Best Value Boards Games

Money and Time

How should we measure the value of a board game?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

So too is the value of a board game.

Having played a ton of different board games and card games, we can attest to the fact that not all board games are created equal. Some games are so compelling they’re hard to stop playing. Other games can’t end soon enough.

The value of a board game or card game can’t be judged on price or quality of the components alone.

A less expensive board game usually means less complicated, less components, and shorter play time. Whereas bigger, more involved games with lots of game components tend to be more expensive.

More involved games are also harder to get to the table more frequently and thus get fewer number of plays.

How often do you need to play a game for it to be a good value?

Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game

Fortune and Glory – the most we’ve spent on a board game. Also the longest we’ve played.

Maybe a $15 short game could be played 3 times in an hour vs. a $45 game that can be played through only once in an hour. So at a pure Cost-to-Play ratio, we’d be looking at a $5 per play game vs. a $45 per play game. So is the $15 game a better value?

It still depends. At the end of 3 plays, does that $15 game hold enough interest to get to the table again?

Or should the value of a board game even be based on Number of Plays?

Continuing with our example above, if that $15 game is only ever played 3 times (for a total of an hour), yet the $45 game is played 20 times (for a total of 20 hours), now which game is the best value?

Based on Hours Played, the cost of the $15 game is $15/hour while the $45 game is $2.25/hour – the $45 game being a much better value.

Like everything else in life, the true value of a game is based on how much enjoyment you get from it in comparison to the cost (in both money and time).

One great example is Battlestar Galactica the board game. The retail cost of Battlestar is around $50. Even though we bought it a couple years ago, we’ve only played it 3 times. Which doesn’t seem like it gets enough plays to be a good value  – $16.67/play (so far). But considering that each time I’ve played it, I’ve been immersed face to face with my boys for 3 hours in a memorable event, it’s so worth it. That’s 9+ great hours so far with many more spent talking about the games since.

So when judging which board games are the best value, it’s all about the ratio of Cost-to-Enjoyment.

Dominion Cornucopia card game

Dominion packs a lot of variety – and can be very addicting.

Of course measuring Enjoyment is very subjective.

Which also means, this list will be subjective as well.

Typically however, the best value board games and card game will be the games we play a lot – because they’re also the games we get the most enjoyment out of. It’s a great cycle that becomes an even better value as the years (and plays) go by.

Here are the board games and card games that pack the Best Value to us:

  • Dominion ($45 list, current Amazon $32) – most played game by far (Dad over 200). Adding expansions boosts the replay value even more.
  • Memoir ’44 ($60 list, current Amazon $38) – most played 2-player game on our shelf. Love every chance to play.
  • Hive (original $32 list, current Amazon $26, Pocket version $18) – simple, inexpensive, and strategic game that can go anywhere.
  • Spot It ($14 list, current Amazon $11) – inexpensive card game with many plays packed in the tin.
  • Ticket to Ride ($50 list, current Amazon $41) – simply a terrific family board game. It gets plenty of time on the table.
  • 7 Wonders ($50 list, current Amazon $33) – one of mom’s favorite board games that’s readily accessible on our game shelves.
  • Telestrations Party Pack ($40 list, current Amazon $28) – just got it, but the many laughs are SO worth every penny for the Party Pack.
  • Forbidden Desert ($25 list, current Amazon $24) – we’ve long touted Forbidden Island as the best value family board game out there. It’s still a fantastic game and value ($19 list, current Amazon $17), but Forbidden Desert came out this year and bumps ahead.
  • Rack-O ($12 list, current Amazon $9) – easy card game for all ages that hits the table on lazy afternoons.
  • Sequence ($24 list, current Amazon $18) – simple game that’s inexpensive and is repeatedly played at most family gatherings.
  • Descent Journeys in the Dark ($80 list, current Amazon $54) – about an hour per quest. Campaigns string many quests together and give the boys and dad many enjoyable plays over the course of weeks.
Forbidden Desert board game

Forbidden Desert is a great value.

As you may have noticed, these are also the board games we talk about the most.

It’s simple to see why – we play them the most and enjoy them a ton.

How many times does a game make it to the table in your house?

Which games are the best value in your family?
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Comments: 6

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Love this post! I’m a math guy so I totally look at it that way. It makes it easier to buy a $50 board game if you know you’ll play it over 100 times.

The games that we’ve got the most value out of:

Hanabi, $11 at local game store but hard to find now, played over 40 times in 2 months if having it

San Juan, lighter version of Puerto Rico, we got for $25 or so, played over 50 times

7 Wonders & Dominion for sure

Games with ‘replayability’ are the highest value because you can play them for years.

My wife & I plan on playing Dominion for decades. The investment into all those expansions will be worth it in the long run…..or so I tell her to justify buying them.




    We haven’t played Hanabi yet, but it does look like a fun game.
    We’ve purchased a few of the Dominion expansions and a couple friends have picked up others – so we’ve spread the purchasing, yet enjoy all the possibilities.




An important part of this consideration is how it compares to other forms of entertainment. For example, how much would it cost to take 4 people out to a 2 hour movie and get a couple of snacks? More than most any of the games you mention I am sure. And even though you take a hit, there is residual value in a physical game. That is, you can play it until you are bored and still get a few bucks. A movie? Gone.




I can second Dominion and 7 Wonders. The other one I’d like to put out there is Agricola. With all the expansions that has been worth a significant amount in $/play for us.




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