Recently, I’ve had several people ask me to make a list of my favorite boardgames (please note: I say “boardgames”, but that includes card games and games that have parts and no specific board). Most of these people are homeschoolers and unschoolers, so I’ve written this list with that in mind. My husband, Joe, gave me a list of what he’d recommend as “family games” – that is, games that will appeal to a wide age range, including the parents and said to just list them in alphabetical order. He picked a wide range of types of games. We’ve got several overlaps so I’m just combining them. While we each tried to stick to ten, we both found that we really had a couple we were torn between, so they’re all being included. Kai added a few as well.
Each game title will have beneath it whose list it was on, how much reading it requires (Note: somebody needs to be able to read in almost all of these games, at least the first time, to read the instructions – so if it says “no reading”, it means “No reading besides the instructions.”), the length of play (approximate – this can really vary), as well as a link to the game on Amazon. Full disclosure: I’m using Amazon Affilate links here, because they’re easy and, hey, if you buy something, I might make a bit of money to help support this blog. There’s also a nice little picture with each, so you know what they look like. Also, it means I don’t have to have to pick a boardgame retailer to suggest. However, I encourage you to buy from your local game store, if at all possible.
I’m also doing links to a site called BoardGameGeek, which can be incredibly helpful for finding out details about the game and forums to ask questions on. If your family likes boardgames, this is a really good resource. However, please don’t give the ratings TOO much credit – most of these are adults who will rank “family games” or “kids games” poorly. I’d pay attention to high ratings, though, as a “good sign”.
One last thing: game boxes are really weird in how they decide ages and length of game. Don’t trust ’em. They’re almost always wrong. Especially if you’re playing with kids, you’ll need more time. A lot of kids can play games at a younger age than the box says, but some can’t until after the box says.
You know your kids best. If at all possible, go to your local game store and see if they have copies of a game to try out. That’s the best way to know if it’s good for your family. But these are what we enjoy – and what I think won’t make you want to claw your eyes out with boredom
10 Days in the USA
(Misa. Moderate reading. 30 minutes.)
Geography game. You’re basically planning a trip (that last ten days) and there’s a few rules you have to follow. There’s a whole series of these. We just got our copy of 10 Days in the USA, but I wanted to put it here because it seems like it will be good for geography and it’s a fairly easy/short game – half an hourish. Best for
The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus
(Joe, Misa. Minimal reading. 90 minutes playing time.)
This game has a lot of little pieces, lots of set up. But really really fun. Kai LOVES it. The premise of the game is that you’re adventurers going into a pyramid that is falling apart, trying to loot it for treasure, and get out before it falls in on you.
A la Carte
(Joe, Kai, and Misa. Minimal reading. Half an hour to an hour.)
You’re making dishes (weird ones, like Chocolate Mouse, not mousse). There are little stoves, pans, etc. Very adorable. Adults sometimes hesitate to play it and then go, “That was actually pretty fun.”
Carcassonne is a tile placement game. You’re trying to build a countryside, with roads, cities, grassland, etc.
Kids of Carcassonne was put on here by Kai. It’s basically a road connecting game – everything connects. But, for Kai, this meant he thought about it less so didn’t do as well as on the regular game. This is a good intro for really little kids, but will be somewhat boring for the older crowd, though not awful.
(Kai, Misa. Minimal reading – as long as one person can read, you’re okay, since this is cooperative. An hour to an hour and a half.)
This is basically a tower defense game made into a board game. You’re trying to defend the castle in the middle from everything that’s attacking it. And it’s cooperative – you either all win or you all lose, making it excellent for those kids who have a hard time not being the winner when someone else is. Also, because you can all see each other’s cards, only one person has to be able to read.
(Misa. No reading. 30 to 60 minutes.)
This is (sort of) an intro to Catan. It’s all pictograms. It’s a resource management game. You’re on Spooky Island, trying to gather resources. There’s a ghost pirate that can cause you problems. It’s lots of fun and a good intro for kids to the ideas behind Catan (though somewhat different from it). DO NOT GET KIDS OF CATAN. That is not this game but, instead, a very horrible game that I like to pretend never existed. (Likewise, Die Siedler van Catan: Junior is a different game.)
(Misa. Lots of reading. 30 to 60 minutes.)
Joe didn’t include this on his list because he was trying to diversify and because he likes Legendary better. Personally, I think this game is a good intro to deckbuilding games – I think we were able to play other deckbuilders easier because we played so much of this – and might appeal to those a wider audience. It is, however, text intense. Basically, you start with an identical, small set of cards and each player is building their own decks by buying other cards with in-game currency. The person with the most victory points (these are also cards you can buy) wins.
Forbidden Island came first. In Forbidden Island, you’re trying to collect treasures on an island that is sinking (you lay tiles out to make the island). You need to collect them all and get out before the island goes under. In Forbidden Desert, you’re in a desert and you’re trying to recover parts to a flying machine so you get get out of there before you die from dehydration. But it isn’t just a re-skin of the game. There are more elements at work in Forbidden Desert and it is harder – but better, in my opinion. Kai loves these games – he really likes the little pieces you collect. These games are both cooperative. I highly recommend them both – and I think Forbidden Island makes it so that understanding how to play another game I love (Pandemic) much easier.
(Joe, Kai. Minimal reading. 30 minutes to… who knows?)
This game gets played a LOT in our house. And every time we get someone to play who hasn’t before, who balks because it’s a car game, they end up saying, “That was actually really fun.” But! It isn’t for small kids who fumble with things a lot or put things in their mouth. It has small cars. No, really. See?
It’s basically a follow-the-path game, but with special requirements and different dice depending what gear you’re in.
(Kai. No reading. 15 minutes)
In Get Bit!, you’re trying to be the last “robot” to be eaten by a shark. They have removable limbs, which are fun to take apart. Place in front of the shark is determined by what cards you play. Fun, fast game.
So that’s the first part of our list. The rest of this list will be in the next blog post. If you have any questions, please let me know. If there are any games you’d like to know about more in-depth, please comment with which ones and I’ll try to make posts about those games, specifically (I’m not committing to a time-frame, though!).