There are probably as many board games out there in the market as there are stars in a night’s sky. From Monopoly to Risk to Scrabble to even Chess, there’s a scratch for every sort of itch if you look properly. War games, mind games, fantasy games, if you can put a word to it, chances are it probably exists.
However, once you start looking for board games designed specifically for smaller audiences, the search does become trickier. And in our case, specifically when your audience consists of just 3 players.
Sure, lots of board games such as Snakes and Ladders all the way to Pandemic can be scaled down easily to accommodate fewer players but this is often done by way of sacrificing game dynamics, causing smaller audiences to lose out by having a watered-down experience.
This obviously isn’t an ideal situation. We’re looking at you with your trio of friends or you with small families!
Regardless of who you are, if you resonate with what we’re getting at, we invite you to read on to check out our little list below for some of the best 3 player board games out there in the market.
- 1 Best 3 Player Board Games
- 2 A Buying Guide to 3 Player Board Games
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
Best 3 Player Board Games
Mindware Qwirkle Board Game
More than suitable for any kid or adult, this tactical game will force every player to keep their thinking cap on. Don’t let that scare you though.
The rules are more than simple: your goal is to build unbroken lines of tiles that are matched either by shape or color with more complex variations earning more points than simpler ones.
Best yet, it’s a fantastic way to train your mind in a range of key areas such as strategic planning, pattern recognition, and planning.
What’s better than a game where you can have fun while learning something new? You should also note that the quality of the tiles are top-notch as they are machine carved from some the best wood out there.
So, if you store it properly in its included canvas bag, this board game will easily last you a lifetime.
Dominion: 2nd Edition
If tiles aren’t your thing, all is fair. Perhaps a good card building game might be up your alley. This is where Dominion steps in, your go-to option for any group looking for an engaging, fantasy-like board game to immerse themselves with.
Players take on the role of a monarch who has at their command, a little kingdom with a modest population spread across the land. The goal is simple: get bigger. You travel throughout the nations, across freeholds and fiefs and unknown lands in order to bring everything under your Dominion and banner.
The catch? The other players are aiming to do the same thus it becomes a competitive race to rule.
While this may sound a little intimidating especially for younger audiences, we assure you that with its detailed instructions and manual, anyone can pick up this game after minutes of learning.
And don’t worry about Dominion taking out large chunks of your day. The average game lasts for just 30 minutes!
On the flipside, if you’re finding the game too simple, you’ll be able to find a multitude of expansions to add further mechanics and complexity to your game.
So maybe the thought of medieval Europe doesn’t suit you. Maybe you prefer the comforts of modern life. Fast-moving cards, flying planets, air-conditioning.
Well, there’s nothing wrong with that at all, in fact we’ll do you one better. We’ll point you in the direction of the future: Gaia Project. Set in the distant sci-fi-like future, players are teleported to an era where galactic civilizations and exploration are the norms of the day.
Instead of being Kings and Queens, each player will now be the leader of one of fourteen unique factions whose sole goal is to expand their civilization across the cosmos. From gas giants to desert-like planets to savage lands dominated by forests, all will be within reach of your fingers.
Now let’s get real. This game can be particularly complex and lengthy, lasting two hours on average per game, so we’d suggest this title for older audiences or at least, the more patient among you!
Maybe the idea of a two hour-long game is a bit daunting and that you might rather prefer something far more casual. In that case, Splendor would be a fine pick.
Suitable for up to four players, this game is fast-paced and intuitive where players strive to gain money and fame throughout the lands in order to dominate global trade networks.
Though you will be raking your brain to concoct the finest strategies in this historically detailed world, the rules are fairly simple and can be learnt in minutes: get the most gems and gold possible and appeal to the wealthy to gain prestige in order to secure victory.
Splendor is also undemanding in terms of time, with games lasting around thirty minutes at most unlike alternatives like Gaia Project.
Looking for a thematically relevant board game in these tough and trying times? Pandemic will put you straight into the hot zone as a member of an elite disease taskforce whose sole goal is to save the world from ensuing epidemics.
Unlike the other games above, cooperation and open communication is vital in Pandemic. Players, instead of competing with each other will be competing against the clock to secure victory against deadly pathogens.
Furthermore, you will be able to take on one of five unique roles including medic, scientist, researcher, dispatcher, and quarantine specialist each coming with their own mechanics and nuances that keep Pandemic’s replay value high up there.
The average game will last for around forty-five minutes but expect this to vary considerably based on how well (or how badly) players work as a team!
Thames & Kosmos Ubongo
Ubongo! is the ideal pick for you if you’re looking for plain, simple fun that isn’t too imaginative or out there as far as themes and settings go.
It is a classic puzzle game that may remind players of Tetris that rewards quick action and geometric puzzle solving in the form of precious gems of all shapes and colors.
The player who solves the puzzle the quickest will yell Ubongo! and then proceed to grab a random gem from the bag. And after nine rounds, players count their gems and those with the most valuable collection wins the game.
Though this can be a mentally challenging game; the rules are simple: match each geometric shape of equal-sized squares to your puzzle panel as fast as you can. Better yet, this game comes in two levels of difficulty which you’ll be able to scale as per your preferences and skill levels.
And don’t worry about the game going stale. With over 430 different puzzles and 36 puzzle boards, Ubongo! will entertain groups for months on end if played properly.
Going back to an era long before the dawn of civilization, Stone Age pits players against each other in a time where our distant ancestors once roamed the prehistoric lands in search of food, shelter, and home.
As the leader of one of many tribes, your aim is to prosper through strategic action by collecting key resources, researching technology, building structures, and just being lucky. Don’t let the sound of building a new civilization from scratch get to you though.
With games lasting thirty minutes on average, Stone Age is by far one of the kinder games when it comes to sucking out time from your day!
Sitting as one of the more recent games on our list and providing a terrifying experience for up to five players, Horrified throws players into a cooperative board game of a nightmare where the most infamous of monsters are racing to get you.
From Frankenstein to Dracula to The Mummy, players will have to work together to survive and save their village.
The only way forward is by rolling the dice and being lucky on your own path. It comes in various levels of difficulty that can be scaled to any player base and takes only an hour at most to get through a single game, so it doesn’t require much from the end of the player.
The mechanics too are fairly simple and are explained more than adequately in its provided game manual!
Catan The Board Game
By far the most recognizable title on our list is Catan, a tried and tested game that has enamored audiences of all ages from every walk of life across the globe.
Players here take the role of settlers in search of home in the rich lands of Catan where resource management skills are key. Gather settlers and control swathes of land to progress but be cautious of the robber or the sneaky fellow player who may seek to impede your progress.
The only way forward is getting bigger!
Ideal for groups of three, BLOKUS will challenge players to use every inch of their brain to claim victory in this strategy-oriented puzzle game. Each player is given 21 pieces of a unique color and the mission is to both gather the most amount of territory while defending your own.
And to make things complicated, it’s a given that you have to block out your fellow opponents from doing the same in order to win. Think of it like a game of UNO! Where victory is only attained once you use up all your pieces.
Or at least, victory is given to the player who has the least number of pieces at the end of the game!
A Buying Guide to 3 Player Board Games
Nothing is more important than this when it comes to finding the ideal board game for your trio. We suggest you have a long discussion on what your group is interested in before making any purchases. If you are history buffs, games like Splendor will do just right for you.
However, if you’re looking for something more thematically neutral and are more inclined to puzzle solving, BLOKUS may be the better pick.
Some boards games are kinder on the clock than others (and by extension, those with less patience) and play directly into the pacing of the game. Options like Gaia Project are slow burners that can stretch for hours whereas Qwirkle sits on the totally opposite spectrum with rapid gameplay.
Again, this panders to the needs of your player base so do check on this prior.
Each board game has its own set of rules (i.e. mechanics) which gives it its own distinct feel. Some may be designed to pit players against each other while others ask players to work together in order to survive. And this obviously affects how each game feels.
So, we suggest you both do your research before taking the plunge or visit your local board game café to give it a try.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to get a board game that is specifically designed for 3 players?
Not usually. Many board games can be adjusted to suit 3 players so long as they are designed for more than two people (which means games like Chess isn’t an option).
Of course, while all options on our list will be more than adequate for trios of players, each game may feel slightly different with differing numbers of players. Games may feel longer or more complex with a larger number of individuals for instance.
Again, this isn’t a problem if you stick to our list, but should you search elsewhere, we highly recommend you check on this.
Are there any pros to playing board games?
Absolutely! Not only will you have a fun time and deepen your bonds with either friends and family, but board games are fantastic ways of improving a whole host of mental skills from spatial recognition, puzzle-solving and planning abilities which only serves to benefit a person’s life!