Top 7 Family Games

As a father of two, and an avid board gamer I’m always keeping an eye out for those elusive games that are easy enough for my kids to grasp, but still enjoyable for my wife and me. After lots of searching, here are my top picks for Family Games.

I should note that I make a distinction between Kid’s Games (intended to be fun for the kids, preferably something they can learn to play without our help) and Family Games (intended to be fun for all of us, it’s less likely that they’ll be able to play without our help). It’s also helpful to know that our kids are 8 and 6 and both advanced readers for their ages. I’ll share my favorite kid’s games in a future post.

These admittedly are not the games that I would play with my friends, but our family enjoys them.  The kids have fun, and so do the adults, plus we’re spending time together!

Out of Print, Sorry... It's still available in Europe very easily if you or a friend ever travel for work...

This is a dexterity game where you’re adding different “spices” while trying to get to the right heat. If you overcook or over-spice the recipe, you don’t get any points for it. There is some strategy to which recipes you pick, but kids tend to be better at dexterity games than adults, so it evens out and anyone has a chance to win.

Player count: 2 - 4

Game length: 30 - 45 minutes

Pros: A mix of strategy and dexterity with minimal reading required, very fun art

Cons: The game can drag a bit and lose the kids’ attention

This is a mix of Yahtzee and king of the hill, only the hill is Tokyo and you all play as monsters trying to have the most fame or be the last one standing. My kids love it more than I do, but power-up cards that add special powers, and multiple paths to victory save this for the parents. Note that the newer King of New York is a more complicated version of this game to appeal to heavier gamers. With kids as young as mine I recommend Tokyo over New York.

Player count: 3 - 6 (game says it plays 2, but that’s much less fun)

Game length: 30 - 45 minutes

Pros: Rules keep one person from dominating, fun theme sells the game to kids

Cons: Adults have to help with some of the strategic choices, more detailed reading on cards (you can play a simple game without the cards to teach the ideas to the kids); it’s possible to gang up on one player, which can make the game backfire on kids that haven’t learned sportsmanship yet

Another dexterity game with a little bit of “take that”. The adults understand the physics of where a piece should go, but the kids don’t knock over the tower with their massive mitts. There are now several versions of the game and they are all great. For more of a challenge, try the Balancing Bridge version.

Player count: 2 - 4

Game length: 15 minutes

Pros: Pretty pieces and simple rules; kids can also play on their own

Cons: For anyone who takes the game too seriously, knocking over the tower of animals can be frustrating, but this can be a great game to teach sportsmanship since there’s not much penalty to knocking over the tower

A cooperative game where all of the players work together to defend your castle from invading orcs, trolls, and goblins. Simple rules and a little bit of tension as the massive trolls lumber toward your towers makes this an enjoyable game where we can team up to work together.

Player count: 1 - 6

Game length: 45 - 60 minutes

Pros: Simple rules with cooperative gameplay and minimal reading required, fun castle “standees”

Cons: the length of the game means you need to keep the kids’ attention, but they can be involved helping each turn so that usually isn’t too hard

Yet another dexterity game, but this is one that adults can easily beat kids at. It’s quick and fun, and if you go a little easy on them, your little ones might give you a run for your money. As a 2 player only game it does leave people out, but games are so short we usually play a tournament so everyone gets a turn to play everyone else.

Player count: 2

Game length: 10 minutes

Pros: A less bulky version of air hockey with fast-paced play, very cool concept with magnets

Cons: This is a skill game, when one player starts becoming more skilled than others they can easily win each time

If your kids are old enough to start learning chess, you can teach them this game. You have a master and a few students and to win you either defeat the other side’s master or move your master onto their master’s starting space. The ease and difficulty of this game is that all of your pieces can use one of two moves on a card printed in front of you (that’s easy enough for kids to follow), but after you use the card you pass it to your opponent. Very simple and deep game, much easier to teach than chess, and quicker to play.

Player count: 2

Game length: 15 minutes

Pros: Fast-paced but satisfyingly complex with minimal reading, a great replacement for Chess

Cons: Learning to “see” the board and understand the impact of your moves can take time for younger gamers so parents will need to decide if they hold back or let the kids learn by making mistakes (I try to mix it up with both so the kids learn, but don’t become frustrated with the game)

Do you remember the arcade game Rampage where you’re a giant lizard or monkey destroying a city? This is the board game version of that. You flick cars, blow down buildings, and generally have a great time destroying things and “eating” meeples. Yet another dexterity game where those small hands come in useful. (This game used to be called "Rampage" and is now called ""Terror in Meeple City")

Player count: 2 - 4

Game length: 45 minutes

Pros: Fun dexterity game with nostalgia for the adults, kids get to “destroy” things which they think is hilarious

Cons: Some special powers are cooler than others, and this is another game where you can team up against someone, also understanding scoring can be difficult for kids so they may need help figuring out what to do

2 Responses

  • This is fantastic Donnie! Thanks! One thing to mention. My family and I play the Rampage game, which is great, that game has a new name, “Terror In Meeple City”. So, people looking for a new copy of this, should search for that.

  • Klask is such a fun alternative to air hockey. And is surprisingly hilarious and fun to play with my kids!

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