The real beauty comes in the form of the traitor. It’s this knowledge that one of the players could be secretly plotting against the group that gives the game another dimension altogether…
Today we talk games for the whole family. From the littlest little person in the household to the life-weary older folk, we cover the game that everyone can come together to enjoy.
As will become the case for many of these lists, there will be crossover with previous tens, particularly as I’m still in the infancy of board gaming knowledge and my own collection has some serious growing to do. However, I think the games below tick today’s box, so without further ado and all that…
Dixit made my list of games for the newcomer to the hobby, but it’s equally at home in this list of games for all the family. In fact, if anything, Dixit is a game that truly comes to life when played with different generations at the table. To see what weird and wonderful interpretations are placed upon the superb card images with old and young at play together enhances an already fantastic gaming experience.
Dixit offers a simplicity that opens the doors to players of all ages, but beyond such simple mechanics lives a game that can be odd, hilarious, thought-provoking, entertaining, and sometimes a little worrying, all in the space of a few minutes. And then it can repeat this magical formula time and time again.
In my opinion, there are few games as utterly family friendly as the mighty Dixit.
- Camel Up.
Who wouldn’t get a kick out of betting on a camel race? And then throw in the fact that these camels climb on top of one another to gain an advantage as the race progresses, and that the dice roller is a cool central board pyramid, and that it looks bloody brilliant on the table, and I think the real winner of this one isn’t a camel at all, but rather the players gathered with money to bet and camels to curse! (Must not make a joke about anyone getting the hump if they lose)
Camel Up is a brilliantly simple, quickfire game that never fails to draw everyone in when we play. The rules are straightforward enough that the younger members are quickly at ease, but deep enough that the older players don’t become bored.
The idea is that players bet on camels across each leg of a race until one crosses the finish line, the winnings are totted up and an overall winner of the game declared. It plays up to eight players, manages to keep everyone involved due to the solid pace of the action, and generally demands another play straight after. In terms of family games, this one should be one of the first out of the traps.
- Hare and Tortoise.
Hare and Tortoise is a family friendly race game that sees players spending carrots to move their hare along a race track board. Spend more carrots, move more squares, simple. However, tactics are required for those hoping to be first across the line. The winner must have spent all carrots before finishing, and spend too many too quickly will see the player struggling to proceed, and see the other hares passing them by.
Despite the game holding some small element of strategical planning, the reality is that on occasion luck might play a role too, and, with this in mind, Hare and Tortoise is perfect as a family get together game. The light rules, good looks, and quite child friendly theme combine very well in producing a game that is always welcomed at our table.
- Cash ‘n Guns.
Now, a gangster theme, in a family friendly list of board games? Really? But, Cash ‘n Guns is a gangster theme that doesn’t take itself very seriously, and is all the better for it!The game can accommodate up to eight players, it is tense, it is hilarious, it is a test of nerve, and it has soft foam guns that players point at one another in a classic movie Mexican stand-off scenario. You know that afternoon when Grandad has been snoring his way through your favourite TV show, slouched on the sofa, wheezing like an asthmatic Ivor the Engine? Well, now you can (pretend) shoot him in Cash ‘n Guns when he finally rouses from his slumber, and it’s all in the name of fun!
In reality though, this is just a superb party game where player’s countdown and draw their guns at one another. The gun pointed at you might be loaded, or might be carrying a blank, now it’s just a case of asking yourself, “do I feel lucky?” After firing, wounds are dished out, loot divvied up, and play commences to the next round.
Thanks to another simple ruleset, the room for numerous players, and the absolute hilarity of play, Cash ‘n Guns is perfect family fodder.
- One Night Ultimate Werewolf.
If ever a game appears to have found a place in the hearts of my children, then One Night Ultimate Werewolf is that game.
It never fails to get everyone laughing, and has delivered some of the funniest moments we’ve enjoyed with any game. The basic idea is that each player is given a card with a role upon it. One might be a villager, another might be the seer, another the troublemaker, and two might be werewolves. Players close their eyes, and then a great little app talks everyone through the actions. When everyone has completed their action, the role cards will have shifted, some players will have additional information, and some will be trying to hide the fact that they are partial to human flesh and wary of silver bullets. From here players can openly begin to question each other, accuse each other, bluff each other, and trip each other up as everyone tries to determine who the werewolves are. Votes are then cast and roles revealed.
For such a simple game, the level of fun is massive. Every game takes around ten minutes to play, and every game leaves you thirsty for more. This one can accommodate up to 10 players! Absolutely perfect for those times the requirement is all about fast, simple fun, and big laughs.
- Sushi Go!
Sushi Go! the card drafting game where players attempt to acquire the sushi combinations that earn big points is so much more than the sum of its parts. On paper it sounds dull, collect sushi combinations, score points, move on. But, at the table it is a surefire winner in the family game bracket.
My whole family absolutely adore this game. Again I’ve chosen a game with nice simple rules of play, and a game that can be in full flow without any rule reading dips in a few minutes. The artwork is so ridiculously cute that it’s an easy game to sell to the younger family members, and once involved, the play is so slick, and fun, that it’s hard to put down and walk away.
Sushi Go! is simple, silly, and utterly addictive.
- Ice Cool.
Every family gaming session needs variety right? And Ice Cool is this list dipping into some penguin flicking dexterity action. The game is so cool in its own right and in so many ways that my youngest son could play for hours on end.
The board is 3D and sees each classroom in the penguin school piece together to make a sizeable play area. The little penguins themselves are vibrant on the board and brilliantly weighted, allowing those players with a little more flair to perform swerve shots and jump shots, and the actual gameplay is ridiculously simple that anyone can be playing in just a few moments.
The idea is that one player per round is chasing the penguins, if that player manages to get their piece to touch another player’s penguin, that penguin has been caught by the school monitor and loses their ID card. The penguin players are flicking their pieces around the school trying to collect the fish of their own colour. Fish score points, and that’s the core of the game.
The fun comes from the brilliant little moments of tension and relief that consistently shift as penguins see near misses and brilliant captures during play. I’ve not gone big on dexterity game, however, Ice Cool is one I’m always happy to bring out for family gaming sessions.
- Ticket to Ride.
How obvious…But, how can I not mention the game that never, ever, seems to miss a beat at the table. Ticket to Ride is such a brilliantly devised game that despite the true simplicity of playing, it never seems to get boring.
Now, for this list I would argue that perhaps, Ticket to Ride: First Journey, might be the most apt choice. Having played both with my youngest son, I can safely say he has far more independence during First Journey, thanks to the simplified rules. However, the main game is a great one to get the family at the table, and I’d say that if the youngest player is of an age where Ticket to Ride proper is no problem, then that’s the way to go.
I won’t go on too much, just to reiterate, Ticket to Ride is an absolute gaming marvel and a must for every family.
- Shadows Over Camelot.
This is perhaps a slightly weird choice. I mean if my youngest prefers Ticket to Ride: First Journey, how can he play, Shadows Over Camelot unaided?
On the surface, and when laid out on the table, this game looks complex. The various boards, stacks of cards, different quests, dice, player cards and powers appear daunting. However, the reality is that in Shadows Over Camelot the player has fairly simple choices to make. Advance evil, choose an action, and possibly roll a die. It’s a game that beneath the complicated and beautiful set-up is very easy to play.
The real beauty comes in the form of the traitor. It’s this knowledge that one of the players could be secretly plotting against the group that gives the game another dimension altogether, and when little suspicions begin to rise, the game is elevated in unison.
Shadows Over Camelot is a family favourite of ours, and ticks all the boxes that it could become a family favourite for all.
- Sheriff of Nottingham.
There must be something about the bluffing and sneaky aspect of games that gets us laughing at our table, and Sheriff of Nottingham, with its heavy bluffing, broken alliances and devilish gameplay is always welcome on game nights.
To watch your children trying to outwit one another, and the faces when events play out is utterly wonderful. Sheriff of Nottingham sees players going to market with a sack full of goods to sell, only thing is they first have to pass by the Sheriff. Each player gets a couple of turns as the Sheriff, and it’s up to the others to convince that player that their sacks are full of legal goods, and definitely nothing illegal, like say, crossbows. Players can offer bribes, form shaky alliances, backstab others, and even, play innocently. The real beauty of this one is in the interaction between those carrying goods, and the one trying to spot the liars, and that alone is worth its weight is dodgy apples.
The action is well-paced, the bluffing is brilliant, and the game is perfectly pitched for family time at the board game table. A must-own for families in my opinion.
And there we have it. Another ten games in another list. Hope you enjoyed it, hope it might have inspired a purchase or two somewhere down the line, and most importantly, hope you get the same thrill from family games nights that we do.