources and to grow their family (workers). I haven’t played the board game in real life, but the app is really fun. The app is great because it does an awesome job of teaching you the rules.
(Related – Ever thought about making a board game? Get the answers to many questions new board game designers have here.)
Which of these 20 board game types do you like the most?
What are your favorite board game types?
My 3 favorite right now are:
- Press Your Luck
- And Deckbuilding
Let us know your most played board game types in the comments below.
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