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Board games that scale well at any player count

Owner

What are the most robust board games out there that are great at every player count mentioned on the box? And what are some common traits behind those games that make them so adaptable? 

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4 days ago

#6 Nimmt! is great at all player counts and the higher player count changes the strategy and increases the chaos.  Doesn't matter though since its such a quick/fun/silly game.

#Wits & Wagers Party Edition is great at all player counts and I've bought extra dry erase boards so I can go higher than the player count when taking it to family events.

#Gloomhaven is fun from Solo to all 4 players.  It does a great job of scaling. 

#For Sale is geat at all player counts.

#Railroad Ink: Deep Blue Edition#Welcome to... - All roll & writes work no matter the player count

#Azul - while the strategy changes depending on player counts...all are fun

In general the following things would be true:

  1. Co-ops in general work at all player counts since everyone is working together
  2. Area control games typically play better at the higher player counts then lower player counts.
  3. Games with simultanious action selection works well with games with higher player counts (5+) so that the down time between turns/actions is reduced. 
  4. Games that are silly/light also play better at higher player counts because there is less AP that can drag the game down.  If you are playing with 10 people in #6 Nimmt! there is very little planning you can do so  just pick a card and hope for the best. 

Premium User4 days ago

Need to add Gloomhaven to my list!  Good call out.

Premium User4 days ago

Some ideas off the top of my head:

I think these games all have aspects of simultaneous play.

Scythe is a bit different and I would say this depends on experienced players. Once they can do their top action and then move along to the next player while the bottom action is being finalized the game can really whip along.  In a 7 player game we could actually get the turn around fast enough that people were having to rush their bottom row actions to avoid being "lapped".

4 days ago

I think #Not Alone is one of the games that scales really well. I have played and loved it from 3 to 7 players and while each extreme felt different it was always a joy.

I think it stays good at all player counts for a number of reasons:

Firstly, it is a one vs many game, so the game dynamic changes a less as the player count increases, you are still only working with two 'teams' as opposed to in other games where as you increases or decrease the players you add or remove new agendas into the mix. This means the design doesn't have to flex as much so the tightness and tension is maintained.

Secondly, every phase is are engaging for every player. In the first phase where the astronauts are choosing their locations, they all do so simultaneously so are all obviously engaged throughout and the alien is busy analysing their current situations to work out how they might play and potentially playing mind games with them. The second phase has the alien choosing where to go and what powers to use which is obviously engaging for the alien but is incredibly tense for the astronauts as they have already locked in their answers. The third phase is 'the reveal' and this is fun for everyone as if you are 'safe' as the astronaut you get to do something fun (use the location ability) and the astronauts who get caught provide hilarity for everyone and satisfaction for the alien. The last phase is 20 seconds of admin so no one gets bored.

As such you are invested in the game constantly, whereas in some games more players means longer to wait to do something fun, this is has tension and cooperation throughout.

Lastly, I think because the game is almost always very tight and because there are just two 'teams' no one feels like they are out of the running. Even if individually as an astronaut you aren't doing too well, you still get the enjoyment of your team getting closer to escaping. And even if the alien is getting trashed, you have so many fun powers that losing is not boring in the slightest.

So yes, I think this game, is both really good but also wonderfully flexible in terms of player count.

4 days ago

I think a major key to scaling up into higher player counts well is relatively fast turns. Obviously, if it's everyone's first time playing, that'll affect it, but if you can play your turn in a minute or so, you should be able to get around the table fairly quickly. As for scaling down to 2 players, it kinda depends on the kind of game it is, and I don't know exactly how to put my finger on it. Games with minimal interaction are generally fine at 2 players, but I don't know how to pinpoint what makes a game good at 2 if it has lots of interaction.

Anyway, here are a few from my collection that do it well.

  • #Everdell: 1-4 players. We mostly play this at 2, but have played at all counts and it's great at all of them
  • #Wingspan: 1-5 players. Same as above
  • #Inis: 2-4 players. So far I've played a single game at 2 players and another game at 3, but both were great, and I see no reason to doubt that 4 would be as well. This is one with high interaction, and it works well at 2.

Supporter4 days ago

#Race for the Galaxy. My favorite count is 2, but, I love it at all player counts. I have only gotten to play #Pax Pamir (Second Edition) solo, but I have heard that it is good at all player counts as well.

Edited to add #Dominion and #Catan.

Supporter4 days ago

I would say#Root. It seems like the faction asymmetry tends to create unique game states no matter the player count. Although it's helpful at lower player counts to use the AI.