Boardgames for Families

In advertising families and children are often synonymous. Any movie for children is advertised as a movie for the whole family. I can see why parents (which I’m not) might want to distract the children just long enough to be quiet for a bit, but that shouldn’t be the extent the adult can enjoy the situation. And studios have (sort of) understood this. Most Pixar and many DreamWorks animations take the whole family into account by making the films be more than noise and colors for the kids (which is a way too patronising view of the children anyhow).

But this is about games.

Same problem here, though. Not any game where you simply cast a few dice and move your piece around a board is going to be very satisfying for most adults. On the other hand, you don’t want to crush the kids. So, you want something in between. A game with simple rules, but some strategy involved. However, variance is good, because it lets the kids win from time to time (without the parents having to throw the games).

You might want something educational as well. I guess.

Anyhow, the list below are games I’ve played with my young siblings and my nieces. My nieces are now 12 and 14, while the youngest of my brothers I regularly play with is 15. I’ve played with them for years now, so they are fairly experienced, but they are still kids. These games are games I think they’ve enjoyed and which also work for me. At least in limited doses.

I’ve played plenty of games with them over the years, but these are the ones we’re most agreed on.

All the technical information is from Board Game Geek (where I linked the games as well).

Alhambra

# of Players: 2 − 6
Mfg Suggested Ages: 8 and up
Playing Time: 60 minutes

A classic game of building a palace complex. One of the pillars of the Eurogame genre.

Even if they don’t do that well in the game itself, kids seem to enjoy the challenge of building the complex correctly. They do still have a fair chance, as there’s enough luck involved, and the strategy isn’t that complicated.

Timeline

# of Players 2 − 8
Mfg Suggested Ages 8 and up
Playing Time 15 minutes

A fairly new game of placing certain historical things into a timeline. These events and inventions and whatnot are represented by cards and you have to know where to place the card.

Generally I start with more cards than the younger players, because I actually know quite a few of the years. Of course, the younger players are learning, bit by bit. Sometimes they still make very bad decisions, but their grasp of history is slowly getting better.

There’s some in-game text, which was problematic before I bought the Finnish version. The Finnish version still has some problems, because some of the terminology is difficult.

Ticket to Ride

(Although my relatives prefer Europe and Nordic to the original, partly because they can find places they’ve been in from those maps.)

# of Players 2 − 5
Mfg Suggested Ages 8 and up
Playing Time 45 minutes

Another classic. You build railroads based on routes given to you in the beginning of the game.

Here, kids actually have a subtle edge. This is mostly because (depending on the version) blocking your opponents is a strong tactic. You usually do that to your worse opponent, which is usually another adult. This leaves the kids with more room to maneuver.

Tsuro

# of Players 2 − 8
Mfg Suggested Ages 8 and up
Playing Time 15 minutes

Its a game about Asian spiritualism. You fly your dragon in your way to enlightenment or something like that. Not that you’d know this unless you’ve read the description. You just build routes for your dragon in order to keep him from going off the board or hitting other dragons.

The lends itself well for player set goals, such as flying as far as possible by placing only one tile on your route.

For Sale

# of Players 3 − 6
Mfg Suggested Ages 8 and up
Playing Time 20 minutes

Highly abstract real estate game, where you bid for houses and then sell them for as much as possible.

We’ve played this quite a bit over the years, and my younger relatives are now pretty good. The game is in a pretty rough shape, but its still popular. The artwork (and the animals in the artwork) definitely help.

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