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Top 10 Nonverbal Board Games

Jeremy enjoys gaming when he isn't pursuing his forensics graduate degree.

Limited Communication Board Games

Board games come in many shapes and sizes, some having players work as a team, others pitting them against one another, but most freely allow communication. However, some prevent or severely limit discussion, forcing players to analyze their options with subtle cues.

These games work well in areas where you need to be quiet or when you simply want a unique twist—which reign supreme? Here are ten great limited-talking party games!

When I Dream board game

When I Dream board game

10. When I Dream

Release Date: 2016
Player Count: 4-10

When I Dream is the simplified lovechild of Werewolf and Codenames. One player "dreams", where they are literally blindfolded (which itself should generate some laughs), the others are dealt hidden roles as good spirits, evil ones, or neutral tricksters.

Spirits will describe cards to the dreamer using one-word clues; good spirits want them to guess right, naughty want them to guess wrong, and tricky want a balance of both. Different roles keep the game fresh on replays, and a short play time and easy rules help attract non-gamers.

Witness board game

Witness board game

9. Witness

Release Date: 2014
Player Count: 4

Witness does suffer from a fixed player count, as you need exactly four in your group. But it compensates with 64 different scenarios, each tasking your team to solve mysteries by exchanging clues, but players must whisper in sequence; player A gives info to B, who talks to C, who talks to D, who talks to A.

This makes it crucial to share both your own unique information as well as what you've learned from allies. So memory is a factor, but the short playtime (about 15 minutes) and comic-style artwork make it worth your while.

Magic Maze board game

Magic Maze board game

8. Magic Maze

Release Date: 2017
Player Count: 1-8

Magic Maze can fit almost any group size, tasking a dwarf, elf, warrior, and mage to pull of a heist using unique actions—in real time. This mechanic will make or break the game depending on your perspective, as you can't indefinitely think out decisions, which makes every second count (though hourglass spots can extend your time). The game also restricts communication, both verbal and physical, for most of its short runtime.

Escape Now board game

Escape Now board game

7. Escape Now!

Release Date: 2018
Player Count: 1-6

In this escape room-like game, players work together to can only communicate when they're willing to pay the price of one "minute", which isn't a real-time minute, but one of the 60 cards used to represent an hour. Working together, players take one of several actions to solve puzzles before the "clock" (60 cards) run out.

A solo variant and quick run time make this an easy one test in your own gaming group.

Mysterium board game

Mysterium board game

6. Mysterium

Release Date: 2015
Player Count: 2-7

A remake of Tajemnicze Domostwo, Mysterium is similar to a picture-based version of Password, though everyone is on the same team. One player, the ghost, communicates to the other players (acting as mediums) using picture cards (but not words) to help them solve a murder.

Using the image in their hand that best matches the item they're trying to describe, the ghost signals what they want the mediums to guess. This mechanic bears resemblance to the card-matching of Apples to Apples, except instead of having a subjective judge, there's a definitive right answer.

The Mind board game

The Mind board game

5. The Mind

Release Date: 2018
Player Count: 2-4

The Mind offers a simple yet engaging premise. Players have several cards in hand (ranging from 1-100) that they must place in a numerically-ascending order, but players can't communicate about their values. Instead, they judge when to play cards by how long players are waiting to play theirs; for instance, 1 would definitely be the first to go, but something like 22 would require a bit of a pause to determine if someone might have something lower.

Players also have limited-use lifelines when the gap is narrow. It's definitely a challenge, especially with more people, but you'll find you get better the more your group plays, determining each other's style and delay before playing certain values.

Easily-grasped and fun for all ages, this one's a great budget game, costing well under $15!

Tranquility board game

Tranquility board game

4. Tranquility

Release Date: 2020
Player Count: 1-5

Tranquility has similarities to The Mind in that you're placing cards in ascending order without talking. But its unique theme (guiding a ship home), colorful art, and different actions set it apart.

Variants help diversify games, and it's a pretty light title, clocking in at less than 30 minutes. Like The Mind, another advantage is portability—with relatively few components, it fits in a small package that's easy to transport.

Assembly board game

Assembly board game

3. Assembly

Release Date: 2016
Player Count: 1-2 (can do 3-4 with two copies of the base set)

With a solo variant, light rules, and quick play time (about 15 minutes), Assembly is an easy puzzle title to fit into a busy game night. Whether alone or in a team, your goal is to rearrange ship pieces to form a working shuttle, letting you escape with the vaccine needed to save Earth.

Moving and rotating your pieces is complicated by limited communication, as players can't speak but can use sign language (and one yes/no question each turn). If the base game hooks you, the two expansions (Glitches and Re-Sequence & Override) can further shake things up.

Codenames board game

Codenames board game

2. Codenames

Release Date: 2015
Player Count: 2-8

Codenames is like Password with pictures, as rival teams compete to interpret the one-word clues given by their codemasters to guess the correct pictures (or words; the cards are double-sided). Teams are allowed multiple guesses per turn, which helps stragglers catch up. But you also have to be careful, as wrong guesses can score the other team points, or even trigger an automatic defeat if you hit the one insta-loss tile!

Easy-to-learn yet strategic, Codenames is often considered the standard by which clue-giving games are measured against, and its Disney, Marvel, and Harry Potter variants add fun themes. For a more complex (but arguably better) alternative, also consider Decrypto.

Far Away board game

Far Away board game

1. Far Away

Release Date: 2020
Player Count: 2

Far Away does contain aspects that might deter some. It only works with two players (who cooperate), takes time to learn, and requires an hour or two. But hardcore gamers will rarely find a better non-verbal co-op, as your pair struggles to survive in a hostile galaxy. Randomly generated terrain diversifies games and numerous aliens attack in various methods, helping flesh out Far Away's universe.

Most relevant to today, players can't communicate once they separate on the board until they reunite, a thematic aspect that forces you and your partner to carefully plan your rendezvouses lest you ruin your chances of survival.

More Party Games for Game Night

While not for everyone, you'd be surprised how engaging a mechanic like limited communication is when done right, testing your ability to cooperate (or compete) without directly communicating your plan.

If you enjoy these, you might also like dexterity games such as Menara, which don't limit communication but challenge your balance and engineering skills rather than your brain. But for, vote for your favorite nonverbal title and I'll see you at our next gaming countdown!

© 2020 Jeremy Gill

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