Our Favorite Family Board Games
We’ve experienced a lot of change over the last 5 years. In those short years we moved across the country, twice. We watched two kids leave the nest. Best friends have moved away. We’ve seen serious health issues & extraordinary amounts of stress. During all of that change, however, we were still able to connect and bond regularly. How? Family Game Night. Our family game nights even include our adult children via video chat once in a while. Playing family board games allows my family to laugh during the worst times, and that makes precious memories.
What follows is a list of our favorite family board games, these are the games we tend to come back to more than any others. And be sure to scroll down to the bottom to download your FREE family game night etiquette poster!
Our Favorite Family Board Games to Play with Kids Under 8
Engineering Ants (Peaceable Kingdom)
As a STEM game, Engineering Ants is solid. It really shines as a game about teamwork, however. The premise is that some of your ant family is in peril and you’re the ones to save them. Really cute, super fun game. You can read our full review of Engineering Ants here.
Game Type: Cooperative
Skills: Teamwork, debate, communication, STEM
Explore the World (Outset Media)
Explore the World is a remarkable game for so many reasons. ETW is a game about world cultures, native animals, and full-body movement! Does it get better than that? No, no it does not.
Game Type: Traditional board game
Skills: World cultures, science, motor control, thinking skills
Ages: 7+ (I would say this game is good for 5+ with adaptation)
Shopping List (Orchard Toys)
The minute I opened this game I heard “Awwww, it’s so cute!” FROM MY 15 YEAR OLD! She isn’t wrong. Shopping List is so much fun to play because it’s adorable. Read our full review here.
Game Type: Memory
Skills: Memory, concentration, fine motor control, matching
Our Favorite Family Board Games for Ages 8+
For being a game all about subtle nuances, Mysterium really delivers. You find yourself investigating the death of a household servant and have made contact with the beyond. You can communicate only in pictures. Tip: Yell “I get to be the ghost” first, you’ll find out why soon enough.
Game Type: Cooperative, mystery
Skills: Cooperation, debate, art, visual storytelling
Betrayal at House on the Hill (Wizards of the Coast)
Much like Mysterium, Betrayal is a slightly spooky game. What makes Betrayal unique is that during the storyline someone turns sides and – you’ll never guess it- betrays your group! Betrayal is a tile-laying, haunted house building game that features 50+ unique storylines for your characters to play, making the replayability factor strong.
Game Type: Tile laying, slight horror
Skills: Reading comprehension
Scrabble (Retro Series by Hasbro)
It may be a classic, which can make a game seem “boring” to kids, but Scrabble is the one game that will keep us up until 2am. Why? We need to play just one.more.round. There is something quaint and comforting about playing a game I remember playing as a kid.
Game Type: Word
Skills: Language arts, critical thinking, fine motor control
Risk: Global Domination (app by SMG Studio)
Screen time gets a bad rap these days but in our family it also brings us together, and that is precisely why we love the Risk: Global Domination app. We all play together, doing whatever it is we’re doing at the time, and it features a much more interesting visual component compared to the board game.
Game Type: Area control
Skills: Critical thinking, planning
Ticket to Ride Europe (Days of Wonder)
We are big fans of Ticket to Ride (see my review here) but as my children are older we especially enjoy TTR Europe! Why? There are some changes that make TTR Europe a bit more challenging, the addition of tunnels & ferries for example. TTR Europe features upgraded cards and all new train stations!
Game Type: Railway themed
Skills: Visual perception, critical thinking, fine motor control
Cranium is a “whole brain” and whole body game. This game involves fine and major motor control, critical thinking, logic, speed thinking, speed movements…it’s all quite literally there. Cranium is especially good to play in teams with younger family members who aren’t quite ready to play on their own.
Game Type: Thinking, movement, speed
Skills: Everything (really!)
Ages: 16+ (I disagree with this and say 8+, just adapt as necessary)
Imagine the mechanics of Battleship but in a slightly more realistic submarine warfare setting. Subs can move, hide, and run into obstacles; these features make tracking your opponent a whole lot more complicated than in the classic Battleship game. Sonar can accommodate up to 4 players, another perk over Battleship.
Game Type: Simulated warfare
Skills: Prediction, observation, teamwork, focus
Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set (Dungeons & Dragons)
If you want to talk about games that boost language arts, nothing can beat Dungeons & Dragons! D&D is nothing but an elaborate round robin-style storytelling experience. For those of us with adult children who have flown the coop, D&D is very easy to play via video chat. This starter set has everything you need to learn the game.
Game Type: Storytelling, cooperative
Skills: Storytelling, communication, debate, teamwork
Evolution: The Beginning (North Star Games)
Evolution: The Beginning (read my full review here) is basically the same as the game Evolution, it’s just adapted for families playing with children or as an quicker alternative to the original game. ETB is a game of predator & prey, carnivores & herbivores, and a race to eat and reproduce. Only the fittest of the species will survive.
Game Type: Resource management
Skills: Science, evolution, prehistory, survival of the fittest
Sushi Go (Gamewright)
New to gameschooling? Looking for a quick-play game that encourages giggles? Sushi Go won’t let you down! Sushi Go is especially great for players who have attention difficulties as it’s a fast play and requires some memory work.
Game Type: Party, speed
Skills: Matching, speed thinking, critical thinking
Sheriff of Nottingham (Arcane Wonders)
While SON isn’t my favorite game in the world (I’m not a big fan of bluffing games), it is the very favorite of two of my teens. They love trying to sneak contraband by their siblings & making devious bribes. Raising them right, I know.
Game Type: Bluffing
Skills: Body language, spotting deception
Ages: 14+ (I’d say 12+ is fine, maybe even 10+)
Santorini (Spin Master Games)
Visual discrimination is king, er, god, in this game. Your players race around the city building, using the power of their chosen god to help them. Santorini is a famed family game and after playing I understood why.
Game Type: Area control
Skills: Visual discrimination, critical thinking, logic, teamwork, mythology
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Meg Grooms (she/her) is a decades-long secular homeschooler, mother of many, writer, Florida ex-pat, and all-around swell gal. Meg & her partner have raised their kids all over the USA, finally settling on Southern California. For now, anyhow.
Meg blogs about Gameschooling, Educational Gaming, and the Gaming Community at Homeschool Gameschool. Meg is available for speaking engagements, workshops, and gameschooling classes. If you’re interested in scheduling a workshop, review, ad space, or just saying hi –> Click here. Happy Gameschooling!