Game on! Best family board games for making memories

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Family board games are ideal for inexpensively creating an afternoon or evening filled with laughter, excitement and memories. Board games have the power to turn a boring night into an adventure. Discover board games that will spark joy, ignite friendly competition and create family memories.

Stack of four board games, The Crew, Settlers of Catan, Battleship and Monopoly.
Board Games. Photo credit: Anne Jolly.

Playing games together as a family is the perfect way to banish boredom and keep your kids off their phones. But with so many options available, deciding which games are worth playing can be tricky. This selection of games caters to all age groups and interests, so your game nights will be both memorable and entertaining. 

Sarita Harbour from Thrive at Home says, “We love to play board games as a family, especially when we’re camping or to get through rainy afternoons.” So gather some chairs around the table and enjoy some quality family time.

Classic family board games

Some board games have been popular for generations, and with good reason. These games are suitable for a wide range of ages, don’t take hours to learn and won’t end with half the family in frustrating tears.

Monopoly board with property cards, pieces, hotels and houses.
Monopoly. Photo credit: Anne Jolly.

Monopoly

Your family will love the classic board game “Monopoly.” With a blend of strategy and chance, this game will keep everyone paying attention as you buy, sell and trade properties and build houses and hotels. Should you go for a high-rent Boardwalk strategy or try to buy all the railroads as you move your pieces around the board? Playing “Monopoly” can take a while, but that is part of the appeal.

Clue

Put on your detective hat and solve a mystery with “Clue.” This engaging board game will have your family members guessing a crime’s culprit, weapon and location. The thrill of predicting it was Mrs. Peacock in the Conservatory with the candlestick never gets old, even if your predictions are completely off base.

Jenga

While “Jenga” isn’t technically a board game, it is tons of fun. Carefully remove and stack wooden blocks while you try to keep the tower from collapsing. This game will provoke laughter and nail-biting tension as your tower teeters on the brink of disaster.

Trouble

“Trouble” is a classic, with its fun pop-o-matic dice roller and brightly colorful pegs. It is an excellent game for all ages. As Heidi Bruaw from Real Life of Lulu explains, “My family loves to play “Trouble” because it’s easy enough for my 4-year-old to understand, but my 12-year-old also enjoys it. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Pictionary

Unleash your artistic side along with lots of laughter with “Pictionary.” In this family favorite, you’ll draw images to help your team guess a word or phrase. The timer adds an element of excitement, so get ready for fast-paced fun and be prepared to make fun of your teammates’ drawing ability.

Strategy and adventure games

Check out these popular board games that offer a little less luck and a little more strategy.

Ticket to Ride board with trains laid out across the country.
Ticket to Ride. Photo credit: Anne Jolly.

Ticket to Ride

Embark on a cross-country train trip with “Ticket to Ride.” The goal is to connect cities and build train routes in this strategy game that combines geography, planning and competition. This game takes only a few minutes to learn but is endlessly replayable because of the massive number of route combinations.

Settlers of Catan

For kids ages 10 and up, step into the world of Catan and build your own civilization. This game revolves around resource gathering and trading, so if you love to wheel and deal, you will love “Settlers of Catan.” Build your negotiating skills as you try to trade for sheep, but don’t forget to watch out for the robber who can ruin your plans instantly.

Wingspan

“Wingspan” was only introduced in 2019 but has quickly rocketed in popularity. It is a gorgeously illustrated game in which you establish a wildlife preserve that attracts birds. As you play, you collect valuable resources and encourage your birds to lay eggs. This is a game that is much more compelling than you’d initially expect, and it is an educational game too.

Azul

Unleash your artistic side with “Azul”, a game where you race to collect colorful tiles and strategically place them on your board to complete a mosaic. “Azul” is easy to understand but can require some sophisticated critical thinking and planning ahead. This is the perfect game for a visual thinker.

The Crew: Mission Deep Sea instructions, cards and pieces on a table.
The Crew. Photo credit: Anne Jolly.

The Crew

To encourage family cooperation instead of competition, check out “The Crew: The Quest for Planet Nine” or the sequel, “The Crew: Mission Deep Sea.” In these cooperative card games, you and your teammates work together to complete various missions. The missions change randomly, as do the obstacles thrown your way, so you never know what will happen next.

Pandemic

“Pandemic” is another cooperative game where you must work together to save the world from deadly diseases. And it is very challenging to win this game. It will test your teamwork, communication and decision-making skills as diseases multiply quickly throughout the globe.

Two player games

Sometimes a family game night has nine people, but sometimes there are only two. These are fun strategy games that only need two players.

Connect 4

This game is easy to learn, making it perfect for all ages. But despite its simplicity, it will challenge your strategy, logic and ability to think a few moves ahead. The goal is to create a row of four while blocking your opponent from doing so. This fast-paced game is perfect for a family tournament if you have more than two participants.

Battleship

Put your strategy and deduction abilities to the test in “Battleship.” In this classic game, you must guess your opponent’s ship positions and sink their fleet. The strategy in this game is twofold, first in placing your fleet and second in locating your opponent’s ships.

Risk

For a game that combines strategy, diplomacy and conquest, “Risk” is a traditional favorite. This game encourages strategic thinking while you outsmart your opponent on the way to world domination.

Settlers of Catan game setup with cards and pieces on the board.
Settlers of Catan. Photo credit: Anne Jolly.

Selecting the perfect family board game

These tips will help you select the perfect boredom-busting game for your family.

Game quality

When choosing a family board game, pay attention to its quality. Clear instructions are essential since nothing ruins a family game night faster than arguments over the rules. 

And well-made games are usually more fun to play. The metal game pieces from “Monopoly,” the wooden roads from “Catan” and the gorgeous tiles from “Azul” are more satisfying to play with than cheap plastic parts. 

Audience and play style

Keep in mind the age range and interests of the intended players. “Pandemic” is a fantastic game for teens but would be incomprehensible to younger kids. When you have a wide range of ages, stick to games that don’t require complicated strategies or extensive reading, like “Jenga” or “Trouble.”

Portability

When you are traveling or want easy storage, consider the game’s portability. Games like “The Crew” or “Pictionary” are easy to pack when you are on-the-go. On the other hand, “Wingspan” requires a table and has a box full of an astonishing number of small pieces, just begging to get lost.

Summing up

The memories made while playing family games have the power to foster deep connections and provide lots and lots of fun. Whether you’re seeking an hours-long strategy game or a quick 30-minute game before bedtime, you can find something for your family. Set aside the screens and enjoy quality time playing games with your family.

Anne Jolly is the creator of the food blog Upstate Ramblings. She loves to cook with gadgets like an air fryer, sous vide or pressure cooker. In her free time she enjoys hiking, reading, knitting and spending time with her three kids.

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