Many board game hobbyists decry the continued popularity of classic board games. Nothing raises a gamer’s hackles faster than the question “Oh, you play board games? Like Monopoly?” But why do we get so defensive? No-one should be shamed for enjoying Monopoly, Cluedo or Scrabble. There’s plenty of room for all tastes in our wonderful hobby.
Modern alternatives to classic board games
If that question makes you squirm as well, it may not be from a place of elitism or gatekeeping. It can be sad to realise that there’s someone who hasn’t seen the beautiful, new landscape that is modern board games. We’ve come a long way since Monopoly.
But what is it about these old games that keeps them on store shelves? What do people enjoy about them? There’s a variety of reasons and we will use some of those to point you in the direction of great modern alternatives to classic board games. To all the Monopoly fans out there, this list is for you.
Board games to replace Monopoly
Let’s start with the big one: Monopoly. If you distill Monopoly down to its essence you’ll find a game about negotiation, building a network and expanding that network. There’s also a splash of area control and an element of building your own collection of cards to maximize your income. If you’re drawn to any of these elements, there are other games out there that you’re going to like.
Play this if you like tossing dice and collecting cash from your friends in Monopoly
A great place to start is with Machi Koro, which is like Monopoly in a number of ways but plays considerably faster.
In Machi Koro, you are responsible for building your own city. On your turn, you will roll one or two dice and receive rewards depending on what you rolled and what buildings you have. You may then purchase a new building for your city.
Machi Koro satisfies the desire to build up a bunch of cards that make it so rolling just the right number scores you a fistful of cash. Alternatively, you can build your city to prey on the other players, meaning if they roll certain numbers then they hand you their hard-earned money.
If you’re looking to play a simple game that lets you roll dice and take money from your friends, Machi Koro can take care of that for you, and it’s much faster than Monopoly. There’s even a Machi Koro sequel coming out a bit later this year that adds new rules and mechanics to the original game.
Play this if you you’re the one in Monopoly making a deal to stay in the game
If the negotiation is what you enjoy in Monopoly, allow me to recommend Sidereal Confluence: Trading and Negotiation in the Elysian Quadrant. I mean, it’s right there in the ridiculous subtitle. It’s a bit of a table hog and a little chaotic, but it’s a negotiation lover’s dream!
Sidereal Confluence is all about gut instinct and shrewd deals. The basics of the game are that you are trying to acquire different cards that allow you to convert resources in different ways, eventually converting those resources into points. It’s up to you to get just the right cards to create the most efficient engine possible. The trick is, some of the resources you’ll need can only be gained from other players, so you have to get what you need without giving too much in return. How do you do that? Negotiate and trade your way to victory. With up to nine players there can be a lot to keep track of, and it can be difficult to perfectly quantify what makes a good trade or what might be useful. All the same, Sidereal Confluence will let you negotiate and trade to your heart’s content.
Whether you’re a dice chucker with a penchant for being a thorn in someone’s side, or a clever swindler with an insatiable need to make a deal, Monopoly isn’t your only option.
Board games to replace Cluedo
This classic murder mystery game has a simple but satisfying deduction puzzle that is hindered by an unnecessary roll and move mechanic. Fortunately, deduction games exist with more interesting puzzles and streamlined rules that avoid some frustrating pitfalls that Cluedo falls into.
The Search for Planet X
Play this if you love collecting little bits of information and making deductions in Cluedo
The Search for Planet X is a pure logic puzzle with few bells and whistles save for a companion app. The app determines where the elusive Planet X is located and is the primary tool you’ll use to glean information. You’ll enter a number of sectors into the app, and it will tell you what’s in all those sectors, but not precisely which sectors they are in. The first to find Planet X will earn a load of points, but there are other ways to earn points along the way as well.
Periodically you will have an opportunity to publish papers, revealing some of the information you’ve successfully deduced… probably. It’s a great way to score some bonus points, but it also lets your opponents glimpse at all your studious research.
As a deduction puzzle, The Search for Planet X is pretty perfect. If that’s what you love about Cluedo then absolutely take a closer look at this game.
Play this if you are looking for the your next murder mystery after Cluedo
If you are more drawn in by getting together with friends to solve a classic whodunnit, Mysterium may serve you better. Mysterium doesn’t have a lot in common with Cluedo mechanically, but thematically it’s a near-perfect match.
Mysterium is a cooperative game where one player is the ghost of a murder victim and the rest of the players are psychic investigators performing a seance. The ghost’s job is to communicate the details of their murder to the investigators, and the investigators' responsibility is to interpret the mysterious visions the ghost unveils. The vision cards are the only means of communication that the ghost has with the other players.
Each round, the ghost will hand vision cards to the investigators. These beautiful cards are quite abstract and often have very whimsical but nonsensical scenes displayed on them. The ghost’s mission is to associate the scene on the card with a certain person, item, or location card in the center of the table. It might be that colors on the vision are similar to the person you’re looking for, or maybe there’s a similar shape that links the two. It’s up to you to figure it out. It can be tough to get on the same wavelength as the ghost, but when you do it’s a great feeling.
There are other wonderful games like Cluedo, but if deduction or a good ol’ fashioned murder mystery is what you’re in the market for, these games are the perfect place to start.
Board games to replace Scrabble
Scrabble remains a popular game and is still quite a good game. However, there are lots of other games like Scrabble all about making words with only the letters you have available. If you’re looking to show off your vocabulary, you’ve got options.
Play this if you love the challenge of forming words in Scrabble but want to collaborate
One fantastic little option is Letter Jam, another cooperative game. In Letter Jam, you and your teammates will make words for each other, which will then go face down in front of you. Your goal is to figure out what your word is one letter at a time. You and the other players will have one letter of your words in front of you so everyone else can see it but you can’t. Players will then take turns creating words from the visible letters, but if they use your letter you’ll have to try and deduce what it could be based on the letters you can see. Once you think you know what your letter is you can reveal your next one. You only have so many rounds, so adept clue-giving is a must if everyone is going to figure out their words.
There’s a great balance in this game between being clever with the words you use as clues, and not using words so hard that no-one is able to figure out what it is. The game is accessible to a broad range of players and easily enjoyed by almost anyone.
This particular word game is missing Scrabble’s competitive aspect, but if you revel in puzzling out the perfect word through letter constraints you’ll find a lot to love in Letter Jam.
Play this if you love Scrabble but want some control and strategy around the letters you get
If you need to prove that you can form words better than your friends, you might enjoy Paperback, a unique game that combines a word game with a deckbuilder.
In Paperback you begin the game with a deck of letter cards, drawing five each turn. On your turn, you will use your letter cards to form a word. Each letter card you use in the word will let you use its ability. It might give you money to purchase more letters for your deck, make it harder for your opponents to form words, or simply be worth points at the end of the game.
Paperback is an easy introduction to both word games and deckbuilding games and blends the two genres together nicely. It’s like Scrabble in that you will have a handful of letters that you are trying to squeeze value out of, but the deckbuilding is a welcome addition.