Today we’ve got a question from a Windsor gamer who’s stuck at home with a group of six people, himself included, and is wondering what are the best board games for six players.
Kristopher Marentette asks:
What if you are in my situation? I have a family of 6 people, including myself, so it’s a large group. What if you happen to be quarantined with a large group of people. What would your game recommendations be for a group like mine.
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Usually, once you get to six board game players I like to split the group.
To me, six players is the tipping point. Once I hit six players, that’s when I stop trying to look for a game to play with the whole group. Six is where I personally suggest that you split that group into two groups of three players and play two different three-player games.
My reason for this is a combination of overall game time and downtime during the game. Once you get up to six players, games tend to go very long. Your average board game takes about fifteen minutes to half an hour per player. Because of this, once you get up to six players, you are looking at ninety minutes to three hours just for one game session.
The other problem with playing games with six players is the time between turns. Unless you are going to play a game with simultaneous play (a couple of which you can find below), it can be a very long time before you get to take a turn in a six-player game. Five other people have to decide what they are doing and carry out those actions while you wait.
Now I’m not saying playing games with six people is necessarily terrible. The problem is that over time, through running multiple large group events, I have found that most people have more fun playing quicker games in groups of three, versus playing one big long game with a lot of downtime with six. That’s not every group though. Some people love the big epic game and some six-player games play very quickly, especially party games.
Below you will find some games that I think are worth playing with six players. I’ve broken them up into three categories based mainly on the length of play.
If you’ve got some time on your hands there are some amazing epic six-player board games.
When I’ve got a big group sometimes I want to play a big game. An epic all-night event game. A game where I plan ahead and include dinner plans for the evening. Below are some great epic board games for a group of six.
Twilight Imperium – This epic 4x sci-fi board game is now on its fourth printing. This new printing boasts a much shorter four to eight hour playtime versus the previous edition which has been known to surpass the twelve hour mark. There is no other sci-fi game, and very few board games overall, that is as big or epic as Twilight Imperium. What I find fascinating about playing Twilight Imperium is that it doesn’t feel like you have been playing forever. The game is engaging enough that the time just flies by.
Eclipse – For something with a very similar feel, but much shorter playing time than Twilight Imperium check out Eclipse. This game features less of a learning curve and features a lot more exploration than Twilight Imperium while still keeping that epic 4x feel. There’s a new printing of Eclipse, Eclipse Second Dawn for the Galaxy, that’s just getting out to Kickstarter backers at the time this post was written. This new edition features content from the original game plus all of the expansions streamlined for a faster and more enjoyable play experience.
Formula D – This racing game plays up to ten players, but would work great with a group of six. To play a full game of Formula D you actually do three races, a qualifier to determine starting position then two two-lap races. That’s enough to keep a group of six busy for an entire weekend if you spread out those plays over multiple days. The basic rules are simple enough for non-gamers to grasp but toss in the advanced rules with things like tire wear and engine damage for the full Formula 1 experience. The game also features a street racing mode if Formula 1 isn’t your thing.
Battlestar Galactica – I almost didn’t want to put this on the list as the game is long out of print and impossible to find for a reasonable price but this is the one social deduction game that I actually love. While I personally think BSG is better with five players than six, it still works well with the full player count. In this game, the crew is trying to get Galactica to Cobol before running out of any of four necessary resources: fuel, food, population, or morale. The trick is that some of the players are actually Cylons who are trying to prevent this journey from happening.
Power Grid – This 2004 classic is one of my favourite games of all time. Power grid helped open my eyes to the world of German-style games and my love of heavier, economic based, board games. In this game, players work to expand their infrastructure network and upgrade their power plants, while making sure they keep a close eye on the resource market and keep enough money power those plants. This one may sound dry and boring, but I think it’s one of the better board gaming experiences out there.
Caverna: The Cave Farmers – In this brilliant update to Agricola, Uwe Rosenberg hopes to catch peoples interest by swapping it from raising cows and planting fields to playing dwarves raise cows, planting fields, and mining metals. It worked for me. Besides having what I think is a much cooler and more engaging theme Carverna plays up to seven players, whereas Agricola only goes up to five. There are a number of changes to the basic gameplay that I think make Caverna the tighter and more rewarding game of the two. The only problem is that there can be a lot of downtime once you get up to a high player count like six.
Tales of the Arabian Nights – In this board game you take on the role of a wanderer in the time of Sharazadad and Sinbad. You travel around, meet interesting people, go on quests, and accumulate treasure, all through a very well done choose your own adventure style storybook. This one can be more of an experience than a game, which ends up with players telling some awesome stories.
These six-player strategy games can be played in well under two hours:
Here is a list of somewhat shorter hobby board games. These games are great for playing multiple times in a row or for mixing and matching during a single game night.
Between Two Cities – What I love about this game is that everyone plays at the same time, which means that there is almost no downtime. Players draft tiles to build two cities. Each of these cities is being built by one of the other players, so you are building a city with the person to the right and another with the person to the left. At the end of the game, only your weakest city scores you points. You need to work with your partners but you also don’t want to help them out too much and hand them the win. It’s a really brilliant system that works really well at all player counts.
7 Wonders – This is the game that gets most recommended at public play events I’m at when we hit a player count of six or seven people. 7 Wonders can be pretty quick to teach and really fast to play once you have a group that knows the game. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking of 7 Wonders as a gateway game, things like having to “buy” resources from your neighbours can trip up new gamers.
Flash Point Fire Rescue – It’s very rare to find a cooperative game that plays at high player count like six players. All of the popular Pandemic games top out at five players and you only get to five with expansions. Flash Point plays six players right out of the box. In addition, I think Flash Point is a better cooperative game experience. There is just something about fighting fires and saving a kitty, that is more impactful than removing virus cubes from a board.
King of Tokyo – Six is the max player count for this dice based, king of the hill style board game. King of Tokyo is a very accessible game great for gamers and non-gamers of all ages. This one is actually in my kids’ collection and not mine. If you are going to play, I strongly recommend using the King of Tokyo Power Up Expansion which makes the game asymmetrical and gives each monster its own special abilities. For something with a bit more strategy and tactics, take a look at King of New York.
Colt Express – Colt Express is a very interesting programmed movement game. It’s set in the old west and each player controls a train robber. Players use cards to move around the train, avoid the warden, and grab (or steal) loot from the other payers. Whoever has the most loot when the train comes into the station wins. Different event cards make it hard to predict what other players are doing when things like tunnels have players playing their cards face down. As an added bonus the game comes with a full 3D train to move your meeples on, and even some 3D scenery that does nothing to affect the game but just looks cool set up along with the train.
Pitchcar – While I prefer to play Pitchcar with a full eight players, it’s fun at any player count. This is one of my favourite dexterity games of all time, that’s accessible to gamers and non-gamers, kids and adults. I’ve had great success selling this game to people who normally refuse to play board games as it’s more of an activity or even a sport. While the base game gives you enough track to play and have some fun, check out the expansions for some really interesting track options.
Shadows Over Camelot – This is another rare social deduction games that I enjoy. Each player takes on the role of a Knight of the Round Table and must work to defend Camelot and complete various quests like the search for the Holy Grail. The Interesting bit, in this semi-cooperative game, is that one of the nights might be a traitor working for the forces of darkness. One great aspect of this game is that players can jump in and out after the game has started with little to no impact on the game.
Robo Rally – Program your robot to move through a maze of obstacles and be the first to hit all of the objectives in play. This would be relatively easy if it weren’t for all of the other well-armed robots of the other players all trying to do the same thing. Robo Rally is my all-time favourite programmed movement game and one of my favourite board games overall. My only caveat here is that I really prefer the older editions of this game. While the new Hasbro version works, it’s just doesn’t have the complexity and depth of tactics and strategy of the older editions. That does mean it’s more accessible for new gamers though which can be a good thing for groups with newer players.
Catan (with the 5-6 player Extension) – Back when I was just getting back into tabletop gaming, we used to get together and play Catan every Saturday. Often those groups consisted of up to six players and over time I learned that I actually preferred Catan with the five to six player extension. The big change, besides a higher player count, that this expansion offers is a special building phase after trading each turn, in which people can spend resources to put stuff on the map, even if it isn’t their turn. This change both reduces downtime as well as making the robber less punishing (and the robber comes up a lot with six players rolling each round).
Here are a number of lighter games and party games great for groups of six players
Once you hit six players you are quickly entering party game territory. In addition to party games for six, there are also some great quicker, easy to learn hobby board games out there as well. Here are some quick to play good larger group games that work great with a group of six.
Codenames – For this game, you split the group of six into two teams of three, with one code giver and two guessers. To me, six is actually pretty much the bare minimum number of players you need to play a good game of Codenames. This is one of those rare games that I didn’t like at first but that grew on me, so even if you usually prefer heavier games or don’t like party games I recommend giving Codenames a chance. It won me over and may win you over as well.
Telestrations – This is a hilarious party game based on the parlour game Eat Poop You Cat. You get a random clue which you have to try to draw in a book. You pass your book to the left and then look at the drawing you were handed. Take that drawing and write down what you think it represents then pass that book. Next, you get a word to draw, and so on until you get your book back. In turn, players flip through their books and see where things went. It’s rare that you end up at the same word in the end that you started with. There is a full game here with points and scoring, but most people just play this one as an activity.
Skull – This is a neat betting, push your luck, game played using coasters. You create a stack of coasters comprising of one skull and a number of flowers. Then players take turns betting on how many coasters they can flip over, before revealing a skull. The player who bets the highest then has to try to do it. If they don’t reveal a skull they win the round, if not they lose a coaster. The first player to win two rounds wins the game. This is a dead simple game that is way more fun than I expected it to be when I first heard about it.
Cash ‘n Guns – In this game you are playing a group of gangsters who just finished off the heist of a lifetime and are in the process of splitting up the loot. This of course results in a standoff. Cash ‘n Guns involves pointing foam guns at your friends and family so it may not be for everyone, but if you are cool with the theme it can be a ton of fun. The more people involved the better it plays, so it is great for a group of six.
Liar’s Dice – This is a classic dice game that is great because most people have everything they need to play in their collection already. You just need 5d6 and a cup for each player. Liar’s Dice is a push your luck game where you are trying to roll better than the person next to you and if you fail to do so you are going to have to lie about it. Now if you lie there’s always the chance the next player will call you out on it. This is a quick and fun game with a ton of different variants and house rules that have evolved over time.
Concept – This is my favourite clue guessing party game. With a group of six, you can split into two teams or just do what we do where the person who guesses the correct concept gets to be the person giving out hints for the next round. Don’t bother scoring, just play until you aren’t having fun anymore. I know I recommend this game a lot but it’s for a good reason. This is one of the few games I can get my non-gaming relatives to play.
Pictomania – This is a fantastic gamer’s version of classic drawing games like Win, Lose, or Draw and Pictionary. The secret here is that there are seven different things to be drawn and all six players are drawing at once. Along with drawing players also have to try to guess which of the seven things each of the other players is drawing. It’s a bit chaotic but it works really well. I love the fact that with this system you can use deduction to help you figure out who is drawing what and it’s not all based on actual drawing skill.
Camel Up – This is a very silly racing and betting game featuring one key mechanic that really makes the game: the camels stack on top of each other if they move into the same spaces. When a camel moves it brings all of the camels on top of it along. Unlike many racing games, in Camel Up players don’t play a specific racer, rather at any point during the game they can place bets on which camel will win as well as which camel will finish last. This one has been a hit local with gamers of all ages and experience levels and works great at all player counts, but is actually better the more people you have playing.
For Sale – At one time pretty much every game night I attended started with a game, or two or three, of for sale. This was the game we played until seven people showed up. This card driven property game is split over two rounds. First, you bid for a number of buildings and after all the buildings have been bought then try to sell them for the greatest profit. For Sale is really quick to teach and plays in under half an hour even at six players.
No Thanks! – This is another very quick to teach and play card based game that we often use to start off our gaming nights. It plays up to seven players in less than twenty minutes. In No Thanks! you get the option to either get a card or pass, saying “no thanks, by spending one of your limited supply of chips. The goal is to have the lowest score, with the neat bit being that runs of cards are only worth the lowest card in the run.
Bohnanza – Six is a great player count for doing some bean planting. Bohnanza is one of my all time favourite games to play with groups of five players or more. One of the unique mechanics in this game is that you can’t sort your hand of cards and you are forced to play your first card each turn. Because of this, it’s all about making the right trades before your turn. Due to an open market that involves all players during each round, there is almost no downtime in Bohnanza.
The Great Dalmuti – This ladder based card game is one of only a few hobby board games that I’ve been able to get most of my non-gaming extended family to play. In this card game, you are trying to play all of the cards in your hand by playing sets of cards of the same number but lower value than what was previously played or lead. For example, if someone drops 3 nines, you could drop 3 eights, or 3 fives or at best you could drop 3 threes. There are also a couple of jokers that make things interesting as they are wild. When The Great Dalmuti is played over multiple rounds, players are assigned roles based on how quickly they’ve emptied their hands. Roles range from The Great Dalmuti down to the Greater Peon. We liked to combine these roles with costuming and a suggested house rule is that the Peon is the one that has to go get everyone’s drinks.
New York Slice – In this surprisingly thematic game, the lead player builds a pizza and then has to divide that pizza up into a number of portions based on the number of players. Each player chooses their own portion consisting of a set of slices, with the person doing the splitting getting the last pick. Slices come in different types and are worth points based on how many of each slice there are in the game. At the end of the game, only the players who have collected the most of each type of slice will score points, with some bonuses and penalties for pepperoni and anchovies. In addition, there are “today’s special” tiles cards that are placed on one of the portions, which allow the player who gets them to break the rules in some way. This one is always a big hit but does have the problem of making everyone crave pizza after playing.
There you have what I consider the best six-player board games, covering a wide range of playtime and depth options. What are your favourite six players games? Let us know in the comments!