Monthly Archives: December 2014

Top 10 Family Board Games (List Three of Three: Misa’s List)

Last week, I posted both Kai’s suggestions and Joe’s suggestions for board games the whole family can play. Today, I’m posting my top 10 family board games.

For my list, I decided to list games that I think would be good for mixed ages and that would give a good variety of games to start from. The thing is, every family and every person is different. But I think these games would help a family figure out what kind of games they enjoy.

Carcassonne or Alhambra. These are both tile placement games.

In Carcassonne, you’re trying to build a countryside, with roads, cities, grassland, etc. Each feature scores differently and, at the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. Typically, this game is my number one suggestion for a “gateway game,” which means it’s the first one I recommend to people wanting to get into games. No reading required.

In Alhambra, you’re trying to build a palace (an Alhambra). There are four different currencies that you can collect to use to build your structures with. Tiles each require a specific type of currency, depending on how they’re pulled from the bag. Players earn points for the type of buildings they build and also for the longest wall they have. Minimal reading required.

Carcassonne is more all-ages but I really love Alhambra. Kai has played it before and enjoyed it, so some younger kids can definitely play. If you’re just looking for an intro game or if your family is primarily younger, I’d go with Carcassonne. If you’re looking for something more complex, I’d suggest trying Alhambra.

King of Tokyo and King of New York together (since they’re kind of like the same game, with King of New York being more advanced) are one of two items to make all three lists.

King of Tokyo is a game where you’re playing as monsters, trying to destroy each other. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of people enjoy the theme. It’s mainly about rolling the dice and attacking or healing. There are cards, too, to allow for some variety. This game requires some reading but since cards are out in the open.

King of New York is a lot like King of Tokyo but a bit advanced (and, obviously, you’re in New York). You’re monsters, attacking the city. This one also adds in military units that can cause you, the monsters, problems. This also requires a small amount of reading.

We’ve never played these with anyone and had them be disappointed by play.

The Duke is the other item to make all three lists. It is a two player game that’s vaguely like chess, but with more options. (And I think all of us like it better than chess.) The pieces in this game are square tiles that you flip when you move. Each side shows how the piece can move while that side is showing. Minimal reading required.

Castle Panic 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.

Tsuro is one of the games that our family has played the most and I was honestly really surprised that it was not on anyone else’s list. We have jokingly called it “The Spaghetti Noodle” board game. You’re building paths for your player marker to move along with tiles that have all sorts of lines on them (that’s the spaghetti noodle part). Basically, you’re trying to be the last person to leave the board. Sometimes you can send your opponent off the board. Sometimes, you have no choice but to send yourself off the board. It’s a very quick and light game. No reading required.

Ticket to Ride is one of the more popular “designer” board games. Players collect cards that they use to place trains on railway routes. Each player is also working towards specific goal cards (different goals for different players). Some reading required.

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game with Dungeons & Dragons style “flavor”. Complete quests and build buildings to gain points. The gameplay is really simple and it’s a lot of fun. I also like how “scalable” this game is – it plays well with two people or with several people. Reading required.

Dominion is a deckbuilding game. You use buy various cards that are available (this changes each game) and whoever has the most victory points at the end wins. This game has a ton of expansions and is a great starter game.

I do have to insert a disclaimer here: We hardly ever play this game anymore. A couple of years back, Joe and I played through every single card in the game (at the time). This was after having played it a lot already. We ended up finding, after a ton of plays (a LOT of plays), that we both defaulted to one strategy and we kind of burnt out on it. HOWEVER, I still think this is the best deckbuilder to start with. If you enjoy it, there are others that I think are better overall, but this is definitely the one I recommend to people who’ve never done deckbuilders before. It is one of the simpler deckbuilder games, which makes it good for family play. And, if you’re not doing tons of plays, that quickest-path-to-victory isn’t always quite as obvious. And it is fun. Lots of reading required. We managed deckbuilders with Kai before he could read, but it was very tedious. I don’t really recommend it.

Tobago is kind of like a reverse logic puzzle, but put as a game. Joe has referred to it as “multiplayer minesweeper”. In this game, you’re trying to collect treasure. You do this by adding more “clues” about the treasure – things like “NOT next to the ocean” or “Next to the ocean.” The clues are given in pictograms form on cards. The pieces are pretty incredible (except for the jeeps – but the statues and other pieces more than make up for it). The play is great. It’s a LOT of fun. Little to no reading required.

A la Carte is a game where the players are chefs trying to prepare various different dishes (that are usually puns or something “silly/gross” based on a real dish). You have little stoves and “spices” that you shake out of plastic containers. It’s fun and is one of those games where kids really have as good of a chance at winning as adults do. Requires some reading, but since nothing is hidden, it’s easy to get help from the adults. Not for very little kids who still mouth things, as there’s a choking hazard.

There are affiliate links in this post for ease of locating the games. I also recommend supporting your local gaming stores.

Top 10 Family Board Games (List Two of Three: Joe’s List)

My last post was Kai’s Top Ten Family Board Games list.

Today is my husband, Joe’s list. His list has a few similarities to Kai’s list, while it has several different ones that Kai has, as well.

Machi Koro is a game that’s fairly new to us, but it’s . Basically, you’re wanting to develop a city. To do this, you buy cards that give you benefits (money) if the number on the dice rolled matches the number on your developments – sometimes it is activated on other players’ turns, sometimes only on your own. To win, you have to build all of your required landmarks. Some reading required.

Formula D is a racing game. The cars in it are itty bitty (see picture for scale – that’s Joe’s finger). We’ve often tried to introduce it to people who scoff at the idea of a racing board game, but I’ve yet to hear a person say, “That was as bad as I thought.” Most people end up enjoying it. But if you have a kid who still “mouths” things, you want to keep it away from them. Also, some younger kids have a tendency to want to play with the cars. Requires number identification but no reading.

Carcassonne is a tile placement game. You’re trying to build a countryside, with roads, cities, grassland, etc. Each feature scores differently and, at the end of the game, the player with the most points wins. Typically, this game is my number one suggestion for a “gateway game,” which means it’s the first one I recommend to people wanting to get into games. No reading required.

The Duke is a two player game that’s vaguely like chess, but with more options. (And I think all of us like it better than chess.) The pieces in this game are square tiles that you flip when you move. Each side shows how the piece can move while that side is showing. Minimal reading required.

Castle Panic 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.

Eldritch Horror is a cooperative game where you’re play as investigators traveling around the world, trying in order to gather clues to prevent an elder being from destroying the world. This game is based on the HP Lovecraft “universe”.

Small World is a game where you play as fantasy races, trying to conquer as much of the board as possible before your race goes into decline. When it is time for your race to decline, you pick another race and play as that one. It’s lots of fun. I will say, however, that it is one of the more complex games on this list. There’s a lot of interesting mechanics and a lot to keep track of. However, it’s also fairly easy to help your kids with it if they have a harder time grasping the game. Kai plays it and loves it, but if you’ve got kids mainly under eight, this game will be harder for them. The more other games the play, the easier this will be for them. Minimal reading required.

Pandemic: Contagion

In this game, you’re playing as a disease trying to infect the world. Unlike the original Pandemic, this game is NOT cooperative. The game uses cards to represent various cities. Each turn, players may choose to draw cards, spread disease, or advance “mutations”.

Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement game with Dungeons & Dragons style “flavor”. Complete quests and build buildings to gain points. The gameplay is really simple and it’s a lot of fun. I also like how “scalable” this game is – it plays well with two people or with several people.

King of New York is a lot like King of Tokyo but a bit advanced (and, obviously, you’re in New York). You’re monsters, attacking the city. This one also adds in military units that can cause you, the monsters, problems.

This post contains affiliate links.

Top 10 Family Board Games (List One of Three)

Today, we sat down as a family and each came up with a list of “family board games”. The idea behind these lists was, “If a family (of mixed ages) asked us for suggestions for ten games to start their board game collection, what would we recommend?”

This is Kai’s list. Kai is currently six, almost seven. In some ways, his list may tell you the most about games your kids will like. In other ways, his is a bit more based on games we’ve just recently played. However, after looking over his list, a good number of these are ones he always loves. (Also, he couldn’t stick to ten and I’m fine with that.)

Battle Sheep is a game that’s new to us – Kai got it as a birthday present to me this year. However, it plays a lot like another game we have (Hey, That’s My Fish!). Don’t let the cute sheep fool you (though they are SUPER cute): this game requires some thinking. In this game, you split your herds of sheep to block off your opponents while trying to get as many sheep on the board as possible. It requires thinking, but not a lot of time. No reading required.

Castle Keep is a game that Kai loves and asks for regularly. I believe this was one we thrifted and it hadn’t come across my radar before that, but it’s a Gamewright game and, overall, Gamewright games make pretty good family games. In this game, you’re attempting to build castles by matching colors and shapes of castle wall pieces. In the advanced version, you can attack opponents’ castles. No reading required.

Small World is a game where you play as fantasy races, trying to conquer as much of the board as possible before your race goes into decline. When it is time for your race to decline, you pick another race and play as that one. It’s lots of fun. I will say, however, that it is one of the more complex games on this list. There’s a lot of interesting mechanics and a lot to keep track of. However, it’s also fairly easy to help your kids with it if they have a harder time grasping the game. Kai plays it and loves it, but if you’ve got kids mainly under eight, this game will be harder for them. The more other games the play, the easier this will be for them. Minimal reading required.

The Duke is a two player game that’s vaguely like chess, but with more options. (And I think all of us like it better than chess.) The pieces in this game are square tiles that you flip when you move. Each side shows how the piece can move while that side is showing. Minimal reading required.

Hive is a two player game that requires a lot of thinking and planning, but plays fairly quickly. The point of the game is to surround your opponents’ Queen Bee while making sure your own Queen Bee does not get surrounded. Each piece moves uniquely. We have the “Carbon” version, which has a couple of extra pieces and is black and white. Some reading required – once you have memorized how each piece moves, no reading is required.

Mancala is a two player traditional game. In truth, Mancala is actually a family of games from Africa/Asia. But here in the United States, the game we call Mancala is one particular form. I have heard that what we think of as Mancala was invented here in the US, but I am not completely sure about that. The board has six pits on each side with one big pit at each end. Each of the smaller pits starts with four stones in it and you have to move them around the board, trying to get the most stones in your own big pit. You can even make your own version of this game with seeds and an egg carton or pebbles and circles in the dirt. There are free versions of the game online, as well. We own a copy of the game that looks much like the one I’m linking to. Kai wins this a lot. No reading required.

Formula D

Itty bitty cars in Formula D.

Formula D is a racing game. The cars in it are itty bitty (see picture for scale – that’s Joe’s finger). We’ve often tried to introduce it to people who scoff at the idea of a racing board game, but I’ve yet to hear a person say, “That was as bad as I thought.” Most people end up enjoying it. But if you have a kid who still “mouths” things, you want to keep it away from them. Also, some younger kids have a tendency to want to play with the cars. Requires number identification but no reading.

King of Tokyo is a game where you’re playing as monsters, trying to destroy each other. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of people enjoy the theme. It’s mainly about rolling the dice and attacking or healing. There are cards, too, to allow for some variety. Pretty much everyone who has played this game with us has ended up enjoying it, even the “non-gamers”. This game requires some reading but since cards are out in the open.

Note: IELLO, the publisher of King of Tokyo, has also released a game called King of New York. That game is slightly more complex and there’s more “bits” to keep track of. I’d say that King of Tokyo is a better intro game and better for kids under eight or (because of the complexity differences) but still enjoyable for the whole family. That’s why King of Tokyo is on this list instead of King of New York. If your kids are older or used to complex games, you might consider King of New York.

Trains is a deck-building game that also has a board that functions as a map. You start with a small set of cards and purchase more throughout the game to help you place stations and lay rails on the map. This game does require a fair amount of reading, as do all most deck-building games. I think most kids would probably start “getting” this around ages eight to ten, but Kai’s been playing it for about a year now, so that obviously varies.

A la Carte is a game where the players are chefs trying to prepare various different dishes (that are usually puns or something “silly/gross” based on a real dish). You have little stoves and “spices” that you shake out of plastic containers. It’s fun and is one of those games where kids really have as good of a chance at winning as adults do. Requires some reading, but since nothing is hidden, it’s easy to get help from the adults. Not for very little kids who still mouth things, as there’s a choking hazard.

Pitch Car is a game where you have a track set up and you’re flicking little disks around the track. It’s a lot of fun that the whole family can enjoy. There’s more skill to it than there looks. When Kai was younger, he didn’t flick so much as artfully shove the disks around (and I do that, too, sometimes). No reading required. 20130101 New Year's Day, Playing PitchCar (31)

Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures Game is a tactical miniatures fighting game based on the Star Wars franchise. The miniatures are incredibly well-done. It also includes measuring devices to tell you how far to move your pieces. Now, I will say that this game would be tough for a lot of kids under eight and maybe as much as up to ten. However, Kai plays it and enjoys it. The starter set I’m linking to includes three ships. You will probably want to purchase a few others as just the three ships can be somewhat limiting. Reading required, but would probably be okay with help from Mom and Dad.

Wings of Glory (World War 2) is another miniature game that Kai’s a fan of. In this game, you’re playing out aerial combat during the World War 2 era, planning two moves in advance. In addition to the rules, you will need to purchase miniatures. Some reading required, but it is fairly minimal. Really young kids may have a problem with this game, but that’s more about handling the components and not using the minis as toys than it is difficulty of play. I actually think that both this and the Star Wars X-Wing game are great “starter” miniature games.

Please note: I have included affiliate links, but part of the reason for that is so that I can link to the exact thing I’m talking about and so that you have an easy place to purchase from. I also highly recommend supporting your local gaming stores.