Trivial Pursuit’s no-nonsense wedges have given trivia games a bad reputation among gamers, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a whole host of dashboard games that offer more replay value, better balance and fairness, and game design that helps keep everyone engaged. At their best, these are simple skill games that anyone can enjoy. They also have the ability to be hilarious. And if you’re okay with trying a hitch of greater complexity, you can have some strategy along with your skill and slapstick style.
In a market dominated by cheap imitation nicknames, finding gems may be more difficult than the hardest historical facts question. So we did the research for you. These are seven of the best trivia board games, ranging from devilish to funny to family-friendly.
In this genre full of faded art and flat text, iKNOW’s sleek, minimalist aesthetic stands out a mile. It is used to keep track of the bets and guesses the game is about. For any given question, you can choose to have more or less clues for fewer or more points in a row. Immediately, you are in a dilemma about how safe you want to run. Then problems pile up as everyone bets on whether or not they think others will get it right before giving an answer that may – or may not – be a hoax. Among these elements, iKNOW incorporates an exceptional blend of strategy, cunning and trivia knowledge.
Speed and simplicity meet in this popular series of card-ordering titles. You get to hand cards showing historical events based on the collection: discoveries, for example, or the acclaimed collection of inventions. Players then take turns trying to get rid of the cards by getting them in the correct order for the time they occur. It’s a smart system because few people memorize dates, but they can memorize images and commands. This balances the playing field a bit, and provides educational value. And with sessions concluding in 15 minutes or less, Timelines lets you pack a lot of learning — and fun — into a small space.
Combining ideas from other games is a fertile furrow for the design. But Anomia somehow pulls a lot of fun out of the unlikely mix of trivia and photo shoots. Each player cycles through a pile of cards, each with a token and a trivia class, watching each other like hawks. If two reveal the same symbol, it’s a crazy race to exemplify the other’s class. The winner wins the card, revealing another symbol and another possible race. Despite its speed and simplicity, each card heart is a cauldron of tension as everyone waits to discover the match and get a head start on the next trivia race.
Balderdash broadens the definition of a trivia game, because it works best if players don’t know the answers. Each card asks players to select an obscure word, type a strange acronym, or take some similar guesses in a strange query. For maximum fun, most of it is silly, like outlining a movie outline from a title that turns out to be around the feet of a talking businessman. Then one of the players reads all the guesses with the real answer, and then bonus points are awarded to those who cheated the most. It’s an intoxicating mix of humour, skill, and misguided social orientation that rarely fails to please him.
Intelligence and bets
Another game based on player ignorance, Wits and Wagers, is as much about betting as it is about trivia. It astounds players with vague statistics, such as asking how old the oldest cats in the world are. Everyone writes an answer, and then bets on which guesses they think are the closest. This adds some basic mathematical strategy to the mix, making it a favorite for parties with the most die-hard gamers. Tensions rise as the chips drop before the explosive reveal of the answer. Like real gambling, you can win or lose huge sums at the role of wits and bets, except that you guarantee the fun instead of risking your life savings.
Leicester’s penalty shootout competition
Instead of asking for a definitive answer to a difficult question, Lister, a professor of testing in the Wild West, asks many answers to the easy ones. This makes the game unique for family play: it is comprehensive and fun for young players. As such, it’s perfect holiday entertainment, with a rubbery mustache for the comedic tradition. Fake mustaches are always funny. And there’s more skill under that mustache than it seems at first glance, because ordering your answers well can deprive the other team of the chance to score. Relationships are cut with the ‘closest to’ guess in a numerical question which, as a bonus, means that the cards also work in wits and bets.
Most Trivia games are meant to grab your attention, but the mix of tasks and questions in Stay Cool is easy as pie. Perhaps you will be asked for some simple math, the name of the game you are playing, or even something personal like your grandfather’s profession. So where’s the tension, or even the game? Well, the catch is that you have to answer two questions at once, one orally and one by spelling the answer to a set of custom dice. As the game progresses, you spin the screws, have players monitor their sand timer, and then hide it, so answering trivia questions becomes anything but trivial.
You may recognize designer Richard Garfield’s name from his famous collectible card game Magic: The Gathering. So when he puts his mind to a game of questions, you’ll sit back and pay attention. His treatment of this type is a broad question with six answers, three right answers and three wrong answers. To advance, you just have to choose one of the correct options. What could be simpler? Well, the temptation to go ahead is to pick two or even three correct answers, unless you’re wrong, you’re not going anywhere. It is a game that challenges your confidence and reminds you that after arrogance, enemies tend to follow.
We’ve all played some trivia games where an argument erupts about the really correct answer. Smart10 takes this to the next level by asking questions that have multiple answers, such as “what animals have become extinct in the last 100 years” and providing ten answers. Other questions ask you to rank the answers, such as countries by geographic size. In your turn, pass or choose an answer that you think is correct to get a point and stay in the round with a chance to answer again. But in pushing your luck regulator, if you get the wrong answer and you lose what you have accumulated in that round, increasing the tension with each pass around the players.
When you think of Trivia games, you tend to think of dinner parties. And while you can play Box One with a group at a dinner party, it’s really designed to play solitaire, just you and your compatibility knowledge against the game. It’s not just trivial things: you’ll be challenged with a mixture of general knowledge, word games and logic puzzles. It’s hard to say a lot without spoilers, but if you’re a fan of escape rooms with lots of quiz questions, you’ll have a good time. It can also be reset so you can play again or pass it on to a friend.
Speaking of gamers, one of the designers who is most eccentric in this scene is Friedman Freeze. This is his take on the trivia game, which was redeveloped from his previous game Fauna. In each round, players get questions on a geographic topic. Let’s say it’s the longest urban bridge in the world, and they have to answer for its length, location and year of construction. Take turns placing the cubes on the board to indicate what they think is correct. Friese games are always evolving, and this game is both simple and awesome. You can win by being good at a particular subject, or by being good at figuring out who else at the table is good at a particular subject.
For more inspiration, check out our list of the best classic board games. Or, if you are looking for game night ideas for the whole family, take a peek at the best family board games.