If you’ve played any of the Ticket to Ride games during family game night, you may have found that small children gravitate to the gaming table when the trains come out. That’s how it is at our house, with young railroad barons itching to play.
As simple as the original Ticket to Ride is to play, it’s still a little bit beyond the reach of kids who aren’t quite able to read maps and keep the small train cars in a line on the map.
Ticket to Ride: First Journey solves almost every problem that our six-year-old has playing the standard game (and expansions). The rules are somehow made even more simple, the train cars are larger and easier to manage, and the destination cities have colorful pictures that are easy to see both on the board and on the route cards. Days of Wonder have managed to do all of that while retaining the fun of game play.
Although I’m not really into model railroading like Papa and Robby are, Ticket to Ride has been one of my favorite game franchises. I love the variety of maps, the strategy, and the cutthroat deviousness that being a railroad baron brings.
When we found the First Journey version of the game, it was a no-brainer. We had to have it! Now, we can set up young gamers with this fun game and they can battle it out at the kid’s table while we play an adult game of Ticket to Ride Europe.
My only complaint is that the instructions remind kids to keep their cards to themselves, but as anyone who plays games with kids knows, it can be really difficult for small hands to manage more than a few cards at a time. We implemented a house rule that players under age 10 can lay their cards on the table in front of them, face up. Although this makes it easier for other players to cut someone’s route off, it’s the only way our kiddo was able to keep track of his colored railroad car game cards and routes.
Star Fluxx is our favorite scifi themed version of the popular game Fluxx by Looney Labs.
Looney Labs has been producing Fluxx for several years now, and as of the time of this writing, there are over ten different versions of the game in print. Actually, they’ve been making Fluxx so long, there are an additional seven versions now out of print (Mom’s favorite: Eco Fluxx is one of them).
Looney Labs has found the formula for a crazy card game with massive humor, charm, and in the case of Star Fluxx, tons of our favorite scifi references. No matter which version of Fluxx you play, you’ll be getting into a fun, easy to learn, but hard to master card game.
Fluxx is a card game where the rules and win conditions are constantly in flux. Games of Star Fluxx can last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour or more depending on how many people are playing and what cards get drawn. When the basic rules are set, every player is dealt three cards and they draw one card and play one card on each turn. But chances are, those rules won’t last long. This fast paced card game shines when the rules start changing.
Suddenly, you are drawing five cards a turn, playing your entire hand and completely changing the goal every turn. Or you’re drawing one card and have to play three. Or you’re changing hands. Or you’re discarding everything and starting over.
No two games of Star Fluxx are the same, and play continues until someone is able to meet the conditions of the current goal. Oftentimes a player who everyone thought was lagging behind will win, suddenly leaving everyone asking “How did that happen?” and it always leads to us playing again.
Star Fluxx by Looney Labs is one of our favorite inclusions on family game nights, and is especially easy for traveling. It’s appropriate for ages eight and up, although younger children who can read an understand instructions on the fly are able to play, too.
Qwirkle by MindWare is an easy to learn and accessible color and shape based tile laying game for ages six plus, and all levels of gamers.
Qwirkle’s rules are simple: shuffle 108 wooden tiles into a bag, and every player draws six of them. The player who goes first is the one who can place the longest line of tiles of either matching shapes or colors. The next players add onto the beginning line, matching colors or shapes as appropriate. Each player lays tiles matching what is already on the board by either extending the line already there or starting a new one, similar to how words are place in Scrabble. Play continues with each player refilling their hand from the bag of tiles, scoring the tiles they’ve played at the end of each turn.
Scoring is simple; one point per tile laid, and twelve points for a completed six tile line called getting a Qwirkle! The rules allow for some crazy combo scoring once the board starts getting built up, which causes game play to get progressively more strategic.
Qwirkle is definitely a game that is easy to learn, but hard to master. There are advanced strategies that can be used to block other players from getting Qwirkles, saving key tiles to ensure you get Qwirkles, etc. Qwirkle is an extremely fun tile laying board game that is perfect for families since it is accessible for all age ranges from six plus (but our son started playing at three years old) and the rules are easy to explain and learn quickly.
Our family has had games with ages ranges from four years old to eighty-five! Qwirkle is available both in a standard edition and a travel edition, as well as Qwirkle Cubes which adds a dice rolling component to this classic matching game. Pick from any of the editions on Mindware’s Amazon listings that work best for you and add Qwirkle to your collection today!
Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.
Munchkin by Steve Jackson Games is an amazing card game for three to six players. In Munchkin, like in other high fantasy role playing games, you are an adventurer defeating monsters and gathering sweet, sweet loot while backstabbing your friends.
Although the base Munchkin game is plenty fine on its own, we recommend getting the Deluxe edition of the game as it includes a game board, standies, and player cards to make keeping track of your score easier. The Deluxe edition also makes it more apparent to everyone who needs a good stabbing to stop them from winning.
Munchkin’s cards and humor are where this card game really shines. Using long established role playing game tropes, Steve Jackson gives our love of high fantasy a modern twist that every gamer can appreciate.
Afraid of dragons? Not me, sir. I’m more afraid of the Insurance Salesman.
Building up your character throughout a game is rewarding, and there are many opportunities for meta gaming, alliances, trades and backstabbing. Once you get going, Munchkin is a fast-playing and silly card game with tons of replay value. But, should you get bored, more expansions and alternate themed versions are available than just about any other game out there.
So, if a full traditional pen and paper RPG theme isn’t for you, check out Munchkin Zombies or Munchkin Marvel Edition instead. Munchkin is a fantastic inclusion for your family game nights and is recommended for players age ten and up, although our six year old has played and had a fun time with some help.
Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.
Gaming is one of oldest forms of entertainment. Game pieces have been found in archaeological digs around the world, dating back to some of the oldest civilizations on the planet. In modern times, Board Games have become one of the most diverse and interesting pastimes available to us. There are so many different types of board games, card games, and miniature games available today that no matter who you are, there is a game out there that you and your family can enjoy.
Family game night has become a staple in households around the world, and for good reason. Playing tabletop games together gives your family a reason to get unplugged from screens and interact with each other. Board games tighten much-needed family bonds and encourage families to spend time together. For kids, family game night provides an opportunity for new experiences and can be used as learning opportunity to reinforce basic math, vocabulary, reading and writing skills.
Cooperative games like Castle Panic and Pandemic help families learn to work together, problem solve and overcome challenges together. In contrast, competitive games like Munchkin, Ticket to Ride or Small Worldcan teach conflict resolution, critical thinking and problem solving. Games like Hi Ho Cherry-O or Jenga can help kids practice basic math skills, manual dexterity or other educational skills. The multitude of games on the market today make it possible to find a game that is right for your family game nights, no matter what your family gaming goals are.
Setting up family game night is easy! Pick one
evening a week to play a couple of games as a family instead of watching TV or
playing video games. Let each member of
the family have a turn picking the game to play so everyone has a chance to
play the games they want.
Make time to check out your local game store
and shop for games together. Boardgame stores can be great resources to learn
about new games and some will even let you play them before you buy. I’m lucky that gamestores near me feature
open play areas where we can go and play games outside of the house, providing
a change of scenery. Playing games in a store play room is also great if you
don’t have space at home for games that require more room.
If you don’t have a local game store near you to help you choose the game right for your family, check out Youtube or a review website like OurFamilyGameReviews.com to find out what other people are saying about games they love to play.
Game Night Rules:
We have a rule for our family game nights
banning electronics from the table when playing board games or role playing
games. It’s too easy for the entire family to get sucked into their individual
screens, causing us to interact with each other less than we should. Setting up
a time where the whole family can come together that doesn’t include
electronics is a much needed break for everyone. All it takes is commitment by
the whole family to show up for that weekly evening to play games.
Be aware that you need to give yourself permission to adjust your rules as needed. As an example, my father enjoys playing miniature games, but because of his poor eyesight he needs a tablet with zoom to read rules and warscrolls for Warhammer Age of Sigmar. We make exceptions where it makes sense. The main goal of our “no electronics” rule is to keep us from getting distracted from playing the game. This rule may not work for every family, but it has served us well to keep everyone focused and having fun.
Our family has built years of amazing memories playing games on family game night. It has helped our family bonds grow tighter. Countless game nights and camping trips, hauling our game collection along, have taught us that the family that plays together, stays together, and you don’t have to be staring at an LCD screen to have some serious fun.
Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.
In Minecraft the video game, I don’t like creepers. In Minecraft the card game, I don’t like creepers! They wreck everything and Mom says they want hugs but they aren’t friendly. They’re evil!
Also, sometimes it’s hard to get people to play Minecraft the Card Game to play with, because new people are nervous bout the rules. But, if you read the rules, it’s pretty easy. It can be tough like in survival mode on Xbox, and you might die. But it’s just a game, so that’s okay.
Follow the rules, that’s what we’ve always been told. But I’m here to tell you after 30 years of gaming, sometimes it’s beneficial to not follow them. Sometimes, it’s better to tweak the rules or even make up your own. While there are a plethora of board and miniature games out there to play, not all of them are perfect, in fact it’s hard to find a game that is. Over the years, I’ve often found myself asking, Why did they do that? What part of the game is that rule supposed to balance? Or even just saying, This part makes zero sense compared to everything else.
Change the rules. Have more fun.
Enter the House Rule. I’ve been using house rules as long as I can remember. Striving always to improve my gaming experience with my friends, tossing out mechanics we hated or tweaking things until everyone is having fun. One great example is how we play Castle Panic with The Wizard’s Tower expansion by Fireside Games. In the standard rules, you replace one of your core tower’s with a Wizard’s Tower allowing the group access to powerful spells to fight back the hordes of beasties and bosses. We found that with the new expansion it was far easier to lose towers and if the wizard tower gets annihilated by a flaming boulder those spells are gone, but you still have to fight all of the overpowered beasts in the expansion without them. We continually lost when that one special tower went down early in the game. No one was having fun, so we changed the game up.
Even our favorite games sometimes need tweaking.
We started placing the Wizard tower in the very
center of the six standard towers, making it the last to get hit by enemies
getting into the castle but still allowing it to be set on fire. This one small change made all the
difference. We started winning again,
not every game of course, getting the Chimera and the Dragon breathing fire
every round can still be a game killer with bad token pulls. But we were back to a more standard win/loss
pattern that had us having fun and working hard to hit those card combos and
keep the castle alive.
That’s the point of house rules, get everyone
sitting around the table having as much fun as possible, build those
memories. If something just isn’t
working, change it
House Rules aren’t just for board games.
For miniature games like Warhammer: Age of Sigmar or Star Wars: Legion House Rules become even more important. These types of games can be complex and often time, new players can’t remember a rule, experienced players aren’t able to reference it quickly enough in the rule book, or players interpret rules differently and have a dispute, etc. This is when House Rules truly shine. All players can decide on a solution in the moment, flip a coin, or agree to answer the question later. Following the exact rules becomes secondary to moving on and enjoying the game. (Sorry rule lawyers.) This serves several very important functions. It keeps the game moving, keeps it exciting, makes sure everyone is having fun and helps teach you to not sweat or get bogged down in the small stuff.
All of these things make for much more engaging and relaxed gaming sessions with your family or friends. House Rules can be applied to any game you play. Those rules were written with the best intention of the game designer to provide players with a specific experience. Not all games that make it to market have been play tested to find every possible flaw, and not all games that make it to market are balanced well. Monopoly is a classic example of poor game balance (most games in our experience end in rage or boredom). One player quickly outpaces the rest and everyone else slowly loses the ability or interest in playing the game.
Make your own house rules.
You can go forth and make your games your own! If something isn’t working in a game you’re playing, tweak the rules until the game flows smoothly again. Whatever rule is giving you trouble, change it, rearrange it, or just plan chuck that game rule out. No alarms or game police will arrive if you don’t play the game exactly as the rules are written. If you can alter one thing about a game that has stopped your family or friends from having fun, fix it and let the good times roll.
We play a lot of games together. But which board games are the most fun? How many of them are easy to learn? And are there any games that are simple enough to get Grandma to play? If you’re looking for our favorite recommendations, this is a great place to start.
Ticket To Ride
Days of Wonder has knocked this title out of the park. Ticket to Ride is one of our very favorite games to play with friends and family. You are a railroad baron, trying to buy up all the train routes on the map. There’s a reason this is one of the most popular specialty board games of all time. It’s fun, fast, and full of opportunity for strategy and treachery.
Ticket To Ride is loaded with pieces, cards, and a massive board that can seem intimidating to new players. But don’t let the hundreds of rail cars and ticket deck fool you. It only takes a couple rounds of play to realize how blissfully simple and exciting Ticket to Ride is. At our gatherings, Ticket to Ride is a family favorite with teens and adults, with a ring of children helping to guide the trains along. We even picked up Ticket to Ride First Journey for young players to enjoy!
If you have a young player who is learning not to be a sore loser, or you’re playing board games with ultra-competitive frat boys stuck in “beast mode”, Castle Panic is the game to play. It isn’t about players beating other players. It’s all of you playing together against the game!
Caste Panic has a rarely seen co-op game style that lends itself well as a party game. You win, or lose, together as you battle monsters that want to destroy your castle. Things get a bit more complicated and difficult if you choose to add expansions (we recommend adding the Wizard’s Tower), but because it’s a cooperative game, setting up house rules to re-balance the game is easy.
Because this game is set up to play as a team, we ignore the age recommendation by Fireside Games of 10 year old and up. The entire game is about coaching your fellow players, so kids who can read basic words like “Knight” and “Archer” can identify their cards and see where they can attack the bad guys. With help, a 6 year old can manage the game just fine. Get your copy of Castle Panic from Amazon Here.
This is not your grandmother’s card game. Smash Up is incredibly fun, and as soon as you start playing this deck building game, you’ll want to play again and again so that you can mix and match factions to see which combinations you like best. Adding to the replay value are the many expansion packs available to increase the wacky options. The base pack comes with slotted storage for additional expansion decks, so this is one game where you don’t have to figure out where to store all the extras – they fit perfectly in the base box.
Although AEG recommends this game for ages 13 and up due to content (because bear zombies are scary?), we play with fantasy loving kids as young as 7 years old. The rules are simple and straightforward, and the artwork is amazing! The cards are as interesting to look at as they are to play, and it’s a game that will keep you coming back for more. Find Smash Up from Amazon Here.
If you like the idea of conquering a map, but don’t want to play a five-hour game ofRisk, thenSmall World is a great tabletop game to play. A constantly changing game with high replay value, Small World pits different races and powers against one another in a fight to own the board. A fun game that brings together characters like you’d find inMunchkin with world domination like you’re familiar with in Risk.
Days of Wonder recommends the game for players 8 years old and up, and we agree with that assessment because of longer gameplay (around an hour), and a need to be able to understand more complex rules. But if you have younger players who want to try it out, try pairing them up with an older player for team play. Find Small World on Amazon Here.
“You are a dragon, flying through the air…” and your goal is to not fall off the board. This is one of the easiest board games to learn, and virtually anyone can play. Like traveling up rungs and down slides in Chutes and Ladders, your dragon follows a path from one side of the board to… somewhere else. But it’s infinitely more fun and takes more strategy than a simple child’s board game.
Tsuro is a great way to introduce nervous friends and family to tabletop gaming. It’s fast, fun, and great for all ages. The manufacturer, Calliope, recommends Tsuro for players 8 and up, but kids who know how to trace a line can play and we’ve enjoyed it with kids as young as 4 years old. Get your copy of Tsuro on Amazon Here.
Carcassone Classic (With River)
If you have a smaller playing group, want a quick game, and have some clear table space,Carcassone with River Expansion is the way to go. It doesn’t matter where we are, we can always find gamers who are ready to play Carcassone, and for good reason. It’s easy to learn once you get going, and because you build the board is built as a tile laying game, the replay value is high on this title from Z-Man Games. If you ever do want more from the game, there are several additional expansions available, altering the rules and adding to the gameplay for endless fun.
The game is recommended for players 13 years old and up, although many game owners say children as young as 8 can generally handle the rules okay. Find Carcassone on Amazon Here.
We’re not even sure how many sets of Steve Jackson’sZombie Dice we’ve purchased over the years. But it seems like no matter where we go, or what we’re doing, we happen to have a copy of the game packed away in our lunch-sack, back of our car, and in our camping gear.Zombie Dice is our go-to dice game to combat boredom. We’ve played it absolutely everywhere, from inside retail stores, to the back seat of moving vehicles, and under tables in convention halls. The rules are simple, straightforward, and easily understood by small children and grandparents alike.
If you’re a fantasy or horror friendly family, then you can feel free to disregard the age rating of 10 and up, which is only because of the topic of zombies (and getting shot with shotguns). But they’re dice, and our son started playing with us as a 5 year old. If your players are able to count up to 3 shotguns and up to 13 brains, then this dice game will be fun and easy. There is virtually no limit to the number of people you can play Zombie Dice with, and the more people who are involved, the more fun it is. Get Zombie Dice on Amazon Here.
I don’t think we’ve met a player yet who hasn’t enjoyedQwirkle. This shape and color matching game is easy to learn, and tactical strategy quickly comes into play as points begin to rack up. Although Quirkle is highly recommended by MindWare for kids 6 and up, our whole family began playing when our son was a 3 year old (and he was able to win, with a little coaching). Anyone who can match colors and shapes can play Qwirkle! Easily as much fun asScrabble andUno, but with no need to know how to read or identify numbers. Find Qwirkle on Amazon Here.
We’re suckers for Steve Jackson Games, and Munchkinis no exception to the excellent tabletop game experience we’ve come to expect from his studio. Designed for more advanced players (Dungeons and Dragonsbeard-men, we’re looking at you), Munchkin is a deck building game of loot and monsters.
On first glance, Munchkin’s instructions can seem daunting, but if you stick with it a few rounds, you get the hang of the game play and find yourself looking forward to the next hand. We recommend introducing new players to the card game gently, perhaps by playing on teams until the newbs get the hang of the rules. Team-play is absolutely needed if you’re playing with kids younger than 10, as the game cards get cumbersome to handle for small hands, and the card rules may need to be explained to little ones (although they’ll find humor in them and delight in playing). Find Munchkin on Amazon Here.
This is one of our favorite card games to play with people who are nervous about playing tabletop games. With colorful Kawaii-style artwork, simple rules and a fast pace that make games quick and exciting, Sushi Go! is everything you want in a simple, fun party game. Suitable for 2 to 5 players (although we’ve played it with as many as 6), and a great game for kids and adults alike. This game is rated for ages 8 and up, but our 6 year old can manage just fine with a few reminders about the rules. Find Sushi Go! on Amazon Here.
Want more? Check out some of our other lists and reviews below.
Sushi Go! Is one of our favorite pick-and-pass card games by Gamewright. It even made our Top 10 Family Boardgames list for 2019. It’s a simple deck-sharing game designed for two to five players. Gamewright recommends the game for kids ages eight and up, but our six-year-old has no problem playing and winning Sushi Go! during family game nights. As a parent, I’ve discovered Sushi Go! is great for younger players, as its one of those kids card games that improves perception of probability, counting and critical thinking skills.
Sushi Go! plays a lot like the draft portion of collectible card games tournaments. Each player is dealt a hand of cards, determined by the number of players. Players each select a card from that hand and place it face down on the table. Once everyone has chosen, all players reveal their cards. Then, players pass their hands to the person on their left, and another card is chosen. Just like on a sushi belt at a restaurant, the hands go around and around the table until all cards are chosen.
Scoring happens after this speed card game has gone through three rounds. In Sushi Go! scoring is the most strategic part of the game, and is entirely dependent on the combination of sushi you have collected. As an example, a pair of tempura is five points, while the player with most maki takes six points. In these fun card games, you have to keep an eye on what other people are collecting, try to remember what is in each of the hands moving around the table, and maximize the amount of points you can earn every round to be successful. (If you ever play Sushi Go! with us, be warned that Mom’s Pudding game is strong.)
Sushi Go! Is a one of those fast card games that lasts around fifteen minutes, making it a perfect filler game on your family game nights. We like to take Sushi Go! with us when we go camping and to conventions since it’s portable and fun to play. Sushi Go! is also available in a party edition that has been expanded for up to eight players.