After a year-plus spent largely indoors and socializing through our screens, I’d like to think that I’m an expert in keeping myself occupied even on the most hum-drum days. I’m an avid reader, love giving time to my favorite hobbies, and bake my heart out when my sweet tooth calls for it. But admittedly, I fall prey to wasting time on my phone. So when I’m tempted to zone out in cyberspace and my other methods won’t cut it, I turn to my trusty list of the best games to play when you’re bored.
It’s the perfect plan—after all, it’s easier to resist the pull of technology when you’re prepared. No more squandering precious time discussing what to do or what to play and no more hopeless brainstorming sessions. Just an effective list of the best games to play when you’re bored. It’s that simple.
Featured image by Kristen Kilpatrick.
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Is it just me, or does anyone else’s inner kid come out in full swing during games? I’m as cool as a cucumber until a Jack hits the pile in Slap Jack—at that point, it’s every man for themselves and I’m the five-year-old rushing to get rid of her cards the fastest. Not only do I get competitive, but I laugh more than I ever do.
So next time you’re bored, instead of opting for social media, movies, or online shopping, suggest a high-quality, competition-inspiring, laughter-inducing game night. Don’t know what to play? This is the ultimate list of games to play when you’re bored—and I am writing this from experience.
25 Games to Play When You’re Bored
Bananagrams is by far and away my family’s favorite game (and IMO, wayyy more fun than Scrabble). Double Bananagrams, of course, is even better. With twice as many tiles as the original game, you can play with up to 16 (!!) players. I can attest that even with four players, Bananagrams is super fast-paced, and at times, stressful in the best way. This version is perfect for your next game night when you’re looking to step things up. After all, you know what they say: the bigger the bunch, the better the game.
Gamewright has a knack for inventing all of my favorite games (Slamwich, Rat-a-Tat Cat, and Sleeping Queens being the primary examples). With that round-up of fun and endlessly entertaining card games, you can bet my expectations of Sushi Go! were high. And good news: it delivered. The goal is to get the most points by coming up with the best combos of sushi cards. It’s fast-paced, creative, and honestly, the best bragging rights come with being named the sushi master.
If you’re hanging out with friends and have exhausted your list of things to do, break out this game. While plenty of similar games exist, I’ve found that Friend or Faux does the best job of going beyond the typical get-to-know-you questions to the deeper, more meaningful stuff. The cards will ask you to share personal stories and significant memories, and they even weave in a few questions that’ll have everyone laughing. If you value substantive and interesting conversations, this game is sure to get you there.
Similar to Friend or Faux, Priorities takes a quirkier, more “absurd” approach to getting to know your friends (and yourself) all the better. I’ve always believed that one of the best ways to learn more about a person is to ask about their favorite things, and Priorities takes that truth a step further. Cards will ask you to sort through random lists of everyday items and concepts (your girlfriend, climate change, sneakers, Alexa) and rank them in order of priority. I guarantee you’ll learn a few surprising things about your friends—and perhaps even yourself.
Do you love inside jokes, or does the concept infuriate you? Personally, I love it when I can say a single word, shoot a glance at a friend, and we immediately start bursting into laughter. Rabble takes that experience and amplifies it times 10. Divide your group into two teams, and through three rounds, you have to guess the words on your team’s Rabble Cards the fastest. With restricted clues, you can bet there’s going to be a lot of hilarious nuance involved.
Rummikub is by far my favorite game of late. I love the combination of critical thinking and strategy that this game requires while being fun and light-hearted at the same time. Even though at first glance it looks like a game for numbers people, I promise that anyone can play. Plus, sometimes the tiles you end up drawing do more for a player than any amount of skill or preparation ever could (which I have to remind myself every time that my boyfriend beats me!).
While a classic game of Jenga is always fun, as I have grown older, I find myself wanting something more from the game. As per usual, Pinterest read my mind and showed me customizable Jenga, in which you write a dare, a question, or a prompt on each Jenga block. That way, when a player pulls out a block, he or she then has to do whatever or answer whatever that block says to do or say.
If you’ve never heard of this game, you probably think that Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza is either a typo or accidental inclusion of a weird grocery list. When my mom came home with this game, my sisters and I looked at her like she was crazy, but when we got to playing it, it immediately became a favorite. Each card has either a taco, cat, goat, cheese, or pizza on it (plus, a few specialty cards), and each player goes in a circle putting a card face up in the middle. The tricky part is, you have to say taco, cat, goat, cheese, pizza in that exact order as each card goes down, despite what the card actually says. When the card put down matches the word that you’re saying at that moment, it’s a race to slap the pile.
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
You’re basically testing your brain to say a series of super random words in order while you’re reading those same super random words in a different order. Sounds lame? I agree, but when you’re playing it with someone like my dad, just watching him scream “goat cheese” when we are on “taco” is funny enough.
My boyfriend’s family introduced me to this game last summer and I immediately ordered it for my family to have as well. It’s a game of trivia where you’re asked different questions from categories titled “Who am I,” “What am I,” and “Where am I.” If you guess correctly, you get to roll the dice and move forward. If no one guesses correctly, the player reading the card gets to move forward.
When the power went out at my 21st birthday dinner party, this game plus a ton of candles saved the day. Each player has a number that they set in front of them and cards with everyone else’s number on them. Someone reads a prompt, everyone submits the card with the number corresponding to the person they think it relates to, and the person that gets the most votes wins the round.
This game is pretty similar to The Voting Game, but has a twist: the person reading the card is the ultimate judge. When that player reads a card, everyone else points at who they think is “most likely to” do or have done what that card says, but the final decision is up to the reader. The first person to win (or lose, not sure which to use here!) seven cards, loses the game.
Incohearent is one of the funniest games to exist, in my opinion. I am not sure that I have ever laughed so hard in a game, and that’s saying something. The person whose turn it is holds up a card to the rest of the players. The side of the card that the “it” person sees has a word or phrase on it. The side that everyone else sees, however, has nonsensical words/sounds that sound like the actual word and they have to guess what the card actually says.
This game is best explained with an example: all you and those around you see is “real agents sip gulls” and you are all shouting out that phrase in different accents trying to figure out what it means and I get to sit back and laugh until you finally figure out that it sounds like “relationship goals.”
Once you get this game going, you aren’t going to want to stop. Essentially, you play this game in pairs or small teams and try to get your partner to guess the “codename” on the table that corresponds to your card. Words don’t do the description justice, but a friend recommended this game and I can’t get enough.
On a rainy beach vacation, my grandmother taught me how to play Mahjong, a traditional Chinese tile game. She plays it every week with a group of friends and I was always curious what the attraction was. If you’re also confused as to why all of your friends are dedicating hours of their week to a game, you clearly haven’t played either. The pride you feel when you get “mahjong” is unbeatable. You play with four people, similar to Rummikub, but with more challenging (in a good way) rules.
My friends have been on quite the backgammon kick recently. I won’t even attempt to describe how to play Backgammon, because I will most definitely butcher the instructions. The game is a little complicated, but that makes it all the more fun since it is all about strategy. Yes, you can get lucky with what dice you roll, but luck is nothing without a strategy in this game.
Is it just me or have you been hearing about and seeing pickleball everywhere these days? Whether it’s an outdoor double date or a neighborhood tournament, everyone is raving about it—Austin even just announced a professional Pickleball league! It’s similar to tennis but played on a badminton-sized court with special paddles and a Wiffle-esque ball. I wouldn’t consider myself very athletic, but even I can get into this game.
I played this game while I was babysitting and immediately wanted to take it home with me. Everyone loves a game of Uno, but this card set has a twist: one card allows the players to flip all of their cards over to reveal an entirely different set of cards that they must continue with.
This game is a true test of your genius. You roll a set of dice that instruct you where to place seven wood “barrier” pieces, and then have to fit the rest of the colored shapes around the board in a sort of Tetris fashion. No matter how impossible it seems, there is at least one solution to the puzzle, but the fun comes when you look at other boards and realize you all solved it in different ways. Crazy to see how everyone’s brains work differently! It comes with two boards, so you race against the other player.
Who doesn’t love a classic game of Bingo? This game offers a twist to the traditional by using New York imagery throughout the game. It gives you all the big city feels, from the comfort of your home.
This game is a family favorite. When it’s your turn, you pick a card and read aloud a weird, but real, word and everyone else has to write down what they think the definition of that word is. The best players get super creative. When all of the answers are submitted, the player reads all of the definitions, including the real one, aloud and everyone must guess what the real definition is.
I know that a puzzle might not technically be a game, but to me, it’s just as fun. There is almost always a puzzle in progress somewhere in my house and it is a great activity to come back and forth to—whenever you can’t fit another piece, walk away and come back with fresh eyes. I love these gorgeous wooden puzzles from Liberty Puzzles (my aunt gifted them to our family) for the unique shapes of the pieces and the art that the finished product creates. Honestly though, interpret “puzzles” however you want.
Liberty Puzzles Florence
I play Word Cookies on my phone all the time and count that as a puzzle, so to each their own! Find one that is equally fun as it is challenging for maximum enjoyment.
BS is one of my favorite games. Ever since watching that iconic scene in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, I have loved playing it. The idea is that you have to play a certain card each round, whether you have that card or not, and then the rest of the players have to guess if you are lying or not. This is one of those games that will have everyone laughing at each other’s poker faces all night. I for one cannot tell a lie with a straight face and cannot tell the truth without a triumphant smile, so it makes things very confusing.
Fishbowl is the ultimate party game for when you have zero supplies. Each person in the group simply writes something down on a scrap of paper. It could be a name, a movie, a place, a thing, etc. and the game goes in a series of rounds. For round one, a player picks a scrap of paper out of the bowl and has to describe whatever is on it with words for their team to guess, like Taboo.
After guessing all of the words, you put them all back into the bowl and for round two you can only use one word as a hint, like Password. Round three is like charades, and round four is my personal favorite: you can only make sounds to get people to guess the word.
Gin Rummy is one of those classic card games that can entertain you and a friend for hours—pour yourself a glass of wine and play outside on a pretty day. I grew up watching my parents have intense 1-on-1 Gin matches. I secretly think that they told my sisters and me that we wouldn’t understand the game so we wouldn’t ask them to let us play, considering it is actually so simple and so fun.
Mexican Train is a great game for groups of all different ages. Everyone in the family, from your nine-year-old niece to your grandfather, can participate, have fun, and have a good shot at winning. The game is played with a classic set of dominos and players essentially use their dominos to build off of a designated center tile. This creates a sort of train that will wind all over the table (or the floor, if you end up needing the space) and leads to a race to place your last tile first.
This post was originally published on April 23, 2021, and has since been updated.
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