Level up your next family game night with one (or more) of these tried-and-true board games for families.
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Our family loves playing games. They’re a great way to spend time together, work on social skills (like taking turns and being a good sport), and practice academic skills in a sneaky way!
Every year for Christmas, we get at least one new game. Last year, I got a little carried away and bought SEVEN. What can I say? They all looked fun!
Needless to say, we have played a LOT of games over the years. A few years ago I shared our favorite board games for kids, but since then we’ve discovered several more awesome games, and my kids have grown up a bit and can play more complex games (which has been so so fun).
So I decided it was time to add a “part two” to our list of favorite board games for families. There are many games that didn’t make the cut for this list…these are the ones we pull out most often.
Note: These board games are especially good if you have kids who are a little older (school age), but many of them can be adapted for younger players as well. My five-year-old regularly plays games rated for players 8 and older with minimal extra support.
So, if you’re looking for a new game to slide under the Christmas tree (and save your sanity this winter), I’ve got you covered. Check out the list below!
Favorite board (and card) games for families
I LOVE card games because they don’t take up a lot of space in my closet, have very little set-up to play, and are great to bring along when we travel. Here are our favorites!
Grandpa Beck’s games are some of our family’s very favorites. They’re fun, creative card games that are huge crowd-pleasers. Skull King tops the list of them all and wins the MGP award (most played game) in our house. It’s a trick-taking game (like Hearts) with a pirate theme that’s just too fun. In recent years, the game-makers have added additional cards to make the game even more interesting and unpredictable. Just wait till someone plays the KRAKEN! We’ve bought it for several people as gifts because I pretty much think the world would be a better place if everyone owned this game. ***HIGHLY RECOMMENDED***
Cover Your Assets
Another Grandpa Beck’s game, this one is all about building a stack of matching asset cards and trying to be the player with the highest net worth at the end of the game. But be careful, because your top set can be stolen by other players. It’s simple to learn, and even my five-year-old can play it with the rest of the family. Fair warning, it can get a little cut-throat when players steal from each-other. We may have had a few meltdowns over this one…but the kids keep coming back to it again and again!
Heads up: Grandpa Beck just released a new game for the holiday season, Reign of Dragoness. Guess what’s on my Christmas list this year?
Who knew a game about sushi could be so fun?! This was one of the seven games we acquired last Christmas, and my kids still pull it out regularly to play. It’s a quick game, played in three short rounds. Deal the cards, pick one, and pass the rest to the next person. Repeat until all cards have been claimed. Cards earn you points, especially if you take advantage of special combinations. Easy to learn, cute artwork…it’s a winner.
I hate Monopoly. Sorry, not sorry. It’s not the game itself…it’s just WAAAAY too long. But this card game version only takes 15-20 minutes and is so fun! It’s all the best parts of the original game condensed into a much more manageable time commitment. Friendships may end when someone plays a “deal breaker” card on you, but all’s fair in love and board games, right?
We were introduced to this one just recently by our friends, and I LOVE it. It a super short game (5-10 minutes), so it’s perfect for when you don’t have a lot of time. Each player gets two character cards and keeps them secret face-down. Now begins the fun of accumulating wealth and trying to knock other players out of the game. They can resist your attacks, but you can call their bluff…unless they’re telling the truth after all. The more you play, the more your learn who is most likely to bluff, and who can’t keep a straight face! Note: Because of the bluffing and strategy involved, this one is better for older kids and adults.
Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza
This is another super simple game–with a ridiculous name–that is super kid-friendly. Fast-paced, super silly, and surprisingly challenging. Our friends brought this over and all the boys ages 8-10 played it on repeat. One note: this game is probably best for ages 7+. Because players have to pay close attention and race to slap the deck first, younger kids may have a hard time keeping up. But for older kids, two thumbs up!
Abandon All Artichokes
I knew nothing about this game when I bought it. I bought it solely because I thought the name was hilarious. I mean, artichokes? Really? And I thought sushi was weird. Thankfully, my impulse buy of this quirky, vegetable-themed game turned out to be a good one! The goal: be the first player to ditch their artichoke cards and draw a hand of anything but! Build your own personal deck of veggies which each have their own powers to help you abandon all artichokes. Weird, but fun!
If you’re looking for a beginner strategy game that’s great for kids, THIS is your game. It’s a bit like Carcassonne (if you’re familiar), but simpler. Players take turns choosing domino-like tiles and using them to build a kingdom with various types of land. I love that you can adjust the game slightly to work differently for 2 players vs. 3 or 4. It’s easy enough that preschoolers can play with the older kids in the family (with a little guidance on strategy), but also challenging enough to be truly fun for adults. Bonus: the scoring process is great for practicing multiplication skills. ***HIGHLY RECOMMENDED***
My parents taught us this game a few years ago, and I loved it so much that my husband got it for me for my birthday. It’s a simple concept…players get points for making “runs” and “sets” of tiles, but they have to connect to the tiles already in play. Think Scrabble but with colors and shapes instead of letters. It’s easy to learn, but the more you play the more you learn the strategies to getting higher scores. It’s also great practice in colors, shapes, patterns, and spatial recognition.
If competitive games get a little too intense at your house, you’ll love Forbidden Island. It’s a cooperative game (for when you need a break from sibling rivalry) where players must work together in different roles to rescue four treasures from a sinking island before it floods completely and disappears into the abyss. If you’ve played Outfoxed (one of our all-time faves), this is a great step up for school-age kids!
These last few games are really meant for older players (ages 10+), so they’re not great for family game nights that involve a big family of varying ages. But, if you’re looking for a high-quality challenging game for older kids or adults, these are our VERY favorites.
This was another one of the (many) games I bought last year for Christmas, and it’s my personal favorite of the bunch! It’s enough strategy to be challenging, but it’s not SO complicated and convoluted that it makes my brain hurt. The premise: you are an artisan tasked with tiling a beautiful mosaic. Collect tiles from the central market (before someone else takes the one you need) and place them on your your board strategically to accumulate points. It’s a great beginner strategy game (my 8- and 10-year-old kids can play). It’s also a little shorter than a lot of strategy games (about 30 minutes), so it’s one you can actually play more than once a year. ***HIGHLY RECOMMENDED***
My husband and I have owned and played this game with our adult friends for years. We finally taught our 10-year-old to play it a few months ago, and he loves it. It’s definitely a full-scale strategy game, so I wouldn’t recommend it for kids younger than that, but it’s such a good game. We own several of the expansions, and we’ve played it countless times over the past 12 years. The biggest thing this game has going for it is that the game changes drastically depending on which 10 “kingdom” cards you use (and there are many!), so you can play it again and never play the exact same game twice. My recommendation: buy either the base game or Intrigue (which also functions as a base game) and if you want more expansions, add Prosperity or Seaside.
Wingspan is probably the most beautiful game I’ve ever seen. It’s a completely unique game all about…BIRDS! Who knew? It’s the most complicated of the games in this list, and is has a bit of a learning curve, but if you’re a fan of strategy games, you’ll love it! My favorite feature is the hundreds of unique bird cards, each with interesting facts and detailed artwork of a real-world bird. I’m completely in awe of the research and thought that went into creating those cards. It’s not a cheap game, but it’s quite a showstopper.
Want more gift ideas for kids? Try these:
- Gift Guide: Alternatives to Legos for kids who love to build
- Awesome gift ideas for kids that cost under $10 (and aren’t junk!)
- Awesome science gifts for kids with BIG ideas!
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