20 Awesome Family Board Games To Play Together

by | Dec 17, 2019 | Uncategorized | 22 comments

Every December 26, our family has a Christmas tradition: we play family board games.

Usually I buy us a special game each year–a newer game that maybe many people have never heard of, but we try it out and play it and have a great time!

One of the most popular posts on this blog is my post on two-player board games. I wrote it originally a few years ago, and then I kept replacing some games with other great ones that people recommended, so it’s been constantly updated. Some are old staples, but some are newer games that are really fun!

Today I thought I’d chime in with 20 of our board games to play as a family.

This post contains affiliate links that help offset the costs of this blog.

When I was younger, we only had a few basic board games that everybody played: Monopoly, Life, Sorry, Clue, Risk, Scrabble, Boggle. Remember all those? With Life & Sorry, the big drawback that I always found is that it wasn’t really about strategy; it was just about the die rolls. Then Monopoly can be a dangerous game, because it tends to be quite vicious and cut-throat. I know many people who got turned off of board games because of how brutal Monopoly games were! And Risk just takes FOREVER, and can get vicious, too.

Nevertheless, when our kids were younger, we were determined to find games that we could play, the second they were old enough, because it gave us something to do as a family. And right around the time the girls got old enough to play, there was an explosion of new board games. We’ve kept up with quite a few of them, adding to our collection constantly (and Keith and I even do date nights at a local board game cafe!).

So I’d like to share here some family board games you can play with younger kids, and then branch out into board games that you can play once they get older.


Great Family Board Games for Families with Younger Children

1. Bohnanza

This inexpensive game was our family’s staple for years! Basically each player is growing their own beans. Yes, beans. (Bohn is German for “bean”.) There are a whole variety of beans in the game–blue beans and green beans are really common, but cocoa beans are worth a lot (the game makers are very smart). And the stink beans make everyone laugh!

You can only plant one type of bean in each field, and you start with two fields, which you can expand over time. And you have to plant the beans that are in your hand in order. So if you have a bean that you can’t plant, you have to trade it for something you do want. It’s the trading that’s the fun part, and kids have to be old enough to understand that a cocoa bean for a green bean is a really bad trade, no matter how much their sister tries to con them into it. But it’s really easy to learn and kids love the pictures!

2. Blokus

I always liked this game because it taught such great spatial skills! Basically, each person gets their own colour (you can only play with 4 players, or you can play with two and each get to do the other colour). And each of your pieces has a different shape. You have to play all of your pieces to win (or the game is over when no one else can place a piece). But your pieces can only be placed corner to corner–no two sides can ever be against each other. So it takes some thinking! But even young children can conceptualize it.

3. Guillotine

Okay, this card game sounds really gruesome–but it’s seriously fun! When our kids were little, all of their friends coming over for play dates always wanted to play Guillotine.

Basically, you’re a French executioner and you have to cut off people’s heads (they get cut off just by being at the front of the line when it’s your turn). And each person is worth a different number of points. The king is worth a ton. But the martyr is worth NEGATIVE points if you kill him! You have action cards in your hands which can shuffle the deck or move people around so that they come up for execution when it’s your turn.

It’s really, really easy to learn, and even younger children can get the hang of it. And it’s not as gruesome as it sounds (plus you can teach a lot of history!)

4. Set

Here’s a card game where it’s all about matching–or not matching.

The cards have different colours, different shapes, different fills, and different numbers. A “set” is something with three cards where each element is either ALL the same, or ALL different. So you could have a set where they’re all purple, they’re all ovals, and they’re all fully shaded–but the numbers are all different. Or you could have a set where one is orange, one is purple, and one is green, and three different shapes, and three different fills, and three different numbers.

The neat thing about this game is that there’s NO advantage to being older. So kids can win as often as adults do (and our kids often beat us!) And it’s great at teaching patterning.

5. Apples to Apples

A must-have as soon as kids can read!

Everybody gets a bunch of nouns in their hands–from your teacher to a banana to John F. Kennedy Jr. Then an adjective is turned up, and everyone has to decide what in their hand best fits! One person judges, and hilarity ensues.

There’s a junior version for kids who aren’t as adept at reading as well!

6. Arboretum

One of Joanna’s favourites (Joanna works with me on the blog!). She says:

“Arboretum is a game about building a beautiful park composed of different tree varieties in numbered cards in front of you. But there’s a catch: everyone else is building one too. Each player creates a path of trees moving from the lowest value tree of that type to the highest. Your path can have a mixture of tree species, but you’ll get bonus points if you go all maple all the time (or jacaranda, or whatever.) The catch is that tree species can only be scored by one person and the determination of scoring isn’t the cards you’ve played… it’s the cards in your hand! This is a really fun puzzle that’s quintessentially easy to learn but hard to master. It’s fast and the art is beautiful and somehow my sister-in-law always beats me.”

Strategy Family Board Games for Age 8 and up

7. Carcassone

Honestly, this is one of my favourite’s (and Katie and David’s favourites, too!). Plus it’s likely one of the easiest to master when you’re young.

This is a cool game where you build the city and you add tiles every turn, while placing your people to “claim” points. You get points for farming, or for a road, or for cities. It isn’t hard to learn and it doesn’t take very long, and every game is different because you build it! Plus there are a myriad of super fun expansions that add more variety to the game. (In fact, if you’re an expansion person, I highly recommend the Big Box version that comes with multiple expansions. This is the one Katie & David have and we love playing it!).

I think Carcassone is an easier one for younger children to master–but there’s also a junior version.

8. Photosynthesis

This is one of our new ones for 2019!

Can be played with 2-4 players. Basically, you build a forest. But there’s only one problem: your trees need sunlight to grow. And the sun moves around the board–and bigger trees end up shading the smaller ones. It’s a great game because it teaches kids what forests are actually like. The trees end up seeding and intermingling with each other; there’s a constant race to the top; and forests do better when the bigger trees die and rejuvenate.

It doesn’t take that long, either. I think younger children can learn this one pretty easily. Plus it’s just really, really pretty.

9. Planet

Done by the same people who did Photosynthesis–and we love Photosynthesis!

I have to admit I haven’t played this one, but it looks so interesting and it has such great reviews that I had to mention it. Here’s how it’s described:

“In this very unique game, each player’s board is a 12-sided 3-dimensional planet core. Throughout 12 turns, select landscape tiles representing oceans, deserts, mountains or frozen lands, and arrange them on your planet to create the best ecosystems. Win Animal Cards while fulfilling your own ‘’Natural Habitat’’ objective and create the most populated planet in the universe!”

Strategy Family Board Games for Ages 10 and Up

I’m using the age of 10 here a little arbitrarily–so much depends upon your kids and how mature they are and how they’re able to understand rules.

Here are some of the awesome new (or new-ish) board games that we’ve been enjoying over the last few years (and for several of them, I’ve left the link in for the junior version of the game, too, if you have kids around ages 7-9).

10. Ticket to Ride

Every time we have people over for dinner we play Ticket to Ride. It’s fairly easy to explain, and lots of fun to play! You start the game with three “routes”–routes that you have to build joining two cities. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, your routes overlap. (Like Toronto-Miami and Chicago-Miami). Sometimes, if you’re unlucky, they don’t. (Toronto-Miami and Seattle-Las Vegas). But you build your routes with your trains, and sometimes you even block other people in!

(Although it’s different each time you play because you have different routes, the strategy doesn’t really change, so I’m putting it in this category). And I think this is one that children on the younger end can master!

And check out the junior version for even younger children as well.

11. Catan

A family board game staple! You build your initial settlements on resources–grain, iron, brick, sheep, or wood–and then each resource space has a number associated with it. Every time someone rolls that number on dice, you collect the resources for that square. And with those resources you build things–roads, settlements, cities. And that gets you points. But you can also block people in (that’s mean!) or try to get a monopoly on a resource. It’s really fun! And if you have more than four people, there’s also an expansion set for 5 or 6 players (we’ve used that; it works well).

This game will be to the next generation what Risk was to us.

We love the Seafarer’s Expansion–makes it so much more interesting!

And Catan has a junior version, too, so that younger children can master it. 


12. Pandemic

Here’s a different kind of game because you’re not in competition with each other–you actually cooperate! Four diseases have broken out in the world, and your team of specialists has to cure them before they infect the populace too much. So you have to work to your strengths as characters.

We’ve really enjoyed this one over the last few years, and each of my girls has bought it as well.

13. Quacks of Quidlenburg

Another of Joanna’s family’s favourites! 

What if you and your family were a bunch of medieval quack doctors trying to brew the best potion during a 9 day potion-brewing tournament? Then you’d be playing Quacks of Quedlinberg. We love this game since it’s silly and has a lot of variability – making it fun to teach since you never *quite* know how to put the ingredients together into your bag to make the perfect cauldron concoction. It’s also great to play with kids or those who aren’t familiar with board games. Pull too many cherry bombs out of your bag and you’ll explode your brew, causing catastrophe. But never fear, the next day’s tournament is always approaching, with new horizons and opportunities.

(As a note – this game has a nice event deck included that has a fortune teller on it as art. This doesn’t have anything to do with the cards and psychics aren’t a feature of the game, but I wanted to let you all know just in case. If you’re uncomfortable with it, you can always play without the random event at the start of each round.)

14. Commissioned

Can you work together to spread the gospel–and write the New Testament? In this Bible based game, you all play different apostles, with different gifts and strengths. And you need everybody’s gifts to get the gospel around the known world, and get the New Testament written, despite trials and persecutions. 

We played this a ton last spring, and won about 50/50. What really surprised me was how accurate it was–you really do need the apostles’ gifts to actually get everything done.

I wrote a longer review of Commissioned in this family board games post.

15. History of the World

This is an epic game. Last summer, this game was what our family played, over and over again. It’s a longer one, but it’s really fun and you learn a lot of history. Each era, 7 empires are available for play (but the game can only be played by a maximum of 6 players, so each turn at least one empire is buried). You each choose an empire, and play that out. What happens when the Romans arrive? They take over everything! But within one empire they’re almost eradicated. And what do the Mongols do? Sweep through Asia. You’ll find that the empires tend to expand exactly how historically they did, which is really interesting.

We were playing the older version, and they’ve created a new streamlined version now with easier battles, so it likely doesn’t take as long!

Strategy Family Board Games for Age 10 and up

Okay, 10 is a bit of an arbitrary age. Some kids may have the concentration and staying power to play when they’re younger, and some may need to be older. But these are all ones that we’ve enjoyed either recently or since the girls were teens. These are staples of our family board game nights!

(and often games have junior versions for younger kids, and I’ve linked to them as well). 

16. Dominion

We LOVE Dominion. Each Dominion game comes with 24 or 25 different cards which all do different things, but you actually only play with 10. So each game you can switch it up and something new will happen and the strategy will change! It’s super fast to learn and super fun. This was our family game back in 2012, and it’s become a staple. The next year I added an expansion to it–Dominion Intrigue, which adds more cards that you can potentially play, with a bunch of other suggested strategies.

We’ve played it with our own kids, but also with friends away at a cabin, and with people just over for dinner!

Just look at how many expansions Joanna’s family has! Now,  the original game is great on its own. But if you’re like us, you may want some expansions because it changes the game and it’s always new!

17. Seven Wonders

For some reason, this is one of the few games that I ever actually win. I’m not sure why–but I think it’s because your strategy has to constantly change depending upon what resources you get. You choose a different era of the ancient world, and then you have tasks that you have to complete. Each era has 7 turns, and you get to choose cards and try to amass the most wealth, while also trading with those around you. I really enjoy this one, and it’s not that hard to explain. It takes about half an hour for each era.

There’s also a wonderful 2-person version of this one that Keith and I played twice this weekend (and I won both times!). 

18. Tiny Towns

This is a new one that Keith and I recently discovered at our board game cafe (and which is one of the hottest sellers this year!). It’s a spatial game, where you have to build different buildings on your grid, but each time you build a building, you use up space that could be used for more buildings. So you have to plan ahead.

But what makes this one awesome is that every game is a different combination of things that need to be built, so no one can “coast”. You have to adopt a new strategy each time!

It’s great for spatial skills, too, plus it’s really pretty.

Great Family Board Games Teenagers Will Love

Want some games that are more geared towards making you laugh? Here are some more geared towards teenagers (although most teens will love the strategy ones, too!)

19. Exploding Kittens

This card game exploded onto the scene last year with all of its exploding kittens and laser beams and sometimes goats. It’s just plain funny–and the cards and action cards are funny, too (if you like that kind of humour). You draw cards and play until someone explodes, so the goal is to get points before the other person happens to explode. We gave this one to our kids who live out of town last year, and they really like it, too!

20. Gloom

If exploding kittens and guillotine weren’t gruesome enough for you, here’s the Gloom game! Each person has their own unfortunate family. Your goal is to kill off every member of your family in as gruesome a way as possible, and to have bad things happen to them. They may be “mocked by midgets” or “pursued by poodles”. And you can play happy things on your opponents (which will aggrieve them to no end). And it makes the game even more fun if, when you play the card, you make up a story to explain what happened.

When we were first getting to know our now son-in-law, Connor, we played this game. He was remarkably good at coming up with sad, unfortunate stories and circumstances. Not sure what that said to us. 🙂

So if you want to make this Christmas special for your family, why not do what I do every year, and choose a game or two as a family Christmas present? And then take a day during the holidays and play games all day! You can even stay in your pyjamas and just hibernate as a family. That’s what we do, and honestly–it’s my favourite part of Christmas, because we’re all together again and having fun!

There’s still time to order the games in time for Christmas, especially with a prime membership.

20 Board Games to Play as a Family

Now let me know in the comments: what are YOUR favourite family board games?

Written by

Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Becky

    A lot of the ones for older kids look familiar, since we have a bunch in our game closet! Our kids are probably still too young for most of the others, we’re still trying to teach them how to play basic things like Candyland! But there’s also a lot of good cooperative games for younger kids these days, and we like to mix those in as a way to teach our already-competitive preschool and toddler boys to work together.

    One family favorite that would work for older kids is called Fluxx. It’s a card game where the rules and goal to win are constantly changing, depending on what cards are played. There’s also a lot of different variations, like pirates (we took that one on our tropical island honeymoon), general sci-fi, a nature themed one that I think we’re going to start our kids on once they’re reading fluently, Wizard of Oz, Batman, etc. So chances are good there’s a version to fit whatever your family likes!

    And I hear you on Monopoly. I never finished a game of that until I was an adult, because my younger brother always cheated and robbed the bank and I’d get mad and quit. Even now, my favorite version of that is the Lord of the Rings version that came out when the movies were out, because there’s a special rule that makes the game much shorter!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I think I’d like the special rule for Monopoly! That sounds great.

      And if you love board games now–oh, my goodness, you’re going to have so much fun as your kids get older! It really is an awesome thing to do as a family.

      • Tiffany

        Monopoly millionaire is also much quicker. Ends when the first person reaches a million dollars. Lol.

        For small kids have you tried Richard scary’s busytown game? It’s cooperative and my 4 yo LOVES it. (I find it a bit tiresome but we play it for him). I heard it’s hard to find these days but it is so cool for kids.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I haven’t played that! I know with really small kids it can be tough.

    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Thanks for suggesting – and I SO understand competitive littles. Glad you’ve been able to find a way to mitigate that while still teaching them lessons through games.

      For preschoolers, I’ve heard a LOT of great things about HABA games. They’re a German company and they make truly delightful little games for children. I haven’t bought any yet, but I’m dying for my toddler to be ready to play animal upon animal.

    • Amy

      Love the game recommendations! One of our favourite things to do at Christmas. We just got a new one called Wingspan that combines bird watching and board games – you and your husband might enjoy it!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Shhhhh…..don’t tell someone important who might read this blog. But I may have got that for Keith for Christmas!

  2. Tiffany

    Two notes. There’s an expansion for Catan that is 2 player. Or rather had the option of two player. I just bought it for my husband for Christmas because we both like this game but don’t have ppl over very often to play and kids are still 2 and 4. (The jr. Catan is awesome and my 4 yo can play it no problem though he is still missing some strategy components but they are coming).

    Also the exploding kittens? Make sure you get the family safe one. There is a version out that’s x rated or whatever with lots of bad language etc. Not really my jam but I played it in the summer with family and really enjoyed the game. So we have it coming for Christmas in the regular version because I suspect my eldest will be able to play it within a couple years and tbh I just don’t think the language on the x rated version is necessary.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, we must have the family safe version because I’ve never noticed that with exploding kittens! Thanks for the heads up. And I’ve heard about the 2-player Catan. You’ll have to let me know if you like it. I’ve been thinking of adding it to the 2-player board game post but I haven’t played it yet. (And, to be honest, we really like 7 Wonders Duel and Tiny Towns for 2 people)!

      • Tiffany

        I just looked it up it’s called the nsfw edition. Avoid. it wasn’t our game so we just played it but I never would have purchased it. Seems like a waste to me. And unnecessary. Will let you know how Catan goes.

  3. Ruth

    Our family just discovered a new game that we LOVE. It’s called Telestrations, and it’s a mix of the telephone game with a drawing component. Each person has a little notebook and is given a word, which they then draw a picture of. Then they pass the picture to the left and the next person writes what they think the person before then drew. Then the next person draws a picture of that word, and so on and so forth until the notebook has gone around the table. Each person has a notebook, so there are like 8 of them going around at a time, and at the end you go through them to see how the word changed. It’s usually hilarious. 🙂

    • Tiffany

      Yes I’ve played this! It’s hilarious. This has a version that is called telestrations after dark which wouldn’t be appropriate for kids but I actually enjoyed with a group of adults. Some of the cards were normal and some were more r rated (sex in the woods) kind of thing. Which in this sense wouldn’t be good for children but as I said this game I actually enjoyed with a group of adults it was hilarious. As opposed to the r rated version of exploding kittens I mentioned above which I wouldn’t ever buy because it just wasn’t funny and was unnecessary.

  4. Arwen

    Can, Where’s Waldo, be considered a game? Hahahah……Because it’s one of the most fun book/games for singles out there. I love playing it by myself because of all the crazy drama taking place! Seriously, every character is doing something hilarious, shocking, and interesting. I’m still a kid at heart and often get lot in the book series.

    I love all of these suggestions. So many brilliant minds behind these games. Playing board games is so fun, cozy, and great place to have conversations!

  5. Ina

    Apples to apples provided SO much fun for me as a kid! When we got bored of playing by the rules we would play charades using whatever was on the card as the item we acted out. When e got bored of that we would have one person be a story teller and we’d each give cards through the story and the story teller had to incorporate them. Endless fun from that game. Endless.

    My other favourite growing up was Clue.

    Now I’m on the hunt for toddler friendly games as I wait til my girls are old enough for these ones. Does anyone have any recommendations for games you can play with a 3 and 2 year old?

    • Becky

      My older 2 kids are 4 and 2. Their favorites is a game called Sneaky Snacky Squirrel. The 2 year old doesn’t quite get it yet, but my older boy has done well with it since he was 3. We also have a few games from a company called Peaceable Kingdom, which only makes cooperative games. That’s helpful because then we’re able to assist them for the entire game, and they usually avoid the frustration of losing. Hoot Owl Hoot is the favorite of those, and I’ve heard that a Christmas present to them from my mom this year is going to be one where you help dinosaurs escape from a volcano.

  6. Trina Saager

    Since the first year we were married, my husband and I have had a tradition of buying one new board game around the holidays each year, and once we had kids that evolved into choosing a game on or right before Black Friday and finishing the holidays by having New Year’s Eve be our major family game night. We haven’t ever gotten into the world building/mission strategy type games however, instead staying in the realm of card games like Uno, spoons, Rook, hearts, etc., Mexican train dominoes, and more old school board games (monopoly, clue, with the double sided board, and our favorite: the farming game!), or even Jenga.
    Last year, my youngest teen chose Bubble Talk—basically apples to apples with the twist of captioning a funny picture (I like apples to apples with the Disney pictures better). This year I had bronchitis at Thanksgiving and didn’t get a new game, and our youngest is a teen now so perhaps it’s time to try one of these popular strategy games! Do you have a recommendation for which one is easiest to learn? Or least complicated to play?

  7. Beth

    My daughter is still to young for most of these, but I’ve joked she’s getting nothing but books and games for Christmas. My husband is often too tired to play after she goes to bed but I love playing games!

  8. Shena

    I have many of the games that you posted, and we play them frequently here. My husband and I often play a 2-player version of Catan, with rules that we found online. (No trading, play to 15 points, and you have to win by at least 2. Roll twice per person, and the person with the lower number of points controls the robber if you get a 7.)
    We also enjoy Sequence, and Bang!. I used to play Dixit with my sister, but haven’t for awhile since we don’t live close together anymore.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that sounds really interesting for Catan. I’d never heard of those rules. Cool!

  9. Kasey

    Thanks Sheila,

    We’ve always enjoyed Quelf. It’s a game of nonsense and wacky actions. Plus, it’s kid friendly. You basically have to obey whatever the card says. The whole point of the game is to laugh and have fun. It’s one of those game where if you lose, you don’t care that you did because you had so much fun playing.
    Example.) I’ve had one action card that said I had to create a diy scuba mask with whatever I had on hand before my next turn and wear it for the rest of the game or until another action card told me to do something else.

  10. Brent

    Our family really likes King of Tokyo. Our kids are 9-16 and love playing together. Another fun one for groups is Guesstures. It’s like speed charades and helps people loosen up and have fun. We play it a lot when we have a bunch of people who don’t know each other in the same room

  11. Tina

    Sheila – you should try patchwork doodle – itś fun and don´t take a lot of time. Prefect for everyday life, when you want to play a game , but don’t have so much time.

    Btw … thanks for your recommendations – we have bought several of the games you have written about.


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