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Favorite Board Games from Our Physician Community

We spend a lot of time talking about business, side gigs, and personal finances in our physician Facebook communities and on our website, but that’s only part of physician life. In our recent survey, members requested more fun topics, so we started with one we’ve seen that’s always a popular thread on the Physician Community group - board games. 


With the amount of time we all spend on screens at work and at home, tabletop gaming is a great way for family and friends to put down their phones and enjoy some distraction free time together (which, by the way, we think is great to combat physician burnout). You also never know what you’ll learn about the people you’re playing them with, so in general we also consider these games great bonding activities - except a few we've mentioned that get so intense you may never speak to those people again!


Below, we cover some of the most popular games recommended in our communities and also break down some common recommendations by categories. Of course, our team is full of board game nerds so we may or may not have had to buy some of them to try them out ourselves.


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Favorite board games and other tabletop games recommended by our physician Facebook community members


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Physician Community’s Top Ten Favorite Board Games

Here are the top ten favorite board games (and other tabletop games) we’ve seen within the communities. Trying to rank them is a little like having a favorite child, so we’ve included them alphabetically by subcategory for families and for parties. We’ve also included other games to check out if you love these classics and are just looking for more like them!


We know some of our members have very young children, and have a separate section below for these families.



Favorite Board Games for Families and Small Groups


Catan

Catan is a staple in the board game world, and a great mix of strategy and luck. It has several expansion games and spin offs, but you only need the base game to have a blast. This is a family favorite for slightly older kids (10+). If you have a larger group, they make a 5-6 player expansion pack. If you love Catan and want to get your kids started, there’s also a Catan Junior for kids ages 6 and up. 


The rules of this game are a little complicated (there’s even an accompanying app to teach you), but once you’ve played a few times, it’s easy to get the hang of it. The game includes several different hexagons where “resources” are established. The instructions provide a standard setup as you learn the rules, then allow for randomization to add to replayability.


The goal is to secure 10 victory points first by utilizing your resources between building roads and settlements or opting to take a chance on randomly drawn developmental cards. Players can trade resources with a bank or barter resources with other players, adding a layer of cooperation to this competitive game. Allegiances can shift, so be prepared to be ganged up on and to hold grudges long after the game has ended.


If you love a true challenge and have a full day to kill, rumor has it you can combine all the different expansions into one epic adventure.


Players: 3-4 with base game, 5-6 with expansion pack

Ages: 10+

Game type: Strategy

Complexity level: Medium

Style: Competitive

Length: 60 minutes

Best for: Families that like to hold grudges over trade alliances gone bad

If you love it: Also check out Carcassonne, a strategic game also building roads


Codenames

Codenames is consistently mentioned as a favorite for families or friends (or even couples, see below!). This game blends both cooperative and competitive features by splitting your group into two teams that compete to be the first to uncover all their clues.


The board is randomly set up with cards featuring different words. One “key” card reveals which words belong to the blue team and which belong to the red team. Other words are random bystanders, but be careful of guessing wrong–if you guess the word associated with the assassin space, your team automatically loses.


One player from each team is the codemaster in charge of combining as many different code words belonging to the team as possible to a single clue word of their choice.


The more inside knowledge you have of your team members (and your competitors), the more fun and outrageous this game can become with the clue words.


There are different variations, including a duet version for two players, Codename Pictures, where the board is set up with different pictures instead of words, and even a Harry Potter version for magic loving Muggles.


Seriously, don’t miss this one.


Players: 4+ 

Ages: 10+

Game type: Strategy

Complexity level: Easy

Style: Co-op & competitive

Length: 15 mins - 30 mins

Best for: The family with all the inside references that no one (not even all of them) understands

If you love it: Also check out Monikers, which combines Codenames with Charades and Taboo


Exploding Kittens

In case you’re concerned, no kittens will be harmed while playing this game.


Exploding Kittens  is a quick setup and quick play game. Think Russian roulette, but with ridiculous fictional animals.


It only takes a couple of minutes to learn, making this a great game to break out on a weeknight after homework. It’s perfect for the sillier members of the family with cards featuring creatures such as a pig-a-corn and a taco cat.


Each player draws cards from the deck until someone gets the Exploding Kitten card. The player who draws the card must try to defuse the cat before it explodes and ends that player’s fictional life and real game. Action cards can also be used to foil the kitten’s plans of mass explosion.


Like Uno, players can make this either fun or immensely competitive and cut throat on their quest to be the last player standing.


Players: 2-5

Ages: 7+

Game type: Humor

Complexity level: Easy

Style: Competitive

Length: 15 mins

Best for: Families that prefer dogs to cats

If you love it: Try Unstable Unicorns, but prepare yourself for backstabbing to another level!


Rummikub

Rummikub is a cross generational game that takes the tile gameplay of Dominos, the strategy of Rummy, and adds the co-op board building of Scrabble. Each player gets a hand of numbered tiles and has to build groups of either same-colored number sequences or groupings of different-colored tiles of the same color. Players share a communal “board” of tiles and can build off of each others’ played sequences, dumping as many tiles from their hand as they can, up to a turn time limit. The first player to dump all their tiles wins.


You can play winner takes all in a single match, or extend your gameplay for a full game night Rummy style, where the remaining players get penalized for the value of the tiles in their hands. Be aware of the person in your game night crew who waits until you’ve drawn four tiles to be able to play and then places their final tile to win.


While this game is made for 2-4 players, you can mix two sets of game tiles together to expand the game for 5-8 players, just know duplicate tiles can make it frustrating when they stack up in your hand, especially if your spouse has the tendency to always draw the one you need.


Players: 2-4

Ages: 8+

Game type: Strategy

Complexity level: Medium

Style: Competitive

Length: 15 mins - 30 mins

Best for: The brainiacs that like mental puzzles and sabotage

If you love it: Try Azul, talked about more in our honorable mention section below


Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride sends you on a journey across America (or Europe if you like the extra challenge of tunnels). Players select “destination cards” of the railways they hope to build. Paths of different colors connect different cities to build the railways. Players collect train cards of the corresponding colors, then discard them to build their railways to connect their destination cities.


Play continues until a player runs out of train cars. While players earn points for completing their destination cards, they also earn points by having the longest consecutive railway and for the trains they place to connect cities throughout the game, adding multiple strategy options to win.


Don’t worry, if you see Aunt Marge collecting the red cards and eyeing that white train rail between San Francisco and Portland, you always have the opportunity to potentially sabotage her hidden destination card by claiming the route first. Just be prepared for your Christmas dinner invitation to get lost in the mail.


It may take players a little while to understand the playthrough during the first game, but it’s an easy game to pick up and suitable for some of the younger kids in the house. A junior edition (First Journey) is available for even younger kids 6 and up.


Players: 2-5

Ages: 8+

Game type: Strategy

Complexity level: Medium

Style: Competitive

Length: 30 mins - 60 mins

Best for: Train lovers

If you love it: Seriously, try the expansion packs or stand alone sister games like Ticket to Ride Europe, Ticket To Ride Japan, and Ticket to Ride India and Switzerland - they all add a different twist that will renew your love for the game



Favorite Board Games for Parties


Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity is a card game great for large parties…so long as the kids are otherwise entertained.


The tagline is “A party game for horrible people.” This game may make you question the humor and choices of some of your friends and family in all the best ways. It’s not the best icebreaker if you’ve just moved to town and want to get to know neighbors or colleagues, but it’s a great night in with your friends.


Gameplay is simple–each player gets a hand of answer cards and the judge of the round pulls a fill-in-the-bank card from the top of the deck. Each player passes their best answer to the judge, who selects their favorite from the group.


There are a few rules, but the game is simple and easy to adapt, making it a flexible option whether you have thirty minutes after dinner or an hour and a half for a full night of entertainment.


There are a ton of expansion packs to help mix up gameplay. Many are themed, so you can tailor your game to your particular interests. For example, they have a pop culture bundle with plenty of nostalgia from the 90s and 2000s, as well as a nerd bundle with sci-fi and tech.


Players: 4 to 20+

Ages: 17+

Game type: Humor

Complexity level: Simple

Style: Leisure

Length: 30 mins – 90 mins

Best for: Questioning the company you keep (yourself included)

If you love it: There are so many great spinoffs here - What do you Meme? or New Phone Who Dis

Bonus family friendly: If you really like the concept of these games and want to play a less inappropriate but still hilarious version with the family, try What do you Meme Kids or Apples to Apples


Happy Salmon

Happy Salmon is another game developed by the creators of Exploding Kittens. The name of the game comes from the “Happy Salmon” action where you lightly tap (unless you’re looking for playback from the last game of Catan you played) each others’ forearm. As the name suggests, be prepared for some silliness with this game.


Each player gets a stack of cards which include a co-op action to complete. Players shout which cards they have, looking for someone with a matching card to complete the action. Each completed action gets discarded, and the first player to get rid of all their cards wins. (Think a Lightning round version of physical Go Fish.)


This game is geared toward larger families and get-togethers and features fast-paced game play. A single game can be over in under two minutes, but feel free to repeat until your voice gets hoarse from shouting or your arm is tired of fist bumping and happy salmoning.


Players: 3-8

Ages: 7+

Game type: Humor

Complexity level: Easy

Style: Co-op

Length: 90 seconds

Best for: Silly shenanigans!

If you love this: Try Pit, another game with lots of screaming and shouting, and well, chaos


Secret Hilter

Secret Hilter is a great way to make you worry about what else your friends and family might be lying to you about on a daily basis. Warning: this game can result in broken friendships and one member of a couple sleeping on a couch – and yet, nobody can ever stop asking for one more game.  In this game, players are divided into two teams. The liberals have to try to hold the government together while the fascists try to make Secret Hilter reign supreme. Teams race to complete their tasks (policies) before the other team to win the game. For a twist, if the liberals can assassinate Hilter, they immediately win. 


As the teams compete, everyone lies about everything to further their own political and game goals. No one can be trusted.


Sounds like a great team building exercise for work, right?


You may not want to teach your kid at an early age that lying is standard operating procedure, so this game is recommended for adults.


Players: 5-10

Ages: 17+

Game type: Strategy

Complexity level: Medium

Style: Competitive

Length: 30 mins - 60 mins

Best for: The brainiacs that like mental puzzles and sabotage

If you love this: Well, honestly, there’s really nothing like this. Besides, you won’t like your family or friends enough to do anything with them ever again.



Taboo

Taboo is an older game that has remained popular for decades. This party game is easy to set up and play. For each round, a reader/clue-giver must get their team to guess the word on their secret card without using the word itself (similar to Codenames).


The catch? There are another five “taboo” words the reader can’t use that are often linked to the word they’re trying to get their team to guess.


Teams have until the buzzer sounds to throw out every off-the-wall guess they can.


Since you don’t need to mindmeld as much for this game, like Codenames, it can be a great party game to get to know new people.


Players: 4-10

Ages: 12+

Game type: Strategy

Complexity level: Easy

Style: Co-op

Length: 20 minutes

Best for: The word smiths

If you love this: Again, try Monikers, mentioned above and below, which combines this game with Charades and Codenames



Telestrations

Telestrations is a tabletop version of the telephone game. The beginning player randomly selects which word or phrase each player will draw by rolling a dice. Players then have sixty seconds to draw a representation of that word on the sketch pad, then all players pass their sketch pad to the next player. During each round, players alternate between drawing a word/phrase provided by the previous player or guessing a word/phrase from the drawing the previous player did.


Play continues around the table until each player receives their sketch pad back. Let the show and tell of increasingly ridiculous drawings and guesses begin.


Points are awarded based on favorite sketches, favorite guesses, and if the final guess matches the original word.


Players: 4-8

Ages: 12+

Game type: Drawing

Complexity level: Easy

Style: Co-op

Length: 30 minutes

Best for: The stick figure artists ready to make a name for themselves

If you love this: If you can find it, we’ve heard great things about Pictomania



Honorable Mention Board Games

These games are also popular recommendations we see within our community.


Azul is a strategy game best reserved for small groups of 2-4, ages 8+. The pieces are beautiful, and the goal is to earn points based on tiles and patterns you create, all the while strategically disrupting the plans of your opponents. It’s pretty easy to learn, so you won’t have to spend a lot of time explaining the rules and risk losing the attention of those that reluctantly joined game night.


Mexican Train Dominoes  is great for families (kids aged 8+) and parties. With a carrying case, this game can travel for family vacation or a weekend of camping.


Monopoly Deal didn’t make it to our top 10, but some people live and die by this card game! It’s quick, interesting, and competitive. For those that love Monopoly but don’t have 3 hours to play. Great for couples or small groups, and a favorite to take when traveling!


Monikers - combines three awesome games in three rounds - Codenames, Taboo, and Charades. A great party game we’re kinda surprised didn’t make the top 10, but it’s probably because not enough people know about it yet.


Munchkin is another card game for families looking to unwind with a night of silly family fun. Suitable for 3-6 players and kids 10+.


One Night Ultimate Werewolf is another game of hidden identities and strategy for fans who enjoy Secret Hilter but want to mix it up. Great for parties of 3-10 players and kids 10+.ican Train DominoesMexican Train Dominoes

Pandemic  is a great strategy game for the physician families who lived under a rock for the past few years. While it might be too soon for a lot of families, this strategy game is a great co-op option and the legacy editions  offer an immersive “TV show” feel of building game choices upon previous playthroughs. Suitable for 2-4 players, 13 years and up.


7 Wonders is a strategy game where you race other players to collect points as you build your civilization. This game is great for larger families, allowing for up to 7 players, ages 10+.


Sushi Go is a fun and fast card game that’s great to travel with. It’s a mix of strategy and luck, and gets competitive, but is always a fan favorite.


Terraforming Mars requires a lot of upfront setup and learning curve to understand, but it’s a popular strategy game with easy replayability. Just don’t start this one after dinner and hope to hit your normal bedtime as games typically last two hours. 1-5 players, 12+.


Wingspan completes our honorable mention list, but last certainly isn't the least. This beautifully designed game is great for strategists and bird enthusiasts alike as you build out your wildlife preserve. 1-5 players, 10 and up.



Board Games for Families With Very Young Children

If you have children under the age of 6, these are some additional games that are still enjoyable for both adults and children


Favorite board games for families with very young kids

Don’t Break the Ice - This is a classic. Don’t overthink it. Ages 3 and up.


Dinosaur Escape is a great option for young kids (ages 4+) that love dinosaurs and need an introduction to the world of board games. It’s cooperative, so no need to worry about infighting. You’re all in it together to win.


Eye Found it is a great seek and find game that will get even the littlest involved. We personally loved Busytown even better, but it looks like it’s hard to find that these days! Very quick to teach and play.


Pengoloo is our favorite way to play Memory. The craftsmanship is worth the price. Also check out it’s sister game, Gobblet Gobblers, a variation on the classic Tic Tac Toe. Also well constructed if you’re not into cheap plastic.


Pop-up Pirate is guaranteed to result in fun shrieks and surprises! Ages 4 and up.


Race to the Treasure is another cooperative game that will have you all in suspense (in a good way!). Parents and children alike will wonder if they can get to the treasure in time. This game involves some strategic thinking and logic, and is great for kids 4 and up.


Spot It is an excellent game that will keep everyone engaged - just have to be the first to find a match between the images on two cards. It can be played in minutes and kids can join as soon as they can talk! There’s so many versions of this game, depending on your kids’ favorite characters.


Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is another popular option for family game night for fans of Exploding Kittens and Happy Salmon. Kids 5+ and families of 2-8 members.



We’ll update this list periodically as you all suggest more! For now, enjoy!

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