Screen-free diversions are few and far between which can lessen quality bonding time with your loved ones. Fortunately, there’s always the good ole family board game night to fall back on. Now, before you shake your head and nix the idea, you should know that board games are quite popular nowadays. We are no longer limited to just the classics like Monopoly and Chinese Checkers, which would probably bore your kids anyway. From conquering new lands to investigating a haunted house, the choices are quite diverse – from different kinds of themes to different styles of gameplay. If you have no idea where to begin looking (totally understandable), we’ve gathered the 10 best family board games that you can start playing with.
Top 10 Family Board Games Of 2019 Reviewed
1. Catan 5th EditionBest Family Board Games Of All Time
Catan is the perfect game to introduce anyone to the awesome world of board games. It wasn’t given the “Game of the Century” award for nothing. It’s actually been out since 1995 and there have been hundreds of millions of copies sold worldwide. The game is all about settling on the uncharted island of Catan. Players are all explorers who have landed on the island and each one is competing to become the supreme ruler on the island. To do this, you need to get resources and build roads, settlements, and cities.
You may have to barter with other players to help you build what you need because some resources are scarce while others are plentiful. While resources and building stuff don’t seem all too exciting, plotting ways to one-up your family members as well as forming alliances to guarantee the demise of others… it’s going to have you addicted to this relatively simple game. As an added bonus, there are a lot of expansions to keep the game entertaining for years to come.
However, it may not be a great game for kids younger than 10; it totally depends on whether your kid loves strategy games. You can only play with 4 players max with the base game. If you have more family members than that, you’ll need to get at least one of the expansions that allow you to play with as many as 6. And the results of the game can depend a bit on luck (the role of the dice).
- Very simple game
- Great for kids and adults
- Game of the Century award
- May not be for younger kids
- Limited to 4 players unless you get the expansion
- Results of the game may depend a bit on luck
2. Ticket To RideBest Family Board Games For 7-year-olds
A Ticket To Ride is another modern classic that many kids and adults love. The game’s premise is based on Fogg’s “Around the World in 80 days” where players are competing against each other to travel to as many cities as they can by train in just seven days. The prize is $1 million dollars. Basically, you get a number of trains and use matching train cards to build your railway routes, connecting one city to another. Points are awarded according to the number of trains you place in your route as well as by fulfilling your Destination Ticket (connecting two distant cities together).
Aside from building routes using cute little trains to get to your destination, you can also block routes that will stop your competitors from fulfilling their destiny. This winner-takes-all board game is good for 2 to 5 players and takes about 30 minutes to an hour to play. One thing we love about this game is that it’s very easy to learn and no two games are going to go exactly alike so you’ll need to apply different strategies every time.
However, children younger than 7 may have a hard time playing on their own though you can team up. Also, after several games, family members may start to remember the different Destination Tickets and guess which routes are yours quickly. Plus, the cards are pretty small so it can be hard to shuffle.
- Easy to learn
- Cute little trains
- Good for up to 5 players
- May not be easy for kids younger than 7
- Players can memorize the Destination Tickets after several games
- Small cards
3. Exploding KittensBest Family Board Games For 5-year-old
Exploding kittens are a must-have in any family’s collection of board games. You’ve got kittens, explosions, laser beams, magical enchiladas, palindromes, and even goats. It’s a bit like UNO but way better. It’s more like Russian roulette but with a Rainbow-Ralphing Cat card and other cute oddities. The object of the game is to be the last remaining player alive. Each person draws a card from the deck.
The person who draws the Exploding Kitten card goes boom and gets kicked out of the game. The cards you draw can be used to shuffle the deck, look at the first couple of cards on top, or steal cards from other players.
The only way to survive an Exploding Kitten is to get the Defuse card. The game is hilarious and fun. It’s easy enough to teach kids as young as 4 or 5. And it can even double as a party game if you have a kid who wants to have friends over. However, the cards are not really good quality which means that it can easily start to peel after several uses. You’re going to have to buy card sleeves which aren’t expensive but still an extra cost to take into account. Also, some feel that the game is a bit pricey for just a card game.
- Easy to learn
- Fun to play
- Can be played by young kids
- Poor card quality
- A bit pricey
4. CodenamesBest Family Board Games For 8+
In Codenames, you and your family play spies belonging to competing countries. Each team/country has a spymaster who knows the secret identities of all the agents that have been left in the field. However, his/her teammates only know the spies by their codenames. The object of the game is to get all your field agents in from the cold before the other team does by giving one-word clues as to who they are. What you don’t want to do is to guess innocent bystanders or the rival team’s spies.
More importantly, you don’t want to identify the assassin who will kill all your spies, thereby ending the game. This social word game is very easy to learn but can be incredibly challenging to play. It can be fun and silly even when you’re on the losing team. We like the fact that you can play with 4 to 8 players. What’s really excellent about it is that it can go pretty fast – 15 to 30 minutes a game – and it has excellent replayability because you never know what words will pop up in a game.
However, this is not an ideal game for little kids (younger than 7) though they might like the guessing part. And this may not appeal to people who don’t like word association games. Plus, it can get lulls as spymasters try to figure out the best “clue” to give.
- Excellent replayability
- Quick to play
- Easy to learn
- May not be ideal for little kids
- Can have lulls in the game
- May not appeal to everyone
5. Betrayal At House On The HillBest Family Board Games For Tweens
If you and your family love scary movies and horror stories, then Betrayal At House On The Hill should definitely be on your board game shelf. You and your family get to choose from several characters – the little kid, the gypsy, the muscle, the genius professor, etc.- to play in this game. You’re all going to work together to explore the mansion and discover its secrets. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Unbeknownst to you, one of you is actually a traitor – someone who has lured you all into the house for nefarious reasons. The actual fun begins when the traitor is revealed and now you all have to work together to defeat the traitor and get out of the house alive. Each side has its own booklet that lets you know how you will win. Aside from the horror aspect, this game is awesome because it has a ton of replayability. There are 50 different scenarios that could get triggered.
Plus, the rooms of the house are laid out depending on which tile you draw on each turn which means you never get to explore the same house in each game. This is a game can be played by 3 to 6 players, ideally 12 years old and up. Younger players can get in on the fun but may need a bit of assistance from team members. However, it’s not easy to learn so it’s not the best one to get for entry-level gamers. There are lots of small tokens that can get lost.
- A cooperative game with a twist
- Horror theme
- Lots of replayability
- Not for young kids
- Moderate learning curve
- Lots of small tokens can get lost
6. PandemicBest Family Board Games For Adults
You and your family are the world’s last and only hope to stop a Pandemic. In this cooperative game, your team travels around the world to treat localized outbreaks before they can spread and become a global pandemic. There are several things you can do in the game such as travel, treating cures, building research stations, and find out where the disease will start next. The object of the game isn’t winning, it’s survival.
The beauty of this game is that even if you fail to stem the tide of infection slowly but surely covering the various areas of the world, you’re going to keep coming back for more. What’s even more addicting is the feeling you get when you win because you’re now a proclaimed hero who was able to save the world because of your awesome planning and strategies.
Another highlight of this game is that you can play it on different levels – easy to legendary – depending on the number of epidemic cards you put in the deck. However, it isn’t the easiest of games to play because it can be nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. Plus, it can be quite complex so you need to allow time to learn the game. Also, not everyone likes losing which is the likeliest result when playing this game.
- Cooperative game
- Excellent replayability
- Can be played on different skill levels
- Not everyone will like losing most of the time
- Not easy to learn
- Can be too nerve-wracking for some
7. Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found ItBest Family Board Games For 4-year-olds
A lot of the games we’ve featured are ideal for kids 7 and up. Some can be played by as young as 4 but probably will still require help from mom and dad. This game though is perfect if you want to introduce your 3-year old to the wonderful world of screen-free gaming. Now in this game, you’re working together as a team to solve mysteries as you race to Picnic Island and prevent Pig Will and Pg Won’t from eating all the food. Solving a mystery means looking for a hidden object I the game such as traffic cones, buckets, and flags.
When you solve it, you have to shout “I Found It!” and get to move forward space or spaces towards the ferry that will take you to Picnic Island where the pigs are. We love the artwork – it’s colorful, it’s fun, it’s Richard Scarry. We also love the fact that it’s quite easy to play and very hard to lose. Plus, it teaches the kids teamwork and practices object identification as well as attention to detail. However, past kindergarten age, this becomes a bit boring for them and even loses some of the educational benefits (presumably because they’ve already learned them). Also, after several games, it’s quite easy for your child to have memorized where the hidden objects are.
- Easy to play for kids as young as 3 years old
- Cooperative game
- Educational benefits
- Not ideal for kids older than 6 or 7
- Easy to memorize the hidden objects’ locations after several plays
8. King of TokyoBest Family Board Games For 10-year-olds
Who will be the King of Tokyo? Apparently, Godzilla isn’t the only monster who is planning to conquer this city. With 2 to 6 players, you play one of several monsters. You roll dice to see what you’re going to be doing to make your plan come to fruition – heal your monster, attack other monsters, or get the energy to buy cards that will make your monster powerful. You can also score points using the dice which is how you win the game.
Whoever gets to 20 victory points first becomes the King of Tokyo! Or, if you’re the last monster standing. Whichever comes first. This is definitely a fun game that can engage kids as young as 5 to adults in their 30s and 40s. It’s crazy fun to play and pretty quick too (around 30 minutes) so no one’s going to get bored. There’s a not a lot of strategy or planning required which might not be to everyone’s liking. The tiny energy cubes are easy to lose. Also, this game isn’t ideal if there are only two players.
- Fun theme
- Easy to learn even for little children
- Quick game
- Very small energy cubes
- Not a lot of strategy or planning
- Not great if there are only 2 players
9. TakenokoBest Family Board Games For 2 Players
Since we’re already in Japan, we’re going to go back a couple of hundred years, to a time when the Emperor of China gifted the Emperor of Japan a panda. Because he wanted to show off his gift, the Japanese emperor let his panda loose in his garden which happens to have a lot of bamboos. Obviously, he’s going to eat it much to the dismay of the royal gardener. In the game of Takenoko, you’re going to be playing the panda, the royal gardener, and even the emperor.
You’ll be planting bamboo, eating the bamboo, and building a garden according to the emperor’s wishes. All of these actions can earn you points if they fulfill the requirements of a victory card which you can draw from several decks. When you complete 7 victory cards, the game ends. Whoever has the most number of points, wins. While the game sounds simple enough, it will require a bit of strategy and planning which is probably why it is only recommended for kids 13 and up (though we think a kid of 10 can probably play this).
The game can get pretty long – around 45 minutes, at least – which could turn off some people. The game pieces are colorful and cute but, again, can be easily lost if you’re not careful. It also isn’t colorblind friendly which can make it hard for some players to discern the green from the yellow tiles and bamboos.
- Fun theme
- Colorful and cute game pieces
- Easy to learn
- Too complex for kids under 10
- Can run too long
- Not colorblind-friendly
10. Googly Eyes GameBest Family Board Games For 6 Players
Googly Eyes is similar to Pictionary (if you know what that is) except for the fact that you have to put on vision-altering glasses while you draw. There are three sets of lenses ranging from mild changes to really bad vision which can make your drawing impossible to guess and hilariously funny. The rules for this game is very simple – pick a card, put on the glasses, set the timer, and start drawing. To know which lens to use, you roll a die and move your piece on the game board.
The space you land on will let you know which lens to use. The first team who reaches the finish line wins. Aside from being a whole lot of fun, we love that you can play this from anywhere between 4 to 16 players. While this is recommended for ages 7 and up, some younger kids can play as long as they have good motor skills (i.e. they can draw). However, switching out the lens is not always easy. Plus, the lenses can break if you’re not careful.
- A fun twist on Pictionary
- Great for all ages
- Very easy to play
- Lenses can break
- Can be hard to switch lenses out
Family Board Games Buying Guide
A lot of our entertainment can be found on screens which can make it difficult for family members to bond. Who has the time when we’re all glued to our individual games and apps? If you’re looking for a great way to initiate a screen-free fun time with family, you have to have board game night. Obviously, we have the classics – Monopoly, The Game of Life, and Cluedo. But those are old school and may not hold the interest of young ones these days. Fortunately for you, board games are getting increasingly popular and the options are now vast and diverse. There’s just about a board game for everyone. The problem is, how do you know which board game your family will like? Well, we’ve got some tips that can help you out.
Tip 1: Consider the ages of your kids
Before you start browsing Amazon or other board game sites, you need to first assess the players. How much skill do they possess? Very young kids (3-4 years old) will want something that’s easy to learn but won’t require them to read such as Richard Scarry’s Busytown, Eye Found It. Slightly older children can play games with a little more complexity but won’t require a lot of rule learning like with Exploding Kittens.
Children who are 7 and up may want something more challenging but still “cute” enough to keep their attention such as Ticket To Ride. Teenagers are a whole different ball game. You’ll want something that’ll challenge them (they do get bored easily) but also a theme that tickles their interest such as Betrayal At House On The Hill. If you have a mixture of ages on your hands, you can opt for some general fun like the Googly Eyes Game which is great for all kids (and adults) as long as they know how to draw.
Tip 2: Think about what they’re interested in
We’ve already touched on this a little bit when discussing ages but it never hurts to emphasize. All kids have varying interests. Some will like drawing which can make the Googly Eyes Game your best bet. Some teens may be drawn to the nerve-wracking game of Pandemic, pretending they’re in a post-apocalyptic world where the fate of everyone is in their hands. Some kids like becoming the supreme ruler of a nation or city which makes Catan 5th Edition or King of Tokyo a better choice. The great thing about board games is that most, if not all, interests are covered.
Tip 3: Determine how many people will play
Aside from considering the age and the theme, you’re going to need to look at the minimum and maximum players required in a game. Are there only four of you? Then you might be interested in Takenoko which has a maximum of 4 players. If you have more players, you will need to find something that will accommodate all family members such as Codenames which can have as many as 8 players.
Tip 4: Think about the length of game time
How easy will your kids get bored? Some games are short and sweet like King of Tokyo which takes about 30 minutes. The Betrayal At House On The Hill, on the other hand, takes an hour or so which might not be ideal if you have kids with ADHD. It’s easy enough to see how long a game can be played by checking the game’s website or relevant sites such as BoardGameGeek.
Tip 5: Watch how it is played
Written reviews and descriptions can only give you so much information. Here’s a better way – watch how the game is played on YouTube. Lots of videos can be found on any given board game. All you need to do is look it up and watch how the game works. This way, you’ll have a better idea if it is something that your kids can do and enjoy. Even better? Go to a board game lounge or cafe and try one of the games there.
While the choices of board games currently available can become overwhelming for any parent, there’s much joy to be had spending face-time with family members. When your kids grow old, they’ll probably forget a lot of the apps that took up much of their time. But the memories that are made on board game night will surely last forever.