August 31 2016
City Living with Kids/Family

Top Five Picks for Family Game Night

gamesAt our house, any night that we can make family game night happen, is a good night.  Finishing dinner, getting baths and homework out of the way, and prying phones, ipads and video games out of everyone’s hands is an accomplishment on par with completing the New York City Marathon. While playing video games.  But every once in a while, we get it together and are able to share this quality time (the holy grail of modern family-hood) together.

I love it because as my 8 year old gets older, we don’t share as many of those times together.  He’s off doing his own thing.   Sometimes it seems the only time the whole family really talks is when we’re stuck in the car for a road trip.  Dinner doesn’t count.  My husband and I spend dinner begging the kids to eat while they try to figure out how to escape from the table.

But back to games. Have you noticed how board games have gotten amazing?  All of these cool board game shops have sprouted up.  My son loves to gaze in the window at all the exotic imports from other countries that promise to carry us to exciting, magical worlds.

Our local game shop birthday party
Our local game shop birthday party

They’re a far cry from the games I grew up playing, though we still play the classics as well.  Clue, Uno and Battleship are some of our old school favorites.

But these newer games are so cool and so creative… kids don’t even realize that they are mastering some pretty excellent reasoning and strategy skills while playing them.  And it’s not just the kids.  I loooove getting to use my brain this way.  I can almost feel the cobwebs blowing away, like someone spraying some mountain fresh Febreeze into my skull.  Games are good for people – of all ages.

Below are our top picks.  Every member of our family loves each of these, including my 4 year old.  Sometimes he legit plays, other times he is kind of playing his own game in his head.  But it’s ok… the most important thing is that we have fun and connect as a family.  No screens.  Just lots of talking, laughing, calculating and scheming.

1. King of Tokyo

King of Tokyo

This game really opened the door to the wonderful new world of modern board games for our family.   My son had his 7th birthday at our local game shop and all the kids played King of Tokyo.  It was a rollicking good time.  The goal of the game is to reach a certain number of victory points while not running out of health.  Each roll of the dice allows you to either gain victory points or health, or attack an opponent and deplete their health or victory points.  You get to roll the dice a few times, as you decide what your priorities are.  On nights where we don’t have a ton of time, we just play to a lower number of victory points.

2. Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island

This is a new addition to our collection and we’re hooked.  Forbidden Island is a “collaborative” game, so we need to work together.  Either we all win, or we all lose.  So far, we have mostly all lost.  But we are learning!  The goal is to capture four treasures and escape the island before all of the “tiles” that it consists of floods.  Each player has different skills that they can use to help achieve the goal.  There is a lot of discussion about what each of us should do before every turn and who should be responsible for what.  I love to see my older son’s thought process and listen to him make his case for what to do next.  Or my four year old, as he picks up a card and tells us, in his gravest voice, that a tile is flooded.

3. Catanmayfair_catan-junior-right

Catan was one of the first “German-style” board games that inspired many of the others that have gained popularity in this genre.  It comes in several versions.  We play Catan Junior.  The game is won by the first player to build all 7 of their “pirate’s lairs.” In order to do so, they need to collect resources.  Players can trade resources with each other or with the marketplace, and strategize as they try to build on areas on the board where their opponents need to build.  My older son loves the trading aspect.

4. MineshiftMineShift

Such a simple game, yet so fun.  You set up the game tiles at random and the goal is for each player to get their “jewel” to the opposite side from where they start.  Each tile has walls on it and you can’t go through the walls, but you can turn and shift the tiles to open up a path.  This game is easy to get the hang of and it only lasts 20 to 30 minutes. We do have to help the little one with his turn.  He’s not quite able to figure out the best move yet.

5. Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride board game

This is our newest discovery, which my husband found after going on a serious board game research bender (thank you internet!).  It came highly recommended and deservedly so. The object of the game is to build train tracks along the routes specified on the cards you are secretly holding, while trying to interrupt your opponents as they build their routes.  You get points for completing your routes.  The longer your routes, the more points you get.  My four year old cannot play this game but he has a great time just putting his trains down on his “turn,” and that works for us.  This is a longer game, but it is loads of fun and will not disappoint. I can see us playing it for years to come.

I could easily have made this list longer. Qwirkle is a go-to that my whole family loves.  Blokus is another fantastic choice, great for little brains.  My younger son loves Rush Hour.  And every kid should play ZooLogic.  Chris at Keep Thrifty says Hoot Owl Hoot is another fun collaborative game – definitely going to check that out. (Thanks Chris!)

Do you have any family game night favorites?

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  • Love the post! Ticket to Ride is a great one – can be challenging for young ones as you say. Hoot Owl Hoot is a family favorite because it is collaborative and scalable (can make it easier when our 4-year olds are playing or tougher when it’s just my wife and I. Yes, we’ve played just the 2 of us!)

    Forbidden island sound like a good fit for us – thanks for the recommendation; we’ll check it out!

    • Thanks Chris! Forbidden Island is definitely one of our favorites. Of course, we especially loved it the first time we played when we won, until we realized we were missing some important rules! It’s been harder since, but I love to see the little brains working…

    • Ticket to Ride and Forbidden Island are the best ones, but Ticket to Ride is a longer game and for a slightly older kid. My oldest is 8 and it is perfect for him. Under 6 or 7 it may be little too difficult. My 4 year old loves trains so he just has a great time playing with the game pieces lol. But if we had the time, I think my husband and I would play it by ourselves! -Linda

  • I have heard that Catan and the Settlers of Catan are great games. I love game nights and you are right – it takes everyone away from their cell phones and IPADS

  • We love games & Catan Jr. gets a lot of play in our house – how have I not tried any of these others yet? My kids would love King of Tokyo and I really want to check out Forbidden Island. Qwirkle is an all ages favorite in our house, and my 5 year old would play Robot Turtles all. day. long. if we had the time!

    • I like Catan, but I actually prefer King of Tokyo and Forbidden Island. Qwirkle is an all time favorite, though, for sure. The obsessive compulsive inside me finds obscene pleasure in putting all those shapes and colors where they belong! -Linda

    • My little one loves Monopoly Jr. and always asks to play it – I feel bad because I don’t really enjoy it and always try to suggest something else. But King of Tokyo is super fun – it is basically a game of rolling dice. Even the little guys enjoys it, though we have to help him a bit. -Linda

  • I see King of Tokyo, Catan, and Ticket to Ride everywhere. I’ve always wondered how they are played.

    We’ve recently bought many board games to play with friends, but since we all never get together anymore, they hardly get used. I feel bad.

    I’m still determined to have us play! 😀

    • I used to have game night with friends and it is so much fun… Do it, Stephanie! You’ll be glad you did! Ticket to Ride is the most fun for grownups. My husband totally killed me and I can’t wait for the next rematch! -Linda

  • I LOVE family game night, it just doesn’t seem to happen much anymore since the kids have gotten older. We have all the games you suggest with the exception of MineShift. Forbidden Island is a favorite of my daughters’. We also like Rummikub – fun for all ages!

    • Hi Amanda! Two people now have recommended that game – we will have to check it out for sure. We used to have game night with our friends before kids – we don’t have to ever stop playing games!

  • Rat-a-tat cat is a fun game that’s easy to learn. I tend to get bored playing games that are too long, but this is one I really enjoy and youngish kids (2nd grade-ish) can play, too.

  • I was recently introduced to how amazing board games have gotten. I love the strategy games. One simple, but super fun one is Splendor. You start out with chips to buy cards with jewels on them that can be used to buy progressively more valuable cards. My favorite classic game has alway been Stratego. I could play those two games over and over. Love the post!

    • Ah thanks Adam! I have to check out Splendor – I got so many great suggestions from this post and I’m excited that now I can put them all to use for Christmas. Last year I bought the kids so many things I regret. Really good board games that we can all play together are a much better choice. -Linda

    1. […] similar to the cooperative game Forbidden Island (one of our all time family favorites).  I believe both are made by the same company.  We invited our friends over to […]

    2. Adam @ Crispy Cabbage 08:26am 28 November - 2016 - Reply

      I was recently introduced to how amazing board games have gotten. I love the strategy games. One simple, but super fun one is Splendor. You start out with chips to buy cards with jewels on them that can be used to buy progressively more valuable cards. My favorite classic game has alway been Stratego. I could play those two games over and over. Love the post!

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:18am 28 November - 2016 - Reply

        Ah thanks Adam! I have to check out Splendor – I got so many great suggestions from this post and I’m excited that now I can put them all to use for Christmas. Last year I bought the kids so many things I regret. Really good board games that we can all play together are a much better choice. -Linda

    3. Valerie @vvv03 10:54pm 18 September - 2016 - Reply

      Rat-a-tat cat is a fun game that’s easy to learn. I tend to get bored playing games that are too long, but this is one I really enjoy and youngish kids (2nd grade-ish) can play, too.

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:09am 19 September - 2016 - Reply

        Valerie! Thank you for stopping by! I’ve never played Rat-a-tat Cat – we will have to check it out. Awesome seeing you this weekend! xo -Linda

    4. Alexis @FITnancials 08:28pm 05 September - 2016 - Reply

      Another game I recommend trying out is Rummy Cube. I first played it on Thanksgiving last year and it was so much fun!

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:28am 06 September - 2016 - Reply

        Oooh I’ll have to check that one out – I don’t know it!

    5. Amanda @ centsiblyrich 12:55pm 05 September - 2016 - Reply

      I LOVE family game night, it just doesn’t seem to happen much anymore since the kids have gotten older. We have all the games you suggest with the exception of MineShift. Forbidden Island is a favorite of my daughters’. We also like Rummikub – fun for all ages!

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:30am 06 September - 2016 - Reply

        Hi Amanda! Two people now have recommended that game – we will have to check it out for sure. We used to have game night with our friends before kids – we don’t have to ever stop playing games!

    6. Mystery Money Man 02:09am 03 September - 2016 - Reply

      Great post, definitely going to check out a couple of your selections! In our home, Carcassonne and Puerto Rico are two favourites, Puerto Rico being more suitable to the older kids.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:26am 04 September - 2016 - Reply

        I don’t know those! I have gotten so many good suggestions for new games out of this post! Thank you! -Linda

    7. Tawcan 02:45pm 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      We have Catan and Ticket to Ride. I didn’t realize there’s a Catan Jr version. I think Bohnanza might be a great game for younger kids too.

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:52pm 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        Hello Tawcan – thank you for stopping by… I am not familiar with Bohnanza – I will have to check that out for sure! -Linda

    8. Stephanie Kay 12:44pm 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      I see King of Tokyo, Catan, and Ticket to Ride everywhere. I’ve always wondered how they are played.

      We’ve recently bought many board games to play with friends, but since we all never get together anymore, they hardly get used. I feel bad.

      I’m still determined to have us play! 😀

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:01pm 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        I used to have game night with friends and it is so much fun… Do it, Stephanie! You’ll be glad you did! Ticket to Ride is the most fun for grownups. My husband totally killed me and I can’t wait for the next rematch! -Linda

    9. Anna McConnaughhay 12:39pm 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      I love Ticket to Ride! I’ll have to try out the others 🙂

      • Brooklyn Bread 02:02pm 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        Hi Anna! I think Ticket to Ride is my fave, but Forbidden Island is also seriously awesome… -Linda

    10. Emily @ JohnJaneDoe 09:10am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      We’ve been playing a lot of Monopoly, but I’d love to expand out and King of Tokyo sounds fun (like a video game, but not!) Can’t wait to try some of these.

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:56am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        My little one loves Monopoly Jr. and always asks to play it – I feel bad because I don’t really enjoy it and always try to suggest something else. But King of Tokyo is super fun – it is basically a game of rolling dice. Even the little guys enjoys it, though we have to help him a bit. -Linda

    11. Megan 09:02am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      We love games & Catan Jr. gets a lot of play in our house – how have I not tried any of these others yet? My kids would love King of Tokyo and I really want to check out Forbidden Island. Qwirkle is an all ages favorite in our house, and my 5 year old would play Robot Turtles all. day. long. if we had the time!

      • Brooklyn Bread 10:59am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        I like Catan, but I actually prefer King of Tokyo and Forbidden Island. Qwirkle is an all time favorite, though, for sure. The obsessive compulsive inside me finds obscene pleasure in putting all those shapes and colors where they belong! -Linda

    12. Karen 08:31am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      I have heard that Catan and the Settlers of Catan are great games. I love game nights and you are right – it takes everyone away from their cell phones and IPADS

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:37am 04 September - 2016 - Reply

        Yes absolutely. Anything that can get us all away from the iPad!!! -Linda

    13. Christina @ Raising Savers 01:38am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

      Our older boy (6yo) loves King of Tokyo! We have spent many of hours at the local brewery playing. Will have to check out the others as well.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:11am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        Thanks Christina! I feel like my son would get along with your son! -Linda

    14. Jamie @ Medium Sized Family 09:13pm 31 August - 2016 - Reply

      I’ve got friends that swear by Catan and Ticket to Ride, but we’ve never played them. This is a great list! My boys are getting older, and I think they’d enjoy these.

      • Brooklyn Bread 07:17am 01 September - 2016 - Reply

        Ticket to Ride and Forbidden Island are the best ones, but Ticket to Ride is a longer game and for a slightly older kid. My oldest is 8 and it is perfect for him. Under 6 or 7 it may be little too difficult. My 4 year old loves trains so he just has a great time playing with the game pieces lol. But if we had the time, I think my husband and I would play it by ourselves! -Linda

    15. Chris @ KeepThrifty 05:46pm 31 August - 2016 - Reply

      Love the post! Ticket to Ride is a great one – can be challenging for young ones as you say. Hoot Owl Hoot is a family favorite because it is collaborative and scalable (can make it easier when our 4-year olds are playing or tougher when it’s just my wife and I. Yes, we’ve played just the 2 of us!)

      Forbidden island sound like a good fit for us – thanks for the recommendation; we’ll check it out!

      • Brooklyn Bread 05:58pm 31 August - 2016 - Reply

        Thanks Chris! Forbidden Island is definitely one of our favorites. Of course, we especially loved it the first time we played when we won, until we realized we were missing some important rules! It’s been harder since, but I love to see the little brains working…

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