The Best Family Board Games You’ve Never Heard Of
The field of family board games has expanded far beyond Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly, and Connect Four. “Fun for the whole family” no longer means “fun for kids, and adults have an okay time, too.” Today’s board games offer more diversity, more interesting themes, and more opportunities to have fun with kids and adults alike.
These 10 family board games are great choices for families of all types, whether you have young kids, teenagers, or just want to play with your spouse. Remember that the suggested ages are just guidelines — many of these games can be played with children younger than eight.
Ages 8+, 2–4 players, ~20 minutes.
Designed by a mathematician and educator, Santorini is great for players of all ages. Each player controls two builders. On every turn, you move one of your builders to a neighboring space, and then build on an adjacent building. When you build up to the third level, you add one of Santorini’s signature blue roofs. If one of your builders moves to the third level of a building, you win. It sounds simple, and young children can easily play with adults, but the depth of strategy is impressive.
Ages 8+, 2–4 players, ~45 minutes.
Another game that’s great for kids but provides enjoyment for adults as well, Takenoko sees players cultivating bamboo and feeding a hungry panda. By growing the right colors of bamboo, satiating the hunger of the sacred animal, and managing plots of land, you’ll earn victory. The vibrant colors, simple gameplay, and presence of a very cute panda make this a winner for kids of all ages.
3. King of Tokyo
Ages 8+, 2–6 players, ~30 minutes.
What kid doesn’t like monsters, robots, and aliens? King of Tokyo sees these creatures battling for supremacy over the Japanese capital. Each players throws dice and chooses to earn victory points, heal their wounds, build up energy, or attack.
The game has a king-of-the-hill feel, with the monster currently controlling Tokyo facing off against all the others. However, that monster also can’t heal. So choosing the right dice and the best time to take control of Tokyo are crucial in achieving victory. It’s a goofy game, full of monster-driven mayhem, and kids of all ages are sure to have fun with it.
Ages 10+, 2–4 players, ~30 minutes.
This game’s 10-and-up rating belies a fun amount of engine-building strategy. In an attempt to build prestige, players collect gems, fashion larger gemstones, and try to impress nobles. Each turn, you simply pick a card from those available on the table (if you can afford it). That adds to the stones that you can use to buy cards that are worth more points. The mechanics are impressively simple, but it’s a fun game even for adults.
5. Mission: Red Planet
Ages 10+, 2–6 players, ~45 minutes.
In this steampunk-themed Mars exploration game, you’ll need to send astronauts to harvest valuable materials from the red planet. Fill rockets with your explorers, prevent your opponents from doing the same, and bring back as many valuable resources as you can. Before you land in a specific area, you’ll have no idea what’s there, so you’ll need to do some exploration before you start harvesting. And each player has a secret mission — so you never know what anyone else might really be going for.
Note: Fhe first edition of the game requires 3–5 players. If you want to play with 2 or 6, make sure you get the second edition.
6. Colt Express
Ages 10+, 2–6 players, ~35 minutes.
As a member of a band of train robbers, you’ll need to punch, shoot, and steal your way to the top in this Wild West battle royale . But it’s not as simple as it sounds: at the beginning of every turn, you’ll play between two and five action cards. Once everyone has played, you’ll start resolving them. This means if you don’t keep track of where you and your opponents are, you’ll end up sending a punch through thin air or swiping at a non-existent bag of cash. The 3D train board, hilarious goof-ups, and fun theme make this a great choice for families.
Colt Express also has a fun iPad app for $5.
Ages 10+, 2–4 players, ~30 minutes.
In an effort to collect the most sacred books, each player will bid on cards to supplement their collection. Collect Illuminators, Scribes, Manuscripts, Scrolls, and Supplies to build up your library. Throughout the game, the value of each type of card fluctuates, so you’ll need to keep an eye on that. You’ll also need to manage your resources, bluff to keep your opponents guessing, and keep an eye on the gold you have left. It’s easy to learn, but mastering the strategy behind it will take many hours.
Ages 10+, 2–4 players, ~45 minutes.
In Quadropolis, players build their own cities, but they compete to get the best shops, parks, and services to come to their metropolis instead of their opponents’. By strategically placing your architects, you’ll get the best shot at high-value tiles. But you have to be careful, because every architect placed restricts future placements. It requires a bit of foresight, some planning, and a good amount of luck to build the best city around.
Ages 12+, 2 players, ~30 minutes.
As two pre-eminent traders of Rajasthan, players compete to manage their herds of camels, amass goods, and make the most money trading them away. Goods are worth more near the beginning of the game, but sets of three, four, and five increase in value as the game goes on, too — so you’ll need to find a balance between waiting and hurrying. Hand and resource management, set collection, and drafting make this a good game for pre-teens and teens (though many people say that the 12+ age recommendation is a little high).
Jaipur is another one of the games available on BoardGameArena.
10. Sheriff of Nottingham
Ages 13+, 3–5 players, ~60 minutes.
Prince John is visiting Nottingham, and it’s your chance to make money by selling your wares. But you have to get them in the gate first — and the gate is protected by the Sheriff. Will you play it safe and bring in legal merchandise? Or risk your future by trying to smuggle in high-value contraband? You’ll have to convince the Sheriff that you’re an honest merchant — or to look the other way — to win. Bluffing, negotiation, and set collection skills will help you secure the win in this highly interactive and goofy game.
What Are Your Top Family Board Games?
Some people might say that digital games are killing board games , but these 10 great family games certainly provide some evidence to the contrary. Grab one from a reputable board-game selling site and start playing! We know that there are a lot more great family games out there, and want to hear about them.
What are the most popular family board games at your house? Do you play with kids, or just your spouse and friends? What would you suggest to other families? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Image Credit: Iakov Filimonov via Shutterstock.com