While board and card games are far from expensive (you can get the expensive ones for the price of a night out), with so much choice out there it can be hard to take the plunge – especially if you’ve been burnt by some of the rubbish you find on the high street.
But if you’re someone who likes to bowl around your local charity shops, it’s always worth looking through the puzzle and children’s sections in case you find a bargain. I regularly buy cheap board games from charity shops – in fact all the ones you’ll find listed below I’ve bought in them myself at least once for £2-5. Happy bargain hunting!
1. Perudo (Liar’s Dice)
A true classic of the light party game genre, I’ve bought Perudo on multiple occasions in charity shops. It normally turns up for £2-3 and is a bargain at this price, as it retails at around £20.
The game is simplicity itself: Each player takes a dice cup and the matching dice of a colour – then everyone shakes the dice and slams their cup down on the table.
You then look at your own dice, hiding them beneath the cup so the other players can’t see. One player begins and says something like “five twos” – which means they think there are at least five dice between everyone that show a two. In clockwise order you continue making guesses, but each must be more than the last (“six threes”, “eight fours” etc) until someone calls the last player’s bluff – at which point you all reveal the dice and count up.
If there were eight fours, the person who called them a liar loses a dice – and if there wasn’t the person calling eight fours loses one. And so the game continues until only one player remains with dice. There are few little extra rules, but you get the gist – lots of simple fun in under half an hour for two to six players.
2. Monopoly Deal Card Game
Not to be confused with ANY OTHER GAME SAYING MONOPOLY, Monopoly Deal is a really clever light, nasty and fast card game.
It usually retails for less that £10 and I’ve seen it on sale new in a counter stand in a few charity shops (possible Age Concern?), but have also picked it up for under £2 on the shelves.
Playing two to five players in less than 30 minutes, it’s a simple set collection game with lots of nasty twists. You need three monopoly property sets to win the game, but your opponents will be playing all kinds of action cards on you to make you suffer – forcing you to pay them rent or swapping out your properties with their own or another player’s.
But remember – make sure it is the exact right game: others such as Monopoly: The Card Game, Monopoly Express and Monopoly Millionaire Deal Card Game are pretty crappy in comparison to this one.
One of my favourite abstract games, Ingenious was released in the UK by the Green Board game Company – which meant it was picked up by quite lot of high street stores and has therefore found its way into many a charity store after Christmas (the fools).
The game plays one to four people (the solo variant is actually pretty good if you like that sort of thing) in under an hour and is just as ingenious as the name suggests – a clever mix of dominoes and colour matching from one of the world’s great board game designers, Reiner Knizia.
I’ve seen this on more than a few occasions, and bought it twice, for less than a fiver – pretty good for a game that will set you back £20 in the shops. If you want to know more, read my full Ingenious review.
4. Escape From Atlantis
Dating right back to 1986, this Waddingtons classic (designed by Julian Courtland-Smith) is one of a rare bread: a really good fun family game from a big high street publisher.
While it was recently re-released by Stronghold Games in a polished up version (that will set you back around £25), copies of the original and the nineties reprint are often to be found in charity shops for less than £5 – and the old version is just as much fun.
Playing two to four players in about an hour, at the beginning you build the city of Atlantis in the middle of the board out of these fantastic chunky plastic pieces. You then take it in turns to place your Atlantians (little plastic people pieces in your colour) on the island – then all hell breaks loose.
You start each of your turns by removing a piece of Atlantis from the board, dropping the people on it into the sea. But it gets worse (usually), as you then turn the piece over to see what awaits the poor Atlantians! Will it be a sea monster, a whirlpool or a shark – or will they get lucky and find a boat, or a friendly dolphin?
After this you’ll get a chance to move some of your Atlantians towards the edge of the board – and then get to move one of the sea monsters for extra carnage. Great game.
5. Scotland Yard
Another eighties classic (this time from 1983), Scotland Yard is a deduction game for three to six players that regularly finds its way into UK charity shops at a great price – I picked one up this week for £3.
Winner of the Spiel des Jahres in its year of release (back then only the fifth time the world’s most prestigious board game award was given out), this is a family friendly game which pitches one player (as Mr X) against the rest (the detectives) – so it’s largely a cooperative game of cat and mouse.
Most of you (it plays three to five players) will be travelling around a cool map of London by Underground, bus and taxi trying to find Mr X before he manages to evade you for 24 turns. This is an award winner for a reason – a great little game which usually takes less than an hour to play.
6. Lord of the Rings
This is another rare occasion where the big publishers (Hasbro/Parker Brothers) got it right – and even more rarely a good TV tie-in game.
Another from Reiner Knizia, this fully cooperative board game takes you through the whole story as you try and get the ring to Mordor before the eye of Sauron spells brings doom to the fellowship.
The game says two to five players but, like many co-op games, it is also a great game to play solo and should play out in around an hour (probably more if you have four or five players and you survive to near the end of the game!).
The Lord of the Rings does great job of capturing the feel of the books, as you really need to work together to succeed and players may find themselves having to sacrifice themselves for the greater good of the party- which can feel just as rewarding as winning. I’ve seen this several times for around £5, well below the £25+ retail price.
Again though make sure you’re buying the right game, as most other Lord of the Rings tie-in games are awful. Other good games include Lord of the Rings: Confrontation and Lord of the Rings: The Card game (both from publisher Fantasy Flight) but I’ve never seen these in charity shops.
Another great abstract game, this time from Bernard Tavitian, Blokus also came from Green Board Game co and had a similar run of availability in the high street to Ingenious.
Dating back to 2000, when it played off the success of Tetris, this really is a clever little puzzler where you try and lay all of your different shaped pieces while trying to block off your opponents from doing the same thing.
This is a regular in charity shops, and you might also see variants Blokus Duo (two player only), Blokus Trigon and Blokus 3D – all of which are worthy purchases and mostly play two to four players in less than an hour. The last copy I got was £3 and was worth it despite missing one of the red pieces – especially as it retails at around £25. Hopefully I’ll find another copy soon and make one good one!
Dating right back to 1959, Allan B Calhamer’s Diplomacy is a true legend of gaming. Still in print today, it has gone through countless iterations over the years – many of which found their way into standard toy stores and on into charity shops.
Playing two to seven players in anything up to five to six hours, this is a unique game that throws standard gaming conventions out of the window.
There’s a board showing the countries of the world and a set of playing pieces, but the main game is played out through negotiation – sneaking off into other rooms to make deals that you know will ultimately be broken. Its tag line is “ruining friendships since 1959” and his really isn’t a game for the feint of heart – but great if you want to tap into your inner bastard!
As mentioned there have been many editions of Diplomacy over the years and it really doesn’t matter which one you end up with – if you see this cheap, it’s well worth a punt if you have a group of friends you think will appreciate some major league backstabbing.
9 & 10. Ticket to Ride & Carcassonne
While these are a lot less common in UK charity shops, if you can find cheap copies of either of these classic modern board games they’re definitely worth a punt. I’ve found both of them once each in charity shops; both times in great condition and for under £5.
These definitely have a chance of cropping up, especially around Christmas time, as both have been sold in large book stores such as Waterstones and borders over the festive season over the past few years and many stores are now stocking them all year round.
These are two more games that come in many iterations and you’re generally on safe ground with any of the variations that might crop up.
Both the original games (pictured) are former winners of the coveted Spiel des Jahres board game award, are suitable for families, accommodate two to five players and play out in around an hour.
If you want to find out more about these games, check out my Ticket to Ride review and my Carcassonne review. I can’t recommend either of these games highly enough – especially if you are starting up a new board and card game collection.
So what have you found cheap?
If you’ve got other suggestions for good games you see cheap in charity shops, car boot sales or jumble sales please comment below – or let me know what crazy bargains you’ve found to make me jealous!