Best Cheap Board Games (Under $20)

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Life is crazy. Everyone always seems to have somewhere to go or something to do. Thus, it is a rare and wonderful occasion when you can get together with your friends or your family to play a board game.

Board games started in 5,000 BC with what is now one of the most basic functions of many cherished board games, dice. Two thousand years later, in the courts of the early kings, the board appeared, and a worldwide human pastime was born.

You no longer need to be royal or interested in military strategy to play a board game. Board games are now fun for all the family. Yet that doesn’t mean they have lost their competitive streak.

So, it is in the spirit of competition that we have compiled the 10 Best Cheap Board games for under $20.

Features to Consider in Good Cheap Board Games

All games are constructed with the hope that they will be fun. Some of these games are more ‘classic’ and have stood the test of time. Some are much more suitable for younger or older audiences and some are pick up and play while others take a while to get ready. So, to choose the best board games, these were the features that were examined:

Is It Classic?

The older, popular games are generally revered for the memories that were made while playing them. Some games are fun and timeless simply because they were played while the person was going up. Therefore, a possible drive for buying a game now could be that they find it classic and want to share their experiences with their own children, friends, or possibly relive it with their families. Nostalgia, when it comes to games, especially, is a powerful motivator.

The Age Range?

Board games are usually thought of as a child’s plaything but throughout the past few decades, games have started to return to their roots of entertaining adults. While children still enjoy board games, adults are also getting into the experience, with different games, or with games that can be appropriate for a range of ages. (A game with a wide age range is also a great family game because it can provide a challenge for everyone.)

Ease of Setup?

The ease of setup is important when it comes to board games. No one wants to spend half the time it takes to play the game setting it up. When a group is together and wants to play a game, they want to play it right then and there. So, the ease of setup is essential for focusing in on the best cheap board games for under $20.

These features were decided with the hope of providing potential board game players with the best chance of having a fun and fulfilling experience every time they play the game.

The Best Cheap Board Games for Under $20 2020

1. Best Overall: Chetz Games Codenames

Why we like it: Chetz Games Codenames is a cleverly disguised word-puzzle game that can be played easily and with a range of players.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
Chetz Games Codenames is a strategy-based word puzzle game. Spymasters must reveal secret codenames of the other players, without giving the opposition the information they need to crack their own codes.

  • For 2 8+ Players
  • 15-minute playing time
  • Age 14 and up

Is it Classic?
This is not a traditionally ‘classic’ game. However, the word-puzzle aspect of it does bring it back into the territory of classic games. Plus, there is a strategy that the “spymaster” needs to implement, and the “agents” need to work together without blowing their cover to the opposing team.

The Age Range
This is a game that is not suitable for younger players. Teenagers and adults alike will enjoy this game. The game is inoffensive though, so little ones are not going to pick up anything negative from being in the same room where this game is being played. The only restriction is the complexity of the word-puzzle portion of the game which may be too much for young players.

Ease of Setup
This game is extremely easy to set up as there are only a few different components: cards that make up the “board,” a timer, and player stands.

Pros
  • This game can be taught to a new player in under two minutes.
  • It is a great party game.
  • Strategic
Cons
  • The game is extremely short.

2. Clue

Why we like it: Clue is a simple board game, but the concept immerses players in their own murder-mystery story, which is completely unique every time you play.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
Who doesn’t want to find out whether it was Professor Plum in the library, with the candlestick – or perhaps Colonel Mustard, in the kitchen, with the revolver? This is a game that makes detectives out of each player, as they figure out, from the six suspects, who was the one who committed the murder?

  • For 2-6 Players
  • 45 Minutes-1 Hour
  • Age 8 and up

Is it Classic?
Yes, Clue, which was first released in the US in 1943, is a classic game. Many generations have enjoyed playing this game and the interest doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all. After all, everyone loves a good mystery.

The Age Range
While this game is not suitable for young players, due to the concept of finding a murderer. It’s advised to be suitable for ages eight and up. Since the game plays on your imagination and is reactive to the individual player’s choices, this is a great game to play with family and friends.

Ease of Setup
Although it does take quite a few minutes, due to building the mystery, it becomes easier over time. The box includes gameboard, 4 character tokens, card deck and instructions.

Pros
  • This game is easy to learn.
  • It is a great family game.
Cons
  • Pieces are not the best quality.

3. Best for young children: Candy Land Kingdom of Sweet Adventures

Why we like it: Candy Land is a kids game that even adults will enjoy. It is one of the first games that most parents play with their kids. Between the nostalgia and the new memories being made, what’s not to love?

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
Are you ready to immerse yourself back into the Kingdom of Sweet Adventures? Candy Land is a game that almost every child played at one time over the course of the last seventy years. Join your family members and friends in a race to the castle, but beware, there are both sweet and sour treats lining your path.

  • For 2-4 Players
  • 15-Minute playtime
  • Age 3 and up

Is it Classic?
Absolutely. This game is about as classic as you can get. It was first introduced in America in 1949 and besides getting more colorful, the characters and core gameplay haven’t changed all that much.

The Age Range
This is a game that can be played by pretty much anyone. There is no need to be able to read, as the game moves are decided through colors, so it is suitable for young children. Yet, the experience and imagination of this game keeps the attention of older candy adventurers too.

Ease of Setup
Considering the age-range that this game primarily caters too, this game is exceptionally easy to set up. The game comes with one gameboard, 4 character tokens, a card deck and instructions.

Pros
  • There is no learning curve for this game.
  • This is an excellent first game for children.
  • It is a popular game that most people recognize immediately.
Cons
  • The gameboard squares are smaller than in previous versions.

4. Best Educational Game: Zingo

Why we like it: This is a great vehicle for early readers to exercise their associations between simple words and what they represent. Plus, it is a fun and interactive game that parents and kids can enjoy together.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
This game puts a fun twist on Bingo, by encouraging kids to match the words to the pictures on their challenge cards.

  • For 2-6 Players
  • 15-Minute playtime
  • Age 4 and up

Is it Classic?
Zingo is not a classic the traditional sense but the core aspects of the game (Bingo and Matching) do make the game a fun twist on two otherwise different classics.

The Age Range
This is a game that can be played by a wide variety of players. However, this is a very young child-friendly game. Adults are likely only going to play this with their young children and once their children advance to a higher reading level, the game will likely get stale.

Ease of Setup
The setup and the cleanup of this game is easy, as it is just challenge cards and tiles. There are not a lot of little pieces that can get lost with this game. It is a straightforward as far as the setup and packing away is concerned.

Pros
  • This is an awesome early-education game.
  • It comes with a guide to help parents make the most out of the game for their kids.
Cons
  • Players might get bored with the game quickly if they are fast learners.

5. Sorry!

Why we like it: A very competitive game that might get tempers flaring but will certainly get pulses racing. Unlock your ruthless streak as you stop your friends and family winning and grab the victory for yourself.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
A fast-paced game where players draw cards to determine how far and fast they move on the board, avoiding obstacles along the way.

Why ‘Sorry’? Because it’s a word you’ll need to say a lot as you send your opponents pawns back to the starting grid and make them start all over again. Known as the game of sweet revenge, keep people on side to keep the fire off you and herd your group of pawns into the finishing gate before anyone else.

  • 2-4 players
  • Ages 6 and Up
  • 15-45 min playtime

Is it Classic?
This version is new, but the original has been around since 1929!

The Age Range
Six and up is recommended for this game. The brutality of resetting your opponents’ scores can be upsetting for young children (and adults!)

Ease of Setup
With a deck of cards for movement, a board, and 12 pawns, this board game is very easy to set up.

Pros
  • Easy to play
  • Very competitive
  • Quick finish time
Cons
  • One person can get picked on
  • Only currently under $20, can be listed for slightly more than that

6. Monopoly Game: Disney Frozen 2 Edition

Why we like it: Disney’s Frozen combines with Monopoly. Introduce your children to this classic game of capitalism gone crazy through the wonderful world of one of Disney’s most popular franchises.

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About the Game
Players take a trip with Anna and Elsa as they venture through Arendelle and beyond with this Frozen take on the classic Monopoly.

  • For 2-6 Players
  • 45-Minutes-Hour playtime
  • Age 8 and up

Is it Classic?
Monopoly is about as classic as it gets. Originally devised by Lizzie Magee as a way to teach people about how unchecked capitalism can cause terrible situations, instead people saw it as an outlet for their rapacious inner tycoons and the game soared in popularity.

The Age Range
This game has smaller pieces and can be difficult to understand as the rules are relatively complex. Therefore, the game age limit is 8+. Beyond that, though, this is a game that can be played by anyone.

Ease of Setup
The setup for this game takes a little longer and is more involved than most of the other games on this list.

Pros
  • This is a fun recreation of a classic game.
  • The game helps people understand how budgeting your money is important.
  • This game also teaches negotiation skills.
Cons
  • The game could be a little complicated for a young player.
  • Monopoly causes family wars.

7. Inspiration Play Double Ditto

Why we like it: Double Ditto allows players to think creatively to make their matches unique, while also playing around friends and family. This is an interesting tightrope to walk and is sure to create lots of laughter and hours of entertainment.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
Double Ditto is an intriguing, out-of-the-box thinking game where players are challenged to think on their feet and guess what fellow players are thinking.

  • For 4-10+ Players
  • 25-Minute playtime
  • Age 10 and up

Is it Classic?
No. This game is an original concept that is great for party games. While it isn’t a classic game, players sure seem to have a lot of fun playing it.

The Age Range
This is a fun game for all players, 10 and up. Whether you are being silly with a younger crowd or trying to outsmart your fellow adults, this game will always be an interesting, one of a kind challenge to all who play.

Ease of Setup
This game is easy to set up. It includes 400 category cards, a 15-second timer, score sheets, and an instruction card. The rest of the game comes out of the players’ imagination.

Pros
  • This is a game that helps exercise creativity and quick-thinking.
  • Game changes depending on the crowd you play it with
  • Unique
Cons
  • Creativity is a must, or this game tends to get old fast.

8. Best Premium Pick: Trivial Pursuit

Why we like it: With 2,400 trivia questions from traditional game categories this will get even the most general knowledge egghead stretching their minds.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
This is the trivia game that started it all. Whether you are a connoisseur of random facts or you have a favorite category, playing Trivial Pursuit gives you the time to shine.

  • For 2-6 Players
  • 60- 80+ Minute Playtime
  • Age 16 and up

Is it Classic?
Yes. Trivial Pursuit first came out in 1981 but the retro gameboard and packaging makes the game look older. Despite its age, this was the first trivia game of its time and has quickly solidified itself into the classic gameboard hall of fame.

The Age Range
Considering this game is based off trivia, it makes sense that an older teen and adult audience would have the most fun playing it. There is a lot of reading involved and some of the facts and questions are quite advanced, even for teenagers.

Ease of Setup
This game is easy to set up, with only a gameboard, 400 cards, 1 die, 6 wedge holders, and 36 wedges. The only thing players need to keep track of is the wedges, as they can easily get left out of the box or hidden in the box.

Pros
  • Trivial Pursuit is a fun way to learn a wealth of information.
  • The concept of the game is perfect for those who love trivia.
  • Good for showing off to your friends and family.
Cons
  • The game can be frustrating and difficult for some players.
  • If you don’t know the answers, there is little you can do.

9. Pay Day

Why we like it: A game to teach everyone, even adults, the value of money and the vicissitudes of life. Make your way through the month making ends meet and celebrate when Pay Day arrives.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
Pay Day is a simple board game where you move through the 30 spaces that represent the days of the month whilst taking out loans and using the money you have to get to the next Pay Day. The object of the game is to have the most money at the end of the game. Loans can be taken out, property deals can be made and interest will have to be paid as you try to navigate life’s little obstacles.

  • 2 – 4 players
  • Ages 8 and up
  • 30 – 60 minutes playtime.

Is it Classic?
Yes, Payday has been around since 1975 and has remained popular throughout. Humans like playing for even pretend money and this game is no different.

The Age Range
The rather “mature” nature of the obstacles means it’s generally best for ages 8 and up, though a young child could play with adult supervision and guidance.

Ease of Setup
There’s quite a lot to set up, with money, counters and cards, so it’s not the easiest game to get started.

Pros
  • Relatable to real world problems
  • Rewards careful strategy
  • The luck elements mean the weaker players can still win
Cons
  • Depressingly real

10. Chutes and Ladders

Why we like it: Chutes and Ladders is a great way for kids to learn in a friendly way that actions have consequences. It also teaches that good deeds are rewarded, and bad deeds are punished.

Editor’s Rating:

About the Game
Chutes and ladders is the game that has taught children morality in the United States since 1943. This game started out as Snakes and Ladders but evidently, that was a little too scary for kids, because the Americanized version promptly replaced the snakes with chutes. This game teaches kids (and reminds adults) that every action has a consequence. Sometimes that consequence is good and sometimes it is bad. However, it also teaches kids that no matter what, even if they make a mistake, they can always earn their way back and get a second chance to make the right decision.

  • For 2-4 Players
  • 15-Minute playtime
  • Age 3 and up

Is it Classic?
Chutes and Ladders is definitely a classic. There is nothing that is more classic than a good old-fashioned morality lesson, wrapped up in a child’s game. Many kids grew up both playing this game and learning from it. So, it is only natural that new parents would want to share this game with their children.

The Age Range
This game is for ages 3+ but it really is only for kids. Most of the time, nostalgia is not going to make adults or older kids want to play this game. Yet, for younger kids and their parents, this is a great game to teach them about the realities of life in a safe and non-stressful manner.

Ease of Setup
This game is easy to set up, as there is only a gameboard, cardboard cutout players, plastic stands for the players, and a spinner. The rest of the game is played directly from the board.

Pros
  • This is a great game to teach kids counting and colors.
  • The lessons children learn from this game will help shape their moral compass.
Cons
  • The gameboard and pieces are not made of the most durable material.
  • The 100% luck-based mechanics make it shallow

Guide to Buying the Best Cheap Board Games

There are so many different board games available on the market right now. Many of the board games fall within the under $20 price range and many of the games are games that you have likely heard of or played yourself.

However, when you are looking for a board game, there are different aspects of the game that you want to consider before making the purchase.

Here is a comprehensive guide to finding the best cheap board games for under $20.

What are the ages of the people who are going to be playing the game?

The age of the people who are playing the game is a major factor in deciding which board game will be right for you and your guests. This is a serious consideration because, you don’t want to bring out a game that is too childish, but you also do not want to get a game that will offend guests or make them uncomfortable.

How many people are going to be playing the game?

Unless the get together is large and the game is only meant to keep smaller groups entertained at their leisure, everyone present usually plays a board game when it is brought out. Many times, people come to a get-together specifically to play a game.

Therefore, it is important for you to be aware of how many people will be playing the game at one time. You don’t want to leave anyone out, but you also don’t want to be short of players. Either way, that isn’t fun. So, pay attention to the number of players the game can accommodate before making your final decision.

Most common misconception about board games

When modern people think about board games, most envision children playing. This is not a false vision. Plenty of children play board games. There are many board games that market exclusively to various children’s age-groups.

However, the misconception is that board games are exclusively for children. Anyone of any age can enjoy board games.

Board games are a fun and unique way to pass the time and bond with your friends and family. After all, when you play a board game, the game itself is not always the only focus of the conversation. Playing a board game is a great way to disconnect from the digital world, enjoy being in the moment and reminiscing.

FAQ

How do you choose a good board game?

The world is full of board games. Even this list of the 10 best cheap board games for under $20 has ten different board games, with different end goals and target audiences to choose from. Therefore, it can be difficult to choose the right one for your situation and goals. So, here are a few different ways to choose a good board game:

Do you want to play with your friends or against them?

There are plenty of games that give you this option in varying degrees. Do you want to play an every-person-for-themselves game, do you want to play in teams (also, are there enough people for teams?) or do you want to all work toward a common goal? (In the latter case, it would be you and your friends/family against the game mechanics, which is an interesting concept).

What level of involvement do you want in your gameplay?

The level of involvement that is required for games both mentally and physically can range extensively. Therefore, before you choose a board game, you are going to need to decide the level of involvement and what type of involvement you are looking for. Do you want to have to participate physically, by singing or dancing? Do you want to have a mental challenge? Or, do you just want to play a game that requires little effort?

How long do you want to play the game?

For instance, Monopoly is a notoriously long game. Yet, there are also games that only take 20-30 minutes so might not last the whole evening’s entertainment. This is especially true if you are having a good, old-fashioned game night. Most players would want to have at least an hour of gameplay to really have a chance to get into the game.

Although, this is completely preferential and dependent on the time you and your group want to spend on one game. Maybe you are having a tournament and you want to play as many different games as possible. In that case, you would want to have many quick-play games. However, if your group has more intense, serious game players in it, you’re going to want to pick a game that challenges them.

What are the psychological benefits of playing board games?

Board games can help strengthen our mental health and reduce our stress. Board games are the perfect blend of social interaction, mental agility, and of course fun, that helps players find lasting psychological benefits simply from playing.

Strengthens mental health

Playing board games is a fun activity. Therefore, it helps release endorphins in your body, which makes you happier. The more you play board games, the more those endorphins will be released. This therapeutic release will help decrease depression.

Additionally, board games are credited with helping to build self-confidence. Through the gameplay, children and adults alike will be included and can express themselves creatively. This will help people of all ages have a positive association with their own internal abilities.

Increases social interaction

Board games help people unplug and get together. Nowadays, it is difficult to find a reason to physically sit down at a table, talk face-to-face and enjoy nothing more than one another’s company. We are always connected digitally but board games help people interact in the real world.

Whether this is with friends, loved ones or even people that you are just meeting, playing a board game can help you develop a bond that is conceived from a positive experience.

Decrease stress

Board games are fun but that is not the primary reason they are good are de-stressing you. The reason board games help decrease stress is because playing is a distraction from the real world. Focusing on a game gets your mind to think about something other than your life and the difficulties you are facing. If you allow yourself to get sucked into the world that a board game creates, your brain and mental state are granted relief. This helps you recharge and possibly even come back from the game with a different perspective.

Plus, when you play a board game, you often laugh. When you laugh, your body releases Cortisol and other stress hormones. This and other hormones released when you are laughing manages your body’s use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, it decreases inflammation, regulates blood pressure, as well as boosting your energy. This is all essential for managing stress and feeling physical relief from the symptoms stress creates.

What are the health benefits of playing board games?

Board games help with self-growth, confidence, stress relief, and social interaction but are they truly beneficial to a player’s physical health? Yes. Here are the different ways that board games increase a player’s health:

Increases brain function

Regardless of your age, playing games helps to strengthen memory formation and complex thought-processes. Therefore, people of any age can learn to be better decision-makers, strategists, and problem solvers, just by playing board games.

Reduces cognitive decline

Playing board games helps to exercise different portions of the mind. This keeps the mind sharp and helps to speed up your response time. Giving yourself (and loved ones) a playful challenge that keeps them plotting and planning helps ward off the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Lowers blood pressure

Plenty of people throughout the United States struggle with high blood pressure. While board games are not a substitute for medication, the release of endorphins that occurs when playing board games does aid in lowering and stabilizing blood pressure.

Strengthens your immune system

Research has shown that playing games help strengthen your immune system in two ways; the first is the release of endorphins which reduces stress and therefore, boosts the immune system. However, the second way is that games can activate your survival genes. This activation ultimately tells your brain cells that they need to live longer and that helps your body fight disease.

Do board games really help you with your planning and strategy skills?

Yes, they do. Remember, many board games were developed out of the need to enhance military strategy. However, that doesn’t mean this benefit is restricted to combat strategy. Board games like those on this list help us to learn planning and strategy skills in a safe, playful environment that we can develop into our own real-life goals.

The best part is this is not a conscious decision. Most people do not sit down at a game night and go into it with the intention of developing their planning and strategy skills. Rather, the engaging aspect of the game, the atmosphere, and the desire to achieve the goal of the game creates the right conditions all on their own. Our minds simply react to the game and exercise our planning and strategy skills. Then, when we are faced with making a strategic decision in the real world, we pull from the experience of the game to help us work through the process of coming to a solution.

Final Words

In summary, playing board games is a time-honored tradition, with benefits that extend way past the simple act of having fun. Whether you are having a game night with your friends, or you are sharing a cherished memory with your children, playing a board game has a plethora of different benefits.

So, which of these 10 best cheap board games for under $20 are you going to play tonight?