Maybe you’re looking for something to do with your in-laws, or perhaps you chose to host a dinner party that took a turn to the boring. Now’s the time to grab a four-player board game. And because the world of four-player board games extends far beyond Monopoly, we asked 11 experts — including game-store owners, board-game reviewers, and even a board-game illustrator — which ones they consider the very best. Below, find their top picks, with an option for everyone from beginners searching for their next game-night standard to advanced players seeking a new challenge. While some games on this list can be played by more (or fewer) people, our experts note that all of these are ideal with four players.
Best overall four-player board game
If you find battling a fictional pandemic soothing compared with watching the news, Pandemic was cited by five of our experts as 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 everyone can get into, and it is highly replayable,” says Ronny Alexander of the 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. You 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 Stephen Walsh. Plus, a variety of expansions are available to keep the game fresh.
Best four-player board games 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 in which 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 the 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.”
Strategist writer Lauren Ro, who admits she finds most board games “needlessly complicated and mind-numbingly boring,” says Bohnanza converted her from a game skeptic to an enthusiast. “It’s fun. It’s fast. The artwork is delightful. Best of all, it’s easy to learn, even for a dolt like me.” The concept is simple enough: Each player is a bean farmer who plants different varieties of beans; players harvest their crops in exchange for gold, and the more beans you harvest, the more coins you collect. However, the game dictates that you play with a fixed hand, meaning you have to play it in the order the cards were dealt or drawn, which makes things a bit more complicated since your hand dictates which bean you can plant in each field at each turn. But players can barter with one another to trade beans, putting their strategy and negotiation skills to the test. “I didn’t think I could ever love a game, but this is the only one I actually look forward to playing and introducing to friends when there are four or more adults in my home,” Ro says.
Strategist senior writer Liza Corsillo discovered this game from her brother, who often played it in groups of four with his wife and parents. Corsillo describes it as having the fast play of Ticket to Ride mixed with the social interaction of Catan “but more engaging and fun to look at.” As in Ticket to Ride, players win by getting the most victory points by building wealth and collecting railroads, towns, or buildings. “There’s even fake money, as in Monopoly, which I like because it’s the only time in my life I’ll get to slam down a wad of cash in exchange for a town, a railroad, or a factory building,” Corsillo adds. She also loves the “intricate, uncanny” illustrations by painter Annie Stegg. “Every time I play, I dis