Talking Points

  • Board games are the only medium in the library’s collection that are explicitly designed to encourage social interaction. At a time when many parents and educators are worried about the passive, isolated consumption of digital media, board games get people of different backgrounds engaging with each other across a table, solving problems, improving a number of practical skills, and having a good time. When looked at from this perspective, board games cannot be dismissed as mere diversions but are instead critical to the library’s mission to foster community and lifelong learning.
  • Board games can be relatively inexpensive and are easily replaceable.  Damage and loss is inevitable, just as it is in our collections.  Solicit donations and reach out to publishers. They are often very excited to work with libraries. They may donate games, or provide a reasonable discount. Also publisher will often work with you to provide replacement parts for those copies needing them. Another option is when a copy loses pieces, you can replace that copy and make the old one a parts copy for the others.
  • Games that are language-independent can help bring together players who speak different languages, such as Qwirkle, Tsuro, Set, and Ubongo. There are all games that a person can watch and learn in a couple turns. But a lot of board games, especially cooperative games, are great at bringing together people of different backgrounds--that’s why they fit so well into a library’s mission! It’s more about avoiding certain games that might make players uncomfortable because of provocative content (eg, Cards Against Humanity) or gameplay that relies on a normative perspective (eg, Battle of the Sexes)


Model Programs


Shadows Over Camelot board game, Genesee Valley BOCES School District

Audience: Middle School +

Attendance: 3-7 players

Description: Players take on the role of one of Camelot’s Knights of the Round Table and, working together, struggle to defend Camelot from enemies that hope to see it fall.



Collection Development Recommendations


  • Candy Land - A perennial classic, and one that teaches colors, progressive movement, and taking turns.

  • HABA Games - HABA games, in their signature yellow box, are well-designed and sturdy kids games.  You wouldn’t go wrong with any of them, but some of the best are Animal upon Animal, Dancing Eggs, and Secret Code 13+4

  • Blue Orange Games - Attractive, easy-to-learn, inexpensive games for children and families. The Spot It! series contains matching games that are tailored to toddlers and preschoolers, while the original Spot It! works for kids and adults. Tell Tale is a great storytelling game that can be played without rules and for the sheer fun of building a story.

  • Peaceable Kingdom - Cooperative games for young children, with simple rules sets and beautiful artwork and design.


  • Munchkin (this also comes in various themed expansions, including zombies, steampunk, Axe Cop, and Adventure Time) - A card game with very loose rules that encourages players to turn on one another.

  • Social Deduction Games (Resistance, Werewolf, Two Rooms and a Boom) Shorter rules set that encourages social literacy, persuasive language and carry a lot of laughter.


  • Acquire: This classic real estate game is a great replacement for Monopoly.

  • Power Grid: A more modern step up from Monopoly. An economic game that has a host of expansions that add variety to the game.

  • Cards Against Humanity - Billed as “a party game for horrible people,” it’s a version of the popular game “Apples to Apples” for adults with a darker sense of humor.  The cards can be downloaded for free here:  May not be suitable for all libraries.  

  • Bananagrams: For those who like SCRABBLE, but want something fast paced and adaptive to a variety of player numbers.  In Bananagrams, players are trying to use all of their letters to make a criss-cross of words. Once someone has used their letters, he or she calls “Peel”, and everyone takes two more letters and re-works his or her puzzle.


  • Qwirkle: A straightforward abstract game with chunky wooden tiles and large, colorful symbols. It plays like Scrabble but without the letters and the cutthroat tactics.


  • The Gateway Trilogy: Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, and Settlers of Catan.

  • Splendor: The is Spiel des Jahres Nominee is soon to join the ranks of the trilogy, making it a tetralogy. Very simple gameplay and mechanics, but great choices and engine building and the components are an excellent draw too. Works remarkably well with adults and kids playing together.

  • Going, Going, GONE!: This is a 30-minute auction game for 2-6 players that is easy to teach and draws people over.

  • Tsuro: In Tsuro, players are trying to stay alive in a rapidly growing maze of twisty pathways. Each turn, players add tiles to make their pathways longer while avoiding running in to anyone else or going off the board.

  • Chess - It’s a classic for a reason.  Chess classes, competitions and events can still draw a crowd.

  • Go - Easy to learn, hard to master, and tends to equalize players across age gaps (adults and children compete at identical levels in the early stages of learning Go). Check out the American Go Foundation for a free starter set:

Helpful Advice

Selecting games is like selecting any other resource for your library. Knowing your audience, their temperaments and tastes goes a long way to helping you select the right resources. Having patron driven advisory committees can give good insight to the interests and aversions of your communities and help you make better selections… and avoid ones that will raise problems.

Consider carefully the length of the program and how much time your attendees are willing to spend playing a game.  While you may enjoy a 2-hour game of The Settlers of Catan, it might not be appropriate for a setting where games are only played for 15 minutes.

Also consider the need to have someone teach and/or facilitate a game. At a gaming program, most attendees are not willing to take the time to read the rules to a game.  If something is too complex, then a volunteer will have to spend a significant amount of time teaching a game. Having multiple copies of games helps to alleviate some of the teaching needs, as a group already in play can help answer questions from their neighboring group just getting started. 

How can I reduce loss?

  • Hold a library card at the desk and ask that one player take responsibility for the set
  • Have a 3D printer?  Print replacement pieces!

  • Purchase games that can be played even is some pieces go missing (Dixit, Word on the Street, Set, Timeline, Spot It!, Wits & Wagers).

  • Purchase games that are so inexpensive that they could be replaced for less than the cost of a paperback (Love Letter, Zombie Dice, Bananagrams, Set, Hanabi, Coloretto, Fluxx).

  • Purchase games that have pieces that could be easily replaced (colored pawns, dice, cubes, etc.).

  • Cannibalize donated or damaged games for their parts to use as replacements for other games.

  • Once you have a collection of games ready to circulate, establish a policy on how you will charge for missing pieces and damage (Small charge for missing essential pieces? No charge unless game is unplayable?).


Game Design


Books and Links