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The Best Board Games Under $50


Extended family paying a board game at home.
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Let’s face it, anything worth having is worth investing in, and quality time within your sphere of influence is essential. Board games are a powerful tool for connecting. So, here are the top board games on the higher end of the price list that won’t break the bank.

Best Co-op Game: Pandemic

The game box for Pandemic
Z-MAN Games
  • Two to four players
  • Ages eight and up
  • Play time: 45 minutes
  • Three expansions

It seems that the word “pandemic” has a bit of a negative connotation to it, thanks to 2022 and beyond. But Z-Man Games’ 2008 release named Pandemic is nothing to pass up.

This exciting game puts you and up to three friends on the frontlines facing off against four deadly viruses that are threatening the world. Each player will receive one of seven possible roles:  medic, scientist, dispatcher, researcher, contingency planner, quarantine specialist, or operations expert. With all the players working together, the goal is to discover all four cures before any of several game-losing conditions are reached.

Once you get the hang of the mechanics of the game and want to add in extra friends—or just spice up the gameplay, Pandemic has three expansions: On the Brink, In the Lab, and State of Emergency, as well as a wide variety of spin-offs.

Best Co-op Game


Pandemic

Pandemic is an award-winning franchise for 2 to 4 players. Find the cure to four world-threatening viruses in this co-op adventure.

Best Party Game: Ravine

The game box for Ravine
Stellar Factory
  • Three to six players
  • Ages 12+
  • Play time: 15-30 minutes
  • One expansion

Many of you might have fond memories of team-building exercises during meetings where you had to discuss what you would bring with you on a deserted island. Stellar Factory’s Ravine, for up to six people, puts players in that situation as plane crash survivors stranded on a desert island. As you bravely explore your surroundings, you will have to forage for food, craft a fire, and build shelters, all while dealing with the possibility of slipping into madness from the dangers that plague the island.

Ravine is a simple, non-competitive game that can break the ice in a small group setting or have a good time with friends or family because of some hilarious elements that take place with the madness cards. The game is well-made, with sturdy cards and tokens of nice wooden craftsmanship. When you are ready to venture into the greater dangers of the ravine, the game offers The Spirits Expansion, which increases the number of players to nine and adds new foraging, wreckage, madness, and night cards.

Best Party Game


Ravine

Survive the dangers of an island where you have unfortunately crash-landed. Forage, build a fire, and craft shelter in this co-op game. Just don’t slip into madness!

Best Single Player: Unbroken

The game box for Unbroken
Golden Bell Studios
  • Ages 13+
  • Play time: 20-30 minutes
  • No expansions

The next game in the lineup has a bit of controversy. During the Kickstarter campaign for Unbroken, Golden Bell Studios, who bought the rights to the game from the developer, stalled in funding in shipping the game, which angered many backers. The company was also accused of manipulating and taking advantage of content creators. These actions resulted in Golden Bell being banned from several board game sites and Kickstarter.

If you can look past the drama-filled backstory of Unbroken’s distribution, you will be able to take part in a unique and challenging solo-player experience. You play as the sole survivor of a failed expedition of your adventuring party. Survival and revenge drive you as you must face the same evils who eliminated your party armed with only items you can locate along your escape route. The game plays as sort of a “press your luck” challenge as you balance life-threatening and potentially life-saving decisions.

At the core, the creators developed a game that showed they genuinely cared to make an enjoyable experience for its players but was just managed poorly. Unbroken survives the drama and gives you a challenging, nail-biting experience but makes it incredibly fun.

Best Single Player


Unbroken

You are the sole survivor of a failed expedition to a dark, fantasy dungeon. Can you survive and get revenge?

Best Two Player: 7 Wonders Duel

The game box for 7 Wonders Duel
Repos Production
  • Ages 10+
  • Play time: 30 minutes
  • Two expansions

Back in 2022, Repos Production hit a home run with 7 Wonders, which won over fifty awards in just a few years. The company followed it up with our pick for the best two-player game: 7 Wonders Duel. As its name suggests, Duel is a battle between two players to acquire cards that provide resources or advance their military or scientific development in order to develop a civilization and, ultimately, complete wonders.

You are victorious in three different ways:

  • Advancing your military marker onto your opponent’s capital
  • Gaining any six of the seven different scientific symbols, or
  • Be the player with the most points at the end of the game

Duel is no lightweight of a game. It earned twenty-four awards and honors in a three-year period. The game has now acquired two expansions—Pantheon, which adds the aid of your civilization’s god or goddess, and Agora, which pits you and your opponent in a struggle for power in the Senate.

Best Two Player


7 Wonders Duel

Raise your military might, seek out scientific breakthroughs, and craft wonders of the world in this head-to-head game of civilizations.

Best Card Based: Fort

The game Fort unboxed and set up to play on a table
Leder Games
  • Two to four players
  • Ages 10+
  • Play time: 20-40 minutes
  • One expansion

This list has some serious titles, so let’s revert to our childhood and take a look at Leder Games’ light-hearted Fort. This game puts a new spin on Hyperbole Games’ SPQF. The premise is that you want to grow your list of friends, and so you work to build the coolest fort that will attract the most kids in your neighborhood. You do this by stocking up on two things kids can’t resist—pizza and toys! By doing this awesome stuff, you earn victory points, and at the end of the game, the player with the most points is the winner.

Fort is an easy-to-learn and very portable game for quick matches of feeling like a kid again. If you want to get something cute and cuddly added to the game, Fort has a Cats and Dogs Expansion.

Best Card Based


Fort

Attract the kids of your neighborhood with pizza and toys as you build a cooler fort than your opponents in this 2-4 player escape into being a kid again.

Best Obscure: Potion Explosion

The game box for Potion Explosion
Horrible Games
  • Two to four players
  • Ages 14+
  • Play time: 30-45 minutes
  • Two expansions

Did you ever want to experiment with mixing ingredients to create incredible concoctions? Horrible Games give you a chance to do it safely without all the mess in Potion Explosion. In the game, you are an alchemist student in Potions class, and it’s time for the final exam.

In the game, you take multi-colored marbles from the dispenser to craft potions that you can drink to aid you in your challenge. When two same-colored marbles touch, it creates an explosion, letting players take those marbles as well, adding them to their ingredient pools to make more potions faster. You win by earning the top spot as Student of the Year. Potion Explosion has two expansions—The Fifth Ingredient and The 6th Student—that are available from Europe on the Horrible Guild website.

Best Obscure


Potion Explosion

Become an aspiring alchemist student in a race to become Student of the Year in Potions class. Combine marbles to create colorful potions that will earn you points in this 2-4 player game.

Best for Younger Kids: Story Time Chess

The game Story Time Chess unboxed and set up to show the contents
Story Time Chess
  • One to two players
  • Ages three and up
  • Play time varies
  • Two expansions

Ah, Chess ! It is one of the most acclaimed board games of all time. There are many who see it for its elegance and strategy, while many others struggle to not only learn it but also teach it to a younger audience. Story Time Chess tackles this dilemma in a unique and fun way that can captivate anyone ages 3-103. Story Time Chess uses silly stories, vibrant illustrations, custom chess pieces, and a unique chess board to teach players the basics of Chess that isn’t dry or confusing. The game also has solo challenges that creatively teach each piece’s move sets.

Story Time Chess boasts itself as “The Most Awarded Board Game in History” as it has picked up the Toy of the Year 2022 Award, as well as many others, and has the backing of countless celebrities, television networks, and educators. Once your family has the basics down, there are two expansions:  Level 2-Strategy and Level 3-Tactics which are available on the Story Time Chess website.

Best for Younger Kids


Story Time Chess

Critically acclaimed Story Time Chess has gained recognition as Toy of the Year 2022 because of its unique and fun way to teach children as young as three the basics of Chess.