My family has always liked board games, but the pandemic has brought out a whole other side of things. As our other avenues for entertainment and interaction dwindled, our love for board games grew, and they’re now a daily part of our homeschooling and family time.
It’s also shown us that not all games are created equal. I’m here to share some of my recommendations for board games we love the most and that I think your family might love, too.
Best for Young Kids Who Hate to Lose
Competitive games can be a struggle for anyone — even for some of us grown-ups— but the youngest game players can have a hard time with competition. Games designed with competitive elements for preschoolers are often entirely luck-based, which makes them pretty boring for everyone else.
The solution? Cooperative play. Everyone gets to try their hardest, but no one’s feelings are hurt at the end.
- Castle Panic– In this game, everyone works together to defeat swarms of monsters that are circling your castle and knocking down towers. Strategize to use your cards well and keep them at bay. There are expansion packs available, making the base game something you can build on as you get more experienced and want a more complex challenge.
- Outfoxed– This cute game is great for preschoolers but still enjoyable for the adults or older siblings playing along. Piece together clues and use the power of deduction to find out who stole the pie.
- Cauldron Quest– This is another option designed for preschoolers that won’t bore their older playmates to tears. Roll the dice to try your luck at discovering the potion ingredients before all the paths are blocked.
Best Strategy Games for Adults and Kids to Play Together
If you like strategy games, it can be difficult to find ones that are challenging enough for adults while also not too complex for kids. These games are usually best for older kids (8 and up or so), but they’ll provide lots of meaningful quality time that can be enjoyed across generations.
- Forbidden Island– This game is also cooperative (and is made by the same designers who created the popular Pandemic board game, so it is a great first step toward that). Work together to save the relics from a quickly sinking island. Share resources and strategize to use each player’s special abilities to their fullest.
- Ticket to Ride– In this game, you collect cards to build trains that connect cities. Complete your routes and build the longest train for bonus points!
- Photosynthesis– This pure strategy game has players growing trees from seeds to the tallest tree in the forest using the sun points you collect with each change in the season.
Best for When You’re in a Hurry
Want to play but short on time? These quick games pack in all the fun with less of a commitment. Since several of them are card games, they are also easy to take along on trips so that you can have a game with you wherever you go!
- Sushi Go!– This pass and play card game has players collecting different types of sushi to rack up the highest score over three very quick rounds.
- Exploding Kittens– It doesn’t matter how many cards you have or what you play — as long as you don’t end up with the exploding kitten in the end! This one brings a lot of laughs and also some cutthroat subterfuge!
- Swish– These see-through cards stack on top of each other to put balls in loops of the same color. It’s a spatial challenge that can be played with multiple ages at the same time with a few adaptations to make it more fair (younger players can match just two cards while older players have to find three or more).
Best for (Secretly) Learning
We’re a homeschooling family, so I love it when our games double up and fill some educational goals. The truth is that just about every board or card game meets several learning goals, but some do it a little more directly than others.
- Dragonwood– This game has you collecting cards to roll dice and capture monsters. It requires practice in probability and addition in order to come out on top.
- Cat Crimes– With adorable cardboard kittens, this game takes the work of a classic logic puzzle but makes it a lot more hands-on and visual. Piece together the clues for each puzzle to find out which cat committed the crime. This can be played solo.
- Tiny Polka Dots– So simple, yet so versatile. Tiny Polka Dots features the numbers 0-10 in several different formats and a set of instructions to play several different math games with a variety of complexities.
There’s truly a game out there for everyone, so even if your only memories of family board game nights are frustration during the sixth consecutive hour of Monopoly, I encourage you to give them another chance. There are some truly amazing games out there that fit everyone’s idea of fun!