Maybe you’re sequestered at home with three roommates (and your four-bedroom apartment has never felt so small), or perhaps you chose to ride out this self isolation with your family and you’ve run out of things to talk about. 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 ten experts — including game store owners, board game reviewers, and even a board game illustrator — for what they consider the very best. Below find their top picks, with an option for everyone from beginners looking for their next game night standard to advanced players seeking a new challenge. While there are some games on this list that can be played by more (or fewer) people, our experts note that these are all ideal when played with just four.
Best overall four-player board game
If you find battling a fictional pandemic soothing when compared to watching the news, this game 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.”
Space Base “offers a great blend of luck and strategy,” says Ross, because players have to roll the dice and choose their cards. Plus, “players have the potential to benefit from each other’s dice rolls, keeping everyone engaged and eliminating the tedium of waiting for your turn.” he says. The futuristic artwork, designed by Chris Walton, is also sure to delight any sci-fi fans.
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.”
“This is a great family card game and it’s easy enough that you can teach it to anyone in a matter of minutes,” says Kelsey Demers, who runs the board-game blog The Tabletop Family. She specifically loves the witty cards and the way the gameplay “bounces back and forth,” as everyone attempts to recruit clans of magical creatures away from their opponents’ kingdoms and into their own. “I love that you can play this with a wide range of ages and how it always brings about so many laugh out loud moments.”
Demers also loves Valley of the Vikings, which won a coveted Kinderspiel des Jahres, or German Game of the Year, a competition that evaluates board games based on elevated design, game concept, and rule structure. “It’s basically a strategic tabletop bowling game,” where the objective is to knock down colored barrels in the middle of the board. Depending on which colors are knocked down, players are given a spot along the dock. Some places instruct you to collect coins or to steal them away from other players, and the game ends when all the coins have been divvied up. The player with the most gold wins.
Best four-player board games for kids
Walsh told us that this “really sweet” game about competitive panda husbandry is a favorite of his kids. The game asks players to cultivate land plots and grow three different species of bamboo for the pandas. He describes it as the “perfect Christmas Day game,” for when you want something family-friendly and upbeat.