It’s easy to rely heavily on technology in these difficult times, especially when trying to find ways to keep the whole family entertained. Kids have grown up with easy access to smartphones, game consoles and social media, but these aren’t always the healthiest way to occupy the mind. I myself turned to board games to try and keep everyone occupied whilst increasing the quality time spent together away from screens.
If you’re looking to try the same, let me take you through what I think some of the best family board games are and why!
1. Ticket To Ride
You don’t have to like trains to love Ticket To Ride. This ever-present family board game has been around since 2004. Created by Alan R. Moon and published by Days of Wonder, this 2-5 player railway builder is fun for all ages and maintains a subtle competitive edge whilst encouraging plenty of tactical gameplay. A great way to get your brain motoring.
What makes Ticket To Ride so incredible is its accessibility. Super easy to learn with no real advanced learning curve to get over, it’s as simple to play in your 1st time as it is in your 100th. Ticket To Ride is not meant to be ultra-competitive but instead a relaxing experience where each player works towards their own goal throughout the turns. There just happens to be an overall winner at the end. It’s a great starter game for younger kids who will learn the rules and how to play and see their end game score improve with each game.
If you enjoy the base experience, there are multiple expansions available that will take you all over the world to various continents and countries. Each of which alters the rules slightly to keep things interesting.
One for a slightly older audience, Catan is one of the oldest active board games today, with its first edition having released in 1995. Chances are you’ve heard of Catan even if you’ve never played it. A much more strategic experience than many on this list, between 2-4 players will aim to build settlements, cities, roads and armies to be the first to earn 10 victory points. This is all achieved by managing your resources and trading with other players, adding a more competitive twist.
Catan can be quite slow to learn but once you pick it up, you’ll have a blast finding different starting strategies and creative ways to earn your wins. The unique aspect of Catan is that you are competing against the other players, but can also benefit from working together at times. The trade aspect of the game creates some interesting scenarios between players as you decide whether or not to give a player the resources they are after. In addition to trade, there is the robber to consider. When a 7 is rolled, you can move the robber onto a resource hex to have it stop spitting out resources to other players then steal from them. The tension when you rob a player then ask for a trade later in the game makes for some hilarious discussions!
Catan is timeless and there is a reason it’s stuck around for well over two decades as it is. Continued support and a decent digital version have helped it keep up with the times also. Catan should feature on almost and ‘best of’ lists for board games.
I’m taking you from the oldest game on this list to the most recent. Tapeworm is a 2-4 player matching card game by Edmund McMillen, who is known for his work on Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac. His recognisable art style is very much one of the biggest features of Tapeworm; it helps that it’s also very easy to learn and fun to play.
A great game for all ages, the objective is to be the first player to have no cards left in their hand. Each player must stretch, cut and connect their tapeworms as efficiently as possible to get rid of all of their cards. The rules are super simple for the base game and can be added to by using loot cards and additional rule sets, but they’re completely optional.
Tapeworm is the type of game you can’t just play one round of; it’s fast-paced and super engaging, which will lead to you screaming in agony when someone steals your next move, stopping you from winning, and you’ll cheer with joy when you do it to someone else. The best family board games bring these kinds of interactions out of everyone, and Tapeworm does this perfectly. You can play multiple rounds in a short amount of time giving everyone a chance to get their win in as it’s just as much down to the luck of the draw as well as strategy.
4. Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle
Hogwarts Battle is different from most of the games on this list. Not only is it completely cooperative, but it’s also story-based. Inside the bulky box is a fantastic deck-building game. You’ll play your way through all the films, adding to your decks with new spells and items whilst upgrading your characters along the way.
An incredible experience for any Potter fans, this game earns its place on this list as one of the best family board games because it allows you to act out the films with brilliant nods to the source material. The cooperative aspect really rewards players for proper communication and planning. You’ll have fun figuring out the best way to approach each chapter you play through and there may even be the odd argument as you decide where you focus your attention as a team. Value for money also favours Hogwarts Battle as you have a whole campaign spanning all the movie/book titles in one box with no need for expansions.
Pandemic is another cooperative experience but very different to Hogwarts Battle. In this game, you’ll work with your teammates to eradicate 4 deadly diseases from across the world. With randomly assigned roles, all of which come with their own perks. You’re fighting against the clock throughout the entire game, attempting to cure the diseases before suffering 8 outbreaks or running out of disease cubes to place on the board. It’s this timer that creates the drama and tension that makes Pandemic so addictive.
The game is set up to challenge even the most advanced board game players. What makes Pandemic so fun is how if forces you to take your time and plan out your moves as a team. Communication is key and you’re constantly under pressure to make the right moves. Will one person step up and take control of the situation and guide the team or will you end up at each others throats arguing about strategy?
As with a few other games on this list, Pandemic has been around for well over a decade, with its initial release being in 2008. Expansions are available to shake up the gameplay and keep things fresh. If competitive games are up your alley, but you don’t want to compete against other players, Pandemic is the perfect game, as you win and lose as a team.
If looking for any more games to try out, check out this video from Dicebreaker with even more great family board games to try!