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Looking for the best three-player board games to check out this year?
Sure, computer and mobile games are a fun way to spend your days off. Scrolling through your social media accounts is also an option. But don’t you think there are more valuable things you can do instead of mindlessly using technology?
Board games are great alternatives, and they don’t just kill time. There is plenty of research to support the fact that playing board games provides tons of benefits, one of which is increasing your happiness.
In this article, we give you the 15 best three-player board games to check out and play this year. We chose them based on the positive feedback they received from satisfied customers, as well as their ability to provide you with the best board game experience.
But before we get to the list, we would like to share some insights regarding the benefits of playing board games. Let’s start!
Benefits of Playing Board Games
It strengthens relationships and family bonds.
We are all busy and have lots of things to do. Mom and Dad are busy at work and keeping the household clean and peaceful, while the children have to go to school and prepare for their future. Our friends are not available all the time because they have things to deal with as well. So, what better way to get away from it all by coming together and spending a few hours with the people you love?
Board games provide a way for families and friends to spend quality time with each other. Whether you work as a team to complete a game or compete with each other to declare a winner, board games bring family, friends, and even acquaintances closer together.
It improves overall brain function.
Board games are a great way to improve your strategic thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. They also improve your memory retention, clarity, focus, and concentration. Basically, they exercise your brain and keep it working.
Study shows that playing board games stimulates the areas responsible for complex thought processes, such as the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Ultimately, it develops your cognitive skills, helping you fight the risk of age-related mental illnesses and cognitive decline.
It reduces stress and increases happiness.
Most people play board games to relieve their stress from work, school, and other factors. These people have chosen a great way to relax and unwind, because board games are proven by science to be great stress relievers.
According to experts, playing board games can result in the production of endorphins in our bodies. Endorphins are the “happy hormones” that help reduce stress and anxiety, making us feel happier and less worried.
It facilitates creativity and enhanced self-confidence.
Board games can also be helpful for people who lack self-confidence. This is because playing instills in them a greater sense of both individuality and belongingness. When they feel their skills are being valued, they feel more confident and appreciated.
15 Best 3-Player Board Games to Play
This is an exciting pastime for friends or families who like challenging strategic games. It comes with a folding game board, two (2) decks of Sequence playing cards, 135 playing chips, and a complete guide on how to play the game. The team or player to first complete the required number of five-card sequences is the winner of the game.
Sequence is a hybrid of a board game and a card game. The board consists of two decks of cards laid out in a 10×10 pattern, excluding the eight jacks that play a very important role, which we will discuss later. There are four empty corners that serve as free spaces for the players to use.
The players are given cards to use for their gameplay. They pick one of these cards to indicate where their chip will land on the board. As the game continues, the goal is to complete five-sequence rows, columns, or diagonals until they reach the required score.
We mentioned earlier that the jacks are very important. This is because they determine your strategy. Among the eight jacks, four are two-eyed jacks, which serve as wild cards, while four are one-eyed jacks, which serve as anti-wild cards. In addition to choosing your space wisely, you must learn how to utilize your jacks cleverly.
Sequence may be played by two to twelve individual players, but it can only consist of two to three teams. This means that if there are more than three individual players, they can be divided into groups—so this is the perfect game for three players or three teams!
2. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is the best board game for those who like adventures and travels. The goal is to collect matching train cards and then claim railway routes that connect the cities of North America. For every route you gain and mission you complete, you earn points that can increase your chances of winning.
The game comes with a board map of the North American train routes, 240 colored train cars, 110 train car cards, 30 destination tickets, 5 wooden scoring markers, 1 Days of Wonder Online access number, and a guide for the rules of the game. It is designed to be played by two to five players, ages eight years and older. Playing time is around 30 to 60 minutes, depending on each player’s strategy and technique.
Each player is given four train cards and three destination ticket cards at the start of the game. Each of these cards shows a pair of cities that you need to connect through railway routes. To claim a route, you have to match your train cards to the number of spaces included in the route. If you do not have the specific color card you need, you can use the locomotive card, which represents any color.
When playing this game, you need to monitor the length of your routes. The player with the longest continuous path earns bonus points at the end. This means that although you have connected your cities and completed your goals, another player might still win if he has the longest route.
You also have to keep an eye on your destination tickets. While you may earn additional points by completing them, you also earn negative points if they are left unfinished at the end of the game.
Catan is the best civilization game for those who are fond of trading goods, building societies, and settling homes. It takes you back to the era of discoveries, when people went through long voyages and searched for lands to start civilized societies. However, you are not the only pioneer—your fearless opponents are discoverers, too, and battling you for supremacy.
The board is composed of hexagonal terrain tiles that make up Catan Island, complete with mountains, fields, forests, pastures, and hills. You start the game by placing two small houses on the spaces in between the terrain hexes. These serve as the starting point of your settlement.
Each terrain tile contains a number. You roll the die to see who gets to collect resources. The players with settlements adjacent to the terrain that the die indicates receive resources from that specific terrain. The resources include bricks (represented by the hills), lumber (forests), ore (mountains), grain (fields), and wool (pastures).
You need these resources to expand across the island and build roads and new houses or settlements. You may use also them to upgrade your areas into cities. If you would like to build something but do not have the right resources, you may trade with your opponents to complete your goal.
Settlements are worth one point, while cities are worth points. Keep on building them until you reach the end of the game, and the player with the most points shall be declared the victor.
Catan is designed for three to four players, ages 10 years and older. It has around a 60-minute average gameplay, but that doesn’t mean you cannot go longer. You have plenty of time to think through your strategy.
Azul is a tile-building game for people who like crafts and mosaics. Players compete to gain the highest score by claiming tiles and artistically arranging them to create the most beautiful designs. The game is designed to test your strategic skills and sense of aesthetics.
The game is quite simple, since you only need to draft tiles. But you have to be strategic and cautious. Players have to take turns when adding titles, so your opponent might get the tiles you’re eyeing before you do. You have to play in a way that will turn the odds in your favor. At the end of the game, the player with the most number of points wins.
Speaking of points, as already mentioned, you earn points based on how you design the tiles on the board. For every new tile placed adjacently on the other tiles, you gain one point. If you want to earn extra points, make sure to collect sets that have the same colors, or alternatively create a particular pattern with a wonderful design. Note, however, that for every tile you take but don’t use, points are deducted.
Azul may be played by two to four players, and is suitable for anyone who is eight years old and above. The playtime is around 30 to 45 minutes, so if you have a lot of time to spend, it can be a good game for you and your family.
5. Spot It!
Spot it! is a pattern recognition and visual perception game for those with great reflexes and observational skills. The manufacturer claims that it hones focus and concentration, improves sense and perception, and develops fine motor skills. It includes 55 circular cards, with each card featuring eight symbols.
The rules are simple: You only need to look for an identical symbol between the cards and shout the name of that symbol out loud. The first player who shouts the name gains the point for that round. The goal is to collect the highest number of cards once the game reaches its endpoint.
Note that the symbols on the cards are of the same shape and color, but they may differ in size. This means you need to have a sharp eye and fast reflexes in order to win this game. You also need to learn the names of the symbols (which can be found in the game’s manual) to get the point. If you say a different word (e.g., calling a lightning bolt “Harry Potter”), you lose the chance to win that round.
Spot it! is a wonderful game to play with the kids. In addition to the fact that it is interactive, fun, and thrilling, it is designed to develop players’ cognitive skills. It is equally interesting and challenging for kids as it is for adults and the elderly—just the game for the whole family.
If you ever dreamed of becoming a medical hero, then this board game is the right one for you. Pandemic is a cooperative board game that tasks you and your disease-fighting team with healing the world and saving humanity. In this game, you gather resources and handle infections, outbreaks, and epidemics.
In Pandemic, you act as a member of an elite disease-fighting team that has to keep four deadly diseases from infecting people. The game board illustrates hotspots representing Earth’s most populous areas, and in these areas you need to choose actions that can contribute to the team’s goals. The actions include traveling between cities, treating infected patients, discovering a cure, and building a research station.
Note that you can only do one of these actions for every turn. This is why it is very important that the whole team plans its strategy before taking a move. For instance, the one who takes the role of the operations expert can do all the tasks related to building the research stations, while the scientist might takes only the cards needed for finding the cure.
When playing this game, you have to imagine that there is a real pandemic and that time is running out. You have to find the cure and prevent more infections before the diseases spread beyond recovery. The only way to win the game is to cure the four diseases. You and your team lose if you run out of time.
Pandemic is designed to be played by two to four players, with 45 minutes of gameplay. The rules may seem overwhelming at first, but once you get the hang of it, everything becomes much easier.
Scrabble is the perfect fit for individuals who love intellectual games involving words. It is one of the most popular board games of all time, and never gets old. It was created in the year 1938, when Alfred Mosher Butts developed the game.
The Scrabble game we chose is a product of Hasbro Gaming, the largest toymaker company in the world. It comes with a game board, 100 wooden letter tiles, four title racks, a drawstring letter bag, and a guide for the rules of the game. The company claims that their materials are made of high-quality tiles and wood.
Classic scrabble is simple and easy to understand. First, all players should draw one letter tile from the bag. Whoever gets the letter “A” or the closest to it goes first in creating the first word. Each player should then be given seven tiles. Once the first player creates his first word, the other players should continue creating words, one after the other.
A player can decide whether to place a word on the board, exchange tiles, or pass his turn to wait for a letter that can complete a high-scoring word. If you decide to place a word on the board, you must draw replacement letter tiles from the bag, equivalent to the number of tiles you used. Each letter has a corresponding score, and you need a pen and paper to record your scores. At the end of the game, the player with the highest score wins.
There are many ways to play this game. You can opt to play it on your own to develop your tactical skills and strategy, or you can compete with friends to improve your vocabulary. You may even play in teams to come up with high-scoring words. Whatever you choose, Scrabble is a fun and interesting game that will challenge your wits and strategy.
8. Forbidden Island
Forbidden Island is the most suitable cooperative board game for those who dream of become treasure hunters and adventurers. As a team, your task is to complete a do-or-die mission to conquer and seize four sacred treasures from the ruins of the forbidden island. You and your team have to work together and find the treasures before the island sinks and you get swallowed up in the abyss.
The board consists of 24 island tiles, some of which have the treasure symbols. You need to land on these tiles to get the treasure. All players must follow a sequence when moving their pawns around the island. During each turn, you have three options: move, shore up the flooded tiles, or share cards with your teammates. Other cards are also available, such as the “helicopter lifts,” which can take you to another part of the island, and the “sandbags,” which can shore up any tile.
After completing your move, you take two cards from the treasure deck. You also need to check the current water level and draw the indicated number of cards from the flood deck corresponding to this level. Once a tile or part of the island is flooded, it is considered sunk and no longer part of the game.
There is only one way to win the game, and that is to collect all of the treasures before all the islands sink, make your way to Fool’s Landing Island, and then draw a helicopter card. Other players may have to sacrifice their game lives to achieve this goal, but what matters is that one player survives and completes the mission. This means that the team really needs a good strategy to find ways to slow down the sinking of the islands while collecting the items.
This game develops your strategic thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills. It is recommended for those who are new to cooperative games. If you are looking for a board game to play with your kids while developing their mental skills, this is a great option.
Photosynthesis is an excellent option for friends or family members who are fond of plants and nature. This game calls itself the “green strategy board game,” and players compete to plant and shape trees while cultivating crops and seeds and building a strategy.
Your objective in this game is to complete the life cycle of your trees. There are two phases involved—the photosynthesis phase and the life cycle phase. In the photosynthesis face, you need to seek sunlight to grow your trees. The sun takes three full revolutions (around the board), so you have to be careful in placing your seeds, as some trees might block your plants, and this will keep you from earning light points. Light points are essential once you reach the second phase.
In the life cycle phase, you can use your light points to buy, plant, and then grow trees. You can even use them to collect other trees, upgrade your trees, or harvest large trees. The closer you get to the center of the board, the more points you get to reach your goals. When the game ends, the player with the highest score is the winner.
What makes this board game outstanding is its beautiful graphics and realistic gameplay. It isn’t as simple as it sounds—you need to have a solid strategy so the growth of your trees won’t be interrupted.
10. Through the Ages
Through the Ages is a classic civilization-building game perfect for those who crave more complex rules. It is not recommended for beginners or non-gamers, even though its rules and guidelines may seem to be easy to understand. Experts agree that beginners should play other less-complicated games first before going deep into this one.
In this game, you play the role of tribe ruler, with the goal of expanding civilization across lands and cities. From a small farm and mine, you have to accumulate points and gain resources to build cities, governments, and world wonders. You need to strategically take advantage of the technology to strengthen your power and economy while protecting the territory you already own.
In addition to strategy, this game is a test of your deceptive and persuasive skills. You have to enter into wars and popularize your name through politics. All players may have to fight over cities and properties. You lose if you fall behind, so always keep your defenses up.
This board game is designed for two to four players, ages 14 years old and above. Most people say that it is best for two to three players since that number of players allows you to create more effective strategies. There are also more chances of winning and a better likelihood of learning new skills and improving critical thinking.
Dominion is considered by expert gamers to be one the best kingdom-building games ever made. It is great for three players, but would also make a good fit for solo, couple, or cooperative gaming. Furthermore, its rules and mechanics are ideal for first-time board gamers.
Your goal is to build the largest kingdom by dominating all the other areas and accumulating all the assets you can (hence the name “Dominion”). You race with other players who have the same goal, and the one with the greatest collection of land, properties, and wealth at the end of the game is the winner.
This game is a test of strategy, creativity, and tactical thinking. Although the rules are unchanging and your goal remains the same, the game has high replayability. There are thousands of card combinations and endless strategies you can use to make each game more unique and exciting.
Dominion has a lot of expansion sets available on the market. If you ever get bored with this version, you can always try these expansion sets and other versions to add more thrill to your bonding time with your friends or family.
Agricola makes an excellent choice for a set of friends who love farming, gardening, crop production, and agriculture. It might be more suitable for couples or two-player gamers, but it still passes as a brilliant option for three-player gamers.
In this game, you take the role of a farmer living with your spouse in a small, wooden shack. Your goal is to make a living and support your family by planting, growing, and harvesting crops. You are given two actions per turn, and some of the things you can do are to build fences and collect clay.
This board game has around 120 minutes of playing time, particularly for beginners. It can be played by one to five players, which makes it a nice choice for solo or cooperative gaming as well. We specifically recommend it for those who love Monopoly, as it functions in the same way, only in an agricultural setting.
Splendor is for our merchant gamers—those who love buying and selling stuff, just like in Monopoly. In a nutshell, it is a chip-collecting and card-developing game where players (who play as merchants) purchase and collect gem mines, transportation modes, trade routes, and shops and storage spaces, with the aim of acquiring the most number of points in order to win.
The game is pretty straightforward. You only need to accumulate the greatest number of points by acquiring the most properties and attaining the largest collection of wealth. However, the gameplay itself can be tricky, as you need a handful of effective and creative strategies. You need to optimize your tactics and utilize your resources well in order to win.
Set during the European Renaissance era, this board game is very thematic and provides a feeling of nostalgia. You may not have lived during the Renaissance period, but you can still relive history through the game and its well-designed artwork and components.
In addition to merchant gamers, we recommend Splendor for those who want to be in the business industry. It may be a good starting point for children who have potential in doing business and making sales.
14. Gaia Project
If you love playing galactic-themed board games, Gaia Project may be the right fit for you. It is a game for one to four players where the goal is to conquer and colonize the galaxy by taking command of the 14 factions. Each of these fractions has its own special strengths and abilities.
At the start of the game, you have to decide which of the 14 available factions you will lead. After that, you need to find the planet or environment where your chosen faction will feel most comfortable. You need to do this while accumulating points in order to dominate the whole galaxy. The player with the highest number of achievements at the end of the game wins.
Gaia Project is supposed to be an expansion of Terra Mystica. However, it did not live up to this function, as it has quite different mechanics from the original game. Nevertheless, it has received its fair share of positive praise in the gaming community, and many applaud its unique, futuristic theme.
15. Lords of Waterdeep
Lords of Waterdeep is an immersive board game for players who like adventure. It is set in Waterdeep, the great city and jewel of the Forgotten Realms. Players take the role of kingdom lords, and this game is a mixture of adventure, politics, and battles for fame, popularity, and wealth.
More than that, however, this game is a test of your critical and strategic thinking skills. While there are assets you need to earn by winning points, there are also those you can only attain through trickery and deception. The wiser a player is, the more chances they have of winning.
This game is designed for two to five players, but consumers agree that it is best played by two to three players. It has around 60 minutes of playing time, with high replayability. Each individual game will provide you with a unique playing experience.
Final Thoughts on 3-Player Board Games
Through this post we hope you were able to discover the three-player board game that suits you and your friends’ tastes and personalities. Hopefully you and your friends and family find joy and laughter in spending time together, enjoying game night and each other’s company.
Have you already played one or more of the games listed above?
If so, we’d like to know which ones! Share your thoughts in the comment field provided below.
And if you're looking for more board games, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 41 Best Board Games for Couples to Play on Game Night
- 9 Best 4-Player Board Games
- 19 Best 6-Player Board Games