Three may be a magic number, but as most mathematicians will tell you, it's also an odd number. Nowhere is this more true than in the board gaming world, there's stacks of games designed for two-players, but groups of three are often left grabbing games better with larger groups and having to make do.
As someone who tends to play mostly with three players, I know all too well how frustrating this can be. But never fear, my fellow trios, for there is hope for us yet. In fact there's a whole host of games which are either designed for groups of three, or work really well at exactly three players. You just have to know where to look.
For Light-hearted fun: Medium
If three's a crowd, surely it can also be a party? If that's what you're after, Medium might well be the game for you, though it supports up to eight players, Medium works perfectly at a lower player count and at three players there is virtually no down time.
The premise of Medium is simple, each players has six cards each with a different word on, one player plays down one of their word cards, then the next player around plays one of theirs. So, for example, if player 1 had played 'aeroplane' player 2 could choose a card they think matches well, like 'bird'. Then both players count down from three and on zero they simultaneously say a word or phrase. The word can be anything, but it should be something that links the two word cards together, or is the 'medium' word between them. The aim is to say the same word, so you have to try and think like your teammate. Returning to our example, on zero player 1 said 'sky' but player 2 said 'fly'. They didn't match, but they still get a chance to find a match between their two new words, only they can't go back and say a word that's already been said that round.
Medium is a mix between hilarious and satisfying. I still hold the time that me and my teammate matched and simultaneously said 'to infinity and beyond' as probably the best moment of my whole life.
For Families: Tuki
Part race, part dexterity stacking game and part puzzle, Tuki is one of those games that's super easy to learn but incredibly addictive. With two levels of difficulty (if you can do the harder cards in this one, I'm fairly sure you're a genius) Tuki has a wide appeal.
Quick to set up and learn, Tuki is a great warm up game before getting into something a bit longer, but that being said there have been times we've taught this and it's all the group has wanted to play.
This one plays really well with two players as well, but the third player just adds in a bit of extra tension and competition.
For Light Strategy: Seikatsu
When I decided to make a list of best games for three people, Seikatsu was the first game that jumped into my head. Whilst it can be played with two people, Seikatsu really shines as a three player game.
Seikatsu is a nice relaxing game of drawing tiles from a bag and placing them on a grid. Each tile features two important elements: birds which score immediate points for placing them next to like birds; and flowers which each player will be try to line up in a different configuration.
Seikatsu is the perfect game for three people who want something nice and quick to pick up and play, but with a range of interesting decisions and strategic thinking.
For Something more Challenging: Maracaibo
One of our more challenging game, Maracaibo rewards planning ahead but keeping an eye on the moves your opponents make.
Three players are perfect for Maracaibo, adding enough interaction to make the board feel crowded yet reducing the downtime that a fourth player adds.
In Maracaibo players choose their own path as pirates or privateers. They can choose to battle, each time choosing a nation to fight on behalf of, earning them influence in that nation (which can translate to massive points at the end of the game). Or they could spend their time exploring the land, to discover money or hidden treasure which might take the form of money or points.
The core of Maracaibo is its multi-use cards, a mechanic used, explored and perfected across the ample offering of amazing designs Alexander Pfister has created. Then there's the action selection, fans of Great Western Trail will feel familiarity here as you choose how far to move your boat, with the actions available becoming potentially more powerful based upon distance travelled, but rush around the board too fast and you won't get the chance to get everything done you need to.
Honestly I love this game so much I could talk about nothing else for days, but I do have a word count to stick to, so stick to it I shall. Just, this one's special, really special. Now I need to play it again.
For Something a bit Different: Team 3
Can you write about three player games and not mention Team 3? I mean it's got a three in the name and everything.
I'll always remember being introduced to this one, it was at a board games convention, and I was walking around with a group of three. When, from the corner of my eye, I spied a table covered in these big, bright 3-D tetris style pieces. We were instantly intrigued, but as the rules of the game were explained to us, simple curiosity gave way to grins of excitement. We'd found the coolest new game on offer.
What made Team 3 so exciting? Well I've already talked about the fantastic chunky pieces, but there's so much more to this one than that. At its heart, Team 3 is the kind of classic stacking game we've seen in the past: flip a card, see an arrangement of shapes, build it fast.
But here's twist number one, Team 3 is co-operative. It's not about who can build the fastest, it's about whether or not you can get your tower built within three minutes. (Because three is the number of the day.)
And here's the best bit: only one of you can build the tower, the aptly named builder, but the thing about the builder, is they can't see. For the entire duration of the three minutes they must blindly build in the space in front of them. They're going to need to know what to build though, right, so that's where the architect comes in. The architect is the only player who can see the card showing what you must build, and they have to communicate this to the builder, but the catch is that the architect can't actually talk. Use a combination of mime, gesture and interpretive dance to tell the third player - the interpreter - what the structure must look like. The interpreter will then relay this information to the builder, and with any luck everything should come together.
We have two different versions of this one, pink and green, each with a different mini expansion. There's three levels of difficulty, so see how much of a challenge you can make it (we have managed of the hardest ones, but that was just one time). Also, both the pink and green versions can be combined to make a competitive 3 Vs. 3 match.
So there's five games that are awesome when you're playing in a group of three, available for rental right now!