The Best New Board Games for Families
From a Jenga-esque game that will evoke oohs and aahs from the kids to a legitimately fun board game that teaches coding fundamentals on the sly.
Sure, you could reach into the closet and pull out Monopoly, Candy Land, and Uno. Those are indisputable classics that we all respect. But playing these board games every family game night is like watching nothing but Parks & Rec over and over and over again. Sure, it’s a great show — also a classic — but there are so many more options out there and variety, as some inspired sous chef maybe, probably once said when artfully Salt-Bae-ing some Paprika into a dish and making too-long eye contact, is the spice of life. So, the next time family board game night comes around, why not look to one of these modern games? From a Jenga-esque stacking game that will evoke oohs and aahs from the kids to a legitimately fun traditional board game that teaches coding fundamentals on the sly, here are seven fantastic family board games that are a genuinely good time.
Melissa & Doug Suspend Family Board Game
Less of a traditional board game and more of a see-how-high-you-can-build-it game in the vein of Jenga. The idea is simple: there’s a stand and two dozen notched wire pieces to hang from it. Up to four players take turns hanging pieces, building a thin, tree-like structure in the process. As the game progresses, it becomes more and more difficult to place additional pieces without the entire structure falling. It’s a lot of fun and, better yet, requires very little to get started. Ages: 8+
You start this hybrid card-board game with a hand of traditional playing cards. Every time you play a card, you use a chip to mark the same card on the board, which has 96 cards printed on it, along with four wild spaces in the corners. Your goal is to get one sequence if you’re playing with three players or teams or two sequences if you’re playing with two. It seems simple, but there are a few twists — two-eyed Jacks are wild, one-eyed Jacks let you remove an opponent’s marker — that make it a bit more complicated. Ages 7+
All you need to play Quirkle is a flat surface large enough to fit the game’s 108 wooden blocks, which are broken up into groups of six different shapes in six different colors. It’s a simple matching game, the object of which is to lay down as many blocks as possible. Players take turns trying to match their blocks with the blocks on the board (to begin, the first player plops down a matching pair on the table). If it sounds complicated, it isn’t. What it is, however, is a surprising amount of fun for kids who enjoy both color- and shape-matching as well as a good dose of competition. Ages: 6+
As its title suggests, this is a simple matching game that features monsters. Monsters! Game play is simple: players have a pair of dice, one of which has numbers on it, the other of which has body parts (monster body parts!). There are various cards featuring different types of monsters placed on the playing surface. If a player rolls, say, a three and an eye, players must search for the monster card that features a monster with three eyes. Each monster card snatched up is worth a set number of points — indicated by stacked donuts on the side — and the player with the most points at the end of the game wins. Even better than the game itself is the game’s carrying case, which looks like a cool monster head. Ages: 6+
Rock Me Archimedes
Named for the ancient Greek mathematician who first articulated the principle of the lever, this balancing board game combines suspense and strategic thinking. The object of the game is to get four of your marbles to your end of the balancing board without letting either side touch the table. Alternately, you can scheme to trick your opponent into unbalancing the board, giving you the win. During each turn, players can either place a new marble in the middle zone or roll the die and move previously placed marbles that number of spaces. As more marbles get closer to the ends, the whole board becomes more volatile, and the tension builds to a thrilling finish. Ages 8+
Gas Out Game
A hot-potato-style game, except the potato in this is an electronic fart cloud that lets it rip when the timer runs out. Play is simple: Players are dealt a variety of cards featuring numbers as well as action cards such as “skip” and “reverse”. Once everyone has a handful, they take turns playing cards in their hand and pressing the gaseous cloud — known as Guster — as many times as shown. If Guster farts when you’re holding it, you’re out. Sure, it’s gross. But what better way to teach kids counting than with a smiling fart? Ages: 5+
It’s rare that a word game is both educational for kids and wildly entertaining for adults. At least not without the requisite amount of beers, which makes Anaxi such a cool oddball. The box comes with 75 word cards, each with adjectives like lumpy, square, green, etc., as well as two base cards and a timer. One person picks three color-coded word cards and puts them together on the base. Start the timer and write down as many people, places, or things (or, you know, nouns) that share those overlapping qualities. If someone else said Alf (as they’re likely to do) the person who wrote down a unique answer gets a higher score. Play continues for 5 rounds and whoever possesses the strongest vocabulary wins. It’s probably going to be the person who uses whomever. Ages 8+
The Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game
The award-winning game for pre-schoolers is designed to help them learn colors and counting while having plenty of rodent-themed fun. To play, kids spin the spinner. If it lands on a color, they use the squirrel squeezer (imagine a squirrel-shaped chip clip) to take an acorn of that color from the tree-shaped board and place it into their log. If it lands on a special space, kids might get to pick their color, steal an acorn from another player, or lose one of their own acorns. The first to fill the five slots in their log wins. Playing the game doesn’t require reading, but you can pick up a version that comes with a companion book to give kids practice once they’re ready. Ages: 3-7
The most backed board game in Kickstarter history, Robot Turtles is a fun game that teaches everyone from preschoolers to pre-teens (and even parents) programming fundamentals on the sly. There are robot tokens on a snake-like game board that can move forward, left, and right. The object is to reach one of the onboard jewels. To move around, players must say the movements of their tokens aloud, a style of play that teaches coding and critical thinking. More complexity can be added as players become wise to the gaming world. Ages: 4+
The goal is simple: Navigate the maze inside the lock using the accompanying “lockpick” and free yourself from the handcuffs. Players get points for their Houdini-like speed and the player with the most after three rounds wins. Each set of handcuffs comes with 12 unique mazes (in three difficulty levels) ⏤ they pop in and out ⏤ so the game gets harder each round. And if you’ve got a kid who can’t for the life of them figure it out, there’s an emergency release on the back so they won’t spend the night handcuffed to their older brother. Ages: 4+
Ya Blew It!
This object of this card-dice game is to collect sets of gem cards, avoiding those that are your cursed color. In each round, one player is the prospector who finds the gem (by drawing cards from the deck) and the others are miners hoping to steal the claim. If a player decides to steal, they roll their dynamite stick-shaped die (preferably while yelling “Fire in the hole!”). If it comes back to the prospector, he or she can draw cards to increase the size of the haul or play it safe and take them, thus ending the round. There are some special cards that mix up gameplay, which ends when the whole deck has been played and a tally of each player’s gems reveals the winner. Ages 8+
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