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Homsar: Oh no! You shanked my Jengaship!

Strong Sad: I shanked your Jengaship? We're playing Connect Four!

Classic games of skill and chance, often used in fiction to illuminate characters' personalities. There are many board games, but those listed in this index are pretty much the only ones you will see in fiction. Often, the trademarked ones will have an in-world Brand X equivalent. In the last decade, piecepacks have become popular as a means of devising new board games.

For a brief overview, there are four general categories of board games: Abstracts like chess; Party Games, which have a penchant for randomness and fun over hard strategy; Wargames, which typically feature maps full of troops duking it out at varying levels of realism, and Eurogames, which focus on gaining victory points through economic competition over game resources rather than direct combat (the most famous of these is "The Settlers of Catan" - the Germans have a particular love of these and they can sometimes be called "German Games"). A fifth category not well known outside of Boardgaming circles is "Ameritrash" which focuses on the theme of the game and aggressive gameplay which mixes strategy and luck. (Named as a contrast to Eurogames which are perceived as very skill-based). It should be said that Ameritrash Games aren't always made in or are exclusive to America - games such as the Avalon Hill line of board games for many years reached international audiences but were cut from the shortlist of games to preserve in print because of Hasbro's Money, Dear Boy. Many games float among these categories.

Some board games - especially of the war variety - are so complicated they become the trope Guide Dang It in that they are near impossible to play without the rule book in hand.

Since the 90s there's been a major revival of boardgames, and sites like [http:/ boardgamegeek] (which lists all existing games - yes, all of them) have many hundreds of thousands of members. Not to mention game conferences like Spiel (in Essen, Germany), which draws 150,000 people each year. Also, recent board games have been colored pink hoping more girls would by them.

A Massive Multiplayer Crossover homage to board games lies here. Also, a weird online game with lots of board games can be found at Boardgame Online.

  • 18XX: A variety of games on building railroads in the 1800s, with emphasis on designing quick routes and manipulating the stock market.
  • Abalone: A curious combination of Chinese checkers and sumo wrestling. Hails from France.
  • Agricola: A farming-themed game.
  • Arkham Horror: A story based game based on the Call of Cthulhu
  • Battleship: Naval warfare game originally created for pencil and paper play, but successfully adapted into a commercial form by Milton Bradley. If characters are seen playing this, it usually indicates they've had way too much idle time to kill. Due to the deeply embedded memories of MB's marketing campaigns, nobody ever is depicted destroying a cruiser or carrier, but within 3 turns one player will finally announce "You sank my battleship!" This is more often than not done ironically, or with a lampshade on it, at least recently. It received a loose (and rather unsuccessful) film adaption in 2012.
  • Bingo: Gambling for for old people, at least in North America.
  • Candy Land: The stock example of a childish game. Children are enthralled by the colorful world, while anyone over the age of 10 will only play in order to spend time with someone under the age of 10. This treatment is very much Truth in Television: Candy Land is totally unaffected by any player choice nor is the flow of the game at all suitable for gambling.
  • Checkers (also known as Draughts): The archetypical game of casual minds; e.g., young children and leisurely seniors. While definitely a simpler game than chess, checkers may be treated as if it were barely above the level of tic-tac-toe (noughts and crosses). Extra bathos points for a character using a chess set and board to play checkers. Almost invariably, one character will be looking supremely confident until the other player reaches out and click-click-click-click-click takes most of their pieces in a single move, often with a smug "King me!" at the end when they make it to the last row (even though they made backwards jumps that would be illegal if the piece were not already a king.
    • Maybe it's Russian Draughts (men attacks both forward and back, kings move much like chess bishops)?
    • Also, Chinese checkers is neither checkers nor Chinese -- it's more of a race to move your army from one point on the board (usually in the shape of a Star of David) to the other. It's a derivative of a 19th century American game called Halma.
  • Chess: The supreme Western test of intellect. The Spock, The Professor and cunning villains will all play this superbly, because Smart People Play Chess. Show them a game in progress, and they will confidently announce, 'Mate in three/five/seventeen.' In practice, even the world's best professional chess players would not be able to consistently do this well. (Spock, at least, has the excuse that he's an alien.) Sometimes, as in House and Robert A. Heinlein's Sixth Column, it's just a bluff. Chess, in turn, comes from the Persian Shatranj (below), which in turn came from the Indian Chaturanga.
  • Cluedo (Clue to Americans): A popular party game in which the players pretend to solve a murder by guessing the perpetrator, the location of the crime, and the murder weapon ("Colonel Mustard in the conservatory with the candlestick!"). The game inspired a comedy film in the '80s starring Tim Curry and several other stars of the era.
  • Connect Four: A vertical checkers game that requires you to put four checkers in a row. It bears significant similarities to tic-tac-toe, and in turn may have been an inspiration for Tetris.
  • The Creature That Ate Sheboygan
  • Diplomacy: A game of diplomacy, war, and treachery for up to seven players. Players move their armies and fleets in simultaneous turns, with hidden written orders. You may end the game with fewer friends than you had at the start, as There Can Be Only One ruler of Europe, while the rest can enjoy having ornate daggers jammed into their backs.
  • Go: The supreme Eastern test of intellect. Several orders of magnitude more complex than chess (not quite the same as "more complicated than chess"). Knowing how to play well typically signals a character has likewise intellectually surpassed "mere chess". The aura of inscrutable Asian wisdom doesn't hurt either, though in reality playing either game at world championship level is equally difficult. And then, in the other direction, there's... (See the Shogi entry much lower.)
  • Hnefatafl (King's Table): Scandinavian chess known at least from IV century A.D. -- that is, Vikings played this. Mentioned in Edda and sagas both as a noteworthy skill and used for Chess Motifs: in Fridthjof's saga the King's man came with a war-related request to Fridthof and Bjorn who played the game, and they answered in game strategy terms, looking at the board.
  • Icehouse: A boardless board game played with pyramidal pieces pointing at each other. Something like a cross between Go and vector arithmetic. [1]
  • Janggi: Korean Chess.
  • Mahjong: The quintessential East Asian gambling game, where 4 players try to form 14-tile hands by drawing and discarding a tile per turn, in a manner vaguely similar to gin rummy. It could be considered the Eastern analogue to poker, being part luck and part skill and having many variants and House Rules. Commonly (but not always) played for cash stakes, converting points to money, although more recent trends have seen a shift towards playing for sport and bragging rights, especially with the Japanese Riichi variant. Not to be confused with Shanghai, which is a matching game played (usually on a computer) with an enormous pile of mahjong tiles.
  • Makruk Thai Chess, with short-assize pawns (i.e. starting on the third rank) that promote on the sixth, Bishops that move like Silver Generals in Shogi, etc.
  • Mancala: A family of "sowing games" where stones are distributed around a circuit of cups, frequently capturing the contents of the cup opposite where the sowing stops. It seemingly originated somewhere in east Africa and is fairly popular in the USA and parts of Europe. Some of the most recognized variants are Kalah (created in the US), Bohnenspiel (German-Persian), and Awari (Ghanaian).
  • Mastermind: Guess the code of the other guy, using the clues he or she gives you from wrong guesses.
  • Monopoly: A game for the whole family (so long as the whole family understands real estate, mortgages, land development, and math of at least a fifth grade level). Expect lots of squabbling, convenient luck and complicated trades, often extending outside the game.
  • Operation: Removing various punny pathologies from a patient who reacts to mistakes and slips of the hand with a buzzing red nose.
  • Reversi (aka Othello): A vaguely Go-like game where surrounded pieces change color instead of being captured. Reversi can be very difficult to keep track of, since one piece placement can drastically alter the entire board.
  • Risk: A game for two to six players, featuring a full world map and hundreds of tiny pieces representing armies, in which the goal is to take over the world. This game often takes several hours to play out. A common strategy is to take over Australia as quickly as possible, since it's the hardest continent to attack. In Risk, every player tends to suffer from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, as alliances between players are made and broken on a whim.
  • Scotland Yard: A eurogame where up to six police officers must work together to track down the criminal Mister X (controlled by a seventh player) through a map of London.
  • Scrabble: A game for people who know lots of words and how to spell them. Having a big vocabulary is a plus, but actually knowing the definition isn't important to the game so long as it is an actual word. The Magic Poker Equation applies here. The winner always has just the right letters for a long, high-scoring, but recognisable word, and there's somewhere on the board that it'll fit. They rarely resort to kind of obscure words common in professional Scrabble: aa, cwm, etui. (Although one can occasionally expect Calvin and Hobbes-esque arguments over the legitimacy of such words as "kwyjibo," "xrbtt", "jozxyqk" or "zqfmgb.") Further, even though short words are common in professional Scrabble, anyone who plays a word less than four letters will be seen as a dummy. Another common Scrabble trope is when people playing the game all have and play words relating to the situation.
  • Senet: The oldest known board game, dating as far back as predynastic Egypt. The rules aren't known with any certainty, but approximate reconstructions exist.
  • Settlers of Catan: The original Euro Game. Players exploit the resources of an island to see who builds the most powerful colony.
  • Shatranj Persian chess, and the direct ancestor to western chess. As pointed out above, Shatranj is the root of the western branch of the Chaturanga family, which originated in India.
  • Shogi: The Japanese variant of chess. Typically used in anime as an excuse for old men to sit on porches of rice-paper houses, above the stone lanterns and The Thing That Goes Doink, and discuss in slow grunts the vagaries of life.
  • Sittuyin: Burmese Chess, where moves 1-8 are devoted to mustering your forces.
  • Small World: A Risk-like world conquest game with fantasy flavor and an emphasis on individual racial powers in combat over dice rolling.
  • Snakes and Ladders [2]: A kid's game from India meant to teach moral lessons. Good deeds get you a ladder to the top of the board, bad deeds get you dragged down by a snake.
  • Space Hulk: Man versus Alien in Desperate Battle.
  • Stratego: War board game where red and blue pieces go into battle blindly, with the goal of capturing the other team's flag. As the name might imply, there is a fair bit of strategy involved.
  • Talisman: A fantasy RPG-themed board game originally published by Games Workshop.
  • Through the Ages: A civilization-building game.
  • Tic Tac Toe (also known as Noughts and Droughts): First player to get three in a row wins.
  • Ticket to Ride: No Plot, No Problem game in which you build railroads. Published by Days of Wonder.
  • Trivial Pursuit: A combination of luck and knowledge. Entire books have detailed not only strategies for choosing categories and both asking and answering questions, but also the game's inaccuracies and ambiguities.
  • Twilight Imperium: A space board/tabletop game that incorporates not just war strategy, but politics and trade as well.
  • Twilight Struggle: A popular card-driven board game about the Cold War.
  • Xiangqi: Two housebound Generals send Chess-like armies after each other. The name literally means "elephant game", and it was what happened when chaturanga went east from India.
  • Yahtzee: Where players roll five dice, trying to get as many matching numbers as possible. If they succeed in getting all five to match they get a "Yahtzee" and a large point bonus. Bonuses are also awarded for poker hand-esque combinations, such as a pair of twos and three threes making a full house.


  1. And created by Andrew Looney, inventor of Fluxx.
  2. Or the commercialized Hasbro version, Chutes and Ladders
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