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 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.
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.