Family game night was a core part of my growing-up experience. Once or twice a month, we would blow the dust off an old game box, set it up, and roll our way toward the end of the board.
The problem was, none of the games in our collection were really all that fun. Our game closet included the usual suspects like Monopoly, Sorry!, The Game of Life, Chutes & Ladders, and so on.
These games were great for helping my brother Tyler and I practice counting, and they taught us how to win and lose like gentlemen, but I can’t even imagine how bored my parents must have been flicking spinners and popping dice for hours at a time. Even Tyler and I never really had that much fun. The activity mostly served as a way of forcing our family to spend time with one another without sitting in front of the T.V.
Despite that, board games have remained a big part of my life as I’ve gotten older. I still get together with Tyler and my folks and play games around the dinner table. Now that I have a young daughter, I’ve been thinking a lot about the gaming experiences I’d like to share with her as she grows up.
Tabletop game design has come a long way since those classics above were published, and there’s a lot of truly fun experiences to be had over the board - even for families with wide age ranges among their members. In this article, I’m going to share with you my five favorite board games that offer a great experience to players of all ages.
Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is my all-time favorite game to share with any group - no matter the ages. The game has up to five players playing the role of railroad barons claiming routes between North American cities. Players score points for establishing routes, expanding those routes, and completing various objectives involving connecting distant cities with one continuous route.
The beauty of Ticket to Ride is that it uses a very simple set of core rules to deliver a rich strategic experience. This makes it fun for children and adults alike. Ticket to ride has a suggested age of eight and older, but I’d wager sharp six or seven-year-olds would have no problems understanding the rules.
There’s also Ticket to Ride: First Journey which is designed for a younger audience and plays in about half the time.
Forbidden Island is a cooperative experience for ages 10 and up. One of the best things about game night is that it teaches children how to compete respectfully. However, sometimes it’s just more fun to bring the whole family together on the same team.
Forbidden Island has 2-4 players teaming up as a group of Indiana Jones-like adventurers trying to extract valuable artifacts from a mysterious island. The only problem is the island is quickly sinking!
Each player’s character has specific skills they can contribute to achieving the team’s goal of finding the artifacts and escaping before the island sinks. For example, the engineer can help slow the island’s sinking while the diver can swim through already flooded areas of the board.
Can your family find all the artifacts and escape the island before it sinks?
Coming from the same publisher as my previous recommendation is Sushi Go! It’s a fun little card game that takes just 15 minutes to play.
Sushi Go! offers a strategically deep experience within an incredibly simple set of rules. Players choose a card from a hand of cards, then pass the rest. By repeating this process they attempt to assemble combinations of sushi ingredients in order to score the most points at the end of the game. Young children can enjoy the fast pace and fun theme and art style while older children and adults will enjoy the strategic decision making behind the card choices.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can usually find this game for less than $10!
The Resistance: Avalon
Resistance: Avalon puts players into King Arthur’s Court as Knights of the Round Table.
However, some of the players are secretly plotting against King Arthur, and it’s up to the loyal players to find out who these traitors are and prevent them from spoiling the future of England!
The Resistance: Avalon is a fun social deduction game where nobody knows who they can trust. The game is pretty light on rules with the real meat of the game taking place within the dialogue at the table. Players try to deceive or persuade one another of their identities in order to achieve their team’s goal.
The game box suggests ages of 12 and up, but I’ve heard reports of success with children as young as six.
Last, but certainly not least, is Takenoko. Takenoko is a strategy game for up to four players ages eight and up.
In an effort to smooth diplomatic relations, the Chinese Emporer gifts his Japanese counterpart a panda bear. The Japanese Emporer has entrusted his court members (the players) with the task of caring for the animal by cultivating his bamboo garden with the help of the Imperial gardener.
Players will try to balance the often conflicting goals of the panda, gardener, and Emporer as they build the garden, grow bamboo stalks and feed the animal. The player that achieves these goals quickly and efficiently will win the Emporer’s favor and score the most points at the end of the game.
My favorite thing about Takenoko is its beautiful art style and high-quality components. The brightly colored plastic, wooden, and cardboard pieces come together to build a very picturesque table. Plus, it includes a deep strategic experience within a relatively simple ruleset, allowing players of varying ages to dive in and really enjoy the game.
Spice Up Game Night with These Five Excellent Games
That wraps up my five favorite games for families with a wide range of players. You can enjoy all the benefits of playing board games with your children and their friends without all the boredom that comes with some of the classic games.
Just pick up one of the games above and enjoy some good-old-fashioned family fun!
For those game board boxes that just don't seem to keep all the pieces together, check out these durable and kid-friendly organizing case to store game pieces of all sizes.
Written By Guest Writer: K. Rougeux