The 15 Best 3-Player Board Games Of 2021

There are plenty of board games out there for larger groups, but finding a game suitable for three people can be a little more challenging. Sure, many of the boxes say “for 2+ players” but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily riveting for a trio. Yet, the best 3-player board games actually feel like they were designed specifically for this smaller group size and are outrageously fun.

When shopping for a three-player-friendly game, the most important thing to look for is how the gameplay will be affected if you’re playing with an uneven group number, because sometimes it will change dramatically when the competition is more triangular than head-to-head. Of course, this can be somewhat hard to determine while shopping online. That’s why all of the games featured below have been vetted by Reddit gamers and Amazon reviewers alike, earning high marks for being especially great, even best played, with three players.

Whether you prefer a fast-paced game that’s done in less than 30 minutes or a complex strategy game that can last hours, there’s guaranteed to be an option here that will keep boredom at bay. The best part: Several of these games cost less than $25, so you might want to load up on more than one.

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A Competitive Tile Game With A Cult Following

Backed by more than 6,000 Amazon reviews, this Azul board game is a fan favorite for its ever-changing game play. The premise of the game — claiming and rearranging tiles — is simple yet each game builds in complexity. And in terms of it being suited for three players, one Reddit user noted, “The draft is better at three players in my opinion.” Plus, it’s the 2018 winner of the prestigious board game award, the Spiel des Jahres.

A helpful review: “Great strategy game. Very nice components, easy set up, plays quickly. Plays well as a two-player game, but really well as a three-player game. Simple rule set, but with more play it becomes apparent that it can be a very deep strategic game.”


A Classic Game That Word Geeks *Love*

This classic word game has been around for decades and yet it still feels fresh, in part because every game is different depending on the tiles you get — and how much wine you may or not be drinking while playing! For the uninitiated, the premise is to build words off of the existing words on the board, with different letters varying in their desirability. It’s a fantastic game for two, three, or four players, and the deluxe edition features a board that keeps the tiles in place, and the board can be rotated so each player gets the best view.

A helpful review: “One of my favorite games. This addition has the rotation assist with a turntable. Plastic squares keep letters in place. Fun for all ages.”


An Award-Winning Game That’s Infinitely Re-Playable

This colorful award-winning board game is deceptively easy to master, but requires clever strategy as play unfolds. The premise of this abstract game, designed by game guru Reiner Knizia, is to strategically place colored tiles on the hexagonal board and to block other people’s tiles. It’s designed for up to four players, but the intrigue doesn’t really change if you’re playing with just three players, just the area of the board that’s in use.

A helpful review: “Simple rules so can quickly get into the game, and the play is a good mix of strategy and luck of the draw. Works well with 2, 3, or 4 players. The game-play is kind of a combination of a puzzle and a strategy game.”


A Long-Playing Game For Those Looking For A Truly Immersive Experience

If you’re ready to hunker down and get into something, then Through The Ages: A New Story of Civilization is your game (expect it to take several hours). As the name implies, it’s a civilization-building game, with one reviewer noting that it has a “nice interaction among various game components: population, resources, military, buildings, events.” It’s designed for two to four players, but it topped several Redditors list for being an especially great three player game.

A helpful review: “We know it’s a long game – my first full play through (3 players) lasted over six hours – but the time flew by and I can’t wait to play again. Once you absorb the rules you find them to all be logical and I know that my second take will go more smoothly. […] All three players had fun throughout, bolstered perhaps by the fact that we couldn’t tell until the very end who was going to come out on top (me!).”


A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Style Game

For a gateway into Euro-style gaming, you’re not going to find a better pick than Above and Below. It has a “Choose Your Own Adventure” premise that’s really interactive, and as one reviewer noted, “You just want to explore more.” It’s designed for two to four players, but since it’s not a directly competitive game, it’s perfect for three players. One reviewer commented: “I honestly can’t see it losing anything by using three or four players instead of two.”

A helpful review: “This game has been liked by everyone that’s played it and it has a lot of strategies you can take. When you explore the cave you get random encounters from the “encounter book.” You have to make decisions and then roll to see if you succeed or not. It’s reminiscent to a dungeons and dragons style encounter – BUT WAY more simple and quicker.Once you learn the rules the game plays about 45 mins for two people, add a little for more players. […]”


A Fast-Paced Collaborative Game With Great Graphics

If your group of three tends to get a little too cutthroat, a collaborative game like Forbidden Island might be just what you need. Instead of trying to beat an opponent, this game requires that you work together as a team to accomplish a common goal: collecting treasure before the island sinks. It’s a quick game designed to last about 30 minutes. Anywhere from two to four players can play, but it might be especially fun with three players, with one reviewer noting, “With three, you can adjust the the difficulty to make it a better playing experience.” The fast-paced strategy game comes backed by more than 5,000 Amazon reviews, and if you end up falling in love with it, there are two more games in the Forbidden family to extend the game-playing fun: Forbidden Desert and Forbidden Sky.

A helpful review: “I like simple board and card games. I don’t get into the strategy and long-games like Catan and others. But this one I liked. It took a while to understand the rules, there are a lot. But I love playing collaboratively (and not competitively) and the game itself is different each time. Highly recommend for those of you who want to get into more complicated games but aren’t sure where to start. Graphics and pieces are pretty, strategy is challenging but not difficult, and you don’t have to spend 2 hours playing 1 game. You can finish a game in 30 minutes with 2-3 players, maybe a bit more with more players.”


A Strategy Game That’s Quick To Learn & Play

For card sharks and strategy game lovers alike, Sequence is the perfect hybrid game to pass the night away. It combines cards and chips — and a nice mix of offense and defense. It’s designed for two to 12 players, with larger even numbers lending themselves to teams, but for playing as a threesome, it’s every man for themselves. Although it’s worth noting that with three, some reviewers mentioned that the board does get full. That said, fans love this game for being easy to pick up, without having to labor over instructions.

A helpful review: “I really enjoy this game. It’s a rather simple game that’s based on strategy and little luck. It requires very little set up and you can typically get through a game in less than 30 minutes (with three players). Sometimes, it’s nice to have a simple game on hand that doesn’t take a lot of setup, I find these the easiest to play during the week or with friends that aren’t that into board games (more complex games don’t hold their interest). I Highly recommend it!”


A Game Similar To Settlers Of Catan But Faster

For Settlers of Catan fans who like the premise but think the game can feel never-ending, you need to explore 7 Wonders. It’s a civilization-building game but with a historical context (players must build one of the seven cities of the ancient world) and the box promises that one game takes 30 minutes. It’s designed for three to seven players, and it’s a fan favorite on Reddit, with one user commenting, “I love 7 Wonders at all player counts, but it is strategically deepest at 3.”

A helpful review: “First off, you need three players for this one. It doesn’t particularly work with just two. If you’ve got three or more though, this is a great way to pass an evening as everyone tries to build up their civilization and competes with each other…Unlike a lot of other ‘serious’ board games, 7 Wonders doesn’t take hours to setup and play. Each game can potentially be around a half hour or so, but every time you play it does feel different.”


The Most Bang For Your Buck: An Affordable Game With 5 Different Ways To Play

It’s true that Spot It! is technically more of a card game than a board game, but since it has a 4.8-star rating after more than 1,800 reviews on Amazon, it was too good not to include. And since it comes with five different ways to play — for less than $20 — you’re getting a lot of entertainment for your money. As the name implies, the main goal is to spot two matching objects faster than your competitors, so it’s a game of focus, observation, and quick reflexes. Anywhere from two to eight people can play, but fans love playing it with smaller groups to avoid confusion (especially if younger children are playing). It’s also a super portable game since it all packs up into a little tin.

A helpful review: “This game truly has everything. It is compact, simple, and so much fun. I play this with my sister and we end up playing for hours because it is so addicting.”


A Nostalgic Game That’s Great For All Ages

For many people, Sorry! is a game that evokes strong childhood memories, whether you loved it or thought it was downright ruthless. But playing it as an adult means you can lean into that ruthlessness and have a blast. That said, it’s a simple enough game to play with young children too (it’s designed for kids ages six and up), and some of the rules have been modified in this version to make it slightly easier. While it can accommodate anywhere from two to four players, three is really the sweet spot since game play can drag on with all the pawns in play. One note: This newer version of the game comes with three pawns per player versus the older version that came with four (a point of contention for some).

A helpful review: “This is memory flash back, from when I was a child. So playing with my kids is a joyful experience. I plan on having “game night” once or twice a week, with this and many other games.”


A Star Wars Board Game With Iconic Characters

Smuggle cargo and collect bounties in the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe when you play Outer Rim. Each player assumes a character and competes to carry out objectives while building a ship and recruiting crew. Whether it’s rigging a game or stealing supplies, it’s every scoundrel for themselves. Up to four players will get two or three hours of game play, but it seems to hit the sweet spot at three.

A helpful review: “Three players on this one. I could see four players getting a little crowded and possibly extending the game out a little past its welcome. Three player’s plays really good even with a short game…with lots of actions and things to try and accomplish before someone nabs the win.”


A Steampunk Game Of Cross-Country Strategy

Another reddit favorite, Ticket To Ride has you criss-crossing North American in 1900 to win a bet among friends. You must build your train routes between key cities by (hopefully) drawing and playing the required number of matching cards, with longer high-scoring routes requiring more cards and, therefore, more risk. Another catch? Someone else might be after the same line: strategy and good-natured ruthlessness are key. The principles are simple, but the complexity increases with every player. Two to five people can play with an average game lasting less than an hour.

A helpful review: “It is a good family game that requires some strategy. Game doesn’t take too long, sweet spot for number of players is 3 to 4, with 3 being ideal (shorter game, but enough players to be interesting).”


A Cooperative Board Game That Reviewers Are *Obsessed* With

With a near-perfect Amazon rating, shoppers deeply identified with this cooperative board game, and the reviews are hilarious. Two to four players form a team of specialists that must work together to fight infectious diseases, with each member leveraging their unique expertise as new outbreaks become progressively worse. Be warned: There’s only one way to win, but three ways to lose — and you win or lose together. May the odds be ever in your favor.

A helpful review: “After opening this box for the first time, my roommates and I spent countless nights trying to save the world. As frustrating as it is to lose to a piece of cardboard, it is equally, if not more, gratifying to conquer your imaginary microscopic adversaries. There are so many occasions where you end the game in despair wishing you had just one more turn. But when you win, you come away feeling like the hero of an apocalyptic movie.”


An Award-Winning Fantasy Board Game Worth The Splurge

Although it’s expensive, serious Amazon gamers say Gloomhaven is “worth every penny,” with the ratings and awards to back up its legendary status. Several redditors signed off on it as a good three-player game specifically. “Gloomhaven is definitely best at 3, 2 is not enough, 4 is slightly too many,” one user noted. Essentially Dungeons and Dragons in a board game format — no 12-sided dice required — this Euro-style game has players assume a character along with their latent abilities to cooperatively embark on campaigns requiring strategy and combat. It can be played by up to four, with an average of one or two hours per game and over 200 hours of innovative play, and is also an excellent solo game.

A helpful review: “Massive amounts of fun. This game is big enough to keep the most avid solo gamer busy for months, while still being great for 2 or 3 players (shining in lower player counts).”


A Highly Strategic Board Game That Fans Call “A Masterpiece”

An unexpected reddit favorite, Agricola was repeatedly mentioned as a solid contender for a fun and relaxed three-person game. Think of it as an analog version of The Sims: you’re an old-world farmer who must build a homestead and compete for resources against your neighbors. From having children for extra help around the farm to gathering enough food to feed a growing family, success or failure can be critical. Cards contain actions and advantages, and the player who can best capitalize on the moment stands a better chance with every harvest. Fans loved the unexpected complexity and theme, especially calling out the solid components including carved wooden figurines. Play it with a group of up to five, or establish civilization by yourself in anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.

A helpful review: “It takes a few 2 hour play throughs to really feel comfortable with the game. After that it is amazing. Tons of replay value. This game is for people who like board games, have at 3 or 4 people to play, and three hours to spend playing it…The game ebbs and flows with anxiety and exhilaration as your plans become dashed in some parts but somehow [flourish] in other ways. The cards add a bit of randomness and inventiveness to your plans as you compete with other players to get the resources you need to make your farm flourish. Great game!”

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