The 5 best board and card games you've never heard of

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Cards Against Humanity isn't the only indie card game out there anymore. We are in the middle of a board and card gaming renaissance with high profile successes like Exploding Kittens bringing new life to the genre. Outside of these smash hits, there are tons of other independent game-makers who make some of the best board and card games available, but have not yet found a regular spot during game night across the country.

So dust off your dining room table, invite some friends over, and pull up your chairs. We're about to make game night a whole lot more fun for you.



Punderdome is a relatively new game, releasing earlier this summer, but the concept behind it has been around for a while in the form of a live game show. The card game adaptation is simple. A judge flips 2 cards, a green and a white one, and every other player attempts to write a groan-worthy pun that connects them. The judge then selects a winner, who then becomes the judge for the next round.

The game, played in the right environment, can quickly devolve into a hilarious mess of anti-humor, cringe-worthy puns, and outright cleverness. In addition, the game is quick, and easy to pick up and play. While the game might not be for everyone, when it works, it becomes one of the best card games out there, especially in a party environment.

Perfect for: People who have a lot of friends who do improv or stand-up comedy and won't shut up about it, people who don't mind seeming stupid for a laugh.
Skip it if: You're stressed out by thinking on your feet, or feel pressure to try to be funny in similar games.

Betrayal at House on the Hill

Some of the most frustrating things about campaign-based board games like Arkham Horror are the facts that they have rules that can be hard to grasp for new players, and that even after players learn the rules, play sessions can last upwards of 4 hours.

Betrayal at House on the Hill aims to fix both of those problems by being an easy to learn campaign-based board game that takes about an hour or two to play. The basic concept of the game is that players explore a haunted mansion by drawing room tiles to create the mansion around them. Then, after a certain period of time, one of 50(!) different scenarios takes place, pitting players against each other in different ways. The game is endlessly replayable, and has a great mix of serious strategy, luck, and Scooby-Doo silliness. And with an expansion coming this fall featuring scenarios written by people like Pendleton Ward of Adventure Time, game designer Zoe Quinn, and Cards Against Humanity's Max Temkin, the game is looking to improve immensely.

Perfect for: People who are at least vaguely familiar with campaign-based board or tabletop games, fans of cooperative games.
Skip it if: You're looking for a truly quick pick-up-and-play experience. Betrayal at House on the Hill still does take a time commitment of an hour or two.

Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination

Machine of Death was a great collection of short stories all revolving around the same concept-- that a machine existed that could tell you, with 100% accuracy, how you would die. The book is highly recommended, but it also inspired a card game that is worth your time as well.

The card game is a cooperative one, where a team works together to assassinate a target creatively using the predictions that the Machine of Death gives you. The game gives you scenarios, and based on the likelihood of your plans, you roll to see if they succeed or fail. It's a fun, quick game that encourages lateral thinking. Despite its pick up and play nature, it actually has a lot in common with Dungeons and Dragons in the way that it encourages players to cooperate in telling a good story as opposed to winning or losing, which is kind of a special thing for a board game.

Perfect for: Lateral thinkers, people who aren't afraid to collaborate.
Skip it if: You have a strong type-A personality. You probably won't have much fun.


You guys remember Pandemic, right? That flash game where you try to destroy the world by creating a virus that kills everyone? Well, there's a board game version as well!

The twist, however, is that in the board game version, players are trying to stop the virus from spreading. The way players have to interact with each other and work together makes this game one of the best cooperative board gaming experiences out there today. Expansions to the game are plentiful, and often make the already-difficult game even harder, making cooperation even more necessary.

Perfect for: Groups of friends looking for a challenge.
Skip it if: You get mad at your friends easily. This board game can test friendships when things get rough.


Word games and card games go together like chocolate and peanut butter, and in that genre, Quiddler reins supreme. The game plays like a cross between a word game and gin rummy, oddly enough, with players racing to accumulate points by spelling words with the hands they are dealt.

It's easy to pick up, incredibly intuitive, quick to play through, and is truly a lot of fun no matter what kind of group you have gotten together (as long as the group can all read. Maybe this isn't the best game for, like, two year olds). 

Perfect for: Fans of Scrabble and other word games.
Skip it if: You can't read.

What's your favorite board or card game? Let us know in the comments! And if you're into tabletop gaming, be sure to check out this article where we explore how virtual reality is shaping up to change tabletop gaming for the better.

Published Jul. 27th 2016

Featured Contributor

RobotsFightingDinosaurs has been writing about games for 10 years and playing them even longer. Despite the millions of hours he's played across multiple gaming generations, his favorite games are The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild and Super Smash Bros. Robots has written for Polygon, Thrillist, Kill Screen, and more.


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