The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of gear

Best Card Games of 2020

We love games. Pacha  the dog  is also intrigued.
By Ross Robinson ⋅ Senior Review Editor
Friday September 25, 2020
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To fuel your next game night, we researched 60+ products before buying and testing 10 of the best card games of 2020. Our experts spent three weeks learning rules, playing hands, and arguing over controversial moves, all the while taking tedious notes across metrics we designed to assess each game. There are plenty of options available on the market today, making deciding on one game tough. Our review highlights the top products and who will appreciate each one the most. Each game has something to offer someone. It's our goal, though, to match the right game to your specific interests, so that you can play a game you love with the friends and family you love.

1

Best Overall Card Game


Monopoly Deal


Editors' Choice Award
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$7.12
(11% off)
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 2-5 | Type of Game: Strategic card game
Family-friendly
Games are quick, unlike the board game
Fun for two players and groups
Highly replayable
Inexpensive
Fits in your pocket
Can be confusing at first
Only moderate strategy

Starting with the fact that it is not the same as its parent board game, Monopoly Deal is an excellent card game. It maintains the competitiveness of Monopoly with none of the boredom or forever-long duration. We love that this game doesn't rely on inappropriateness or shock value; instead, it's family-friendly. Deal is fun even if you only have two players, so it's suitable for cozy nights with your partner (although 4-5 player games are more entertaining). Some of our testers have played this game for years and plan to continue, unlike several other one-and-done games. This game fits easily in a jacket pocket for transport to your local watering hole. Best of all, this is the least expensive game among all we tested and offers the greatest appeal.

Monopoly Deal usually takes new players a few games to grasp, but then it's off to the races. Some of the rules are unclear about what is allowed or not, leaving room for interpretation that not everyone will appreciate — whether this is intentional or not, we can not say. If you're looking for a deeply strategic game, this one might not be enough for you because it incorporates some luck of the draw aspects. This aspect is also what keeps it fun for younger and older audiences playing together, although we think most players younger than eight might not be able to play competitively. Our team of testers has played many card games, and this one continues to rise to the top of the heap. It combines entertainment, replayability, and creative design for many ages and maturity levels to enjoy.

Monopoly Deal is the game we most readily recommend to friends and family looking for their next game of cards.
Monopoly Deal is the game we most readily recommend to friends and family looking for their next game of cards.

2

Best Bang for Your Buck


Unstable Unicorns


Best Buy Award
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$19.97
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 2-8 | Type of Game: Strategic card game
Strategy + party game vibes
Very competitive but lighthearted
Artwork
Playable with a large range of players
Great price for the level of complexity and creativity
Learning curve
A tendency to gang up on the leader

For folks seeking a game with more edge and complexity, Unstable Unicorns combines several compelling game aspects in a high-value product. The illustrations by creator Ramy Badie are cute and clever, in a fantastic anime kind of way. We appreciate that tactics are required to succeed in this game, pushing it beyond its aesthetics to become a well-rounded game. The interplay between lightheartedness (you're playing with charming unicorns) and cut-throat competition creates a fun dichotomy, and the moderate levels of complexity and strategy will keep this game coming out of the closet for more than just one game night.

Although the gameplay isn't for children, some adults might be turned off by the visuals of the game. We recommend giving it more than face-value judgment, though. If you ever want to spice it up, there are expansion packs for purchase separately (including an NSFW version). The instructions are long and tedious, though, and it took most testers 2-3 games before they grasped them well enough to play with a cohesive strategy. Factoring in that one game can take up to 30 minutes, this is a long time to be learning. All things considered, this is an entertaining, competitive, and creative spin on strategic card games that we think lots of people will enjoy without spending too much money.

This game has the best combo of complexity  strategy  and modest price.
This game has the best combo of complexity, strategy, and modest price.

3

Top Value for All Ages


Mattel Games UNO


Best Buy Award
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$9.99
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 2-10 | Type of Game: Strategic card game
Classic and nostalgic appeal
Family game night friendly
Accommodates up to ten players
Low price
Not recommended for adults-only crowd
More dependent on chance than strategy

UNO is one card game that needs little introduction. Invented in 1971, this game has grown into one of the most popular card games ever. Our testers can't deny its playability factor. Despite not having played since childhood, our gaming testers fell right into gameplay on the first round, a testament to this game's ease of play. We think this game is a perfect choice when appeasing the young and old players on game nights. If you need a family card game, this one will work great. We have played with players as young as six years old with success. The colorful cards keep youngsters engaged, while the speed of play keeps everyone involved and competitive. The latest version of UNO that we purchased comes with customizable wild cards, allowing you to put a new twist on an old game. It also came in a quality tin case, a nice touch.

While nostalgia is high with this game, our enthusiasm for this game lessens significantly when kids aren't around. For most of our adult testers, the joy of this game is being able to play a competitive and fun game with children. The playing field is pretty even for all ages, which is hard to find in any game, whether cards or board games. But, it just doesn't hold its weight on adults-only game nights. In such a scenario, our testers would much rather reach for a different game. We think this game has tons of value and appeal, but it is limited to families or those playing for nostalgia's sake.

A truly classic game of cards  UNO provides colorful fun for all ages for whole family  inclusive play.
A truly classic game of cards, UNO provides colorful fun for all ages for whole family, inclusive play.

4

Best for Creativity and Unruly Laughter


Scrawl


Top Pick Award
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$25.14
(37% off)
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 4-8 | Type of Game: Drawing party game
Outrageously hilarious
Easy to teach new players
Huge creativity and novel implementation
Very repeatable game
Low-quality dry-erase markers included
Most fun with 6-8 players
Some folks are resistant to drawing

Scrawl receives unanimous praise among our testers for its hilarity. The overwhelming laughter comes not from the game itself, but the creativity of the players. It doesn't rely on cards with crude or gasp-worthy phrases. Instead, Scrawl gives a prompt and allows the imagination of the players to fill in the rest in the form of phrases and illustrations. This freedom makes it more replayable. Due to the speed of play, the cards are also not used up as quickly as in other prompt-and-response games, which helps preserve the game's freshness. A time limit for drawing and writing adds a fun amount of pressure. And because everyone "plays" simultaneously, there's no waiting around. At the end of a round, when the sequence of drawings and writings are revealed for all to see, we dare you to keep a straight face. Or, don't — let yourself laugh so hard it becomes a core workout.

There are a few small caveats worth mentioning. First, this game is pricey and comes with poor quality dry-erase markers, so we'd recommend picking up an inexpensive pack of dry-erase markers separately. And while the prompt cards are PG (a few teeter on PG-13), we've seen a strong tendency for gameplay to get rather spicy. Maybe it's just us? However, with some self-censorship and removal of a few of the more suggestive card prompts from play, it could be appropriate for kids too. Note that while you do NOT need to be a good drawer to have fun in this game (poor drawings are often the winners, actually), convincing everyone to draw can be tricky. Scrawl might feel out-there but trust us — no game has ever made us laugh so hard.

Terrible artists are welcome (and sometimes favored) in this game that brings creativity and freshness to the age-old game of Telephone.
Terrible artists are welcome (and sometimes favored) in this game that brings creativity and freshness to the age-old game of Telephone.

5

Best Fast-Paced Action Game


Dutch Blitz


Top Pick Award
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$11.50
(8% off)
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 2-4 | Type of Game: Action card game
Vintage charm
Kid-friendly
Fun with just two players
Speedy gameplay
Replayable
Lacks strategy
Rules sheet not the most user-friendly

Dutch Blitz should make its way onto your shortlist if you're a fan of Gin Rummy, Kings Corner, Speed, or similar card games. This simultaneous speed-play game inspires vintage fun and is a wonderful addition to any cabin getaway. The wild, chaotic nature of the game supplies an entertaining mix of panic and satisfaction. It's family-friendly, so as long as kids can keep up with the pace, they can play along. The game works head-to-head well, and it can accommodate up to four players in its original pack or up to 8 with an expansion. This game is fun to play over and over and truly fits the pastime vibe.

While this game isn't complicated, it seems so on paper, as the instructions are less than user-friendly. Additionally, this game is about shedding cards faster than your opponents, with little time or opportunity to employ thoughtful tactics. So if you're looking for a game of strategy, you may want to look elsewhere. Despite these few drawbacks, Dutch Blitz has held a place high in our card game rotation for years, and we continue to love its charm and fast-paced fun.

This colorful  competitive game of speed is family-friendly and simple  yet very fun.
This colorful, competitive game of speed is family-friendly and simple, yet very fun.

6

Best Adult Party Game


Cards Against Humanity


Top Pick Award
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$25.00
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 3-20 | Type of Game: Irreverent party game
Surely has a place in card game hall of fame
A high number of expansion packs available
Crowd-pleaser, in the right crowd
Easy to break out and play immediately
Not suitable for kids or even all adults
Vulgarity
Expansion packs needed to maintain longevity

If you haven't heard of this game already, let us introduce you to one of the most popular adult card games, Cards Against Humanity. This game will be an instant hit if irreverent humor fits your friend group. Setup and explaining the rules take only a couple minutes at most, and within a single round, players are fully locked in and "get it." Gameplay revolves around a prompt card. Each player supplies their own anonymous response card, aiming to get the judge of the round to pick their card by using shocking hilarity, cleverness, or both. This game paved the way for the array of NSFW (Not Safe For Work) adult games on the market, like an inappropriate grandfather, cranked up to 11.

However, Cards Against Humanity is not for everyone. This game offers heaps of vulgarity and swear words, which can be unabashedly offensive to many who don't appreciate this kind of humor. If shocking indecency doesn't make you laugh, steer clear of this game. Know your audience, as there's no way to filter this polarizing game. The other drawback is that once you've played through all the cards, the game's entertainment drops sharply. Luckily, CAH has 600 cards in the starter deck, and a whopping 28 expansion packs available. They aren't free, but they do extend the life of this game. Regardless, the first time you play is guaranteed to be memorable (for better or worse).

Cards Against Humanity is a polarizing game due to its blatant vulgarity. This is about the tamest round we ever played with this game.
Cards Against Humanity is a polarizing game due to its blatant vulgarity. This is about the tamest round we ever played with this game.

7

Best Video Game Nostalgia


Boss Monster


Top Pick Award
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$16.33
(35% off)
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 2-4 | Type of Game: Strategic card game
Imitates 90s video games
Real depth
Well designed
Complex
Largest learning curve
Long setup
No universal appeal

The chances are that Boss Monster will conjure nostalgic feelings if you grew up with a video game console in the 1990s. The gameplay imitates a scrolling 2-D video game while you build your dungeon as an end boss. We like the role reversal of playing the bad guy (cue Billie Eilish), creating a lair of traps and monsters to ensure the demise of the "heroes." This game is an outstanding balance of just enough luck of the draw to keep gameplay strategies fresh without falling into pure chance. We also appreciate that the game is complex enough to allow everyone's approach to evolve as they play the game more.

We admit that not everyone will fall for this game's aesthetic, and the steep learning curve and long setup time will likely be dissuading for some. The instruction booklet has 21 pages (granted, the pages are small, but still). Though it will take time to read through and comprehend these directions, they are a thorough and helpful resource. The instructions also provide a link to an online how-to video, but we didn't find it very useful. Lastly, not everyone is looking for complexity, and Boss Monster feels more like a board (or video) game than most card games. However, we think you'll be thoroughly entertained with this unique game if the look and description are enough to draw you in.

Oh  there is so much to like about this game. It's not limited to those who grew up with a Sega or SNES console  but if you did  this game might bring back many memories.
Oh, there is so much to like about this game. It's not limited to those who grew up with a Sega or SNES console, but if you did, this game might bring back many memories.

8

For Murder-Mystery Lovers


Stellar Factory Werewolf


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$12.95
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 7+ | Type of Game: Classic social deduction game
Devilishly entertaining
Allows for acting and unbridled creativity
Completely different kind of card game
Clean aesthetic
Requires a large number of players
Poor instructions
Can be great or just flop

Do you enjoy murder mystery parties? Love a game of deceit? Are you interested in theater? If you answered yes, you're going to love playing Werewolf. This game pulls each player's persuasive skills to the forefront. Player creativity is at an all-time high here. The game gives you your role, provides a basic framework, and the rest is up to the players. Werewolf accommodates large groups of players and can easily be a party game for the right group of players. It's repeatable, and the illustrations create a clean aesthetic. This game can make you howl with fun if its style fits your friend group or large family.

This game can be an absolute hit, but it can also flop. This depends heavily on all players being willing to get into character and act out their roles. Also, the instructions in the deck of cards and online aren't constructive. If you've never played before, the first round is going to feel very confusing. It's beneficial to have someone playing who already knows how the game works. This game also requires a large number of players. However, for the right group willing to weave a story of deceit, Werewolf is an incredible game.

9

Fun for Edge-of-Your-Seat Suspense


Exploding Kittens


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$19.99
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 2-5 | Type of Game: Strategic card game
Quick to learn
Just enough strategy to maintain interest
Lots of suspense
A bit expensive
Relies heavily on the luck of the draw

Exploding Kittens will fit the bill if you are looking for a deck of cards to bring the suspense. Knowing that any card you draw could be your last creates a healthy dose of anxiety to fuel this game's fun factor. It's super easy to set up and learn to play with easy-to-follow instructions and straightforward gameplay. Kids can also play along, and rounds are short enough that minimal commitment is required. The cards themselves add some humor to the game as well.

As for drawbacks, the first half of each hand is generally uneventful as strategy doesn't factor into this game until the deck thins out. And though this game can work with just two people, we think it's much more fun with 4 or 5. Even with a well-played strategy, a lot of this game relies on luck. We believe for the amount of entertainment that it provides, this game is a little pricey. However, Exploding Kittens is a novelty and works well as a lighthearted filler between more extended, complex games.

10

Great While It Lasts


What Do You Meme?


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$29.99
at Amazon
See It

Number of Players: 3+ | Type of Game: Irreverent party game
Funny
Super easy to play
Good for adult parties
Loses replayability quickly
Millennial/Gen Z-centric
Funnier party games out there

What Do You Meme? adds a new twist to adult party games we've seen before. Instead of written prompts, this game has large picture cards of memes to which players submit their best response cards. Similar to Cards Against Humanity, the only strategy is to play to the humor or wit of each round's judge. Setup and learning the rules is speedy. Winning and losing isn't really the focus, so you can quit once everyone has gotten their fill. This game got us laughing several times, and it plays well at a house party.

The Achilles' heel here is replayability. We found that many players lost interest in the game once the picture meme cards circled back for a second round (there are only 75 cards). Most of our test team enjoyed the game at first but then became bored. Though there are expansion packs for purchase that would help extend the life of this game, we think Cards Against Humanity is the superior game in this genre because it comes with over 150 more cards and more provocative prompts and comments. However, if you already love CAH and are looking for a new twist, What Do You Meme? will satisfy that itch.

Planning a game night? Let our review guide you to the perfect game for you  your friends  and family.
Planning a game night? Let our review guide you to the perfect game for you, your friends, and family.

Why You Should Trust Us


Ross Robinson leads the testing team of competitive shufflers. Growing up with four siblings and a closet packed full of games gave him an early start at becoming a game night zealot. Still, when the Robinsons get together, someone is designated to bring a new game. Hosting game nights with friends on the reg, Ross brings plenty of experience and game knowledge to the card table. He has played many of the games tested with his nieces and nephews, and his experience as an elementary teacher help him form an idea of what younger players want and need to hold their attention. Ross has played over 50 different card-style games as an adult and is continuously on the lookout for the next one to add to his collection.

We investigated stacks of games, read through forums and comments, and crunched the numbers before selecting the products to review here. We bought them at retail price and created a rubric to evenly score each product. We read through instructions, counted cards, assessed the level of strategy and complexity, and determined which games have longevity and which get played once and then sit on a shelf for years before ending up at Goodwill. We also asked friends and family to play these games and report back on their experiences, averaging their input to gain a broad consensus. Tester ages ranged from six to 58. We love card games and tried to do them justice by buying, opening, playing, fighting over, and assessing each model. Rest assured, there were many arguments regarding rules and interpretations along the way.

Pacha the dog is very interested in the Exploding Kittens. Shuffling the cards for another round.
This game brought out the crass side of our testers  which many of them found pretty darn funny.
Clever illustrations and captions add to the experience of gameplay with Boss Monster.

Analysis and Test Results


We cycled playing through them all back-to-back to rank each model's characteristics to resolve the fierce competition between these games. Our testing rubric included five performance metrics; Replayability, Entertainment Factor, Strategy Factor, Design, and Ease of Setup. The products that rose to the top generally performed well in multiple, if not all, categories.

Whether you're seeking a laugh-out-loud party game or one that's family-friendly  we have a recommendation for you.
Whether you're seeking a laugh-out-loud party game or one that's family-friendly, we have a recommendation for you.

Replayability


You shouldn't need to buy a new game every time you want to play. We've tested several games that are an absolute riot the first time we play them, then wonder where the fun went when we pull them out a second time. A game's replayability is essentially its ability to entertain over time or grow old and become no longer fun to play. We looked at how much fun each model is to play repeatedly in a single night and how it ages over multiple game nights.

Our testers find Dutch Blitz to be a great game for rainy days. It doesn't grow old  no matter how much we play it.
Our testers find Dutch Blitz to be a great game for rainy days. It doesn't grow old, no matter how much we play it.

Monopoly Deal is one of the most replayable decks we've come across. Several testers pack these cards along on any camping trip or when heading to a favorite brewery, and it hasn't gotten old after years of play. Not only does it age well over time, but it's even fun enough to sustain an entire night of gaming. Dutch Blitz is another game that we've played for years without it losing its luster. UNO is repeatable, but it depends more on the ages playing. We love playing round after round with kids, but once the kids are not playing, we chose another game to play with other adults.

We expect Unstable Unicorns to remain on our shelf long-term. While the cards are entertaining themselves, the gameplay doesn't rely on their uniqueness. Instead, it's how you play the cards you receive, and there is a considerable variety in the types of cards in this game to keep the game ever-fresh. Even still, should you ever want to spice things up further, there are four expansion packs available for this game.

Our testers agree -- Monopoly Deal ages very well. We could (and do) play this game over and over.
Our testers agree -- Monopoly Deal ages very well. We could (and do) play this game over and over.

Party games can be notoriously poor at replayability. They often rely on shock value, which is more effective the first time you see it, and not so much afterward. You can sustain the shock with expansion packs to continually inject new cards into the game, but this requires additional consumer purchases. Cards Against Humanity offers a whopping 28 expansion packs at the time of publishing, blowing the other games out of the water in this regard. What Do You Meme? impressed our testers least in this metric because it has fewer cards than CAH and fewer expansion packs available. It aged quickest for us. Scrawl is much more replayable because the focus isn't on the cards. Rather, the fun comes from what the players create in response to the card. Also, the gameplay doesn't cycle through the cards nearly as fast as the other party games.

Both of these games rely on the initial shock provided on each response card. We think Cards Against is the more replayable of the two  though  because it has more cards in the pack  as well as more expansion options.
Both of these games rely on the initial shock provided on each response card. We think Cards Against is the more replayable of the two, though, because it has more cards in the pack, as well as more expansion options.

The most replayable deck of cards probably goes to Werewolf. Since the cards are essentially just character assignments, the game is unique each time you play it. Although it's undoubtedly replayable on separate game nights, we don't think playing more than two or three rounds in a night is desirable — it can be exhausting to deceive so much.

Entertainment Factor


What is the maximum amount of fun you have with a game? While this is admittedly subjective, we polled our family and friends to get their opinions on them. To get a feel for each game, we also play each one multiple times and with varying numbers of players. Products that score well in this metric are engaging for a wide range of tastes. Age appropriateness and the number of players required for an entertaining game can also boost a product in this metric.

With the right group of people (6-8 people and not easily offended)  this game is outrageously funny.
With the right group of people (6-8 people and not easily offended), this game is outrageously funny.

Dutch Blitz, Monopoly Deal, and Boss Monster are all fun with only two players, which isn't something we can say for the other games. We think this is an excellent asset for a game, allowing head-to-head fun. Sometimes, you just don't have the crowd to play larger games. All three games are still even more fun with more players, and they all generate their entertainment in varying ways. Dutch Blitz generates fun from frantic and fast gameplay, Deal is about cut-throat competition, and Boss Monster gets a lot of its entertainment from its complexity and nostalgic video game vibe.

Scrawl came out as the most entertaining game among our testers, who are primarily adults. It's hard to overstate how much relentless laughter this game has given us. Although there's no profanity, some references might not be welcome at every table, especially if younger players are present. It's possible to remove these cards from the deck and play with only the safer cards if you prefer. That said, a certain level of inappropriateness is also what makes this game laugh-out-loud hilarious. This game is best for 6 to 8 players, as the longer the chain of drawings and phrases generated by player input, the more it tends to diverge from the original prompt and become hysterical. Similarly, What Do You Meme? and Cards Against Humanity require a larger number of players to be genuinely entertaining. Both games are much more profane than Scrawl — you've been warned.

There are darkly charming illustrations and humor in the deck of Exploding Kittens  but the overall entertainment factor of this game didn't win over all testers.
There are darkly charming illustrations and humor in the deck of Exploding Kittens, but the overall entertainment factor of this game didn't win over all testers.

Exploding Kittens is a pretty polarizing game for our testers. Some love the random, kooky, suspenseful nature of the game, while others were slightly bored. It certainly has its worth to many, but we found it to be hit-or-miss. Unstable Unicorns can conjure up some serious competition, so if you live to thwart your opponents, this is an excellent game for that. With the right size group and willingness to get into character, Werewolf can also be extremely entertaining. With the wrong people, though, it can be a dud.

Strategy Factor


If your ideal card game would have its strategic nature turned up to 11, pay attention here. While games of cards often employ less strategy than many board games, less does not mean none. We assessed the relative strategy level of each game by looking at how much skill influences outcomes. A game with a low skill ceiling generally relies on chance (the luck of the draw), while one with a high skill ceiling allows players to develop and carry out a plan, as well as to leave room to improve one's skill over time. Speed-based and the luck of the draw games have appeal, but not so much for those seeking strategy-based games.

The most strategic game for small groups is Boss Monster. In this game, you build a dungeon to lure in and destroy attacking heroes. The complexity of your dungeon is flexible and can change each turn however you like. Your choices also have actual consequences too. Another layer of complexity is that you must not only defend your dungeon, but you also sabotage your opponents' efforts. Every time we play this game, our skill level increases and our tactics grow more elaborate. There is an element of responding to the cards you draw, but the emphasis is clearly on how you use these cards.

For two players and small groups  Boss Monster offers a ton of strategic play.
For two players and small groups, Boss Monster offers a ton of strategic play.

If you have a large, willing group, no game is more strategic than Werewolf. This game calls to action your skills of persuasion. The entire game consists of convincing everyone else that you are an innocent villager, not a werewolf invading and devouring another human each night. It doesn't get much more strategic than creating and acting out a character within a story based on deceit. It's brilliant. Unstable Unicorns and Monopoly Deal both offer a moderate amount of strategy. When played as two-player games, they rely more on the luck of the draw than anything else. However, with more players, the ability to strategize increases dramatically. UNO, being one of the simplest games we tested, relies on the luck of the draw to an even greater extent, although adding players also adds complexity and strategy. For the party games, such as Cards Against Humanity, Scrawl, and What Do You Meme?, the strategy factor is low, and none of these places much importance on winning or losing. Strategy is all but non-existent in Dutch Blitz, a game highly focused on speed.

The wealth of actions and differing cards in Unstable Unicorns make for many strategy options  as well as plenty of opportunities to sabotage the plans of your opponents.
The wealth of actions and differing cards in Unstable Unicorns make for many strategy options, as well as plenty of opportunities to sabotage the plans of your opponents.

Design


The design and intent of a game influences user experience a great deal. Factors that we assess for this metric include the creativity and novelty each game provides. We also look for a balance of complexity and fluidity while also realizing that simplicity can be excellent game design. Lastly, as games have become more and more artistic, we judge aesthetics as well. We are generally pleased with the design of each game we tested.

The cards in the Werewolf deck are very attractive  which is a great touch.
The cards in the Werewolf deck are very attractive, which is a great touch.

Most of our testers voiced their appreciation for the design of Scrawl above all others. It's unique and inspires a lot of creativity. The rules are not complicated, and the gameplay is simple. The game creates a portal into how individuals interpret images and phrases differently, and the results take hilarity to a whole new level. We like the design of Monopoly Deal for taking the best aspects of the board game while removing the worst and maxing out competitiveness. Boss Monster surprised us with unique gameplay that simulates a scrolling Nintendo or Sega game. We also like that Werewolf provides an entirely different way to play with cards, engaging theatrical creativity and all-out deceitfulness from each player.

Testing Scrawl is about the most fun we've had testing products in a long time.
Testing Scrawl is about the most fun we've had testing products in a long time.

As far as aesthetics go, we like that art is increasingly becoming a selling point for card-based games. Werewolf stands out with clean aesthetics. The cards in Exploding Kittens and Unstable Unicorns are fresh, fun, and funny, adding another element to these games and making the first time you play them all the more unique. Cards Against Humanity nails the simple and stark, black and white look. Boss Monster gets a nod here too. The cards are busy, but they are immediately identifiable as 90s video game illustrations. UNO has a beautifully simple design, with big numbers and bright colors to engage youngsters and keep them interested. It's easy to recognize and easy to play.

Cute and funny illustrations are welcome in any game  helping expand their appeal and uniqueness. Unstable Unicorns has a ton of adorable and entertaining cards.
Cute and funny illustrations are welcome in any game, helping expand their appeal and uniqueness. Unstable Unicorns has a ton of adorable and entertaining cards.

Ease of Setup


Ease of setup includes the learning curve for first-timers and how long it takes to set up a round of play. We studied the included instructions and sought online resources provided by the manufacturers. For more complex games, we like to see handy cheat sheets included in the box. These are helpful when you begin playing the game and if you are a little rusty on the rules. We also considered how many patient rounds it took us before fully engaged and comprehending the rules and gameplay.

Monopoly Deal has a learning curve the first time you play  but the instructions are fairly clear  and the included cheat sheets are helpful if you haven't played in a while.
Monopoly Deal has a learning curve the first time you play, but the instructions are fairly clear, and the included cheat sheets are helpful if you haven't played in a while.

In general, party games are designed to be the easiest and quickest to set up and play. Cards Against Humanity and What Do You Meme? are the fastest games to explain to newcomers and to set up gameplay — just deal the cards. Exploding Kittens doesn't take too long to set up (shuffle, then deal), and while it requires some how-to explanations, the instructions are written out in a clear and even comical way. Scrawl is the most complex among the party-esque games we tested, with many pieces and less conventional gameplay. For all four of these games, a single round was all that was needed to understand the game and get engaged for round two. Games such as Dutch Blitz and Monopoly Deal have a steeper learning curve, but only take a few rounds of play to get everyone on board. In contrast, UNO is very easy to set up and get playing. There are very few rules, and the game objectives are quick to digest so that playing can get underway immediately. This is a huge bonus to playing with children, as they are able to pick up the basic gameplay without much complication.

Simple! We appreciate the condensed idea presented within the Exploding Kittens instructions.
Simple! We appreciate the condensed idea presented within the Exploding Kittens instructions.

Unstable Unicorns took us longer than we expected to figure out. We think the creators could develop a better presentation of how to play the game, as some testers zoned out during the long instructions. It took most testers a minimum of three full rounds before gameplay became fluid. The game does come with eight cheat sheets to help if you haven't played the game in a while. Werewolf is woefully lacking in clear instructions. Had some of our testers never played this game before, we would have been left hanging and confused. There is a link to a video included in the deck, but that video doesn't give details on how to play; it's just an overview. Lastly, Boss Monster is the most complex game, requiring a whole booklet to explain it. For all three of these games, we had to resort to using third-party how-to-play videos to gain a solid understanding.

Boss Monster's rule booklet lays out the rules clearly but also takes 20 pages to do so.
Boss Monster's rule booklet lays out the rules clearly but also takes 20 pages to do so.

Conclusion


Game nights are some of our favorite nights, and we hope our several weeks of testing and assessing these products first-hand leads you to many evenings of competition, laughter, and good old entertainment. Grab the game that calls to you, gather your friends, shuffle that deck, and play away. Game on.

Ross Robinson