Best Board Games for Under $20 Ranked & Reviewed

In a world of premium Kickstarters, upgrades, exclusive promos, and the ever-elusive triple foiled holographic golden super-mint Black Lotus cards, it’s kind of nice to play a game that doesn’t cost the same as a month’s rent.

Let’s take a look at the best board games we could find that are under $20 dollars. 

🏆 Our Top Picks

In a hurry? Check out our favorites below.

Best Fantasy

Dragonwood: A Game of Dice & Daring Board Game
We can’t always play abstract games and continue to care about numbers on a card. We need to know that it represents a dragon or goblin that needs slaying or a hug. Dragonwood fills that need by immersing us in a sweet fantasy setting.

Best Party

Coup
Coup is a fantastic party game. It doesn't require 10+ people to be fun, it's super portable, and you get to lie to your friends. What's not to love?

Best Overall

Hive: Pocket
Hive is one of the best 2-player/travel games out there. What’s even better is that they managed to make a pocket edition that is still a good size. This is an easy choice if you’re looking for a cheap game that delivers on entertainment

#1. Hive Pocket

Hive Pocket Board Game

Do you enjoy swarms of things? Do you sometimes think, “Man I wish I could have a pocket full of insects right now?”

Well, you’re in luck! Hive Pocket is full of insects and is much smaller than its original counterpart.

Okay, weirdness aside Hive is a fantastic 2-player game that’s easy to travel with. It will see use again and again, and the value-to-game ratio is extremely high here. 

Hive: Pocket
  • Made by Gen42 games Honored for excellence by Mensa select
  • Dr. Toy product of excellence award winner
  • International gamer awards winner

#2. Codenames

Codenames Board Game

Codenames has been taking the board game world by storm. A party game with simple rules a ton of variety and multiple expansions/versions? That sounds like a winner.

Using their own take on the simple word clues, players are split into 2 teams and need to identify the hidden agents in the field before the other team. The only clue they’ll have, however, is a single word. 

It’s a very fun party game for 6+ players that even has a 2-player version called Duet, if you’re looking for a great date night game

The game is a ton of fun yet so simple… it makes me mad I didn’t think of it first.

#3. Star Realms & Hero Realms

Star Realms Hero Realms

Think of Hero Realms as a cheaper, more accessible Magic the Gathering. Hero Realms is the fantasy cousin to sci-fi-themed Star Realms, which uses a very familiar system.

This dueling deck-building game has players summoning monsters to bash each other to death in an epic showdown. Even with just the base game, you’re looking at hours of replayability. 

#4. Love Letter

Love Letter Board Game

I have gotten so many games out of my copy of Love Letter. It’s probably seen just as many airports and countries as I have at this point. 

It’s a simple card game with only 16 cards. That literally fits anywhere. Even girl pockets.

In Love Letter, players are trying to get their love letter to the princess. The card currently in your possession represents who has your letter and the higher influence card (biggest number) wins at the end of the round. 

It’s super simple but I’ve had a copy for years and it still is fun to play. That’s high praise for any game, and incredible that it’s only a few bucks

Love Letter
  • A game of risk; deduction and luck
  • For 2 to 4 player game
  • Takes 15 minutes playtime

#5. Castles of Burgundy: The Card Game

Castles of Burgundy Versions

Castles of Burgundy is an example of a Eurogame done right. Although you won’t be able to get the full big box version under $20, the card game is a fantastic game in its own right. 

It condenses down the feeling of the original and brings it to a simplified 2-player version. It has even won several awards specifically for fantastic gaming in small boxes. 

If you’re a fan of the original, there’s no reason to pass on this. It’s a solid addition to any gamer’s shelf. 

#6. Kingdomino

Kingdomino Board Game

Dominos is a classic game but as most board gamers will tell you, there’s no pizazz. There’s no flair.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it but the last time I played a game of dominos was in the belly of a military ship with everyone betting and exchanging work days. That’s not as relaxing and whimisical as say, a kingdom-building version of Dominos.

In Kingdomino, players lay down custom domino tiles in the shape of various parts of a kingdom. How you lay them out and in what order will net you those sweet victory points at the end of the game. 

It’s a new take on a classic and much more colorful and vibrant.

Kingdomino
  • Family strategy game for ages 8 and up
  • 2017 Spiel de Jahres Winner (Game of the Year)
  • Build the best Kingdom!

#7. Hanabi

Hanabi Card Game

What happens when you hire a bunch of incompetent technitions to setup your fireworks display?

Not fireworks… that’s for sure.

Hanabi is the Japanese word for fireworks, and in Hanabi (the game), you’ll get to play as one of those bumbling pyrotechnicians that screwed up the whole display. You’ll need to organize your fireworks cards by color and number… but the tricky bit is that you can’t see any of your own cards.

You’ll have to rely upon and cooperate with your fellow bumblers to get the show up-and-running. If you can’t get it together, there’s going to be a lot of unhappy revelers.

Hanabi Card Game
  • For 2-5 players
  • 2013 Spiele des Jahres game of the year
  • Takes about 20-30 minutes to play

#8. For Sale

For Sale Cheap Board Game

There’s nothing quite as exciting as real estate… Okay, maybe there’s a lot more exciting things out there but For Sale packs quite the gaming punch without having to sit through a timeshare meeting. 

For Sale is a very fun bidding game in which players bid auction-style on the cards to start out. Each card is numbered (1-30) and the higher cards are going to have more value (not monetarily).

In phase 2, players have to sell their house for the most money. At the beginning of each round, a series of checks are placed on the table indicating what the houses will sell for. Each player plays a single card from their hand and the higher-numbered house gets sold for the most. 

This adds a huge strategic element to the game. At what point you play your high number cards or drop your low number cards is a huge part of the game. I’ll be honest, I’ve spent many an afternoon sitting around the game table playing For Sale for hours.

For Sale
  • Ages: 8 and up
  • Number of Players: 3 to 6
  • Playing Time: 20 to 30 minutes

#9. No Thanks!

No Thanks! Board Game

No Thanks! is a fun little card game that won’t break the bank. It’s a simple press-your-luck game in which players either pick up the current card or place a coin down in the center. The object is to have the lowest score at the end of the game.

See how easy that was? You already know the rules. It’s a nice non-thematic card game if you’re in the mood for a quick game of something. It fills the role quite nicely and is responsible for me burning my copy of Phase 10. 

I definitely would say “Yes, Please!” to a game of No Thanks.

No Thanks Card Game
  • For 3-7 Players
  • 20 minute playing time
  • Great family and travel game

#10. Biblios

Biblios Board Game

This one is for all you history nerds who still think the burning of the Library of Alexandria is one of the worst atrocities to befall mankind (I’m looking at you, Kendra). 

Biblios puts players in the roles of Abbots looking to score some serious points by gathering as much of the world’s knowledge as they possibly can. To that end, they need to manage their own scriptorium. 

Players receive victory points throughout the rounds by having the most workers and resources on their side. 

It requires a fair bit of strategy and bluffing, which puts it over the edge over a lot of budget games that have very simple mechanics.

Biblios
  • For 2-4 Players
  • 30 minute playing time
  • Deluxe Box with Magnetic Seal

#11. Coup

Coup Card Game

Coup is one of my favorite games. I’m a big fan of bluffing games as well as games that travel easily, so it’s always awesome to find one that pulls double-duty.

Coup is set in the same world as Resistance and the backstabbing skullduggery is just as bad in Coup. Each card represents a player’s influence in the government or who’s in your pocket, bought and paid for. It may be a little too close to home sometimes…

Players try to wipe out their opponents’ influence to be the last one standing.

Coup
  • Ages 10 and up
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • Playable in 15 minutes

#12. Dragonwood

Dragonwood Family Board Game

Dragonwood is in enchanting card and dice game that lets you explore a fantastical realm and then stomp and scream at everything in your path. 

Players receive cards and work to collect sets. The sets get you dice that, in turn, enable you to perform actions. The better/number of sets you have, the more dice you’ll be able to use.

It’s a very well-designed game and I absolutely love the artwork. If you’re a fan of dice games, then this is definitely one to check out.

Dragonwood: A Game of Dice & Daring Board Game
  • Collect sets of adventurer cards to earn dice
  • Roll dice against your foes!
  • Choose your strategy carefully, the landscape of Dragonwood is...

#13. Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island Cooperative Board Game

Get ready to channel your inner Indiana Jones. 

The Forbidden series (Island, Desert, Sky) is known for packing a big cooperative gaming punch into small packages. They’re also one of my favorite series of games.

What better place to start than the first in the series on-the-cheap?

Forbidden Island
  • 2010 Mensa Favorite Brainy Games Winner
  • Join a team of fearless adventurers on a do-or-die mission to...
  • 2 to 4 players

#14. Harbour

Harbour Board Game

Get ready for the weirdest port visit you’ll ever make. Players will walk through the harbour, wheeling and dealing as they try to make the most of their visit. 

Harbour is a set collecting game with a rather dynamic economy built into the rules. As players purchase buildings, the prices of resources fluctuate depending upon which resources were used. Players need to time their purchases just right in order to maximize their profits and crush their competition. 

Harbour
  • Welcome to gulls bottom! collect and trade resources as you visit...
  • A game for 1 to 4 players
  • 30-60 minutes play time

#15. Kahuna

Kahuna Board Game

Kahuna is a 2-player abstract strategy game. In Kahuna, there are a series of islands that players must connect with their bridges to completely surround each island. Players use cards to place bridges on an island and if that gives them the majority of bridges on an island, they get to remove their opponent’s bridge.

Kahuna was originally marketed under a different name but its current form has great production value and components. It’s generally thought to be the definitive version and it won’t break the bank. 

Kahuna
  • Compete for dominance on an archipelago consisting of twelve...
  • Using their magic and wisdom, they struggle for control of the...
  • At the mercy of the magical powers of the South seas, they...

#16. Mint Works & Mint Delivery

Mint Works and Mint Delivery Board Games

There’s not a lot of worker placement games that come under the $20 mark. 

Think of Mint Works as training wheels for worker placement games. It has bare-bones worker placement mechanics that still offer a complete gaming experience.

Why is it called Mint Works? Well, the entire game fits within a small mint tin. That makes it ultra-portable and you can impress all your hipster friends with your cool retro mint tin. 

#17. Niya or Okiya

Niya and Okiya Board Games

Blue Orange Games and Pegasus Spiele are both known for their very pretty and uniquely-themed games. 

Niya and Okiya are abstract strategy games that play like an elaborate game of tic-tac-toe. Granted, that is an oversimplification of the rules, but that’s the closest comparison I can make. 

Players take turns placing their tokens on tiles in a grid and each tile has several different symbols or pictures. Players will only be able to place their token on a tile if there’s a matching symbol from the previous tile.

See? There’s a bit more to it than X’s and O’s.

It’s another fantastic game that’s incredibly simple yet can be played time and time again without it ever getting old. 

#18. Villainous: Wicked to the Core

Normally I’m not one to jump on the Disney bandwagon. There have been a slew of hit-or-miss Disney games since Disney first set its sights on global domination. 

Villainous is actually one of the better ones out there. It’s smartly focuses on the most interesting aspects of their films, the bad guys. 

In Villainous, players get to take on the role of their favorite mustache-twirling, tentacled, or polymorphing baddie. 

Each baddie has their own nefarious objective and way to go about it, but there’s also a fate deck included that changes the game up for everyone.

If you’re a Disney fan, it’s hard to pass this one up, and there’s a lot of expansions to improve your game and add even more of your favorite bad guys to the mix.  

Disney Villainous: Wicked to The Core
  • Characters you love - In this asymmetric style of game play, Each...
  • Great for Disney fans and families - Whether you're playing with...
  • Compatibility - Wicked to the Core can be played as a standalone...

#19. Unstable Unicorns

Unstable Unicorns Card Game

There have been a ton of new, simple card games with adorable (sometimes horrifying) themes coming out recently… and Unstable Unicorns is a great addition to them. 

In Unstable Unicorns, you try to build the best stable of unicorns that you possibly can. 

Players take turns adding various unicorns to their own personal stable. Other than the Basic unicorns, each one has a special ability. They are magical creatures, after all.

There are a lot of these types of card games floating around right now but this one really tickles my funny bone. The humor and artwork of the cards crack me up and, I mean, who doesn’t like unicorns?

Unstable Unicorns
  • A strategic card game that will destroy your friendships...but in...
  • One of kickstarter’s top 50 most backed projects of all time!
  • Ages 14+ , 30-45 minutes playtime

#20. Gloom

Gloom Board Game

Gloom is the game you pull out when your emo/goth friends come over for some quality game time. Gloom feels like it was designed by the Addam’s family while they were vacationing with Jack Skellington.

In Gloom, the object of the game is to inflict the worst possible day on your respective families. The family with the saddest-sack of a story at the end of the game wins! You’ll actually attack your opponents with cards’ “good” events to make their day better. The ultimate goal is to kill off your own family after having the worst day of their lives. 

The best part about Gloom is narration. Each card presents or horrible situation and it’s up to you to explain what happens to your family, weaving a horrifying narrative. 

It’s a stupid fun game that’s also really great at beginner role-playing. Who knows? You may jump into a game of D&D, Legacy of Dragonholt, or Vampire: The Masquerade after this. 

Gloom (2nd Edition)
  • 2-4 Players
  • 60 minute playing time
  • Compatible with first edition

Wrap-Up

Gaming can be an expensive hobby. There’s always a new miniature, gizmo, box organizer, or new Spiel Des Jahres winner. 

But that doesn’t mean you have to mortgage your house to have a good gaming session. 

Hopefully, you’ve found something that will let you enjoy what we love most about games, strategy, and good times with friends and family. You might even have some money left over to buy a pizza!

Did we miss any of your budget board game favorites? We hope you liked our list. If you have any suggestions for games under $20 or if you just want to talk about board games, please leave a comment below.