Board games you must play before you die

Diagram of best board games, sorted by recommended player count and weight rating

I have some of those "1001 ... you must see before you die" books and felt like this concept could be applied to board games as well. Since I don't claim to be the ultimate authority on games, I decided to crowdsource and turned to, the biggest board game database online.

How to poster

Step 0: learn a programming language. I know Javascript, so I wrote a bunch of little Node.js scripts for scraping and calculating.

  • This initial attempt took the top games from boardgamegeek ranked list (only those with 30+ ratings).
  • Rankings were then adjusted for complexity bias.
  • After that the player count recommendations were sorted from best to worst.
  • Then I filled out the table, trying to put top games in their best column. Had to introduce some bias toward larger player counts, because 7 is an uncommon player count; 6×167=1002 games looks much better on a poster though.
  • Finally the columns were sorted and coloured by weight.

The resulting visualization makes it pretty clear that it's really hard to design a good game that is both complex and playable with many people at the same time.

If I were to make an actual book on this subject, I would try to limit games to one representative of the family (only one Ticket to Ride edition, for example); also add some maybe less highly rated but historically relevant games (Chess, Monopoly, Go) and try to account for age bias in general.

2 players
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7 players
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In! 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The Bullet!Aeon's EndShakespeareEndeavor: Age of SailAxis & Allies: WWI 19147 WondersClue Master DetectiveSekigahara: The Unification of JapanDinosaur IslandThe Pillars of the EarthStrasbourgDark MoonOne Night RevolutionImperial SettlersGlen More II: ChroniclesCycladesNotre DameAwkward GuestsTajemnicze DomostwoSeasonsGùgōngEgiziaColosseumHorse FeverEscape from the Aliens in Outer SpaceMarvel Champions: The Card GameSanta MariaRajas of the GangesTammany HallCavern TavernObscurioSpace Hulk (Third Edition)VindicationBlood RageInvasion from Outer Space: The Martian GameCity of HorrorMysteriumThunderstone QuestRococoInisTimbuktuZombicide: Black PlagueCartographersPandemic Legacy: Season 1MacaoGhost StoriesSmartphone Inc.The Great Fire of London 1666Not AloneFive TribesStar Trek: AscendancySpace AlertKremlinBootleggersTurfMasterThe 7th ContinentXia: Legends of a Drift SystemAmerigoBetrayal LegacyIlluminatiFormula DéGears of War: The Board GameDwellings of EldervaleKemetA Brief History of the WorldLetters from WhitechapelThe Castle of the DevilFreedom: The Underground RailroadFury of Dracula (Third/Fourth Edition)Dead of Winter: A Crossroads GameAntike IIThe ReckonersCitadelsGinkgopolisTerraforming MarsThe Manhattan Project: Energy EmpireLeague of SixHistory of the WorldDas Motorsportspiel51st State: Master SetChurchillConcordiaMousquetaires du RoyEvolution: ClimatePacific TyphoonGlass RoadLorenzo il MagnificoOrléansDOOM: The Board GameCharterstoneAsking for TrobilsHammer of the ScotsCoimbraVillageGerman RailwaysKings of Air and SteamSpace Cadets: Dice DuelRace for the GalaxyYokohamaNavegadorFrancis DrakeFortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger GameNuns on the RunThe Castles of BurgundyTriumph & Tragedy: European Balance of Power 1936-1945Hansa TeutonicaContainer: 10th Anniversary Jumbo Edition!VolldampfCaptain SonarMythic Battles: PantheonPulsar 2849Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery20th CenturyViticulture Essential EditionSamurai SpiritA Few Acres of SnowAltiplanoCthulhu WarsOlympusSenjiBetween Two Castles of Mad King LudwigBattleCON: Devastation of IndinesLewis & Clark: The ExpeditionConcordia VenusRailways of the WorldWildLifeForgotten Waters1960: The Making of the PresidentMarco Polo II: In the Service of the KhanChaos in the Old WorldMare Nostrum: EmpiresMedieval MerchantWatson & HolmesMagic: The GatheringNewtonThe Voyages of Marco PoloAmun-ReEuphoria: Build a Better DystopiaThe Captain Is DeadGrand Austria HotelTroyesHeaven & AleThe OthersPower Grid Deluxe: Europe/North AmericaThunder AlleyObsessionMariaPuerto Rico (with two expansions)El GrandeMachiavelliRicochet RobotsCombat Commander: EuropeViscounts of the West KingdomRising SunDynasties: Heirate & HerrscheNew AngelesRoboRallyThis War of Mine: The Board GameNationsLords of HellasBusRex: Final Days of an EmpireAtlantis Rising (Second Edition)Tainted Grail: The Fall of AvalonLa GranjaShadows of Brimstone: City of the AncientsGenoaPower GridThe MessageAndroid: NetrunnerClash of CulturesKeyflowerHermagorMedioevo UniversalePokerArkham Horror: The Card GameMillennium BladesGoaDescent: Journeys in the Dark (Second Edition)Eldritch HorrorHuman Punishment: Social Deduction 2.0D-Day at Omaha BeachGreat Western TrailScytheBattlestar Galactica: The Board GameColonial: Europe's Empires OverseasShadows over CamelotHannibal: Rome vs. CarthageLe HavreRussian RailroadsThe Princes of FlorenceImperial 2030Steampunk RallyUnderwater CitiesTeotihuacan: City of GodsSteamPeriklesPrinces of the RenaissanceCircus MaximusTwilight StruggleCaylusClans of CaledoniaWallensteinWarrior KnightsJuntaPaladins of the West KingdomGloomhavenEclipse: Second Dawn for the GalaxyNemesisImperialKingmakerStar Wars: RebellionMaracaiboTigris & EuphratesPower StruggleExodus: Proxima CentauriOutpostRobinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed IslandAlchemistsAgricola (Revised Edition)Empires: Age of DiscoverySidereal Confluence: Remastered EditionGunslingerForbidden StarsOra et LaboraTrajanVampire: The Eternal StruggleThe Battle for NormandyDiplomacyToo Many BonesBrass: BirminghamRootShogunFief: France 1429BattlestationsA Feast for OdinAnachronyTzolk'in: The Mayan CalendarA Study in EmeraldDuneClose Action: The Age of Fighting Sail Vol. 1Paths of GloryFood Chain MagnatePax Pamir (Second Edition)AutomobileAge of SteamStruggle of EmpiresFields of ArleThe GalleristCaverna: The Cave FarmersKohle & KolonieDominant SpeciesMega CivilizationSpirit IslandGaia ProjectMombasaAge of RenaissanceHere I Stand7 AgesWar of the Ring: Second EditionThrough the Ages: A New Story of CivilizationTerra MysticaDie MacherTwilight Imperium: Fourth EditionEmpires in ArmsKingdom Death: MonsterLisboaBarrageThe Republic of RomeStar Fleet Battles: Captain's Edition Basic Set1862: Railway Mania in the Eastern CountiesMage Knight: Ultimate EditionOn MarsVinhos Deluxe EditionWorld in FlamesVirgin QueenMagic Realm