Third wheel? Never again! We’ve compiled a list of the best 3-player board games that really shine with a group of three.
🏆 Our Top Picks
In a hurry? Take a peek at our favorites below before you dash off.
Frequently, for us, it seems like a 3-player group is the easiest to get together. For that reason, we decided to highlight our top 20 games that benefit from a group of three.
We chose this list from games that are fun to play, have special rules (that work) for 3 players, and games that we (honestly) just like. The games below are played best when they are played with a trio. Three is never a crowd when these games are on the table.
#1. Through the Ages: A New Story of Civilization
“Imagination governs the world.” ―Napoleon Bonaparte
Travel through time, relive and rewrite history. Rediscover the pyramids, recruit the great warlord Gandhi, or don’t. The choice is yours. Build your civilization from sticks and stones all the way up to the modern age.
- The classic civilization-building game is now even better
- In addition to outstanding new art, this version includes subtle...
- 2-4 players
Through the Ages takes on a massive scope of history, and to that end, there are a lot of moving parts (and colored cubes). This game plays best with 3 players. Three is enough players where the challenge and opponents provide enough variety that it isn’t a duel, but few enough not to bog down an already long game.
Paris has closed its borders, Algiers has reported increased outbreaks of a new virus, rumor has it that what everyone thought was just the flu has engulfed San Francisco and spread like wildfire throughout the American Southwest, and R.E.M’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It is blasting on the radio.
Pandemic is one of the most recognizable cooperative games; designed by Mat Leacock and known for being highly-cooperative and extremely challenging. Check out our full review of Pandemic and our rundown of best Pandemic expansions for more on this fantastic game.
#3. Lords of Waterdeep
The legendary city of Waterdeep is home to adventurers, scoundrels, cults, and the major trade hubs of the Sword Coast. It takes a lot to keep such a city afloat and the sewers free from rats and abominations.
- An exciting Euro-style board game set in Waterdeep, the greatest...
- This immersive game casts players as Lords of Waterdeep who hire...
- Game play: 1 hour
As one of the Lords of Waterdeep, the typical RPG roles are reversed. The players will now be the ones doling out quests to adventurers, drafting teams of rogues, fighters, mages, and clerics to undertake quests in their name. While you send off your teams, players can take part in intrigue to attack other players and gain resources, or do some civil engineering and build the city up for more bonuses.
#4. Stone Age
“Discover how to visit the past and bring yesterday’s stories into our lives today” ―Gillian Hovell, ‘Visiting the Past’
Travel back in time and become the leader of one of the earliest human tribes. Life is hard but peaceful. Tribes will need to feed all of their members and trade with other villages in order to prosper. Step back into the Stone Age and lead your tribe to glory.
Z-Man Games’ Stone Age is a solid worker placement board game. It’s very well balanced with a slew of strategies and rule variants specifically for 3 players. This is one of the games we pull off the shelf most often for newbies and it’s always a hit! Check out our full review of Stone Age before you dive in.
The original deck-building rat-simulator makes another appearance in the Game Cows lists, and there’s a reason for it. Dominion is an excellent game for 3 players, the preferred number by many gaming groups.
With three players there are enough targets for attack cards without any feeling like you’re being ganged up on, the game moves along quickly, and doesn’t get bogged down like it sometimes might with 4 players.
Check out our Dominion review for a complete assessment of the original deck-building board game. If you’re already a Dominion pro, take a gander at our rundown of Best Dominion Expansions for more deck-building fun!
- 2nd Edition features updated cards, artwork and streamlined rules
- Tactical game for 2-4 Players
- 30 minute playing time
#6. Descent: Journeys in the Dark
It always seems like in a 3-player game, 2 players will form an alliance and gang up on the third player. Descent solves this problem by simply embracing it. In a 3-player game, 2 players will team up as the heroic dungeon delvers and the third player, fueled with all the angst of a third wheel, will control all of the monsters in the dungeon to try to ruin the heroes’ day.
- It is a board game in which one player takes on the role of the...
- During each game, the heroes embark on quests and venture into...
- Featuring double-sided modular board pieces, countless hero and...
#7. Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island
“From this moment I began to conclude in my mind that it was possible for me to be more happy in this forsaken, solitary condition that it was possible I should ever have been in any other particular state in the world.” ―Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
Shipwrecked on a deserted island, stranded, with no hope of rescue. Things could be worse, couldn’t they? I suppose there could be wild animals, cannibals, and dangerous weather patterns… well, at least you won’t face it alone. The survivors will need to band together to gather resources and survive the perils of the island. It’s one for all and all for one. If one of you dies, nobody leaves the island alive.
- Game of the Year edition of award winning bestseller
- Brand new stunning cover
- Art created by industry legend Vincent Dutrait
Based on Daniel Defoe’s classic novel that pits man against nature, the board game pits players against the same forces. The game has recently been updated with solid components and tiles, clearer rulebook, and the addition of the King Kong scenario.
Be sure to check out our full-review of Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island before you buy!
#8. Ticket to Ride Map Collection: Volume 3 – The Heart of Africa
In case you haven’t built enough railroads around the globe, it’s time to build railroads throughout Africa. Ticket to Ride: The Heart of Africa is an expansion, so players will need at least one version of the base game.
The map is one of the more difficult ones that Days of Wonder has put out, transforming the happy little train track-laying game into a brutal brawl for supremacy. Unlike the other boards in the series, there are no double tracks in the center of the board. They’re only on the outer edges, making the game short on space for everyone involved.
- Expansion to Ticket to Ride and Ticket to Ride Europe
- Adds depth and complexity
- This expansion requires the trains and train cards from an...
With 4 players, you’ll probably not leave the table as friends. With 3 players, you’re in for a good game, and still likely to be friends afterward.
If you’ve never tried Ticket to Ride, make sure you read our in-depth review of the original before you dive in.
#9. Agricola (Revised Edition)
Fun Fact: Agricola is the Latin word for farmer.
No monsters, dungeons, or duels here. Everyone has turned their swords into plows, traded their magical familiars for sheep, and inevitable thermonuclear war has been replaced by… corn. You get the idea. It’s back-to-nature and the life of a farmer in Agricola.
Agricola is a worker placement game where each player is in charge of their own farm. Players will need to develop their land, cultivate crops, and raise livestock. The more prosperous the farm, the more victory points.
Don’t be fooled by the mundane theme, Agricola is an intense and highly-strategic Eurogame, and one of my favorites.
#10. Smash Up
It’s the age-old question: Who would win in a fight: Pirates vs. Ninjas?
Clearly, it’s the pirates… but who would win in a fight: Robot Pirates vs. Zombie Ninjas?
Smash Up is a card battle of ridiculous proportions. Take 2 factions, smash them together, and compete to capture bases. Almost everything you can think of has been shoved into the game and its expansions. Dinosaurs & Aliens, Wizards & Werewolves, Grannies & Kitty Cats, Cyborg Apes Riding Bears. If you can dream it, it’s probably here.
Honestly, they have an expansion simply called Sheep. Who does that?
#11. Marvel Legendary
Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? To have superhuman strength, speed, flight, laser beams? Everyone has fantasized about it at least once. Legendary won’t give you superpowers, but you’ll feel super as you build your team together with other players to face off against Marvel’s most notorious villains.
- Easy to learn, with fast-paced gameplay
- Features incredible original artwork of Marvel heroes and...
- Game consists of nearly 600 cards, Full color Game board & Color...
Legendary is a cooperative game system where players will build a deck from iconic Marvel heroes. Each version comes with a ton of characters to draft and several villains so that each game is different. If you don’t like the Marvel theme, no worries. The Legendary system comes in a variety of fandoms.
#12. Puerto Rico
Welcome to Puerto Rico! The new world needs hard-working citizens to thrive – fearless settlers, industrious builders, benevolent mayors, master craftsmen, clever traders, stalwart captains, and opportunistic prospectors. As the years progress, you will play each role, earning victory points for your successes. Each player strives to be the most adaptable to change, but only the shrewdest will capture the most victory points, and win the game.
Sometimes called the successor to Catan, Puerto Rico is a simple, yet strategic Eurogame of settlement, goods production, and colonization. Become the colonial governor of Puerto Rico and manage resources and exports headed for Europe. In order to be successful, players will have to manage their workers to make sure goods are produced efficiently.
#13. Axis & Allies: Pacific 1940 (2nd Edition)
“You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival.” –Winston Churchill, May 1940
The year is 1940. The world holds its breath as Imperial Japan flaunts its military might in China. War-torn Europe stands on the brink as its countries are forced to surrender their hard-won colonies in order to field troops back home.
French Indochina (Vietnam) will soon be occupied by the Japanese on all fronts. Britain is pressured to close the Burma Road or face inevitable war with Japan. The United States places an embargo on strategic materials to try to stem the tide. Political tension grips the world. The stage is set. Total war is coming.
- Includes new ANZAC miniatures as well as new mechanized infantry...
- Axis & Allies Pacific 1940 can be combined with Axis & Allies...
- Both game boards unite to create a massive 70" x 32" playing...
Calling all WWII buffs! Prepare for one of the best and most comprehensive games on the Pacific theatre of World War II. The new and improved Second Edition offers new combat units, a larger board, and compatibility with Axis & Allies Europe 1940 to create a phenomenal and historically-immersive gaming experience.
Dragons are notorious treasure-hoarders. It’s totally unhealthy, and they probably need to let go of some of it. Luckily for Nicki the dragon, several volunteers have shown up to help her clear out treasure cluttering up her lair. Unfortunately for our volunteers, Nicki doesn’t really want to let go of her loot, so they’ll have to sneak in quietly to steal it.
- For 2-4 Players
- A fast and intense dungeon delving experience!
- Push your luck to collect more treasure but watch out for the...
Clank! is a combination push-your-luck, deck-building, dungeon-delver board game. Players draft cards that allow for movement, lockpicking, fighting, and sneaking. Be careful, though. If you make too much noise they’ll attract Nicki the dragon and nothing will save you from her.
Ready to make some noise? Check out our full review of Clank! before you dive in.
#15. Race for the Galaxy
Grand civilizations and space-faring empires weren’t built in a day. They can, however, be built in about an hour with a deck of cards. Build your own space civilization, expand to new planets, and ensure they’re stocked with trade goods and a thriving economy.
- For 2-4 players
- 60 minute playing time
- Check out all the great expansions to Race for the Galaxy
Race for the Galaxy is a card-based civilization builder. Each player will secretly play and cards and resolve during the phases of the game to expand, gain resources, and develop their civilizations.
#16. Blood Rage
Ragnarök has come, and it’s the end of the world! It’s the Vikings’ last chance to go down in a blaze of glory and secure their place in Valhalla at Odin’s side!
“Death comes to us all; we can only choose how to face it when it comes.” –Robert Jordan
Blood Rage, published by CMON (Cool Mini or Not) and created by legendary game designer Eric Lang, made waves on Kickstarter when it made close to a million dollars in pledges. It comes with gorgeous minis and each player will get clan-specific minis.
- Amazing Figures - From the different clans, to the ships, to the...
- Breathtaking Art - With Blood Rage, Adrian Smith has created a...
- Custom Clans - Players start with the same abilities, but...
Blood Rage combines its amazing components with a complex strategy system. The player swinging the biggest axe isn’t always going to win due to players receiving points for how gloriously they die in battle.
#17. Fury of Dracula (4th Edition)
“For the dead travel fast.” –Bram Stoker, Dracula
In one of the oldest stories of cat and mouse, Van Helsing and his cohort will be tracking and hunting down Dracula throughout the world. No place is safe and no crypt will be left unturned, but in the end, the real question is “Who is the cat and who is the mouse?”. Will the hunters become the prey or will they succeed in their quest to rid the world of an ancient evil?
Fury of Dracula is an all-vs-1 game where one player will be hunted down by all other players. Dracula is by no means helpless, comes with a slew of abilities, remains hidden on the board, and gains powers and strength during the night. The hunters will have to track down and follow Dracula’s trail to prepare for the ultimate showdown.
- A Game of deduction and Gothic horror
- The count returns with 5 new fully painted figures for Dracula...
- 2-5 players where one is Dracula being tracked by the hunters....
Dracula isn’t just on the run though, he’s building influence and sowing the seeds of vampirism throughout the region. If the hunters take too long, they’ll find a region completely controlled by Dracula and a nest of fledgling vampires to contend with.
#18. Gaia Project
Galactic expansion is the pinnacle of progress for any civilization, but what’s a civilization to do when planets won’t support life for your species? The answer: terraform the galaxy, of course.
- The follow-up to the critically and commercially acclaimed terra...
- A board game of colonizing the galaxy for one to four players
- Take command of fourteen factions, each with its own unique...
In Gaia Project, players will play a unique race with their own special abilities and life requirements. They’ll expand through the galaxy and terraform planets to support life by building satellites and stations throughout the universe.
Not all planets are created equal, and depending on the race, players will have an easier or more difficult time terraforming a planet… not to mention all of the dead planets scattered throughout the galaxy. Gaia Project is a sci-fi successor board game to Terra Mystica. Check out the original too!
The Renaissance is all about cultural exchange, new ideas, and shiny things. The people have spoken and they want precious gems to adorn their elegant garb. Who are we to deny them? There’s a whole world of untouched land just begging to be strip-mined and master craftsmen just waiting to work the raw material.
Splendor is a great 3-player game that has a low player-to-player conflict, making it a perfect choice for a friendly (and educational) game. Players purchase cards representing the stages of production of the precious gemstone industry (mines, transportation, & artisans) during the Renaissance era. The game is quick, easy to learn, and has beautiful artwork and components.
#20. Clans of Caledonia
“O Caledonia! stern and wild, Meet nurse for a poetic child! Land of brown heath and shaggy wood, Land of the mountain and the flood, Land of my sires! what mortal hand Can e’er untie the filial band, That knits me to thy rugged strand!” —Walter Scott The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805)
Take a trip to the Scottish Highlands in Clans of Caledonia and don’t forget to try the whiskey.
Don’t be fooled by the small box. As they say, good things come in small packages. Clans of Caledonia is packed to the gills and has plenty of strategic options. Each player controls a specific clan with a special ability that gives them a huge advantage in a particular aspect of the game. It could be trading, farming, or selling.
One of the more interesting aspects is the simulated economy within the game. If one resource is flooding the market, the price will drop dramatically leaving an opening for another player to receive cheap goods. On the other hand, if everyone is buying a certain product, the price will skyrocket to meet demand.
The prime number 3 has always had a superstitious quality to it. Mystical qualities aside, 3 is usually a number many gaming groups find themselves with, which can quickly turn into a third-wheel situation. It’s very common for players to find themselves naturally forming a coalition against a third… after all, two is company and three’s a crowd. The games on this list look to minimize this dynamic and make the most of your gaming trio.
What are your favorite games to play with 3 players? Let us know in the comments and we’ll check them out!