Run out of things to talk about on a weekend away? Try a four-player board games (it’s much better than Truth or Dare, trust us). And because the world of four-player board games extends far beyond Monopoly, we asked 9 experts–including game store owners, board game reviewers, and even a board game illustrator for what they consider the very best. While some of the games selected aren’t exclusively for just four players, our experts chose them because the games are ultimately best suited for four. Below find their top picks, with an option for everyone from beginners looking for their next game night standard to advanced players looking for a new challenge.
Best overall four-player board game
Pandemic was cited by five of our experts as being one of the best four-player games on the market, with Greg May, owner of The Uncommons and Hex & Company, calling it a “stellar cooperative game.” The main objective is for players to work together to stop the spread of four diseases and save the world. “This is considered a modern classic because it has a simple set of rules, it has a theme that everyone can get into, and it is highly replayable,” says Ronny Alexander of cooperative board game review site Co-op Board Games.
Best four-player strategetic board game
A classic for a reason, Catan is, according to May, “perhaps the most important game of the past few decades.” Players collect resources to build a civilization from the ground up, earning points along the way. Players gain resources by rolling dice or bartering with other players, so the game requires “a lot of strategy and a little luck.” Because playtime can run on the longer side–and the rules are a bit more involved–this game is best suited for intermediate players. “It’s no accident that it’s such a popular game. Catan is such an endlessly adaptive game with so many opportunities to show off your skills at strategy,” says illustrator Stephan Walsh. Plus, there are a variety of expansions now available to keep the game fresh.
Best four-player board game for beginners
If you’re looking for a more entry-level strategy game, three of our experts suggested Ticket to Ride as a more accessible alternative to Catan. It’s an adventure-style game where players attempt to cross the country and connect cities by building train routes. It is easy to pick up and can be played casually with family, “but also offers a level of strategy and tactics just deep enough for competitive gamers to return to time and again,” says Ian Ross, who runs the popular Instagram page Board Games as Art. “Playing with four keeps the board tight and the tension high.”
Best four-player thematic board games
Quintin Smith, editor of game review site Shut Up & Sit Down, describes Isle of Skye as “an absolute box of delights.” The game challenges players to build and expand their Scottish island by bartering with other players. “There’s a sense of progress as you slowly build out this little map in front of you, and the shopping phase makes for plenty of cunning plays and funny mistakes.”
Story-driven adventure game Eldritch Horror can be played with 1-8 players, but Roy Carter, owner of Tribe Comics and Games, thinks it’s “perfect with four.” He adds that the game positively “oozes theme” and promises that “really horrible things will happen to your characters and that is part of the fun.”
Best family-friendly four-player games
For fans of Pictionary, Smith recommends Pictomania, which he describes as being “more deep, exciting and competitive” than the old game night standard. It is “a side-splittingly funny” game where players have to draw and guess at the same time “resulting in remarkably poor drawings and guesses.”
“Imagine a game where the only goal is to tell a story, using narrative beats dealt out to you from a deck of cards adorned with whimsical fairy-tale imagery. Now imagine there are four of you, with different cards, different endings, and you’re all fighting for control to tell one single tale that has to make sense. That’s Once Upon a Time, and it’s glorious,” says Dr. Michael James Heron of Meeple Like Us, a board game review site with an accessibility focus. Plus, the storytelling and fantasy components make it an ideal choice for family game night.
Heron also suggests Sheriff of Nottingham, a bluffing game “with a wonderfully forgiving learning curve and a brisk pace of play that excels at a four-player count.” The goal is for players to smuggle illicit goods, including fruit and crossbows, by bluffing and bribing their way past the sheriff. “It’s funny, forgiving of errors, and a great opportunity to play out your fantasies of being a frustrated TSA agent in olde-times Nottingham.”
Best board game for advanced gamers
Andy Matthews, founder of Meeple Mountain, recommends Power Grid, a resource-management game where players compete to “keep costs down, power lots of cities, and profit.” The game takes about two hours to play, making it a solid bet for advanced gamers looking for a challenge. “If you love meaty games with lots of math, this one’s sure to light up your group.”
Best cooperative four-player board games
Meeple Circus is a super fast, super fun board game where you begin the game with a pile of board game components. Once the carnival music starts to play, players race to “balance all of those components together in a complex sculpture where every pattern you make with the pieces earns you points,” explains Heron. The game tests your dexterity, skill, and teamwork abilities. “I give you thirty seconds before the whole thing collapses to the joy of the table,” he promises.
Best world-building board game
Another popular option is 7 Wonders which is “a trading and resource management game in which players build up their architectural wonder across three ages of time,” explains Dr. Joey J. Lee, Director of the Games Research Lab and Coordinator of the M.A. Program in Design and Development of Digital Games at Teachers College, Columbia University. “Efficiently building your civilization’s commercial routes, military or technology can give you an edge in the future.”
Best four-player party games
Walsh also loves the party game Dixit, which he describes as “a great icebreaker of a game, fantastic for getting everyone interacting.” The game begins with one player being designated the storyteller. That player makes up a sentence based on the image on one of the cards in their hand. Then each player selects the card in their hand that best matches the sentence and gives it to the storyteller. The storyteller shuffles the cards and presents them to the other players who place bets on which one is the original card, with the winners gaining points for correct guesses. As an added bonus, “the card artwork is beautiful, imaginative and sometimes a little surreal.”
“This is a small card game that is unlike anything else out there right now,” says Alexander. You have to work together to play cards in ascending order, but the twist is that no one can talk about the cards that are in their hands, he explains. Because of this surprise element the game is especially great for replaying. “There are plenty of exciting moments in every game of The Mind.”
Best word-association four-player board game
“Using only a couple words as clues, can you get your team to correctly guess your words?” asks Lee about the basic premise of this Czech spy-themed favorite. Similar to the basic elements of charades, players divide into two teams with one designated spymaster providing clues. By guessing the words correctly, players unveil the other teams’ agents. The first team to unmask all of their opponents’ spies wins.
Best fast-paced four-player board game
Best app-compatible four-player board game
Chronicles of Crime is unique in that it combines both a board game, a mobile app, and virtual reality. It’s a cooperative game that asks players to work together to solve a murder mystery. “By searching for clues in virtual reality crime scenes, interrogating witnesses or people of interest, and exploring key locations,” you can catch the killer and solve the crime, says Lee.
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