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!
As with many of the games on this list, additional maps, versions and expansions can be purchased in the Ticket To Ride franchise, and they’re all fun in their own way. Take a look at the basic Ticket to Ride, and all the expansions on Amazon Here.
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 of Risk, then Small 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 in Munchkin 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’s Zombie 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 enjoyed Qwirkle. 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 as Scrabble and Uno, 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 Munchkin is no exception to the excellent tabletop game experience we’ve come to expect from his studio. Designed for more advanced players (Dungeons and Dragons beard-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.