It can be difficult to get enough people together to play board games. So many classic options take a large group to make it fun, and often times, playing with less can make for a slog. Luckily, there are actually some really solid games out there that can be played with just three players.
To help you kickstart your game nights with a small group of friends or family, we’ve rounded up 18 of the best 3-player board games around. These range from strategy, deck building, cooperative, and everything in between. Let’s see which of them speaks to you.
The 18 Best 3-Player Board Games for 2021
Like our list of 5-player board games, this isn’t so much a ranked list of best 3-player board games as it is a collection. All of the options here are excellent, and it really comes down to your taste in games.
The best Eurogame for 3 players
Publisher: Lookout Games | Players: 1-5 | Duration: 30-150 minutes | Difficulty: 4/5
Start with an empty farm and a small family and look to complete actions to grow your farm. Simple right? Well, the actual process is fairly complex thanks to the communal action board that you and your opponents choose from.
At the same time, you have to be sure that you can keep your family fed, providing a dual plane of action. Will you continue to invest in advancing your technology, output, and crops? Or pause to cook food that provides some benefits and keeps your family alive? All of this while trying to create a bigger farm than the competition.
2. Merchant of Venus
The best engine-building game for 3 players
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games | Players: 1-4 | Duration: 2-4 hours | Difficulty: 3/5
Venture into an unexplored part of the galaxy as a trader looking to buy and sell goods to long-forgotten civilizations. Your goal, to achieve a certain level of wealth by earning cash and deeds before everyone else. Depending on how long of a game you intend to play you’ll either be branching out extensive trade routes or cashing in for short-term profit.
At first, this requires you to discover cultures to trade with, while also discovering valuable artifacts. Once the majority of these civilizations have been unveiled, you’ll then shift to bringing goods between them. You can also decide to invest in factories and ports to charge other players, adding an additional level of strategy to what you buy and where you go.
The best classic 3-player board game
Publisher: Jax Ltd | Players: 2-12 | Duration: 10-30 minutes | Difficulty: 1/5
Next in our sequence of best 3-player board games? Why, Sequence of course!
Sequence is one of those games that changes with the more people that play. Having three keeps things simple and competitive, while any more players mean you have to team up. The basic premise requires you to form rows of five poker chips on a board corresponding to cards you play from your hand.
Chips can be placed horizontally, vertically, or diagonally all with the goal of completing a sequence. To win you have to get two sequences in a row first, with nine chips total. This is a really straightforward game, but the competitive nature of claiming parts of the board and disrupting opponents is incredibly fun.
4. Marvel Villainous
The best deck-building game for 3 players
Publisher: Ravensburger | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 40-80 minutes | Difficulty: 3/5
Take on the role of an iconic Marvel Villain and work to accomplish your evil machinations. Oh, and be sure that no other villains get in the way and stop you. The interesting thing about Villainous is that your interactions with other players are fairly limited. You need to focus on taking specific actions to accomplish your goals, acquiring power, resources, and henchmen in the process.
At the same time, you can also send over heroes and other roadblocks to trip up your opponents. But will you focus on stalling them or just keep your goals front and center? That’s the question to answer with your actions.
The best 3-player adventure game
Publisher: Cephalofair Games | Players: 1-4 | Duration: 1-2 hours | Difficulty: 4/5
Take on the role of a wandering mercenary with a specific set of skills and resources as you travel the world. Join up, begrudgingly with your compatriots to clear out dungeons, ruins al for the chance to enhance your abilities, uncover new locations and gain loot. Oh, and did we mention that the way the game’s story progresses is solely up to you?
That’s right, this is basically a choose your own adventure-type game. After you complete a scenario, you and your friends will then make decisions on what to do next. This will kick off the trajectory of the next session and continue your story. All in all, this option on our list of best 3-player board games is a fun experience that keeps you coming back with new adventures just around the corner.
6. Gaia Project
The best strategy board game for 3 players
Publisher: Feuerland Spiele | Players: 1-4 | Duration: 60-150 minutes | Difficulty: 4/5
Gaia Project is a sequel to the fantasy-infused Terra Mystica, now with a sci-fi theme. You start by choosing a unique species, each with a different power that breaks the game rules, and set out to gain and grow property across the galaxy. The complex part is that each new land grab requires materials, which you have to build out from property you already own. You can keep advancing current property into more powerful institutions, but risk losing out on specific resources every time.
That’s what’s truly interesting about this game, the entire game structure is built around risk and reward. Start researching too much and your opponents grab every planet around you. Don’t invest in unlocking your rule-breaking ability and suddenly your opponents have a hefty advantage. It’s complex and requires thinking multiple steps ahead, but becomes an elegant game as you progress.
7. Ticket to Ride
The best 3-player board game for newbies
Publisher: Days of Wonder | Players: 2-5 | Duration: 30-60 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
Ticket to Ride, long appreciated as one of the best 3-player board games, is kind of like the better version of Monopoly. It requires you to still find and acquire matching pieces of property, in this case, train cards, but with a much more gratifying plane of action. Instead of going round and round randomly landing on things, you’re strategically moving across the game board to connect your lines between cities.
There are end-game bonuses, like the longest line, and the fact that you can’t cross lines with opponents to consider. Having to pay attention to your opponents’ progress and decisions is really what elevates this game. A quick build or starting point can totally change your strategy or the overall trajectory of who comes out on top.
8. Above and Below
The best story board game for 3-players
Publisher: Red Raven Games | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 90 minutes | Difficulty: 3/5
A unique take on the engine builder genre, Above and Below has you focused on rebuilding your village and maintaining villagers. One round you may have to sacrifice a villager getting sleep, another you may have to decide between building or purchasing. Pretty standard, but the true kicker comes with the exploration elements in the subterranean caves.
Send at least two of your villagers out to explore and roll the dice to see what encounter they come across. This not only injects a bit of story into the game, it’s the best way to earn resources and even has you try to pass skill tests at the end. Bring what you have back, and start lining your resources up to earn income and victory points.
The initial builder aspect may be pretty basic, but the exploration and strategy around resource acquisition make this a much more intricate game.
The best kingdom-building board game for 3 players
Publisher: Rio Grande Games | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 30 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
One of the best kingdom-building games out there, it serves as another great introductory game for new players. Your goal is simply to build the largest kingdom. You do this by taking over and destroying other areas and enemies to earn assets and take dominion. By the end, whoever has the most wealth accumulated comes out the winner,
What makes this game really special though is the amount of action and resource cards featured within the game, over 200 in fact. So, it’s an incredibly replayable title, one that keeps you on your feet. Really any strategy you create upfront and refine will likely have to change multiple times as you play. Otherwise, you’re just building out fruitless card combos.
The best hexagonal 3-player board game
Publisher: Blue Orange Games | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 30-60 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
A unique entry on this list, Photosynthesis really leans into its name by being a green strategy board game. The board and game pieces are actually made from recycled materials, to begin with, and the game takes you through the journey of the lifespan of a tree. Your goal is to plant and shape these trees while also planting and cultivating crops to benefit your primary growth.
Throughout the initial phase, you collect light points that help you grow your tree, upgrade it, harvest it, etc. The closer it grows to the center of the board the more points you earn until the player with the most points wins out. It’s another simple ruleset to understand and worth playing over and over to become an expert a managing so many systems.
The best tile-building game for 3 players
Publisher: Next Move Games | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 30-45 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
A tile-building game based around trippy and elegant mosaic patterns, Azul works well as an easy-to-learn strategic experience. The basic goal is to claim the most tiles to increase your score and arrange them artistically as you go. However, the tricky part is that it’s based around a draw-based system, meaning that you have to be thinking about your opponent’s moves just as much as yourself.
And it’s not just about placing and collecting tiles. It’s about claiming the right ones to boost your score. Again a very simple premise, but it has the potential to grow into a complex back and forth of strategic art collecting.
12. Bloodborne the Board Game
The best co-op 3-player board game
Publisher: CMON | Players: 1-4 | Duration: 45-75 minutes | Difficulty: 3/5
Hello Hunter, it’s time to revisit the world of Yharnum as we wait for the hopeful release of a 60fps patch for Bloodborne on PS5. Of course in this case you’ll be revisiting it in person thanks to Bloodborne the Board Game. Like the RE2 Board Game, this is an incredibly faithful recreation of the game mechanics of Bloodborne into a different game type.
Work together to uncover mysteries, complete quests, fight horrifying beasts, and gain unique weapons to help you along your journey. Build out your combat deck to exploit weaknesses, add variety to your attacks and supplement your team. It’s complex, highly detailed, and customizable, just as Bloodborne should be.
13. Stone Age
The best worker placement game for 3 players
Publisher: Hans im Glück | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 60-90 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
This is an excellent entry point for new players to get a handle on work placement games. Become the leader of an ancient human tribe and work to allocate resources and workers to grow your community. Obtain wood, break stone and clean up gold in order to participate in trade, expand your village and upgrade your civilization.
This game really keeps the ruleset and mechanics fairly minimal, making it easy to learn and fun to master. It’s also unique among the best 3-player board games, as it has specific rules for parties of three, streamlining and enhancing some lengthier elements of the game.
14. Lords of Waterdeep
The best 3-player board game for RPG fans
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast | Players: 2-5 players | Duration: 1-2 hours | Difficulty: 2/5
For Dungeons and Dragons or just RPG fans, this is a great short alternative to a tried and true campaign. In it, you take on the role of the quest givers to draft the typical player characters to complete quests for you. As your party leaves on missions you can then partake in intrigue to attack other players and gain resources, or make changes to the city to try and claim more bonuses.
It’s a fun twist on a classic formula that works incredibly well. It’s a relatively short experience, but that’s kind of the point and thankfully it doesn’t lose the complexity or charm due to the length.
15. Star Wars: Outer Rim
The best sci-fi board game for 3 players
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 2-3 hours | Difficulty: 3/5
Play as notorious bounty hunters, swaggering space pirates, and more of your favorite Star Wars characters as you take on bounties throughout the galaxy. With a set amount of objectives to win, the Imperials right on your tail, and rival bounty hunters in the mix, everything should be considered dangerous. This is a pure competitive strategy game through and through, where you have to either make the smartest decisions or just be extremely lucky.
The setting, objectives, and encounters are truly what makes this game stand out. It may function like many other point acquisition titles, but the Star Wars skin really adapts the gameplay and style in all the right ways.
16. Resident Evil 2: The Board Game
The best survival board game for 3 players
Publisher: Steamforged Games | Players: 1-4 | Duration: 90-120 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
The trend to convert classic video games into board games has led to a handful of killer cooperative titles. Resident Evil 2 The Board Game is among the best, thanks to how well it retains the horror elements of the franchise. In this case, you literally work through the game’s plot, trying to escape Racoon City while uncovering what’s caused the virus breakout.
The gist is that you have to survive a set of randomized scenarios by facing down enemies, collecting items, and finishing objectives. It’s a fun recreation that stays true to the spirit and mechanics of the original game.
The best competitive 3-player board game
Publisher: Space Cowboys | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 30-45 minutes | Difficulty: 2/5
An addicting strategy game built around acquiring coins to collect specific gems and rack up points. It’s a simple premise and easy to jump into but requires a lot of forward-thinking and attempting to anticipate opponent decisions. Will you opt to grab a bunch of non-point cards early on to make larger purchases easier? Or rack up coins to jump in the lead at the start?
Sure, there is some luck involved in this game, which is part of what makes it so unique. Your entire strategy can just blow up with a single card flip or purchase by an opponent. And with 3-players it’s easily the most competitive version where every decision matters.
18. Through the Ages
The best medium-weight board game for 3 players
Publisher: Czech Games Edition | Players: 2-4 | Duration: 2-3 hours | Difficulty: 4/5
Last on our list of best 3-player board games? Through the Ages!
A civilization-building game built around auction and drafting mechanics to build up your resources and technology. Your goal is to build the best civilization possible while maintaining resources, uncovering advancements, selecting solid leaders, building global wonders, and reinforcing your military might. As you can see, there’s a lot to manage here as you try to grow from the age of antiquity into today.
On top of that, you have to be aware of your enemies and if they can exploit any weaknesses at all times. Luckily with three people, you’re playing the most streamlined version thanks to how quickly the bidding sessions can go. Other than that just prepare to advance strategically.
Join the High Ground
We hope that this list of the best 3-player board games has helped you find a few new options to try with your friends and family. If you like this rundown, be sure to share this article on your favorite social channels and let us know what your favorite among the best board games for 3 players are in the comments below. And to stay up to date with more ‘best of’ lists like this one, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.